Books by Dandi Daley Mackall

Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"Well-meant but heavy-handed. (author's note) (Religion/picture book. 4-7)"
A Pennsylvania Dutch folk tale about the origin of the robin's red breast is woven into a story of a girl and her grandmother preparing for Easter together. Read full book review >
Released: May 13, 2014

"A simple story with surprising depth in its examination of truth and compassion. (Historical fiction. 11-14)"
In Mackall's first-person coming-of-age narrative, an aspiring young writer wrestles with the difference between facts and many-layered truths, learning the role of compassion in deciding which secrets need to be shared and which are not hers to tell. Read full book review >
THE SILENCE OF MURDER by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: Oct. 11, 2011

"Pass up this one for one of Judy Blundell's or Kathryn Miller Haines' whip-smart girl-centered mysteries instead. (Mystery. 13 & up) "
A teenager tries to clear her mute brother's name when he is accused of murdering the local high-school baseball coach. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2010

Mackall offers a trite, heavy-handed story of a little girl named Tressa and her grandmother, who are preparing decorations for Easter as they observe a robin's nest on their windowsill. Tressa worries about the safety of the robin's eggs, and her grandmother reassures her that God watches over robins as well as sparrows. The grandmother recounts a Pennsylvania Dutch legend about a robin that sees Jesus with his crown of thorns as he is carrying his cross. The robin tries to remove a thorn stuck in Jesus's forehead, and a drop of Christ's blood turns the robin's breast a rosy red. Robins with their red breasts are thus explained as an Easter symbol of Christ's suffering. Vojtech provides attractive full-page paintings with an appealing little girl and bright-eyed robins, but the story preaches rather than entertains. (author's note) (Religion/picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: Feb. 1, 2010

Bailey Daley loves dogs, and they love her back better than most of her suitors can. When she shows up late one night at a St. Louis diner in a rain-soaked prom dress and with three dogs in tow, she piques the proprietor's curiosity enough that he invites her to tell him her story. Bailey regales him and the occupants of his shop with tales of her misadventures on the quest to find The Perfect Boyfriend during her last three years of high school. The narrative shifts between Bailey's first-person flashbacks, explaining how the boys in her life inevitably fail to measure up to their canine counterparts, and brief third-person passages from her listeners in the present that shed light on Bailey's magnetic personality. The story line verges on trite—it could be called Goldilocks and the Four Boys—and the dialogue is at times painfully artificial. Still, teens who appreciate feisty female characters will be entertained by Bailey's voyage to self-discovery, and the star-crossed ending will satisfy romance enthusiasts. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
TINY BABY JESUS by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

This tender Nativity story begins with the birth of Jesus and ends with the Holy Family leaving the stable. In succeeding pages, a patterned text focuses on one aspect of the baby (his fingers or mouth, for example) and then shows Jesus as an adult using his fingers as a carpenter or his mouth in speaking and teaching. The rhyming text is gentle and soothing, even while showing the adult Jesus at the Last Supper and in the Garden of Gethsemane. The poetic story will be accessible to very young children, though they will need some assistance from an adult in understanding the nonlinear structure of the text. Noonan's illustrations use soft colors that complement the style of the text, with many appealing views of Baby Jesus and his parents on the first Christmas Day. (Picture book/religion. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2009

Narrated by the self-numbered Natalie 24, an overactive five-year-old with a lot of big ideas, this Junie B. Jones knockoff packs a lot of action into a just a few pages. Left to her own devices Natalie makes "Omel-Nats" (omelets) for her family. Her parents do not hear her as she break eggs, opens grape jelly, drops a bag of flour and explodes the microwave in making her one-of-a-kind treat. When her parents eventually do wake up, they don't flip out; they simple say, "Only Natalie"—words that Natalie learns to hate. Natalie goes on about her day and gets into other scrapes—drawing with purple crayons on the bathroom wall, decorating her father's church shoes, bringing ants into the house. Her parents end her day with a talk with her about God's love and His acceptance. Natalie's language is very, very close to Junie B., complete with the mangling of the names of common objects ("spit-u-la thing") and the use of the word "that" ("I love that purple stuff"). Good thing God forgives her—many parents would be investigating that "spare the rod" verse. (Fiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

It's the Depression, and Jack and his mother struggle to get by in their small town. When Jack's mother begins to bake cookies to give away to others, she explains the history behind the family's wooden cookie molds and draws Jack into her baking. As they work together, she tells him the story of European woodcarvers and their families in the Middle Ages making cookies in shapes that could be used to tell the story of Christ's birth. Jack's only Christmas gift that year is a large angel cookie, which he then gives away to a stranger who arrives on Christmas morning. Jack offers the angel cookie to the man with a few concluding sentences that convey his beliefs, neatly echoing the Biblical concept that any stranger might be an angel and must be given hospitality. The tale is told in an understated way, complemented by Chabrian's sensitive watercolor illustrations, which convey Jack's range of emotions. (author's note, cookie recipe) (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
A GIRL NAMED DAN by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: May 1, 2008

A girl named Dandi daydreams about baseball and loves to play. She even submits a 50-word essay to the Kansas City A's on why she wants to be a batboy, signing it "Dan." Although she wins, she can't accept, because—like Little League at the time (1961)—girls are not allowed. In her disappointment, she takes out her frustration by forcing herself into the boys' game and hitting a home run—and by switching her allegiance to the Cardinals. Dandi narrates her own tale, spinning out her grasp of the game with sprinkles of baseball lingo. Graef's static images set in flat landscapes and interiors do nothing to enliven the prosaic text: Dandi's pigtails seem stolid even when flying in the wind. A note on the flap states that the story comes from the author's own attempt to win the batboy contest, but this tie to reality doesn't make up for the lack of spirit and energy. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: Aug. 1, 2006

A likable fourth-grader writes a book (this one) about a cryptic and crucified fellow classmate. Narrator Laney has a painful home life, with mean brothers and a father who drinks and hits. Her book "isn't about me," she insists, but Mackall delicately includes Laney's own aches and triumphs. The ostensible protagonist is Lara, a fat girl. The class harasses Lara mercilessly—even Laney uses words like "waddled," though just in her writing, which is less hateful to Lara but still damaging to readers. Lara's smile never wavers. A class play exhilarates Laney, who's cast in it; Lara, relegated to stage crew despite the undisputed best audition, cheerfully works on the crew. A final cruel trick on Lara forces her out of the school forever. As she leaves, the class holds up handwritten posters of apology. Lara's final sacrifice, unwavering friendliness and unexplained knowledge of peers' secrets make her a saint figure. Laney's portrayal is nicely subtle, but Lara's unflinching martyrdom is awkward for realism (and is another harmful example of fat character as victim). (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
EVA UNDERGROUND by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: March 1, 2006

Eva's dad, a university professor and former Catholic seminarian, sees a Sabbatical year in Communist Poland as his chance to make a difference in the world. Eva, still reeling from her mother's death, sees it as a guaranteed way to ruin her senior year, and vows to escape to Chicago by any means possible. In Poland, in 1978, their few suitcases of belongings look like unimaginable wealth; Eva is revolted when she's given, as a rare treat, a shiny slice of lard. But soon she's more revolted by the persecution she sees everyday. She comes to appreciate Poland's natural beauty and the stoic courage of her father's students and friends. As her character gradually evolves against a stark, realistic landscape dotted with lights of courage and hope (one of them named Karol Wojtyla), her voice draws the reader inexorably into the story. Modern Communism is rarely depicted in children's literature, and never before this well. (Historical fiction. 12-15)Read full book review >
ARE WE THERE YET? by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: May 1, 2003

Every family will identify and commiserate, with their traveling counterparts in these rollicking, rhyming couplets. "Backseat race— / All in place? / Wagons ho! / Here we go!" Smiles of anticipation and the usual backseat games of Bingo and mooing at each cow quickly give way to the behaviors that accompany small, enclosed spaces filled with family members. As boredom increases, mischief ensues, and the squirming begins. Then the raid on the snacks and several rounds of bickering in the backseat; the one ritual not featured is the popular, "I have to go to the bathroom." Although the parents never say a word, their facial expressions say it all. They keep their cool until the final card played by their offspring—falling asleep just as the car pulls up to its beach destination. The perfect complement to the text, McNeill's cartoon watercolors fill the page with amusing details that complete the story. The irony of the whole situation will not be lost on small children, but don't expect miracles—children will behave just like this on their next family vacation. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
OFF TO BETHLEHEM! by Dandi Daley Mackall
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The story of the Nativity is introduced to young children in simple rhyming text. The progressive journey to Bethlehem first shows Mary and Joseph, then a band of golden angels, the shepherds and their flocks, and finally the wise men on camelback, all hurrying to their important destination. Each spread has just three lines of large-type text, with the repeating refrain of "Off to Bethlehem!" changing to "Here in Bethlehem!" for the last two spreads. The short text includes lots of action verbs that fairly beg for a group reading or readers theater, and the large type size and repeating elements will also encourage beginning readers to read this Nativity story themselves. Alley's (The Real, True Dulcie Campbell, p. 952, etc.) watercolor illustrations in a muted palette show a busy, crowded Bethlehem, with expressive faces on both humans and animals. Pale golden endpapers show a peaceful shepherd with his flock outside Bethlehem, and the same scene with the band of angels surrounding the Christmas star on the back endpapers. (Picture book/nonfiction. 3-7)Read full book review >