Fabulous Fiction Firsts #520

Plague Land * * by S.D. Sykes. Dispatched to a monastery at the age of seven, now at seventeen Oswald de Lacy assumes the title Lord of Somershill Manor when his father and two older brothers too, succumb to the Plague that has decimated the countryside. Left at home are his overbearing mother and his dangerous and unmarried sister Clemence.

In quick succession, local villagers Alison Starvecrow and her sister are found murdered, which the ambitious village priest blames on a band of demonic dog-headed man. It is now Oswald's responsibility to solve the crimes. But every step Oswald takes seems to lead him deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.

"Sykes adds an intricate and intriguing debut (the first of a planned series) to the ever-widening pool of medieval-era mysteries. Thrilling plot twists and layered characters abound in this rich tale of murder and mystery in 14th-century Kent."

Readers might enjoy watching the Brother Cadfael series, based on mysteries by Ellis Peters; and Hugh De Singleton series by Melvin R. Starr.

Sadly, this brings to mind The Siege Winter, a stand-alone by the late Ariana Franklin (and completed upon her death by her daughter Samantha Norman), whose award-winning series based on the character of Adelia Aguilar, a medieval woman forensic pathologist will be fondly remembered by historical mystery fans.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #519 - “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss

Man at the Helm * by Nina Stibbe (Love, Nina : a nanny writes home), an impressive first novel, has been compared to P. G. Wodehouse in its pacing; and Gerald Durrell's memoir My Family and Other Animals (1956), about an eccentric family's relocation to the Greek isle of Corfu, and a BBC Masterpiece Theater adaptation.

The narrator, 9-year old Lizzie Vogel has lived a charmed life. But when his homosexual affair is discovered, Lizzie's father packs them off to the tiny village of Flatstone, where life for the Vogels takes a drastic turn. The new neighbors are hostile and disapproving (of divorcees and fatherless children), and Lizzie's theatrical mother slips ever more into drinks, pills, and obsessive playwriting. Lizzie and her all-knowing older sister fear that the infamous Crescent Homes for Children is in their future, unless they could find a new husband for their mother, and a new "man at the helm" for the household. As one unsuitable suitor follows another, chaos ensues. Lizzie confronts the downright craziness of grown-up love and learns that sometimes a family needs to veer catastrophically off-course in order to find true happiness.

"An extraordinarily well-written, deeply satisfying read about an unusual, highly entertaining group of people." "Charming and bittersweet, with a very English flavor, this social comedy is distinguished by Stibbe's light touch and bright eye." Check out the New York Times Review.

Everlasting Lane * by Andrew Lovett is "(a) captivating, absorbing, and suspenseful evocation of the spells of childhood in a timeless coming-of-age tale."

After the death of his father, 9-year old Peter Lambert moves with his mother to the village of Amberley, and a cottage on Everlasting Lane. As the new kid, he is befriended only by the other two outcasts in his class - chubby Tommie and the neighborhood bossy Anna-Marie. Escaping the bullies, they find pleasure and solace in the countryside and soon meet up with local eccentrics who prefer solitude.

At home, Peter is disturbed by the growing awareness that his own aggrieved mother might be falling apart - first by changing her name, and then expressly forbidding him from entering a locked room in the attic.

Written in beautiful prose, "as charming and haunting as the movie Stand By Me... (w)ith nods to such children's classics as Alice in Wonderland, Lovett's first novel, inspired by events from his own childhood, contemplates the often very fine line between imagination and reality."

* = starred review

Home: a work of art for children and adults

The concept of “home” has meant a lot of different things to people over the ages and is still unique for each one of us today. Artist Carson Ellis makes her solo debut with a beautiful picture book, titled simply Home, that explores the meaning and concept of home. A snail shell, a covered wagon, an igloo, a castle surrounded by a moat… all are or have been home to something or someone at a given point in time. Ellis even weaves in fantastical homes: fairy houses, boots, and more are included in this wonderful book. In some of the mythical houses, Ellis does not include a description of who lives there, but instead asks readers to imagine what sort of creature they think would be suited to the structure. The clever combination of traditional, non-traditional, and fanciful homes will inspire children (and adults!) to think of “home” in a new way.

You may recognize Ellis’ work: she is the illustrator of the Wildwood series and the artist for the band The Decemberists. You can visit her website to see more of her awesome talent!

All About That Space, No Tribbles!

Readers interested in astronauts, planets, stars, and discovery will love AADL's new youth nonfiction books on space!

Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space, by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, will have you hooked from the first page! Professor Astro Cat and friends travel through space to discover the composition of the sun, relative sizes of the planets, and a step by step process of how the Apollo II astronauts landed on the moon! Each page is highly visual with engaging graphics and interesting facts. Did you know that the International Space Station orbits the Earth 15.7 times every day? Or that objects falling into a black hole experience spaghettification? Check out this colorful book for a wild ride and even more amazing space facts!

How to Be a Space Explorer: Your Out-of-this-World Adventure by Mark Brake makes YOU the astronaut! First, get ready for space in a gravity simulator and use light-years to discover just how far apart the planets really are. Check out all the different materials used in your space suit like nylon tricot, spandex, and mylar. Real photographs of different types of spacecraft and tips for making your own bottle rocket take you on your way! Up, up, up into space until you're touring the moon and looking for signs of life. You'll feel like you're really there with this incredibly fun and interactive book.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson paints a beautiful picture of the life of celebrity scientist Carl Sagan! A trip to the World's Fair as a child inspired him to dream big. He spent a lot of time at the library learning about stars and one day became the astronomer and cosmologist that so many people know about today! This book is a great biography for beginning readers with stunning illustrations.

Are you like Carl Sagan and just can't get enough science? Check out AADL's other books on space and science tools!

Award Winning Audiobook - The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer 2010. 20 hrs. 30 mins.

Awards: The Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2011. TIME Magazine’s All- TIME 100 Non-Fiction books.

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Narrator: Stephen Hoye

As a hematology/oncology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Siddhartha Mukherjee was challenged by one of his patients to explain cancer. This biography of the disease, which takes on the enormous task of describing cancer and it’s treatment from ancient Egypt through modern day, is the result. Although the breadth of the story is intimidating, The Emperor of All Maladies is a great listening experience. The narrator did an excellent job with the personal stories of Mukherjee and his patients and I found the book informative but easy to comprehend.

On March 30th, inspired by Mukherjee’s book and with the support of Stand Up to Cancer, PBS and the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will air the first episode of a 3-part, 6-hour television event. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is hailed as the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made. As Ken Burns explains, “the series matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance but also of hubris, paternalism and misperception.”

Part one of the film airs on Monday March 30, 2015 from 9-11pm e.s.t. For a schedule of upcoming episodes and interviews with executive producer Ken Burns, visit the PBS website.

Library Lists: 10 Interactive Books for Kids

Books aren't just for reading! Awesome books like the ones on this list allow you to be inventive and engaged by using and interacting with them!

Kaleidoscope: With a built-in spinning kaleidoscope lens, every page of this book is transformed into a visual delight. Simple rhymes describe the changing seasons, making this lovely and inventive book a unique and colorful journey through a year.

Mythology: the gods, heroes, and monsters of ancient Greece: This fascinating book on Greek mythology uses newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs from the “past” to impart information about famous myths. Other great books in the series include Dinosaurology, Alienology and Pirateology.

Alphablock: What a fun way to learn the alphabet! Thick pages in this book are cut into the shape of each letter, allowing children to peek-through the letters and guess them based on both their form and words associated with them.

Press Here:This creative book encourages kids to perform actions on each page: pressing dots, shaking the book, turning it upside down, and more. The result of each action is demonstrated on the next page. Kids love “influencing” the story and seeing the effects of their actions!

Panorama: a foldout book: Simple text and beautiful illustrations invite readers to view different places around the world. Then, the pages can be folded out to see the same scenes at nighttime.

Book-o-Hats, A Wearable Book: You can become a chef, a firefighter, a pirate, and more in this book that features wearable hats with fun rhyming text. There’s more wearable books in this series too, including Book-o-Teeth, Book-o-Beards, and Book-o-Masks!

What Happens When…: This lovely book allows readers to explore what happens to things that are lost or let go through text and illustrations on fold-out pages. I love how this book—originally published in French—offers simple solutions to some of the most common questions, such as “what happens when I let my balloon go?”

Guess what?—Food: This lift-the-flap book allows young readers to see familiar foods transformed into unexpected animals! Author Yusuke Yonezu is also the author of Guess What?—Fruit, an equally cool lift-the-flap book for young ones.

Small Smaller Smallest is a great way to learn differences in sizes and quantity. Each page has a pull-tab for children to tug on to see phenomenon like a flower growing from tall to taller to tallest and snowflakes falling low… lower… lowest.

Pinwheel allows readers to spin different wheels to create colorful scenes of natural areas. Like in Kaleidoscope, Salina Yoon’s simple poetry reminds readers of the beauty around us every day.

If you want even more great interactive books for children, check out this more extensive list!

PreK BITS – “Z” is for Zoo and zebra

Ms Rachel put Zzzzs in every story this week.

BABY BEE BIRD finally went to sleep in the zoo at night. Great ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs for everyone at the zoo!
Ms. Sara had us singing in the puddles with new boots on. You can find a recorded version by Charlotte Diamond on the CD "My Bear Gruff which AADL no longer owns. You can enjoy other songs with Charlotte on the CD TEN CARROT DIAMOND. This recording is a long-time favorite of mine to sing with children.
HOORAY For HAT! definitely had a zebra in it.

Z Is For MOOSE. Poor Moose is so upset when he does not get letter M during the alphabet sequence. Zebra the referee, helps Moose get a squeeze-in on letter "Z". AND the illustrator of this book is Paul O. Zelinsky.
ON BEYOND ZEBRA. Dr. Seuss's imaginary zoo animals "beyond zebra".....
XANDER’S PANDA PARTY
ZOOLA PALOOZA ... an all-animal concert group introduces words that are spelled the same but sound different and have different meanings.

Dojo Daycare!

Dojo Daycare is a hilarious new addition to our picture book collection. With its digitally drawn comic style illustrations and rhythmic rhyming, Chris Tougas' first foray into the world of picture books is a pure joyride.

When adult ninjas leave the house, their little ninjas are dropped off at the Dojo Daycare. The Dojo Master tries to instill values of kindness, respect and honor in the young ninjas, but they have other plans. KABOOM! KAPOW! With kids kicking, jumping, and screaming, the Dojo quickly descends into chaos. The Dojo Master attempts to regain control but cannot get through to his little ninjas. When the little ninjas see that they have saddened the Dojo, they quickly regroup to furiously clean the Dojo and restore peace to the Daycare.

This adorable and funny book puts an emphasis on personal responsibility and respect for your peers. For other interesting and off-beat stories about good manners, try A Quest for Good Manners or Rules of the Wild: An Unruly Book of Manners.

IAW 2015 Get to Know the Judges: Cyn Balog

Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of choosing the top three contenders in each grade. Up first is Cyn Balog, who also writes under the name Nichola Reilly.

Originally from New Jersey but now in Pennsylvania, Balog has written a number of paranormal and post-apocalyptic young adult novels, including FAIRY TALE (2009) and DROWNED (2014). Her books have been translated and published in Germany, Italy, and Hungary.

DROWNED is an unusual post-apocalyptic book (the first in a series) that takes place on an island where the tides routinely swallow up the land, and the only thing that saves the inhabitants is the creaky wooden platform they must stand on for hours at a time until the tides recede. Coe, the one-handed teenage protagonist, has always felt unwelcome among and reviled by her people. When the king who rules them falls ill, however, it's up to Coe to find answers to secrets long buried and to find a way to save everyone before the waters swallow them all whole.

Interesting facts about the author: She's obsessed with all things Disney, she once had a crayfish named Harry as a pet, and her favorite book is Charlotte's Web.

Please, Mr. Panda

Here are two super cute picture books that involve manners.

Please Mr. Panda is a new picture book and features a panda with a box of donuts to share, but his friends aren’t asking for them very nicely. It’s a simple book with few words and lively illustrations all about the word please.

Thank You, Octopus offers a hilarious dialog between a boy getting ready for bed and his octopus friend. There is a lot of thank you and no thank you between the two that will enduce much laughter.

If this sparks further dialog with your little one, check out more picture books all about manners.

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