I have a confession…

I steal my children’s ARCs.  Sometimes, when they’re in bed at night with their new books clutched in their hands, I pry their fingers loose and sneak the books downstairs to read.

J and E are members of the Harper Kids First Look Program.  Every month, they go to a website and choose the titles they’d like to read from a list of books on offer.  Harper has a drawing and sends them the ARCs to review if they win.  Cool, huh?

Except grownups aren’t allowed to participate.  Just kids. Which forces me to stand over their shoulders when they log on each month, saying things like, “Ooohhh…don’t you want to read that one?  I really think you’d like that one. Look how exciting  it looks.  You really ought to let them know that you’d like to review that one…”  Sometimes it works out beautifully.

Like last month… when E scored ARCs of two books that I absolutely LOVED.  Both walk the line between genres — mixing text and illustration in creative ways that bring even more life to already lively stories.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, due out in June, is by Chris Riddell of  Edge Chronicles fame.  It’s the kind of book you might imagine if Roald Dahl and Brian Selznick had teamed up on a graphic novel.  Ottoline is a  young girl whose parents travel the world and leave her home in the family townhouse in the care of a friendly, hairy creature-person named Mr. Monroe. I loved the characters in this book. Ottoline’s a little like Pippi Longstocking — brave and funny and always up for an adventure.  And Mr. Monroe…. well, he was so cute I want to adopt him and keep him as a lap dog.  Ottoline and Mr. Monroe team up to solve the mystery of a string of neighborhood burglaries — a plot that is brought to life by the abundant and amazing illustrations.   This one was well worth the grief I got from my daughter when she found out I stole it.

Then I had to wait a while to read The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis because E wouldn’t let it out of her sight until she finished.    Like Ottoline, this book mixes text and illustrations in a way that’s sure to grab even the most reluctant readers.  Sixth graders, in particular, are going to love this one because it’s the perfect mix of humor and the honest-to-goodness angst that’s part of starting middle school. I’ve already recommended this one as a purchase for our school library. Addy McMahon has a lot to deal with as she makes that transition — a father who died of cancer, a mother whose icky boyfriend is moving in, and an email disaster that nearly costs her her best friend.  Add it all up, and Addy’s convinced that she’s cursed. What middle school kid hasn’t felt that way? 

Addy is both a talented writer and illustrator — just like author Katie Davis — so the book’s narrative is told in part through Addy’s “autobiograstrip,” an autobiography in comic book form.  Full disclosure time… I met Katie Davis at a writers retreat this winter and thought she was fantastically funny and smart and energetic, so I fully expected to like this book.  It didn’t disappoint, and it’s going to be a terrific title for kids making that leap from elementary school to middle school.  They’ll appreciate the warmth and honesty as well as its creative format.

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