Books by Amy Axelrod

Released: May 1, 2015

"An absorbing mystery enhanced by its intriguing backdrop. (Historical mystery. 10-14)"
The Axelrods take readers to World War I-era New York City for a tale of magic, mystery and crime. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2011

In 1959, a spunky 12-year-old decides to make some money to buy a Barbie doll by writing to her Senator's beautiful wife, Jackie Kennedy, in this truly funny debut novel. Abby wants to be a fashion designer and has concocted some lovely ensembles for Jackie just in case Senator Kennedy decides to run for President. She charges only a few cents for each design. But will Jackie reply to Abby? Meanwhile, Abby's extended family creates comedy and drama, while Abby avoids her uncaring father and her apparently unfeeling mother, who appears mostly to be concerned with maintaining the traditions of their Eastern European Jewish origins. Abby also greatly regrets a nasty trick she plays on her elderly neighbors, who just might not be witches, as her Aunt believes. Axelrod emphasizes the comedy while building up to some heartfelt drama. Young readers will appreciate the author's decision to reveal the fallibility of the adults in Abby's life. Abby's earnest letters to Jackie, with numerous postscripts and enclosed fashion drawings (not seen), stand out as especially sweet. Abby is an especially memorable protagonist, but all her characters vibrate with life. The 1959 suburban Massachusetts environment comes across beautifully as well. Axelrod takes the narrative up to November 1961, with no hint of the later assassination. Funny, lively, sensitive—a real winner. (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2003

Young Max may be surrounded by laughing skeptics, but he's utterly convinced that aliens are going to take him away from his pesky big brother Gordon, broccoli, and similar nuisances. Do you doubt? Max gets the last laugh when little purple people really do sweep down to carry him off, leaving one of their number behind to take over the chores and be fussed over by Mom and Dad. Davis fills each scene with close-ups of pop-eyed human figures beneath zany haircuts, and leaves Max flashing a smug thumbs-up as his flying saucer departs. More wish-fulfillment featuring the contentious sibs introduced in My Last Chance Brother (2002). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

In this bellyaching monologue, a child presents a litany of offenses to justify his birthday wish that prankish older brother Gordon turn into a bug overnight. Though the narrator's no paragon of virtue himself, Gordon does come off as the big brother from hell—jolting his younger sib awake in the morning, playing on his fear of spiders with a multilegged gift, "accidentally" dropping his toothbrush into the toilet—and so forth. Davis (Marsupial Sue, 2001, etc.) crowds the foregrounds with pop-eyed, large-featured cartoon caricatures, and even though a good deed does put Gordon in a slightly better light at the end, there are hints at the close that here's one birthday wish about to come true. Though this describes a less nuanced relationship than Polacco's My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (1994) or Kellogg's Much Bigger Than Martin (1976), it may persuade feuding sibs to lighten up, at least temporarily. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

The eighth title in the Pigs Will Be Pigs math-concept series by Axelrod and McGinley-Nally (Pigs at Odds, 2000, etc.) finds the pig family taking up square dancing and passing along lessons about spatial sense and direction. Left and right, high and low, backward, counting, sidestep, up, hop, center, back-to-back, sets, circles, pairs, and squares, of course, are mathematical terms and concepts that are cleverly woven into the story. Mr. Pig has to take over as the square-dance caller, making up his own calls as he goes along, while his family joins the dancers, pairs of animals from both farm and forest. The brightly clad dancers get tangled up from his inexperienced directions, ending up in a "pig pile" that literally brings down the house. The story serves more as an introduction to square dancing than as actual mathematical instruction, but there is an ongoing demand for elementary-grade titles that show math concepts in real life. McGinley-Nally's vibrant illustrations in ink, watercolor, and acrylics make the most of the square dancers' wildly patterned costumes and colorful cowboy boots. A list of square-dancing terms and an author's note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
PIGS AT ODDS by Amy Axelrod
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

In this seventh picture-book title about math, Mr. and Mrs. Pig take the piglets to the county fair for a muddled introduction to probability. The author, a former elementary-school teacher, explains that she decided that "having the pigs take chances on games would be a fun way to learn about probability." Maybe, but in order to learn about probability, the author would need to spend more time explaining how probability works. She confines her explanations to one page at the end of the book, where she states: "Probability is the chance that something will happen. The probability of you getting a letter in the mail can be anywhere from 0 percent to 100 percent, depending on how many friends you have who write to you!" Actually the probability of getting a letter on any given day is more complicated and hardly random. She states a game is "fair . . . if every player has equal odds, or chances, of winning." Then she has Mr. Pig try to bounce the basketball into a hoop. He gets a basket on the first try, but misses the next eight shots. Mrs. Pig advises, "Dear, I don't think the odds are in your favor." Here it is not a question of odds, but skill. While young children may enjoy the boldly colored illustrations of nattily dressed pigs zipping between rides and games at the fair, they won't learn much about probability, despite the author's motto, "Math + Reading = Fun." (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2000

The first in the News Hounds geography series opens with chatty instructions from Axelrod (Pigs on the Ball, 1998, etc.) on how to read the book—first for fun, and then for education. Instructions, and the need to instruct, may be the book's main flaw. The book earnestly assures parents and teachers that the series has been designed around five fundamental themes set forth by the National Council of Geography Education and the Association of American Geographers. Any readers still left in the room can then begin the story, involving press coverage of a hot-air balloon race in Texas by a roving three-person TV news team, all of them dogs. Gear packed, the reporters hop into the news van, which is driven by the weather girl, a golden retriever with long, silky ears, who in a nifty bit of sexist characterization stops to shop. They get to the airfield in time to shoot opening footage and anchorman Isaac reels off copy that will tax beginning readers. There is more, but this kind of book may put readers off geography permanently. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1998

In another entry in Axelrod's math-concepts series (Pigs in the Pantry, 1997, etc.) Mr. and Mrs. Pig and their piglets visit a miniature golf course for Mr. Pig's birthday, and get a crash course in simple geometry. The pigs, as always, are a jolly bunch, ever-ready to exploit the comic possibilities. In this story, Mr. Pig plays the fall guy: Even his new lucky shirt can't save him from putting his ball out of bounds, into the water, or beneath the bushes. Of course, the other three pigs work the greens like Sam Snead, all the while offering Mr. Pig advice, much of it laced with geometry. Some of the dialogue becomes stilted ("Dad, this one is so easy. Just gently putt to the center of any of the equal sides, and the ball will land in the cup"), but the story still prattles along in a merry vein, with its subtext of lines and curves, parallels and semi- circles. (There is a quiz at the end.) McGinley-Nally shows pigs running happily amok, flashing wit, knowledge, and the electric palette of a single-minded crusade against math anxiety. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
PIGS WILL BE PIGS by Amy Axelrod
Released: March 1, 1994

The fridge is bare, the Pig family is hungry, and they're down to their last dollar. What to do? Search for cash—and, as would be true in many homes, they find plenty: a lucky two-dollar bill with Mr. Pig's socks, 200 pennies in the piglets' penny collection, change in pockets, a wet five-dollar bill in the laundry, and—bonanza—a twenty. Mrs. Pig adds it all up on the way to a Mexican restaurant where—eschewing the full menu given on one entire spread—they order four specials at $7.99 each (tax and tip included). How much money is left? In a way, it's too bad the answer is given (with full documentation) on the last page; kids could work it out. Still, the math exercise is made genuinely amusing by the domestic details and by McGinley-Nally's vibrant stylized art, which is not only lively and comical but also pleasingly decorative. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >