Wednesday, September 28, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: The Late Jurassic by Juan Carlos Alonso & Gregory S. Paul


ABOUT THE BOOK

Through detailed illustrations and descriptive narrative, readers will experience a thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable ride through the most popular time period of prehistory.

What would it be like to see a living, breathing dinosaur? Following in the footsteps of Ancient Earth Journal: The Early Cretaceous, this next installment, The Late Jurassic, will take readers further back in time to a period when giants ruled the land and early mammals began to secure their place alongside the dinosaurs. The Late Jurassic period was home to many species of our favorite dinosaurs, such as Apatosaurus (or Brontosaurus), Allosaurus, and Stegosaurus, to name a few. The Late Jurassic includes the latest paleontological findings to build an accurate depiction of the dinosaurs, environment, and wildlife of the period. Due to the abundance of fossils available for both plants and animals of this period, the book paints a vivid, realistic picture of the flora and fauna of the time, with more emphasis on hunting and defensive tactics, as well as early mammals and their role in the planet's evolution, for a thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable ride through the most popular time period of prehistory. Written and illustrated in the style of a naturalist's notebook, the reader is given a first-hand account of what it would be like to stand alongside some of the largest creatures to ever walk the earth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


About Juan Carlos Alonso
I am a graphic designer, creative director and illustrator living in Miami, Florida. Way back in 1992, I founded Alonso & Company, a creative boutique specializing in branding, design and advertising. I have been fortunate enough to work with clients of all sizes from Fortune 500 to local and have forged strong relationships with companies including the NBA franchise The Miami Heat, Bacardi Rum, Ryder System, Pitney Bowes and Capitol Records, to name a few.

I have always had a passion for nature. It has taken me around the world from Australia to the Galapagos Islands where I have been able to experience wildlife first hand.


REVIEW

Wow! What a fascinating book.  If you have a dinosaur lover in your house I highly recommend running out and buying this book.  Not only is the book very informative while still being child appropriate, the illustrations are absolutely stunning. Alonso has done an amazing job of creating lifelike illustrations of the different dinosaurs while sharing little snippets of information about what makes each of the included dinosaurs unique.  Most of the dinosaurs that are included have a four-page spread that gives basic information about the dinosaur (Location observed, family, length, height, weight, temperament) as well as an illustration comparing the size of the dinosaur to a human being.  The third and fourth pages give additional interesting facts about the animal.  Even skeletons of a few animals are included to highlight specific features that made the different species unique.  A fabulously delicious book for those young dinosaur lovers in your life.

Accolades for Ancient Earth Journal: The Late Jurassic (9781633221086 HC, September 2016)

  • “The Late Jurassic was a time when dinosaurs were at their peak weirdness, and it looks like you've done a great job of covering their vast diversity. The detailed anatomical close-ups really help drive home the link between form and function. Kudos on another awesome contribution!”—Jordan Mallon, Ph.D., Research scientist, Paleobiology, Canadian Museum of Nature
  • “Beautifully detailed and realistically colored line illustrations gave me a vivid feel for what the creatures of the Jurassic world looked like. Add an enlightening and educational narrative with each animal and I was drawn right into how life was so many millions of years ago. Both alien and yet naturalistic, Juan Carlos Alonso and Gregory Paul's prehistoric animals in “The Late Jurassic” are amazing.” —Mike Fredericks, Prehistoric Times magazine
  •  “Your new book on the Late Jurassic in the Ancient Journal series is a splendid follow up to your previous book on the Early Cretaceous. Both you and Gregory Paul are to be complimented and commended for the brilliant artistic and scientifically accurate presentation of the subject.” —Sylvia Czerkas, Author and Director, The Dinosaur Museum, Utah
  • “The artwork is fantastic...really impressive work.” —Christopher N. Jass, Ph.D., Curator, Quaternary Paleontology, Royal Alberta Museum, Canada



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Writing for Children and Young Adults by Marion Crook


September 20, 2016 (ebook)
October 2016 (paperback)

ABOUT THE BOOK

In addition to the expert advice author Marion Crook shared in earlier editions of Writing for Children and Young Adults, in this vibrant new edition, Crook explains some of the nuances and choices about the writing world online.

As well, she revisits the fundamentals of writing: establishing character, creating lively dialogue and developing plot with updated worksheets and examples. This edition shows the writer how to begin a story, plan plot, develop and hone the work for an agent or publisher, and how to make the crucial submission for a book that agents want to represent and publishers want to buy!

Writing for Children and Young Adults helps you create the manuscript that sells!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marion Crook has written many books for young adult and middle-grade readers. Here, she offers advice on writing, publishing, and marketing. Crook’s background in child development education as a nurse and her Ph.D. in education give her solid knowledge, but she maintains that a keen observation of people, places, and events can be the author’s most useful tool. An experienced teacher and writer, she gives her readers clear and practical tips, with humor and obvious understanding of what it’s like to write and publish.


REVIEW

There are many writing books available to help people learn how to write.  This one by Marion Crook does a nice job of explaining what writing for children and YAs is like and the things that need to be considered depending on the particular audience and genre of bookThe basics are covered regarding character, setting and plot with examples from her own works as well as others to demonstrate the points she makes.  I appreciated the fact that the author makes clear that who you are and the experiences you've had as well as your values and beliefs are likely to shine through in your work and that's okay as long as you are ethical about it.  This also needs to be carefully considered when crafting a story so that theme and message don't overwhelm the story.  Children like most adults don't like to be preached to, and young adults really don't like it.  Advice about style, technique, and the hows and whys are all presented honestly and simply giving the beginning writer a good place to start and plenty of things to think about.  I think what I liked most about the book is the down-to-earth tone that made it seem that I was talking or listening to a friend who is trying to help.  This makes for a great book to help a writer polish those writing skills and that manuscript into something truly amazing.

EXCERPT

Telling stories is an ancient skill practiced in public at community festivals,around the campfire, in religious rites, and in private at the cradles of the young. It involves an innate ability to pick dramatic words in a way that paints a mental picture and gives the tale a sense of pace and tension. The story becomes important, even if only for a short time, to the one who hears it or reads it. It is a way of communicating excitement and the optimistic belief that the world is a remarkable and knowable place. Many writers have an enthusiastic following of readers who want to share in their adventures.  

Telling stories is also an age-old method of communicating morality lessons to ensure that a point of view spreads in a palatable manner.Writing can be a way of instructing, advising, and guiding others. Most children don’t want to read stories that are written with such motivation, but many writers believe that teaching justifies their stories. A “moral” story isn’t necessarily a good story. The danger in writing morality tales is that the writer may ignore the needs of children and write from behind a screen of righteousness that thinly hides a lecture. As you may remember from your school years, most of us hate lectures. 

Stories also offer an illusion of control as if the world can be controlled by the way we interpret it. Most writers offer stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends describing life as neatly compacted and logical. Perhaps this illusion of controlled life gives readers a sense of order.

You want to write a book that will delight many years later. You want your book to be the best you can produce, written in a style that is uniquely yours, perhaps using ideas that have never been written about or in a format that has never been tried. Writing is about creating.




MMGM: The Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale


ABOUT THE BOOK

What do you do when your favorite teacher starts turning into a were-hyena?

a) Flee in terror?
b) Try to cure him?
c) Bring him carrion snacks?

Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people's homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what's happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa. . . . This first entry in a silly, sassy, and suspenseful new series will leave readers howling with laughter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Edgar-nominated author Bruce Hale is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to read. He has written or illustrated more than 35 seriously funny books for children, including the popular School for S.P.I.E.S. and Chet Gecko Mysteries series; as well as picture books such as Clark the Shark, Snoring Beauty, and Big Bad Baby. An actor and a Fulbright Scholar in Storytelling, Bruce is in demand as a speaker, having presented at conferences, universities, and schools around the world. Bruce's book The Malted Falcon was an Edgar Award Finalist and Murder, My Tweet won the Little D Award for Humor Writing. He lives in Santa Barbara, California with his wife and dog.
 


REVIEW

Bruce Hale can always be trusted to come up with a story that's both compelling and completely out there at the same time.  Carlos and his best friend, Benny are shocked when their favorite teacher, Mr. Chu starts behaving very strangely, giggling one moment only to turn around and growl or say nasty things the next.  He also seems to have developed super speed, a sensitivity to dogs, and a strong desire to eat raw chicken.  Naturally, the boys go to the local comics store for answers and thanks to the help of Mrs. Tameses, they figure out that Mr. Chu is turning into a were-hyena.  With additional help from Karate Girl (Tina) and the local museum, the boys set out to stop their teacher from transforming completely.  As long as the reader is willing to suspend disbelief about some of the wacky happenings, the reader is bound to have an exciting and amusing ride through Hale's new series.  Carlos and Benny are likeable but flawed (Benny tends to be a bit bossy and impulsive while Carlos is more cautious).  The cover is fun, on the hard cover, the picture of Mr. Chu and the boys changes as Mr. Chu turns into a were-Hyena and back.  Hand this one to children who want something a bit scary and adventurous but with a good dose of humor and wackiness.


Free discussion guide and activities!


GIVEAWAY (ends September 30)





The Full Moon of the Were-Hyena Howling Good Giveaway!
Ten winners will receive a copy of Bruce Hale’s The Curse of the Were-Hyena. Four Grand Prize winners will receive The Curse of the Were-Hyena plus an advance reading copy of the second book in the series, Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! And as a bonus, Grand Prize winners will also get a signed photo of Bruce Hale disguised as a were-wolf! Click here to enter. 




Thursday, September 22, 2016

SERIES THURSDAY: Tales from Deckawoo Drive #2 & #3 by Kate DiCamillo


ABOUT THE BOOK

Deckawoo Drive’s intrepid Animal Control Officer meets her match—or does she? A funny, heartfelt, and fast-paced romp from the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Francine Poulet is the greatest Animal Control Officer in Gizzford County. She hails from a long line of Animal Control Officers. She’s battled snakes, outwitted squirrels, and stared down a bear. "The genuine article," Francine’s dad always called her. She is never scared—until, that is, she’s faced with a screaming raccoon that may or may not be a ghost. Maybe Francine isn’t cut out to be an Animal Control Officer after all! But the raccoon is still on the loose, and the folks on Deckawoo Drive need Francine back. Can she face her fears, round up the raccoon, and return to the ranks of Animal Control? Join a cast of familiar characters—Frank, Stella, Mrs. Watson, and Mercy the porcine wonder—for some riotous raccoon wrangling on Deckawoo Drive.

REVIEW

When I first heard about this series I wasn't sure it was going to work.  After all, each of the main characters in this new series are adults.  Don't kids prefer to read about kids?  But having read this one, I think children will like it for three reasons.  First, the ghost racoon is rather an intriguing idea and it's an animal.  Second, Francine Poulet is a sympathetic character who has to face her fears and injuries, who in real life doesn't have to do that?  And third, there are important child characters in the story.  Frank and Stella play an important part in helping Francine face her fears.  And of course, Van Dusen's illustrations are always appealing and fun.  What we end up with here is a fun, quick read about facing one's fears.



ABOUT THE BOOK

What if timid Baby Lincoln broke free of her bossy sister and set off on an unexpected journey? Kate DiCamillo presents a touching new adventure set in Mercy Watson’s world.

Baby Lincoln’s older sister, Eugenia, is very fond of telling Baby what to do, and Baby usually responds by saying "Yes, Sister." But one day Baby has had enough. She decides to depart on a Necessary Journey, even though she has never gone anywhere without Eugenia telling her what to take and where to go. And in fact Baby doesn’t know where she is headed — only that she was entirely happy in the previous night’s dream, sitting aboard a train with a view of shooting stars. Who might Baby meet as she strikes out on her own, and what could she discover about herself? Will her impulsive adventure take her away from Eugenia for good?

REVIEW

I was thrilled to see Baby Lincoln showing some gumption and setting off on a trip.  The trip doesn't turn out to be anything too great, but it has a big impact on Baby as she meets people and learns about enjoying life and telling stories.  I enjoyed getting to know Baby more as she takes her 'necessary journey' and discovers that her grumpy sister, Eugenia, does in fact love and appreciate her.  Van Dusen's illustrations once again nicely highlight the characters and their experiences.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Ranger Rick's Travels National Parks! by Stacy Tornio & Ken Keffer


ABOUT THE BOOK

From the crown jewels such as Yellowstone, Sequoia, and the Grand Canyon, to the many lesser-known but still stunning areas dotting the country, the National Parks have provided generations with enjoyment and wonder. Now, Ranger Rick: National Parks! takes readers on a tour of America s most beautiful protected landscapes. Join Ranger Rick as he leads this cross-country adventure and provides his favorite facts, animals, and plants along the way. Page after page of beautiful photography and fascinating information bring the most unique features of the National Parks to life. Inside you ll also find Ranger Rick s favorite things to do in each park, like sledding down the mighty sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park or exploring the bat-filled caves of Carlsbad Caverns. With Ranger Rick as your trusted guide, there is no better way to experience the National Parks other than being there! Expertly researched, chock full of fun facts, and filled with gorgeous, full-color photography, Ranger Rick: National Parks! is sure to delight and inspire any young explorer!"

REVIEW

Gorgeous photographs augmented with descriptions of each park and things to see and do make Ranger Rick's National Parks! a great book for young readers.  While the amazing photographs are the primary attraction here, the brief information given about every National Park in the United States gives a glimpse into the wide variety of landscapes and wildlife found there.  Each section gives a one paragraph summary about the park while also including ideas for top activities, fun facts, and information about what makes it famous, when it was established and it's size (in acres).  Reading the book made me want to hope on a plane and visit each and every park to see the amazing places and animals that make each park so valuable.  I love books like this because they remind me that our world is still a pretty amazing place.  The design of this book makes it perfect for browsing or reading all the way through. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: They All Saw a Cat/Cleonardo


ABOUT THE BOOK

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .

In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

REVIEW

Brendan Wenzel has created a delightfully intriguing story about the way a cat is seen as it stalks through the world.  The wide variety of images and styles makes for some real eye candy.  This book begs to be a starting point for a great discussion about point-of-view and how everyone and everything sees the world a bit differently based on both nature and nurture.  A child, a dog, a fox, and a fish all see the cat in very different ways, even the cat itself doesn't see what the other animals see.  A fun activity to do with children surrounding this book would be to have him/her/them draw a cat themselves just to see how their perceptions differ from those of the book and from other children.  I just might do that with some of my students.  The brilliance of this book makes it a great contender for not only the Caldecott but many other awards.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Cleonardo's father is an inventor. So was her grandfather, her great-grandfather, and all the great-greats before them. Cleo wants to be an inventor too. She tries to help her father in his workshop, but he never uses her great ideas. Can Cleo invent something big and important and perfect all by herself?

This imaginative story of a father and his daughter brings the magic of creativity to little inventors everywhere.

REVIEW

Cleonardo loves to invent like her father, Geonardo, but she loves to base her inventions on nature, whereas her father prefers machinery.  After her father gently rejects all of her ideas for the upcoming invention festival, Cleonardo decides to invent something by herself.  Eventually Geonardo realizes just how much he misses having her around and decides to invent something that he thinks she will like, a mechanical bird. Later, at the festival, Cleonardo's invention helps when things start to go haywire.  GrandPre's gorgeous illustrations nicely complement this sweet story about creativity and how different ways of seeing the world can complement each other.  And even beyond that, how sometimes the things of greatest value are the smallest things rather than the largest.

Monday, September 19, 2016

MMGM: Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm


ABOUT THE BOOK

Newbery Honor Book Turtle in Paradise is beloved by readers, and now they can return to this wonderful world through the eyes of Turtle’s cousin Beans.

Grown-ups lie. That’s one truth Beans knows for sure. He and his gang know how to spot a whopper a mile away, because they are the savviest bunch of barefoot conchs (that means “locals”) in all of Key West. Not that Beans really minds; it’s 1934, the middle of the Great Depression. With no jobs on the island, and no money anywhere, who can really blame the grown-ups for telling a few tales? Besides, Beans isn’t anyone’s fool. In fact, he has plans. Big plans. And the consequences might surprise even Beans himself.

REVIEW

Jennifer Holm has written another really appealing historical fiction novel based on her family history.  While I don't normally have much luck getting students to read historical fiction, I think I could get them to read this since Beans is such a likeable, interesting character.  I also loved Key West as a setting and watching it change for the better.  Beans willingness to work to earn money to go to the movies and help out his mom is a major plot point that leads to conflict when Beans starts working for a bootlegger who asks him to set off fire alarms to help him transport contraband.  The pay is good but the consequences are not and Beans is left trying to make up for his mistakes.  The friendships as well as the other people Beans interacts with make the story an interesting one.  Beans' little brother Kermit, his grandmother Nana Philly (the meanest woman in Key West), and his feud with Dot (a girl!) all play a role in the choices Beans makes and who he ends up deciding to be.  Holm has written another winner with great characters, a fabulous setting, and an interesting plot.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Last Messenger of Zitol by Chelsea Dyreng


ABOUT THE BOOK

When Rishi is kidnapped and taken to Zitól, she faces an unthinkable future: she is to be sacrificed to appease the gods. To survive in this place, where greed, lust, and fear eclipse compassion, Rishi befriends the selfish and ignorant king, only to discover that he may not have the power to save her after all.

REVIEW

I found The Last Messenger of Zitol a compelling read from the very first page, where Nadal, the king of Zital begins the story.  I found it rather interesting that the selfish, ignorant king is the one telling the story, but since he's clearly telling the story after the fact it created interest for me rather than confusion.  It gave the story added dimension by allowing the reader to really see and feel the changes that Nadal undergoes.  Rishi, on the other hand, does everything in her power to maintain her beliefs even under threat of death.  Rishi's people value female virtue highly, to the point that each young woman remains a virgin until marriage and wears a white bead that indicates that until they marry.  Rishi, somehow manages to hold on to her faith and virtue despite the threats she faces and in the process forces the young king to face things about his own people and lifestyle that he doesn't particularly like.  But does he have enough power to actually save Rishi, or will she be forced to sacrifice her life for her beliefs.  Dyreng has created a fascinating look at a society that has fallen to its own greed and false beliefs, yet Rishi's courage and faith and virtue shine through bringing light to Nadal and Zitol for the first time in decades. A captivating read with powerful themes about the value of virtue and faith in world where it is seriously lacking.


Friday, September 16, 2016

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Eden's Escape by M. Tara Crowl




Eden's new life on earth begins in New York City under the guidance of her new guardian: Pepper, a petite, bubbly genie alum who's also a Broadway actress. Before she has a chance to settle in, though, Eden is whisked away for a granting--only to find herself trapped in a laboratory. David Brightly, owner of the world's leading tech company, cares more about tapping into the lamp's power than making a wish and starts performing tests on Eden. With Brightly's plasma shield around the lamp, Eden has no way home. Left without a choice, she escapes the lab and goes on the run. After her daring exit, Eden finds herself on the streets of Paris--home to Electra's headquarters. Left in a strange city with a price on her head (courtesy of scheming Brightly), Eden has to keep her wits about her. She dons a chic disguise and flits around Paris incognito, investigating Brightly Tech. Assisted by Pepper and her old adversary Bola, as well as some new friends, Eden embarks on a quest to retrieve the lamp and protect the secrets of the genie legacy.


Indiebound




All twelve years of Eden's life have been spent in an antique oil lamp. She lives like a princess inside her tiny, luxurious home; but to Eden, the lamp is nothing but a prison. She hates being a genie. All she wants, more than anything, is freedom.

When Eden finds a gateway to Earth within the lamp, she takes her chance and enters the world she loves. And this time, she won't be sent back after three wishes.

Posing as the new kid at a California middle school, Eden revels in all of Earth's pleasures--but quickly learns that this world isn't as perfect as she always thought it was. Eden soon finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between powerful immortals. A ruthless organization run by a former genie will stop at nothing to acquire the lamp and its power--even hurt Tyler and Sasha, the new mortal friends who have given Eden a home. To save her friends and protect the lamp's magic, Eden must decide once and for all where she belongs.

Indiebound

REVIEW

Eden longs with all her heart to live on earth like mortals do, but she is a genie and must remain with her lamp.  At least that's what she has always been told by her masters, Xavier and Goldie.  But when she discovers a way out of the lamp, she's thrilled with the chance to experience earth for more than just a few moments.  But she quickly discovers that all is not as it seems, and there is a secret organization who will do just about anything to get their hands on the power of the lamp.  Crowl has written an entertaining and fun book about a young genie wishing for more than she has.  Despite an often light-hearted tone, the themes here are thoughtful ones about freedom and power and what each really means.  And is perfect safety really worth the price of sacrificing experience and friendship.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Eden's Wish and look forward to learning more about Eden and her job as a genie.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. Tara Crowl grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She studied Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, then received an MA in Creative Writing at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She lives in New York City.

Website

GIVEAWAY

1 signed set of Eden's Wish/Eden's Escape
US/Canada only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

EXCERPT #1
This time Eden landed on her feet.
When she opened her eyes, she saw that they were planted on black pavement. Black pavement meant a street. She was standing on a street.
Okay, she thought. But where? She lifted her eyes.
Directly before her were four yellow taxis, side by side, like the front line of  a battalion. To her left and right were buildings so tall, she was as small as a bug in comparison. And in the distance, a narrow slip of bright blue sky framed by more sky-high buildings, as far as she could see.
She’d never been here before; of that, she was certain. And yet, she’d received a genie’s education. She’d seen enough photos to know without a doubt where she was.
“New York City,” she said softly.
RERRR!!! Car horns rang in her ears.
“Get outta the road!” yelled a man leaning out of a taxi’s window. “You tryna get killed?”
The light had changed, and the battalion was ready to charge.
As Eden sprinted to the sidewalk, taxis ripped through the space she left behind. Something heavy bounced on her back, and she felt straps around her shoulders. She was wearing a backpack. Suddenly, it started to vibrate against her back---but there was no time to figure out why right now.
There was no less traffic on the sidewalk, but at least it was made up of mortals on foot rather than cars. The prospect of a collision wasn’t nearly as dire.
Mortals. She took a deep breath. She had to stop calling them that.

After all, she was living among them now.
 
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