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By Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon’s novel has been compared to the likes of The Catcher in the Rye, and I can agree that it lives up to those standards.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time chronicles the story of Christopher Boone, a boy who can list for you every prime number up to 7,057 and every country’s capital.

The descriptions of Christopher make you think that he has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, but Haddon never says those words in the book.

In Curious Incident, you look through the eyes of Christopher as he writes a book about solving the mystery of his neighbor’s dog getting killed. Along the way, he finds something his dad has kept a secret from him that changes his life forever.

It was actually quite fascinating to be able to look through Christopher’s eyes; though his disability has limited him socially, it has also given him an amazing ability to solve puzzles, problems and math equations.

I believe that Mark Haddon was trying to demonstrate to us with this novel that no matter whether you have a disability or not, that you can advocate for yourself and make things better. All it takes is problem solving. Christopher is a brilliant example of this, considering he had to overcome some of his greatest fears.


This book will make you want to cry at some points, but I was cheering for Christopher the whole way through. He was a really inspiring protagonist to me considering that he had to go through all that he did, with a disability on top of that. Anybody will get drawn into this superb novel. (It’s a good rainy day book.)

My mom found this really interesting essay written by Mark Haddon after Curious Incident came out, and she thought this would be great to add:

This was what I was trying to do in Curious Incident. To take a life that seemed horribly constrained, to write about it in the kind of book that the hero would read – a murder mystery – and hopefully show that if you viewed this life with sufficient imagination it would seem infinite.

When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. However beautiful it looked, it needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.

With Curious Incident, I was trying to do something different. The first thing I was doing was writing to entertain myself rather than the person I remember being at six, or eight. Second, yes, the book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life. And these, I think, are the aspects of the book that appeal most to younger readers.

But the book, I hope, does something more than that. The legs aren’t quite the same length. It isn’t entirely comfortable. It’s about how little separates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away (to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self) but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.

As Christopher, my main character, says: ‘People go on holidays to see new things… but I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly.’

~  written by LitKid in 2014, with a little input from AKid@Heart

Postscript: Some of my friends got to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime on Broadway on a school trip this past spring, and they said it was really meaningful and had a unique set/design; you can read more about that in this New York Times article.

Also: Many U.S. readers are probably familiar with the distinctive red cover of the book, but if you go to  Mark Haddon’s website, you can click through many different editions of the book, all of which have eye-catching cover art.


When a 13-year-old girl happily goes to an indoor event on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon and seeks out (solo) a front-row seat in a crowd with an average age quite a few decades her senior, and then sits contentedly through a program featuring about 10 speakers … well, in my opinion, this is a tribute that speaks volumes.

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my co-blogger, on the edge of her front-row seat

My co-blogger and daughter (LitKid, as she’s called here) dearly loves Quail Ridge Books and Music, our stellar independent bookstore in Raleigh, NC, and she needed no coaxing when I told her that there was a celebration today of the 30th Anniversary of the store and a big tribute to its founder, Nancy Olson.

Nancy and her husband, Jim, and their dedicated, wonderful staff made Quail Ridge a place that readers and writers of all ages (and musicians and music-lovers, too) were drawn back to again and again.

“LitKid” grew up there, sitting with her nose in a book on the carpet in the back of the children’s section (I always had to drag her away); attending raucous kids’  events with many talented writers and illustrators; and tagging along with me for just as many “grownup” author events, often with her homework in tow.

I asked her over dinner tonight why she loved Quail Ridge. “Because it feels cozy and has a family-like feeling to it,” she said. “Everyone who works there always has smiles on their faces.”

And on the cake: the perfect choice of quote to celebrate Quail Ridge Books.

The Olsons decided several years ago that it was time to find someone from the next generation to take over the store. There were many nervous patrons hoping against hope that in the era of Amazon, mega-bookstores and e-books, the Olsons would be able to find someone who would honor that “family-like” feeling that my girl and I and many others love about Quail Ridge.

They gave their fans the gift of being painstaking about the search process, and it paid off. As long-time customers, my girl and I can happily report that they did find a buyer who is honoring the values — and the value — of this place that Nancy and the staff worked hard to create over a span of 25-plus years.

The second-generation owner, Lisa Poole, and the staff (all of our favorite, smiling faces have remained) fittingly chose to focus the 30th anniversary on honoring Nancy Olson.

Unfortunately, Nancy was not there to hear the lineup of writers, friends and book world luminaries who were there to pay tribute to her, including Charles Frazier, Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, Allen Gurganus, Bridgette Lacy, Angela Davis-Gardner, Randall Keenan, Margaret Maron, Clay Stalnaker and Oren Teicher, Executive Director of the American Booksellers’ Association.

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Part of the lineup of guest speakers paying tribute to Nancy Olson












She is recovering from unexpected surgery, and we hope the videos of all of those well-written (of course), humorous, touching tributes will speed her recovery along so we can spot her smiling face at a future event at the store – and so my girl can, as always, give her a big hug.

~ AKid@Heart



This weekend, the Literary Festival came to me at the Hunt Library at NCSU.10150555_10202785590973871_549481845_n

There were so many cool activities and authors, and the library itself was a spectacle to look at.


 There are also tons of really cool authors doing readings there such as John Claude Bemis, R.L. Stine, and Kelly Starlings-Lyon.

There are also cool workshops, like a comic-making workshop, and a book-making workshop.


There were so many fun activities for kids of all ages, like making your own comic, or recreating a scene from your favorite book with Legos (I did Divergent!), and 1606956_10202785587493784_1897744004_n
finding out how literacy fits in with Math.

One of the coolest things I saw on the first day was the StoryUp! Aerialist group, who recreated some of our favorite fables and stories using aerial silks. Paperhand Puppet Intervention was there, too.



There are so many fun things to do at the Literary Festival for everyone in your family. Sadly I didn’t get to do all of things mentioned above because I was out of town part of Saturday, but those were some of the things they offered.


Move over DC (National Book Festival) — you’ve got competition! (and goooooo Wolfpack!)

Bonus: Our friends from our favorite bookstore, Quail Ridge Books & Music were there with a pop-up bookstore!

Oh, look at the time– I gotta get over to NC State for today’s activities!  ~LitKid



Postscript from AKid@Heart: Who doesn’t love  building with Legos? While LitKid made her cool Divergent scene, I decided to try to create a setting from my kids’ novel manuscript … the rooftop of the main characters’ city apartment building, complete with Tiki shelter (and gliders below), a garden and night-time lights. (Kids have no idea how basic Legos used to be!)

IvanThe One and Only Ivan

By Katherine Applegate

Newbery Award Winner

The One and Only Ivan tells us the story of a lonely gorilla living at the run-down  Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. His only companions are Julia, the janitor’s daughter and Stella, the elephant who has many cool stories about her past.

He spends his long days being admired and “oohed” and “aahed” over by humans. Their lives get more interesting when Ruby, a baby elephant joins them there. She’s witty and nervous, at first, but has spirit.

When Stella dies, and leaves Ivan with a promise to take care of Stella, he’s determined to get both of them to the zoo.

This story was really inspiring to me because it was based on a true story, and it shows you should never underestimate the power of determination. Especially when it comes in a four-legged package. Katherine Applegate does a splendid job of depicting a fictional version of Ivan.

It was really cool because I had the opportunity to do an interview with Ms. Applegate over Skype last spring, and I hope I will get to meet her in person at the National Book Festival in Washington this weekend!


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).



 By R.J. Palacio

August “Auggie ” Pullman has been homeschooled forever.

Until now.

He is different from other kids, because he has a facial deformity.  His doctor has called Auggie a miracle, because they weren’t sure he would survive.

His first day at Beecher Prep is a good and bad day.

He gets stared at. But he has Jack Will, a friend he met touring the school. Everything is going great. Until Halloween, when he overhears his best friend saying something mean.

The lesson Auggie learns is that you should choose the friends that are right for you. Friends that you can be yourself with. Friends that are loyal to you.

One reason I liked this book is because it conveys a message not just for kids like Auggie, but for everybody: Stand up for what you believe in.

Won’t you sign a pledge to CHOOSE KIND?


Watch the Wonder book trailer.

Learn more about R.J. Palacio.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you should stop reading. I certainly don’t. So below I have put together my Summer Reading List & Book Wishlist.

As usual, I got a lot of great ideas looking around in the kids’ department at Quail Ridge Books the other day. Let’s hope I end up with my own copies of some of these – my birthday is coming up, after all! (update: LitKid was lucky enough to get the boldfaced titles for her birthday … she’ll have a lot of reviews to share soon.)

~ LitKid

LitKid also put our annual list of ‘fun things we could do this summer’ on a giant Post-It that’s now hanging in our hallway; be sure to note the last one on that list. (!)
(I was thinking I’d do well if I read 15 or 20 from my kid and grownup ‘to read’ stacks!)
~ AKId@Heart

LitKid’s Summer Reading List … 2012 Edition

  • Septimus Heap Series, Angie Sage
      • Flyte
      • Physik
      • Queste
      • Syren
      • Darke
  • The Popularity Papers, Amy Ignatow
  • Middle School: the Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson
  • School of Fear: Class is Not Dismissed! Gitty Daneshvari
  • The One & Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
  • The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  • Sent, Margaret Peterson Haddix  (2nd book in the “Missing” Trilogy)
  • The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, Jeff Kinney
  • The Babysitter’s Club: The Summer Before, Ann M. Martin
  • Dork Diaries Series, Rachel Renee Russell
      • Tales from a NotsoFabulous Life
      • Tales from a NotsoPopular Party Girl
      • Tales from a NotsoTalented Pop Star
      • Tales from a NotsoGraceful Ice Princess
  • The Extroardinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Prairie Evers, Ellen Airgood
  • Close to Famous, Joan Bauer
  • Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
  • The Search for WondLa, Tony DiTerlizzi
  • Bigger Than a Bread Box, Laurel Snyder (Read this already, but want a copy of my own cuz it was awesome 🙂 
  • Lemonade Crime, Jacqueline Davies
  • Bliss, Kathryn Littlewood
  • The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau
  • Scumble, Ingrid Law
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg

P.S. Happy Summer!!!!

P.P.S. What’s on your Summer Reading List?

I had never heard of the Jaguar Stones series until I heard that the authors, Pamela and Jon Voelkel, were coming to my school in March. We had a rockin’ time.

Once I read a summary, I knew I would love their books. And I did. So when they accepted my request for an interview, I was deee-lighted. Read on (and be sure to check out my review of Middleworld, the first book in the series) …

 ~ LitKid

Where were you when you were writing Middleworld ?

Pamela: Most of at the time, we were at home in Vermont, and part of the time, we were traveling in Belize. In Belize, we wrote in a bamboo hut on a screen porch overlooking a rushing river; in Vermont, we live in an old brick house and share a drafty old office. You can’t see a single surface in the room for piles of papers, books and maps.

Did any authors give you inspiration for your book? If so, why that particular author?

Pamela: As a child, I loved The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and I have tried to recreate that haunting mixture of mystery and mythology. I was also inspired by the rather sensible and self-sufficient child protagonists of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Remember that telegram they get from their father? “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won’t drown.” And, of course, they don’t drown, because they’re smart. Finally, I always enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, not so much for their plots as for the way she  always listed out all the food on their picnics. I always like to know what people are eating, which is why Raul cooks such amazing feasts in the Jaguar Stones books.

Jon: The Jaguar Stones series was partly inspired by the K’iche’ Maya creation myth the Popul Vuh, which tells the story of the hero twins who fight against the ancient Maya lords of death. Nobody knows who wrote it down. Though not a book, the Indiana Jones movies were also a real inspiration. In writing the books, I always try to picture the scenes as a film in my mind.

The Voelkels’ rockin’ visit to LitKid’s international magnet elementary school

Before you became writers, did you want to be something else, like a doctor?

Pamela: I always wanted to be some kind of writer. Originally, I wanted to be a journalist, but then I decided I wanted to be an advertising copywriter, and that’s what I did for 20 years until we started work on The Jaguar Stones.

Jon: I put myself through college playing in a number of rock and roll bands. I then went on to work in advertising. I still play lead guitar in a local band.

Where did you first meet?

In an advertising agency in London.

Are any of the characters in the book based on people you’ve met? If so, why?

Pamela: Like all writers, we steal shamelessly from every single person we meet. It might be the way someone looks, or the way they toss their hair or tap their foot or giggle, but we’re always on the lookout for ways of acting and talking.

Consequently, there are lots of people we know bound into the Jaguar Stones characters. There’s quite a lot of Jon in Max, but there’s also a bit of our teenage son, and when Max is cowardly, that comes from me. I’d say that Lola is who I’d like to be. She’s funny and smart and brave. I also enjoy creating evil characters and basing them on people I know, but of course I can’t share any details. 🙂

Read more about the Voelkels on their author page

Check out the cool Jaguar Stones web site … 

Watch the Voelkels talk with kids about the series on the Today show …

Albert the Bear

By Nick Butterworth

When sad-and-sullen-looking Albert the Bear lands in Mr. Jolly’s ToyShop, the other toys know something is up. Albert wears a frown that needs to be turned upside down. So the other toys spring into action with a jolly good idea to cheer their chum up. By the end … well,  you’ll just have to read the book to learn the tale of the young (once) sad, now cheery bear. Nick Butterworth does a cheery job in telling the tale of young Albert.


p.s. You’re going to see a LOT of familiar faces in Mr. Jolly’s Toy Shop!


LitKid dressed up as one of her favorite children’s book characters a few Halloweens ago.

… Which week do we appreciate?!

Children’s Book Week!!!!!!!!!

It’s here once again ladies and gents, and we (LitKid and AKid@Heart) have a lot in store.

One of the many things we’ll be doing this week is an interview with Laurel Snyder, author extroardinaire, who wrote Bigger Than a Bread Box.

And we’ll have a whole slue of reviews to celebrate this week.

There might even be a giveaway …!

~ LitKid (our 10-year-old book lover)

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February 2019
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