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September 2008 | Vol. VII - 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 kids have to say about them. Each month, literary agent Sheri Williams 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.

With these books, she witnesses the meeting of two lonely souls, goes on a playful treasure hunt, and sees a young girl’s dream come true.

Title: The Little Shepherd Girl
Author/Illustrator: Juliann Henry/Jim Madsen
Publisher: David C. Cook
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 3 to 10
MSRP: $14.99

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: “Only boys are allowed to tend the sheep.” All Sarah wants is to be able to go into the field to watch the flock. In this moving tale, her wish comes true, and kids learn that obedience often results in the most unexpected rewards.

Why You Should Carry It: The author tells the story of Christ’s birth without its being a redundant retelling of what others have already written. Yet, it reaches beyond the Christian market, having traditional and academic appeal. The illustrations are beautiful and entertaining, giving the visualization of the story a life of its own. The morals are refreshingly silent, so kids learn without knowing they are being taught. There is also a hint of equality regardless of gender, and it captures the pride that comes with being willing and able to try the untraditional.

What Kids Think: The first comment after reading this book to a group of third-graders was, “I love this book!” Boys and girls alike expressed a love of the story and many said they were glad Sarah was able to do what the boys got to do.

Title: The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness
Author/Illustrator: Colin Thompson
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 5 to 9
MSRP: $15.95

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: This book’s title is fitting, as sadness and loneliness fill the characters’ lives. George is lonely. Jeremy is lonely. Worse, no one wants Jeremy. He is always passed over by visitors at the animal shelter; that is, until he meets George. In accepting the unattractive dog, George finds a best friend that fills a void in his young life.

Why You Should Carry It: At first glance, this book may come across as semi-depressive, but it’s actually uplifting. Colin Thompson has done it again! George and Jeremy are certain to entertain kids from Pre-K to middle-grade ages. The book is a must-have for public and academic libraries, in addition to a child’s bedroom bookshelf, for reading time and again.

What Kids Think: Boys and girls alike loved the story, commenting on how nice it was for George to pick Jeremy although the animal shelter offered “better looking” dogs. Younger children enjoyed the story as a read-to and read-along book, while kids in the early reading stages found the language easy to understand.

Title: Dropping in on Andy Warhol
Author/Illustrator: Pamela Geiger Stephens/Jim McNeill
Publisher: Crystal Productions
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 6 to 10
MSRP: $15.95; $41.00 w/DVD

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: This is only one of many in the “Dropping In On” series. Puffin, the main character, “drops in” on famous people, learning how they created their works of art. This time, his appointment is with American pop artist Andy Warhol. As an educational tool, this book is more than worth the cost, owing to its glossary and animated video (DVD or VHS) companion.

Why You Should Carry It: My first impression before opening the book was, “Will kids have a clue of who Andy Warhol is?” But my opinion changed. The first few pages pull the reader into the action. The author successfully takes the topic of pop art to an elementary level, in a way that’s both entertaining and educational.

What Kids Think: The story was read to a group of second-, third- and fourth-graders. Children in each grade level equally enjoyed the book; however, in the older groups, girls favored the story over boys. The teachers in each class were impressed with the content of the book and plan to add it to their reading lists for their reading points system.

Title: Skippyjon Jones and the Treasure Hunt
Author/Illustrator: Judy Schachner
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 3 to 6
MSRP: $9.99

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: Skippyjon Jones is a delightfully illustrated character. In this book, he has a treasure map and it is the reader’s responsibility to help him find what he’s searching for by flipping over the proper bilingual tiles in a pop-up matching game that corresponds with prompts in the story. The language (story and pop-up tiles) provides illustrations and translations of various words in Spanish, giving the book educational appeal.

Why You Should Carry It: Judy Schachner is an award-winning author, and the character of Skippyjon Jones is widely recognized and loved by children. The pop-up does not stay in place, making it hard for younger children to handle reading, turning pages, and playing the matching game. In spite of the limitations of the game, however, kids will want this book simply because it is a Skippyjon book! Schools will want it for the educational elements.

What Kids Think: First- through third-graders loved this book. They were not interested in the combination of reading and playing the pop-up games, but all were excited over attempting to match the tiles on their own.



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Sheri WilliamsWriter's Bio: Sheri Williams has been in publishing for more than 19 years. As a literary agent, she has reviewed and pitched hundreds of juvenile titles. She is also a published author, freelance writer and editor. In addition to her roles as agent, writer and editor, she has a background in Criminal Justice with interest in juvenile studies. Read more articles by this author

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