The Scoop on Children & Adolescent Literature

Archive for the ‘Young Adult Fiction’ Category

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

Posted by hollybookscoops on May 12, 2012

I just read Matthew J. Kirby’s debut novel, and I’m about to start devouring his next book, Icefall, which just won the Edgar Award in the juvenile ficiton category. I am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, we are putting in some landscaping- flower beds and such, and so I am going to have to work hard to sneak in some reading in between gardening. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll work it in somehow.

But… back to The Clockwork Three… I had a great time reading this novel and seeing how the lives of Frederick, Guiseppe and Hannah worked together like the intricate gears of a clock. Frederick is an orphan clockmaker’s apprentice, Hannah is a maid and the sole provider for her poverty stricken family, while  Guiseppe is a busker and slave to his Padrone (a really mean man that is basically a child-extortionist and slave-master). I love the name Guiseppe- it’s so Italian, and the Italian aspect of his heritage was a small part of what endeared Guiseppe to my heart.

I’ve heard great things about Kirby’s next book and I can hardly wait to get started. I also am looking forward to meeting Matthew J. Kirby in person this summer at the WIFYR conference and having him sign a copy for me. That’s one of the great perks about this conference. Not only do they have a First Line Contest (open to everyone) going on right now, but they usually have a first line contest at the conference and they have author/illustrator signings. It’s like a celebrity meet and great for the literary world. I can hardly wait to see all my favorite people @WIFYR!

Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

Posted by hollybookscoops on March 17, 2012


For those of you who like to celebrate holidays with a good book- here’s a great one for St. Patrick’s Day! We all know that Irish folklore is filled with tales of faeries and supernatural beings. So, although the specific country is not spelled out in Princess of the Wild Swans, it seems an ideal fit for the setting to be in an Irish country. Especially with the fact that the villagers in the book dance Ceili dances together. Cari and I grew up with Ceili dancing as part of our family’s involvement in Irish step dancing. There’s a great site with a thorough history on this form of dance that you can check out at Ceili Dancing. However, there is no mention of kilts in the book, so if you imagination takes you to another land of faeries, kudos for you.

I enjoyed Diane Zahler’s third princess book- although A True Princess is still my favorite out of her three. Many of us avid readers know the basic story of the Princess and the Swans, but for those who need a refresher, here’s a summary: Like so many classic fairytales, this one begins with a princess who’s mother has died, and her father remarries a wicked woman who is a witch. She is determined to get rid of the king’s 11 sons and 1 daughter. Zahler’s book only has 5 sons and the faerie’s in her story are evil, rather than good, but it’s a great re-telling. Zahler clearly knows her folklore and fairytales well. You can check out wikipedia for fuller details if you care to compare the similarities and differences between the two.

Now, here’s a quick review of some of the highlights and things that I loved. The stepmother was one of my favorite characters. Why? Because she was so evil. You can’t have a really good fairytale without some opposition between good and evil. It was interesting to see just how persuasive she could be with her enchantments and silver tongue. My other favorite, of course, was Princess Meriel. It was especially gratifying to see how much she changed from being a spoiled little brat who thought she was entitled to everything, to a much more self-sufficient, thoughtful person. I think this part was so gratifying to me because I work with girls of this age on a regular basis in our religious community and Meriel’s character was spot-on to things I see consistently among this age group. Often my girls can’t see the point of learning a certain skill. Let’s say, for example’s sake, sewing. And so they pout, and roll their eyes, and sigh and sometimes sit there regally refusing to learn. They can’t imagine ever having a need to use such an archaic skill. Heaven forbid they should ever need it. Luckily for them they do not live in the land of faeries and witches and spells! Otherwise, they might find themselves in dire need of this basic skill like Meriel. Hopefully someday, they’ll be grateful for all those things I torture them with- just like Meriel becomes friends with her governess, who was another of my favorite characters.

If you’ve read the book, who is your favorite character? How about your favorite of the three princess books, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted in Books for Girls, Fantasy, Middle Readers, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

Posted by hollybookscoops on October 5, 2011

The mostly True Story of Jack is another compelling, debut children’s book. I seem to be reading a lot of these lately. There is a mystery that pulls you along from the very first page. I think that many younger readers will find this to be a little bit spooky and shivery tale. ‘Something’ magical steals children in Hazelwood, takes their souls and erases them from memory. Their families don’t even remember that they existed. With a creepy old school building built on a magical eruption point, creepy woods, and an evil, rich citizen, this book has enough creep factor to keep middle grade readers up late into the night afraid of their own shadow. It’s up to the children in the town to solve the mystery and save one another from having their souls stolen away. Perfect for a Halloween-season scare, this medium-scary tale may or may not be for your child. It would probably scare my kids too much, but they are easily scared. However, I enjoyed it.

Posted in Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »

A Step From Heaven by An Na

Posted by hollybookscoops on October 3, 2011

The 2002 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature.

Young Ju comes with her family to America. As they fly in the plane, Young Ju thinks they must be going to Heaven. Her Uhmma seems so happy toa step from heaven go to this America, it must be as wonderful as Heaven. An Na’s language took me back to college days when I had 3 Korean roommates. Her subtle language reflects exactly the grammar idiosyncrasies of new immigrants (not in the whole book, but at appropriate places). We had so much fun playing around with different words and the sounds that were difficult for my roommates to pronounce. I remember helping with grammar on English papers and being frustrated because you can’t change a whole paper to sound all-American without taking out the personality of the author, and the heritage they carry.

So, back to the story . . . Young Ju is frustrated by the discrepancies between home life- and true ‘American’ life. Her parents have brought with them traditional Korean ways, which when contrasted with discussions at school, bring Young Ju much difficulty. Americans think it is okay to question everything, but at home Young Ju must not question, or she is disrespectful. This story drives home the importance of family togetherness and understanding. Definitely sad parts, and difficult topics (physical and alcohol abuse), but overall a story of hope in America and the American dream.

Posted in Books for Girls, Juvenile Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Independence Rock by Debra Terry Hulet

Posted by hollybookscoops on September 30, 2011

I met Debra Terry Hulet this summer during an author event at our nearby Kuna, Idaho library. She has an amazing story and if you ever get a chance, you need to go meet her! Her debut novel, Independence Rock, is somewhat unusual in Mormon Fiction because it deals with touchy subjects that are often glossed over in feel-good, faith-promoting literature. The protaganist, Katie McBride has an abusive, alcoholic mother and an absent father. Kudos to Debra for starting out with such a tough situation!

Although Katie’s ancestors were Mormon, Katie is not. So, when she is offered the chance to go on a handcart trek instead of be locked up in juvenile detention, Katie embarks on a difficult journey towards healing and understanding. I was excited to receive a review copy of Debra’s book, and I must say once I started reading it, I devoured it. Katie’s handcart trek is interwoven with the handcart trek of her ancestor, Katherine, whose journal Katie finds under the floorboards in her bedroom the night before she leaves. As Katie reads journal entries along the way, Katie and Katherine draw closer to one another despite the divide of years. When Katie faces a crisis she can’t see past, Katherine is able to help Katie in a very unusual way.

This is a great read for all youth, and it would especially be a great prep-book for youth groups planning on a handcart trek adventure. It’s made me want to go check out Independence Rock for myself. A big thank you goes to Debra for a great book and visit. I look forward to seeing more of Debra’s books in the future.

Want more handcart resources? Check out for some awesome mini handcarts. If you want to plan a trek, or learn more about handcart treks, check out Don’t forget to check out 17 Miracles, this wonderful (tear-jerker) movie is about handcart pioneers and the many miracles they witnessed along the road to Zion.

Posted in Young Adult Fiction | 4 Comments »

A Few Things on My Summer Reading List…

Posted by hollybookscoops on July 20, 2011


It’s been a very busy summer, as I’m sure you all agree. Cari and I spent our first full week of summer vacation at the WIFYR 2011 Writer’s conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers). Boy did we come home changed! Cari took the YA novel class by Emily Wing Smith and I (Holly) took the Picture Book class by Kristyn Crow. I think my inner creator grew three sizes. At least! So, due to opportunities to submit manuscripts and all the entailing writing and revising, things here at Bookscoops have slowed down. I know, you thought they were already slow. It’s probably a little more honest to say they practically came to a standstill. Sorry about that!

I thought that I would make a quick list of some of the books that I have read and enjoyed this summer. I know, I know. How can I have time for reading, if I have no time for blogging? The key to reading even when you’re busy is having a book every place you might have a moment to read. Even with four kids, there is always a moment to read. Like, that 3 minute time slot when everyone is taking forever to buckle their seatbelt… don’t get mad, read! They’ll get the point eventually, and even if they don’t, you’ll get more reading time :) So, without further ado, here is the list:

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold: I actually re-read this book on accident. Apparently, I had no memory of the original first two chapters. Or the cover. But I did, all of a sudden, have one of those Ah Hah! moments, and it all came rushing back. Despite my questionable memory, I did love this book the first time, and the second time. So, since it was worth the re-read to me, it’s definitely worth a look for you. Did you know that during the Great Depression there was a government funded program that paid young men to work? Most of these young men worked on National Parks and agricultural projects. It was amazing. What a concept- provide jobs, and improve our country, all at the same time. I’m a little curious to know why no one has thought of this during our current recession. I have read multiple times in the news about how difficult it is for young people to get jobs these days. Perhaps we are not yet desperate enough to do this kind of back breaking labor.

Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller: How many of you have ever thought of the Helen Keller story from the teacher’s perspective? I loved this peak into the life of Annie Sullivan. Amazing, and profound. I can’t believe what she rose above to become Helen Keller’s key to life. Annie and her brother spent time sleeping in the corpse room at a sanatorium after their mother dies and their drunk father abandons them to relative who can’t handle their handicaps or Annie’s spunky attitudes. Defnitely a must-read.

Dark Fire and Fire World by Chris D’Lacey: Books 5&6  in his Dragon series. My soon-to-be 5th grader and I have been fighting over these all summer. I steal the book from him after he goes to sleep and he steals it from me in the morning. All the time in between is a free-for-all. When his friends are over or he’s at swimming lessons, it’s my turn. I just finished Fire World last night. Anyone interested in dragons and who likes fantasy will find these books a fun escape from reality. If you are, or have, a voracious reader that needs something new to read, this series will keep you busy for a good amount of time as each one is three inches thick.  Fire World was quite different than I expected, there definitely will be at least one more book to come. It’s been fun tag-teaming the series with my son, I look forward to the next one- actually, we both do!

Picture Books

The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry: This is a fun remake of the three little pigs, with gators and a big bottom boar. The author and illustrator are the same as the fun fractured tale of the Little Red Hen: Armadilly Chili (loved this one too!)

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by David Soman and Jacky Davis: a husband and wife team. I was tipped off to this book by a friend I met at the WIFYR conference (Thanks Christy!). It’s a fun book about compromise and friendship- the text is honestly a little long for my taste, but the pictures are adorable.

Mudkin by Stephen Gammell: A rolicking tale of fun in the mud, imagination… you get the drift. Perfect for my kids who turned our backyard dirt pile into a mud slide. What’s amazing about this is that there are only around 55 words! The rest is all illustration. Sometimes I wish I had more experience with illustration. I would love to be like Stephen Gammell and be able to tell stories through my art as well as my words. Maybe someday…

My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet: Take a look at the cover. No, that is not an elephant, it’s a cat. Really. I’m not kidding. Neither is Gilles Bachelet. We loved this book, over and over and over. There’s just something inherently hilarious about a cat that’s an elephant. The twist at the end, was very satisfying. Your kids will love this book!

Fuddles by Frans Vischer: Fuddles is a spoiled, fat house-cat. Fuddles dreams of adventure, but when he experiences the real thing, he’s not so sure he dreamed the right dream anymore.

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett: Physical comedy in a picture book! An adorable chameleon changes color and shape as he tries to match the things he encounters. What he really wants is a friend- someone like him. This is another author-illustrator project, with few words, and lots of laughs.

Owls Backyard Animals by Nick Winnick: A fun non-fiction picture book full of fun information about these varied creatures of the night sky.

These aren’t all the books I’ve read- just some of them. I do read adult books too, which I don’t review here- anywhere, actually. Plus lots of books that are still in the que for special features, coming soon. I went to a few great book signings and I’ve gotten some fun review books in the mail. Stay tuned for more fun reads!

Posted in Books for teaching history, Books for teaching Math and Science, Children's Literature, Fantasy, News, Non-Fiction, Picture Books, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | 3 Comments »

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Posted by hollybookscoops on July 20, 2011

I just finished reading an amazing book! It would make a great audio for vacation- especially for middle schoolers and older. Without being preachy in any way, it will help your kids- especially your daughters appreciate the privileges and freedoms we enjoy today. You might find yourself discussing some important subjects about equality of the sexes and traditions that don’t make sense, but that are hard to question because they are so entrenched in society.

Lela and her family live in India at the cusp of Gandhi’s new political and social ideas. Lela has the misfortune of losing her ‘husband’ at the young age of twelve, making her a widhwa, or widow. I love the parallels that Sheth weaves throughout the story between the political and marriage practices of 1918 India. I found myself angry at the injustices that Lela must face because of her sex. Widows are not allowed to remarry, so Lela’s life as she knows it, will never be the same. For those unfamiliar with these marriage customs, children were engaged, and marriages arranged, by parents for their children at very young ages. Lela was on the cusp of actually moving to her in-laws’ home, when an unfortunate accident occurred, altering her life’s course forever. I encourage you to read this amazing story- that is actually based on the true life story of one of Kashmnira Sheth’s aunt’s.

Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Briana’s Gift by Lurlene McDaniel

Posted by hollybookscoops on May 16, 2011

What teenage girl hasn’t heard of Lurlene McDaniel? I always got a good cry out of her books, maybe that means I’m sappy. Hmmm. McDaniels is known for her books that deal with hard realities. Sometimes, there are so many in one book, it’s a little unbelievable, but hey, it’s all about tugging on those heart strings!

Sissy is a very lovable main character whose older sister has skipped their small, homey town and run off to Hollywood. Underage and soon pregnant, she returns abandoned and in need of support. While struggling with the big decisions that come to pregnant teenagers, Briana actually begins to value her family. The twists and plot turns were well done and not as easily predictable as I thought they would be.

If you like McDaniels other books, you will not be disappointed!

Posted in Books for Girls, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

Posted by bookscoops on March 17, 2011

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we bring to you a new Double Scoop! A wonderful book written by an Irish author about an Irish kid in, you guessed it, Ireland!

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer, is a kid-detective book that we are sure we would have loved when we were young. Actually, we love it now too, so hopefully that means we’re still young! Just in case the author’s name is ringing a bell, we will save you a trip to yahoo or google’s search engine and just tell you: Yes, this is by the same author as all the Artemis Fowl books.

Holly: My favorite part of Half Moon is that Fletcher was a real detective – he passed an online course for people over 18. So he was officially qualified even though nobody would believe him.

Cari: I thought you picked the book because Fletcher was short and you wanted a chance to poke at my shortness. Fletcher Moon is called Half Moon because he’s short. I do think the book is a good transition for kids who have outgrown Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew – it’s more complicated than the formulaic plots of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Holly: Honestly, I only picked the book for other reasons. First off I picked it because it’s set in Ireland, and we are Irish. Secondly, we love good detective stories and last of all, because it refers to Irish Dancing which we both did for many years.

Cari: Are you sure it’s not because I’m short?

Holly: No Cari, that thought didn’t even enter my head. Thinking of thoughts I never had, I don’t remember any parts in the book that I didn’t like.

Cari: I’ve read the Artemis Fowl books. Half Moon is similar to Artemis in that he is very bright and can get around adults when he wants information. Like hacking computers, getting information. Although Artemis is a juvenile genius delinquent (boy that’s a mouthful) with a lot of money in a fantasy setting. I thought Half Moon was a little bit more believable.

Holly: I appreciated the glimpse into the criminal world. Particularly interesting was the network of connections. I liked the example of the one ‘good’ kid, Red Sharkey, in the crime family trying to break the mold and be different. He wanted to be a model citizen, but because of his family people didn’t want to let him.

Cari: Yeah, definitely.

Holly: He tended to get in trouble when he was trying to help out.

Cari: I did not like the head mistress of the school and how she kept a list of good kids and bad kids with pictures. The good kids were angels and the bad kids devils.

Holly: I thought a lot about how often we take people and label them and sometimes it’s really difficult to let them escape that label.

Cari: Let’s talk about the girls’ gang, Le Fountanin. Basically, pink-loving or obsessed 10-year-old girls with a leader who is so ‘brilliant’ she is almost crazy. She appears to be all fufu and fluff on the outside, but she’s really made of ruthless steel. Whereas the Sharkey crime family is the opposite. On the outside they appear like steel, but they can really be generous when you know them.

Holly: Let’s talk about crime in Ireland. How much of it is related to the whole protestants vs. catholics ages old disputes?

Cari: I think this book is set in Ireland vs. Northern Ireland because the terrorist group IRA is in Northern, which is part of the United Kingdom. When I talk to people from there they talk about shopping. Just to go grocery shopping there are metal detectors. I’m not sure how much is Ireland and how much Northern Ireland spills over.

Holly: I’m just wondering if the level of violence and crime the girls were willing to go to was influenced by the community.

Cari: Or it could just be the author trying to break stereotypes. Criminals are often not the worst bad guys sometimes the worst criminals are people you wouldn’t think of. The Sharkey family did crime, but they weren’t cruel generally. Whereas this April girl is Miss Junior Criminal Mastermind in the making.

Holly: What do you think about they way Half-moon is attacked?

Cari: I thought it was scary and I think he was being stupid.  But, he is 12-years-old and they don’t always make the best choices. I think a lot of kids like Half-Moon might try it.

Holly: I thought it was extreme battery for a middle grade, in fantasy it wouldn’t phase you, but it kind of threw me off here.

Cari: It did put him in the hospital. On the other hand, I think there are teens that see that level of violence all the time. you can turn on the news and see violence all over the world.

Holly: One of the main points of the book seems to be that life isn’t always black and white. Half Moon likes that in detective ‘training’ all the rules are listed and it benefits you to follow the rules. Real life is a little different.

Cari: Half Moon has to cross a lot of lines to get at the truth. Half-Moon by the book wants to follow the detecting manual, and go to the police, but he suddenly finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit.  Out of necessity, he starts to change and becomes good friends with another kid that is from a crime family.

Holly: Isn’t there a saying: necessity is the mother of invention? In this case, I think necessity was the seed of friendship.

Cari: We need to be careful how we judge and stereotype people even as adults.

A fun fact about the Irish Bookscoops sisters, Cari and Holly:

Every St. Patrick’s Day from about age 9 and 10, we spent the entire day dancing, often until way past bed-time, all around the Treasure Valley as part of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance. We each have 9+ years of Irish Step Dancing under our belts. We’d like to pay tribute to our wonderful teacher, Bella Yerina of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance in Thousand Oaks, California, who flew up to the Boise, Idaho area about once a month to teach us. We also would like to pay tribute to Terry Jung (check out the 3rd picture on this site to see her perpetual trophy!), who supervised our weekly practices, managed all of our public performances, and also taught us many dance steps.

*If you click on the link above to check out the Irish Dance site, please note that we were a part of the school back in simpler days, before River Dance took the world by storm. The costumes we wore were the white ones with green and gold embroidery, and we didn’t use curly wigs back then- we did things the hard way sleeping in curlers all night and loading on lots of hair spray!

**The BBC did a series of thirteen episodes called Half Moon Investigations on the BBC in 2009. It would be fun to check these episodes out!

Posted in Double Scoops, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | 2 Comments »

Crispin The Cross of Lead and Crispin at the Edge of the World by Avi

Posted by hollybookscoops on March 4, 2011

crispin cross of leadCrispin: The Cross of Lead

I read and enjoyed this book many years ago, I re-read it just before reading the sequel, Crispin at the Edge of the World. A fascinating tale of murder and deception, the Cross of Lead traces the journey of a young boy struggling to discover who he is and why he has been proclaimed a “wolf’s head”, which means he can be killed on sight, no questions asked. Afraid to venture beyond the medieval village he has known his whole life, Asta’s son recognizes how little he knows when he meets the juggler named Bear. As Bear questions Asta’s son, and encourages him to use his own wit, Crispin learns that he has more potential than he ever imagined.

crispin edge of worldCrispin: At the Edge of the World

I enjoyed the sequel to the Cross of Lead, which follows the further journey of Bear and Crispin as they dare to sail away from England and escape the attackers who are hunting them without mercy. The people they find to help them along the way are genuine characters that add depth and perception to the story. Bear now acts as father to two children who trust him with their lives. Faced with impossible decisions and difficult situations, this is another successful spell-binding Avi tale. I look forward to reading the third and final volume of this planned trilogy!

Crispin: The End of Time

I was excited to find out what happened to Crispin in this, the last installment of the Crispin series. Crispin’s life has been one never-ending adventure since he left home as the wolf’s head in book one. The adventure continues in the foreign land he and Troth find themselves alone in. Set in a middle-ages environment, Crispin’s life story is fraught with danger and his life doesn’t slow down one bit in the last book! Once again escaping murderers and thieves, Crispin’s last tale will give readers the satisfying ending they desire and still leaves the door open for more tales, if Avi should change his plans. Avi has created a fun series for upper elementary students that will leave them with a great appreciation for the safety and security we enjoy in our civilized world!

Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Juvenile Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »


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