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The River of No Return

By Jon and Pamela Voelkel

I had a chance to interview Jon and Pamela Voelkel, authors of the “Jaguar Stones” series, after they came to my school last spring.

I love the first two books in the trilogy (feel free to check out my review of Middle World,the first book), and I was very honored and surprised when the Voelkels offered to send me a top-secret Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the next book in the series, The River of No Return.

Jon & Pamela Voelkel

It was so cool to get to find out how what happens next before the book even comes out!

In this latest chapter, Max and Lola must once again scheme to make sure that all of the Jaguar Stones don’t end up in the hands of the Mayan god of violent and unnatural death.

The twins do many cool things, including using Mayan magic, in their quest to make sure that the Middleworld is not taken over by Ah Pukuh, the Mayan equivalent of Hades. And along the way, Max and Lola find out a family secret.

So will the Hero Twins outsmart Ah Pukuh, or will all of Middleworld fall into peril?

Find out when The River of No Return comes out this September!

~ LitKid, 11-year-old reviewer

Occupying a new place of honor on our mantel: The beautiful Wonderstruck, perched on the beautiful red spines of several other wonderful children’s books and accompanied by a slender, magical glass rabbit I discovered in a dusty antique shop when I lived in Prague. (I also bought a magical armoire/wardrobe in this shop that led to a funny adventure … but that is a story for another day.)

Our original ‘books as art’ post is here; the holiday version is here.

~ AKid@Heart

Librarians play a big part in the lives of us book-lovers. We become really close to them. My school librarian has played a big part in the last 2-3 years of my  elementary school life. And now, without further ado, “Paige Binder” (we all use pen names at ‘Lost in a Book’!):

 ~LitKid

‘Paige Binder’ with LitKid at her fifth-grade graduation reception

Librarian guilt. That is what I have about all those Newbery Award winners and classic children’s novels I have never read. It is why I made a list of eight books to read this summer that will reduce my guilt load. They are not necessarily books I want to read, but I’m sure at least half of them will end up as favorites. One classic that has gone unread is Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves. When George passed away this spring, the world lost a bright star in children’s literature, and I knew it was time to check out her Newbery Award-winning novel.

I have to admit, I was not expecting to enjoy Julie of the Wolves. The plot sounded too similar to another book I never made it through—Jack London’s Call of the Wild. I enjoy being in nature, but “man against nature” survival stories generally put me to sleep. (Please don’t ask if I have read Gary Paulsen’s classic Hatchet.) Therefore it was with some trepidation that I began to read Julie of the Wolves.

I was happy to find out that George created a compelling backstory for her spunky heroine Miyax, known to her penpal in San Francisco as Julie. As the book opens, the reader learns that Miyax has lost both her beloved parents and was married off at age 13 to a man named Daniel. Clearly, the marriage was an unhappy one, as Miyax has taken her chances in the Alaskan wilderness in order to escape it. Lost and alone, she attempts to join a pack of wolves in order to survive. Knowing that more will be revealed about Miyax’s past, as well as the anticipation of how she will survive once winter sets in, has kept me reading. George’s descriptions of Miyax’s attempts to communicate with the wolves are incredibly realistic and well-researched. The author’s lifetime of studying the ways of animals allows her to bring the wolves to life as characters that can hold their own against human ones.

Jean Craighead George had her own fascinating life story. She grew up with parents who were naturalists and spent most of her childhood days outdoors. As an adult, she became a journalist and was one of the first women to join the White House Press Corps. After her children were born, she made outdoor adventures a big part of her family’s life. The menagerie of wild animals that made a home in her house and yard provided inspiration for her books. She was opinionated and strongwilled when it came to her beliefs, which perhaps made it easier to stand her ground when Julie of the Wolves was challenged by censors.

As I make my way through the list of “Books I Should Have Read” this summer, I hope to find more unexpected favorites like Julie of the Wolves.  A balanced reading diet can be made up of reading what we like as well as what is good for us, but for this librarian, the real pleasure comes when I find both in one novel.
‘Paige Binder’ is an elementary school librarian and former middle school teacher. This summer she will be buying her first Kindle and making her way through that list of award winners. We hope she will come back and tell us about her award winners reading adventure at the end of the summer!

LitKid recently posted an excellent list of books she hopes to read and/or wishes to add to her library when her 11th birthday rolls around later this month; she later announced she hoped to read 2,000 books this summer.

When I gave her a cocked-eyebrow, incredulous-but-trying-to-not-crush-her-dreams sort of look, she was unfazed, though a few days later, she did allow as how she might revise her goal to 2,000 books by the end of the year instead.

My goals are more modest, especially since I have a non-kidlit stack to read this summer as well:

1) When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead; I’m flipping back and forth between the hardcover and the audiobook on our July 4th holiday road trip. This one has been at the top of my reading wish list for awhile.

2) Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. By now, who hasn’t heard of the wonder of Wonder? My girl has done a class book report on it (complete with a way cool “Prezi” visual presentation for class), as well as reviewed it here. I can’t wait to read it.

3) The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I hope to read Book 1 of at least one of these by the end of summer, and ideally I’ll fit in both.

4) Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe. Rosemary, our kidlit expert at Quail Ridge Books, highly recommended this one, and LitKid loved it. This is one of those books I’d want to read based solely on the title (maybe we’ll make a list of those books here one day; there are many strong contenders).

~AKid@Heart

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