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Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.


Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach

The Louds Move In!


The Louds Move In!
by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Regan Dunnick
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books,(March 2006)
ISBN-10: 0761452214
ISBN-13: 9780761452218

My rating:

Things had always been quiet on Earmuffle Avenue.
The quiet neighbors stayed in their quiet homes doing quiet things.
No one even spoke to each other.
Then one day, the Loud family moved in, and everything changed.
The Loud family walked loud. Stomp stompity stomp. They ate loud. Chomp chompity chomp. But mostly they talked loud. "STOP PUTTING OATMEAL IN THE BABY'S HAIR!" Ma Loud yelled. "WHERE'S MY CLEAN UNDERWEAR, FOR PETE'S SAKE?" Pa Loud bellowed. "THE BABY'S EATING OUT OF THE GARBAGE!" Barney Loud shouted.
"WAAAAH!" Baby Loud cried.
--Louds Move In!, by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Regan Dunnick, p. 1-4.

Earmuffle Avenue is a quiet street until the Louds move in. The quiet neighbors, who all treasure their quiet, are aghast at the noise, and one by one, they go to complain to the Loud family, and reject the Loud family's friendly offers. But when the Loud family appears to have left, the quiet neighbors begin to miss the noise, even going so far as to make noise themselves, until, when the Loud family returns from vacation, they rush to welcome them back. This is a funny, appealing book about accepting others, reaching out to other people, and experiencing new things.

Crimi's text moves quickly from the setup--how quiet it's always been on Earmuffle Avenue--to the point of change, when the Louds move in, and this brings quick interest. From the onset, readers are set up to welcome and like the Louds, even with their noisiness, as the other neighbors are so quiet they don't even speak to each other and all engage in silent, solitary hobbies, while the Louds are clearly friendly, welcoming their neighbors, even if they all seem to shout when they speak and make a lot of noise in everything they do. This helps the reader be glad about the resolution. Crimi tells us, through the quiet neighbors' thoughts, how the Louds were just being friendly, and this helps the reader to see and appreciate this along with the quiet neighbors. The Loud family's dialogue is believable, if a little chaotic, and appears all in caps, visually reminding readers of the level of volume.

Humor is immediately apparent with the silly, apt names of the streets and people (Earmuffle Avenue, Miss Shushermush, Mr. Pitterpatter, Miss Meekerton), and the over-the-top quiet ways of the residents (speaking in a whisper, wearing silent slippers, eating a quiet meal of mashed potatoes). There is a great use of onomatopoeia throughout the story to illustrate the Loud's various noisy activities, which help the reader have a greater sense of the sounds and brings a nice sense of rhythm and fun, as well as many verbs that bring a sense of sound (Clatter, twitter, shout). Visually, the onomatopoeia is printed in a slightly bigger text, and stands out by being red instead of the rest of the black text, underscoring the sounds the Louds, and later the quiet neighbors, make.

Crimi has her quiet characters change and grow throughout the story; the quiet neighbors start off disliking the Louds and their noise, asking the Louds to leave, and then gradually come to miss the Louds, their friendliness, and their noise when they are away, even beginning to make replicate the Loud family's noise themselves (telling jokes and laughing, dancing, singing along to the radio), and regretting the way they wanted the Louds to leave, until the Louds return and they welcome them back happily. This change of heart is uplifting and heartwarming, and brings good feeling to the book. Silly child humor brings the story to a close, as the quiet neighbors all burp together, though as a closing page, it didn't completely work for me; the previous spread held the most warmth and feeling of the story being wrapped up.

Crimi shows us the quiet neighbors missing the Louds and their noisiness, leaving the reader to figure it out for themselves as one neighbor turns on her television, another turns on the vacuum cleaner just to have some noise, and this increases the enjoyment of the book. The Louds never seem to hear the quiet neighbors' requests to leave, and this works well, as humor, as a building of tension, and also as a means of avoiding the harshness or pain that might otherwise be present in the rejection. It also perfectly sets up one of the turning points--where the Louds go away on vacation without telling anyone, and all the neighbors think that they've left for good. This allows the quite neighbors to miss the Louds, where otherwise they probably would not have.

I felt sorry for the Loud baby, always eating things it shouldn't and seeming a little neglected, though I'm sure it's meant as humor, and other readers may not find it disturbing. The story text flows easily, pulling the reader along, and is both funny and uplifting. The story gently encourages introverts to reach out and connect to others, and all people to appreciate differences in others.

Dunnick's acrylic-and-charcoal illustrations are cartoon-like and expressive; I can see them appealing to readers who like cartoons such as the Simpsons. The colors look dull and flat, without depth or layering; there are no subtleties to the color. The colors look slapped on, with wide brush strokes that show every break of movement and edging around objects. Characters and objects are outlined in thin charcoal lines. The characters are fluidly drawn, with chunky bodies, oval heads and big cheeks, and eyes that are big ovals with dots in the center or half circles for closed eyes. The Loud family's sounds are represented both visually and through repeating the onomatopoeia next to the illustrations. I didn't find the illustrations overly appealing, but they are unique and have a flavor of their own.

Dunnick has captured the emotional feel of the characters; he created the Loud family with wide, happy open mouths (often showing teeth) and expansive gestures, while the quiet neighbors often have closed or partially open mouths (until their character change near the end) and often look scared or timid. The quiet neighbors are also more conservatively dressed, which fits their characters, while the Loud family are dressed in a more relaxed manner. Young readers may enjoy the visual humor, such as when Pa Loud bellows for his underwear, an image of man's underwear is pictured in a speech bubble above his head, and when Pa Loud is inviting others over for dinner, he wears a pot on his head. The objects the quiet neighbors collect are also humorous and visually creative; Miss Meekerton's pincushions are not simple boring pincushions, but are all shaped like gigantic strawberries.

Most of the illustrations take up a single page, though some illustrations facing each other illustrate the same scene, but the white space between the illustrations makes them seem even more separate. It feels like there is little visual variation between spread layouts, except that some illustrations have background detail while others don't.

Many illustrations have little or no setting or background detail, but are placed on white space with a few foreground objects or with shadows to help ground them in the space. This adds some necessary lightness, but also accentuates the flatness of the characters. The closing illustration shows everyone together at the Loud family's dinner table (where in the previous illustrations they were sitting much farther apart), and this adds to the sense of closeness and friendship.

This is a funny and feel-good book about reaching out to others, appreciating and accepting others, and letting a bit of noisy friendliness into your life. It encourages readers to keep an open mind about other people, and reminds them that they can change how they see other people just by changing their perception.


-Added June 03, 2007

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