Yolanda Ridge

Children's Author

The Wild Robot

Title: The Wild Robotwildrobot1

Author & Illustrator: Peter Brown

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 0316381993

A middle grade book about nature triumphing over technology? Yes, please!

On the surface, The Wild Robot is a book set in the not-so-distant future where robots (or robot creators) rule everything but the small island where ROZZUM unit 7134 (aka Roz), gets stranded after her cargo ship sinks. Beyond that, it is a story of love, community, and the force of nature with layered themes that will resonate with a wide range of readers. The relationship Roz develops with an orphaned gosling, Brightbill, is so touching and full of humanity that it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. Not your typical robot story, that’s for sure.

Although character development is paramount, Peter Brown does not sacrifice on  plot. Essentially a survival story, the ending is shocking, sad and oddly satisfying (with more than a hint about the possibility of a sequel).

As another reviewer said, “This book will do for robots what Charlotte’s Web did for pigs”. Read it (or listen to the audiobook) – I promise it will make you re-think the future of Artificial Intelligence.

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The League of Unexceptional Children

Title: The League of Unexceptional Children

Author: Gitty Daneshvari

Illustrator: James Lancet

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 0316405701

Not only do I love the concept of this book, the execution is great too! I listened to the audiobook on a summer road trip with my sister, 9-year-old niece, and two 10-year-old sons (yes – twins). It kept the kids engaged the entire time and made my sister and I laugh out loud on several (okay, many) occasions.

The start is a bit slow but once the “unexceptional children”, Jonathan and Shelley, are introduced the reader is drawn immediately into their world. Making the point that not everyone is exceptional – and nor they don’t need to be – does not get in the way of a great adventure story that involves saving the Vice-President of the United States.

I’m not sure if I missed any great visuals by not reading the actual book but the audio narrator is amazing and the voices she does really brings the story to light. Prepare to laugh and cheer for the unexceptional.

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Authors for Earth Day

So proud to be part of this group. Read my latest blog post here.

CLIMATE ACTION

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Painting in the Dark

97819434311441Title: Painting in the Dark: Esref Armagan, Blind Artist

Author: Rachelle Burk

Illustrator: Claudia Gadotti

Publisher: TumbleHome Learning

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 987-1-943431-15-1

This nonfiction picture book, aimed at 8 to 12 year-olds, introduces readers to Esref Armagan, a blind artist from Turkey. In typical biography style, author Rachelle Burk outlines Esref’s life chronologically, which is well laid out and researched. What makes this book special is the focus on how the artist developed his ability to paint things he’d never actually seen.

Accompanying the text are a few samples of Esref’s work, incorporated into vibrant illustrations by Claudia Gadotti. Unfortunately, some of the text, which changes color to stand out against the corresponding background, is often obscured by the illustrations.

This will not in any way prevent readers from being touched by Esref’s story. Reading about all the obstacles he faced in becoming an artist will inspired people of all ages, regardless of the type of limitations they must personally overcome. Artists in particular will enjoy learning how he continually improved his paintings by learning to add elements like shadow and perspective.

Making Painting in the Dark  even more powerful is the fact that Esref Armagan is still alive and he is not world famous or rich. He has struggled and continues to persevere.  I could not think of a better person to feature in a biography for young readers. Highly recommended for the school library.

Addendum: According to the publisher and author, the text issue has been addressed in a new printing of the book. Good News!

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OCDaniel

Title: OCDanielocdaniel-9781481455312_lg

Author: Wesley King

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9781481455312

Based at least partly on the author’s own experience with obsessive compulsive disorder (as outlined in the author note at the end), this book is a must read for all school aged kids. With up to 20% of children experiencing some type of mental illness, OCDaniel shows why some people chose to keep their “craziness” hidden while providing  hope for affected kids, their friends and family.

But that’s not why you should read this book (and recommend it to all the young people in your life). You should read OCDaniel because it is entertaining, touching, insightful, and commassionate. You should read it because there’s football. You should read it because there’s a mystery. You should read it because you will fall in love with Daniel, Psycho Sara, and all the other realistic characters in this book (especially best friend of the year – Max!)…. But most of all, you should read OCDaniel because it is so darn good!

Without spoiling the ending, you will route for the Elephants even if you don’t like football and have no idea what a kicker does. And the mystery will definitely keep you guessing even though the actions of one character’s mom stretches credibility.

A mix of Wonder and Fault in our Stars, and just as well written, OCDaniel will not disappoint in any way. Highly recommended!

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Kamloops

The view of Thompson Rivers University from the window of my workshop classroom:

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A great conference with so many creative and talented young writers. My thanks to the amazing organizers and wonderful participants. I hope to return to Kamloops soon!

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Young Authors’ Conference

I am thrilled to be participating in the Young Authors’ Conference hosted by School District No. 73 and held at the the Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.YoungAuthors_logo_no_date_small

I will be presenting a workshop titled He Said, She Said: It’s all about PERSPECTIVE. Using The Three Little Pigs as an example, we’ll discuss how telling a story from a different character’s perspective can change it entirely. From there, we will review different points of view and how to choose which one to use for your story. We will end with a fun writing exercise and leave with a better understanding of voice.

There will be lots of laughs (and funny videos) to get participants inspired. I’m really excited about this opportunity to meet with aspiring young authors from this part of the province. I am also thrilled to be working with six other talented authors who are also presenting workshops for grades 4-7 and three authors who are presenting workshops for grades 8-12.

I will be reporting back in early May and adding this workshop to my author visit page in hopes of bringing it to other schools and conferences in the future!

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Bad Luck

Title: Bad Luck61ffvSyhgZL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

Author: Pseudonymous Bosch 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 0316320420

If you are 10-years-old (or have a 10-year-old in your life) and you haven’t yet read The Secret Series, stop surfing this blog immediately and go check out The Name of this Book is Secret. There’s a reason these books are best sellers: they’re funny, contain a compelling and complex mystery, and introduce us to a unique cast of characters. In other words, all the secrets to literary middle grade success!

In The Bad Books, we meet the little brother of my favourite character from The Secret Series, Max Ernest. Unlike the rest or his family, Clay is a relatively “normal” kid. But when he gets in trouble at school, he’s shipped off to Earth Ranch summer camp, which is anything but normal. In Bad Luck, things on the volcanic island get even more magical and Clay and his friends must solve the mystery of the strange cave drawings and the hijacked cruise ship to save a kidnapped dragon.

The kids are quirky, clever, cheeky, and relatable (except, maybe, for Clay’s magical ability) and the adults are outrageously eccentric. The narrative style is fresh and funny – particularly the footnotes. Bad Luck works as a stand alone book (although you really should read Bad Magic too). The ending also sets things up for a third book in the series which I can’t wait to see on the shelves. Highly recommended. Get reading!

As an aside, the title of this book really appealed to me as I have just been outfitted with my second cast in as many years. This one is on my right hand, making it particularly difficult for me to write (and do other things)… So please forgive me for the infrequent postings. I’ve been playing with new book ideas, getting to know a new critique group, working with a new (to me) editor on Inside Hudson Pickle, and now dealing with this new challenge. Thank goodness for Dragon Dictation (and having lots of great books to read)!

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Road Block… Rossland Style

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Publishing Contract for Inside Hudson Pickle

It’s official! My middle grade novel, Inside Hudson Pickle, will be published by Kids Can Press in Fall of 2017!

A huge thank-you to my agent, Amy Tompkins, for making the deal. I can’t wait to start working with the talented folks at Kids Can Press!

Photo on 2015-10-29 at 5.32 PM

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