Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: Anna was Here by Jane Kurtz


Ten-year-old Anna Nickel is moving from Colorado to Kansas, and she is not happy about leaving her friends behind! This is a moving, often humorous coming-of-age story about family, faith, God's love, and the meaning of home, perfect for fans of Katherine Paterson and The Penderwicks.

Ten-year-old Anna Nickel's worst nightmare has come true. Her father has decided to move the family back to Oakwood, Kansas—where he grew up—in order to become the minister of the church there. New friends, new school, a new community, and a family of strangers await, and what's even worse, it's all smack-dab in the middle of Tornado Alley. Anna has always prided herself on being prepared (she keeps a notebook on how to cope with disasters, from hurricanes to shark bites), but she'll be tested in Oakwood! This beautifully written novel introduces a family who takes God's teachings to heart while finding many occasions to laugh along the way, and an irrepressible and wholesome ten-year-old who, with a little help from Midnight H. (her cat), takes control of her destiny.


Jane Kurtz was born in Portland, Oregon, but when she was two years old, her parents moved to Ethiopia. Jane grew up in Maji, a small town in the southwest corner of the country.
Since there were no televisions, radios, or movies, her memories are of climbing mountains, wading in rivers by the waterfalls, listening to stories, and making up her own stories, which she and her sisters acted out for days at a time.

By the time Jane came back to the United States for college, she felt there was no way to talk about her childhood home to Americans. It took nearly twenty years to finally find a way - through words and stories. Now she often speaks in schools and at conferences, talking about the writing and revision process and how she uses memories, observation, and research to create her books.

Jane has published more than 30 books, fiction, nonfiction, picture books, novels for young readers, and ready-to-reads. Some are based on her childhood in Ethiopia. Some draw on her own children, such as ANNA WAS HERE, a novel for young readers that asks life's big questions about pain and disaster--and offers a few puny answers.

Since her childhood in Ethiopia, Jane has lived in Illinois, Colorado, North Dakota, Kansas and--now--back in Portland, Oregon.


What's the 'story behind the story?'

When I was two years old, my parents decided to move from Portland, Oregon to Ethiopia to work for the Presbyterian Church. That was the first major move of my life—and it included some long months in the U.S. stocking up on things for the next five years. From what my mom says, buying shoes for three little girls was one of the hardest jobs and buying children’s books (using an article she read about 100 Best Books for Children) was one of the most fun jobs.  We took a ship from New York City to England and then a train and then an international flight to Egypt and on to Ethiopia.

“What was it like traveling with three little girls?” I asked my mom.

She admitted that she was exhausted, and my dad pulled out every nursery rhyme and story he could possibly remember.  Then she added, “And you all behaved. You knew you didn’t have any choice.”

I traveled back to the U.S. when I was seven—to live for a year in Boise, Idaho—and then back to Ethiopia where, a year later, I moved from a remote area of Ethiopia to the capital city of Addis Ababa to attend boarding school.  So by the time I was Anna’s age, I had moved a lot.

Some of Anna’s story comes from the time when I was an adult, though. I was a preacher’s kid and so were my kids. When we moved from Colorado to North Dakota (with a two-week stop in Kansas), our cat hid out under the seat the whole way. (We really did have a cat we named Midnight Halloween Cat, and she did have a traumatic adventure when my oldest son was about Anna’s age.)  We all went through a natural disaster in North Dakota.  Both my children and I really did feel some of the pressures Anna feels about having a preacher dad—and about living in small towns in the U.S. where the roots go deep and sometimes feel very hard to understand. 

What's something you love/hate about where you live? Where is the ideal place to live do you think?

Kids often ask me, “Do you like Ethiopia or America better?”  I tell them that the book My Grandfather’s Journey perfectly captures how I feel, which is that I’m at least a little bit homesick no matter where I live. But a few years ago, I moved back to Portland. I now live in the city where I was born, which feels amazing to me. It will never be ideal—because a part of me will always miss the beautiful country of my childhood—but when I invented a character for an American Girl Doll of the Year, I learned a lot about how native plants support native insects, which are eaten by native birds…and now, just like my character, I’m spending time digging in the dirt and saving a little spot of the earth. My own back yard.

What are some safety tips that Anna might want to share with us?

Anna would want you to know everything including what to do if you meet a bear and how to get out if you are trapped in an Egyptian pyramid. She’d also want you to learn what she learns in the book: no one can be prepared for everything. Gratitude can’t keep disasters away, but it can be a great way to live in joy and hope, not in fear. And—as my dad showed me when I was two—a good story can make almost any hard time in our life feel a little bit better.


Anna likes her life the way it is, thank you very much! So she is not at all happy to find out that her family is moving from their home in Colorado to Oakwood, Kansas, especially when she finds out her new room is PINK. While the move is supposed to be temporary, no one seems to know just how long they will be there. In addition to all that, Anna is related to much of the town and her father is a preacher. That's a lot of pressure for one kid to handle.  Can she find a way to be happy where she's at even though she can't be completely prepared for everything that might come her way? A fun look at life as a preacher's kid and the challenges and joys it can bring. Recommended.

Thanks again to Jane Kurtz for appearing.  For other stops on the Anna Was Here blog tour please check

Friday, February 21, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Porcelain Keys by Sarah Beard


Aria's life is full of secrets--secrets about her mother's death, her father's cruelty, and her dream to go to Juilliard. When Aria meets Thomas, he draws out her secrets, captures her heart, and gives her the courage to defy her father. But when tragedy strikes and Thomas disappears, Aria is left alone to transform her broken heart's melody into something beautiful. Porcelain Keys is a captivating love story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.


"Emotionally rich, elegant description, beloved characters--Sarah Beard delivers a fresh, new novel that will go on my list of classics."
--Stephanie Fowers, author of With a Kiss.

"Aria is a heroine worth rooting for, and the plot is an emotional melody that weaves a spell so potent, it can only be broken by reaching the end. And even then, I couldn’t stop thinking about Aria and her story."
--Heather Frost, author of The Seers Trilogy

"Emotionally gripping, this beautifully crafted young adult romance will pull at readers’ heartstrings from tragic beginning to happy ending. A must-read for fans of contemporary romance, both young and seasoned. "
--Julie Ford, author of Replacing Gentry

"Porcelain Keys is a fresh, heart-wrenching take on boy-meets-girl. Using fantastic and musical imagery to tell the poignant love story of Aria and Thomas, the author leads the reader to a swelling crescendo as if we're part of the song—and what a beautiful song it is."
--Cindy C. Bennett, author or Geek Girl and Rapunzel Untangled

"A lyrical love story that will leave your heart singing. Porcelain Keys is a masterpiece with emotional depth, young love, and family angst. Beard takes us on a journey of self discovery, second chances, and ultimately, sweet resolution."
--Heather Ostler, author of The Siren's Secret


Barnes & Noble


SARAH BEARD is the author of Porcelain Keys, a YA contemporary romance. She has a degree in communications from the University of Utah and splits her time between writing and raising three energetic boys. She is a cancer survivor and a hopeless romantic. She enjoys reading and composing music, and lives with her husband and children in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow Sarah on twitter at @authorsarahb, or at Her website is


There are some books that stay with you long after you have closed the book.  Porcelain Keys is just such a book. I fell in love with Aria and Thomas immediately and cheered them on as I read their story.  They felt so real with their hopes and dreams and struggles. My heart almost broke with the tragedies in their lives and the pain they each had to face.  It was sweet to see the way their relationship developed as they found something they desperately needed in the other. I also really enjoyed the musical aspects of the story as they were beautifully detailed and vivid.  Made me want to here Aria really play. ;) A clean and beautiful romance that is all a romance should be although you might want to have some tissues handy, some of the scenes in the book are truly heart-wrenching. Highly recommended.


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW and AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton


In a book that pairs science with mental illness, and heart with adventure, Erin E. Moulton delivers a moving story about family, friendship and the lengths we go for the people we love.

Lucy Peevy has a dream--to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she's already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you've got a mama who doesn't always take her meds, it's not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy's mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they're scared of even more than Mama's moods: living without her at all.


Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars(Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppies where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams. You can visit her online at or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or connect on twitter @erinemoulton


What's the 'story behind the story' for this book?

As you know, each story comes in a slightly different way. Lucy and her mom came to me right away but when I was conceptualizing the story, they were part of a rollicking adventure. My editor, Jill Santopolo, read the synopsis for the adventure novel along with the first three chapters and suggested that perhaps Lucy and her mom might be in the wrong story. She liked the family dynamic and thought they had their own story. I hadn't thought of that, but once I pulled them from the high concept plot and took a closer look at them, the entire story fell into place.

What do you find the easiest about writing a story? Hardest?

They are all so different! Some come so easily and others are like pulling teeth. For Chasing the Milky Way, the plot was the easiest thing to lock into place. Right away, I knew where I wanted this story to begin and end, so adding the meat in the middle was just about structure. The real challenge came with the emotional aspect of the novel. The characters go through a lot, and it was very draining as I went from draft to draft. Additionally, I wanted to make sure that my depiction of Mama's mixed diagnosis of Bi-Polar/schizoaffective was authentic, so that required research, conversations and also happened to line up with a field trip to a state hospital art installation. I was worried that I would not be able to relate or would write the character incorrectly. As it turns out, I learned a lot and had zero issues relating. We all have symptons of mental illness and they all manifest in different ways based on individual personalities, so once I started to explore Mama's character more, it began to click.

If you could have dinner with any author from any era, who would it be and why?

Probably Chaucer. I think his mix of poetry, humor and mischief would be fun to have at a dinner party!

Where do you enjoy doing your writing?

I hate writing outside the house, though, I do that about once a month with a writer friend and it is always great. But normally I write in my sitting room. I have a standing desk and four fully stocked bookshelves. The dogs keep me company, and since I don't have the coffee shop atmosphere, I have plenty of space to pace, chat to myself and listen to music very loudly. The current manuscript requires loud Hans Zimmer scores, so it can be pretty intense.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go and why?

I want to go to a lot of places. I went to Crete, Greece last spring, and I hear it calling to me right now! But of places I have never been, I would really like to go to Brazil. Flutter has been published in Brazil and Tracing Stars and Chasing the Milky Way will be out there in the future. I get notes from Brazil and gifts from my Brazilian publisher around the holidays. I would like to see the place that my book has already traveled and thank the people there for reading it. Of course, it looks beautiful.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

I love reading anything by Laurie Halse Anderson, Christopher Paul Curtis, or Lois Lowry. I also re-read certain authors and poets regularly when looking for inspiration. Those include Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and Thoreau. One book that I read in 6th grade that I regularly go back to is A Murder For Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner.


Mental illness isn't something I've come across a lot in middle grade literature.  It's a complicated thing that still carries a lot of stereotypes with it, so when I heard about this book, I was definitely interested in reading it. Lucy is a very sympathetic character as she struggles to hold her family together now that her Gram is gone. Despite the hardships of living with a mother who doesn't always take her medication, Lucy still hopes to get her family out of the trailer park in which they live.  She also wants to enter and win a robot competition and she almost has the money to do it.  But things go wrong as they so often do and Lucy is left making decisions no child should have to make. But like all of Moulton's books the story is told with plenty of heart covering several sensitive topics with finesse including mental illness and child abuse. (Note: there is a little bit of profanity). A thought-provoking book that could be depressing, but isn't at all. Recommended.

Monday, February 17, 2014

SYDNEY TAYLOR AWARD BLOG TOUR: The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder

Thanks for joining me today as I welcome Laurel Snyder to my blog for an interview. Laurel recently won a Sydney Taylor Gold Medal for her book, THE LONGEST NIGHT: A Passover Story.

The Sydney Taylor Award is defined as follows by the Association of Jewish Libraries:
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories:Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.


Here's a picture book for all Jewish families to read while celebrating Passover. Unlike other Passover picture books that focus on the contemporary celebration of the holiday, or are children's haggadahs, this gorgeous picture book in verse follows the actual story of the Exodus. Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Catia Chien skillfully and gently depict the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea in a remarkably accessible way.

What's the 'story behind the story'? What lead you to tell this particular story?

Actually, this is a long long story. But I'll tell you the short version.

I've always been a little obsessed with the plagues. Is that weird? As a kid I loved Passover best of all the holidays, and I remember the picture in my own childhood bible with the Egyptians clutching their throats, choking. It's an image--however gruesome--that stuck with me.

When I was in college, I tried to write a poem about it, and even performed the poem with a group of friends, reading it in a kind of round, at a local theater. But it never felt quite right.

Then, in grad school, I tried again, and the poem I wrote felt better this time, but I still wasn't satisfied with it.

So a few years ago, when I was casting around for an idea for my next picture book, the plagues popped back into my head. I was worried at first that the subject matter might be too dark for any editor to consider (and you can see we were vague with the girl's impressions of the tenth plague). But The Longest Night was the end result of the process. And at last it feels right!

Isn't that funny, that it sometimes takes many tries for a story to find its best form?

Tell us a little about your writing career. When you first got published? Got into writing? etc.

Oh, I started writing when I was eight years old, and used to make little books out of wallpaper scraps and paper bags. Then in high school I was lucky to have a creative writing class at my school, and that focused my energies on poetry. I went to college and grad school for poetry, and published a book of poems for adults.

Then, a few years later, I found myself returning to the books of my youth. And my poems began to change. It took me a while to figure out I was writing for kids, and another ten years (and 49 rejections) to publish my first book. But now I feel like this was what I was meant to do, all along. My eight year old self is very excited!

If you could travel anywhere where would you like to go and what would you do there?

That's a hard one! I've traveled a lot, but never with my kids, so what I really want is to introduce them to the places I've loved. Jerusalem. I want to show my boys Jerusalem. And Ireland, and Italy. I want to see them realize the world is BIG.

What do you enjoy most about school visits?

Enjoy is a funny word for it. It's work, and sometimes it's very hard work. My last novel, Bigger than a Bread Box, is about a kid whose parents are splitting up, and every now and then I have a kid come and seek me out, to talk about a rough situation at home. A moment like that can be so important, and so rewarding, but it's painful too, for everyone. I have a few kids who've reached out and stayed in touch, and I've sent them books, or met them and their parents at events later. That's a very deep and special aspect of the job, but enjoy feels like the wrong word.

I suppose I enjoy reading to the kids, doing the silly voices in Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher. I definitely enjoy that!

What are your feelings about the Sydney Taylor award and what it means?

It's a huge huge honor. Of course, we don't write for awards, but the attention that awards can bring to our field is important I think. They help assure that the world knows about children's literature, about Jewish children's literature specifically. They make us more visible, and I think that's good!

For me, personally, it's startling and almost bewildering because I look at the past winners, and I'm blown away to think my book sits beside them.

Favorite treat?

Anything lemony! And I adore black licorice.

Favorite color?

Blue, always and forever.

Favorite sports team?

Does my son's second grade basketball team count? Go DRAGONS!

Friday, February 14, 2014

BLOG TOUR: A is for Abinadi: An alphabet of Scripture Heroes by Heidi Poelman


A is for apple but also for Abinadi! Teach your children about some of the greatest heroes in the scriptures with this beautifully illustrated alphabet book. They will love searching for items that represent each letter while they get to know heroes like Captain Moroni and Esther. Along with learning their ABCs, your children will learn to recognize and love these great Book of Mormon and Bible examples.


Heidi Poelman has always loved learning about inspiring people.  In A is for Abinadi, she found a way to write about many of her favorites.  Heidi received her degrees in communication from Brigham Young University (BA) and Wake Forest University (MA). She lives in Utah with her husband and three children.


Jason Pruett has always loved making people smile.  Jason has degrees in art from Brigham Young University (BFA) and the Academy of Art University (MFA).  He lives in Los Angels with his wife where he creates drawings and make people smile.


I found A is for Abinadi to be a nice introduction to some of the people and events from the Book of Mormon (scripture for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and the Bible.  Each entry is well-written and perfect for the age group at whom it is aimed. People such as Abinadi, Gideon, Father Abraham, Hannah, Mary, Nephi, and Captain Moroni all make an appearance. 

The illustrations are cute and very child friendly.  That being said, I did have one concern about the pictures. That concern is that some of the pictures seem to be a little too light-hearted for the content.  For example, the Abinadi entry shows King Noah making a crazy gesture at Abinadi, in reality, he was furiously angry at Abinadi and ended up having him killed. I also found all the little items hidden in the illustrations a bit distracting from the seriousness of the text.  However, I have no doubt that children will enjoy searching out the hidden pictures that go with each letter.

Overall, a cute introduction to people and events from the scriptures. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler


“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.

What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.


If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

In all honesty, the US.  I’d absolutely love to do a kind of TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY—just get in the car and drive across the country, really get a chance to see the entirety of it close up.  (Of course, in my case, it’d have to be referred to as TRAVELS WITH JAKE, the name of my own pup.)  I bet I’d get ideas for a good dozen books or so.

What do you enjoy the most / least about middle grade and / or YA fiction.
What I like most about both of them is that we’re dealing with characters who are completely new to their situations. They’re all dealing with tough decisions and experiences—just like adults do—but they’ve never had to figure out how to maneuver through them before. In both genres, we’re dealing with characters who are really kind of entering the world on their own for the first time, and that in itself makes it an exciting genre to write for.

The tough part about both is that you have to remember you might actually be introducing adult concepts to your readership through your work—especially MG readers. (In THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, we deal with the definition of “art,” even eminent domain, which are pretty advanced issues…) It’s tricky, because you have to introduce those concepts to them in a setting or through situations that are most like their own world. There are times, as an author, that you find yourself wanting to complicate matters for your MG characters; you keep thinking of new ways to amp up the tension in your plot—but you have to remind yourself that’s unnecessary for young readers. The new concept itself can be tension.

What’s your writing process?  Do you have a special place you like to read / write?

I’m a full-time author, so I have the luxury of devoting eight (or more!) hours a day to my work. First drafts are my least favorite part of the process, so I try to get through those as quickly as possible, throwing down an average of 5,000 words a day. Revision is my favorite part—most of my published books have been revised globally at least ten times. I have an office full of funky writing-related collectibles where I do quite a bit of work (it’s fantastic when I’m under a hard deadline and need to concentrate with no outside distractions), but I also love to write on the couch next to my dog, or on the back porch (weather permitting).

What do you like to read?

My reading tastes are all over the place. Poetry, fiction, classics, contemporaries, juvenile work, adult, romances, fantasies…I was a lit major in college, so I think that really helped me to appreciate a wide array of writing styles and genres.

Actually, when I read, I try to find each author’s single best attribute. The skill that shines brighter than any other—and every author has at least one quality to admire: realistic dialogue, action, description, humor, etc. No matter what the genre is, I try to learn something about writing from every book I read.



"...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve." – Kirkus Reviews

"Axioms like 'One man's trash is another man's treasure' and 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' come gracefully to life in Schindler's tale about the value of hard work and the power of community…Auggie's enthusiasm and unbridled creativity are infectious, and likeminded readers will envy her creative partnership with [her grandfather] Gus." – Publishers Weekly


Site for young readers: Holly Schindler’s Middles -  

I’m especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online—usually through Twitter or FB. But I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I’m devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves! Be sure to send your young reader’s review through the Contact Me page.

Group Author Blogs: YA Outside the Lines for YA authors and Smack Dab in the Middle for MG authors.


There's an old saying that one man's junk is another man's treasure. That is definitely true in this story about Auggie, a fifth-grader, who desperately wants to find something about herself that's 'special.' With a grandfather who salvages and sells old junk it's natural then for Auggie to see that junk differently than most people.  When her beloved neighborhood is threatened with destruction, she's determined to prove it's value. A thoughtful and profound look at the power of perspective and finding beauty in even the most challenging of circumstances. Recommended.




Monday, February 10, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Zoe & Zak and the Tiger Temple by Lars Guignard

Tiger Temple - Blog Tour Button

About the Book

Title: Zoe & Zak and the Tiger Temple (Zoe & Zak Series, Book #3)
Author: Lars Guignard
Publisher: Fantastic Press
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Number of Pages: 267
Recommended Age: 8+


Last semester, Zoe and Zak returned the first lost Noble Truth to its rightful home. Now, Zoe and Zak are back in India for their second semester at Moonstock Himalayan Academy. School kicks off with the Activity Week Challenge in the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan where the students must deliver medical supplies. Things, however, take a turn for the worse, when Zak becomes deathly ill after an encounter with a strange floating bubble. On returning to Moonstock, Zoe and Zak discover that a creature has come through the lava hole far below their dormitory. When Zoe and Zak follow the creature, they soon discover what they must do. They have been tasked with finding the second lost Noble Truth -- the Tiger Eye of Justice. Finding the Tiger Eye sounds like an impossible mission, and it's only made more confusing when Zak discovers that he has been given a supernatural power to help them with their task-- a power which Zak, for the life of him, just can't control. But he's going to have to learn how to use his new ability, because if Zoe and Zak can't find the Tiger Eye quickly, Zak's time will run out.  


Zoe and Zak are at it again, trying to find a way to find another lost Noble Truth and return it to where it belongs, allowing the Tiger people to return home as well. Disaster hovers on the edges, Zak becomes ill and starts to develop tatoo like stripes on his forearm. They are facing a deadline like never before: if they don't succeed before the stripes reach Zak's neck, he's done for. With more danger and excitement and a chance to continue to hone their developing abilities, Zak and Zoe set out on their adventure. With new challenges and enemies around every corner, Zak and Zoe must use every ounce of strength at their disposal to conquer their enemy and release the Noble Truth. With lots of fabulous fantasy elements, Guignard once again provides a fun adventure for all fantasy readers.

Buzz About the Zoe & Zak Series

Book 1: "Awesome! ~ I am 11 and I liked the book because I love adventures. It was a different kind of adventure from what I usually read and it was funny too. " ~ 5-Star Review from J. Olsen, Amazon 

Book 1: "This was a fun read. This book was like a kid's version of Indiana Jones. It's also very educational as Zoe tells you real facts about what she sees and the history. I enjoyed it immensely. If you have a 10-12 year old child that loves adventure books, this is definitely a must read. " ~ 5-Star review from Simone Lilly-Egerter, Amazon 

Book 1: "I'm sure this book was written for children who are around the age of the two children in the book, 11 or so. But, this 35 year old loved this book! It had action, adventure and imagination galore! It was exactly the kind of adventure that a lot of kids that age dream of." ~ 5-Star review from The Novice Christian, Amazon 

Book 2: "I have a 10 year old son who is an avid reader!! He loves books, (but he's picky too) he loved Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. He was so excited to read the 2nd book in this series! When I presented him the first book he was not sure he would like it but changed his mind quickly, then when I heard about the 2nd book being released he almost jumped out of his chair! (no exaggeration) He is anxiously awaiting the 3rd book! I would say that any child who enjoys fantasy/adventure books should read this series! It is a well written page turner! It's a fun story that adults can even enjoy the storyline without getting bored! According to my son, 'every kid should read this series'. " ~ 5-Star review from SavyGreenSaver, Amazon 

Book 2: "I loved this book, even as an adult reading it. I was completely sucked into the plot and was constantly finding myself staying up "just a little longer" to read one more chapter. Different twists and turns in the book have you constantly guessing who is behind what and who Zak and Zoe can trust. I could definitely see myself being involved in this series as a middle schooler considering how much I enjoyed it even now. Another thing I liked about it is if you missed the first book, you could still follow along with this one and not be lost." ~ 5-Star review from Staci, Amazon

Book 2: "Lars Guignard has done a fabulous job with this series. I loved the `Ghost Leopard' & love this one even more. For late-elementary to middle school age readers, you can't beat this series. It's fun and fast-paced. Even my picky fifth grader enjoyed every page. There are bits of magic thrown in keep the action exciting. Mr. Guignard has a brilliant imagination & readers are blessed that he's chosen to use it for YA fiction. If you've yet to read the first installment in this series, do yourself a favor and read these books back to back. Don't limit it just to kids! Adults will have a blast reading these too!" ~ 5-Star review from Liz Terek, Amazon 


Tiger Temple by Lars Guignard

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CAN) | Amazon (AUS)


Lars GuignardAbout The Author: Lars Guignard

Prior to writing novels, Lars Guignard wrote for film and television. As a teenager he attended boarding school in the Indian Himalayas and his experiences there provided the inspiration for the Zoe and Zak series which now include: Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard, Zoe & Zak and the Yogi’s Curse, and Zoe & Zak and the Tiger Temple. He lives in the Pacific Northwest where he dodges bears and cougars while hiking & skiing the magnificent Coast Mountain Range. For news about new releases, please join his email list by contacting the author: Zoe&

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

Tiger Temple Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

January 15
January 16
January 17
January 19
January 20
January 21
January 22
January 23
January 24
January 25
January 27
January 28
January 29
January 30
January 31
February 1
February 2
February 3
February 4
February 5
February 6
February 7
February 8
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February 10
February 11
February 12
February 13
February 14

MDBR Kid Lit Book Promotion Services - Button FINAL* Tiger Temple Blog Tour Giveaway *

Prize: One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (or PayPal cash). Contest runs: January 15 to February 21, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Worldwide

How to enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author Lars Guignard and Fantastic Press and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd


Introducing an extraordinary new voice---a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.


There are some books that just feel right because they click with the reader. For me, this was one of those books.  The book made me smile, laugh, and cry, sometimes all at once. I read it slowly on purpose to savor the beautiful writing and imagery. I found Felicity to be a truly unique character with a delightful voice.  There were times while I was reading where I just wanted to leap into the book and give her a hug.

Felicity wants more than anything to have a permanent home, but with her mother's wandering heart it doesn't seem like a remote possibility.  But when Felicity and her mother and sister arrive in Midnight Gulch, Felicity quickly falls in love with the place and the people, but it's clear her mother doesn't intend to stay long. But maybe with the help of her new friend, Jonah, a local do-gooder named the Beedle, and her own special gift of seeing words hovering over people, just maybe she can find the home she has always yearned for and help her mother do the same.

There isn't a ton of action in this book because it's a story about the personal sorrows of not only Felicity and her family, but the whole town.  Sorrows that have yet to heal. Yet despite the struggles that Felicity sees in herself as well as the others around her, her heart continues to hope and the book left me with a really good feeling. And I loved getting to know other members of the community. As soon as I finished it I wanted to pick it up and read it again, it was that good. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Bad Dad by Derek Munson


Depicting a positive, engaged relationship between two kids and their fun-loving dad, this endearing story shows how Dad always seems to be in trouble. The library books are overdue, the kids are late for school, and the last cookie is missing from the cookie jar. Dad is always in the middle of it all, but is he really that bad? He also helps with homework, tells lots of jokes, and banishes Brussels sprouts from the house forever. Kids and their dads alike will both love how the things that make Dad bad are suddenly revealed to show that Dad is actually pretty cool.


Derek Munson works as a writer, speaker, and all-around daydreamer. His current hobbies include playing with his kids, avoiding his household responsibilities, and crashing on his mountain bike. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife Suzanne, their daughter Abby, their son Zack, and Roger the family dog.

INTERVIEW with Derek Munson

What's the 'story behind the story'?

I can't remember if I got the idea when I was at my desk drawing, or while the kids were jumping on the bed. But it was a blast writing these one-liners. Some of the things in the book came from experience, but most of it was just trying to think of a bunch of scenes, offering a bit of visual variety, and trying to make sure I didn't turn the mom into an evil witch.

Where do you like to do your writing?

At my very messy desk. Or, in the summer, on the very sunny deck.

What do you especially like about the picture book format?

Generally speaking, words go through the brain, and pictures go through the heart. So picture books allow us to experience an idea with both our minds and emotions. Bad dad is built around the relationship between two kids and their dad. Melody Wang's illustrations beautifully express that relationship, so it only took around 300 words to tell the story and achieve the desired effect. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

My daughter and I just performed in a play at the local children's theater. And I coach my son's soccer team. When I'm alone I like drawing and playing drums in a basement band. And then there's Words with Friends. Holy Moley- Totally addicted!

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?

Machu Pichu

Which picture book author/illustrator(s) do you especially admire?

Chris Van Allsburg, Mo WIllems, and John Cheiska Szeiska Scieszka. Brilliant peeps!

Dad is SOOO bad! He gets in trouble at the toy store, he plays ball in the house, stays up too late playing video games, and drinks milk straight from the carton. But really is he that bad? Perhaps not so much. A hilarious story about a parent's imperfections yet who very clearly loves his kids.  I can easily see kindergartners giggling their way through this book.  It would have been better for large group sharing if the illustrations had been bigger and filled the whole page, but that's a minor complaint.  The book would work best for one on one sharing and giggling and discussing of dad's quirks. A delightful book perfect for kids who are starting to realize that mom and dad aren't quite perfect yet.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Ava & Pip by Carol Weston


An endearing tween story about friendship, family, identity, and inspiration

Outgoing Ava loves her older sister, Pip, but can't understand why Pip is so reserved and never seems to make friends with others. When Ava uses her writing talents to help her sister overcome her shyness, both girls learn the impact their words and stories can have on the world around them.


Carol's new novel for kids is AVA AND PIP (Jabberwocky, Mar 14). She's been "Dear Carol" at Girls' Life for 20 years. Her first book, GIRLTALK (HarperCollins) was translated into 12 languages. A Phi Beta Kappa Yale grad with an M.A. from Middlebury, Carol has been a guest on Today and The View and at scores of schools. The author of The Diary of Melanie Martin series (Knopf), her fan page is: She posts fun helpful videos at She and her husband, playwright Rob Ackerman, live in NYC, and have two daughters and a cat. Her next book? AVA AND TACO CAT!


Tell us about your writing journey....

When I was a little kid, I kept diaries. I wrote about trips to the grocery store and school lunches and lost jewelry and bowling and playing with friends and trips to the grocery store and even Winston Churchill's death. I was eight at the time and my eloquent words were: "Chirchill died! Wa! Wa!" At bedtime, while other kids were picking up books, I was picking up a pencil and scribbling.

Ava and Pip is my thirteenth book but when someone asks, "When did you decide to become a writer?" the real answer is: I was always a writer. I just had to work at the craft and learn how to become the kind of writer who could share her words with others. I came from a family where writing was valued and talked about.

In college, I was a French and Spanish Comp Lit major. I also wrote for Seventeen Magazine, and at some point I knew deep down that I wanted to write a book.

But about what? What did I know? Hmmm.... how about growing up female? I wrote GIRLTALK: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You in the voice of a big sister who suddenly realizes she has a lot to tell her little sister. It caught on and was translated into a dozen languages! So I kept writing advice for girls and in 1994 became the advice columnist at Girls' Life. I've been "Dear Carol" for twenty years!

Uh-oh, now I was pushing forty, and I still hadn't really tried my hand at fiction. It was time to give myself some advice. I'd set out to write novels, not self-help books, and if I really wanted to write a novel, I'd better get serious!

The Diary of Melanie Martin (Knopf 2000) was my first novel for kids and became a four-book series about a ten-year-old named Melanie and her brother Matt the Brat and their travel adventures.

I enjoyed traveling with Melanie Martin, and I'm thrilled that Ava Wren is my new character. Ava and Pip comes out on March 4, 2014, and Ava is a little like I was at age ten. She's a bit of a tomboy and always has a diary with her. In the first book, not only does Ava have to right a terrible mistake she made and also contend with her painfully shy sister, but she also comes to realize that she has a dream: She wants to write books for kids.


Ava and Pip has all the elements of a middle grade book that I particularly love. The characters are sympathetic and easy to relate to, the plot feels real with the word play blended in quite well, and a story of friendship and sisterhood that deserves to be considered. I really enjoyed reading this book, I found Ava, an enjoyable narrator, even though I could more easily relate to her sister, Pip, the one who struggles to make friends and even talk at school. Yep, that was me. But I was also lucky in that I had three sisters at home who were friends (most of the time) and who I still consider my best friends.  I love the fact that despite how left out Ava feels with all the attention her parents give to Pip that she still wants to help her sister.  And yet her hasty actions create new problems that she struggles to deal with, feeling like her parents won't listen to her so why try to tell them.  But like many kids she finds writing in her diary a solace and a way to deal with the variety of emotions she faces. A fun new book great for readers who enjoy stories of family, friendship, and facing one's own mistakes.

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