Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Share, Big Bear, Share! by Maureen Wright


Big Bear’s forest friends eye his berries hungrily, but he doesn’t notice as he digs into his delicious snack. When the old oak tree says, “Share, Big Bear, share,” he thinks the tree has said, “Hair, Big Bear, hair!” One comical scene follows another as Big Bear keeps misunderstanding the old oak tree’s message until things finally get sorted out. Whimsical illustrations highlight the humor in this gentle story about the importance of sharing something special with friends.


WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.


There was so much in this book that I could relate to, as could any parent or teacher who's had to remind a child to share.  Big Bear has a great big bucket of berries that he is very much enjoying.  But he doesn't notice that all his friends are interested in the berries also.  So the oak tree tells him to, "Share, Big Bear, Share".  Unfortunately, Bear misunderstands and thinks the tree said "Hair, Big Bear, Hair" so he fixes his hair.  This happens several times until the tree loses his patience (something any parent or teacher could relate to after having to repeat him/herself several times) and yells at Bear.  There are numerous themes in the book related to sharing, listening, patience, and friendship.  The adorable illustrations carry the day but the rhyming text works well too.




1 print copy of Share, Big Bear, Share, courtesy of Two Lions
US addresses only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 24, 2017

MMGM: Magic in the City by Heather Dyer


Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn't provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it's this exciting! Flying over London, traveling through time, meeting the queen --- what could possibly top this? Little do they know, there's something soon to come that will!

Award-winning author Heather Dyer weaves an enchanting spell with this well-crafted early chapter book. The point of view in the story shifts among all three children, allowing readers to get to know each of the likable characters well. The captivating idea of ordinary children being given the opportunity to use magic to create their own fun experience, particularly flying above London on a magic carpet, will be irresistible to children. With one suspenseful, action-packed scene after another, this is a quick-moving and gently humorous adventure story that's just right for beginning chapter book readers.


With fantasy becoming such a dominate genre in the last 20 years (Thanks Harry Potter!) there have been many books published in that genre with more coming out every year.  It also seems though that as more fantasy books have been published they have also gotten longer with many fantasy books becoming series.  Now I have nothing against series, in fact, I love series, they allow me to meet favorite characters again.  But for younger readers who aren't ready for big, long fantasy series there is a lot less to choose from.  That is why I'm delighted to highlight Magic in the City.  Not only is a stand alone novel, but it's an easy read with lots of action and interesting things going on.  This is a fantasy to hand to a reluctant reader.

The story focuses on Jake and Simon Grubb who have left their home in Canada to come stay with their cousin Hannah.  But neither of them is happy about leaving their home, father, and friends behind.  Things take a turn for the more interesting however when they meet a magician getting rid of his magical equipment.  They end up with a stopwatch, a camera, and a carpet, all of which the magician claims are magical.  When the claims turn out to be true, Jake, Simon, and Hannah end up on the adventure of a lifetime involving flying over the city of London, visiting Buckingham Palace, and traveling through time.  Unfortunately, like most adventures, things go wrong from the beginning and the children must find a way back to where they started before it's too late.

There is much here to enjoy as Hannah tries desperately to stop her cousins from getting into trouble (she fails).  The variety of adventures and the twist at the end make for an entertaining and quick read.

Friday, April 21, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: Super Happy Party Bears #3, #4


The third book in a funny chapter book series filled with full color illustrations and adorable animals!

When Queen Beetrice and her beehive opens for business in the Grumpy Woods, the Super Happy Party Bears are excited--they LOVE honey! But the other Grumpy Woods residents are very unhappy with all the noisy buzzing going on, and they boycott the bees!

Too much sugar sends the bears into early hibernation and soon the woods are overflowing with uneaten honey. The townscritters need a fast solution to the sticky situation--and so they decide to throw an Un-Slumber Party to wake those bears up!


The Super Happy Party Bears are thrilled when they discover a hive of bees has moved into the Grumpy Woods and is happy to provide them with all the honey they could want.  Naturally, the rest of the residents of Grumpy Woods are NOT happy about the bees arrival.  They like their woods nice and grumpy the way they are, and they are most definitely NOT going to eat any honey, well, except maybe Squirrelly Sam.  At first as the bees business gets buzzing the bears are able to eat all the honey that is produced.  But eventually all the sugar sends them into an early hibernation, leaving Mayor Quill and the other residents of the Grumpy Woods with too much honey on their hands.  This third book in the series is as delightful as the first too.  The contrast between the grumpy residents and the Super Happy Party Bears is amusing and the bright colorful illustrations are very appealing.  This is a great series for young readers who are ready to move on to early chapter books.


The squirrels of the Grumpy Woods have finally finished gathering their nuts for winter, when the Super Happy Party Bears find their stash…and eat the whole thing. To make it up to them, the bears show the squirrels another hoard they’ve found—one that belongs to the chipmunks!

Suddenly, the bears' huge appetite has caused an all-out civil war between two rival nut hoarders: the Puffy Cheeks (the chipmunks) and the Twitchy Tails (the squirrels). Can the bears prevent the Grumpy Woods from getting too nutty?


What do you get when you have a bunch of happy-go-lucky bears who are more than willing to share what doesn't belong to them, a bunch of scared-y-cat squirrels, militant chipmunks, and the grumpy residents of Grumpy Woods?  Well, you end up with a RUMBLE (or NOT if Mayor Quill has his way, which he usually doesn't).  The chaos and confusion (not to mention secret hideouts and nut stashes) makes this an amusing book to read.  I had to wonder how things were going to turn out.  This is a fun series for young readers with bright, attractive illustrations that bring it all to life.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Rain by Sam Usher/Rain! by Linda Ashman/Philp & Phoebe by Anne Brandt


Sam wants to go out but it's pouring with rain, so he and Grandpa decide to stay inside until the rain stops. Sam drinks hot chocolate and reads his books and dreams of adventures while Grandpa gets on with his important paperwork. Grandpa seems to have a VERY important letter to write. Then that very important letter has to be posted, despite the rain and floods. As they finally go outside, Sam and Grandpa have a magical adventure.

 A young boy wakes up to pouring rain, but unlike many people, he's thrilled as he thinks of all the adventures he can have in the rain.  But his grandfather is not so eager to go out in the rain so he asks Sam to wait and wait and wait.  After each time the grandfather asks Sam to wait the illustrator presents a full two-page spread.  And the reader gets to watch the water level rise in each of these two-page spreads.  When  Sam and his grandfather do finally go outside I admit I was a bit surprised at the result, especially as it's apparent that the street is flooded.  But needless to say, Sam gets his adventure after all.  Usher has created a wonderful ode to the wonders of a rain-drenched world.


One rainy day in the city, an eager little boy exclaims, “Rain!” Across town a grumpy man grumbles, “Rain.” In this endearing picture book, a rainy-day cityscape comes to life in vibrant, cut-paper-style artwork. The boy in his green frog hat splashes in puddles—“Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy!”—while the old man curses the “dang puddles.” Can the boy’s natural exuberance (and perhaps a cookie) cheer up the grouchy gentleman and turn the day around?


With a handful of words and some adorable illustrations, Ashman and Robinson have created a story about finding joy in the little things and sharing with those around you.  The story follows a grumpy old man who gets up and frowns his way out of the building and down the street to a cafe.  At the same time a young boy and his mother are also getting up and heading to that same cafe, where they meet the grumpy old man.  The boy finds joy jumping in the puddles and pretending to be a frog.  When they meet the grumpy old man grouches at the boy's offering of a cookie and a ribbit which leaves the boy grouchy, but only for a moment.  When the boy realizes the man left his hat behind, he takes it upon himself to return it.  Before he hands back the hat though, he puts it on and frowns, demonstrating for the man what he looks like to those around him.  The old man takes back his hat and then surprises the boy by pointing to his frog hat and trying it on.  This time when the boy offers him the cookie and a ribbit, it is gratefully accepted.  Robinson's illustrations are adorable as usual, as well as bright and colorful making a nice compliment to the spare text.


What older child hasn’t felt left out when a new baby arrives? Philip certainly does. His new sister Phoebe can barely say “ga-ga” yet everyone goes ga-ga over her. Philip, despite his superhero cape, feels alone. Finally, he devises a plan. Using a bit of magic and a lot of determination, he sneaks into her bedroom at night with the intention of changing her into something more manageable, more exciting, more fun. Except things don’t go exactly as planned.


Philip & Phoebe is a cute enough story, but it felt rather uneven to me.  Like many stories involving siblings, Philip resents the way everyone coos over his little sister and scolds him for similar behavior.  So one night, he tiptoes into Phoebe's room and wishes she were a horse, then an ice cream cone, and finally a red fire truck.  Naturally none of these wishes works out the way Philip wants them to and he ends up wishing Phoebe back. Unfortunately, this is not a particularly unusual story line, many picture books about siblings involve wishes and annoying little brothers or sisters, at the same time though it's a story line that many children can relate to easily. There really is no reason given for Philip's wishes coming true, although there is a falling star in one illustration.  

The illustrations are pretty cute and the one color works well in terms of appeal and contrast.  The book felt a little crowded though with the small size of the book, which also makes it hard to share with a large group.  The part where Philip turns Phoebe into an ice cream cone and licks her doesn't work for me very well, he licks her after all, plus the ice cream cone doesn't melt or get any smaller.  Magic doesn't always have to have rules for how it works in this sort of story though, I just didn't particularly care for the idea of turning a person into something to be eaten.  Also, the ending wasn't as clear cut as I would have liked it to be, Philip turns Phoebe back, not because he likes her, but simply because his wishes didn't work out.  Philip doesn't seem to appreciate Phoebe any more than he did before. 

In addition, the story starts in present tense and shifts to past tense which is a bit jarring.  I also didn't feel a lot of sympathy for Philip after seeing him tormenting a cat and pouting in his tree house. 
A cute book, but there are better ones out there.

Monday, April 17, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton


In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects--it runs away. Now Henry's art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it's causing trouble for him and his schoolmates Oscar and Jade. If they don't stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art--he's going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.


★“A delicious face-off between forces of conformity and creativity run amok, spiced with offbeat names as well as insights expressed with eloquent simplicity.” —Booklist (starred review)
★“A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.”
                                                                                —School Library Journal (starred review)


Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit jennifertrafton.com.


While Henry and the Chalk Dragon may not be the most polished book I've ever read, it was quite enjoyable.  Henry loves to draw, but like Dr. Seuss, he prefers to draw things from his imagination, which means they aren't quite realistic looking.  After Henry gets in trouble for not completing a picture for National Vegetable Week, he explains to his mother that he doesn't want to draw a plain bunny and veggies.  While in his room, he draws a fierce dragon on his bedroom door (which is covered with black chalk paint).  Afterwords his dragon leaps off the door and comes to life leading Henry and his friends on quite an adventure through Henry's house and indeed the school as well. In addition to trying to stop the dragon from destroying the school, Henry has to stop one of his drawings from coming to life in which his friend Oscar is eaten by a dinosaur (he drew this after they had a big fight).  The book is quite entertaining as long as you are willing to suspend disbelief and let your imagination soar, which I believe is exactly what the book intends to encourage.


The Cauldron of Story and the Young Reader’s Bookshelf
by Jennifer Trafton

What’s in your story soup?

J. R. R. Tolkien, in a famous essay on fairy-stories, wrote about “the Pot of Soup, the Cauldron of Story” that has been boiling and stewing for centuries, with new bits continually added to it—bits like Cinderella, King Arthur, dragons, or the idea of love at first sight. These stories and characters and themes have simmered so long in our collective imaginations that they are a kind of inheritance, and into this great Cauldron we storytellers (the Cooks) dip our ladles and draw out the ingredients of new stories—which may themselves find their way back into the Pot to swirl and stew and to inspire future Cooks.

Tolkien’s picture was in my mind as I wrote about my main character, Henry Penwhistle, playing in his bedroom at the beginning of Henry and the Chalk Dragon: Waving his sword in sweeping circles, he whirled past the overflowing book chest with its stirred-up soup of favorite stories—stories about wild things and unlikely heroes, chocolate factories and tiny motorcycles, buried giants and mock turtles.” Henry’s imagination has been fed by stories from that Cauldron, and throughout his adventures it is clear that the stories he’s read have shaped his ideas about himself, about others, and about the art he makes. He’s a Cook dipping his spoon into the Soup and drawing out a story of his very own.

I’m not only a writer; I also teach creative writing to children, and both roles require me to be intimately acquainted with the marvelous, inherited soupiness of storytelling. When kids ask me how to become a writer, I say, “First, the best thing you can possibly do is to read. Read, read, read, read, read.” Finding those kids who’ve been raised on a hearty diet of books, who have drunk deeply of the Soup, is terribly exciting to me—because in them I see imaginations capable of creating poems and stories and art that have the power to shape other people’s view of themselves and the world—that could, in fact, become part of the ongoing inheritance that charms and challenges and enriches all of us.

Librarians, teachers, and parents who nurture a child’s love for reading aren’t just helping that one child succeed. They are, potentially, sending out into the world an imaginative Cook who can add his or her own stories to the great Cauldron that has been bubbling for centuries. They are stirring the Soup that will inspire future generations. And that is a high calling indeed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Camp So-And-So by Mary McCoy


The letters went out in mid-February. Each letter invited its recipient to spend a week at Camp So-and-So, a lakeside retreat for girls nestled high in the Starveling Mountains. Each letter came with a glossy brochure with photographs of young women climbing rocks, performing Shakespearean theatre under the stars, and spiking volleyballs. Each letter was signed in ink by the famed and reclusive businessman and philanthropist, Inge F. Yancey IV.

By the end of the month, twenty-five applications had been completed, signed, and mailed to a post office box in an obscure Appalachian town.

Had any of these girls tried to follow the directions in the brochure and visit the camp for themselves on that day in February, they would have discovered that there was no such town and no such mountain and that no one within a fifty-mile radius had ever heard of Camp So-and-So.


I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but the description rather intrigued me.  And the book certainly didn't disappoint in that regard.  The plotting here is masterful as the author tells the story through the eyes of an unknown narrator (unknown until the end that is) with plenty of side comments from said narrator that leave you wondering exactly who this person (?) is.  And that doesn't even count the five other story lines, one for each cabin of girls at the camp, each of which takes on a life of its own, until each of the individual story lines comes together at the end. 

With 25 girls as well as Tania and her minions who live at a leadership camp across from Camp So-and-So, not to mention Robin, the assistant camp director, as well as the mysterious Inge F. Yancey IV and the mysterious narrator, there are numerous characters to try to keep track of here.  Because of the large number of characters, all of whom play a significant part in the story, this book works best for more experienced readers who can manage to keep track of what happens to and with all the different characters, especially since some of the characters aren't even given names.

It's clear from relatively early in the story that there are some supernatural elements at play in the story.  This gives the story a rather creepy, mysterious atmosphere.  And the complicated collection of events and events makes the book one that is almost impossible to predict.  I can safely say that I've never read a book quite like this one.

In terms of content, there is some kissing (girl/girl, girl/boy) as well as a moderate amount of violence (several deaths and almost deaths occur).

All in all though this is a book to share with readers who enjoy the spooky, the odd, and the weird.  Even the ending isn't quite what one would expect.  This one could make for a pretty awesome book talk.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Blaze of Embers by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz

The Third Book of Ore
by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz


Phoebe Plumm and Micah Tanner are no longer the spoiled heiress and naïve servant boy who first stumbled upon the fiercely beautiful world of living metal known as Mehk. They have rallied to aid the mehkans and risked their lives fighting the relentless greed of the Foundry, a corporation that harvests the metal creatures to sell as products back home in Meridian. But the kids' mission to retrieve a mysterious relic ended in devastating tragedy and with Micah as a prisoner of the enemy. Shattered, he can only watch as an unthinkable new power rises in Mehk and international war erupts in Meridian. Trapped between the Foundry and this staggering mehkan threat, Micah has no choice but to work with dangerous humans and mehkans alike, each with their own agenda. As the path of destruction spreads and hope fades, Micah leads his unlikely allies in a desperate race back to Meridian, where the two worlds are about to clash. A terrible reckoning is underway, and this time, everything is at stake.

Missed The Foundry's Edge (The First Book Of Ore) or Waybound (The Second Book of Ore)? Found out more at http://www.booksofore.com.


Cam Baity is an Emmy Award winning animator, and his short films have screened around the world, including at Anima Mundi in Brazil and the BBC British Short Film Festival. His credits include major motion pictures like Team America: World Police and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and popular television shows such as Robot Chicken and Supermansion.

Benny Zelkowicz
 studied animation at CalArts and made the award winning film, The ErlKing. He directed and starred in the BBC/CBC animated series Lunar Jim, and worked on The LEGO Movie as well as several TV shows including Robot Chicken and Moral Orel

Twitter: @CamandBenny
Hashtag: #BooksOfOre


The cords tying Micah to the back of the Cyclewynder were pulled so tight that his legs were numb, and the digital manacles biting into his bruised wrists felt icy in his lap. Goodwin wasn’t taking any chances this time, but it didn’t matter one bit. 

Micah had nowhere to run. 

And no will to try. 

His freckled face felt frostbitten, and he shivered uncontrollably. Though the Foundry workers had draped Micah in a foil thermal blanket, he was frozen from head to toes—especially toes. His boots were gone, and all he had on were his greasecovered overalls and dingy T-shirt. 

Sharp wheels carved the rough ground of the Coiling Furrows, their grating sound echoing off the curved walls of the impossible maze. Facing backward, Micah counted four Cyclewynders behind him, but he knew there were twice that many up ahead. The headlights of the Foundry convoy cut harsh beams through the gloom and threw twisty shadows everywhere. 

Flaring light revealed a limp form strapped to one of the Cyclewynders. He caught a glimpse of her dark, uneven hair fluttering in the wind. Micah had to look away. 


They were taking him in now to be questioned. Goodwin would ask about the Covenant and the Ona, ask what he and Phoebe were doing to help the mehkans. Micah wouldn’t say anything, no matter what they did to him. 

They couldn’t make him hurt more than this. Which meant the Occulyth would be safe. Micah hadn’t seen it anywhere in that chamber. Maybe—just maybe— Phoebe had managed to get it to the Ona. That was all that mattered. He told himself that, again and again. Whatever happened to him and Phoebe, saving Mehk was the most important thing. 

He desperately wanted to believe that. But he didn’t, not really. Micah couldn’t guess how long they had been puttering through these stupid passages. Star-streaked sky peeked in through irregular openings above. Those interconnected, vibrating stars had been the first thing Phoebe noticed when they stumbled into Mehk, the first sign that they were in a world stranger than anything they had ever imagined. Now those same stars danced on, oblivious to the life that had ended here below. 

At last, the Foundry convoy emerged from the Furrows and arrived at a bleak camp of pentagonal tents at the foot of a monstrous mountain range. Obscuring the peaks was the Shroud, a wall of fog that stretched up and out as far as the eye could see. Harsh floodlights and humming generators were huddled around a pair of Gyrojets, sleek multi-winged aircraft like raptors waiting for prey. The team of Cyclewynders parked alongside the tents. A couple of soldiers untied Micah from the vehicle and roughly dragged him to Goodwin, his toes barely scraping the ground. 

The Chairman looked like he had something to say. If this were an episode of Maddox, Micah’s favorite Televiewer show once upon a time, the hero would have a clever zinger ready to deploy. Or he would spit in the villain’s face before wiping out all the bad guys single-handedly. 

But Micah was not Maddox. He was just a boy—a helpless, broken boy, and weary beyond belief. So Micah did nothing. 

Excerpted from BLAZE OF EMBERS © Copyright 2017 by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEWS: Hilo, book 3/The Great Pet Escape


HILO s BA-ACK in this funny "New York Times "bestselling full-color middle-grade graphic novel series that Bone creator Jeff Smith calls delightful and Big Nate author Lincoln Peirce says Every kid will love!

Hilo may look like an ordinary kid, but he s DEFINITELY not! When we last saw Hilo, DJ, and Gina, Gina had been sucked into a mysterious portal to who knows where! But friends don t let friends disappear into NOWHERE! It s up to D.J. and Hilo to follow her. Will there be danger? YES! Will there be amazing surprises? OF COURSE! Will Gina end up being the one to save them? DEFINITELY! With the help of Polly, the magical warrior cat, the friends will have to battle bad guys and face disgusting food, an angry mom, powerful magic, and more! Will they survive . . . and make it back to Earth before the portal closes again?! Find out in the third Hilo adventure!"


Judd Winick has truly created a delightful superhero story with his HiLo series.  After hearing him speak at a conference I can easily see where these stories come from, the man is a natural storyteller.  In this third volume of what promises to be a six book series (per the author), HiLo and D.J. have to find a way to follow Gina into a portal.  The story opens with them facing off with the U.S. Army.  At first I thought that HiLo would be forced to destroy the tanks and everything, but he comes up with a much more effective, not to mention, less damaging, method of disarming the the military establishment (and no I'm not going to tell you what it is, go find the book if you want to know ;)).  Once they find a portal, HiLo and D.J. find themselves on an unknown planet with no idea how to find Gina, especially once HiLo collapses.  Thankfully they get rescued by a familiar face and taken to a safe place.  Along the way, HiLo continues to struggle to remember how he went from being a villain to being a hero.  And of course there is a tribe of machine/weapon wielding warriors that have to be defeated as well.  With a great mix of humor and action, Winick has created a winning series for both young and old.  Highly recommended.


The class pets at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School want OUT . . .

and GW (short for George Washington), the deceptively cute hamster in the second-grade classroom, is just the guy to lead the way. But when he finally escapes and goes to find his former partners in crime, Barry and Biter, he finds that they actually LIKE being class pets. Impossible!

Just as GW gets Barry and Biter to agree to leave with him, a mouse named Harriet and her many Mouse Minions get in their way. What follows is class-pet chaos!


G.W., a hamster, is determined to escape from his 'prison'.  With an overly elaborate invention he stages his 'great escape'.  But he can't leave without his pals, Barry (bunny) and Biter (guinea pig).  But unfortunately for G.W., the class pet for a group of second graders, both Barry and Biter are rather content with 'imprisonment'.  Biter in fact is so content she has changed her name to Sunflower and practices meditation.  G.W. is horrified.  As he tries to convince Biter to come along on his escape, Harriet, a mouse from the fourth grade classroom show up and imprisons them for real.  But G.W. and his friends are the type to be pushed around and they step up to prevent a coming lunchtime disaster.  Jamieson has created a fun early graphic novel for younger readers.  The illustrations are expressive and bright and the characters are delightfully entertaining.  I look forward to reading upcoming volumes.

Monday, April 10, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman

Welcome to Day #1 of the 
One Good Thing About America Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (3/14/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ruth and 10 chances to win a copy of One Good Thing About America, as well as a chance to win a Skype visit with Ruth in the Grand Prize Giveaway!

Ruth's Experiences as an ELL Teacher by Ruth Freeman

Let me introduce you to the world of an ELL teacher, the best part of which is the students themselves. Some come with years of English, some come with no English at all. They may be young or fairly mature but, being in a totally new environment, they are looking for our help. Because we work with them one-on-one or in small groups, they tend to be a bit more relaxed about talking and asking questions. It is such a privilege to watch them open up and to help them adjust to their life in America.
We do everything we can to help them settle in to our school and begin to feel like they’ve found a home. We work hard at pronouncing their names correctly! In my story, One Good Thing About America, Anaïs’ teacher and the students have a hard time with her name, so she becomes Annie. Some of the students at my school have also chosen to go with more Western sounding names.
Because the ELL teacher is often a liaison between school and home, we try to find out as much as we can about the family’s story without prying. We will gradually learn more and more about them. Another part of our job is advocating for our students in our school. Do they have what they need? Can we get them into an after-school program? Sometimes we’ll organize all-school events like a Flag Day, a Multicultural Day, or a community dinner.

Through a screening process we find out how much English they know and then plan how best to support them either in their classroom or in small groups we pull out. This year, besides working with students in their classrooms, I have three groups of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders I pull out for math. We are currently trying to get our heads around multiplication and arrays. Like Anaïs, my students like math because numbers are the same in any language! It can be a relief to see familiar numbers again. Of course, story problems are something else again, as Anaïs discovers. So many words asking about stickers or flowers or cupcakes! We will often write our own story problems using the students’ names and pizza…because everyone knows and loves pizza!

I try to learn a few words in my students’ first languages. They love teaching me something for a change. I used to be able to count to ten in Somali, but it’s gotten rusty. I’m trying to learn Arabic numbers now. My Iraqi students get a kick out of hearing me stumble my way through one to ten. I think I need more muscles in the back of my throat for some of those sounds. While I’m working on math, the other ELL teachers are concentrating on literacy…everything from vocabulary to grammar to literary concepts…”what was the main idea in that story?” And, lastly, we answer questions. About everything. Before school, after school, in the middle of a multiplication problem: “Is the after-school-program today?” “What is this new class called Puberty?” “Can I have gum?” “Do we have school tomorrow?” “What is the Boston Tea Party?” “Why do we wear red tomorrow?” Wait, what does ELL mean, again?”

Stop by Late Bloomer's Book Blog tomorrow for the next stop on the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 10th – Geo Librarian April 11thLate Bloomer's Book Blog April 12th Mrs. Mommy BookNerd April 13thKristi's Book Nook April 14thLife Naturally April 17th – Books My Kids Read April 18th – Chat with Vera April 19th Word Spelunking April 20th – Middle Grade Mafioso April 21st – The Hiding Spot

Follow Ruth: Website | Facebook Publisher: Holiday House
ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures. It's hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you're in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn't know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anaïs misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac 'n' cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.
About the Author: Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel..


Coming soon!


1 print copy of One Good Thing About America
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  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of One Good Thing About America for their personal collection, as well as a 30 minute Skype visit with Ruth Freeman to the school of their choice and a signed copy for the school's library.
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Monday, April 3, 2017

MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron


Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorn trees don’t get you first.

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.

But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.

In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?


The Castle in the Mist is fun, fantasy read for more reluctant middle grade readers who want fantasy stories but aren't ready yet for the longer tomes.  Tess, Max, and William are appealing characters that it's easy to like.  The author does a good job of getting into the story immediately while still filling in the backstory.  Tess and Max are staying with their Aunt Evie while their mother undergoes cancer treatments (unknown to them) and their father, a reporter, is in the field.  After a fight with her brother, Tess goes exploring and discovers what appears to be a castle.  An encounter with a gate seemingly attached to an invisible fence, a strange key, and a mysterious boy who warns her to stay away from the hawthorn trees leaves Tess wondering what's going on.  After Max discovers the key hidden in her dresser, Tess takes Max to meet William at the castle, where it becomes clear that some sort of magic is involved.  An exciting ride on a merry-go-round, a formal dinner, and the strange coming together of a blue moon and an eclipse leave Tess wondering what's real and what isn't.  An enjoyable, quick read with enjoyable characters, cool horses, and the power of wishes makes for an entertaining read.

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