Before you begin a book, look for clues: will it be well-written?

Find evidence about the publisher or the author. Here are some examples by eighth grade students…

Fleischman, Sid. The Whipping Boy. New York: HarperTrophy, 2003, c1986.

The publisher of The Whipping Boy is Scholastic. Since Scholastic produces many books, they often do not evaluate the quality of the books as well as many other publishers such as Square Fish or Nelson. These publishers appear to have much higher expectations for the books they publish. However, Scholastic does produce some fantastic fiction books for children, which seems to be their main market because the non-fiction books they publish are not that fantastic. On the front of the book is a gold award that says, “For the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. The author is Sid Fleischman, and his book is illustrated by Caldecott Honor Illustrator Peter Sis. On the back of this book are some reviews, by Kirkus Reviews and ALA Booklist, both of which say the book is excellent. Reviews, an award, and an award-winning illustrator make The Whipping Boy sound like it’s going to be a great book to read. (Brennon in grade eight)

Hautzig, Esther. The Endless Steppe. New York: HarperCollins, 1968.

Esther Hautzig, a tough woman, wrote a powerful book called The Endless Steppe which vividly portrays the struggles of her childhood in Russia during the 1940s.  She and her family were deported from their beautiful home in Vilna, Poland and shipped off to Siberia in cattle cars where she was to work in potato fields. Later, her family was sent to a village where she was able to go to school again. Eventually, she was released from Russia and travelled to Stockholm and later to the United States of America.  It was on that boat to America where she met her future husband – a concert pianist. They settled down in New York City and later acquired another home on the countryside, a home almost identical to her lovely childhood home in Vilna. Esther Hautzig has written numerous books, including quadrilingual picture books, and many novels. She has achieved high reviews from companies such as Publishers Weekly. In her affecting novel- The Endless Steppe, Esther Hautzig teaches readers about life in Russia during World War 2. (Saniya in grade eight)

Esther Hautzig is a brilliant author, most famous for her award-winning book  The Endless Steppe. Esther was born on October 18, 1920 in Wilno, Poland (now known as Vilnius, Lithuania). She is known for writing true-life tales about survival in the labor camps of Siberia in World War II. Esther, amazingly and superbly, gives us an understanding of what went on in Russia during World War II. Hautzig family was taken to the endless steppe of Siberia, and they were told they were “…capitalists…enemies of the people” (12). She, vividly and descriptively, gives us a tremendously terrific picture of how hard it was for some people in Russia during that time. Esther Hautzig passed away on November 1,2009, but she will always be remembered as an awesome author who gave us a better understanding of life, and provided us amazing new knowledge. (Bradley in grade eight)

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Shadows on the Wall. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1980.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is the author of my group novel, Shadows on the Wall. She is a mind-blowing writer of more than one hundred books for children and teens. Some famous books she wrote include the Newberry Medal winner Shiloh, and its two sequels, and the popular Alice series. In this book, she also gives us some information about York, England with the help of G. Stan Pawson who is from York. For example, did you know that during the Middle Ages, a wall was built over the old stone structure that had surrounded the Roman garrison in York? That’s not all. We can explore some Roman words in this book, too. Did you know that “gavver” is an old Roman word for “policemen”? Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is not only a fantastic writer, she’s a trustworthy writer who gives us extra knowledge while we read! (Juli in grade eight)

Reynolds Naylor is an amazing, mind-dazzling, award-winning author. She exposes her readers to sensitive topics and encourages them to have open mind to new ideas. Naylor doesn’t have the slightest problem with coming up with ideas for any of her books. Many of her stories are inspired by events which she or people she knows, have experienced, but other stories- the ideas flow purely from her imagination. Some of Naylor’s books focus on sensitive topics, such as mental illness in The Keeper and the death of a child in A Story of Chances, but others are much less serious. Naylor has published over 120 books. Her most well-known novel is Shiloh (1991), which was turned into a film. She has also written many novels for children, including the ever-so-popular Alice series and the Witch trilogies. In addition, she has also written many books for adults. Naylor has won numerous awards for her writing. She has won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe award from Mystery Writers of America in 1985 for Night Cry (1984). She has won the highly acclaimed John Newbery Medal for Shiloh (1991). Many of Naylor’s books have also been received special recognition by the American Library Association and the Internal Reading Association. Many have also been chosen as Junior Literary Child Selections. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, with her amazing ability to come up with all sorts of stories, has written an incredible number of books and has been recognized and awarded for her outstanding writing. She is truly a spectacular author. (Ann in grade eight)

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