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September 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 9




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TDmonthly's Book Expert

One Educated Bookworm's Opinion


If you want to know which books to sell in your toy store, find out what the kids have to say. Each month, children's book author Amy Downing reads new titles to children, gives her educated opinion on positioning and sales to TDmonthly Magazine readers, and rates them with 1 to 5 TDs (for TDmonthly!), with “5” as the highest rating.

This month, her literary journeys took her to ancient Egypt and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and included lessons about gossip and how important it is for parents to listen to their children.

Title: Night of the Black Bear
Author: Gloria Skurzynki and Alane Ferguson
Publisher: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 8 to 12
MSRP: $4.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is: A fictional chapter book that takes place in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is the latest title in the series “Mysteries in Our National Parks.”

Why You Should Carry It: Many book series incorporate history and science into their stories, but very few incorporate geography. “Night of the Black Bear” is a tale of suspense that also weaves in interesting geographical facts about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What Kids Think: While girls are more likely to pick up a fictional book, this is a good cross-over title, as many boys were enthralled by the cover and the idea of bears. Most fourth- and fifth-graders may not have an natural inclination toward learning about the national parks of the United States, but the story line will keep youngsters reading.

Title: Star Sisterz: Maya Made Over
Author: Debra Green
Publisher: MIRRORSTONE
Gender: Girls
Age: 9 to 13
MSRP: $4.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is: In “Maya Made Over,” part of a fiction series for mid-grade girls, Maya thinks she’ll get her dream guy when she transforms herself from a karate-chopping brainiac into a mall-loving glamour girl. The story teaches the importance of being oneself.

Why You Should Carry It: I cannot recommend “Maya Made Over” for anyone who carries juvenile fiction. It is poorly written, dull and difficult to follow. Though the title and cover graphics imply a magical concept at work somewhere, it’s never made clear what that might be. One noteworthy aspect is that the book may help girls who feel judged by stereotypes or who judge others.

What Kids Think: This was not critiqued by any children.

Title: We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt
Author: Laurie Krebs
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: BAREFOOT BOOKS
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 4 and Up
MSRP: $16.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is: A full-color picture book that takes readers on a trip through Egypt by way of the Nile River.

Why You Should Carry It: “We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt” is a fascinating and beautifully illustrated book that teaches youngsters all about ancient Egypt. It contains a section at the back that explains many aspects of Egyptian life. The jobs of the Egyptians and the roles of the Pharaoh, the gods and goddesses of these ancient people are discussed. This book would be a wonderful addition to a display on Egypt or ancient civilization.

What Kids Think:
Little ones love this book for the colorful art and simple, rhyming text. When it is read to older children, they feel that they are learning something, too.

Title: Shrinking Sam
Author & Illustrator: Miriam Latimer
Publisher: BAREFOOT BOOKS
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 4 to 8
MSRP: $16.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is: A sweet tale that describes what happens to one little boy when his parents don’t make time for him.

Why You Should Carry It: Not only will kids love watching Sam shrink and then grow bigger, but parents will see the importance of listening to little ones. This book is a charming story to share with a mixed audience of adults and children. The large format makes it particularly fun to read to a larger crowd.

What Kids Think:
The children I read this to loved it. From the 4-year-olds to the 7-year-olds, they were equally engaged. The friendly illustrations make Sam a likable friend.

Title: The Student from Zombie Island: Conquering the Rumor Monster
Author: Michael J. Moorehead
Illustrator: Kathy Parks
Publisher: FIVE STAR PUBLICATIONS INC.
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 6 to 10
MSRP: $15.95

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is: A big-kid story book that teaches children how misleading gossip can be.

Why You Should Carry It: The text is so much fun and the art is so clever that kids are hardly aware that they are learning valuable lessons, such as don’t listen to rumors and don’t gossip.

What Kids Think: I read this book to several 7-year-olds, and after I set it down, they clamored to read it again themselves. When I pointed out that a junior-high student wrote the book, they thought that was really cool.



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Amy DowningWriter's Bio: Amy Downing has been in children’s book publishing for more than 15 years. As the editorial director of a small juvenile publishing house in Los Angeles, she has developed hundreds of titles for trade, mass market, book clubs and fairs. She is also the author of more than 20 books for children, ranging from picture books to nonfiction titles for the library market. Read more articles by this author

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