Archive | November, 2011

Triple Play – “Open Wounds” Book Review an Interview with Joseph Lunievicz AND an AWESOME Give-Away!

30 Nov

Mr. Joseph Lunievicz

Today my Mom and I team up! My mom reviews the young adult novel “Open Wounds” and I get the great experience of interviewing Mr. Joseph Lunievicz, the author of “Open Wounds”!! Make sure you read to the end because Mr. Lunievicz gave me a signed copy of his book to give away to one lucky commenter!

Take it away Mom!

As you may have noticed by reading Erik’s blog, my husband and I are parenting a precocious nine-year old who’s reading abilities far exceed his tender age. When authors send review copies of books to Erik it is with the understanding that his parents get to “look it over” for appropriate content before handing it over to him and there have been a few books that we have politely declined to review because of mature content or language. When I read “Open Wounds” I quickly came to the conclusion that the novel was not for his age (see the review) BUT, I also fell completely in love with this exceptional story! I told Erik I thought some of his readers would really like to hear about it. Erik came up with the idea that I review the book and he got to do the interview. I hope you enjoy them both!

Open Wounds
By Joseph Lunievicz
352 pages – ages 15+
Published by Westside Books on May 31, 2011

Cid Wymann is growing up in the harsh environment of Queens, New York in the 1930s. Cid suffers abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father who blames him for his wife’s death during childbirth. Cid’s paternal Grandmother, Maddie, ostracizes him because he is a “Jew” (Cid’s mother was Jewish).  Cid is not allowed to go to school or to interact with other children. His days are spent working in their apartment doing chores. The only relief Cid finds is when he blackmails Maddie into taking him with her to see movies. The movies are the only escape for Cid. He is enthralled by the  swashbuckling adventures of  Errol Flynn in movies like  “Captain Blood” and he vows to become a great fencer. Cid eventually is able to make two good friends from his neighborhood, Siggy and Tomik, but these relationships disintegrate when he is shipped off to an orphanage after his father abandons him and his grandmother dies.  After five years, a war-torn relative of Cid’s, Winston Arnolf Leftingsham (“Lefty”), claims Cid from the orphanage. The wretched man Lefty was horribly disfigured in the War through exposure to Mustard gas and he is slowly “rotting from the inside out.” Although Lefty appears to be quite cruel and even insane at times, he sends Cid to school, teaches him about acting and Shakespeare and even puts Cid in the tutelage of Russian fencing instructor, Nikolai Varvarinski. Lefty offers Cid a chance at the kind of life he deserves. Within a short time, Cid develops admirable fencing skills that serve him when he faces some old enemies.

When Erik received Mr. Lunievicz’s novel “Open Wounds” he was very excited  because it was about a young boy learning to fence. I was less enthusiastic because I really didn’t think a novel about fencing could be anything I would want to get near, but as I started to read “Open Wounds” I was captivated by the story. Mr. Lunievicz describes depression era New York so well I could smell it. The ethnic tensions, class divisions and desperate times of that era are eloquently and accurately detailed in the story. The characters are multifaceted and grow as the story progresses. The protagonist, Cid, is immensely likeable and his spirit was inspirational. I kept thinking to myself as I read the book “why am I not depressed because of all the horrific things that happen to Cid?” I realized that it’s Cid’s focus and determination to succeed trumped all that had happened to him. The only character I wasn’t in love with was Cid’s girl friend, Betty. She could have been a strong support for Cid, but she comes off as a childish girl who inserts herself between Cid and his friends. The book has some mature themes (ethnic bigotry, suicide, alcohol and drug use, physical abuse). There is also profanity used here and there in the book, but most of the uses of profanity are not gratuitous and, I think, they actually add to the grittiness of the story. This book is a must read…for young adults and adults too, but not children (sorry Erik).

Five out of Five book worms for the exceptional coming of age story, “Open Wounds”!

Thanks Mom! Now for my interview with Mr. Lunievicz!

 I always hear from authors that you should write about what you know about. I read on your website that you are a fencer and a choreographer and your book, “Open Wounds” is about an orphaned boy who overcomes A LOT to become a competitive fencer and works choreographing fight scenes, but why did you choose to set the book during the 1930s and 1940s?

I think the saying write what you know is a partial truth. I mean writers make things up. Everything comes from the writer’s experience of the world – through their filter – but for fiction writers it’s changed and made up from there. Even the most autobiographical piece of fiction is still made up to some degree. So there’s imagination involved. An acting teacher once told me it helped, if you were an actor, to have a good imagination so you could become someone else. I think it works that way for writers too. But… I have found, in my own writing, that I enjoy writing about things I love to do, like fencing and stage combat. I find I’m drawn to these subjects also because I like to read about them. I love adventure stories.

Given that, when I first started writing about Open Wounds I had no idea it would end up being an historical novel. I was fencing épée and learning stage fencing/choreography at HB Studio (an acting studio in Manhattan) with this great fencing master named Joe Daly. He was filling my head with stories of the 1930s to 50’s studio system and the beginnings of modern fight choreography, working with Robert De Niro on The Mission (De Niro hired him to teach him to fence for the movie), Madonna in Who’s That Girl, and his fencing coach Giorgio Santelli (who is mentioned in my book!). Then, of all things, I had a vision. Seriously. I did. Other writers laugh at me when I say this but I bet they have them too. Anyway, I had read about some houses that were on the roof of the Hotel Chelsea (a famous hotel in NYC) and one day, walking to work, passing by this beautiful old hotel, I looked up at its roof and saw two people fencing. Now there weren’t really two people fencing up there, but I saw them anyway. And they were not just fencing they were dueling with real small swords (what would be like an épée) and trying to kill each other. I could see one man’s face. It held such sadness in it. His nose was broken, he had a scar on his cheek, and he was in his seventies. The other man had his back to me so I couldn’t see what he looked like. But the man I could see – well, there was just something about him that stayed with me for months afterwards. In some ways he haunted me. As a writer I know when an idea hits like that and won’t go away I need to write about it. I started writing about this man a year later. But I wrote about him in the present day. About a year and some 100 plus pages later, I realized the story wasn’t working. I had created a history for this man – who was now Cid Wymann – and started writing about his childhood. I did a timeline and picked out key dates for him, movies that he had worked on and in, people he had worked with. It worked and I found this material that really interested me about Cid – two events in particular – the opening of the movie Captain Blood in 1936 (Errol Flynn’s first big picture and a great swashbuckler) and Aldo Nadi’s (one of the greatest fencers of all time) coming from Italy to the US and conducting a fencing demonstration with Giorgio Santelli the same week that Captain Blood opened. That’s when I knew my story was meant to begin in 1936 right after Christmas. That’s when I realized I was going to write an historical novel that took place in the 1930’s and 1940’s. IN some ways you could say the time period picked me.

 Did you expect to write this book for young people, or did it just turn out that way? What do you hope young people learn from your book?

I did not write this book specifically for young people. It never occurred to me to do so when I began it. When the book was in an earlier version an agent recommended to me that I either tell Cid’s life from beginning to end in a long 5-700 page epic or concentrate on his earlier life as a teen and market it as a young adult book. It was a difficult decision to make but I felt the earlier material really called to me so I focused on his early teen years. I also felt I would write more about him and wanted to keep that option open.

I only really have a sense of what I’d like young people to learn from the book now, after it’s in print and I’ve had time to think about it – get perspective on the story from a higher altitude. I think Cid’s a strong character who does not give up, even in the face of tremendous loss and difficulties. I hope that anyone who reads the book can believe that if Cid can do it, so can they. There is also the idea that people come into our lives who are damaged, like Lefty and Nikolai Varvarinski, but whose love can overcome their shortcomings. Cid struggles to become a whole human being (as all of us do) and through the help of these two men, friends he makes along the way, and his developing sense of who he is in the world, in the end succeeds.

 It’s really cool that you know fencing. I never really thought about the sword fighting in movies as being planned out like a dance. Do you think fencing in the movies is anything like it was back when people really did fight with swords?

Yes and no. Movies are choreographed so that they tell a story (if they are good movie fights). Generally most movie swordfights are not realistic and Aldo Nadi, in his autobiography The Living Sword, writes a letter to Hollywood stating just this. He complained because of a famous movie fight in Scaramouche with Stewart Granger, that lasted almost 11 minutes – still the longest swordfight filmed. No real fight would last that long or be fought on the backs of chairs and through curtains, or involve the cutting of ropes to drop sandbags on your opponent’s head when you were within swords reach and could simply thrust into them. Nadi fought a real duel once so he knew what he was talking about but… he also didn’t understand Hollywood. Hollywood is storytelling and make-believe. I loved the fight in Scaramouche because it was entertaining and fun to watch.

Probably the most realistic of the fight-masters is a man named William Hobbs who did the choreography for such movies as Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers movies (with Michael York as D’Artagnan), The Duelists, Rob Roy, and Cyrano DeBergerac (with Gérard Depardieu). His fights are fought at real speed (not speeded up on film) by the actors on the screen, with moves that fit their characters. Most directors don’t want realism in their swordfights, they want stylistic fights that are showy, acrobatic, and use quick cuts to make the fight seem fast. A good screen swordfight shows the whole fight with the camera panned back to show the actual fencers/swordfighters going at it rather than just shots of the arms or faces that give you no sense of what is being done. A good swordfight is a nonverbal dialog with a dangerous weapon. Whether or not it’s realistic depends on what the director wants!

 I read on your website that you worked in the Peace Corps in Honduras and that it changed how you see the world. Did that experience help you when you wrote Open Wounds?

Yes. Working in a 3rd World Country, seeing poverty and the effects of poorly planned development projects and watching how people live and survive without the luxuries we have in the US (like flush toilets, computers, soft beds and furniture, clean tap water, and medical care), watching a real machete fight, visiting the jungle in La Mosquitia, getting food poisoning five times, was eye-opening for me. I also realized how privileged I was being white, having an education, and being able to choose to be in the Peace Corps. I got to go home when my two and a half year service was up. The teenage boys and children in the boy’s home I worked at did not. They would probably not live to be adults. Seeing the world in all its glory – the good, the bad, and the ugly – helps all writers to be truthful in what they write about. The more a writer sees of the world, the more he/she has to draw on to write about.

The main character in Open Wounds, Cid, has to deal with a lot of racism against Jewish people. I am just learning about slavery and how racism affected America during the time before the Civil War. My parents told me that during the time period in your book there was a lot of racism between people from different countries or different religion. What do you hope to have young people learn from Cid’s experiences with racism?

Racism, sexism, and homophobia are not new to the world. Unfortunately they have been around a long, long time. Being Jewish during the 1930’s and 1940’s was not easy. But then even Italians, Germans and Japanese were treated badly if they were American’s during the Second World War. Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps on the west coast as if they were the enemy and not to be trusted. In Cid’s case he doesn’t think anything good has come from him being Jewish except for his father and grandmother hating him. He would like to get rid of that part of him but as Lefty tells him, it is better to accept what and who you are because for Cid that part of him is who his mother was. Siggy, Cid’s friend has to learn the same lesson, though perhaps he learns it quicker. I would hope that people reading Open Wounds will see the importance of being the sum of all our parts in addition to the importance of not just tolerance of those who are different but acceptance of diversity as a good and rich part of our existence.

I saw on your website that you teach Yoga. Does that help you in fencing and writing? I train Taekwon-Do and that takes a lot of concentration too. Do you think meditation and yoga can help people in all kinds of areas?

Yoga has been a life saving practice for me. It helps me deal with anxiety that has troubled me since I was a child in addition to keeping me physically and mentally active. Yoga stretching helps me to keep in shape for fencing and keeps my mind sharp for writing. I also enjoy teaching how to establish a yoga practice to my students because I find it really helps people in their lives. It is very fulfilling to be able to help people in this way. Taekwon-Do is a wonderful martial art that is very meditative in practice. Concentration is good for the mind because it directs its energy at one thing for a period of time. It is an inner, not an outer practice and so much of our lives is focused on the things outside and around us rather than inside. Writing is a predominantly inward looking practice. We could all use a little more inward looking. Normally our mind likes to wander everywhere and anywhere. When we can focus it in meditation (whether that’s seated meditation, moving meditation like your forms practice in Taekwon-do, or sun salutations in yoga practice) there are all kinds of benefits in life (lowered heart rate, better concentration, better memory, relaxation, less anxiety) that follow. Pattabhi Jois (a famous Yogi from India who died recently) would say, “Practice and all is coming.” These life-long practices help us to be fuller and more complete human beings. I wish I had learned this when I was younger.

One last question (and this one’s mostly for me), what’s the difference between fencing and sword-fighting? Is it just the weapon used?

This is a great question and one I wasn’t sure of the answer to so I looked it up. I believe the word fencing has been used since the 1700’s and sword-fighting since the beginning of time when the first sword was made. Usually sword-fighting is used when talking about swords like the medieval long sword, the renaissance rapier, or the cavalry saber of the 1700’s through 1800’s. Fencing came about as a term as fencing for sport (as opposed to war and duels) became more prominent. Smallswords (very similar to the modern sport fencing epee that Cid uses) were the last of the sword-fighting weapons and have not been used for war since the late 1800’s early 1900’s. Me, I use the terms interchangeably depending on how I feel at the moment. I’ve never been one set on convention.

THANK YOU MR. LUNIEVICZ!!! To learn more about Mr. Lunievicz and his novel “Open Wounds” please visit his website by clicking HERE.

Now for the give-away! Mr. Lunievicz has generously offered a signed copy of “Open Wounds” to one of my readers!! Want to win it?!? Well all you have to do is comment on this post and I will randomly pull a name from all the commenters this Sunday December 4th!! Please leave an email in the box when you post your comment (it won’t be published) so I can contact you if you win!

Good Luck and thanks for reading!

Thank you to all that entered the Bad Kitty Contest!

30 Nov

Thank you to all that entered the Bad Kitty Contest! There were over 40 story ideas submitted! I think the judges are going to have a tough time picking the winners! Winners will be posted here on December 10th and they will be notified by email.

Because I had a bunch of little kids entering, I’ve added even more prizes! Each judge can also pick their favorite little kid entry (age 7 and under) too and they will each get a Bad Kitty book and a This Kid Reviews Books T-Shirt!

 

LAST DAY TO ENTER! Bad Kitty Story Idea Contest – WIN FABULOUS PRIZES!!

29 Nov

The Contest is closed! Please check back becasue I am always having other contests and give-aways! Thanks for reading my blog!

A Bad Kitty Story Idea Contest!

In my post on November 4th about the Nick Bruel book signing I went to at Harleysville Books, I told you that the kids in the audience were saying all sorts of Bad Kitty story ideas to Mr. Bruel and he said that what is great about Bad Kitty is that she belongs to all of us and we should try writing our own ideas down. When he asked me if I was going to try it, I said “I don’t know”. I said that because I am not really a good writer and it’s hard for me to write ideas out. When we got home my mom said to me “But that’s why Mr. Bruel said that. You have to try to write to become a better writer.” So I decided to write my ideas down. Then I thought it would make a cool contest because I would really like to read all of your ideas and maybe it would help get other kids (and adults you’re welcome too ) to write their ideas down and help get EVERYBODY writing more! So here are the rules –

1. Write your idea down in 400 words or less. It doesn’t have to be a whole story, just an idea. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Bad Kitty books (well…you should be ;) ) just think of a cranky cat and come up with a story idea about it!

2. You can leave your idea in the comment section or email it to me at Erik@thiskidreviewsbooks.com . You can include drawings (you’ll have to email them because you can’t leave them in the comment section) but make sure the files are .doc , .docx , .jpg, .gif or .pdf.

3.If you’re a kid write what your age is.  MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS SO THAT I CAN EMAIL YOU BACK IF YOU WON!!

4. The contest is open for 3 weeks (BUT TODAY IS THE LAST DAY!!!!) after that the judges have a week to pick their favorite ideas from all of them. The awesome people that agreed to be judges are

  • Stephanie Brockway, author of the totally awesome “Mystic Phyles” series. Check out my review of “Mystic Phyles – Beasts” HERE. Visit the Mystic Phyles facebook page HERE and learn more about this totally awesome series (I can’t wait for book 2)!

  • Timothy Davis, author of the exciting adventure stories – “Chronicles of Nathaniel Childe.” Check out my review of Book 1 of the series “Sea Cutter” HERE. Visit Mr. Davis’ website HERE. PLUS you can get ebook versions of Mr. Davis’ two adventure novels FREE until December 15th!

  • Michelle Isenhoff, author of some of the best historical fiction books I’ve read! Her new adventure novel is  “The Quill Pen”. I reviewed Ms. Isenhoff’s book “Broken Ladders HERE and I will be reviewing “The Quill Pen” soon so check back! You can visit Ms. Isenhoff’s website HERE AND you can get an ebook version of “The Quill Pen” FREE until Thanksgiving!

5. Each judge picks their favorite from all the entries. From the three chosen Mrs. Shelly Plumb, owner of Harleysville Books and another awesome person (visit Harleysville Books HERE), will rank the entries and first, second and third places will be given and prizes will be awarded for each (see below for prizes). If two (or more) of the judges pick the same entry, an alternate judge (my parents) will pick an additional entry for the final selection.   Winners will be notified 10 days after the contest ends.

6. A NOTE FROM MY PARENTS  – This contest is not endorsed or supported by Nick Bruel or any of his agents (It’s just the idea of a nine year old). If you are under 18 you have to ask permission from your parents to enter. By entering the contest you agree that the winning entries can be published and shared by This Kid Reviews Books and its’ sponsors. No identifying information (only first names) will be published. Emails will only be used to contact winners.

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF!!! –PRIZES

First (1st) prize is a stupendous prize pack! It Includes a signed copy of “A Bad Kitty Christmas”, a signed Copy of “Bad Kitty Meets the Baby”, A PERSONALIZED signed copy of “Mystic Phyles –Beasts” (GENEROUSLY donated by Stephanie Brockway), a copy of “The Lost Hero” by Rick Riordan (GENEROUSLY donated by Harleysville Books) and a This Kid Reviews Books T-shirt!!

Second (2nd) Prize is another totally cool prize pack! It includes a signed copy of “A Bad Kitty Christmas”, a copy of “The Dragon’s Tooth” by N.D. Wilson (GENEROUSLY donated by Harleysville Books) and a This Kid Reviews Books t-shirt!!

Third (3rd) place is another great prize pack! It includes a signed copy of “A Bad Kitty Christmas” and a This Kid Reviews Books t-shirt!

 NEW PRIZE JUST ADDED!!!

Erik’s pick - (After seeing some of the AWESOME entries, I wanted to get into the action and pick MY favorite)

The winner of Erik’s pick will get a copy of “Bad Kitty Christmas” AND a small Bad Kitty stuffed animal :)

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To give you an example of an entry, I came up with this idea…

“Bad Kitty versus Cute Kitten” by Erik age 9

Bad Kitty’s owners bring home a house guest, Cute Kitten. Cute Kitten’s owners are away on vacation and Bad Kitty’s owners are pet sitting her. Cute Kitten is the cutest, sweetest, most adorable kitten you ever saw. Even Bad Kitty is on her best behavior (mostly, at least it’s a kitten,  not a dog) while Cute Kitten is there. Bad Kitty’s owners think that Bad Kitty is having horrible behavior while Cute Kitten “gets use to the house.” What Cute Kitten is really doing is wrecking the house and blaming Bad Kitty by looking at Bad Kitty’s owners with her adorable eyes. Bad Kitty does not know how to convince her parents it’s not her doing the bad things but it is EVIL CUTE KITTEN!! Will Truth and Justice (Bad Kitty) finally win? Or will Evil and Lying (Cute Kitten) take over?!

Cute Kitten

Not Cute Kitten!

A Couple Picture Books With Great Messages!

28 Nov

Forget about Cyber-Monday shopping! Read my reviews for these three picture books with great messages (well maybe you’ll want to buy them after you read my reviews so it’s ok to go back to Cyber-Monday after reading).

Superhero – Everyone Needs a Hero

By Don M. Winn
Illustrated by Dave Allred
17 pages – ages 4+
Published by Yorkshire Publishing Group in 2010

In this book a young boy dreams that he is a superhero. In his dreams he has super-powers and can defeat bad-guys, the Big Bad Wolf and even a giant! But when his dream starts to turn into something a little scary he quickly learns that a superhero doesn’t need a cape, a side-kick or any “super” powers at all. His superhero turns out to be his Dad who hugs him after having a bad dream.

I liked this story a lot for a couple reasons. First it shows that life’s greatest heroes don’t have any “special” powers at all (and this coming from a kid who LOVES comics) but they are just normal people. There is also a section in the back of the books for suggestions about what parents can talk to their kids about. For example, “How could you be a hero” and “What is a hero.” I really like how the illustrations kind of look like a comic too. Mr. Winn has a bunch of books that teach different lessons you can find his website HERE.  I asked Mr. Winn, on his blog (find it HERE), which of his books was his favorite. He said that it depended on which day you ask and today he said “Superhero” because he was thinking of his Dad. So that’s the one I chose to review! I think I’ll also be checking out his other books! Five out of five book worms for “Superhero”!

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Stealing is Bad but Giving is Good

By Shawn Hipskind
Illustrated by Mike Motz
22 pages – ages 4+
Published by CreateSpace on August 16, 2011

Timmy lives next to Billy and Tom. Billy is rich but Tom’s family is very poor and Timmy’s family is kind of in between. Timmy decides to take a bike from Billy because Billy has a lot and give the bike to Tom because he has so little. Timmy learned a big lesson from both Tom and Billy that even though Timmy was trying to do something nice for Tom, it was still stealing. Timmy also learned about the power of giving and being charitable.

This book has a very nice message and it’s told in a neat way, not just straight out stealing is bad. Timmy really thought he was doing something nice. I think this book is a great read aloud for parents and kids and then families can talk about what it means to steal and maybe think of how they can give more. The illustrations are pretty good. The bright colors really make it nice to look at. This is Mr. Hipskind’s first book and I hope we see more from him! You can learn more about Mr. Hipskind at his website by clicking HERE. You can also visit Mr. Motz’s illustration site HERE. Four out of five book worms for “Stealing is Bad but Giving is Good”!

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Do You Want to Play Catch?

By Chris Draft
Illustrated by Anthony Sclavi
32 pages – ages 4+
Published by Brio Press April 1, 2010

Former NFL player, Chris Draft, tells us about how playing sports with his family brought them closer together in the book “Do you want to play catch.” Mr. Draft tells us that even just playing catch with your family can lead to talking with each other and learning about each other.

I really liked this book! I thought the message was really different especially for a picture book. I’ve read some sports books about how it can help out people personally with their family, but this is the first I saw this message in a picture book. The illustrations in the book are AWESOME! They remind me of the mural art I see on the sides of the buildings when we drive through Philadelphia (BTW Philadelphia has a really cool tour of the mural art find it HERE). I met Mr. Draft at the National books festival in Washington DC this year (read about it HERE). He kicked off the festival by making sure all us kids were up and ready to move for the day!  One caution there is a statement about Mr. Draft’s coach saying that girls can’t throw balls because “they wear bras”  and some parents may find that inappropriate, but my mom told me that it is sad because some people, men and women, do believe that women can’t do things because they are women. I think it could be a way of teaching kids about this type of wrong-thinking. Just to tell you, in the story Mr. Draft’s mother shows him how wrong his coach is! Mr. Draft does a lot of great work through The Chris Draft Family Foundation too. This is from the foundation’s website – “The Foundation focuses on seven primary initiatives with overarching themes that stress the importance of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline and physical fitness”. What a great message! I give “Do You Want to Play Catch” five out of five book worms!

Book Signing with Dan Gutman and Two Book Reviews!

28 Nov

Dan Gutman - Super Author of nearly 100 books!

I arrived at my destination, Harleysville Books at 3:30 pm the day before Thanksgiving. The book signing didn’t start for another hour, but it was good that I got there early because it was already crowded! I got a seat right up front (where I like to be) and waited for the event to start. I passed the time by re-reading my copy of  Mr. Gutman’s book “Mrs. Lilly is Silly” from his My Weirder School series. His My Weird School series is really one of my favorites from when I was younger and I still enjoy them! Then an employee at Harleysville Books had to ask all us kids to make a path so she could walk to the front (like I said it was CROWDED)! Mrs. Plumb (the owner of Harleysville Books) introduced Mr. Gutman and everyone clapped. Mr. Gutman read to us from his new book that is due to be out February 7, 2012 called “Mr. Burke is Berserk.” I really liked how he made funny voices when he was reading different characters in his book. It was a great to hear him read from his book and get a sneak peek at the new book that’s not out yet!

After he got done reading, Mr. Gutman took questions from the audience. I learned that Mr. Gutman didn’t really like to read that much when he was a kid and that’s why he tries to “specialize” in writing books for kids who are “reluctant readers.” He has written 98 books and 92 of them are children’s books. One series of his that is very popular is called the “Baseball Card Adventures.” It is about a kid (Stosh) who has a magical ability to travel through time when he touches old baseball cards. There are ten books in the series and Mr. Gutman said that the next book, “Ted & Me” (due out March 20, 2012), will  be the last in the series. Mr. Gutman told us he collected baseball cards when he was a kid but his mother threw them away when he went away to college, so he told us to take our stuff with us when we go to college. :)

I had just got done reading his new book “The Talent Show” and I asked him if he was ever in a talent show. He said he wasn’t but his kids schools have talent shows. He also talked about his My Weirder School series. He said his favorite book in the series is “Ms. Lazar is Bizarre” and his favorite character from the series is Mr. Klutz, the principal. Mr. Gutman said he uses names of people he knows and he gave us an example of Judson Moon, the main character in his book “The Kid Who Became President”. Well the real Judson Moon is Mr. Gutman’s dentist! HA! HA!

Mr. Gutman made sure everyone got a chance to ask a question who wanted to. After he was done, he signed everyone’s books. He took some time with each person to talk with them a little. Mr. Gutman was a very nice guy and I am very happy I got to meet him! To learn more about Mr. Gutman and his books please visit his website by clicking HERE.

I wanted to pick a book to review for Mr. Gutman’s visit, but I couldn’t pick just one, so I did two! :) READ ON!

Mrs. Lilly is Silly (Book 3 in the My Weirder School series)
By Dan Gutman
Illustrated by Jim Paillot
112 pages – ages 6+
Published by HarperColllins October 1, 2011

The Ella Mentary School is having its first career day! A.J. was actually bored out of his head. When Mr. Granite announced that the next guest was going to be Tony Eagle the professional skate-boarder A.J. perked up…until Tony Eagle wheeled in…in a wheel chair. He had broken every bone in his body. A.J. guessed that he really didn’t want to be a professional skate-boarder. When Tony left, Mrs. Lilly came running in. Mrs. Lilly is a reporter for a local newspaper and she wants to teach A.J. and his friends how to make a newspaper for the school. They are going to call the paper “The Ella Mentary Sentry.” The only problem is Mrs. Lilly changes the stories the kids come up with like “Miss Laney spilled her juice”, turns into the headline “MISS LANEY HAS A DRINKING PROBLEM!” The Ella Mentary Sentry causes a world of trouble at the school!

This book is really funny, like all of Mr. Gutman’s Weird School books! The books are an easy read and have nice black and white illustrations. I think because of the humor of the story, the book will be liked by kids who may not like reading as much as others. I am a strong reader but I still really enjoy these books, they are a fun read! The teachers and staff at the Ella Mentary School are definitely weird and wacky!

I give Mrs. Lilly is Silly 5 out of 5 book worms!

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The Talent Show
By Dan Gutman
244 pages – ages 9+
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on May 18, 2010

An unexpected tornado hit the small town of Cape Bluff Kansas. When the storm stopped and the townspeople saw all the damage, they knew they didn’t have enough money to rebuild. They decide to have a talent show to raise money to help repair all the damage caused by the twister (the other idea was to make a rubble museum, but that got voted down). All sorts of people from the town (some actually talented, some…not so much) enter the competition. On the night of the big show, ANOTHER tornado hits but the townspeople make sure that the show goes on!

I really enjoyed this book. It is a very different book then the “Mrs. Lilly is Silly” book I reviewed above. This book has more characters to follow and a much more involved story. The story had some very funny parts but they were mixed with some very serious parts too. I think it made the story more real, like it could actually happen. I think this books would be great for advanced younger readers looking for a longer and more challenging read and all kids looking for a good story about people coming together and helping each other.

I give The Talent Show 5 out of 5 books worms!

Quote of the week -Reasons for Reading by Eileen Spinelli

27 Nov

This week’s quote of the week came to me in an email from author Eileen Spinelli. In her email, Mrs. Spinelli wrote the reasons why reading is so important. I couldn’t agree more!!

1.Reading exercises our brains. It actually strengthens brain connections and builds new ones.
2. Reading helps us develop language skills.
3. Reading opens our hearts and minds.
4. Reading can make us laugh.
5. Reading can teach us practical things–like how to bake brownies… or plant an herb garden…or build a tree house…or say hello in ten
different languages.
6. Reading gives us interesting stuff to talk about.

If you have a great quote about books or reading for my quote of the week please email it to me at Erik@thiskidreviewsbooks.com !

To learn more about Mrs. Spinelli and all of her AWESOME books, please visit  her website by clicking HERE!

WOW! That’s a lot of Books Mrs. Spinelli wrote!!

Book Review – The Storm Dogs of the Drowned City Book 1

25 Nov

The Storm Dogs of the Drowned City Book 1

By Dayna Lorentz

201 pages – ages 8+

Published in September of 2011 by Scholastic

There’s a hurricane happening in a city. The citizens have to evacuate from their homes but their pets aren’t allowed in the emergency shelters. Shep, a German Shepard, tries to be patient and wait for his owners to return. When Shep hears a dog bark for HELP, he gets out of the apartment to save her (Callie). After walking up and down the city’s streets, Shep and Callie hear other digs crying hor help. They decide to save as any dogs as they can and get every dog to a safe place. Things get worse as the storm surges on and they also have to worry because the storm isn’t the only danger. Wild packs of dogs are roaming the city and these dogs will stop at nothing to get what they need to survive!

When I first got this book I really thought the plot looked too simple -dogs trapped -dogs have to survive, but as I read on I really got into it. There is a ton of action and really great details to the story that got my interest. Ms. Lorentz tell a story very well. I really enjoyed the flash-back parts where Shep would remember something from his past.The book is recommended for kids 8+ I think it would be OK for younger kids but there is some violence (dog fights) so parents make sure to check it out. There is a sneak peek at the second book in the series  (there will be 3 in all). The second book is called “The Pack – Dogs of a Drowned City” and that book got my attention already. I am sure I’ll be reading it. I went back and forth on giving this book a four or five book worm rating, but decided on the five because of how much I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series and considering how well the story is told.

The Storm Dogs of the Drowned City Book 1 gets five out of 5 book worms!

To learn more about Ms. Lorentz and her books, please visit her website HERE.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!

24 Nov

I just wanted to say I’m thankful for you guys who give me so much encouragement and advice, books, the internet, WordPress, book events, books (again), all the independent book stores that I visit and hold great events, authors and illustrators who take time to e-mail/talk to me, my parents who taught me everything I know and support me doing www.thiskidreviewsbooks.com , and my little sister Josie. Thank you to everyone who is taking the time to read this post, too!!

Creative Writning Contest – 6 More Days to Enter! Win Prizes!

23 Nov

You have until November 29th to get your entries in for the Bad Kitty Story Idea Contest. You can win books and other great prizes! Click on Bad Kitty to Learn how to enter.

Here are some of the AWESOME entries I have gotten. These are some from a first grade class (my first grade teacher had her ENTIRE class enter :) ) that entered! Keep those ideas coming in! YOU COULD WIN!!

I am so Glad Bad Kitty Missed!

 Yikes! Not the neighbor’s house!

 Bad, BAD KITTY!

 

 Now where will we sit?!?

NOT THE DISHES TOO! You ARE a Bad Kitty!

Bad Kitty chased birds and now DOGS!?!?

Hope you like reading them as much as I do!

Susanna Hill’s Thanksgiving Writing Contest!

22 Nov

Author Susanna Leonard Hill is having a Thanksgiving writing contest where you could win an Amazon gift card or a book!

What you have to do is post your 250 (or fewer) word kids’ Thanksgiving story, beginning with “They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast…” My entry is below! Please visit Ms. Hill’s website for all the details HERE.

Hope you like what I wrote!

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by Erik – Age 9 (well, almost 10)

They were supposed to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast. They were sixty minutes into the trip up the turnpike. The snow whipped around so hard they could barely see out the windows.

Sqeee kathunk squeeeee ka…thunk…squeeeeeee. The windshield wipers were freezing to the windshield!

The car slipped and slid another two miles through the thick snow along the deserted road and then, it broke down.

“I’ll call for help,” Dad said pulling his cell phone out. “OH my, I don’t have any reception,” Dad added quietly.

One hour, then two hours passed. Snow piled up around the car and everyone started to get nervous.

“We’re HUNGRY,” whined Robert and Roberta.

“I have some gum,” said a worried Mom.

“I’m thirsty,” little Fredrick cried.

“Keep calm Fred,” Dad thought quickly. “Want some snow?”

“I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM,” Wendy shouted.

Mom put her hands on her head, “I need an aspirin!”

Suddenly, they were blinded by a light stabbing through the falling snow. It was a snow plow!

BRRRRRR, the giant plow was headed straight for them!

“I hope the driver sees us,” Dad said a bit worried.

“The snow plow driver is waving at us,” Mom said.

“That’s no ordinary snow plow driver!” They all screamed. “It’s GRANNY!”

“Hi kids!” Granny shouted over the motor of the truck. “Need a ride?”

Once in the truck, everyone was smiling and laughing, everyone except Wendy.

“I STILL HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!”

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