Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New titles!

I just received my author's copies of my latest books from Enslow! Check them out!

Who Invented the Ferris Wheel?George Ferris

Who Fixed Babies' Hearts? Vivien Thomas
Who Invented Basketball? James Naismith

All three are available in both library binding AND as very affordable paperbacks! More about them later...

I'm getting a makeover

I'm working on integrating my website ( into the blog, so things are a little messy and incomplete here right now.

Code Name Verity (review)

 I know that I promised in last month’s column that I’d write about the Edgar Award Winner in the YA category, but once I read it, I wasn’t all that crazy about the book. Since this is a recommendation column, I’ll tell you instead about a book that I am crazy in love with. 
“I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.” These are the opening words of “Code Name Verity” (Hyperion, 2012) a stunning new novel by Elizabeth Wein. Verity, a.k.a. Queenie (and a number of other names, it turns out), is a Scottish spy who was captured by the Gestapo after a crash landing in occupied France during World War II. 
            She is imprisoned in a once-elegant hotel that now serves as the Gestapo headquarters in a small town in central France. After being tortured by her captor, SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Loewe, she agrees to write down everything she knows about the British war effort. Like Scheherazade, the storyteller in “One Thousand and One Nights,” Queenie will live only as long as it takes to write her confession.
            And so she tells the story of how she came to her predicament. “The story of how I came to be here starts with Maddie,” she writes—Maddie Brodatt, the pilot who flew her into France.
Through Queenie’s report, written on creamy hotel stationary, on prescription forms, in between the lines of flute music that once belonged to a Jewish flutist, and on recipe cards, we learn the story of the unlikely friendship between the two young women. Maddie Brodatt is English, a secular Jew and a commoner; a natural pilot and airplane mechanic, she is one of the few women to become an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot for the British (in an author’s note, Wein writes that there were in fact female ATA pilots during WWII).  Queenie is of Scottish nobility; her German is flawless, thanks to an education at a Swiss boarding school. She’s gorgeous and cool as a cucumber under pressure: ideal qualifications for a spy.
And now for the hard part of the review: I can’t really tell you much more about “Code Name Verity.” This book is so intricately plotted, with so many twists and turns, that a plot summary would ruin the surprises that await the reader. I can tell you that this book is chock-full of vivid historical details about WWII pilots, spies, the Gestapo, the French resistance, and more. I can tell you that it made me cry. Most importantly, I can tell you that this is a book about the friendship between two smart, strong and courageous women (yes, Queenie was lying about being a coward). “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend,” Queenie writes. “We’re still alive and make a sensational team.” So they do.

This review originally appeared in the Sunday, May 27 print edition of The News-Gazette. I received an advance review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Girl is Murder (review)

If the TV show “Veronica Mars” and some 1940s-era Nancy Drew books got together and had a love child, it might be “The Girl is Murder” (Roaring Brook Press, 2011), by Kathryn Miller Haines.
            It’s the fall of 1942, and fifteen year-old Iris Anderson’s world has turned upside down. Her father (“Pop”), a private detective, lost his leg at Pearl Harbor. Her mother, a German Jew, killed herself a short time later. Her mother’s inheritance has run dry, forcing father and daughter to move from their comfortable Upper East Side apartment to a house shared with their Polish landlady in the Lower East Side. Pop’s disability makes it difficult for him to carry out the physically challenging side of his detective work, and they are perpetually behind on the rent. No more posh private all-girls school for Iris; she’s attending a public school for the first time.
            Iris longs to help her Pop, especially when she learns that he is investigating the disappearance of Tom, one of the few people at her new school to show her some kindness. Pop steadfastly refuses her help (“This isn’t a business for little girls.”), but Iris is determined. Soon, good-girl Iris is sneaking out behind her father’s back and cozying up to the tough crowd at school. Lies pile upon lies as Iris, determined to crack the case, double-crosses even her friends.
            “The Girl is Murder” crackles with 1940s-era slang (“Our Benny thinks you’re murder. . . . “You know—marvelous.”), the tough boys wear oversized Zoot Suits, and they all do the jitterbug at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. I did have some problems with the plot, particularly with an improbable coincidence that I hoped would be somehow explained in the end (it’s not). Nevertheless, Haines successfully captures the race, religion, and class issues of wartime New York City while delivering a fast-paced page-turner. Recommended for readers 12 and up—there is drinking, some drugs, and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. If you like this book, you might want to check out the sequel, “The Girl is Trouble,” coming in July 2012.
               “The Girl is Murder” was a nominee in the YA category for the prestigious Edgar Award, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. I’ll review the YA winner of the Edgar Award, “The Silence of Murder,” in my next column, but for now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got to take a powder.

This review originally appeared in the Sunday, May 6 print edition of The News-Gazette.