cover image for DragonbreathVernon, U. (2009) Dragonbreath. New York, NY: Dial Books.




Danny Dragonbreath may be a dragon, but he can’t breathe fire.  Yet.  At the moment, though, he has bigger problems, like the F his teacher gave him on his report on the ocean.  Apparently it’s not acceptable to turn in an essay on the fictional Snorklebats and pretend it’s a scientific research paper.  Now Danny has just one day to make up his missed assignment or his mom’s going to kill him.  So he drags his best friend Wendell to the pier to visit his Uncle Edward, a sea serpent.  Perhaps Danny should be more worried about something other than his mom wanting him dead?


With Vernon as the author, a big part of Dragonbreath’s appeal is, of course, the illustrations, which are sprinkled throughout the book.  Some appearing where they would in more classic children’s novels, others going on for pages and including comic style speech bubbles.  That’s not all this book has to recommend it though, the story was entertaining, the humor spot on, and the characters likable.  Personally, I also loved the science information Vernon seamlessly added into her story.  You wouldn’t think that a humorous tale about a dragon, an iguana, and a sea serpent would try to include educational, scientific information, but Vernon has a keen understanding of what younger tweens know to be fantasy and a respect for their ability to separate likely fact from clear fiction.

Best for ages 6-10


Author website: http://ursulavernon.com/


Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

cover image for Percy Jackson 1Riordan, R. (2005)  Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.



Percy Jackson is one of those kids that can’t seem to do anything right, but even he thinks it’s weird when he appears to to have obliterated his math teacher.  (He didn’t mean to!)  Things get even more odd when he comes home after having been kicked out of school (that part isn’t weird) and monsters start coming after him.  There’s a reasonable explanation for all this strangeness, though.  Percy is the son of a God, and Zeus (not his father) thinks he’s stolen something from him.  So all Percy has to do is find Zeus’ most powerful weapon, return it to him, and everything will be fine.   That’s it!  Easy, right?


In the first of what looks to be an incredibly entertaining series, Riordan creates a world that manages to blend Greek myths and modern life.  Percy is a great tween hero, he’s neither perfect nor overly reluctant.  While he felt like a failure before his adventure, readers know him to be a champion long before his identity is revealed.  His companions, Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, are a great match for Percy and his quest.  I look forward to reading the rest of series, and tweens will too.


Best for ages 10-15


Author website: http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

Miley Cyrus

cover image for Can't Be TamedCyrus, M., Armato, A., James, T., & Karaoglu, D. (2010) Who Own My Heart [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

Cyrus, M., Armato, A., James, T., Neumann, P., & Pompetzki, M.  (2010) Can’t Be Tamed [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

Cyrus, M. & Shanks, J.  (2010) Stay [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

[I wish I could just send you to this post at Tiger Beatdown in lieu of an actual review, as theirs will always be the much better review to read, but I can’t really turn in someone else’s blog post for my homework.  So here goes…]

After trashing the last couple of musicians, I’m now going to have to admit that I actually enjoyed Cyrus’ songs.   They still feel very extra shiny polished in a way that smells of lots and lots people working on Miley Cyrus, The Star.*  But.  They are actually interesting and, despite the being more mature songs, are also the kinds of things I’d like tween girls to be thinking about.

Yeah, I know, that’s not exactly an uncontroversial statement.  Now, I’m not really talking younger tweens here, and it’s clear that Miley has become more of a teen artist than a tween artist as she has moved into adulthood herself.


Granted, Stay is a pretty typical love ballad, but it’s also more musically sophisticated than, for example, Everclear’s offerings.  Who Owns My Heart had mine from the first though – talking about the difference between desire and love?  In a ways that also suggests she’s pondering if any love would ever be worth living up her artistic passions?  The lyrics are definitely more mature (although, when is rock not about sex?) but the questions are ones I want (older) tweens asking themselves.

And then there’s Can’t be Tamed.  Of course there’s going to be adults that are made uneasy by adolescents declaring their independence.  Especially when you throw “girls” and “sex” into the mix. I’m not really all that thrilled about tween girls thinking they need to be sexy, sexy to rebel myself.  At the same time, the fact that we seem to continually try to control girls’ sexuality rather than guide them is part of what led to this song and video, as is the idea that for girls, “sexually available” = “adult.”  So it seems to me that it’s very appropriate for older tweens to be listening to Miley – and for the adults in their lives to be engaging in conversations with them about why they think Miley is rebelling the way that she is.

Best for ages 13-16

Artist website: http://www.mileycyrus.com/



*right, so, probably shouldn’t have reread Sady and Amanda’s post right before writing this.

The Phantom Tollbooth

cover image for The Phantom TollboothJuster, N.  (1961)  The Phantom Tollbooth.  New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books.


Nothing interests Milo.  Everyday is just another repetition of the same old humdrum that filled the day before.  Until a mysterious package arrives that sends Milo off to a strange world where watchdogs keep time, sounds are kept locked in vaults, and colors are created by an orchestra.  In no time at all, Milo is off on a quest to rescue not one princess, but two – Rhyme and Reason.  Will Milo manage to complete his quest?  Will he be able to find his way home afterwards?  And if he gets back, will Milo still think the world holds nothing but boredom.


Norton Juster’s classic has delighted tweens for decades, long before the term was even coined, and will continue to do so for decades to come.   The Phantom Tollbooth will especially delight younger tweens who are ready to graduate from Kat Kong and Dogzilla to more sophisticated word play, and yet still enjoy a day spend imagining themselves in places of their own creation.



Best for ages 8-12



Books to Make You Cry

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