Where I Found You – plus GIVEAWAY!!!

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Let’s travel to the other side of the world for a little YA romance this week…

The images from the tsunami that devastated multiple countries off the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004 are pictures that few can forget. For the people of Indonesia, however, the tsunami was more than mere photographs and videos. It completely swept away entire villages, destroyed homes and businesses, and killed an estimated 220,000 people. Although many of the casualties were children, the tsunami also left many children orphaned.

About now, you’re probably asking what happened to the YA romance I promised. I’m getting there…

Our protagonist, Sienna, is afraid of flying and the ocean, and has no desire to jump on a plane and fly for many hours over the Pacific Ocean to stay at an orphanage (technically, a pesantren, or school) in Indonesia. But her dad really wants to help kids who are suffering from the emotional trauma of the tsunami, so Sienna agrees to swallow her fears (with the help of a sleeping pill) and go along.

What Sienna doesn’t count on (yep, the romance part!) is meeting Deni while she’s at the orphanage. Deni is one of 200 orphans at the pesantren who came from the refugee camps in Aceh province. He’s striking, confident, a leader of the kids. He cares about the other children and stands up when he believes they are not being treated properly, even though he knows it makes the pesantren’s owner dislike him. Sienna is drawn to Deni immediately, and each time she sees him, her attraction grows.

This is a fascinating read. Aside from the adorable and steamy romance, there are a lot of other great aspects to this book. Many YA readers will be too young to remember the tsunami images the way adults do, so this may be their introduction to this devastating moment in history. Ms. Kling has sprinkled just enough detail about what happened, what a tsunami is, and how it impacted Indonesia to educate readers without them feeling that they are being “taught.”

Also, because the book is mainly set in Indonesia, Ms. Kling shares many details about daily life in that country, from wearing hijabs to only using the RIGHT hand for things to different religious and cultural beliefs. Again, Ms. Kling masterfully does this all without the feeling that we’ve moved out of the YA romance genre and into a non-fiction tome.

In case I missed anything really important, here’s the publisher’s synopsis of the book:

After her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.

Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend the summer with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.

The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn’t anymore. When she’s with Deni, she remembers the girl she used to be…and starts to feel like the woman he sees in her.

A woman he wants for his own.

Gulp.

But when Deni’s past comes looking for him, Sienna’s faced with losing another person she loves. She can’t do it. Not again.

Fortunately, this time, she has a plan.

Ms. Kling explains in the Forward to her book that her husband is a cross-cultural psychiatrist who traveled to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami and met orphans like those at Sienna’s pesantren. Deni was inspired by a boy Ms. Kling’s husband met, named Usul, who outran the tsunami on his moped. Ms. Kling’s website is www.heidirkling.com.

You can win a copy of Where I Found You by entering this GIVEAWAY. If you are too excited to wait until the giveaway ends, the book is also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher, Entangled Publishing.

Have you read any great books lately?

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

The 57 Bus

WOW! This is a book that will change your life! A teenager falls asleep on the bus and wakes up to find that their skirt has been set on fire. Before the fire can be extinguished, they suffer third degree burns over approximately 22% of their body, primarily on their legs.

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The 57 Bus tells the true story of Sasha and Richard, who both grew up in Oakland, California. Author Dashka Slater skillfully shares their stories in a way that will have you staying up throughout the night to keep reading. Unlike many non-fiction books I’ve read, where there is a distance between the subjects of the book and the reader, it was easy to get lost in the world of 2013 Oakland.

Following a brief preview of what is to come on the 57 Bus, Ms. Slater introduces us to Sasha. In November 2013, Sasha was in their senior year of high school at a small private school. After years of questioning their gender, Sasha had told their parents in the winter of 2012 that they identified as genderqueer. Sasha is agender—neither male nor female—and prefers the use of “they” and “their” as opposed to “he,” “she,” “his,” or “hers.”

Once Sasha had clarified their gender identity, they selected a new name and asked their parents and close friends to call them Sasha instead of Luke. They began wearing a skirt along with their already eclectic outfit of top hat (or other hat), tweeds, vests, bowties, and sometimes even fighter-pilot goggles.

Ms. Slater takes great care to make the readers fall in love with Sasha, then switches to the story of Richard. Richard was with his cousin and a friend when he got on the 57 Bus on November 4, 2013. Richard’s friend gave Richard a lighter, and encouraged him to light Sasha’s skirt on fire. Richard did it.

Knowing what Richard did to Sasha, and having already spent 1/4 of the book growing to love Sasha, it was a shock to meet Richard. I wanted to dislike Richard. But Ms. Slater expertly brings us within Richard’s world.

Richard’s mom was fourteen when she had him. She had big dreams for her son. And he was determined to make them happen. He had been in trouble, but unlike many kids who got in trouble, he wanted to escape trouble and graduate from high school.

Richard attended Oakland High School, which was not the best school in Oakland, but was not the worst either. There was a security guard posted at the front gate. Richard reached out to Oakland High’s attendance compliance officer and asked to join her intervention program to be sure he could complete his goals. Richard was special. He was funny. He made people laugh and played games and practical jokes. This event shocked all who knew him.

Even if you are not typically a non-fiction book reader, I highly recommend this book. It reads like a work of fiction, and a fascinating one at that!

Author Dashka Slater is a journalist, novelist, and children’s book author. She has written six children’s books, including Escargot and The Antlered Ship. Her website, www.dashkaslater.com, has many resources, including teacher’s guides for some of her children’s books, and discussion questions for The 57 Bus.

Have you read any great books lately?

My Rotten Stepbrother . . . Did What???

Anyone who has ever read a fairy tale knows that step-family members are nothing but trouble. Wicked stepmothers, horrible stepsisters, the list just goes on and on.

Fairy-tale-loving Maddie has a stepbrother who is rotten. Horrible. Simply unbearable. Holden does whatever he can to ruin Maddie’s life.

You may remember that Holden ruined Maddie’s Halloween—and the story of Beauty and the Beast—in My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast. I’m delighted to have the chance to review the other books in the My Rotten Stepbrother series!

Cinderella

The series starts with My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella. When Maddie gives a class presentation on her favorite fairy tale, Cinderella, Holden points out to the class that Cinderella’s feet would be sore and swollen after walking home from the ball. He also questions whether someone’s foot size is a good way to identify them, demonstrating with a poll of raised hands that half the class wears the same size shoe as Maddie.

That night, Maddie and Holden discover that Holden’s pointed questions did more than ruin Maddie’s presentation. They ruined Cinderella! Maddie and Holden are magically sucked into the story of Cinderella. It’s the day of the wedding, but instead of marrying Cinderella, the prince is marrying one of her stepsisters! Cinderella’s feet were swollen from walking home and wouldn’t fit into the glass slipper—but one of her stepsisters had the same size feet as her. The prince mistakenly believes the stepsister is his true love. Can Maddie and Holden fix Cinderella?

I have to admit that, just like with the question raised by Holden about Beauty and the Beast, Holden’s questions about Cinderella never occurred to me. Holden is one of the most creative (and skeptical) kids I know!

Aladdin

By the time Holden ruins Aladdin (in book three of the series), Maddie and Holden are experts at the ruined fairytale! In fact, this time, Holden deliberately puts himself and his stepsister into the story of Aladdin.

Not only do Maddie and Holden have to share a home now, but they also share a birthday. Maddie is having a great birthday—her stepmother has helped create an Aladdin theme for her sleepover party. Holden, on the other hand, is having the worst birthday ever. To top it off, he doesn’t receive the hoverboard he really wanted for his birthday present.

After pointing out all of the problems in Maddie’s most recent annoying fairytale, Holden storms off to his room. A few hours later, he sees a picture of Aladdin riding a hoverboard. He realizes that if he and Maddie go into the story of Aladdin, he will get to be Aladdin.

Once magically sucked into the story of Aladdin, Maddie and Holden again have to work together to fix the fairytale Holden has broken. I have to say, this is definitely the funniest of the fairytale situations that Maddie and Holden have found themselves in!

Snow White

The fourth book of the series starts a little differently, with Maddie finding the plot holes to Snow White. Could it be that with Holden out of town, she is actually missing her rotten stepbrother?

Snow White gives Maddie and Holden a chance to examine their own family and their relationship, as they watch the way the seven dwarf brothers act together. They also compare the relationship between Snow White and her stepmother and father to the one they have with their parents at home and realize how fortunate they are.

Over the course of the four stories, Maddie and Holden’s relationship grows from intense dislike to grudging acceptance. They begin to recognize that they need each other, and they get better and better at working together to solve the fairytale challenges before them. (Of course, they still have a lot of work to do, leaving the door open for plenty more installments in this series!) Holden also goes through a journey of self-examination and maturation over the four books.

This series is one of my new favorites, and I’m looking forward to seeing many more from author Jerry Mahoney. Thanks to Mr. Mahoney and Capstone for the opportunity to read these books!

Have you read any great books lately?

The Wife Between Us – GIVEAWAY!!!

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A quick jump into the adult fiction world for this fantastic psychological thriller by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen! The publisher’s description of the novel is a superb set-up for a discussion of the book:

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies.

Despite the warnings, it is hard not to assume you know what’s happening as you follow along the twists and turns in this tale. It begins with the stereotypical story of a successful wealthy husband throwing aside his middle-aged wife for a younger beauty. The ex-wife has been left with nothing after the divorce. She is pitied by her former friends and has begun working in a low-paying job to make ends meet. But The Wife Between Us brings a far more complex drama than this stereotype.

As she tells her story in first person narrative, it is easy to feel conflicted about ex-wife Vanessa. We see her as predator, stalking her prey—the replacement wife. We see her as betrayed, beaten down, and broken—begging ex-husband Richard not to marry the new woman. She gets ever more desperate as the wedding day approaches.

In chapters that alternate with Vanessa’s story, we also meet Nellie, who is getting ready to marry Richard. Their story is romantic and fairytale-perfect. Nellie is young, sweet, and innocent. She works as a preschool teacher for three-year-olds.

But Nellie is scared. She has been receiving hang-up calls. She jumps at noises and sees people in shadows. Is it Richard’s ex-wife?

The Wife Between Us is Greer Hendricks’s first novel after a career of more than two decades as an editor. Her work as an editor included work by co-author Sarah Pekkanen, an internationally bestselling author. This duo transformed their author-editor relationship into that of co-authors. The resulting novel is a tremendous success! (You can hear more about their partnership in a Meet the Authors video on the St. Martin’s Press website.)

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The Wife Between Us will be released on January 9, 2018.

I have a free copy of The Wife Between Us to giveaway to one lucky reader (thanks St. Martin’s Press!). Or, if you’re nervous about counting on a giveaway to snag your copy, you can place a pre-order at Amazon.com.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Have you read any great books lately?

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart

It’s almost a week after Halloween—is anyone sick of chocolate yet? Well, I can assure you that none of the chocolate you’ve been sneaking out of your kids’ Halloween stash is as delicious or as life-changing as the chocolate in Stephanie Burgis’ new book!

Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Aventurine longs to leave her dragon family’s cave and explore the world. She is dismayed when her mother tells her that she must wait another thirty years for her scales to harden to a protective shell before she can venture outside. Feeling claustrophobic, and ready to prove that she is capable of taking care of herself, Aventurine waits until the adults are asleep and leaves the cave.

After hours of unsuccessful hunting, Aventurine finds a human singing by a fire in the forest. Prepared to strike and bring her prey home to share with the other dragons, Aventurine pauses when she smells the most delightful scent wafting up from a pot. The human prepares hot chocolate for Aventurine, but enchants it with a spell that turns Aventurine into a human around twelve years old.

Unable to return to her cave in human form, Aventurine travels to the nearest city. Once in Drachenburg, Aventurine searches for her place in her new human world.

Aventurine discovers there is much more to chocolate than simple hot chocolate, she learns about friendship and family, she finds there are humans who fit the stereotypes that her family described for her and there are those who do not, and, most of all, Aventurine discovers her passion.

This is a fun tale that weaves together the excitement of dragons, the thrill of solving a challenge that will help others, and the lessons of persistence, friendship, and loyalty. It has something for everyone, and keeps the reader wanting “just one more chapter.”

Stephanie Burgis is the author of many books and short stories, both for children and adults. Her other middle grade books tell the story of Kat Stephenson in a trilogy (plus a novella). One of the characters from The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart will appear in Ms. Burgis’ next middle grade book, The Girl with the Dragon Heart, coming in 2018. You can find Ms. Burgis online at her website and blog at www.stephanieburgis.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Halloween Books!

One of my favorite places to find book lists is What Do We Do All Day. Erica has lists for just about any type of books you can think of!

Erica recently shared four Halloween book lists:

Diverse Halloween picture books

Halloween picture books about self-esteem

Halloween early chapter books

Scary and non-scary Halloween novels for family read aloud time

Erica has plenty of other fantastic book lists (a full set of her book lists is available here), so I definitely encourage everyone to spend some time on her blog!

One of my other favorite bloggers, Vicki at Babies to Bookworms, has written two great Halloween posts – one featuring monsters, and the other featuring pumpkins!

The monster post, listing 13 Monstrously Fun Monster Books, gives thirteen wonderful monster picture books, including my husband’s favorite Grover book of all time!

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In her pumpkin post, Vicki recommends a pumpkin book, and suggests a number of fabulous pumpkin-themed activities to do with your kids.

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Enjoy your Halloween activities, whatever they may be!

Have you read any great books lately?

An Unstill Life

It’s time for something completely different—a YA novel exploring sexuality and new romance (plus a little mortality thrown into the mix!). I’m participating in the YA Reads Blog Tour of An Unstill Life, which was released on July 12, 2017.

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To start, here’s the publisher’s synopsis of the book:

When your whole world is falling apart, what are the chances you’ll find love in the most unexpected of places?

Livvie feels like she’s losing everything: her two best friends have abandoned her for their boyfriends, her mother continues to ignore her, while her sister, Jules, is sick again and getting worse by the day. Add in the request Jules has made of her and Livvie feels like she’s losing her mind, too.

Her only escape is in the art room, where she discovers not only a refuge from her life, but also a kindred soul in Bianca, the school “freak”. Livvie’s always felt invisible, at school and at home, but with Bianca, she finally feels like someone sees the real Livvie. As the relationship deepens and it comes time to take the romance public, will Livvie be able to take that step?

Livvie’s about to find out if she has what it takes to make the tough decisions and stand up for herself—for the first time in her life.

The Livvie and Bianca characters in this book are wonderful. Their relationship seems to grow naturally as they get closer to each other through their art. Livvie is a character you want to protect and guide, and I was happy when Bianca came in to fill that role.

Livvie also grows a lot throughout the book. She is challenged in many ways—in deciding whether to move forward with a relationship with Bianca, then in making that relationship public and dealing with the reactions of her friends and others, and also in her life at home. Her sister is sick and needs Livvie’s support, and Livvie’s mother doesn’t seem to notice Livvie exists.

In addition to dealing with a sick sister and questioning her sexual identity, Livvie also has synesthesia. Thanks to David Baldacci (Amos Decker books), I knew that this was the condition where a person sees or hears color in everything. But I found this aspect of the book to be really distracting. Perhaps this is natural—I assume seeing or hearing color in everything WOULD be really distracting to a person who has synesthesia. I just think I would have enjoyed the book just as much without the synesthesia aspect.

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A little about author Kate Larkindale:

Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A marketing executive, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.

Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.

She has written fourteen contemporary YA novels, a few of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel and ghostwriting an autobiography.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

We have more ghosts this week! (It is almost Halloween, after all!)

Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

Tessa Woodward and her family have just moved from Florida into a spooky old home on Shady Street. Tessa is depressed about the move—it’s cold in Chicago, there’s no ocean, and she had to leave her best friend behind.

Strange things begin happening on their first night in the new house. Tessa is sure she heard crying in the hallway. The next morning, she finds a strange mark in her sketchpad. When she goes into the bathroom, the lights dim and the door won’t open.

Things get weirder and weirder at the house. Flowers in a painting on the wall appear to wilt. Someone—or something—continues to draw in Tessa’s sketchpad. The crying keeps Tessa up every night. Soon, Tessa is afraid to be in her new home.

Tessa makes some friends who decide to help her get to the bottom of what is haunting her home. Through research at the library and a trip to the local cemetery, they try to track down the truth behind the mysterious noises and incidents.

This creepy ghost tale might keep kids up at night—definitely a middle grade read! But a fantastic one for those who are ready for it!

Author Lindsay Currie is a big fan of ghost legends. Her website, www.lindsaycurrie.com, has links to five places that MIGHT be haunted. For readers who share Ms. Currie’s interest in ghost tales, they can explore the websites of the haunted locations and tell Ms. Currie what they think about the places. Ms. Currie will send those readers bookmarks and postcards to celebrate their bravery!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Many thanks to Ms. Currie and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for the chance to read this fabulous book!

Have you read any great books lately?

Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind – PLUS GIVEAWAY!!!

Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Darlene Foster, author of a series about a traveling twelve-year-old named Amanda.

In book six of the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind, the book follows Amanda and her class on a school trip from Calgary to New Mexico. Their exploration of different parts around Taos, New Mexico, is interrupted by a ghost. Ms. Foster’s description of the New Mexico geography, architecture, and artifacts is truly amazing! Ms. Foster brings New Mexico to life for readers as she details Amanda’s travels. 

Amanda in New Mexico

Welcome, Darlene!

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Elizabeth.

You asked me what drew me to Amanda as my main character. The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can create any character, place and situation you want. You are totally in control. Well almost, sometimes your characters take over the story. I know Amanda does.

Amanda Jane Ross seemed to pop into my head and wouldn´t go away. She is a spunky young girl whose love for travel takes her around the world to many interesting places where she meets intriguing people, learns a lot about the culture and always has an adventure. She is curious, brave and cares about other people, which sometimes gets her in trouble. I would have loved to be able to travel all over the world when I was her age.  I guess you could say Amanda is the twelve-year-old girl I would have liked to be.

My books are inspired by my travels. I have been to all the places Amanda goes to. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to travel as a young person, I have explored much of this amazing planet as an adult. Every time I visit a new place, I feel like a child experiencing something awesome.  I try to incorporate these thoughts and feelings into my stories which is why I like telling the stories from a tween’s point of view. My books feature places I myself have found fascinating such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain, England, Alberta, Germany, Austria and Hungary. In recently released book six, Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind, Amanda visits the enchanting state of New Mexico. I spent some time in this state a couple of years ago and immediately knew it would be the perfect setting for an Amanda adventure.

The character of Amanda tags along with me everywhere I go now. I am constantly thinking about what she would like about the place and the adventures she could have. I take lots of pictures and keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas. I have often said in my out loud voice, “Amanda would just love this!” My husband has got used to having my imaginary friend with us.

Where is Amanda planning to go to next? She is scheduled to visit Holland, a remarkable place with brilliant tulips fields, charming windmills, wooden shoes and many bicycles. While visiting the sites of Holland, she learns more about World War II and attempts to find out what happened to a great-uncle who went missing in action in that country many years ago.

The more Amanda travels, the more she learns about the world and herself. To me, that is what travel is all about. My wish is that my books will encourage readers of all ages to explore new places.

I have a question for you and your readers, if you could travel with any fictional character, which one would you chose and why?

Awesome question, Darlene! Can’t wait to see who folks say they would want to travel with (and why)!

Darlene is offering an amazing Amanda in New Mexico GIVEAWAY for U.S. and Canadian residents (if the winner is from a location outside those two countries, he or she will win digital copies of the full series)!

A little more about Darlene:

Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. With a desire to write since she was twelve, her short stories have won a number of awards. She is the author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky twelve-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Her books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music and Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene, her husband and their dog, Dot, divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain. She was encouraged by her parents to follow her dreams and believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

You can follow Darlene on her website, on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter!

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Zack and the Turkey Attack

My mum used to have these vicious geese at her farm. If you got too close to them, they would spread their wings out as wide as they would go, and run at you, hissing like snakes. It was terrifying.

Although I’ve never been chased by a turkey, I imagine the experience is very similar.

Zack and the Turkey Attack

Every time Zack goes to his grandparents’ farm, the big tom turkey attacks him. It charges at him, and if it catches him, it pecks him—and even sometimes makes him bleed!

Zack needs to come up with a solution to his turkey problem. He tries sneaking past the turkey, he tries following closely on his dad’s heels, and he tries squirting the turkey with water from a spray bottle.

In addition to his turkey concerns, Zack begins to work with his grandparents’ next-door neighbor, Josie, to solve another problem. Josie has discovered that there is a burglar in the neighborhood. Zack and Josie set out to catch the nighttime thief.

This is a chapter book for readers who have become a little more confident in their abilities. There are illustrations, but not on every page, so kids need to work a little harder to complete this book.

The action is fast-paced and exciting, and will keep readers engaged from start to finish. Kids will be surprised at the ending!

Author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written many books and series. She has a great website where she interacts with her readers—www.phyllisnaylor.com. Ms. Naylor operates three blogs (each with a different series focus) offering kids the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Ms. Naylor responds to all of the questions and electronic letters from readers on the blogs. As the parent of someone who is starstruck by his favorite authors, I know how valuable this correspondence is to young readers.

Check out Zack and the Turkey Attack, Ms. Naylor’s Shiloh series, or any of the many other books that Ms. Naylor has to offer! I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?