Friday, February 22, 2019

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Transparency Tonic by Frank L. Cole

It has been nine months since Gordy and his friends, Max and Adilene, Saved B.R.E.W. (the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide) and the Vessel—the power source for the secret society of potion masters. Now, Gordy is starting the eighth grade, and has been trying new potion brewing techniques, but when he starts zoning out during practice, he knows something is wrong.

Gordy and his friends continue to work on their potions, but when Gordy chooses Max as his lab partner, Adilene starts to wonder if she still has a place with her old friends. She turns to a new friend, Cadence, who might know a way to help Adilene become a potion master on her own.

And in Greenland, Mezzarix has a chance to escape his Forbidden Zone—as long as he agrees to work with the mysterious Ms. Bimini and replicate an unusual solution known as “Silt.” It could be just the weapon Mezzarix needs to destroy B.R.E.W. forever.

With both B.R.E.W. and the Vessel in danger, and with the potion world in chaos, it’s up to Gordy, Max, and Adilene to rally the remaining Potion Masters before it’s too late.


I was eager to pick up this second volume in the Potion Masters series.  I found it to be a worthy sequel.  In fact, the ending left me wanting the next book immediately.  After the trouble that Gordy and his family and friends confronted in the first book, I expected Gordy to be a bit more cautious about the people around him, but like many teenagers, he wasn't.   Despite his families precautions in dropping him off at school and trying to protect him from his enemies, Gordy finds himself in a great deal of trouble.  It starts seemingly harmlessly with trouble at school, the principal threatens to expell him if he brings potions to school, but the principal's daughter pushes him into coming to a potion party at their house.  In the meantime, Gordy struggles to maintain his already existing friendships with Max and Adilene.  Adilene is frustrated that she can't mix potions the way Gordy can and as a result befriends a girl as obsesses with potions as herself, but who she knows little about.  While Gordy struggles to learn new potion skills, he also struggles to rein in his tendency to follow his feelings rather than actual recipes which B.R.E.W. the governing agency of potion making frowns upon.  And while all this is going on, Gordy's grandfather Mezzarix has joined forces with the strange Ms. Bimini and is seeking to break B.R.E.W. once and for all.  The book reads fairly quickly, but does require knowledge of previous events.  The creative potions and challenges that Gordy faces make for a refreshing series full of unusual twists and turns.  This series provides a lot of entertainment and some interesting themes for young fantasy lovers.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

BLOG TOUR w/ AUTHOR INTERVIEW: The Unicorn Quest: Secret in the Stone by Kamilla Benko


Claire Martinson and her sister Sophie have decided to stay in Arden--the magical land they discovered by climbing up a chimney in their great-aunt's manor. If what they've learned is true, the sisters are the last descendants of the royal family, and only a true heir of Arden--with magic in her blood--can awaken the unicorns.

Since Sophie has does not have magic, the land's last hope rests on Claire. The sisters journey to Stonehaven, a famed Gemmer school high in the mountains of Arden, so Claire can train in the magic of stone. As Claire struggles through classes, Sophie uncovers dangerous secrets about the people they thought they could trust. With Arden on the brink of crumbling, can Claire prove she is the prophesied heir and unlock the magic of the unicorns before it's too late?

Kamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children’s book editor. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.


Where did the idea or ideas for the story come from?

Many places! The main inspiration for the Unicorn Quest trilogy came from a visit to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There’s a room where all of the walls are covered in unicorn tapestries that depict the hunt of a unicorn. I was studying the tapestries when a question popped into my head: Why would anyone want to kill a unicorn? And from trying to answer that question, the land of Arden began to unfold. Another fun fact: in the room where they display the unicorn tapestries, there is also a massive fireplace that is so big, a grown woman can stand up straight in it. . . this was the direct inspiration for how Claire and Sophie came to find a ladder in a fireplace that leads to another world.

How or what led you to become a writer for children?

I never wanted to be a writer, actually—I wanted to be a children’s book editor! I was eleven years old at my great aunt’s house, reading a book in her yard, and I suddenly had the realization that in order for me to reading this book, someone had to decide that it should be published. I love connecting readers with books, and so I thought (rightfully so!) that editors get to do that in a big way. And so I became a children’s book editor, and through the process of helping other’s find their stories, I eventually found my own.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer? least?

I love coming up with ideas! I have so much fun thinking about what could happen. . . the least favorite part is actually sitting down and breaking the terrifying white space of a page.

What is something interesting about yourself that most people don't know?

I don’t know if it’s interesting, but I have a learning disability (Nonverbal Learning Disorder) that makes spelling very difficult for me – something that’s not great when you’re an editor or a writer. From third to fifth grade, I was always in danger of failing English class, because I couldn’t pass the spelling tests and my essays, which content-wise was strong, were riddled with errors. Thankfully, we stopped taking spelling tests in sixth grade, and I’m ever so grateful to spell check! (And my parents enrolled me in lots of different therapies and tutoring to learn how to navigate the world with my brain, which helped a lot.)

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go and what would you do?

I would really love to travel to Namibia and go on a photo safari. I adore animals and I love traveling far away from where I live, because I think it’s helpful when trying keep perspective about how little you are, and how grand and wide the world is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

BLOG TOUR: It's Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk


In the fairytale mashup, Hansel and Gretel talk back to the narrator, refusing to play their roles.


Like Hansel and Gretel, Josh Funk doesn't like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and recently, How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios, and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.

Edwardian Taylor has worked as a visual development artist and character designer in the game and animation industry. He illustrated the picture book Race!, written by Sue Fliess and the chapter book Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required, written by Brian Lynch. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at and follow him on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter @edwardiantaylor.
Following in the footsteps of their previous collaboration (It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk), It's Not Hansel and Gretel attempts to tell the tale of Hansel and Gretel and fails miserably.  Gretel just won't go along with the way the narrator wants to tell the story.  She believes firmly that her parents love her and Hansel, despite the narrator telling her otherwise and she refuses to believe the witch is a witch.  And she's annoyed when Hansel's name always comes first and she's left to do the chores while Hansel gets fat.  The narrator is forced to adjust the story a bit, until finally the children take over the story completely, writing their own ending.  The banter between the narrator and the children is amusing and perfect for reading out loud.  And the illustrations are fun and full of details.  The illustrator cleverly slips in numerous fairy tale characters for readers to spot.  All in all a delightfully fractured fairy tale for readers and listeners who like to tell stories in their own way.


Check out the book trailer here!

Thursday, February 14, 2019



From the beloved and bestselling Sandra Boynton, here is I Love You, Little Pookie, a sweet and simple board book that offers a declaration of unwavering love from Mom to her wonderful child.

I Love You, Little Pookie is an affectionate and heartfelt celebration—for Valentine’s Day and every day—enlivened with those funny and captivating Boynton drawings. And Pookie’s Mom wisely knows that the best way to say I love you is simply to say it:
Through the days,
through the nights,
come rain or come shine,
I love you, little Pookie.
You’ll always be mine.


Sandra Boynton has done it again.  She's created an adorable book that shines a light on the sweet relationship between a mother and child.  The illustrations highlight the joys the mother and child share and emphasize the activities and time they share together. This is a book that is bound to bring a smile to the faces of both young and old, especially as it is shared together.  A wonderful gift for a mother and child.


Mouse spies his sister Minka acting very mysterious. She’s collecting shiny red paper, paste, and pink ribbons. What is she doing? She’s making a valentine for Mouse, of course!

Young readers are sure to enjoy Lauren Thompson’s simple, energetic text and Buket Erdogan’s sweet, playful illustrations as they learn to recognize words and begin to read on their very own!


Mouse follows his sister, Minka, around as she gathers supplies and begins to make something.  But what could it be?  Any youngster familiar with Valentine's Day will figure this out really quickly, but it's still fun to guess what the different items Minka finds are and how she uses them to create the valentine.  This early reader is perfect for young readers who like holiday stories that they can read and figure out themselves.  The illustrations are darling and support the story well, especially when the text asks questions that can be answered from the pictures.  This allows beginning readers to develop visual as well as textual literacy skills. 


When a small robot named Z discovers a message in a bottle signed “Love, Beatrice,” they decide to find out what “love” means. Unable to get an answer from the other robots, they leave to embark on an adventure that will lead them to Beatrice—and back home again, where love was hiding all along.  


What is love? Z, the robot, does not know.  It does not compute.  After finding a note in a bottle that ends with the words, Love, Beatrice, Z is curious to know just what love is.  When none of his robot friends can tell him, he sets out to find Beatrice, hoping that she can provide the answer.  He encounters several people along the way who give him various answers, but none of them are Beatrice, and he doesn't understand the answers.  Will he ever find Beatrice? And if he does can she help him understand what love is?  In this sweet story about a feeling, Z, the robot discovers the wonderful definition of love.  Other than the robots having no necks, I found the illustrations cute and perfect for the story.  This book would work well not only for a story time on Valentine's Day but for introducing discussions of the feeling of love and what it means.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019



Hibernate with Me is a gentle reminder that no matter how sad, small, or scared you feel, you are always worthy of love, and that brighter days are always ahead.

Sometimes you feel small. Sometimes you feel shy.
Sometimes you feel worried, and you might not know why.

Sometimes you want nobody to see.
Darling, you can hibernate with me.

If you feel scared or lost, or even just a little shy, love means there will always be a place to hibernate together.

A place that’s cozy, warm, and safe.


This adorable book showcases the love between a mother bear and her cub as they get ready for hibernation.  Since the text is written as a song, it flows fairly smoothly and makes for a sweet read aloud.  The illustrations are darling and match the text quite well.  The book works well as both a story of love (perfect for Valentine's Day) but also as an introduction to hibernation and seasons.  The music is included with the book along with a link to the website where you can listen to the song.


Leaves are falling, a cold wind is blowing, geese are heading south. Clearly, winter is coming. It’s time for black bears to do what they always do this time of year―hibernate. Kids will get a kick out of this romp of a tale about a black bear cub that finds every excuse imaginable to avoid the inevitable go-to-bed moment. Will Mama Bear finally win? Or will Baby Bear come up with the ultimate reason to skip going to sleep?


Baby Bear does NOT want to hibernate and keeps finding excuses for not doing so.  His mother waits through all his requests until her patience is exhausted and she shoos her recalcitrant child into the den.  But the ending is so typically childlike that I had to laugh out loud.  What a perfect ending.  In addition to the amusing back-and-forth between mother and child, the author also manages to slip in information about hibernation and the signs that the time is near.  Additional information about bears and hibernation is included at the end of the book.  The illustrations are beautifully done and showcase the strong emotions of both mother and child.  The changes that come with the arrival of winter and the animals who have to adapt are also nicely highlighted.  A fun read aloud for story time, bedtimes, or lessons on hibernation, a delight from beginning to end.


In a high-energy sequel to I Am Bear, the dance-loving star rolls out a variety of dance moves and inspires kids to try some of their own.

Get up, get down,
hit the ground . . .
Bear's in a dancing mood, and his friend Bunny is happy to help out with the boom box. With moves like Furry Breaking, Running Bear (you run but don't go anywhere), and the classic back spin, who could blame observers who might want to bust a move of their own? Actor/rapper Ben Bailey Smith (aka Doc Brown) and artist Sav Akyuz team up again for a lively two-step with the multitalented Bear.


I enjoyed the rollicking text and the urge to dance it inspired.  In that regard it would be fun to use with young children.  The illustrations in general were cute and fun.  I was not however a fan of the number of occasions in which the bear's bum crack was shown.  The bear dressed in a belly dancer's outfit wasn't particularly thrilling either.  If those things don't bother you than by all means take a look at this bright, colorful ode to the joys and mishaps of dance. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER REVIEW: Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina


Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.


Middle school is a tough time under the best of circumstances.  It becomes more difficult once one throws in all the social drama, the pressure of living up to a scholarship, and changing family relationships.  Merci is faced with all of these challenges.  She attends a private school on a scholarship that requires her to do extra community service.  She doesn't really mind this, but she'd rather not be a 'Sunshine Buddy' after her unfortunate experience with the program the year before.  Things become even more complicated when she is assigned to be buddies with Michael Clark, the new boy, the boy that Edna Santos likes.  Edna's jealousy of Merci leads to even more tension between the two than already existed.  At home Edna resents having to spend so much of her time babysitting her annoying twin cousins.  She also wonders what's going on with Lolo, her grandfather, that no one wants to talk about.  Merci is a fabulous character that one can't help but root for in her efforts to juggle all the difficulties in her life.  She doesn't always make the right decisions though and has to face the consequences.  I especially enjoyed reading about Merci's family relationships that shine through as the most important thing in Merci's life, even when she's angry and frustrated with them. I'm thrilled to have a Newbery winner that I think middle grade readers are going to love.  I don't think I'll have a hard time selling this book at all.  

Thursday, February 7, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: Bigfoot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter


Hugo is a young Sasquatch who longs for adventure. Boone is young boy who longs to see a Sasquatch. When their worlds collide, they become the unlikeliest pair of best friends.

At the Academy for Curious Squidges, Hugo learns all manner of Sneaking—after all, the most important part of being a Sasquatch is staying hidden from humans. But Hugo dreams of roaming free in the Big Wide World rather than staying cooped up in caves. When he has an unexpected run-in with a young human boy, Hugo seizes the opportunity for a grand adventure. Soon, the two team up to search high and low for mythical beasts, like Ogopogos and Snoot-Nosed Gints. Through discovering these new creatures, together, Big Foot and Little Foot explore the ins and outs of each other’s very different worlds but learn that, deep down, maybe they’re not so different after all.


In this story of young Hugo, the focus is on a town of Sasquatch who live in a cave in the woods.  They rarely leave the cave for the woods outside for fear of running into human beings.  But Hugo is curious and wants to explore the outside world.  When he sends a carved boat out of the cave through a hole in the wall, he doesn't expect it to come back with a message.  And he really doesn't expect his new found pen pal to be a human boy.  But after the boy calls him a liar for claiming to be a sasquatch, Hugo sets out to prove the boy wrong leading to a connection that the others aren't quite ready for.  This is a delightfully adventurous new series for young readers who enjoy tales of friendship and exploration. It's also a tale of learning to reach beyond the known and try something new.


Hugo is a young Sasquatch. Boone is a young boy. After an unlikely encounter, they’ve become an even unlikelier pair of best friends. After saving up his Monster Card wrappers, Hugo sends away for a special prize in the mail—a Monster Detector! Using the watchlike device, Hugo quickly spots a monster right in his own cavern. Spooked, but still excited about his prize, Hugo heads to school and finds yet another surprise—his friend Boone! Boone announces he wants to go to Sasquatch school, but no human has ever gone before, and not everyone is as happy about it as Hugo. Boone’s first day of school gets off to a rocky start, but Hugo doesn’t have much time to worry before he makes another monster sighting and takes off after the creature. What follows are even more surprises, ones that have Hugo rethinking what it really means to be a “monster.”


When Hugo, a young sasquatch, receives a supposed Monster Detector in the mail, he immediately sets out with his friend, Gigi, to look for monsters in the cave he calls home.  What he doesn't expect is for the detector to go off leaving them at the mercy of a famous monster.  When his human friend, Boone decides to start attending sasquatch school, he isn't well received.  Both experiences and later discoveries leave Hugo to reassess just what qualifies as a monster.  I enjoyed reading this story about Hugo and Boone as they face the prejudices of their own kind as well as the dangers of making assumptions.  A solid entry in this fun new series by Ellen Potter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

EARLY READER REVIEWS: Mr Monkey Bakes a Cake/Mr. Monkey Visits a School/Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster


Curious George meets Mr. Bean in this adorable new picture book series from author-illustrator Jeff Mack that follows the loveable Mr. Monkey on his wacky adventures.

Mr. Monkey bakes a cake.

He can’t wait to win a ribbon!

But first he has to carry it to the contest.

What could possibly go wrong?


Mr. Monkey has a delightful time making a cake and eating bananas.  But by the time the cake is ready to eat, Mr. Monkey is no longer hungry.  He decides to enter the cake in a contest which seems simple enough, but once he sets foot out the door, Murphy's law jumps into action and a wide variety of amusing mishaps occurs.  As I read this I couldn't help but smirk and smile.  Anyone whose ever had a load of things go wrong can relate to Mr. Monkey's troubles (except maybe the runaway gorilla part).  This is a fun, new series for beginning readers who enjoy silly, nonsensical adventures.


Curious George meets Mr. Bean in the second adorable new picture book series from author-illustrator Jeff Mack that follows the loveable Mr. Monkey on his wacky adventures.

Mr. Monkey learns a trick.

He can’t wait to put on a show!

But first he has to find the school.

What could possibly go wrong?


Once again Mr. Monkey sets out on an adventure.  This time he has a juggling trick that he plans to show the children at the local school.  But things go downhill immediately when he smashes his car with a cow, then gets caught in a snow storm.  None of these things stop Mr. Monkey of course, but they do make it difficult to get to the school.  When he finally arrives things continue to go wrong.  Will Mr. Monkey find a way to perform his trick anyway?  I laughed my way through this one.  It's full of silliness and young children are bound to giggle at Mr. Monkey's antics.


When his cousin Wagster comes for a visit, Houndsley is excited. Wagster is all adventure and enthusiasm and razzle-dazzle, and all his friends love him. Even Catina thinks Wagster is fun and good at everything, and pretty soon Houndsley is starting to feel a little bit invisible. But Houndsley and Catina are best friends, and certainly Cousin Wagster won't change that -- right? James Howe and Marie-Louise Gay have created a tender and funny story about some of the ways that friendships can change, and how they also stay exactly the same.


Houndsley and Catina's friendship is tested when Houndsley's cousin comes to town and proves to be good at just about everything.  Houndsley's more quiet nature leaves him feelings jealous and left out as Wagster charms everyone with his talents and adventures.  But Catina proves her loyalty and reminds Houndsley that he too has his talents, they are just different and less showy.  A tender story of friendship and family and the ups and downs that effect us all.  Children are bound to relate to at least one of the characters in the story.  This makes for a fun way to learn about relationships and the fact that all of us are different and have different talents. 
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