Thursday, April 23, 2015

MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY: The Impossible Race by Chad Morris


In the final book of the Cragbridge Hall trilogy, Abby, Derick, and their friends must utilize their skills in time travel and technology to survive roving bands of dinosaurs, race through space, build robots, and fight virtual dragons.

It’s known as the Race—an annual tournament where teams of students compete in the hopes of winning an unbelievable prize. But before this year’s competition, Derick and Abby receive a terrifying message from the future: Charles Muns’s plan to control history is going to succeed. It will cost countless people their lives and change the destiny of the world. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Despite the danger, the twins gather their friends and enter the Race, ready to compete against the best of the best in order to claim what might turn out to be a key of ultimate power.

Can they compete the Race in time and stop Muns? Or has the future already been written?

A page-turning, time-travel adventure that teaches powerful lessons about choice and consequence, believing you can do hard things, and valuing our history.


Chad Morris would love to be able to control animal avatars, see history in 3D, and show everyone how he imagines stories. Since the inventions that would make that possible currently exist only in his imagination, he settles for reading, writing, playing basketball, rappelling down an occasional slot canyon, dating his wife, and hanging out with his five awesome kids. Chad speaks Portuguese, can play the Phineas and Ferb theme song on the guitar, and does decent impressions of a velociraptor and Voldemort—but not at the same time. He isn't very good at fixing his car, shopping for anything, cooking, or growing hair.


The conclusion to the Cragbridge Hall trilogy is full of twists and turns and plenty of excitement.  Abby and Derick and their friends are once again up against Charles Muns who is determined to use the Bridge (a time travel device) to control the world.  After receiving a message from the future that shakes them up, Abby and Derick are forced to face off with Muns without the aide of their parents and grandfather.  It all seems to revolve around the Race that the school sponsors every year.  After recruiting as many of the best students as they can, the team must win the Race in hopes of stopping Muns once and for all.  Once again, Chad Morris takes readers on a thrill ride as we follow the twins through their adventures.

I loved the technology that Morris has created.  The ability to use virtual reality to be a falcon for instance would be fantastic, especially for those like me who tend to be a bit klutzy.  I also really appreciated that the possible consequences of changing the past are explored along with the ramifications of the desires of one person overpowering the good of the whole.  I enjoyed this book very much.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Juna's Jar by Jane Bahk


Sometimes a simple, everyday object can take you away on great adventures. Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. What Juna finds is that adventure and new friends can be found in the most unexpected places. Coupled with dreamy watercolor illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, Juna's Jar is a heart-warming and whimsical tale about the power of the imagination.


Juna's Jar presents an adorable story about friendship and the power of imagination.  When Juna's best friend moves away she is very sad, but with the help of her brother, she continues to explore the world around her by placing various things in her kimchi jar. She starts with a fish in her jar.  During the night when everyone else is sleeping, Juna goes on an adventure with the fish through the ocean searching for her friend, Hector.  By the end of the book, Juna has come to terms with the loss of her friends and even manages to make a new friend.  A delightful book that encourages imaginative play and respect and admiration for the environment.  A definite winner.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Charlotte Zolotow's new poetry collection: Changes

“Few writers for small children so empathize with them as does Charlotte Zolotow.” — Zena Sutherland, children’s literature reviewer and scholar

“Ms. Zolotow’s own picture books — she wrote more than 70 — were cleareyed explorations of the interior landscape of childhood by one who had obviously not forgotten what it felt like to dwell there.” – Margalit Fox, The New York Times

Charlotte Zolotow (1915-2013) was a distinguished author and editor of children’s books, and one of the most important contributors to children’s literature. During the course of her career she wrote more than 70 books, many of which are picture-book classics, including the Caldecott Honor medalist Mr.Rabbit and the Lovely Present.

Now, for the very first time, and published on the occasion of her 100th birthday, Zolotow’s most beloved seasonal poetry will be available in one collection— Changes:  A Child’s First Poetry Collection (9781492601685; April; $16.99; Hardcover; Poetry; Ages 3-6).

Illustrator Tiphanie Beeke’s resplendent watercolors work beautifully with Zolotow’s poems, which capture the beauty of nature at different times of the year. Children will follow along as the seasons change with each poem. There is spring with the business of nest-building, summer with its abundance of roses, fall with the tangy perfume of chrysanthemums, and winter with the frozen pond surrounded by whiteness.

Poetry and nature lovers of all ages will delight in Zolotow’s classic poems and Beeke’s lovely illustrations, making Changes a perfect poetry collection for every child.

Monday, April 20, 2015


These books are the perfect way to celebrate a child’s individuality and what makes them special, and are also great for Pre-School and Kindergarten graduation gifts.  The giveaway books include:

Just One You from the Sesame Workshop
April 1, 2015; 9781402297359; $10.99; Hardcover
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky- Juvenile Fiction/Picture Book
Ages 3-7, Grades Pre-3

There is nobody else in the whole world just like you! Elmo, Big Bird, and all the rest of the Sesame Street friends are here to tell you just how special you truly are!

You! by Sandra Magsamen
April 7, 2015; ISBN 9781492619345; $16.99; Hardcover
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky- Juvenile Fiction/Picture Book
Ages 0-5, Grades Pre-3

A life full of adventure first requires big dreams. And big dreams need big encouragement. From world-renowned author and artist Sandra Magsamen comes YOU!, offering inspiration and hope to readers from 1 to 100. Includes colorful, lively illustrations along with whimsical rhyming text that can be cherished in almost any setting.

My Rules for Being a Pretty Princess by Heath McKenzie
May 5, 2015; ISBN 9781492615200; $16.99; Hardcover
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky- Juvenile Fiction/Picture Book
Ages 4-8, Grade Pre-3

Rules are meant to be broken in this laugh-out-loud picture book about staying true to yourself.

One little girl gets her greatest wish of becoming a princess – only to discover that the rules of royalty are no fun. She has to have perfect hair and eat daintily and dance gracefully -- boring! So, she decides to make up her own rules...

1 winner receives a copy of all three books
US only

Answer one of the following questions in the blog comments for this post and then fill in the form.
1)      What talent or hobby makes you special?
2)      What is your big dream?
3)      What book would you give to a new graduate?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Toad Weather by Sandra Markle


There's nothing to do on a rainy day, Ally thinks. But Mama says shes seen something amazing, so despite Ally's misgivings, she sets out with her mother and grandmother. On her journey, she sees all sorts of things: dripping awnings, splashing cars, storm drain geysers, and oil slick patterns. They turn the corner, just in time to see a big crowd. Whats happening?


Sandra Markle is the author of more than two hundred children's books, which have won numerous awards, including Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, IRA/CBC Children's Choice, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Trade Books for Children, NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended, and ALA Notable Books for Children. She lives in New Zealand.

You can visit Sandra Markle’s website here.


Thomas Gonzalez was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to the United States as a child. An artist and painter, he also illustrated The House on Dirty-third Street and the New York Times bestseller 14 Cows for America. He lives in Georgia.

You can visit Thomas Gonzalez’s website here.


Sandra Markle has written another fun environmentally friendly tale.  What makes this one particularly interesting is that it occurs within a city and it's based on a real yearly event (see author's end note).  Not only does the author provide a sweet story about a mother, grandmother, and daughter enjoying the rainy weather but they also help out the toads trying to cross the road to get to the pond to mate and reproduce.  And the road is really closed to allow the toads to make their journey safely.  Just proves to me that humans and wildlife can adapt to each other. I especially loved how well the text and illustrations complement each other.  It's nice to read something in the text and see it reinforced in the illustrations (which are gorgeous).


The activity ideas for a book like Toad Weather are endless.  The easiest activity would be to wait for a rainy day and then go for a stroll just to see what can be seen. This book would also make a great opening for investigating unusual natural events that might occur in your own area or doing research on toads or another animal.  The book would work well for a unit on rain or on how animals adapt to the weather.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



When a little girl moves to a new town, she finds a place called Butterfly Park. But when she opens the gate, there are no butterflies.

Determined to lure the butterflies in, the girl inspires her entire town to help her. And with their combined efforts, soon the butterflies—and the girl—feel right at home.

Elly MacKay's luminous paper-cut illustrations and enchanting story encourage community, friendship, and wonderment in the beauty of everyday life.

Free poster on reverse side of book jacket.


Elly MacKay is the author and illustrator of IF YOU HOLD A SEED and SHADOW CHASERS.  She attended Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and now her artwork is sold around the world, including through her shop, Theater Clouds.  To learn more about Elly, visit her website (see below), her facebook page or her twitter account.

Author's Webpage                         Butterfly Trail Blog Tour Page


Elly Mackay presents a sweet story about a young girl finding a place for herself after her family moves.  Initially unhappy moving from her country home to the city, the girl finds hope in the nearby Butterfly Park. But when she discovers there are no butterflies in the park she is determined to bring them in and she recruits her neighbors to help her.  The remarkable thing here are the illustrations which are clearly scenes created using cut-paper.  It creates a real feel of community and atmosphere which I found soothing and beautiful.  The theme of finding and creating beauty wherever you are also shines through loud and clear.

Monday, April 13, 2015

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Could an Octopus Climb a Skyscraper? and Could a Penguin Ride a Bike? by Aleksei Bitskoff


Could a Penguin Ride a Bike? provides a fun introduction into the life of a penguin. By imagining animals in everyday scenarios readers can learn about their size, diet and other features. For example, what if a baby penguin came for dinner? Make sure he doesn't eat everything! Chicks eat, and eat, and eat. An adult penguin eats about 50 fish a day, but a chick needs to eat about 200! That's because chicks grow a thick layer of fat to keep them warm in the icy winter. The engaging question and answer format will keep young readers entertained and help them to understand and retain animal facts


I love the idea behind this book.  Sharing facts about king penguins through silly questions.  While the questions are silly, the answers are not.  The illustration with the penguin  using himself as a bowling ball is my favorite illustration and the information about how penguins can move faster on land (ice) by sliding on their bellies is interesting.  This book is bound to be of interest to penguin mad readers or any young reader who has lots of questions.


Could An Octopus Climb A Skyscraper provides a fun introduction into the life of an octopus. By imagining animals in everyday scenarios readers can learn about their size, diet and other features. For example, what if an octopus went to a fancy dress party? She wouldn't need to shop for a costume as under the sea an octopus can pretend to be a snake, a rock, or even a fish! The engaging question and answer format will keep young readers entertained and help them to understand and retain animal facts.


Could an Octopus Climb a Skyscraper? That question and others are answered in this book.  While the information about octopuses is factual the questions and illustrations are more fanciful and silly.  That makes the book perfect for sharing with younger children.  I even learned some things that I didn't previously know, such as that octopuses have three hearts and blue blood.  This is a series of books that I can heartily recommend, especially for young readers with endless questions.

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson


For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby.

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid's life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

In her graphic novel debut, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverence, and girl power!

See here for more information about the author and a free e-book about the creation of Roller Girl.


For readers who enjoyed Raina Telgemeier comes a fully colorized graphic novel about friendship, family, and trying new things.  After seeing a roller derby match, Astrid develops a strong desire to learn how to play herself.  Her mother signs her up for roller derby camp thinking that Astrid's friend Nicole is doing it with her, but Nicole is going to ballet camp with Rachel, Astrid's nemesis. 

Astrid discovers to her chagrin that roller derby is a lot harder than she thought.  But she's not a quitter so she keeps with it even though she lies to her mom about Nicole's mom driving her home every day.  As things between her and Nicole deteriorate further, Astrid is forced to face the fact that growing up isn't easy and that we don't always get what we want.

I can highly recommend this graphic novel, both for the wonderful illustrations but for how easy the characters are to relate to.  The troubles that Astrid faces are very common ones for middle grade age readers and the addition of a relatively unknown sport makes the book all the more entertaining. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

FANTASTIC FRIDAY BLOG TOUR: Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron


By the award winning author of 'The Dogs of Winter', Bobbie Pyron.

A rich, southern voice tells the unforgettable story of two vulnerable outsiders, the lightning strike that turns their world upside down and the true meaning of lucky. Nate Harlow has never had a lucky day in his life. He's never won a prize, he's never been picked first, he's never even won a coin toss. His best friend, Genesis Beam (aka Gen), believes in science and logic, and she doesn't think for one second that there's such a thing as luck, good or bad. But only an extremely unlucky person could be struck by lightning on his birthday... and that person is Nate Harlow. By some miracle, though, Nate survives, and the strike seems to have changed his luck. Suddenly, Nate's grandpa is the busiest fisherman in their small, beachside town. And Nate finds himself the center of attention, the most popular kid at school, the one who hits a game-winning home run! This lucky streak can't last forever, though, and as a hurricane draws close to the shores of Paradise Beach, Nate and Gen may need more than just good luck to save their friendship and their town: They need a miracle.


Nate believes that his luck is all bad until the day he is struck by lightning and everything seems to change.  Being lucky seems like everything Nate ever wanted, at least at first.  But fighting with his best friend Gen, and resentful townsfolk make it clear that this so-called luck isn't all it's cracked up to be.  When strange weather strikes Nate has to face the fact that there may be more to life than just luck.  An intriguing story about science, faith, and friendship, Lucky Strike, makes for an entertaining, thoughtful read. I enjoyed reading about Nate and his friends and their struggles.  I can safely say that I haven't read another book quite like this one, not just because of the lightning strikes, but also because of the small town setting and the relationships between the characters. Above all this is a story about friendship and believing in one another regardless of one's 'luck'.

Praise for Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron:

"This well-told story of growth, friendship, and small-town life hits all the right notes. The quirkiness of the characters and the town never goes too far, and there is an overall cozy feeling to the book. Genesis’s dad is the preacher at The Church of the One True Redeemer and Everlasting Light, but she is a scientist through and through, which adds complexity to the text, including musings on destiny, fate, probability, and weather. Fans of Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky (S. & S., 2006), Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012), and Ingrid Law’s Savvy (2008; both, Dial) will find something new for their to-read shelves."- School Library Journal starred review

"Even lightly sketched characters leap off the pages, adding rich depth to an already satisfying tale. In the slightly fantastical Gulf Coast world that Bobbie Pyron (The Dogs of Winter, 2012) has imagined, people can change in unexpected ways. With just a spark of magic, bullies can become true friends, those without humor can learn to giggle, and perennial victims can emerge victorious. Amusing, endearing and sometimes even electrifying."- Kirkus starred review

"Bobbie Pyron offers a gentler take on survival and friendship than in her gritty novel The Dogs of Winter. A dramatic and sweetly poignant story, enlivened by a dash of magical realism."- Publisher Weekly

Praise for The Dogs of Winter:

Junior Library Guild Selection Kirkus Best Books of the Year! Packs plenty of punch.” The New York Times "This story is amazing. I read it in one sitting, I couldn't put it down. The writing is captivating and the story is heartbreaking. The characters are wonderful, both the good and the bad. The writing is descriptive and filled with emotion. An absolute MUST read."-Bev Sharp, The Wormhole

"An amazing story that was emotional and realistic? The book is written in first person, and I think this is a perfect story for young adults and older adults alike. The tenacity of the dogs and the boy will enthrall you. There were no boring portions of the story, and I believe that the author captured the emotions of the characters perfectly. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future."-Ruth  A. Hill, My Devotional Thoughts

"I loved this book. I loved the writing. I loved the characters. The book is adventurous, engaging, happy, sad, and an overall emotional roller coaster all rolled into one."-BookAngel, As I Turn the Pages

"Bobbie Pyron has a gift for creating characters that live in my heart.  She did it with A Dog's Way Home and she's done it with this one, The Dogs of Winter.  I wanted to dive into the story, take Mishka in my arms and just love him.  Bobbie Pyron has created an emotionally powerful story about survival, love, and healing.  This is not a story I will ever forget.  It is a truly thought-provoking and unforgettable read."-Heidi, GEO Librarian

Bobbie Pyron OutsideAbout Bobbie Pyron:

Bobbie Pyron was born in Hollywood, Florida and spent her growing up years up in the panhandle, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and dreaming of being a mermaid.  She has degrees in Psychology and Anthropology, and a Masters degree in Library Science, and has worked as a librarian for over twenty-five years. Her first book, a novel for teens titled The Ring (WestSide Books), was published in October of 2009. Her second book, A Dog’s Way Home (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books), was published to starred reviews in March of 2011. The Dog Writers Association of America recently awarded Bobbie the Maxwell Medal of Excellence and the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award.  It was also named a Banks Street Best Books of the Year. Bobbie Pyron's book, The Dogs of Winter (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), came out October of 2012. The Dogs of Winter is a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Kirkus Best 100 Children’s Books of the Year. Bobbie lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.

Bobbie Pyron's Website

Buy 'Lucky Strike':

Follow the Tour:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Apr 2 Spotlight & Giveaway
Rockin' Book Reviews Apr 7 Interview & Giveaway
Hott Books Apr 8 Review
Always Reiding Apr 9 Review & Excerpt
Geo Librarian Apr 10 Review
Curling Up With A Good Book Apr, 13 Interview & Excerpt
fuonlyknew Apr 14 Review & Giveaway
Once Upon A Story Apr 15 Review & Excerpt
Beneath the Jacket Reviews Apr 16
Indie Review Behind the Scenes Apr 17 Live I 6 pm cst
Cassandra M's Place Apr 20 Review & Giveaway
The Crypto-Caper Review Apr 21 Review
In Bed With Books Apr 22 Review,Interview & Excerpt
Allison's Book Bag April 24 Review & Interview
Mary's Cup of Tea Apr 27 Review & Giveaway
Deal Sharing Aunt Apr 28 Review, Excerpt & Giveaway
Bound for Escape Apr 30 Review
What U Talking Bout Willis? May 1 Review
Lisa's Writopia May 4 Review
Books, Books, and More Books May 5 Review & Excerpt
Beth's Book-Nook Blog May 8 Review
Sweet Southern Home May 11 Review
One Frugal Girl May 15 Review  
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Story Time kit by Kristin Aagard