Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (2)

Last week I began a Hot Off The Press! post based on my visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books. Here are the 5 new releases that stood out from the pile this week:

Author/Illustrator: Ross Collins
Publisher: Whitman, Albert and Company (March 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Mother warns Harvey that there is no drawing on doodleday.  Harvey thinks that drawing just a tiny little fly should not be a problem, and then the fun begins and grows.  The ending was absolutely perfect.  This one should cause readers to smile.
The Best Birthday Party Ever
Author: Jennifer Larue Huget
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade (March 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years

Some books just make you smile and Huget's story about a little girl who is counting down the days and weeks to her birthday party is certainly one of them.  As each week or month passes, our birthday girl plans a more elaborate party than the month before.  When her big day finally arrives will she have the birthday of her dreams and plans?  I loved how this book wraps up.
Red Wagon
Author/Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Publisher: Philomel (February 17, 2011)
Audience: Ages 3 to 6 years

Fans of Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book will recognize Liwska's illustrative work which gives this book a similar tender, gentle, charming quality.  Red Wagon is a story about a young fox who wants to play with her new wagon but must also go into town for her mother.  Her day is less boring and more adventuresome than she expected. 
The Crows of Pearblossom
Author: Aldous Huxley
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publisher: Abrahms Books For Young Readers (March 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 5 to 9

Huxley wrote this story about a mama crow who lays an egg each day and loses it to wiley snake back in 1944 for his niece.  Mr. & Mrs. Crow seek out the help in stopping the snake from stealing the eggs. 
The story has a fable-like quality to it and Sophie Blackall's illustrations are charming and bring the book to life and fit the timeless quality of the story. 

Won Ton
Author: Lee Wardlaw
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company (February 15, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 9 years

This is a book that I enjoyed on a couple of levels.  First, it was a fun story about a cat who is rescued from a shelter and his adjustment to his new family.  Younger children will enjoy the book at that level.  Second, the book is written completely in haiku and can be used with older children (even middle or high school) as part of a poetry unit.

Yelchin's bold and bright illustrations bring the story to life on a different level. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Early Readers? Transitional Books? Early Chapter Books? - Books for 1st to 3rd Graders

One of my goals this year was to read more books directed towards young readers grades 1st to 3rd.  The challenge is to find books that appeal to an audience that is very diverse in their reading abilities.  In a first grade, a teacher may have children that are barely reading common sight words to others who are reading sizeable chapter books.  Parents and teachers will always need to match the right book to the right reader, but here are some of the books that I have been reading lately that might engage a child in this transitional period.

 Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa Series by Erica Silverman

This first chapter book series is centered around a friendship between a small girl named Kate and her best horse, Cocoa.  Divided into a small chapters with limited vocabulary, Silverman develops stories with humor and lessons that teach without feeling preachy.  Each book has about 44 pages and pictures every few pages.  If I counted correctly, there are currently 6 books in the series. 

Fly Guy Series by Tedd Arnold

At this age, girls and boys tend to prefer reading about characters that are the same gender as they are.  So if your developing reader is a boy and not interested in being a Cowgirl, then Fly Guy might be the way to go.  Buzz has a buggy best pal - Fly Guy.  Similar to Cowgirl Kate, the books have small chapters, fixed vocabulary, and about 32 pages.  There are lots of books in this series. 

Down Girl and Sit by Lucy Nolan

Perfect for boys or girls, the Down Girl And Sit Series by Lucy Nolan is a step up from the previous two series.  Each chapter book is about 60 pages long and have more text and less pictures.  Stories are more developed and vocabulary more diverse.  I am not a huge dog or cat fan, but these books made me chuckle.  They are centered around two dog pals and seeing the world from their perspective can be really funny.  The series has about 4 books in it and they are quite enjoyable. 

Franny K. Stein by Jim Benton

Franny is not your usual little girl.  She is a mad scientist and has a pet dog named Igor.  She lives in this typical suburban home with very normal appearing parents; however, she is definitely her own person.  Each book features Franny in some stage of experimentation which is usually applied to some issue she is facing at school.  I love Franny.  And I have quite a few 1st grade boys who like Franny as well. 

This series is by far the longest of the four listed in this post clocking in around 100 pages. 

If you are looking for a replacement for all those Junie B. Jones or Magic Treehouse books, check out one of the series above. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Zita The Spacegirl

Author/Illustrator:  Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second (February 1, 2011)
Pages: 192
Ages: 9 to 12 years
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: Buy multiple copies - This one won't stay on the shelf for long.

Description from GoodReads:

Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of  an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at.

When I first heard about Zita The Spacegirl, I knew I wanted to read it.  Then I made the connection that Ben Hatke had contributed to the Flight series, and I really wanted to read it.  Fortunately for me, my 10 year old niece wasn't home when it arrived or we would have had a tug of war over who got to read it first.  (Yeah, I know an adult fighting with a child about who gets to read a book first is kind of childish.  I assure you that I do let her win.) Once the book was in my hands, I sat down and devoured it immediately.  

Hatke's first foray into the world of full-length middle grade graphic novels is quite a success.  The story follows Zita and her friend, Joseph.  After an meteoroid hits the earth, Joseph is abducted into space and Zita follows to rescue him.  Confused and alone, Zita encounters a myriad of space creatures - some friendly and some not so friendly.  With the help of her new friends and some quick thinking, Zita finds herself in the role of hero.  However, being a hero usually means that a lot goes wrong first. 

Though the transitions felt a little clunky in the beginning, Hatke finds his groove and leaves the reader wanting more by the end.  Zita and her friends will delight middle grade readers and fans of Flight, Flight Explorer, or The Amulet Series will have a new series to clamor after.  Now if Ben Hatke and Kazu Kibuishi (The Amulet Series) can just keep alternating release dates of their graphic novels, I (and my niece and students) might just be able to wait for the next book.   

For more information about Zita and her creator, Ben Hatke, check out his website here

To read an excerpt from Zita The Spacegirl, click here.

Check out the Official Book Trailer below:

* Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays were started by Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. You can check out her Marvelous Middle Grade Monday choice and Giveaway Post here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books

On Sundays, I have been heading over to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books. I started doing this the day after Christmas when my flight back east was canceled and I needed something to cheer me up. Now my weekly treks have become something that I look forward to and hate when I have to miss them. It hit me today that I should blog about my favorite new picture book releases. Here are 5 from today that stood out from the pile:

A Pet For Petunia
Author/Illustrator: Paul Schmid
Publisher: Harper Collins (January 25, 2011)
Audience: Ages 3 to 7 years

Out of all of the books, this was probably my favorite book in the stack.  Petunia has a stuffed skunk and wants a real skunk for a pet.  She does her best to convince her parents that she should have one.  What happens when Petunia encounters a real skunk?

This is a perfect read aloud for young children.  Simple illustrations beautifully support the text.  If I was giving a starred review, then this would be one of them.

To watch the book trailer, click here.

Giant Steps to Change the World
Authors: Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
Illustrators: Sean Qualls
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 4, 2011)
Audience: 2nd to 5th grade

I was a little skeptical when I saw that this book was written by husband and wife team Spike and Tonya Lee.  Celebrity picture books may sell because of a name, but what about quality?  The book starts off with the narrator encouraging a boy to "Listen to the voices of those who came before..."  There follows quotes from famous people but minus their names or images.  Qualls mixed media illustrations provide just enough to help make a guess at where the quotes come from.  I had fun trying to guess who said each quote but a child will need much more instruction to make the connection.  On the inside covers, each quote is listed with who said it.  This would be a fun discussion starter with older children. 

To watch Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee speak about the book, click here.

Look! A Book!
Author/Creator: Bob Staake
Publisher: Little Brown Book For Young Readers (February 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years old

Children will enjoy searching for a special item on each two page spread.  The sparse text uses rhyming clues to direct children to the item that they will search for.  Die-cuts on each page provide sneak peaks to upcoming pages.  At the end, the page flips up and encourages children to return and search for more items beginning with 1 cow, and ending with 12 red books.  The colorful sturdy pages will likely hold up in a home but frequent check outs from a school library and serious handling from small sticky hands may provide a challenge in a school setting.

To watch the book trailer for Look! A Book!, click here.

When I Grow Up
Author: Al Yankovic
Illustrator: Wes Hargis
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 7 years

This one made my top picks for the week partially because it made me chuckle, and partially because I really wasn't sure what to expect from Weird Al.  A little boy is eager to share about what he wants to be when he grows up.  However, his list is quite creative.  I liked the tie in to the child's grandfather, and the tribute to the teacher.  Hargis' watercolor illustrations are lovely and young children will also get a chuckle out of some of the career choices.

To watch the book trailer for When I Grow Up, click here.

Dear Tabby
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 8, 2011)

Tabby D. Cat is an alley cat.  The various animals of Critterville send him letters seeking advice.  Each letter was formatted in a variety of styles/fonts.  Tabby in his own way provides just the right creative solutions to everyone's concerns.  Boots Whitepaw, a house cat, sends multiple letters about an over attentive owner.  Tabby dishes back a great response.  The twist at the end is cute.

Though I got a chuckle out this book and loved the ending, I imagine that this will be a tough book to do as a read aloud.  There is a lot on the pages that is essential to the story and the illustrations support the text well.  Recommend reading this in smaller groups.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentine's Week Guest Post: The Men of Maud Hart Lovelace

For those of you not familiar with Maud Hart Lovelace, what’s the matter with you? I mean…she is the wonderful author of the Deep Valley books – which include the ten-book Betsy-Tacy series, Carney’s House Party, Winona’s Pony Cart, and the stand-alone book Emily of Deep Valley.

The early Betsy books tell of a picnic filled childhood, friendships, and frolics on the Big Hill. Once the books reach the high school years, we get to pretty dresses, the dances and above all else, the beaus. Right there you know this is not your typical YA because boys are called beaus. So romantic! These books take place circa 1905-1917 and the men of Deep Valley, the fictional town where the books are mostly set, are well-dressed (think: suits), well-coifed (think: shining pompadours), and well-mannered (think: they’re as likely to bring flowers to the mothers as to the daughters).

Here’s a rundown of some of the men of Deep Valley (and beyond). Don’t tell my husband, but I’m in love with one or two of them myself.

The Betsy-Tacy books:
Tony Markham – The Tall Dark and Handsome one
Tony might possibly have been my first book crush. He’s good looking, funny, can sing, and is just a little bit bad (he smokes cigarettes and hops trains to the Twin Cities to watch baseball games). He’s the one your mother warned you about, but can’t help liking herself.

Joe Willard – The Elusive
Joe is gorgeous, independent and too stubborn for his own good. It’s too easy to hurt Joe’s feelings, which is why Betsy can never land him. Never say never though. The fourth high school book is called Betsy and Joe, and the blond man on the cover of Betsy’s Wedding looks awfully familiar.

Phil Brandish – The Snob
He's rich, drives a car in 1908 when many people have never even seen one, and thinks a lot of himself. But he’s polite, refined and if he could just find where he left his sense of humour, he might be all right.

Uncle Rudy & Mr. Ray – The Debonairs
When Betsy spends Christmas with her best friend Tib in Milwaukee, Tib’s Uncle Rudy steals her heart with his waxed mustaches, dancing, and tickets to the theater on a Sunday!

Mr. Ray is Betsy’s father and if you’re looking for upstanding, loyal, and someone who loves his family, look no further. Even as his circumference grows in middle age, he still cleans up nicely and is the most debonair man at the Melborn Hotel dances.

Marco Regali – The Romantic
Marco is the Italian young man who falls in love with Betsy in Venice. He calls her Bette, throws roses through her bedroom window, and takes her on ferry rides to islands where they picnic until sunset. Yeah, Marco is as good as he sounds.

Sam Hutchinson – The Loveable one
Sam is the romantic lead in Carney’s House Party, a book told from the point of view of Betsy’s friend, Caroline Sibley (Carney). He’s the jolly, loveable, nice to kids, kind of guy and while I didn’t fall in love with him myself, I can see why others might. To me, he makes the perfect friend though.

Emily of Deep Valley is a stand-alone book and while Betsy and some of her friends make brief appearances, they’re not really part of the story.

Don Walker – The Cad
Oh, don’t get me started. Emily likes him…a lot. But why? Oh, sure, she can really talk to him. But only when it suits him. And only when her beautiful cousin isn’t around. Run, Em, run! And I’m not giving anything away, as the reader can tell this from the very beginning, even if Emily can’t!

Jed Wakefield – The Forward Thinker
Jed is all for a social cause and he’s thinking about America’s future. He’s got his own thoughts and opinions, but he also takes into account Emily’s beliefs, circumstances, and desires. He’s one you can count on. In a way, he’s a young Mr. Ray.

There are many more beaus and male friends in all of these books, but these are the main ones. The nice thing I’m always reminded of when I revisit Lovelace’s books is that while Betsy and her friends are often similar to boy-crazy girls a hundred years later, there is always an underlying theme of girl-power too. The books ring with these messages: be true to yourself, study hard, go to college, be loyal to your friends, don’t compromise your beliefs, make something of yourself, be socially, spiritually, and politically aware, don’t settle, and follow your dreams. And all those messages are mixed in with pretty dresses, dances, and beaus.

Joëlle Anthony is the author of the young adult novel, Restoring Harmony, and her second book, The Right & the Real will be released in April 2012. Visit her website at

You can also find her on twitter: @joellewrites

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Week: Fictional Crushes

On Monday, we heard about some fictional YA heroes - thanks Sophie.  Miss Tammy stopped by on Tuesday to share with us her favorite hot boys with accents.  Wednesday brought us "bad boys with heart" thanks to Janelle.  So today, I am sharing my top five YA fictional crushes (boy was this hard...I had to leave off Sam from Shiver, Pietr from 13 to Life, Zach from Shadow Hills, Spill from Restoring Harmony, and Max from 13 to Life).

About a year ago, I remember having a conversation with one of my students after she finished reading Beautiful Creatures by Garcia & Stohl.  I admitted to her that I had a crush on Ethan.  Her shocked and confused look made me nearly choke on my laughter.  She just couldn't imagine how or why her principal would be having a crush on some character in a book, but really if you spend any time on Twitter the topic of fictional crushes will come up.  I'm in good company. (Please note -all my real life crushes have been age appropriate.) 

There is something fun when an author can write a character that makes your heart skip a beat when he enters a scene or when you want to be the female main character so that it will be you that he is looking at with those smoldering eyes.

So what is it that attracts a girl to her fictional crush...well, I can't speak for anyone else but here is what makes me swoon for a guy (and to have all these qualities - well let me just say - I need a minute to catch my breath)....

He's not necessarily the most popular guy in high school.

# 5 Cabel from Wake/Fade/Gone by Lisa McMann - Cabel was certainly not the most popular guy in Janie's High School.  You might actually say he is an outcast.  However, there was something about Cablel that made me fall for him completely.  It might be the way that he was always looking out for Janie and would even have a snack for her for after one of her dream experiences.  Yep, my guy knows what a girl needs even if she doesn't.

He isn't who you think he is. 

# 4 Carter from Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender - I expected Carter to be a bit of a jerk.  I really wasn't planning on falling for him at all.  However, he turns out to be nothing like I expected and he really cares about Alexis and wants to help her.  So much so that he can't be detoured.  There was so not enough of Carter in book 1.  Dear Katie Alender: Please make sure there is more of Carter in book 2.  Thanks, Me.

He's smart and likes books.  

# 3 Ethan from Beautiful Creatures/Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl - Right from the start one of the things that caught my eye about Ethan Waite (yah, aside from good looks and an accent and ability to meld thoughts with Lena) was the fact that he loved reading and books - even if he didn't want to let the others know.  Plus his mother had been a librarian. 

He's strong yet sensitive and equally matched. 

# 2 Po from Graceling by Kristen Cashore - Katsa is one tough heroine but I want to say to her "Step aside if you don't want to marry him, I will." ;-)  Katsa would never have been able to be in a relationship with a man that she could completely boss around.  Po was a great match for her.  He was strong, a great fighter, and very much her equal.  Yet, despite his practice/training fights with Katsa, he also knew how to be gentle with her and bring out different sides to her.

He is devoted and protective (in a good way). 

# 1 Chen Yong from Silver Phoenix/Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon - I am crazy about Chen Yong.  If I had a check list for things I am looking for in a guy, he would probably get a 100% rating.  How can he not...he is smart, good looking, strong, sensitive, and always coming to Ai Ling's rescue. Heck, even the most independent girl still likes it when a guy is looking out for her and comes to her rescue.  Ai Ling isn't easy to protect.  She is very spirited and determined.  However, Chen Yong was really always there for her. 

Now that I shared with you my top 5 crushes...why don't you tell me yours?

Book Review - Your Mommy Was Just Like You

Author:  Kelly Bennett
Illustrator: David Walker
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (March 17, 2011)
Audience: Ages 3 to 6 years old
Source:  Copy for Review

Description from Press Kit:
Once upon a time - according to Grandma - Mommy loved getting messy, wearing kooky costumes and collecting dandelion fluff.  Sometimes she was a terror, but most of the time she was a sweet potato-doll face-poopsie.  Just like her own little girl today! 

Kelly Bennett's Your Mommy Was Just Like You is a companion book to Your Daddy Was Just Like You.  This time Grandma is talking with her young granddaughter as they flip through a photo album.  She shares with her granddaughter how even from birth she looked like her mother and how they behaved in similar ways and had similar likes.  When I arrived at nearly the last page, I read - "Your mommy is my baby. And no matter how big she gets, or how old she gets, she will always be my baby." - I had to laugh.  I had just heard a mother say something similar to her daughter the other day.  There are many lines in this book that ring true.  Bennett certainly captures the familiar conversations that likely every grandparent has had with their grandchild. 

Children are always curious about things about themselves like the day they were born or other special events.  They will often ask a parent to tell about it over and over again.  And since they often don't have a real sense that their parents were ever children, to learn about the similarities - how they fit into their family line is important to them.

This book can be included in a collection of books centered around families or as a gift from a grandparent to her grandchild.  I can picture the book sparking further conversation about real-life similarities and shared giggles. 

David Walker's illustrations nicely compliment Bennett's text.  I enjoyed the expressions on the characters faces and chuckled at some of the ways the images were presented.  The soft pastel colors bring a gentleness to the book. 

For more information about Kelly Bennett and her books, check out her website

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Week Guest Post: Bad Boys With A Good Heart

When it comes to book crushes, I’m definitely more of a hero girl. I mean, come on! How can any self-respecting girl not love Peeta? Or Po? Or Jem? Or Sam? Yeah… *wistful sighs* I love them…
But every once in a while, a bad boy will come around and sweep me right off my feet.

Not just any bad boy, though. He has to have a good heart. One that is not buried too deep… *cough* Will *cough* (Although, I totally trust that his good heart will eventually show. Eventually.)

I started thinking about bad boys that I love, though, and came up with a very short list, so I turned to my friends on Twitter for help…

The most common bad boy (with three votes) was Patch from Hush, Hush. I’ve yet to read this one, so I’m going off what I’ve heard. Bad boy? Yes. Good heart? Not so sure…

Some of the other ones were Gerard Tarrant from the Coldfire Trilogy (Had to google him, but I am so reading this!), Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (old school, but yes!), and the “bad faerie dude from Paranormalcy” (I suppose I could look up his name for you, but I like what Wendy said).

My friend Kristina  replied that her favorite bad boys are her two sons. She’s joking. Really. She is. Well, I think she is… At least they’re cute bad boys with good hearts!

This leads me to my two favorite bad boys:

Cole from Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

When I first opened Linger and saw Cole’s name in the chapter heading, I closed the book. Seriously. I wanted Grace and Sam. I mean, really, Sam is just amazing! Why doesn’t he just have his own book! So when I saw Cole’s name, I refused the read the book. I couldn’t bear to open it again. Cole already had one strike against him simply by being in the book. I didn’t want the intrusion. I was right. When I finally decided to give it a try, I hated Cole. With a passion. He was a bad boy, and try as I might, I could not see a good heart.

This is one of the things I adore about Maggie’s writing, however: her characters are so rich and complex. By the end of the book, Cole had me eating out of his hands. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he did, in fact, finally show his good heart. There is a certain scene in the end of Linger that made me cry and solidified the fact that Cole does indeed have good heart (making me love him just as much as Sam). Now, I can’t wait to read Forever to find out where the bad boy thing came from. I mean, we have some clues, but… ;o)

And my all-time favorite Bad Boy with a Good Heart…

Jace from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments

*sighs* Jace.

From the first time I saw the snarky golden boy take out a demon in Pandemonium, I was hooked. I mean sure, he wasn’t always the nicest person to Clary, but what do you expect from a boy who was taught at an extremely young age that “To love is to destroy” *heart breaks a little*? And he loved Clary. And he didn’t want to destroy her. And… And… Oh, there is so much more!

His childhood, his relationship with his father, was so complex. How could his character not be? But through it all, his love for Clary is right there.

And the boy really does have a good heart. You can see it seep out whenever his family and friends need him. You can see it in his fierce protectiveness over them.

You can see it in City of Ashes in a certain scene on a certain boat with a certain character who also loves Clary. If there was ever any doubt as to his good heart, what he did in that room, what he said to that character, is more than enough proof.

Yes. Jace is a bad boy… But at least he has a good heart! :o)

(I want to give a shout out to by #FoobaConJace girls… Fellow Jace (and bacon) lovers Di [], Tina [], and Erica []. Yes. We share Jace. And bacon.)

So who are your favorite bad boys? Do they have good hearts?


Janelle Alexander loves to read and write, especially YA. And she loves to crush on fictional characters. And she is as jealous of all of you in your fabulously cold snow as you are of her in her stupid, hot sun. You can find her on Twitter (@janellealexandr), her personal blog (, or her group blog (

Book Review - Ribbit Rabbit

Author:  Candace Ryan
Illustrator: Mike Lowery
Publisher: Walker & Company (February 1, 2011)
Audience: 3 to 6 year olds
Source: Review Copy

Description from GoodReads:
Frog and Bunny are best friends. RIBBIT, RABBIT! They do everything together, like fight monsters (ZIP IT, ZAP IT!). And even though they get in fights sometimes-YIP IT, YAP IT!-they always make up in the end.

Ribbit, Rabbit features an effortlessly clever text that, in less than 150 words, captures the ups and downs of young friendships. Combined with adorably hip and fresh illustrations and an irresistible package, Ribbit, Rabbit is the perfect choice for the youngest of readers.

 I first encountered Candace Ryan at a book signing for Oliver Jeffers.  At that time, I learned about her upcoming book Animal House.  When it was finally released, I had a chance to check it out.  It was fun and made me giggle.  (To read my review of Animal House, click here. )  And it has been a big hit among the students at my school.  Of course, I was interested in checking out her next book.  Ribbit, Rabbit was recently released by Walker & Company and it was fun to actually see the finished product on a shelf at my local indie bookstore.  

This is a story of friendship including both the ups and downs.  Frog and Bunny are friends, best friends.  They do everything together but sometimes they don't see eye to eye and they fight - over the little things and the big things.  Over the course of their disagreement, they learn an important lesson.  

Ryan operates on a level of creative thoughts that when paired with the right illustrator produces a wonderful book.  Ribbit, Rabbit is very different from Animal House.  It is nice to see such different books from the same author.  Ryan's ability with word play and concepts is delightful.  This will be a fun book to share with young children.  They will enjoy the silly rhyming words and the way the two play and even fight.  The little robot that travels through the pages of the book brings the story together and when one friend ends up with the body of the robot and the other the key, it takes a little alone time to finally discover what is most important.  
Lowery's simple illustrations in muted tones compliment Ryan's text and will entertain young children.  

If you are looking for a read aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, you might want to check out Ribbit, Rabbit by Candace Ryan. 

For more information about Candace Ryan and her books, check out her blog here.  

You can follow Candace on Twitter:!/CandaceRyan and she is on Facebook here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Book Birthday to Secrets & Shadows (Book 2 Thirteen to Life)

Just wishing Shannon Delany a Happy Book Birthday.  Secrets & Shadows, the second book in The Thirteen to Life Series is out today.

Below is the official book trailer for Secrets & Shadows.   Also, if you are interested in winning a signed copy of 13 to Life or signed posters of the two books, you still have a few more hours to enter my MAX-imum Exposure Giveaway.  Details here.

To check out an interview I did with Pietr and Max, and for more information about Shannon, click here.

Valentine's Week Guest Post: Hot Boys With Accents

‘Ello, Sexy.

The first time I fell in love I was in Orlando, Florida. He had dropped something while walking out of a restaurant, and being the good Southern girl that I am, I picked it up and handed it back to him. He gave me a brilliant smile and replied, “Cheers, Love.”

That was it. I was smitten. Sure, he was an over-weight, bald man old enough to be my father, but that accent. Being from the backwoods of Kentucky, it was my first real life exposure to a British accent, and it was the most beautiful sound in the whole world to my ears.

To this day, I’m still entranced by a good accent. A guy can go from fairly average to steaming hot in two seconds flat with the addition of an Irish brogue. Even in books, I’m drawn to characters with accents I can only hear in my head. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve put together a list of my five favorite boys with accents in YA literature.

Carlos Fuentes from Simone Elkeles’ Rules of Attraction. I liked Alex, really I did, but it was his brother Carlos who stole my heart. There was no way Kira could have resisted when the Mexican bad boy said, “I dare you.”

Étienne St. Claire from Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. What could be more perfect than a boy with a French name and British accent? After reading Anna and the French Kiss, I’m pretty sure the answer to that question is “not a single thing.”

George Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Yes, there are tons of guys with accents to choose from in the Harry Potter series (like Professor Snape who can read the phone book to me any day of the week), but the Weasley twins win my affection. How can you not love the fun-loving gingers? Well, I suppose I mean the fun-loving ginger… We miss you, Fred.

Jem Carstairs from Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. I like Jem. He’s smart and sensitive and plays the violin. How cool is that? Okay, so the whole Bleached Boy thing creeps me out a little. (I know a woman who is silver because of her “medicine”. Trust me on this, it’s not pretty.) But looks aren’t everything, right? Especially when you’re a half-British, half-Chinese Shadowhunter who grew up in Shanghai and now lives in England. What I wouldn’t give to hear him speak.

Image from Just One More Freak Deviant Art
Will Herondale from Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. You thought I was going full-on Team Jem there didn’t you? Don’t be so naïve. I couldn’t choose just one Shadowhunter even if I was being held at claw-point by a demon. Will isn’t just beautiful and British, but also tortured. And if there is anything I love more than a boy with an accent, it’s a boy with angst.

How about you? What are your favorite fictional boys with accents? And what accents are certain to make a guy’s hotness level raise a few points in your book?

Miss Tammy is the Young Adult Services Coordinator for a public library system in Kentucky. When she's not reading, writing, or cataloging books, she's sleeping. Being from Kentucky she has no accent whatsoever. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Week Guest Post: All About Heroes

When Aly asked me to write this post, I agreed immediately. Who doesn’t love a hero? And then I started to think about it and I realized it was harder than I thought. I mean, there are so many different types of heroes. So, I ran to the dictionary and found it equally unhelpful. I already knew the description: myth, legend, strong, brave, idol. I just couldn’t put my finger on it until I realized that that’s not what I wanted to talk about here. I wanted to talk about a specific type of hero. You know, the one we read about; that guy we’ve all met between the pages of our favorite stories – the one who always does the right thing.

Let’s face it, he may not even start out as a hero. Oscar in Pam Bachorz’ CANDOR is really more of an anti-hero in the beginning of the story. But then some thing or better yet, someone, changes his way of thinking and he ends up sacrificing everything for her. How can you not love that guy?

He may be someone we already know like Simon in Cassie Clare’s The Mortal Instruments. Who didn’t love him when he waited for Clary in her bedroom while she was observing the flowering patterns of obscure flora with a certain Shadowhunter? Okay, Simon interrupts what is going to be one hot scene but he was there for Clary, making sure she was safe in this strange, new world they just discovered.

Or maybe he’s the boy next door as in A.M. Robinson’s Vampire Crush. After all, who doesn’t love a boy who remembers where he hid that princess sandal he stole from you when you were kids?

I have to mention a Hot Boy with Sword who fits this bill nicely – Ash from Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey books. And if you haven’t read The Iron Queen, yet, I won’t spoil it for you but just read those last few pages and you’ll see what I mean. Ash always does the right thing. Always.

My favorite in this genre has got to be Cabel from Lisa McMann’s WAKE/FADE/GONE series. He and Janie have been through so much and still, in GONE, he waits for her. He even keeps his inner worries hidden (or so he thinks). But through it all, he remains by her side, always but always doing the right thing.

So next time you pick up a book, look for that boy, you know the one…yeah, see him off in the distance watching you, waiting to help you out when you need him the most.

Sophie Riggsby is a busy mom of three you can find her daydreaming about fictional characters while waiting for her children in the School Pick Up Lane, at Boy Scout meetings or in their ballet classes. She loves to post book reviews on Mundie Moms, Mundie Kids and Page Turners Blog

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Trouble With Chickens (A J.J. Tully Mystery)

Author: Doreen Cronin
Illustrator: Kevin Cornell
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins)
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Pages: 128
Ages: 7 to 10 years
Source: ARC from ALA Midwinter
Rating: Buy multiple copies...1 won't be enough for your school or library.

Description from GoodReads:
J.J. Tully is a former search-and-rescue dog who is trying to enjoy his retirement after years of performing daring missions saving lives. So he’s not terribly impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar (who look like popcorn on legs), along with their chicken mom, show up demanding his help to track down their missing siblings. Driven by the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. begins to track down clues. Is Vince the Funnel hiding something? Are there dark forces at work—or is J.J. not smelling the evidence that’s right in front of him?

Doreen Cronin is well known for her numerous picture books - Click, Clack, Moo; Duck for President; Rescue Bunnies; and The Diary of a Fly are just a few of her titles.  With The Trouble With Chickens, Cronin is making a leap into the world of chapter books or what I might refer to as early Middle Grade.  Though the book's marketing page indicates that the book is for Grades 3 to 7 (or ages 8 to 12), I would suggest that the book will appeal the most to children 7 to 10.  This actually excites me because where I can find numerous books that are perfect for children 9 to 12 there seems to be a void of excellent stories geared for that more diverse range of reading abilities that you may find in younger children.  However, I believe Cronin has nailed it with The Trouble With Chickens, and with a subtitle of "A J.J. Tully Mystery" I am hoping that it means there will be future books with J. J. 

In The Trouble With Chickens, Cronin has developed a story around a former search and rescue dog named J.J.  who is currently in retirement and living on a farm.  J.J. is not particularly happy about this and even less happy when a "crazy chicken" named Millicent or whom he nicknames Moosh appears in his dog house.  Adults familiar with the 1940's-1950's film noir style and format will immediately pick up on the similarities between the book and a Philip Marlowe/Humphrey Bogart movie. Children may miss the style reference but they will enjoy the banter between J.J. and the chickens and J.J.'s narrations.  The story has great dialogue, humor, wonderful characters, and even a villain in Vince the Funnel, the dog living in the big house.  The sense of mystery and the fact that not everything is always as it seems lends just enough twists to keep children guessing as to what will happen to J.J. and the chickens.

Kevin Cornell's playful illustrations add a great touch to the book and bring the characters to life in a new way. 

I'm excited to have this book to share with students.  I already know that I will have a list of children waiting in line to check it out.  

For more information about Doreen Cronin, check out her website here.  For more information about illustrator, Kevin Cornell, check out his work here

Below is the official booktrailer for the book.  Listen to Doreen speak in detail about the film noir aspect of the book.

* Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays were started by Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. You can check out her Marvelous Middle Grade Monday choice and Giveaway Post here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grandma's Pear Tree Part 2: The Author Visit

On Thursday, February 3, 2011, Suzanne Santillan made the trek up from San Diego to come visit students in Pasadena.  Santillan is the author of Grandma's Pear Tree a bilingual picture book that tells the story of what happens when a young boy gets his soccer ball stuck in his Grandmother's pear tree.

In preparation for Suzanne's visit, the children were exposed to the book not only through read alouds but also through a Literacy Café.  For more information about the Café, click here.  However, there was one thing that we didn't tell the Kindergartners to Second Graders about the book and that was the ending.  When reading the story, we held back the ending to build suspense and to allow Suzanne to reveal it when she came.

During her visit, she read the book aloud with young assistants and the help of props.  The children were very excited to finally discover how the book ends. 

Children had an opportunity to ask her some of their burning questions. 

And she even shared what inspired her to write the book Grandma's Pear Tree. 

 At one point, she had the children working together to explain the concept of teamwork and helping one another problem-solve - just like in the book.

We were so thankful that Suzanne was willing to come up and visit and share about how she writes books, and her ideas for new stories, and that just like students who have to edit their writing, so do authors have to revise their stories.  

Thanks Suzanne and we look forward to your next book!  Come back and visit us anytime!!

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

The Follower Love Giveaway Hop event is organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.  Over 200 blogs have signed up to host a book related giveaway and we are all linked up together so you can easily hop from one giveaway to another.  The hop runs from Tuesday, February 8th through Sunday, February 13th.

2011 Debut Author Challenge Giveaway Theme - I decided to giveaway two books that have been on my much wanted to read list.   

Giveaway # 1 The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Description from GoodReads:
Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.  

Giveaway #2 Clarity by Kim Harrington (Advanced Reader Copy - book releases in March 2011)

Description from GoodReads:
When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

 And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case--but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother--who has supernatural gifts of his own--becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

Rules for the Contest:

1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section, you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PST on February 8, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PST on February 13th.
3.  You must be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  You must indicate which giveaway that you would like to be entered into.  You may enter both.
6.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
8.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Grandma's Pear Tree Part 1: The Literacy Café Experience

For those of you who have been following me on twitter, you have heard me refer to Book Cafés or Literacy Cafés.  The Café was developed from a brainstorming conversation I had with a parent (Angie) who was a former High School Teacher and Literacy Coach.  One of my goals for my school this year was for children and teachers to come together to form a reading community.  A place were books were important and where children were inspired to pick up a book and read.

After three years at my school, I was frustrated in the reading progress being made by the children.  Each year, the teachers and I discussed the concern of how to build greater reading comprehension and greater reading abilities in all children.  Each year we tried new strategies and techniques, and each year our students seemed to show less interest rather than more interest in reading.  Then came the concept of a Literacy Café.

What is special about a Literacy Café?
 Cafés are always centered around a book.  Cafés always include food.  Cafés are created to assist students in synthesizing the information that they have learned in the book and to take it to a new level.

How does a Literacy Café work?
Recently, Children's Author, Suzanne Santillan stopped by for a school visit.  In order to prepare the children in Kindergarten to Second Grade for her visit, a Literacy Café was developed.  Each Café is unique and often, we have learned so much from doing it that if we were to repeat it, the Café would look different the second time. 

In the case of Grandma's Pear Tree, we developed the Café to work with children in kindergarten to second grade.  Children rotated between the following three activities (remember each café has different activities).

Activity One: Retelling and Sequencing Grandma's Pear Tree
A kindergartner draws the beginning, middle and end of the story.
Objective One:  Children will be able to verbally sequence the events in the story using complete sentences.

Children were read the story Grandma's Pear Tree.  With the support of picture cards, children retold the story checking to make sure that all of the items were properly sequenced.

Objective Two: Using a flow map, children will be able to draw picture representations of the beginning, middle and end of the story.
Following the retelling/re-enactment of the story, children were given a flow map and asked to draw pictures representing the beginning, middle and end of the story.  The above map was created by a kindergartner. 

Activity Two: Pear Science
Children had a chance to feel, smell, look at, and taste pears vs. avocados.
Objective One:  Children will be able to compare and contrast the features/characteristics of a pear and an avocado. 

Children were asked to think like a scientist and to use all of their senses in comparing a pear to an avocado.  They looked at and held each fruit, compared the outsides and insides of the fruit, measured and weighed the fruit, and in the end got to do a taste test. 

Activity Three: Sensory Adjectives & Cooking
Recipe Card used by a child to make the salad.
Objective One: During a cooking project using pears, children will be able to generate sensory adjectives for all of the foods/tastes in a Pear Salad.  Children will use these adjectives in developing a name for the salad. 

Objective Two: Children will be able to follow simple directions (a recipe) in order to make a pear salad.

Children were assisted in creating a pear salad.  Once they had a chance to eat some of it, an adult led them through a process of identifying sensory adjectives that best fit their taste experience.  When done with that, they were encouraged to create a name using at least one of the sensory adjectives.

What we have discovered about Cafés? 

Here are just a few of the things that we have learned about cafés over the course of this year:
* Cafés bring books to life and make what a children has heard or read take on new meaning.
* Cafés allow teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners - children with special needs, English Language Learners, and even Gifted children.
* Cafés develop a sense of community and shared experiences between learners and leaders (volunteers, staff, etc.). 
* Cafés are living and evolving all the time.  We are always trying to figure out new ways to help children grasp a concept and apply it in a new way.

I am thankful to Angie for her willingness to go on this journey with me this year.  Her creativity and passion has helped me put wheels and a mega-engine on my literacy goals this year.  Without her, I am certain I would be still floundering around.  I also want to thank all of the parents, community members, teachers and students who have been on this journey and who have taught me so much about learning and books.  And I want to thank Suzanne for letting me use her book and her visit to talk about our cafés. 

Tomorrow:  Suzanne Santillan visits San Rafael School to talk about Grandma's Pear Tree