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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

I have moved my site to its own domain. Please access my site at!  I have been posting all of my reviews there for the last 3 weeks.  Enjoy the new site, new look, and thanks for visiting!


What do you consider the greatest moment in sports? When the Red Sox finally won the World Series? When the US Hockey Team defeated the Soviets?

Renowned sportcaster Len Berman offers readers his 50 greatest sports moments in Sourcebooks’ The Greatest Moments in Sports, now in bookstores. I looked forwarded to reading this because I rarely review “boy” books and this is one I know boys would definitely enjoy.

Inside are Berman’s handpicked greatest moments. Keeping in mind that greatest is subjective, Berman’s introduction explains these are “great” because of the drama involved or the historical impact, etc.

…if they can’t even agree on who thought up America’s pastime, then who can really say what the greatest moments in sports history were? Well, for one, I can! I’ve seen a few sports events in my day: lots of World Series, Super Bowls, and Olympics. You may or may not agree with my choices, but for each moment, I’ll tell you why I thought it was one of the greatest. It could be the drama of the moment. Perhaps it was historical or just plain amazing.

What really connects this book to the reader is the enclosed CD. There’s 12 tracks, and listeners get to hear actual broadcasts from the event. Before each broadcast, Berman offers an introduction and puts the event in context for the reader. His enthusiasm for sports is evident, as he eagerly discusses each moment, such as Secretariat winning the Triple Crown.

The layout of this book is really attractively done, with large images and text over them. Various colors and info sidebars with historical info, player stats, and other information throughout. I particularly like the use of arrows, calling your attention to important information quickly.

I learned quite a bit from this book. Prior to reading, I wasn’t really familiar with Jackie Robinson or knew that Secretariat was nicknamed “Big Red.” The historical range of the events was great too, with as early as the 1940s and as recently as 2008 covered. Most of all, I love the nonchalant style Berman has throughout the book, perfect for the sports-crazed fan as well as a casual reader curious about sports history. With a nice flow and stories presented in an entertaining manner, it’s a fun read.

You can view author Len Berman’s website at

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Greatest Moments in Sports
Author: Len Berman
Date: 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks’ Jabberwocky Kids

I drew winners of the latest two little contests I had.. (I say little because I didn’t have many entries, but oh well!)

The winner of RIVAL REVENGE, the latest Canterwood Crest book is..




I’ll be emailing you shortly.

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and lets bloggers share what books they’ve received, bought, or borrowed this week.  You can find more information here, if you’d like to participate.

…Got a little crazy this week. One picture is much easier.

Continue reading this article ›

In 2002, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman was published.  The book was a discussion on the inner world of girls, from cliques to drama, in a way few parenting books bothered to eclipse.  The book became the basis for the hit movie Mean Girls, staring Lindsay Lohan.

Now Wiseman turns her sights on writing fiction, with her young adult debut, Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.  Charlotte, or as she’s more known, Charlie, has suffered at the hands of mean girls during middle school, and is eager to start anew at Harmony Falls High. But people from the past arrive in her new life – Nidhi, also a victim of mean girls, and Will, her childhood best friend.  And when Will becomes a varsity athlete  and tries too hard to fit in with “the guys,”  an innocent man is hurt during their hazing prank. Charlie realizes she must make a choice between her friendship and doing the right thing.

It’s Rosalind’s experience with the microcosm of high school from Queen Bees that richens Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.  While certainly not a flawless depiction of high school, her take on the mean girls was refreshing.  I loved Charlie, who wasn’t like most of the teenage girls in fiction – here was a girl who wasn’t constantly obsessed with her appearance.   Same for Sydney and Nidhi – friends that Charlie had left her old high school to find.    The dialogue feels fresh and real, not the product of a weekend’s worth of MTV viewing.  The plot of the damage mean boys can wreak, a converse of what Queen Bees introduced, was refreshing. However the plot with Will and the near-fatal prank came too far toward the end of the novel for me.  As a central plot device, one on which a character-altering decision hinged, it felt awkward to confront so near the conclusion.

There are great things to take from this novel, and I’m always a fan of a book that makes me think:  How Charlie must confront her past in the form of Nidhi and Charlie.  How far one will go to fit in.  Sexual harassment. The list goes on.  But they’re all presented woven into the narrative, never does a character speak for the author and real-life teen issues she writes about every day on her website.     Might be a great book for parents of teen girls to read with their children to spark some conversations.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title:  Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
Author:  Rosalind Wiseman
Date:  January 2010
Publisher: GP Putnam
Pages: 288

The link above is simply to Amazon and is not an affiliate link.

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Lauren Mechling’s the co-author of three novels: The Rise and Fall of a 10th grade Social Climber, All Q, No A: More Tales of a 10th Grade Social Climber, and Foreign Exposure: The Social Climber Abroad. Now she’s got a new series about a French girl who receives psychic dreams from a cameo necklace given to her by her grandmother.   The first, Dream Life, was published in 2009  and this January Dream Girl was released.

You can read my reviews of Dream Life and Dream Girl reviews.   Visit Lauren’s website at

Can I say that Lauren is the fastest interview answerer I’ve ever met?!

A large plot element of both Dream Girl and Dream Life are the dreams of Claire, which are confusing and a mixture of different things.  Going off this theme, what’s one of the strangest dreams you’ve ever had?

There was a very sweet football player in my homeroom named Pete (well, that wasn’t his name, but let’s say it was). I dreamed that he had a kangaroo body and he stuffed me inside his pouch and I was stuck to his stomach all day long. Not only was it a weird dream, but it was very awkward–I could never look him in the eye after that.

Throughout the novels, Claire narrates what several characters are wearing, as well as her own ensembles. Which of Claire’s dresses or outfits would you want for your very own?

I would kill to have her colorful Givenchy dresses. They’d have to be simple, though–Im not the most adventurous dresser.

In other interviews, you’ve stated that all of Claire’s world in NYC is factual. I have two days to spend in New York City, and I’ve never been. In the voice of Claire, can you tell me what I should see and do?

You’ll have to forgive me–I’m writing something else now in the third person and I’m not feeling equal to re-infiltrating Claire (besides, I hardly know her anymore–it’s been a year and a half since I finished Dream Life and she was just on the cusp of in-her-own-skin greatness; can only imagine how much she’s grown since). Anyway, as ME talking, I’d say the best thing to do in New York is walk around as much as humanly possible and watch the neighborhoods change. Start in Dumbo Brooklyn and look up at the underbelly of the Manhattan Bridge (DUMBO=Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Walk 5 minutes to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and set out on the most glorious pedestrian experience of your life (assuming the bikes dont mow you down). When you get to Manhattan, ogle at City Hall and the Municipal Building, with its glittery gold top. Wander up Centre and Lafayette Streets, through Chinatown and into the East Village, which used to be where all the strung-out poets lived and now is filled with vintage clothing stores and vegan tea shops. End up at Momofuku Milk Bar, on 12th St and 2nd Ave. Buy yourself a piece of crack pie. Heck, buy a whole pie and make friends with the other customers. You’re on vacation.

What’s your writing process like? Do you outline, plan out plot points, or just do it on the fly?

My books have so many threads and subplots and supporting characters I have to outline like a maniac.

Women’s History Month is next month and I’ll be making a post or two related to the observance. Claire is such a fun heroine, with her plucky spirit and wry voice. Who are some are your favorite heroines, real or fictional?

I love Scarlett O’Hara, for her humor and foolishness; Anne Elliot, the 27-year-old spinster (!) in Persuasion for her refusal to settle; the writer Grace Paley for her gumption and grit; Julia Child for giving late bloomers a good reputation; Norma Klein for making everyone remember that children are smart.

What five celebrities (writers included!) living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? Do you have any particular questions you’d ask them?

I’ve met enough celebrities to know this would not be all that fun. I prefer my celebrities from afar.

What’s your favorite word?

Ort. It means uneatened morsel.

I always ask authors… If you could live inside any children’s title, which would it be and why?

Dream Life. Because it is my fantasy world.


“Everyone forgets their manners sometimes.”

Lisa Tharpe and Ali Bahrampour’s P is for Please: A Bestiary of Manners features twenty six lessons on etiquette, with the help of a large menagerie.   Starting from A, with “A is for asking permission,” each page offers a reminder starting with a letter of the alphabet, and a silly alliteration of the importance of manners.

What follows is a  zany breakdown of all the things one should always do, whether it’s using table manners or saying “excuse me.”

“Excuse me!”  whispers Xavier Xolo when he accidentally bumps into an extra large xenopus.”

Ali Bahrampour’s illustrations are simple but effective. The gentle nature of the animals depicted reminded me of Richard Scarry’s early work from his Golden Book titles. A wide range of species, from the common to the exotic, are shown here.  P is for Please is great for kids, because they’re learning lessons on politeness, while being entertained and the illustrations add to the whimsy of the text.

The cover design features a raised illustration.  Such tactile touches are rare these days in picture books, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Copy for review provided by the author.  To purchase your own copy, visit!

Title:  P is for Please
Author:  Lisa Tharpe (Illus. by Ali Bahrampour)
Date:  November 2009
Publisher: Blueberry Ink Press
Pages: 32

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and lets bloggers share what books they’ve received, bought, or borrowed this week.  You can find more information here, if you’d like to participate.

Nice mix of books this week.  I had several more I wanted to buy, but maybe next week. 🙂


Just After Sunset by Stephen King

In King’s latest collection of short stories (following 2002’s Everything’s Eventual), he presents 14 tales.  (Scribner, published originally in 2008)

I love Stephen King. His short story collections never fail to entertain. Some might be duds, but there’s always an excellent one that sticks with you!

Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Connie Fletcher

This is a world that TV crime shows can’t touch.  Here are eighty experts – including beat cops, evidence technicians, detectives, forensic anthropologists, blood spatter experts, DNA analysts, latent print examiners, firearms experts, trace analysts, crime lab directors, and prosecution and defense attorneys – speaking in their own words about what they’ve seen and what they’ve learned to journalist Connie Fletcher, who has gotten cops to talk freely in her bestsellers What Cops Know,  Pure Cop, and Breaking and Entering Every Contact Leaves A Trace presents the science, the human drama, and even the black comedy of crime scene investigation.  Let the experts take you into their world. (St. Martins Press, originally published 2006)

I’m a crime junkie.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Her new summer job comes with baggage. Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings – Spencer, Lola, and Marlene. When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest called Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.  (Scholastic, paperback May 2009)

I started reading this at work and was so charmed, I had to have it.  The sequel, Scarlett Fever, just came out!

For Review

Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman

The best thing about sports is that you never know when a great moment is going to happen. And everyone has a different opinion about what the greatest moments are. Sportscaster Len Berman reveals his favorite moments in sports and offers this challenge—what are yours?

Hear the cheers, create and share your own memories, and let the debate begin! Plus, the included CD features many of the actual broadcasts—you’ll hear all the drama and excitement as it happened!  (Sourcebooks,November 2009)

This one looks like a lot of fun.  I hope the Red Sox winning the World Series (for the first time) is in there!

Noah’s Bark by Stephen Krensky

Why do animals make the noises they do? You may not have known it, but its all thanks to an old man named Noah, who once upon a time built an ark. Noah is trying to build an ark, but with the snakes quacking, the beavers crowing, and the pigs howling, he cant get anything done.  (Lerner Publishing Group, April 2010)

Just adorable and I love the art.

The Punctuation Station by Brian Clearly

All aboard! Join a family of giraffes on their journey to Punctuation Station. As the train chugs along, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using periods, commas, apostrophes, question marks, hyphens, quotation marks, and exclamation points! Playful rhymes from Brian P. Cleary and colorful illustrations from Joanne Lew-Vriethoff make learning about punctuation fun. So hop on board – this is one train ride you don’t want to miss!  (Millbrook, April 2010)

More children’s books need giraffes!

What did you get this week?

The Undercover Book Lover

The Undercover Book Lover is having a huge contest to celebrate her birthday! The winner will receive the prizes below. There are some amazing books up for grabs!

1 Finished copy of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
1 Finished copy of The Sight by Judy Blundell
1 Finished copy of Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
1 Finished copy of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
1 Finished copy of The Line by Teri Hall
1 Finished copy of The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
1 Finished copy of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
1 Finished copy of Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
1 Finished copy of Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
1 Finished copy of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

You can enter here!

The Frenetic Reader

The Frenetic Reader is giving away a copy of A Match Made in High School plus some swag!  It’s a US/Canada only contest.  Enter here!

Steph Su Reads

Steph Su is having a HUGE blogoversary giveaway! There’s a lot up for grabs, including several amazing ARCs: Will Grayson, Will Grayson,  Sisters Red, Linger, plus more!

Go check out all the details and enter!

Lara and her beagle, Amos

Lara Zielin is the debut author of Donut Days. She’s also a model for the Bluggie, and you can view her hilarious advertisement for that here. The Bluggie is like the Snuggie, but with bling!  Donut Days is the story of Emma Goiner, who’s facing some serious issues after her pastor mother told their congregation Adam was a hermaphrodite. But first, Emma has to make it through the weekend at the Donut Camp, where fans of the Crispy Dream donut stores are camping. Her plan? Write a story for the local paper and win a scholarship to a non-Christian college.

I loved Donut Days, and you can read my review here. Be sure to check out Lara’s website at and read Donut Days, now in hardback from Putnam Juvenile, and arriving in paperback September 16, 2010.

Lara was kind enough to offer a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card to anybody who comments on this interview! Leave a comment  by February 18 and I’ll draw a name via on February 19!

One of the plot elements of Donut Days features a donut camp, where diehard fans eagerly await the Crispy Dream store opening.  Have you ever camped out for any, such as movie tickets, etc? What was it like?  If not, what would you camp out for?

Waaaeeelll, not technically. But one time? I stayed up really late (well, late for me) and went to the 12:01 showing of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It wasn’t a campout though the wait was eternal and, let me tell you, I was surrounded by some die-hard fans wearing cloaks and swords and stuff and things that kind of scared me. It was pretty intense. But, okay, it was totally worth it. I might not wear the cloaks and Hobbit ears, but I love LOTR with a passion that admittedly borders on the obsessive.

What’s your favorite kind of donut?

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to donuts. I love a really good powdered-sugar donut, or even a really good plain donut. Of course, if you give me a cruller or a cream-filled long john, I am SO not going to say no to it.

With a variety of characters, each contributing their own important part to Emma’s weekend adventures, was first person always your choice for Donut Days?

First-person makes a lot of sense to me when writing young-adult novels. It helps me get into the mind of the main character more, and helps me think about things from her perspective. In that way, I feel like I’m writing a more compelling protagonist who is going to be more vulnerable and authentic to readers. Of course, I don’t always execute that goal perfectly, but first-person definitely makes the most sense to me for YA.

What’s your writing process like? Do you have any lucky items, etc?

I write like I eat. I’ll go for a long while without doing anything, and then I’ll binge all at once. I wish in both areas I was a little bit more steady and didn’t behave in such a roller-coaster fashion. But with a full-time job, a house, a husband and a dog, my plate feels pretty full. So if that means I wind up writing 2,000 words over the weekend and not doing much during the week, I think I might as well stop fighting it.

I don’t have anything lucky in my writing space but … I have a writing space!! I am so happy that I have a room in the house that’s ALL MINE in which to do writing. I decorated it in pink and green, which are my power colors, and I have a huge comfy chair and an ottoman where I plunk myself down and get to work. I am so thankful for my sweet space!

There’s a heavy theme of Christianity and the inner struggle to be a “model Christian” in your novel, but it’s not marketed as Christian teen fiction. Few YA titles that are not Christian fiction approach this subject, why do you think this is?

The good news is, more and more mainstream YA novels are tackling the difficult—and often controversial—subject of faith. Eileen Cook, author of the fabulous WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?, joked with me about how similar our characters are. They are both named Emma, and they both wrestle with conformity in the church and feeling like they’re outcasts. Another awesome book is Robin Brande’s EVOLUTION, ME, AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE, which follows a Christian teenager who is caught up in the evolution debate and must figure out what she believes. And SHINE, COCONUT MOON by Neesha Meminger is an awesome book about a girl whose uncle shows up on her doorstep wearing a turban after 9/11. His “controversial” faith, which he shares with the main character in the weeks after the attacks, is dealt with thoughtfully and gracefully.

So, all that is to say that I think many authors are out there writing about faith and how hard it is for teens to sort out what they believe, especially amid pressure from people around them. And the more books on this, the better—if you ask me!

You recently wrote a blog post about the response to the Christian themes in your novel, mentioning some people told you they couldn’t relate or couldn’t even finish it.  Why do you believe this mentality exists?

I think religion is one of those things that, even in our politically-correct world, doesn’t always get a fair shake. If we were talking about race in a book, for example, it would be almost unheard of for someone to write to the author to say, “The main character is African American and I’m white, so I can’t read this because I can’t relate to it.”

Also, if a main character were African American and dealt with issues of race in a novel, would you call it an African American novel? I wouldn’t. I certainly didn’t call Sherman Alexie’s novel, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, a Native American novel. I just called it a totally awesome book.

But DONUT DAYS gets called a Christian novel all the time. Why is that? Now I’m the one asking the questions—d’oh! I’ll step down from my soapbox, but I think all this illustrates that people sometimes think about religion in very limited terms, and books that deal with faith can get labeled in ways that are sometimes unfair.

Your next novel is titled PROMGATE. Can you tell me anything about it?

The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore, and it’s due out in summer 2011.

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS for sure! I was totally obsessed with that book going up. I loved the woods and hills and mountains where the book was set, and I’m a sucker for a good animal story. The two dogs in that book, Old Dan and Little Anne, were characters onto themselves. I also love the author’s personal story. He never thought he could be a writer, but with encouragement and support from his wife, he tried and look what happened! Yay!