Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site packed with tricks and tips for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting!
Kim Tomsic

Friday, November 16, 2012

National Book Award Young People's Literature 2012


William Alexander, Goblin Secrets
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)


Carrie ArcosOut of Reach (Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Patricia McCormickNever Fall Down (Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Eliot SchreferEndangered (Scholastic)
Steve SheinkinBomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
(Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Holiday Book for Kids: The Santa Claus Alarm...a tale by Lemur Pup

Last year I reported that Mister Lemur wrote a book, TRAIN OF THOUGHT, a whacky, wily learning adventure. Now I introduce Lemur Pup and  THE SANTA CLAUS ALARM, a holiday escapade written in rhyming verse.

The story is a holiday caper featuring a cute little lemur named Pup whose goal is to catch Santa in the act of giving. Who can blame her? She crafts her plan and sets sensors, trip wires, and buzzers in effort to catch the big guy. In the mean time, she also sets clever words and definitions within the story...kids learn vocabulary in the middle of the escapade!

THE SANTA CLAUS ALARM  is a production of Ringtail Learning San Francisco, founded by Hans and Jennifer Hartvickson. There website is a treat for kids, parents, grandparents and teachers. A portion of their profits are donated to charities supporting the protection of lemurs and/or lemur habitat.

Want More?
Video Link

P.S. Kudos to the creators of Mister Lemur. Their passion for children, education, science, philanthropy, wordplay and the Mister Lemur project shines. Mister Lemur's caretakers offer school visits (a Stanford, Wharton educated pair) and they provide a kid-friendly web page where children can ask Mister Lemur questions. Mister Lemur also offers writing contests, music, games, and a regular Mister Lemur newsletter. A portion of all proceeds is donated to wildlife.  

Product Details
·        Ages 4 and up

Those with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch will enjoy the enhanced ebook version, which includes light animations and an option to hear author narration. The ibook is available for Apple products at $2.99 through the iTunes store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-santa-claus-alarm/id479453219?mt=11)

·        Publisher: Ringtail Learning (November 2011) $14.95
·        Language: English
·        ISBN-13: 978-0-9828866-2-5

Available at:
Amazon (click link)

escapade – noun
1.    a reckless adventure

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Holiday Whodunit!

Tallie’s Christmas Lights Surprise! Author Elaine Pease and illustrator Anna Maria Crum  have created the perfect picture book for kids who like to solve mysteries. It’s a Holiday Who-Done-It that will keep the best gumshoes on their toes until the crafty and clever end.  Parents, grandparents, and teachers will have fun sharing this story with kids. See if you can solve the mystery around who stole Tallie’s Christmas lights!


A holiday whodunit for kids, this story solves the mystery of who stole Tallie's sparkly-special, twinkling, candy-cane Christmas lights. Was it the mailman, a snake, or her slobbery pup Fuego? To find out who swiped her lights, Tallie first dons her spy gear, which includes her ski hat, pink sunglasses, magnifying glass, and spy blanket. After sneaking by Mom for a Christmas cookie-for a little extra spy energy, of course-and examining footprints in the snow, Tallie sets the trap. Then she waits, and she waits some more. When the thief comes for her new playhouse decorations, he's in for a surprise. As she and Fuego chase the thief through the snow, they quickly learn that he has great decorating taste, which Tallie cannot bear to ruin. Instead, she gets a super spy idea and trades him a more suitable decoration to get her glowing candy canes back. With every clue revealed through radiant illustrations, Tallie and her sparkly-special lights are sure to steal every reader's attention. Let's just hope Tallie keeps her spy gear handy! Elaine Pease is a full-time author who has written several children's books. She also enjoys teaching writing workshops in her spare time. Pease received first place in the 2011 EVVY Awards for Juvenile Fiction and won a National Writers Association award for one of her short stories. Anna-Maria L. Crum is an illustrator, freelance writer, and designer. Born in Pasadena, California, she is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and Picture Book Artists Association board member. She has twice been named a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards.
About the Author
ELAINE PEASE is a full-time author and a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She received first place in the 2011 EVVY Awards for Juvenile Fiction and won a National Writers Association award for one of her short stories.

ANNA-MARIA L. CRUM is an illustrator, freelance writer, and designer with a long list of credits to her name. A Picture Book Artists Association board member, she has twice been named a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards.

·          Hardcover: 32 pages
·         Publisher: Pelican Publishing (September 15, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1455615862
·         ISBN-13: 978-1455615865

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Step Aside Charlotte, It's Ivan's Turn in the Spotlight

What's as beautiful as Charlotte’s Web and as sweet as George and Martha (with writing for middle-grade readers)? It's Katherine Applegate's newest book, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN.   Ivan's tale is not told in third-person spider, or first-person hippo; readers get the pleasure of enjoying the story straight from the source--first person gorilla.  Meet Ivan, a charming gorilla whose story will make you laugh and cry.  Ivan is a Silverback gorilla, and if you've ever watched National Geographic, you know that Silverbacks are protectors.  Unfortunately Ivan has spent over thirty years starring in a circus mall’s cheap production. There are no other gorillas to protect. But his Silverback nature comes out when a baby elephant moves into the cage next door, and Ivan is compelled to find a way to save her from a bleak future.

This is definitely a book I will gift over and over again. It’s a story I can’t get out of my head, and the fact that there is a real-life Ivan, makes it all the more magical.       

ISBN-10: 0061992259
ISBN-13: 9780061992254
Published: HarperCollins, 01/01/2012
Pages: 320    
5 out of 5 lollipops (or bananas!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Need a Dystopian Fix?



 [dis-toh-pee-uh]  Show IPA
a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,disease, and overcrowding.

I'd be willing to bet that dictionary.com experienced a massive increase in hits on that word starting in  September, 2008 when the Hunger Games hit bookshelves.  I stumbled on Suzanne Collin's book, looked up "dystopian", and became an instant fan, which is weird. I'm a Freaky Friday fan, and a How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy fan, so to say that I'm also a dystopian fan makes me feel a little divergent.

DIVERGENT by VeronicaRoth (released May 2011 by Katherine Tegen books, a division of Harper Collins) is Beatrice Prior’s dystopian experience in a world where five factions exist as five separate communities. Members of factions believe their sect is superior to the others, that they are part of their faction because they think and operate like fellow members, and that factions are thicker than blood. The five groups include: the Dauntless (fearless, sometimes to the point of crazy), the Amenity (Rodney King would have liked them, “can’t we all just along?”), the Abnegation (always putting others first), the Candor (nothing but the truth), and the Erudite (constantly seeking knowledge).  But there are two additional groups; groups nobody wants to belong to:  the vagabonds known as the Factionless, and the secret handful of individuals who hide within one faction even though they could fit into more than one group—the Divergent.
When a young adult turns sixteen, he/she goes through a series of tests to determine which faction suits them best.  At the choosing ceremony the teen decides publicly, and makes their forever-decision. It they don’t choose the fraction where they grew up, they are permanently separated from their family.
Ah, but that’s just the beginning of this fascinating, well plotted,tense,  faced paced page turner.  Author Veronica Roth has crafted a perfect blend of the Hunger Games with a YA Animal Farm element.  This YA debut novel hit the New York Times best seller's list, as did INSURGENT,  book two in the DIVERGENT series.

  • Reading level: Ages 13 and up
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Editor:  Molly O'Neill
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062024035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062024039

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's the Mafia doing in Middle School?

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander has been named the 2012 winner of the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor, a yearly award granted by The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI).
Why'd it win? Picture the mafia, the Godfather, and folks saying, “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.” Now pictures those folks, the mafioso, as sixth-graders with names like iBully, Prep School, and Kitten!  THE FOURTH STALL is hilarious (hence the award), but it’s also a clever tale about a kid who uses mafia-ish tactics to help schoolmates solve their problems. And just like in The Godfather, this story has intrigue, betrayal, and a level of mystery that would make Francis Ford Coppola smile. You’ll guess and re-guess about the twists until the end.
RATING: 5 out of 5 lollipops
If you want to buy a great book for a boy or a girl, THE FOURTH STALL is a sure bet. (And in case you're still wondering, it earns a five out of five lollipop rating).

The Triumvirate
Author:  Chris Rylander
Editor:  Jordan Brown
Chris Rylander receiving award
Agent:  Steven Malk (Writers House)
  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061994960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061994968

Past Sid Fleischman Award  Winners:
Book Title
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have
Egmont USA
As if Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough My Mother is Running for President!
Delacorte Press 
No award given.
Absolutely Positively Not
Arthur A. Levine Books
Al Capone Does My Shirts
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Arthur A. Levine Books

Monday, July 23, 2012

Free Writing Contest by Highlights

Here is a free contest sponsored by Highlights. Good luck!
Stories for beginning readers in 500 words or fewer. We welcome stories of any genre (mystery, historical fiction, sports, humor, holiday, friendship, etc.) as long as the stories are intended for kids ages 6–8.
Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Foundation Founders Workshop. (For a complete list of workshops, visithttp://www.highlightsfoundation.org.)
All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2013.
No entry form or fee is required.
Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.*
We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.
Stories may be any length up to 500 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.
Include your name and the title of your story on your manuscript.
No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.
Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.
Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
The three winning entries will be purchased by Highlights and announced on Highlights.com in June 2013. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.
* We're sorry that we cannot consider contest entries from children under the age of 16. Young writers are welcome to submit their work for consideration elsewhere in the magazine. Guidelines are available on HighlightsKids.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thanks, Ruta Sepetys! You Gave me a Reader's Paradox

How many times have you read that “special" kind of book?  The one that you mourn when the last page is flipped. You know you're reading it when you feel the paradox growing; the paradox of not being able to put it down, yet attempting to read slowly so as to delay the end. You try to budget the number of pages you read per day just to make the story last longer. And when it's over, you have no other choice but to say goodbye to the characters. At least you get to pass the story on to others, and you feel excited about sharing, yet envious because your experience of discovery is finished.
There are many wonderful books in the market. I’ll never grow tired of reading. But a book of this caliber comes every once in a while. So here it is. I enviously share with you the title BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will budget your pages. You will not want to say goodbye to the exceptional characters in this captivating story.

Awards, Nominations and Discussions:
SCBWI Golden Kite Award
School Library Journal "Someday my Printz will Come"
YALSA Top Ten Books
Morris Award 

Jacket flap:
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

This powerful tale of heartbreak and hope is sure to haunt readers long after they finish the last page.
·         Reading level: Ages 12 and up
·         Paperback: 368 pages
·         Publisher: Speak (April 3, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 014242059X
·         ISBN-13: 978-0142420591

Monday, July 9, 2012

Myracle Comes out Shiny

When Cat’s best friend Patrick gets beat with a baseball bat, duck taped to a gas hose, and left for dead, Cat sets out to solve the mystery of who perpetrated this hate crime. She has to. She owes it to Patrick for how she treated him ever since they started high school; plus Patrick’s coma means he can’t speak for himself. Cat’s backwoods community is small enough to have everybody in everybody’s business. Sure, there’s lots of gossip and there’s lots of negative talk against Patrick’s choice to be open about being gays, but could one of their own have actually done this to Patrick? That’s what Cat wants to figure out in this YA mystery, SHINE (Abrams) by Lauren Myracle.

Lauren Myracle is a genius of craft. She perfectly paced the story along, and kept me guessing, speculating, and riveted on each page turn. Her characters are interesting, diverse, and real.

If I were in Cat’s small town, I’d probably gossip about what happened with Myracle and the National Book Awards. I’d tell you that when the National Book Awards were announced, the committee accidentally named Shine on the list of nominees for the award in Young People’s Literature. Myracle graciously removed her name from the list as soon as the error was revealed. I imagine she must have realized one of the worst possible nightmares an author can experience…and she came out Shine-y. Good things can come out of nightmares, and it did when it comes to Shine’s sales figures. Whenever I see Chime (the actual nominee) listed in Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I notice statistics show that those who purchased Chime also purchased Shine. It’s human nature to want to judge if the committee got it right, or if they should have stuck with Shine. I’m not going to do that here. But I will say that Shine was an amazing read, and had the error not occurred, it probably wouldn’t have registered on my book radar. I guess the saying is true: all press is good press.

What Lauren Myracle says about the goof in the Huffington Post:

Oh, it felt good! To hell with that--it felt frickin' glorious. This book, Shine, this book that my beloved editor and I had bled our souls into, had been declared--to the world--one of the best of the year.

And then, two hours later, came a concerned email from a journalist friend. "So what do you think of the Chime/Shine mix-up?" she asked.

"The..." My gut clenched. "Excuse me, what?"

"Oh dear," she wrote back. "Perhaps you should do some Googling. And Lauren? I am so sorry."

To read more of her own words, visit: Lauren’s article

In the New York Times it was written that: “At Ms. Myracle’s urging, the National Book Foundation will make a $5,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for gay youth, promoting dignity and acceptance.”

The Unwithdrawn Praise for Shine
“Cat eventually uncovers the truth in a cliffhanging climax in which she confronts fear, discovers that love is stronger than hate and truly ‘shines.’ Raw, realistic and compelling.” –Kirkus Reviews
“The page-turning mystery and Cat’s inspiring trajectory of self-realization will draw readers in and give them plenty to ponder.” –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Dramatic in both content and presentation.” –Los Angeles Times

“Myracle captures well the regret that many feel for things in their past about which they are ashamed. Cat’s reflections on these moments are spot-on.” –School Library Journal
ISBN-10: 0810984172
ISBN-13: 9780810984172
Published: Harry N. Abrams, 04/01/2011
Pages: 376
Language: English
Recommended Reading Level
Minimum Age: 14
Maximum Age: UP
Minimum Grade Level: 9th Grade
Maximum Grade Level: Up
·        Hardcover (3/2011): $16.95
·        Paperback (4/2012): $7.95
·        MP3 CD (1/2012): $24.99
·        MP3 CD (1/2012): $39.97

Monday, July 2, 2012

OKAY FOR NOW and Mastering Voice

OKAY FOR NOW doesn't offer the kind of snappy title that pulls me forward and beckons me to buy or read. But I'm thankful the book cover displays something else--the name of the author, Gary D. Schmidt. Gary D. Schmidt is a writer I trust based on his creation of The Wednesday Wars (a fun and hilarious 2008 Newbery honor book). When I discovered he had written OKAY FOR NOW and it had received a nomination for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I knew I was in for another fun and unusual adventure.  
The book is packed with layers of plot, fascinating characters, and voice. Ah, the voice. From dialogue to introspection, Schmidt captures the perfect tone and texture of the teenage boy. He truly nails voice.

If you’re a writer, and your critiquing group says, "Well, um, your story is interesting, but it's a little cardboard" that may be code for "Where's the voice?" Now hopefully you're working with an honest group, and they had the courage to ask this question of your work; and hopefully they sandwiched that hard to hear criticisim inbetween a couple of compliments. But let's get back to "cardboard" or "vanilla" and the issue of the missing voice. If your response is, "What the heck does that mean?" Pick up a copy of OKAY FOR NOW, and you'll get it right away (Matt de la Pena is another author who nails voice; so is Donna Gephart) .

If you’re a reader, and you want to be thoroughly entertained, read OKAY FOR NOW. If you are between the ages of nine and ninety-nine, read OKAY FORNOW. It's a five lollipopper.
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

5 out of 5 lollipops for OKAY FOR NOW
Author speaking at SCBWI conference August 2012
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; None edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547152604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547152608

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