Category Archives: Children’s Literature

Heap House: Book 1, The Ironmonger Trilogy

9781468309539 Heap House: Book 1, The Ironmonger Trilogy

written and illustrated by Edward Carey

Overlook Press, Oct. 2014

Chosen by Luminaries author Eleanor Catton as her Guardian Book of the Year, Heap House is the gorgeously illustrated story of the Iremonger clan and their gothic, eccentric world.

Set in 1875, Carey’s delightful variation on Mervyn Peake’s classic Gormenghast books features young Clod Iremonger, sickly scion of an eccentric family that has grown rich off of the trash heaps of London. Heap House itself is a mad conglomeration of building fragments attached willy-nilly to the original mansion located amid dangerous, ever-shifting Heaps. All Iremongers possess birth objects, such as a sink plug or a mustache cup, which they must never lose on pain of death or transformation; Clod is considered odd even by his relatives because he can hear each birth object speak its name. When orphan Lucy Pennant comes to Heap House as a servant, things become even stranger for Clod and his fellow Iremongers. Birth objects and other bits of the house grow restless, moving about on their own, and Clod finds himself falling in love. Full of strange magic, sly humor, and odd, melancholy characters, this trilogy opener, peppered with portraits illustrated by Carey in a style reminiscent of Peake’s own, should appeal to ambitious readers seeking richly imagined and more-than-a-little-sinister fantasy.

The first installment of the Iremonger Trilogy, Heap House introduces the reader to a fascinating world whose inhabitants come alive on the page—and in Edward Carey’s fantastical illustrations—Clod and Lucy, anxious, animal-loving Tummis with his pet seagull, menacing cousin Moorcus, dreadful Aunt Rosamud, and more. Mystery, romance, and the perils of the Heaps await!

Praise for Heap House:
“Set in 1875, Carey’s delightful variation on Mervyn Peake’s classic Gormenghast books features young Clod Iremonger, sickly scion of an eccentric family that has grown rich off of the trash heaps of London. Heap House itself is a mad conglomeration of building fragments attached willy-nilly to the original mansion located amid dangerous, ever-shifting Heaps. Full of strange magic, sly humor, and odd, melancholy characters, this trilogy opener, peppered with portraits illustrated by Carey in a style reminiscent of Peake’s own, should appeal to ambitious readers seeking richly imagined and more-than-a-little-sinister fantasy.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)“What an astonishing book this is! A novel for children so good, so peculiar, so magical that it bears comparison to classics like The Hobbit or The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Golden Compass or the Green Knowe books. That is to say, adults should read it too, in order to be given the uncanny, wrenching sensation of visiting a new and strange place — and finding a home there.”  —Kelly Link, award-winning author of Magic for Beginners

“The first in a deliciously macabre trilogy . . . channels Dickens crossed with Lemony Snicket. . . . a Gothic tale in turns witty, sweet, thoughtful and thrilling—but always off-kilter—andpenned with gorgeous, loopy prose. Suspense and horror gradually accumulate into an avalanche of a climax, leading to the most precipitous of cliffhangers… Magnificently creepy.”  —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Heap House is delightful, eccentric, heartfelt, surprising, philosophical, everything that an novel for children should be.” —Eleanor Catton, winner of the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries

Heap House torques and tempers our memories of Dickensian London int a singularly jaunty and creepy tale of agreeable misfits.”—Gregory Maguire, best-selling author of Wicked

Edward Carey is the author and illustrator of two novels for adults, Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva, which was longlisted for the IMPAC Literary Award. The Iremonger Trilogy is his first work for young readers. Born in England, he now lives with his wife, Elizabeth McCracken, and their two children in Austin, Texas, where he wrote the Iremonger Trilogy because he missed feeling cold and gloomy.

 Release date: 10/16/2014, Ages 10 and Up
Review and Author Bio shared from:

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A Long Way from Chicago

a long way from chicagoPuffin (April 12, 2004)

Review by Josh Poppie (Jan. 2014)

I am reviewing A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck. I consider it a historical fiction or humorous book with several themes.

This book is a compilation of several stories about two kids, Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel, going to see their grandma for a week during every summer for seven years. Each visit is different in its own special way.  Some of the stories include: the catching-in-the-act and revenge on four prankster kids; an illegal fishing trip; and, a wrestling match between two of the oldest men alive.  Joey, the narrator, says Grandma Dowdel becomes a different woman every year.

The book takes place in Illinois’ Piatt County. I like the writing style especially because it involves a lot of funny similes and interesting vocabulary. Although it takes place in the Midwest, it has a very Southern feel to it.

I’d recommend A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, to anyone who likes humor or old-time stories from the Great Depression era.

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“A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara



Book Review: “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara

From Activist to Zapatista, this “children’s book for the 99 percent” infuses the alphabet with the energy and consciousness of Occupy Wall Street.

Healthy Food_AisforActivist

A is for Activist

A is for Activist
by Innosanto Nagara
Kupu Kupu Press, 2012, $15


A is for Activist.

B is for banner, bobbing in the sky.

It’s pretty clear from page one that this is no Cat in the Hat. Billed as a book for the children of the 99%, A is for Activist is the radical vision of Innosanto (Inno) Nagara, a graphic designer and social justice activist from Oakland, California.

Like most parents, Nagara had little trouble finding books with colorful pictures and fun rhymes to inspire a love of words in his young son. But after reading aloud hundreds of tales featuring princesses, knights, and dogs, the absence of progressive themes in children’s books became abundantly clear.

So Nagara decided to rectify the shortage, despite having zero experience as a children’s book author (or any other kind of author, for that matter). The original plan called for limited press run—one copy for Nagara’s son and a few others for close family and friends.

But as it turned out, Nagara was not the only parent hungry for end rhymes featuring revolutionaries and social-justice luminaries. A is for Activist blossomed, as coworkers helped generate content, and a Kickstarter campaign defrayed the cost of development. After seven months of design, writing, revision, and a self-taught course in self-publishing, Nagara produced an ABC book with a decidedly un-Disney outlook. 

To wit:

D is for democracy.

G is for Grassroots.

L- G- B – T – Q
Love who you Choose!

The alliteration and rhymes have the rhythm and fun of standard ABC books, burrowing into little ears and prompting memorization and spontaneous recitation.

“It’s pretty awesome to hear a three year old saying ‘union power,’” Nagara says.

Throughout the alphabet, topics ignored by most toddler tomes at last get their due. Cooperative workplaces. Unions. Feminism. Immigrant rights. The challenging content raises the question whether Nagara considered changing the message, perhaps to appeal to a broader readership.

“Sure, there were moments when I thought, maybe I should change this…but then I thought, why write the book at all if the message was going to be diluted?” Nagara said.

The undiluted message has caught the attention of leading progressive figures, including authorNaomi Klein and her partner Avi Lewis, who proclaimed it “Full of wit, beauty, and fun!” Native American activist and children’s book author Winona LaDuke called it a “fun and vital resource.”

And for all the families out there eager to transmit their values at story time, it is indeed vital. After all, there aren’t too many alphabet books that begin with Activists and end with Zapatistas.

To order, visit


Corey Hill wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. He is the Membership and Outreach Coordinator at Global Exchange. Follow Corey on Twitter at @Newschill.


Shared via Yes! Magazine

Review by Corey Hill

posted Nov 14, 2012

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Santa’s First Magical Ride

New Christmas book & CD interprets Santa story in rhyme

By Steve Shay

A new Christmas book, “Santa’s First Magical Ride” was just released by West Seattle residents Paul and Libby Carr, their 12 chapters of rhyming couplets augmented by world-class illustrator Herb Leonhard of Prosser, WA. Paul was the author, while Libby is marketing the book. The story offers an explanation of where Santa was born, why the elves live in the North Pole, and other answers that parents might share with their youngsters.

Libby said the book’s 7” x 7” hardback format makes it well-suited for Christmas gifts for companies and organizations to give employees and customers.

This is Leonhard’s 26th book. He has illustrated books ranging from “Lyrics by Tori Amos” to “Lewis & Clark in the Pacific Northwest Coloring Book”.

The Carr’s of Alki are well-known, in part, for their work in establishing the new Statue of Liberty and Plaza there. Perhaps less known is that this creative duet adopted the Santa & Mrs. Claus persona for many a Christmas.

“For over 10 years we both have done the Mr. and Mrs. Claus thing for kids,” said Paul, whose voice is heard on the CD, an entire reading of the book. He has done radio and TV voice work for years, and said the audio together with the text can be used as a learning tool for children. He belongs to an actual organization named”The Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas”.

Paul recalled, “We used to do this thing where I’d play a little guitar and Libby would sing (in the Santa gear) and then I’d ask, ‘Aren’t there any questions you have for Santa?’ At first they’d be shy, then the questions would all pour out. Then, they’d come up and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.”

He began writing his self-published book about 10 years ago, and revisited it over time. Libby explained what compelled them to take on the subject matter of offering answers to hard questions kids have traditionally asked for years about Santa and his elves.

“We started dressing up as Santa and Mrs. Claus to see our grandkids in Yakima,” said Libby. “On our way back one Christmas we stopped in Ellensburg at our favorite BBQ restaurant and all of a sudden there are three kids from the same family standing at our table. The oldest, a nine year old boy asked, ‘OK. How do the reindeer fly? How do you get around the world in one night, and how do you get all those toys into one bag?’

“Our jaws dropped, and we said, ‘That’s a good question. It’s magic. Ask your mother.’ It was very embarrassing. That January Paul sat down and began to write this book.”

Their book’s website answers some of the questions. According to “Santa’s First Magical Ride”, Santa was born on another planet called “Yule”. He was brought to the North Pole as a baby. On Earth, humans had threatened the elves for their magic, and they sought refuge at the North Pole. The book tells of a quest of trust among the factions. The book has 9,500 words of a layered history based on Nordic myth, imagination, and other sources.

“I don’t know that we thought about this much before doing it but when you put these suits on you are all of a sudden a cherished and loved archetype,” said Libby, acknowledging a surprising responsibility that goes with the garb.

Added Paul, “Santa represents the light in the dark of the night for the benefit of the children. And the kids are the future. They are the light, too.”

“When you take the time to talk to kids they will start telling you about their real concerns,” Paul said. “They might say they want you to help someone else they know in need.”

Added Libby, “They’ve told Paul that for Christmas they want Mom and Dad to stop fighting.”

“These are things they would never say if they were just slammed on my lap at a department store to tell me what they want, and then get the photo op,” said Paul. “Kids really believe innately that Santa loves them unconditionally, and that’s what we all want, really.”

The Carrs are available to appear as Santa & Mrs. Claus.

For more information, go to:
or contact Libby Carr at 206-938-8721;

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The Littlest Acorn by K.A. Brown

Kristi Bernard (Overland Park, KS) – See all my reviews
This review is from: The Littlest Acorn (Paperback)

Arty is a little acorn hanging from the branch of his father a giant tree in the backyard of a young boy. All the little acorns were happy when their time came to fall to the ground. They knew that falling would take them on a wonderful journey. They could help the animals stay strong and healthy in the winter, or they would be made into a beautiful necklace for a young boy’s mother. Some would play with the squirrels and roll around the ground like a ball. But Arty was too afraid to let go of the branch. He wanted to know what would happen to him. His brothers and sisters tried to convince him to let go, but he wouldn’t. He clung to the tree and soon was all alone. The big oak told Arty that the young boy was moving away and that he would miss him climbing and tickling his bark. The big oak also tells Arty it is time for him to find his destiny. He breaks the branch and Arty floats to the ground and falls on a pile of leaves. The young boy discovers him and Arty is taken to his new home and planted. Arty’s destiny is to become a giant oak like his father.

This is a great story for parents and teachers to share with young children in discovering what they can do and what they hope to be when they grow up. It will open up dialogue for parents and teachers to educate young minds on the possibilities of what they can be and not to be afraid.

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