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Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Reviews, photos, images from Soviet Russia
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(Reviews written by me, not about my books.)

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The Only Girl in School
School Library Journal, January 2016

Gr 3-6–Ten-year-old Claire Warren has a rocky start to the school year. Her best girl friend, Bess, has moved away, and good pal Henry is suddenly too cool to hang out with a girl. Now, Claire must figure out how to negotiate the tricky landscape that is fifth grade—as the only remaining girl in school. Claire’s story is recounted through her letters to Bess, which she supplements by re- creating her drawings from the school bathroom wall (she has the girls’ bathroom to herself, after all). Standiford successfully taps into the feeling of growing up on a small East Coast island. Claire has a strong voice and authentic dialogue. Her strength of character shines as she faces challenges with humor and resilience. The plot covers a lot of ground—a birthday party, a school dance, soccer games, sailing competitions, and even the appearance of a pirate ghost. There are implausible moments, but the courage in Claire’s consistent refusal to change herself to please others always feels genuine. VERDICT An engaging tale of unwavering self-acceptance. Readers will laugh out loud and emerge from the story satisfied with the cheerful resolution.

Switched at Birthday
Kirkus Reviews, December 18, 2013

A wish, a shared birthday and some “theater magic” transform the lives of two young teens.
Although Lavender’s and Scarlet’s birthdays are on the same day, their lives are polar opposites. Scarlet reigns as a popular girl at their middle school, while Lavender’s status falls much lower on the social scale. Yet both are determined to audition for the lead, Marian, in their school production of The Music Man. The mysterious intervention of their music teacher—who harbors a magical secret—leads to the pair waking up the day after their 13th birthdays in each other’s bodies. Suddenly, Lavender experiences the popular life as Scarlet, and Scarlet endures the many taunts that punctuate Lavender’s school days. As they scramble to resolve their dilemma, the girls form a reluctant collaboration. Standiford’s adept portrayal of the evolution of the girls’ self-awareness conveys a meaningful message about empathy and forgiveness. While the switch enables the girls to learn about each other, it also gives them greater insight into their own lives, allowing them each to discover their strengths and to recognize their foibles. The girls emerge from their experiences with an appreciation of their genuine friendship and the courage to make positive changes in their lives.
A characteristically insightful tale that affirms the importance of true friendship and self-acceptance. (Fantasy. 9-13)

The Boy on the Bridge
(Click the title link above for more reviews plus personal photos from Russia)
*Publishers Weekly, May 27, 2013

Standiford (Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters) paints a somber portrait of communist Russia during the early 1980s in this love story tinged with intrigue. Laura, an American college student studying in Leningrad, is homesick and tired of “bitter cold, inedible food, filthy dorms, boring classes.” That’s before she meets Alyosha, a handsome young Russian artist who appears on a bridge just in time to save her from two aggressive gypsy women. Although Laura has been warned not to “fall” for Russian men, who might have ulterior motives, she is drawn to her mysterious rescuer and arranges to meet with him secretly. Their rendezvous become increasingly frequent and intense, and the city that once seemed so bleak to Laura suddenly comes to life. It also becomes more dangerous, making Laura wonder whether Alyosha’s affection is sincere. The desperation behind the Iron Curtain is dramatically portrayed as Laura witnesses the restrictions Alyosha and his friends endure. Besides offering readers passion and suspense, Standiford raises thought-provoking questions about how far people should go for the sake of love and freedom.

The Secret Tree
(Click the title link above for more reviews.)
A New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2012

The New York Times Book Review, June 17, 2012

"The Secret Tree" takes its rightful place in the now classic genre of "neighborhood kids" that began with Beverly Cleary.... From a child, there is no higher praise than, "The ending was satisfying." And this one is. "The Secret Tree" is a welcome addition to the canon....These children are far too real to let their captivating tales end here.
-Lisa Von Drasek

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
(Click the title link above for more reviews.)

*Publishers Weekly, September 6, 2010

Standiford (How to Say Goodbye in Robot) sets up an enticing premise: the Sullivans' über-rich grandmother, Almighty, has written the entire family out of her inheritance because one of the eight-member clan has offended her. Unless the guilty party confesses satisfactorily, her millions will go to charity (and not just any charity: Puppy Ponchos, which "provided rain ponchos for the dogs of people too poor to buy dog raincoats for themselves"). Thus begins a delightful tale in which the three Sullivan sisters pour their hearts, souls, and deepest secrets into letters to Almighty. Written in first person, each letter traverses the same time period, yet the girls' unique voices and perspectives shine through: wholesome Sassy, who thinks she's un-killable; spitfire, nonconformist Jane, who riles everyone up with her dirt-dishing blog, (a real site); and do-gooder Norrie, who falls in love with the wrong guy. Standiford makes reading about Baltimore high society and the flawed, pampered, but likable Sullivans feel like a wickedly guilty pleasure. By the time Standiford reveals Almighty's real beef, readers will wish that more family members had confessions to make.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot
(Click the title link above for more reviews.)

*Kirkus Reviews – Sept 15, 2009

Surprising everyone at their private school, a sardonic loner befriends the new girl in this unusual story of an intense platonic relationship between two misfits. Dubbed a robot by her emotionally unstable mother after she fails to manifest sufficient heartbreak over the death of their gerbil, Bea meets pale, withdrawn Jonah, maliciously called “Ghost Boy” by their peers. Almost immediately, she realizes that she has more in common with Jonah than with the catty, insular girls that surround her and begins to rely increasingly heavily on him even as she discovers more about his tragically strange past. Standiford has crafted a darkly whimsical tale filled with details that will be recognizable to teens truly existing on the fringe, complete with references to John Waters films and outsider musician Daniel Johnston. Bea’s original first-person voice will draw readers in, and the unexpected plot will keep them engaged. A decidedly purposeful not-love story, this has all the makings of a cult hit with a flavor similar to Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999). (Fiction. 12 & up)

The 39 Clues: Unstoppable, Book 3: Countdown
The further adventures of Amy and Dan Cahill.

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto
It is one of the worst storms ever--the snow has not stopped for days and it is 30 degrees below zero. But somehow Balto must get through. He is the lead dog of his sled team. And he is carrying medicine to sick children miles away in Nome, Alaska. He is their only hope. Can Balto find his way through the terrible storm? Find out in this exciting true story!

Book Reviews/Essays
The New York Times Book Review
The Los Angeles Review of Books
The New York Times Style Section: Modern Love

Other books for children and teens

The Dating Game series

The Elle Woods series

Astronauts Are Sleeping

To find out more about the places, songs, and movies mentioned in HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT, go to the Mystery Page


The Space Dog series

Brave Maddie Egg

The Stone Giant

Dollhouse Mouse

The Headless Horseman