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If you're like me and you're mourning the end of the Harry Potter series, then you'll want to devour Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. It's a five book series, with the fifth coming out one week from now. Instead of the wizarding world, Riordan takes us into Greek mythology. The series is set for the most part in modern-day New York, where sometime-problem child Percy Jackson learns that one of his parents is a Greek god. This means that Percy is a demi-god and spends his summers at Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for others like him where they learn the skills necessary for any quest they might be sent on by the gods.


The best thing about this series is how much all that Greek mythology information I learned way back in middle school suddenly returned to the forefront of my mind. Even though it's present-day, Riordan uses Greek myths alongside contemporary issues. They mingle together quite well. For example, Riordan explains that Mt. Olympus always sits over the world power at present. When it was in Greece, that's because the Greeks were the center of civilization. Currently? Mt. Olympus resides above the Empire State Building in NYC.


This series is the basis for B&N's summer reading program this summer, and for that I am so excited. I can't wait to get even more kids (and my friends!) hooked on this series. Percy is a likeable, realistic boy who I think most of today's attention-deficit, video-game-loving, always-in-motion youth can identify with. His problems--minus the whole Greek demigod, fighting minotaurs and sea monsters thing--are their problems. His friends are like their friends. 


This series is a relatively quick read, but it's educational and adventurous. Recommended for, well, anyone really.


The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles Series #1)  To all of the kids and adults who have followed the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and were dismayed when the series ended -The new series from Rick Riordan, the Kane Chronicles is even better !  Rick Riordan still performs that magic that he does so well - creating a fun storyline that takes off on the first page and characters that are believable.  He makes us laugh, cry and sit at the edge of our seat .  As in the last series kids will learn a great deal about mythology - this time it is Ancient Egyptian Gods trying to take over and it is up to Carter and Sadie Kane to stop them before chaos rules.  Things and familiar places are not what they seem and you will love the new gods, goddesses and protectors who come alive in this book.  One of the things I love about his books is the way he empowers kids who feel different or have trouble in everyday life.  Both brother and sister feel disjointed and powerless because of their parents and their  Egyptian alter ego gives them self confidence and special gifts.  While the average 13 year old may not feel like he or she has a lot of control in their life these books will speak to them to search for their own gifts.   I will have no problem recommending these books to any kids from 10 and up. Reading this series together as a family is a  great way to add adventure to a quiet summer. 

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series #1)



Categories: ages 9-12

The Magician's Elephant

Status: Bookseller Picks

Kate DiCamillo has done it again!


Peter, a young orphaned boy was taken in some years ago by an embittered soldier, who was his father's comrade. He has spent the last few years learning how to be a good soldier like his father, and although he wants to respect his dead father, his heart lies elsewhere. One day, a fortuneteller's tent pops up out of nowhere, and a force compels Peter to visit her and ask a question. Once he meets her, he doesn't even need to ask his question, but is told, "You must follow the elephant. She will lead you there." After all these years, he is faced with the hope that his little sister is still alive and that he will actually find her if he can just figure out this elephant of a riddle.


This captivating story unfolds with a dreamlike quality. The chain of events set up by the arrival of the fortuneteller constantly provokes us to ask ourselves "What if?" The beauty of this story lies in that single thought, and questioning the impossible. "What if?"...when the impossible proves not to be, one cannot help but be filled with hope.


This is a timeless fable that could definitely earn a Newbery, but more importantly inspire kids and adults in abundance. This book feels like Amelie-meets-children's-literature, and I can't wait to start recommending it.

Categories: ages 9-12

In the Genre but not of the Genre

Status: Bookseller Picks

Thanks to Harry Potter, children's literature has exploded and entered a much-awaited golden age. There are now many talented authors entering the limelight with hundreds, if not thousands of new titles out there for our hungry little readers fresh from Hogwarts. Great as they may be, many tend to fall into a similar 'magical' formula that can make it difficult to tell them apart. The Mysterious Benedict Society Series, however takes the best of the old, the best of the new, and blends them into an exciting and brain teasing mystery. Four genius orphans are recruited to use their minds to solve mysteries in a whirlwind adventure to save the world. With real brainteasers mixed into the story, adults will enjoy this series just as much as kids. It's another great selection to fill that gaping Harry Potter void and make the separation that much more bearable.

Looking for a fun and engrossing read for your child or just something light and fun for yourself? Meet Daphne and Sabrina Grimm, two sisters who learn they are actually descendants of the Brothers Grimm.  After their parents mysteriously disappear they go to live with their grandmother in Fairyport Landing, a town created by the Brothers Grimm to keep all of the everafters (fairytale characters) safe from the outside world.  These books have appearances from all of your favorite fairytale characters (Snow White, Cinderella, The Big Bad Wolf, etc) and the girls solve fairytale mysteries and try to find out just what happened to their parents, while still trying to get along as sisters and adapt to this new life where fairytale characters are true, and even some live with them!  These books are highly entertaining and easy to read, but also teach children vocabulary (younger sister Daphne continually asks sister Sabrina what words mean) and deal with issues of fairness, segregation, equality, and getting along with others.  This is truly a wonderful series, Michael Buckley is a very talented writer. Look for his second series out this fall!



Why to John Flagman's Ranger's Apprentice Series, of course. 


In this series Mr... Flanagan has created a world similar to that of our medieval world. Complete with castles, knights, kingdoms and adventure. When we meet will he is an orphan and ward of castle Redmont in the Kingdom of Araluen. Will is a small boy, but makes good use of his size and ability to sneak. That is to move without being seen. As well as his ability to climb anything that offers a good foothold. Both of these talents combined to get him into some trouble with the castle chef over some pilfered pastries. 


Will had heard tell that his father was a brave warrior killed in battle, and would like nothing more than to become a knight like his father. However his size does present a problem, in that he is too small to train as a knight. When it seems all is lost and Will won't be chosen to apprentice anyone a spectral being steps from the shadows and whispers something in the baron's ear. The spectral being, is none other than the famously feared ranger, Halt. It is said he possesses some black magic that allows him to move unseen and blend with the shadows. Is it true? You will have to read the books to find that out. 


What I will tell you, and as the series' title gives away is this; Halt takes Will to be his apprentice. And through his apprenticeship we get a look at the training and day-to-day life of a ranger of the Kingdom of Araluen. Exciting stuff, and that is just the beginning. 


Adventures abound for Will and his friends. Each one helping to shape them into what they are truly meant to be. Heroes.


So far there have been six books released in the series, and not one disappoints!

Emotional account of German teens in Hitler's Germany

Status: Bookseller Picks



Ashes  Often sad and always real, Kathryn Lasky's book teaches the reader what life must have been like during the onset of World War II for German children and teens.  Gabriella (Gaby) Schramm is the model German 13 year old - blond, well read and proud of her heritage until she witnesses first hand how her country is caught up in "Hitler fever".   Gaby , her older sister, mother and astrophysicist father see their world turn upside down.  Next door neighbor, Albert Einstein and other Jewish friends are set upon by the upcoming Nazi party.  Teachers and neighbors seem to change overnight - it is a world gone mad.  LIke other novels of this time period it can be too much for young readers.  I would however recommend it for a slightly younger age group than "The Book Thief" or "Diary of Anne Frank" as it discusses emotionally charged topics but reads like a young teen would speak and feel.

Categories: ages 9-12, teens

Picture The Dead

Status: Bookseller Picks


Picture the Dead




This book is so interesting! A romantic mystery that is interactive and historical. Whew!


Follow Jennie as she tries to piece together the truth as to what happened to her fiance in the Civil War. Each chapter begins with an illustration that is a recreation of a photograph, painting, or letter. While this addition does create a different flow for reading, I enjoyed the originality.


This book seems like an excellent read for the 12-15 age range as it is appropriate in material, but still very exciting and interactive. Picture The Dead would be a good supplement to a Civil War lesson in school as many major battles are mentioned and the illustrations are true to the time period.


Magnificent 12



Categories: ages 9-12

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World?

Status: Bookseller Picks

Summer is quickly approaching, and if you're anything like the customers I meet every day in my store, you're already planning a vacation.  By far, the most common destination that customers want books about is Walt Disney World in Florida.  Since I travelled there last year, I have some suggestions.  I bought two books to help plan my trip--one to use before we went, and one to use while we were there--and I bought a third book as a treat to remind myself of the fun I had.


The first book is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 (Unofficial Guides Series). I used this in the months leading up to my trip to decide what my family and I would do once we got to Orlando.  This book is full of helpful information.  It comes with maps, charts, and detailed reviews of hotels, attractions, restaurants, and stores.  Two things set it apart from the official guide put out by Disney.  First, the authors have the ability to be critical; if they don't think something is worth seeing, they'll tell you.  Second, they have information about attractions that aren't located on the Disney property.  If you want information on Sea World or Universal Studios, or just want to know about hotels that aren't owned by Disney, you can find that information here.
The most helpful part of this book, though, was the detailed touring plans.  There is so much to do at Disney World that it can be overwhelming trying to decide what the best way to do everything is.  This guide gives several suggestions about how to get the most out of your time in the parks, showing you what order to see things in and at what times of the day.  This made planning much easier, and helped prevent a lot of arguments in my family about what to do first.


Even with all of that planning, we still needed help once we got into the parks.  We ended up seeing many things that looked interesting to do once we got there, but hadn't read about ahead of time, so we needed to have a way to learn about it on the fly.  Unfortunately, the Unofficial Guide mentioned above is almost two inches thick (with all of the great information in there, it would be hard to be any thinner), which makes carrying it around in the Florida heat unappealing.  That is why I also picked up a copy of the Zagat Walt Disney World Insider's Guide, a slim book that is very easy to carry around.  If you've ever used a Zagat guide before, you know that they ask for feedback from actual consumers and compile that information into number ratings and a brief review.  It doesn't have as much information as the Unofficial Guide, but it still covers all of the rides, attractions, restaurants, hotels, and stores that you could want.  Most helpful to me were the number scores given to rides and attractions that are broken down into three categories: adults, children, and thrill; this last one was especially helpful since we were travelling with a couple of people who hate thrill rides.  Those ratings are also compiled into lists at the beginning of the book where that are ranked highest to lowest, so that if you want to know what the most popular rides are for adults or for children, you can find them all in one place.
Although I wouldn't have used this book to plan the whole vacation, it made it very easy to make decisions on the fly.  I'm glad that I decided to buy both guides.

The final book that I would recommend is not actually a guide to Walt Disney World, but rather a children's novel set there.   Disney After Dark is the first book in The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson.  It's about a group of kids who are chosen to serve as holographic guides in the Magic Kingdom, and who are the only people who can stop the powers of evil from taking over at Disney World.  It's a fast-paced adventure story that would be good for kids ages 10-14.  The best part about the book is that the characters spend most of their time in the Magic Kingdom.  It's a lot of fun to read about someone trying to escape from Splash Mountain when you just rode it the day before.  I highly recommend getting this book for your kids and letting them read it on the plane ride home from Disney.

Categories: ages 9-12, teens, travel


Status: Bookseller Picks



The Recruit




The Cherub series is a fun selection for a kid looking for adventure, espionage, and a great story. The Recruit was originally published in 2004 in the UK, but has recently been released in other countries and I think the new excitement will definitely grab some more fans.


The first book of the series follows James' from being orphaned to his beginnings as a Cherub agent. It was so much fun to read about his 100 days in training and then his first mission. I love all things spy related and I think a lot of adventurous kids will also love this book. I guess my only warning is that there is a lot of British slang, but in context it is easy to figure out.


I also hear a movie is being made about The Recruit-what fun!

Categories: ages 9-12, teens

History and Fantasy for Kids (and big kids too!)

Status: Bookseller Picks


The Time Pirate (Nick McIver Series #1)  I love historical fiction with a twist and this book delivers big time!  Pirate William Blood is organizing something big and gathering the pirates in Jamaica in 1781. In another chapter young Nick McIver is working with Lord Hawke gathering intelligence for Winston Churchill to stop the German invasion of the Channel Islands.  Now add a time machine and you have one wild ride!  Ted Bell has been writing for adults for years and this is his second book for young adults.  This is the perfect pick for kids who love World War II and pirates or adventure books in general. 


Fun new fantasy mystery for kids

Status: Bookseller Picks


The Sixty-Eight Rooms  As someone who has lived in Chicago over the years and loved spending countless hours in the cities wonderful museums I was very curious about Sixty Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone.  The story reminds me of a cross between Magic Tree House books and The Mixed Up Files of Basil E Frankweiler.  Two middle schoolers, Ruthie and Jack, have been friends forever- sorry... there is no romance here...  They go on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and view the famous miniature Thorne Rooms.  A magic key allows the two to shrink (think the Borrowers) and they are able to really get a good look at the rooms and solve a mystery in the meantime.  This will appeal more to girls than boys (even though there is a giant cockroach) and it will be a good fit for younger audiences 8 and up.  Fun and a good mix of borrowed ideas from other great books-


Categories: ages 9-12

Seventh Tower series

Status: Bookseller Picks

I read a Garth Nix book when I was much younger, called Shade's Children and loved it. I was doing my closing walk-through the kids department and saw the set of Seventh Tower Series 1-3 books just sitting there. On a whim, I picked it up. The first chapter is incredibly full of suspense and leaves you not knowing what happens for the entire first book (the second chapter starts a flashback). The books are short, fun, and fast-paced so I could read each one in about a day. As a matter of fact, I finished 4, 5, and 6 between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am one night when I should have been sleeping for school the next day because I was so enrapt I could not bear to not finish the entire series. I highly suggest if you are going to start these, you get the combined books (you can order 1-3 all in one book and 4-6 all in one book) because they each end on cliffhangers. Luckily, I didn't have to wait in between books.


While clearly written for juvenile readers, the series was quite thought-provoking and deeply into the realm of science fiction/fantasy. The entire series takes place in a world that could be ours in the distant future perhaps, in which a "veil" covers the planet and keeps out the sun (and shadows, coincidentally, which makes more sense later on). As a result, there are those who live in "the castle" kept warm by lava floes under the ground and lit by sunstones, and those who live on the ice and have adapted to the dark and freezing temperatures. When one accustomed to the castle winds up on the ice, an impressive adventure ensues. The main character, Tal, has to use only what limited magic he's been taught and the unwilling help of an icecarl, to get back to the castle, get a sunstone, travel to the spirit world of Aenir to get a shadowguard and save his mother, protect his brother and sister, and find his father. Or at least that's how it begins. He also manages to discover corruption and an ensuing war that his family is caught up in.


I recommend these books for children, teens, and adults. Adults - take a day off from what you normally read and enjoy something you don't usually do. You might just be surprised!


The rest of the books are: Castle (Seventh Tower Series #2),  Aenir (Seventh Tower Series #3),  Above the Veil (Seventh Tower Series #4),  Into Battle (Seventh Tower Series #5), and  The Violet Keystone (Seventh Tower Series #6). The sets are Seventh Tower(1-3) and   Seventh Tower (4-6).

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The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning Series #1)




Imagine three kids who are orphans but feel like their parents are still out there somewhere.  They are shuffled from orphanage to orphanage until they end up as the only children at a creepy orphanage owned by the mysterious Dr. Pym.

An old book which takes the children through time is coveted by a horrible woman named the Countess- think Cruella De Ville!  There are brave and noble dwarves, the heroic Gabriel and a cast of evil creatures who make this the next Percy Jackson or Harry Potter!  The book is one of three- named after the mysterious books.  Can you say movie rights... This will be a successful trilogy.

Categories: ages 9-12
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The Grimm Legacy    Polly Shulman's new book is a fantastical romp through the New York Circulating Material Repository with its less than famous shoes, hats, chess sets and other historical materials that are available for loan as well as a very special collection- The Grimm Collection.  Elizabeth takes a job at the repository at the suggestion of her favorite teacher and has no idea of the full scope of her duties.  Imagine dealing with the less than polite "Magic Mirror" or winged sandals not to mention a table that sets itself with delicious food instantly.  She and the other pages are in for an adventure when they discover something is amiss in the collection and key pieces are being substituted.  Elizabeth must also try to catch the eye of her dream date- basketball star Marc Merritt while solving the mystery.  Is he a prince or a frog?

Read and find out.  Great for 10 and up and for all those fans of another fairy tale mystery - The Grimm Sisters. 

The Unusual Suspects (Sisters Grimm Series #2)



Categories: ages 9-12
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The Enemy

Status: Bookseller Picks


The Enemy




This book reminded me of The Strain (where a strange disease starts affecting a large group of people) and Gone (where all of the adults in the world mysteriously disappear). In The Enemy, everyone over the age of 16 is diseased and zombie-like with a desire for fresh meat that leads them to attack children they encounter.


Around London, groups of resourceful kids are holed up in abandoned supermarkets trying to survive. They have to find food and always be on the look out for the scary grown ups as well as take care of all of the young kids left with them. While they are surviving, the ones in charge know that the grown ups are getting smarter, the food is running out, and they're losing more and more kids.


When an outsider turns up with Polaroids of Buckingham Palace, the kids decide to risk everything and head to what they're told is a safe place. The world is not a safe place anymore, though, and Arran and Maxie, the leaders of one of the groups aren't too sure what they're heading towards.


The book is gruesome at times and long. It's the type of book that could give a meek child nightmares, but it's not all about gore as Charlie Higson also raises a lot of moral questions that the kids must work through.


I definitely recommend this book! Enjoy! Don't eat while you read it, yuck!

Categories: ages 9-12, horror, teens
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Move over Wimpy Kid there's a new kid in town

Status: Bookseller Picks


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda  I think it was the little yoda on the cover that captured my interest- hmm read you I will.  The book is funny and centered around middle school boys caught in their angst over how to look cool in front of the girls. Why is it always the geeky kids that has a cool side?  Dwight and his advice giving Yoda are no exception.  I love the format of a diary with little scribbles and the look of crumbled paper.  The best part is that they show you how to make your own origami yoda.  The characters are believable and fun- should be a hit with boys or girls who enjoy all the Wimpy Kid books.  May the force be with author Tom Angleberger and his first book.


Categories: ages 9-12
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The Chronicles of Narnia Audiobooks

Status: Bookseller Picks


I enjoy listening to audio books. I find that time passes much more quickly at work or on long drive when I have one playing. For me, the two most important things I look for in a new audio book are a great story and a great reader, which is why I loved the Chronicles of Narnia CD Box Set. You probably already know that the stories by C. S. Lewis are classic works of fantasy, but the great actors that were recruited to perform for the audio versions--including Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh, and Lynn Redgrave--increase their enjoyability greatly. My personal favorite on this collection is The Magician's Nephew as read by Michael York; I could listen to him read the phone book and never get bored. I would recommend this collection to both adults and children; it's the perfect choice for family road trips.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

Status: Bookseller Picks

We all know that Snow White's stepmother is wicked, right? Who else would demand her Huntsman to cut out her daughter's heart and bring it back in a locked box? Well, the Queen isn't so much evil as she, well, let me not get ahead of myself.


The Evil Queen hasn't always been a queen. The daughter of a master mirror maker, she actually has a modest upbringing lacking a mother's guiding hand. The King, indeed, notices her when admiring her father's craftsmanship in the family shop. The young-maiden-soon-to-be-evil-queen never imagines that the King could have any genuine interest in her. But when he comes to court her, she timidly steps into the Kingdom that will be her bliss.


The King has been married before, but sadly Death steals his wife at a young age. This leaves the ill-fated King to raise young Snow White alone—at least until he meets his new Queen. Having come of age without a mother, yet wistfully envisioning who she would have been, the Queen vows to be the perfect mother to Snow White. She dotes on Snow, telling her stories, taking her on adventures, and honestly answering questions about her real mother. The Queen is a nurturing mother and caring bride. The madness begins when the King goes off to battle for months at a time...


Like any normal wife, she constantly worries about his safety. She tries to pass the time with her lovely daughter, taking her on outings, spending time with family including the King's deranged triplet cousins. Sometimes that just isn't enough to keep her sane, especially since the cousins have delivered a special gift to the castle—a magic mirror. This mirror actually had been a present from the King on their wedding day, but disappears after the Queen breaks it. When it returns, it possesses an ominous presence that she cannot shake. The great King ultimately dies in battle, the ghastly looking glass describing each horrifying detail to his fragile wife.


When the Evil Queen reveals the identity of the apparition in the mirror, almost everything makes sense. She fills in all the sordid details, leaving us no doubt that her hatred of Snow White is justified. By the end of the story, we have been drawn into sympathizing with her lethal lunacy. Don't believe me? Try reading this twisted tale—just in time for the long-awaited DVD release of the Disney classic adaptation.


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