Friday, July 14, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Gabby Duran series by Elise Allen & Daryle Conners


Subject: A.L.I.E.N Associate Number 4118-25125A, A.K.A: Gabby Duran, Sitter to the Unsittables

Case File: The First Unsittable

Summary: Gabby Duran, babysitter extraordinaire and modern day Mary Poppins was on her way home from sitting for a famous action's star's rambunctious triplets when she was approached by a mysterious woman (Associate 4118-23432B) with her first mission. A babysitting job with a more lucrative rate than she'd ever received. What child could possibly be so difficult to handle? Gabby was soon trusted with the truth--aliens are living among humans on Earth. They are protected by the top-secret organization, the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N). Even extraterrestrials need a sitter now and then. No one was up for the task except Gabby.

After accepting the top-secret position, Gabby is paired up with her first charge, a little alien girl named Wutt from the planet Flarknartia,who turns out to be much more than meets the eye. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It's a school day on Planet Earth and Gabby's audition for the solo part in the band is tonight. Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?


Case File: The Second Unsittable

Summary: Here at A.L.I.E.N. we believe in strengthening the bonds between humans and intergalactics so that one day all beings can live together on Earth in harmony. That day has not come. But our Associates are working hard to achieve this goal, including Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, Sitter to the Unsittables.

Upon successfully completing her first mission, we have assigned Gabby a more . . . puzzling charge. The relationship between trolls and humans has always been rife with tension, and the troll family Gabby is assigned to is especially prickly. But Gabby is not fazed. Our footage shows Associate 4118-25125A playing, laughing, and snacking with Trymmy, the little troll boy, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Our liaison, Edwina, informed Gabby that trolls love nothing more than a riddle-and stealing items from unsuspecting humans to add to their trove-but Gabby's certain that all this young troll wants is to have fun. However, it might not be as simple as she thinks. After all, there's a reason this particular alien offspring has been labeled "Unsittable."


CASE FILE: The Third (and fourth and fifth and sixth . . . ) Unsittable

SUMMARY: Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, Sitter to the Unsittables, has proven herself an integral member of A.L.I.E.N.--the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors. She has amassed an impressive roster of alien clients, and is a trusted babysitter among humans and intergalactics alike. We here at A.L.I.E.N. are proud to call her one of our greatest success stories, and believe she is ready to take on more responsibility.

Which is why Gabby has now been entrusted with the care of one of our most volatile charges. His name is One and he's a member of the Tridecalleon species. While One and his parents present the appearance of a normal, human family, they have some intriguing qualities that make caring for their young a unique challenge. And while, under normal circumstances, inviting outsiders to aid an agent with an Unsittable job would be strictly forbidden, we have decided to forgive Gabby calling in her friends Satchel and Zee in this case. After all, a babysitter only has so many hands. (Unless, of course, he or she is a Flarknartian.)

Making this highly unstable situation an even greater challenge? Gabby has also been assigned to protect a very dangerous object--one that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could cause the destruction of Earth itself. It remains to be seen whether Gabby and her friends are able to handle the demands of eleven . . . wait, twelve . . . no, thirteen babies, while ensuring the safety of the world at the same time. All we can do is wait, and hope, and trust. And ready our escape pods.


There are a number of series about babysitting, the best known of which is probably The Baby Sitters Club, which I myself loved when I was younger.  But none of those series are quite like this one.  Gabby Duran is a fabulous babysitter, so much so that her clients range from ordinary middle class individuals all the way up to the President of the United States.  Everything she could possibly need she carries in her purple knapsack. Living with her caterer mother and number genius sister, Gabby's life is good, except for her annoying neighbor, Madison.  But things change dramatically when Gabby is recruited by A.L.I.E.N. to be a babysitter for alien parents disguised as regular humans.  At first this seems like just another set of jobs, until Gabby realizes that not only are her alien charges are far more work than her regular human charges, but she's put herself into the middle of a war with an organization called G.E.T.O.U.T. who wants to weed out all aliens and destroy them.

Each of the three books in the series focuses on one particular babysitting job with the accompanying difficulties.  Each charge has to be kept happy and healthy while still disguised from human discovery, while avoiding G.E.T.O.U.T. agents, one of whom may be dating her mother.  In addition, Gabby's ongoing feud with Madison in both orchestra and in the neighborhood creates an additional need for secrecy.  Each book has plenty of humor, excitement, and great babysitting suggestions (as applicable of course).  The colorful design of the books makes them that much more appealing to middle grade readers.  And of course in the third book, Gabby is given responsibility for an object that could bring worldwide disaster if it ends up in the wrong hands.  These books are delightfully exciting, amusing, and unpredictable, as long as you are more than willing to suspend disbelief a bit. ;)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEWS: Comics Squad Lunch!/Comics Squad Detention by various


Calling all kidz! Do you like comics? Do you like laughing till milk comes out of your nose?! Look no further—do we have the book for you! All your favorite comic characters are right here in one book, including the Peanuts gang, Babymouse, and Lunch Lady. This all-star tribute to classic Sunday comics includes eight sidesplitting, action-packed stories about every kid’s favorite subject—LUNCH!

Lunchtime can be fun, wild, yummy, or complete chaos! And in this second collection of comics, it is definitely hilarious.


You will never look at school lunch again after reading this short stories.  Whether it's an allergic reaction involving hallucinating classmates as food, or a World War II story about potatoes as weapons, Krosoczka and the Holms working with other talented graphic novelists have created another winning collection for young readers.  My personal favorites were Lunch Lady as a girl facing off with a bully (hurrah for a bully story where the adults aren't missing in action!) and Snoopy in charge of the cafeteria (laughed my head off). There really is something here for everyone.  Anyone who has experienced school lunch should get a kick out of these wildly unrealistic but thoroughly entertaining stories.  There is even one story written as a choose your own adventure type (you have to follow the arrows) with multiple endings.  A great addition to most graphic novel collections, but only if you want to hear children laughing.


A comics collection from some of the biggest stars in graphic novels, including Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and Victoria Jamieson!

Calling all kidz! Do you like comics? Do you like laughing till you get sent to the principal?!

Don t punish yourself! Read the next Comics Squad! Leave your troubles behind with this collection of quick and funny stories about many kids biggest fear detention! Sure, detention can be scary or frustrating or just plain boring, but who knew it could also be an adventure? With a disrespectful Greek god, antimatter ooze, bioengineered rats, and a school full of stampeding bulls, it is definitely full of fun!

It s a bust-your-gut-laughing comics anthology with original contributions from the most beloved and bestselling names in graphic novels!"


Never having had detention I was quite curious about how it would be depicted in these short comic format stories.  And of course all the stories are quite absurd, but thoroughly engaging and entertaining and bound to be enjoyed by many young readers.  From a student expecting detention but being made a kindergarten helper to a Lunch Lady story to a girl trying to get detention so her crush will notice her, the stories here vary widely but are all amusing.  From some of the best graphic artists currently doing children's books the reader should be able to find something he/she likes.  My favorites were the story of the girl trying to get in trouble, made difficult by a rather clueless principal, and the Holm's Squish who is thoroughly depressed by having detention.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Beach Party Surf Monkey by Chris Grabenstein


From Chris Grabenstein, the bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and coauthor with James Patterson of I Funny, House of Robots, and Treasure Hunters, comes the second hilarious, fun-in-the-sun adventure in his new illustrated series about all the wacky things that happen when you live in a motel!

There's always something wacky happening when you live in a motel, and P.T. (named after P. T. Barnum, of course) has grown up at the world's wackiest! When word gets out that the hottest teen idols in Hollywood (plus current YouTube sensation Kevin the Monkey!) will be filming their next movie--Beach Party Surf Monkey--right in St. Pete's Beach, Florida, P.T. and his friend Gloria know that the Wonderland would be the perfect location. Now they just have to convince the producers!

But when things start to go wrong (crazed fans? missing stars?), it will take all of Gloria's business genius and P.T.'s wild stories to save the movie before both it and the Wonderland are all washed up!

BONUS: Includes fun extras like P.T. and Gloria's Famous Fact-or-Fiction Quiz: Movie Edition.


CHRIS GRABENSTEIN is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Island of Dr. Libris, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, which was nominated for over 30 state awards lists!

Follower him on Twitter at @CGrabenstein, and visit him online at


Grabenstein presents readers with a very, wacky, but quite entertaining second book in the Welcome to WonderLand series.  In the first book, P.T. the son of the motel's manager and grandson of the motel's owner, seeks desperately to find a way to pay back a large loan in order to save the only home he has ever known.  With the help of his unusual grandfather and Gloria, a current resident of the motel who has brilliant business sense, P.T. sets out to earn as much money as he can over Spring break.  Through a rather unusual (read impossible) set of circumstances, P.T. and his allies succeed in saving the motel.

Now in book two, P.T. is once again tasked with saving the motel, this time from their ambitious neighbor who wants to expand his hotel onto the land where the WonderLand Motel stands.  Once again, P.T. turns to his showman sense and his friend, Gloria's business sense to save the day.  This time they bring in a movie to film at the WonderLand, hoping that this will bring the fame necessary to keep the motel booked.  But of course, the path of showbiz doesn't run smooth, misbehaving actors, a missing monkey, and a neighbor willing to sabotage P.T. best efforts.  But P.T. and Gloria aren't willing to give up just yet, but maybe they've bitten off more than they can chew.

This is the sort of book that (especially for adults) requires a serious suspension of disbelief.  But if you can manage to do that, you are in for a fun, creative ride.  P.T.'s ability to tell stories is certainly matched by Grabenstein's.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

INTERACTIVE BOOK REVIEWS: In the Jungle by Paul Boston/Under the Sea by Paul Boston


Choose your mode of transport and set off on an adventure that will take you all the way across a fantasy world. Can you navigate huge roundabouts with sleeping sea dragons, or cross bridges guarded by gorillas? Negotiate pesky road obstructions by solving the math problems correctly. Pick up hidden objects, collect bonus points, and use your mapping skills to zoom backward and forward through the book. Incredibly busy and colorful artwork will delight young children, and once they reach their objective, readers can absorb themselves in all sorts of bonus math activities.


This book provides so much more than just search and find fun.  Each picture is part of a bigger map and is given coordinates (e.x. D,1).  There are also opportunities to practice counting, critical thinking, recognizing shapes, and telling time.  This is a kind of book that can be enjoyed time and time again with young readers completing different activities each time.  In addition, there is a lot here to talk about as parent/reader to child.  This interactive book is both educational and enjoyable. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and appealing.


Choose your mode of transport and set off on an adventure that will take you all the way across a fantasy world. Can you navigate huge roundabouts with sleeping sea dragons, or cross bridges guarded by gorillas? Negotiate pesky road obstructions by solving the math problems correctly. Pick up hidden objects, collect bonus points, and use your mapping skills to zoom backward and forward through the book. Incredibly busy and colorful artwork will delight young children, and once they reach their objective, readers can absorb themselves in all sorts of bonus math activities.


Under the Sea is not the usual search and find book.  In addition to giving young readers objects to search for, the book also encourages readers to answer math, map, and problem solving questions along the way.  There is even an element of 'choose your own adventure' to the book as well. On each page, the reader gets to choose which paths to take to accomplish the objectives mentioned for that page, that includes deciding which exit to take.  Different exits send the reader to different pages, so the book doesn't necessarily have to be read in order except at the beginning and the end.  This book can be read and enjoyed many different ways making it a book to return to again and again.

Friday, June 30, 2017

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner


Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance.


Turner's Queen's Thief series is one of my all time favorites.  I've found myself cheering for Eugenides since I first met him, despite all his flaws.  One of the things that I've especially enjoyed about this series is the intricacy of the plot. It's been hard waiting for the last couple of books, Turner isn't the fastest writer, but I've found each book well worth waiting for.  And Thick as Thieves is no different.  It's fascinating to see the way each book has carefully led Eugenides and his friends to where they end up.  I have also enjoyed reading as each book reveals something new about Eugenides efforts to save Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis from the Mede.  While the stealing of a single slave doesn't seem like that big a thing, especially since Kamet has no intention of actually ending up in Attolia, yet Eugenides always has reasons for what he does, if one sticks around long enough to discover what they are.

When Kamet meets up with the Attolian soldier (whose identity isn't revealed until the end of the book, although those who've read the rest of the series will probably be able to guess who he is), he has no intention of going anywhere with him.  After all, though he is a slave, he is in a position of power and hopes to end up with more power.  But when he is informed by the one person in the household he trusts that his master has been poisoned, he knows that if he wants to live, he needs to flee.  And inadvertently or maybe not so inadvertently he ends up meeting the Attolian and fleeing with him.  Traveling with the Attolian proves to be dangerous as the emperor sends his personal guards after Kamet.  Over and over again they come close to being captured as Kamet waits for the perfect opportunity to set out on his own.  But when the opportunity to continue on his own finally arrives, it turns out that Kamet is reluctant to do so.  With help from some mysterious allies, Kamet and the Attolian search for a way to get to Attolia, but Kamet has lied to the soldier and he knows his lie will eventually be discovered.  And what can the king of Attolia possibly want with him, except a chance to get back at his master.

But as always, Eugenides (king of Attolia) has purposes beyond the obvious, which aren't revealed until the end with Turner's deft touch.  A wonderful addition to the series that makes me anxious for the next (possibly last) book in the series.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: funjungle mysteries by Stuart Gibbs


12 year old Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it's claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain't the polar bear's lunch. Dealing with the zoo's top brass proves to be nothing but a waste of time. They want to see any trace of Henry's death disappear like yesterday's paper. So Teddy sets out to find the truth. With the help of Summer McCraken, a fiesty girl with secrets of her own, the two narrow down their prime suspects. Is it Martin Del Gato, FunJungle's head of operations who dislikes kids and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and Summer's father, who has more concern for the dough he's raking in than the animals in the zoo? As their investigation goes on, Teddy gets squeezed on all sides to quit asking questions-- or Henry won't be the only one to turn up dead. The deeper Teddy and Summer get, the more the danger mounts -- because when it comes to hippo homicide, the truth can't be kept in a cage!


Stuart Gibb has written a thoroughly engaging and amusing mystery.  Setting this series inside an animal park was a brilliant move and it shows.  Teddy makes a great detective as well as a smart aleck, Teddy proves to be determined and unwilling to give up.  At first he wants the adults to investigate Henry's murder but when the police turn him away, his mother brushes him off, and the park itself covers it up, Teddy decides it's up to him to investigate.  He recruits the help of Summer McCraken, the daughter of the owner of FunJungle and together they manage to wreak havoc as they search for the answers that nobody seems to want them to find. I found myself flying through this book once I got started.  It's a great mystery with lots of suspects as well as twists and turns that made it unpredictable and delightful to read.  I read this aloud to a bunch of classes and they all loved it.


Teddy Fitzroy’s back for another zoo mystery—this time it’s a koala caper—in this action-packed follow-up to Belly Up, which Kirkus Reviews called “great fun.”

School troublemaker Vance Jessup thinks Teddy Fitzroy’s home at FunJungle, a state-of-the-art zoo and theme park, is the perfect place for a cruel prank. Vance bullies Teddy into his scheme, but the plan goes terribly awry.

Teddy sneaks into the koala exhibit to hide out until the chaos dies down. But when the koala goes missing, Teddy is the only person caught on camera entering and exiting the exhibit.

Teddy didn’t commit the crime—but if he can’t find the real culprit, he’ll be sent to juvie as a convicted koala-napper.


While I really enjoyed reading about Teddy's second adventure, there were a couple of things that bugged me.  The way Vance, the bully from school, seems to control everyone at school, including the principal really rubbed me the wrong way.  I mean, where were all the adults when Vance and his friends were getting ready to stuff Teddy's head in the toilet of a filthy bathroom.  Maybe it's because I work in a school and I know how hard the staff works to keep the school running well but it seems so stereotypical.  However, who am I to say there aren't schools where that sort of thing happens, bullying is an ongoing problem in most places after all.  Outside of the bullying though, I'm not a big fan of characters I like getting accused of things they didn't do, and Teddy gets accused of stealing the koala on loan from Australia.  Now admittedly Teddy has done plenty of things that make him a suspect, but Marge the security head for the park is so inept its annoying.  What I did like outside of the mystery itself was the way Teddy's parents supported him.  So many middle grade novels have either nonexistent parents or neglectful, uncaring ones, it was nice to read about some pretty cool parents.  A fun addition to the series, and as always its fun to learn more about some of the different animals.



When someone takes aim at Rhonda Rhino, FunJungle's pregnant (and endangered) Asian greater one-horned rhinoceros, the zoo steps up security measures in order to protect this rare animal and her baby.

But the extra security isn't enough;someone is still getting too close for comfort. Teddy and company start to suspect that whoever is after Rhonda is really after her horn, which is worth a lot of money on the black market.

For the first time ever, the head of the zoo enlists Teddy for help; for once, he doesn't have to sneak around in order to investigate, and the results are even more wacky, and even more dangerous, than ever before.


When I read mysteries one of my favorite things to do is to try to predict the ending, to see if I can figure things out before I get to the end.  Interestingly, the books I like the best are the ones that aren't so easy to predict, or the ones that I might get wrong or at least incomplete.  That is one of the things that I like the best about the funjungle mysteries by Stuart Gibbs.  After reading the first three books, I still haven't been completely right about the guilty parties.  And while I did get one of the villains in this book, I was stunned by who the other one turned out to be.  And of course, Teddy is entertaining as always, especially when he combines forces with Summer McCracken (Fun Jungle's owner's daughter).  And in addition to the fun mysteries and plentiful action, Gibbs also manages to integrate a lot of fascinating animal information into each story.

Teddy manages to get into more trouble than most kids and Marge's, a security guard, efforts to catch him doing something wrong (regardless of whether the evidence points his way or not).  And all this trouble certainly complicates his efforts to solve the mystery of who is taking shots at Rhonda, the pregnant rhino.  And the additional chaos caused by a vandal breaking into various eateries in the park which leads Marge right to his door gives Teddy another mystery to solve.  The various relationships between Teddy and his friends, Teddy and his parents (great relationships--this is one of the few middle grade books where the parents play an important role in the story without interfering in the main character's place in the story), as well as Teddy and Mr. McCracken all play an important role in the story.  Another fantastic mystery that middle grade readers are bound to enjoy.


Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth when the zoo’s newest addition goes missing—before she even arrives!

FunJungle is frenzied, awaiting the arrival of its most thrilling animal yet—Li Ping—a rare and very expensive giant panda that the zoo went to enormous lengths to secure. But when the truck transporting Li Ping shows up, its precious cargo has vanished into thin air. The FBI steps in to investigate, and Teddy is happy to leave the job in their (supposedly) capable hands. After all, FunJungle has never encountered a crime this serious. But when someone threatens to blackmail Teddy’s girlfriend, Summer, if he doesn’t solve the crime, his involvement in this mystery is no longer black and white.


I'm sad to say that I've finished this newest book in Gibbs's funjungle series.  I'm hoping there will be more because I've enjoyed them so much.  In this one, Li Ping, the panda coming to funjungle disappears from the truck that's bringing her to the park.  While Teddy is curious, he is more than willing to let the FBI handle the case.  But when someone blackmails him into investigating, Teddy quickly realizes that the FBI is focusing on the wrong things.  And when a man dressed as a panda threatens him, Teddy becomes even more convinced that the FBI needs to change their focus.  But the FBI is unwilling to listen to a 13-year-old, so with the help of his girlfriend, Summer, Teddy is forced to try to find the guilty party on his own.  Once again, Gibbs has created a fun mystery with plenty of twists and turns and lots of adventure.  And while everyone focuses on Li Ping's disappearance, Teddy also has another mystery on his hands: why the dolphins have started pantsing people, including himself. This is a delightful mystery series that middle grade readers are bound to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ACTIVITY BOOK REVIEWS: On the Farm by Mattia Cerato/On the Site by Melisande Luthringer


Have you ever wondered what life is like on the farm? Find out with this fun and sunny interactive activity book! Unfold this book, and there's your stand-up play scene. Customize your farm with the reusable stickers and punch-out, stand-up characters, and you're ready for action. What kinds of animals you have on your farm and what you grow is up to you! Gather eggs, feed the pigs, milk the cows, plant the crops; it's never a dull day on the farm! Includes a 48-page activity book with cool facts about farm vehicles and animals, puzzles, and games, plus punch-out characters, reusable stickers, and a fold-out barnyard scene.


When they say activity book, they aren't kidding.  This book includes exactly what is says on the cover: stickers, press-outs, and puzzles and games.  Specifically this means there is a farm background attached to the end of the book (which can be detached), several pages of character press-outs (farmer, children, and animals) that can be used to play with the background or the board game on the back of the background.  In addition there are a bunch of pages with mazes, dot-to-dot activities, tic-tac-toe, how to draw pages, and coloring pages.  The stickers can of course be used for whatever, but they are intended to decorate the 'stage' background.  There is a great deal of fun here contained in this $10.00 package.



Have you ever wanted to be in charge of your own construction site? With this awesome interactive activity book, you can! Unfold this book, and there's your stand-up play scene. Customize your construction site with the reusable stickers and punch-out, stand-up characters, and you're ready for action! What you build on your construction site is up to you! Use dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers to move dirt and build houses and skyscrapers. Includes a 48-page activity book with cool facts about construction tools and vehicles, puzzles, and games, plus the punch-out characters, reusable stickers, and a fold-out construction site scene.


This is a thoroughly engaging activity book that includes a variety of different activities.  The back cover of the book provides a play background on one side with a board game on the other.  The book also includes four pages of pop-out characters and construction vehicles along with stickers for decorating the site (the stickers can be reused).  The rest of the book includes mazes, coloring pages, a memory game (pieces to be cut out), how to draw pages, dot-to-dot pictures, and information about some of the different equipment to be found on a construction site.  For young children who are interested in construction or building activities this would be a great addition to their book collection. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Emily and the Spellstone by Michael Rubens

Welcome to Day #6 of the Emily and the Spellstone Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of Emily and the Spellstone by Michael Rubens (6/13/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Michaek and 10 chances to win a copy of Emily and the Spellstone, as well as a Grand Prize Giveaway!

Top Five Fantasy Books

When I was Emily’s age I was a huge fantasy fan – in fact, I barely read anything else. In no particular order, here are my top five series / books:

1. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. I think I first read this series when I was around eight or nine; I reread it every year for the next five or six years (usually around Christmas, because the first book starts then). There’s so much I love about this series: the main character Will, who at 11 years old is in no way a hero but finds himself burdened with great powers and in the midst of an epic, ancient battle; the close and sometimes complicated friendships that develop over the course of the books; the equally complicated and not-very-comforting character of Merriman, Will’s mentor; the sense of place that Cooper captures; the quest upon which the characters must embark.

2. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by Fritz Leiber. To me (or at least adolescent me) the ultimate in swords and sorcery fantasy. These loosely-linked stories follow the outlandish adventures of one of genre fiction’s greatest odd couples: Fafhrd, a massive Viking-like barbarian from the frozen north; and the Grey Mouser, a slender, compact, fast-as-lightning (both mentally and physically) man more at home in dense cities of the south. Funny, dark, action-packed, and probably completely inappropriate for an elementary school kid, which is when I started reading these tales.  

3. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. It’s hard to find a more humble main character forced into the role of hero: when the story starts, young Taran isn’t even a pig-keeper – he’s an assistant-pig-keeper. I loved the way the books weave in Welsh mythology and the landscape of Wales -- between this series and the Dark is Rising (which also has a book set in Wales), that country seemed like a land filled with dangerous and thrilling enchantments, which is why my mystified parents found their young son pestering them for Welsh lessons (hard to find in Minnesota).

4. Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey. Music, young people learning to control fire-breathing dragons, an existential threat that must be fought with those fire-breathing dragons...I loved these books.

5. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. I don’t think I liked this book much when I first read it – it seemed too spare, too serious, too solemn. But I’d say I’ve read it more times than any other – I’ve found myself returning to it over and over again, drawn by the very qualities that I originally found so challenging. It’s one of the books that made me want to be a writer.

Stop by YA Books Central tomorrow for day #7 the tour!
Blog Tour Schedule:
June 19th — Bookhounds June 20th — Mundie Kids
June 21st — WordSpelunking June 22nd — Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
June 23rd — Positively Book Crazy June 26th — GeoLibrarian
June 27th — YA Books Central June 28th — A Dream Within a Dream June 29th — Book Swoon June 30th — Crossroad Reviews

Follow Michael: Website | Twitter
Emily picks up a stone that looks like a cell phone but has unexpected magical powers. It's a Spellstone! Now that she has become an unwilling Stonemaster—one who wields the power of the Stone—she has to figure out Spellstone technology fast if she is to survive a hair-raising adventure among giant dogs, demons, clones, mean girls, and deeply wicked people who want the Stone. A witty tale of a quiet girl who discovers she's a hero when she needs to be. Stonemasters rule!

About the Author: Michael Rubens is the author of two YA novels, Sons of the 613 and The Bad Decisions Playlist, and one novel for grownups, The Sheriff of Yrnameer. A correspondent and producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, he has also been a producer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His writing has appeared in places like The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, Salon and McSweeney's. He lives with his family in Brooklyn. Visit his website at

  • One (1) winner will receive signed copies of Spellstone and Michael’s 2 YA novels, Sons of the 613 and The Bad Decisions Playlist, as well as a custom Spellstone phone case!
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017



A very little bulldozer learns that taking care of kittens is a very big job in this follow-up to Bulldozer’s Big Day .

The construction site bustled.
Cement Truck was stirring…stirring…stirring.
Digger Truck was scooping…scooping…scooping.
Crane Truck was lifting…lifting…lifting.
And Bulldozer was—watching…watching…watching.

Little Bulldozer wants to help, but all the bigger trucks say he is too small. So when Crane Truck says he can clear a bit of debris out of the way, Little Bulldozer is eager for the job. He can do it, yes he can. What he doesn’t expect is to find a family of newborn kittens living in the pile of debris! Can he take care of babies? Now that’s a tough job. A job that happens to be just the right size for Little Bulldozer.


I figured this book would be cute.  After all it's by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.  And that smiling little bulldozer on the cover is pretty irresistible.  I thought going in that this was going to be a story about someone little being perfectly capable of helping out the bigger machines.  That isn't a particularly new story line for the preschool crowd.  But I was delightfully surprised to discover that this book took the little helping big storyline to a different place.  After little Bulldozer manages to convince the big construction machines that he can help out, he gets to work.  But the big machines are shocked when they discover that he hasn't done what they asked.  Did Bulldozer not follow through or did he find something more important?  Fleming and Rohmann have created a delightful book with gorgeous illustrations and a sweet story about priorities.  This is one I plan to use for story time.


Laurie Berkner, “the queen of children’s music,” (People) pairs the lyrics of her beloved hit with Ben Clanton’s whimsical illustrations in this winning, adorable picture book—a must-have for fans of Laurie, dinosaurs, and all things cute.

We are the dinosaurs
Marching, marching
We are the dinosaurs

Laurie Berkner’s chart-topping, beloved hit “We Are the Dinosaurs” is now a picture book! Featuring an adorable cast of characters and vibrant, playful art by Ben Clanton, We Are the Dinosaurs transports readers back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.



This book is bound to be a favorite for all dinosaur loving preschoolers.  The illustrations are bright, colorful, and very engaging.  The adventure that the dinosaur friends go on is fun and exciting (picnic on a mountain--volcano).  The main text is made up of the words to Laurie Berkner's song, "We Are the Dinosaurs".  For a story time, it would work well to teach the students the words to the song by reading through the book first, then having the students chant (or sing with the recording) as you repeat the book a second time.  The commentary included with the art adds further opportunities to interact.  I could even see myself having the students (or children in the case of a public library) getting up and marching behind you as you lead them on an adventure.  Loads of fun to be had with this book.


After a trip to the museum, Max writes a letter to his favorite dinosaur, the mighty T. Rex - and the T. Rex writes back! As Max and T. Rex learn about each other's lives, a very unusual friendship develops in this funny and touching story from an award-winning duo. Dinosaur fans will love this interactive picture book with letters and cards to open, and dinosaur facts to discover along the way.


I found this to be a delightfully fun book.  Not only are the illustrations colorful and fun, but there are actual letters (and a postcard) for the reader to open and read (glued to the page).  I read this with my young nephew and he enjoyed it, in addition, his older brother came over and had a peak as we read (not to mention taking the book to read on his own afterwards).  Max is thrilled when he gets the chance to visit the dinosaur room at a museum, but is frustrated when there isn't time to ask as many questions as he wants. Dinosaur Dora, the museum guide, tells him to write letters to T. Rex, because she's sure that T. Rex will write back.  And so begins an amusing correspondence.  Not only is the book fun in and of itself but there are many opportunities here for extension activities (writing a letter, anyone?).


Enchanted prince or just a plain old frog? Pucker up, princesses! Theres only one way to find out.

Fairy tales are just stories, or so Princess Martha believes. But when her sisters meet a talking frog, they're convinced that giving him the royal treatment will turn him into Prince Charming. After all, that's what happens in their story books. Martha isn't so sure. The more she sees of Prince Ribbit, the more suspicious she becomes. Armed with the facts, Martha sets out to expose Prince Ribbit and prove to her sisters that just because it's in a book doesn't mean it's true. But before The End, Princess Martha might just learn that lesson for herself!


I've become a big fan of fractured fairy tales.  There seem to be more and more of them, which is not a bad thing, after all, fairy tales have been around for a long, long time.  But as with most things, some fractured fairy tales are better than others.  And I love this one.  Not only have Emmett and Bernatene created a delightful story in and of itself, the book also points out that 'just because it's in a book doesn't mean it's true" which is something that I struggle to help the children I teach understand (especially when it comes to the Internet).  In this story, a clever frog steps up and tricks Princess Martha's sisters into believing that he is a prince who's been cursed.  But as the two older princesses spoil the frog rotten, Princess Martha becomes suspicious.  She sets out to prove to her sisters that the frog is nothing more than a frog, but they refuse to believe the facts she presents them from her factual books.  But when she turns to fairy tales (which she has never read before) she finds enjoyment as well as the answer to her conundrum.  And the ending?  Well, I don't want to give it away, but it did make me laugh out loud. ;)

Monday, June 12, 2017

MMGM: FUNNY GIRL edited by Betsy Bird


Sharyn Novbember at Viking has acquired Funny Girl, a humor anthology for girls ages 9-12, curated by Betsy Bird and featuring short stories, personal essays, comics, and poetry from nearly 30 female writers, including Lisa Graff, Cece Bell, Jenni Holm, Shannon Hale, and Rita Williams-Garcia. A portion of the proceeds will support WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization for teen girls. 


As with most short story collections that I've read, the quality of the stories varied.  I enjoyed some of the stories a lot more than others.  Some I found rather odd such as A Most Serious Recitation of the Poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, Rendered Most Seriously (and with the utmost care) By The Hand of Cece Bell with a pasted in picture of Benjamin Franklin debating with a pig, amusing but really odd.  There were several stories that were quite informative (sort of) such as How to Tell a Joke by Delaney Yeager and Mackenzie Yeager or Brown Girl Pop Quiz: All of the Above by Mitali Perkins.

My favorite stories were In Which Young Raina Learns a Lesson by Raina Telgemeier, which revolves around young Raina's unfortunate (but hilarious) encounter with a bee.  Also, Dear Grandpa: Give Me Money by Allison DeCamp and One Hot Mess by Carmen Agra Deedy left me with sore ribs from laughing so hard.  In the Dear Grandpa story, a young girl writes letters to her grandpa demanding money and her grandfather writes back.  In One Hot Mess, a young Cuban American girl explains why her mother always sets the tub on fire when they move into a new place.

A couple of stories may concern some adults/young readers because of the topics, but are funny because of the truth they contain.  The first such story is Over and Out by Lisa Graff which revolves around Riley's attempts to rescue her sister's fancy bra from a toilet tragedy which could result in her demise.  A Public Service Announcement About Your Period from Sarah T. Wrigley, Age 12 3/4 by Libby Bray presents the advice of a young person about getting one's period which is irreverent but funny.

Other stories include a brief appearance from Babymouse (Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm) as well as an amusing presentation of the Chinese Zodiac.  Some stories cover only a couple of pages, others a dozen pages.

The stories also vary in presentation, with most of the stories being regular prose, but others being in comic format, and still others combining text and illustration.  I think what I enjoyed most about the book was the clear message that girls can be funny and let their senses of humor shine.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson


Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true—and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes!

Did you know that there is a fungus that can control the mind of an ant and make it do its bidding? Would you believe there is such a thing as a corpse flower—a ten-foot-tall plant with a blossom that smells like a zombie? How about a species of octopus that doesn’t live in water but rather lurks in trees in the Pacific Northwest?

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

Acclaimed authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson have teamed up to create a series of sneaky stories about the natural world designed to amaze, disgust, and occasionally bamboozle you.


Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-four countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mt. Everest. (Not all of these are true!) Joan is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the picture books Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, Ghost in the House, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, and The Tiptoes Guide to Tracking Fairies. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing and her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at

Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these facts is not true; can you guess which?) She is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, My Dog Is the Best, and Emmanuel's Dream, a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, a CCBC Choice, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, among dozens of other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family. You can visit her online at


Two Truths and a Lie takes an interesting approach to presenting information.  The book is divided into three parts: plants, animals, and humans. Each part is then divided into chapters which are further divided into three sections.  Each section describes something related to the topic.  But there's a catch, one of the three sections in each chapter is false (a lie) while the other two are true.  To make things even trickier, the section that's a lie may still contain elements that are true.  (I'm not going to give specific examples because I don't want to spoil the fun.)  Not only are the pieces of information fascinating but it's very engaging to try to figure out what is true and what is not. And while the end of the book contains the answers as well as references and an index, it feels like cheating to peak before making an educated guess.  And the authors actively encourage readers to look for the answers themselves.  Not only is this a great book for pure entertainment, it's also a great resource for librarians/teachers/parents who want to help their children learn to verify information before accepting everything they see/hear/read as truth.



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