Monday, April 25, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Horton Halfpott

Author: Tom Angleberger
Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 9 to 12
Source: ARC from Midwinter ALA
Mystery * Humor

Description from GoodReads:
Tom Angleberger's latest, loopiest middle-grade novel begins when M'Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset (it's never been loosened before!), thereby setting off a chain of events in which all the strict rules of Smugwick Manor are abandoned. When, as a result of "the Loosening," the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks look for someone to blame. Is it Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can't tell a lie? Or one of the many colorful cast members in this silly romp of a mystery.

I was excited to hear that Tom Angleberger, author of Origami Yoda, had a new middle grade book coming out, and then fortunate enough to snag an advanced reader's copy at ALA Midwinter.  After finishing it, within days of picking it up, the book was already making the rounds starting with my niece and then select students at school.  The verdict - one very funny book.  Horton Halfpott: Or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset or just Horton Halfpott, as I call it, is part Dickens, part Victorian mystery, and part Fractured Fairy Tales.  (For those of you too young to remember these cartoons, YouTube has a number of them.  Click here to watch one.) 

One morning, M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset is loosened unleashing a series of events around the Luggertuck's estate (Smugwick Manor).  Readers quickly learn that the Lord and Lady of Smugwick Manor are very unpleasant and their son Luther is quite spoiled.  There is no mistake about this.  When items go missing, the Luggertucks hire Portnoy St. Pomfrey to get to the bottom of it all.  As in most Victorian mysteries, things aren't always as they seem.  Is St. Pomfrey really such an amazing detective or just taking advantage of free food and housing?  Is the Luggertuck's lump really such a fabulous diamond?  Is Horton truly just a lowly kitchen boy who cannot lie?  Will Celia Sylvan-Smythe marry the conniving Luther, or his spineless cousin Montgomery, or will some other boy catch her eye?  And what does a gang of pirates have to do with this whole story?

Angleberger does a masterful job at getting the voice just right which is critical to the success of the story.  The short chapters, colorful characters, goofy antics, play on words, and twists and turns will engage readers.  The narrator reveals just enough information where the reader feels like s/he is in the know but not so much as to spoil the surprises.  Additionally, the book appears to appeal to both female and male readers.  It has been fun to see that both girl and boy readers sharing how much they have enjoyed the story too. 

Though vastly different from Origami Yoda, Horton Halfpott continues to show Angleberger's skill with writing humor and quirky characters.  Fortunately fans of Angleberger's won't have long to wait for another book, Darth Paper Strikes Back coming out in September 2011.   

For more information about Horton Halfpott, check out the official website.  I picked up a final copy recently (yes, it was spotted in the wild three weeks before the release date) and the windows on the front cover actually glows in the dark!

For more information about author Tom Angleberger, check out the following websites:  Berger & Burger or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

You can also follow Tom Angleberger on Twitter: @origamiyoda

* 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, April 24, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (9)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my weekly visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books. However, this is going to be a slightly unusual "Hot Off The Press!" post.  I realized that I never did a post on new books of poetry for children and National Poetry Month is almost over.  So I am going to compromise - two new releases (from the new release wall) and three new poetry books released in 2011 (featured on Vroman's National Poetry Month table). 

The Umbrella
Illustrators: Ingrid Schubert, Deiter Schubert
Publisher: Lemniscaat USA (April 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 and older

This wordless picture book is beautifully illustrated by husband and wife team Deiter & Ingrid Schubert. It is a simple story of a small dog who finds an umbrella and thanks to the wind, ends up going on an adventure around the world. It is important to pay attention to the end pages as well or the reader will miss some important information.  I was so hoping that there would be a book trailer for this one, but alas, I couldn't find one.  

Meow Said The Cow
Author/Illustrator: Emma Dodd
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 3 to 6 

A barnyard cat is tired of the noise in the morning by all of the other animals on the farm.  With a swish of his tail and a little spell, cat causes the animals to make different sounds.  Rather than experiencing the peace and quite that cat was hoping for, there is utter chaos.  Soon the animals know just who is to blame and cat returns their voices but not without getting a taste of his own magic.  Young children will enjoy the rhyming text and the silliness of all the animals making different sounds.  

A Dazzling Display of Dogs
Author: Betsy Franco
Illustrator: Michael Wertz
Publisher: Tricycle Books (January 25, 2011)

In 2009, Franco released A Curious Collection of Cats - a book of poetry for children and cat lovers about just that - cats.  Her newest release is for the dog lovers out there. Each poem captures the experience and all of the emotions of owning and loving dogs.  For more wonderful books on poetry for children, including one about cats, check out Betsy Franco's website.  For a fun experience, you can watch the video posted on YouTube by illustrator Michael Wertz who performs the poems to music.  

Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed From A Single Word
Author: Bob Raczka
Illustrator: Nancy Doninger
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 15, 2011)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 6th

When I picked this book up, I sat down with my 10 year old niece and we started reading it together.  Bob Raczka did an amazing job creating poems from just the letters in a single word.  The reader has the challenge of viewing the artistic arrangement of the words/letters and discovering the poem.  On the back side of the page, the poem is written out in a more straightforward manner.  I have shared this book with teachers and students.  I admire Raczka's ability to make something look so easy when I know with certainty that it isn't easy.

There isn't a book trailer that I could find for this book, but here is a link were you can take a peek inside the book.  Click here

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace
Author/Illustrator: Anna Grossnickle Hines
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (March 29, 2011)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 6th

Anna Grossnickle Hines gets my praise on two levels.  One - this is a remarkable book of poetry, both serious and at times fun, centered around the topic of peace.  Peace both globally and in ourselves and our communities.  She also gets my praise for the quilted illustrations.  In another life and times, I would love to come back both as a poet and a quilter.  Rather than tell you about this book, I want to encourage you to watch the book trailer.  You will see why this book is so amazing. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. A huge thanks to Yara @ Once Upon a Twilight for helping co-host this hop and creating the awesome Hop Graphic!

This Giveaway Hop runs from Wednesday, April 20th to Monday, April 25th.  There are over 200 blogs signed up to host a giveaway so have fun checking out all the giveaways.

For the Giveaway
This will be a winner's choose giveaway.  What does that mean? If you may chose one of the following -
A gift card for $15 from Amazon

Or Up to $15 in books from Book Depository

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.  Any comments with personal information will be deleted.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on Monday, April 25th.
3.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
4.  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.
5.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Book Birthday to Little Chicken's Big Day

Author:  Jerry Davis
Illustrator:  Katie Davis
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry (April 19, 2011)
Audience: Ages 2 to 6
Source:  Advanced Readers Copy

Description from GoodReads:
"I hear you cluckin', Big Chicken!" That's the simple refrain that Little Chicken repeats to his mama throughout a typical day. But Little Chicken can be distractable . . . and when he wanders off and gets lost, the day becomes anything but typical. With subtlety and humor, this sweet little story sweeps through a wide range emotions using the simplest of language.
From husband and wife team Katie and Jerry Davis, this is a little book with a huge heart. The perfectly minimal illustrations and spare text belie the enormous message at its core: that with family, help is always just a cluck away.

Producing a children's picture book for toddlers and preschoolers that is entertaining for young children and for the adult who will be reading it aloud is not easy.  Some books are cloyingly sweet.  Others are a bit to sing-songy with the text.  Some books have great illustrations but lack memorable text, and then there is the opposite - poetic text with lackluster illustrations.  However, Little Chicken's Big Day from Jerry and Katie Davis may literally be my favorite picture book for this age group so far in 2011 (which is saying a lot since I probably have read over 300 pictures books since January). 

I am not sure whether I lost my heart to the refrain "I hear you cluckin', Big chicken" or the picture of little chicken strapped into a car seat.  Jerry Davis' first attempt at a children's picture book is impressive.  His text captures perfectly the amusing wanderings of this baby chick on his outing with mama chick.  From the time, mama chick gets little chick up and ready all the way to bedtime, readers will delight in little chicken's antics.  Of course, Katie Davis' illustrations amazingly depict the emotions of the story from the look on little chick's face while buckled into the car seat (the "I don't like being buckled in" face) to the happy relief of finding his mommy after wandering off.   Their collaboration has succeeded in producing a book that not only will have young children saying "again" upon reaching the end, but one that even mommies & daddies who are reading it will want to read "one more time".   

I look forward to future collaborative efforts from the husband and wife team of Jerry Davis and Katie Davis.  Little Chicken's Big Day will definitely be added to my list of books to give new parents or or as gifts to my favorite little friends. 

You can find out more about Katie Davis and her books at
And you can find her on twitter: @katiedavisburps

And don't forget to watch the book trailer for Little Chicken's Big Day.  It makes me laugh and is probably my favorite book trailer of 2011. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Squish #1: Super Amoeba

Authors/Illustrators:  Jenni Holm & Matt Holm
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (release May 10, 2011)
Audience:  Ages 9 to 12
Source: Advanced Reader Copy from ALA Midwinter 2011
Graphic Novel * Humor

Description from GoodReads:
Introducing SQUISH—a new graphic novel series about a comic book-loving, twinkie-eating grade school AMOEBA trying to find his place in the world (or at least trying to make it through a school day). Inspired by his favorite comic book hero, SUPER AMOEBA!, Squish has to navigate school (bullies! detention! Principal Planaria!), family (dad: Hates to wear a tie. Secretly listens to heavy metal in the car), and friends (Peggy-rainbows! happy all the time! and Pod . . . who's . . . well, you just have to meet him). Can Squish save the world—and his friends—from the forces of evil lurking in the hallways? Find out in Squish: Super Amoeba—saving the world, one cell at a time!

As a big fan of the Babymouse series by sister and brother team, Jenni & Matt Holm, I was very excited to see that they had a new series.  It was probably one of the first books I read out of the pile of ARC's that I picked up from ALA Midwinter 2011 back in January.  Though I held off my review until now, that hasn't meant that I haven't been sharing my love for Squish with students and booksellers that I know.  

Similar to Babymouse, Squish primarily takes place in a school setting.  Of course there are the daily challenges that he must navigate around and figure out how to survive.   Those pesky challenges include lunch options (which I found interesting considering the book is about a one-celled organism), a tendency to daydream in class, avoiding detention, dealing with bullies, and Principal Planaria.  Squish has a couple of good friends, and supportive parents.  The combination of characters led by the day-dreaming Squish is entertaining and filled with a lot of laughs.  The format and illustrations are reminiscent of Babymouse.   Also, where as some boys might avoid the very pinkness of Babymouse, Squish's color theme is bold and fluorescent.  

Since I brought my copy of Squish to school, it has been passed around and around.  I am not even sure what child has it anymore and I mean this in a good way.  It moves from one child to the next without ever spending too much time back with me.  I am excited to know that Squish #2: Brave New Pond will be out at the end of September.  

My niece wrote up a shelf-talker for Squish for our local Indie Bookstore.  Here is what she wrote on her shelf-talker:

"The book is very funny, and it is a lot about school.  Squish (the amoeba) is smart, but daydreams a lot.  He has 2 best friends.  In the book, Squish has to stand up to a bully.  The book shows that you can talk to your parents about school.  I liked the way the authors ended it.  Read and enjoy!" - Jackie, age 10

Below is the book trailer for Squish, watch and enjoy -

For where to find the creators of Squish:

Jennifer Holm's Webpage:

Matt Holm's Webpage: 

On Twitter:
Matt Holm can be found @mattholm
Jennifer Holm can be found @jenniholm

* 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, April 17, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (8)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my weekly visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books.  Here are the 4 new releases that stood out from the pile this week: 

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours
Author/Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh
Publisher: Abrahms Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th

This book talks about Diego Rivera's art, what influenced him, and how his style developed over time.  The illustrations are lovely and supports the text well.   The story also proposes what Rivera may have painted if he were painting today and compared it to the pieces that he had painted. I am going out on a limb here and suggesting that this will likely get a serious look by this year's Pura Belpre committee.

The Quite Contrary Man: A True American Tale
Author: Patricia Rusch Hyatt
Illustrator: Kathryn Brown
Publisher: Abrahms Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th

"Beard" Palmer stood up for the right to keep his beard despite being thrown in jail as a consequence for refusing to shave it off.  When I first picked up this title, I was expecting a story about an unpleasant person.  I was pleasantly surprised for the way the story unfolded.  Palmer appears (at least by the way the tale is told) to have been well loved by his family but extremely stubborn when it came to things like standing up for his right to have facial hair or prisoner's conditions (which he managed to speak out against by sneaking out letters to his family).  Text and illustrations work well to tell Palmer's story and the author's note at the end provides readers with more information about the historical trends of facial hair and facts about Palmer.

Author/Illustrator: Sebastian Loth
Publisher: NorthSouth (May 1, 2011)
Audience: Pre-K to 1st

Clementine is a snail who loves anything round.  One day, she decides she wants to go to the moon. With the help of a worm named Paul, there are numerous failed attempts.  And though she doesn't quite make it there she does make a remarkable discovery in the process. The illustrations are gentle and the story about a very determined snail will make for an enjoyable read aloud.  


Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Matthew Myers
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (April 1, 2011)
Audience: Pre-k to 2nd

At one point, Clink was a snazzy state-of-the-art robot.  As with all things, newer and supposedly better models appear.  Each day, Clink watches as children clamor over the newer robots.  However, no one appears to want Clink, until one day a little boy comes into the story.  Will he be the one to adopt Clink as his own?  Myers illustrations play well against DiPucchio's text.  Another story that will do well as a read aloud for young children. 

Check out the book trailer for Clink here

Interview with Chris Rylander, Author of The Fourth Stall

Today, I would like to welcome Debut Author, Chris Rylander to Kid Lit Frenzy.  As part of The Fourth Stall Blog Tour, Chris has done several guest posts and interviews.  To check on all of the posts, head on over to Walden Pond Press for more details.

THE FOURTH STALL is your debut novel. Did you intentionally start out to write a Middle Grade novel, or did the story come first and then you realized it was Middle Grade?

It was a definite decision to write a middle grade novel. I’d recently read a few middle grade novels at the suggestion of an agent who eventually became the agent who signed me and sold THE FOURTH STALL. And one thing I noticed about middle grade books, is that it seemed like you could get away with breaking the fourth wall more often and that use of a conversational, treat-the-reader-as-a-friend type voice was more common in middle grade fiction than young adult. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but at the time, it seemed like it was. And I thought that style of storytelling would better suit my writing. I wanted to write a casual and fun and kind of wacky book, and I just thought I’d have more freedom to do all of those with a middle grade novel. An interesting fact, though, is that about twenty pages into THE FOURTH STALL, I kind of abandoned it and wrote two other young adult novels… then after those didn’t work out, I returned to the THE FOURTH STALL. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened, how things would have turned out, had I not taken those six months away from THE FOURTH STALL

In developing a book which has such a familiar voice (a little bit mob, a little bit noir), were there things that you felt you needed to add or avoid to keep it from being too predictable?

This is a great question, and there probably are things I should have conscientiously avoided or added to keep it unpredictable. But the truth is, I didn’t really think about it that much. I just kind of dived into the story without much planning or thought. And I think it was that, more than anything else, that helped to (hopefully) keep the story surprising and different and unpredictable. And if all else failed, I always had the talking unicorn factor in my back pocket. Whenever I hit a wall in a story that feels too familiar, I just bust out the talking unicorn with an eye patch and that usually solves everything. Luckily, or maybe unfortunately, the unicorn was never needed for THE FOURTH STALL.

In writing The Fourth Stall, did you base any of the story on situations that you faced as a sixth grader? Did any of the characters resemble people from your life?

Actually, there is only one scene and one character based on actual events/people. The origin story of Mac and Vince’s business was based on something that actually happened to my brother and I back when we were in kindergarten and first grade respectively. Except the real life version was actually a lot more strange and violent and macabre than what ended up in the book. I already push the boundaries a little regarding violence in a middle grade novel, so the real story, which involved a battle axe and a kid who threw steak knives with deadly precision, had to be edited down a bit. The only character who is based entirely on a real former classmate is Kitten. Which is what makes the fact that he’s most readers’ favorite character so interesting to me.

Did you always want to be a writer? When did you first start writing and what was the story about?

I’d always wanted to someday write a book. But that was just it, I always thought, well someday maybe when I’m like 50 years old and have tons of time, I’ll give writing a try. So based on that logic I never did much writing as a kid. Actually, I didn’t do any writing outside of school assignments. I did like to draw cartoons, though, so there always existed a desire to tell stories. I first started writing when I was 23. And interestingly enough, the very first bit of writing I did was a proposal and sample chapters for a non-fiction book about the bizarre history of the earliest divorces in American history. And the funny thing was, the concept garnered a lot of interest from agents, but none of them liked my sample chapters. Finally there was one agent who kind of gave it to me straight and said, basically, this is a great concept, but your writing is just way too boring, terrible almost. And I really appreciated his honesty, I truly did. It was that rejection that propelled me in the opposite direction… I was kind of like, well, I can do exciting and funny and weird if I want to. And so then I wrote my first bit if fiction, which was a novel for adults about a teacher named Abe Lincoln who gets kidnapped by a guy with a mustache and a chick with an eye patch. The story also had these characters: a Canadian Mounted Police Officer with palindrome and candy necklace obsessions, a packrat wolf, a mannequin who fishes, Elvis, and a talking mustache. I’m not kidding, that’s really what the novel was about and I really did finish it and actually submitted it to agents. And not one of them told me my writing was boring. Ha!

If you could spend that day with 1 or 2 of your favorite children's book characters (doesn't have to be from Fourth Stall), who would they be and what would you do?

Definitely the characters from the HARRY POTTER books. They might be some of the best contemporary children’s literature characters ever created. They really come to life in the pages and when you’re reading about them, you’re just dying to be friends with them. I think that is a large part of the magnetic draw of those books. Plus, they’re British, which means I’d listen to whatever it was they wanted to tell me. And they can do magic, which opens up those two days to be full of crazy-fun stuff.

What kind of writing advice would you give to children who want to become a writer?

This is actually the topic and main point of many of the school visits I do: You’re never too young to be a writer. I wish someone had given me this advice when I was a kid! All I ever heard was that it was impossible to get published, so there was no point in trying. So I didn’t! I mean, I started writing when I was 23 and then had my first book deal within two years and now all the time I wonder… what if I’d started writing at age 9 or 10? Could I have been published by 21? By 16? By 13? I’ll never know, because I never tried.

If someone picked up your iPod/MP3 player, what music would they find on it? Do you find yourself listening to music while you write?

They’d find all sorts of stuff that not many people have heard of: The Weakerthans; Son, Ambulance; Desaparecidos; Karate; David Bazan; Cursive; Damien Jurado; Les Savy Fav; The Elected; Okkervil River; Pavement; and many, many others. They all have one thing in common: great lyrics. I rarely listen to music while I write… but more often than not, listening to music is what inspires me to sit down and write.

What's currently in your book stack to read?

Right now I’m reading a book called YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE by Sean Beaudoin. And that has been brilliant and hilarious so far. Also in my To Be Read pile: FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex, THE BRIEF AND FRIGHTENING REIGN OF PHIL by George Saunders, JACKBLANK by Matt Myklusch, WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks, THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES by M.T. Anderson, and literally over 100 others (and these are just the books I’ve already purchased, but haven’t had time to read yet.) My actual physical list (and yes I keep an actual written list in a notebook) has well over 1000 titles in it. I definitely wish I were a faster reader!

Thanks Chris for stopping by...I have already started to check out some of your book and music recommendations.  And of course, we are thrilled that you didn't wait until you were 50 to write your first book!!!

To find out more about Chris and The Fourth Stall, check out his blog here.

You can follow him on Twitter: @chris_rylander

For details on how to win a copy of The Fourth Stall, check out my interview here.
To order The Fourth Stall, check out IndieBound here.

Check out this YouTube interview with Chris for some additional insights into The Fourth Stall.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

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

Since a goal of mine is to read more books directed towards young readers grades 1st to 3rd, I will be doing occasional posts on what I am reading.  Here is the third installment in this feature.

Note: 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 two recent book series that I have been reading lately that might engage a child in this transitional period.

Keena Ford And The Second Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson
Dial Books for Young Readers

Keena lives in Washington, D. C. Her parents are divorced and she spends the weekends with her father in Maryland.  Though she wants to start off, second grade on the right foot it isn't long before a small mistake becomes a bigger problem.  Keena is fun and likable.  She frequently gets into all kinds of sticky situations, but what I appreciated is that there were appropriate consequences for her behaviors.  Also, Keena has a sweet relationship with her dad and I loved their "grown-up" chats at a coffee shop.  This book is next up on my read aloud list for a class of second graders.  I am hoping they enjoy it as much as I did. 

Dinkin Ding And The Frightening Things by Guy Bass
Stripes Publishing

Dinkin is a child who is afraid of everything, but the monsters (Frightening Things) under his bed.  Together with the help of the Frightening Things, Dinkin tackles zombies, doubles from other dimensions, and other things.  The books in this series are fun reads.  Dinkin & the Frightening Things are likable characters and there are tons of laughs.  I also enjoyed the white pages/black print for day and the black pages/white print for night.  Second and third graders will enjoy these books both to read and as a read aloud. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review - Press Here

Author: Hervé Tullet
Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 30, 2011)
Audience: Ages 3 to 7
Source:  Personal Copy

Description for GoodReads:
Press the yellow dot on the cover of this book, follow the instructions within, and embark upon a magical journey! Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next! Children and adults alike will giggle with delight as the dots multiply, change direction, and grow in size! Especially remarkable because the adventure occurs on the flat surface of the simple, printed page, this unique picture book about the power of imagination and interactivity will provide read-aloud fun for all ages!

On the opening page of PRESS HERE, the reader sees a simple yellow dot on a clean white background and the simple words that invite the reader to "Press here and turn the page."  I challenge anyone not to be tempted to "press here".  Once you do "press here" and turn the page the journey has begun.  Each page invites the reader, to press, rub, shake, tilt, or blow on the page.  Each time, readers are rewarded with some kind of action on the subsequent page.  Rubbing the yellow dot may make it change color.  Shaking it moves all of the dots around.  And blowing on the page just might send all of the dots flying.  Every time I share this book with someone, I get the same response - smiles, chuckles, and enthusiastic interaction with the book.

There are books and then there are books. PRESS HERE is fun, simple, and brilliantly executed. In some ways, I like to describe this as an iPad app for people without an iPad.  It should be noted that the book is designed in a way that also allows for heavy use.  With a book that encourages interactions, it is critical that it can stand up to lots of handling.  The pages of PRESS HERE are thicker and coated which will support frequently use.  

If you are looking for gifts for young children in your life, or just like collecting unique books, I would seriously recommend this one.  I am already making up a list of who will get a copy.

Have fun watching the book trailer below.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kindle Winner Announcement

Four bloggers – One kindle giveaway – Lots of lessons learned…

First and most importantly - Yes, we do have a winner…Congrats to Amanda W. who should be receiving her Kindle in the mail any day now.

Second, there are definitely some lessons we learned from running this contest. We thought we would share just in case anyone else ever considers hosting a similar contest:

1. There are a lot of people interested in winning a Kindle. Over 1,000 people totaling up to over 5,000 entries (based on the entry guidelines).

2. If you are going to run a contest with high interest, consider how difficult it will be for the person(s) who will be selecting the winner.

3. If you haven’t considered how long it will be to go through all the entries, plan on lots and lots of time.

4. If you are sharing this between bloggers, develop a plan for how to select and contact the winner and who is responsible for what.

5. Have a back up plan for when “life happens” so that someone can jump in and help another person.

6. Also, clearly have a agreed upon plan for how long you will wait for a "winner" to respond, just in case your first one or two people don't respond.

Finally, we just would like to express our deepest apologies for how long it took to select and announce a winner. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding.

And once again…congratulations Amanda and happy reading.

- Aly (Kid Lit Frenzy) & Lisa (A Life Bound By Books

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review - Page by Paige

Author/Illustrator: Laura Lee Gulledge
Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2011)
Audience:  Young Adult
Source:  Advanced Readers Copy - ALA Midwinter
Graphic Novel * Contemporary Fiction 

Description from GoodReads:
Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she?s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Laura Lee Gulledge crafts stories and panels with images that are thought-provoking, funny, and emotionally resonant. Teens struggling to find their place can see themselves in Paige's honest, heartfelt story.

I was going to wait to post this review a little closer to the release date but I have heard from a Twitter pal (Paul Hankins) that Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge has been spotted in the wild.  So I am celebrating early.  I have been dying to share about this book since January when I picked up an Advanced Readers Copy at ALA Midwinter.  

Page by Paige is the debut graphic novel from Laura Lee Gulledge.  According to Gulledge's bio on her website "the story is her journey as an artist and transplant in New York".  In the book, Paige is 16 and has moved from VA to NYC with her writer parents.  It is a tough time to a teen's life to move and teen readers will resonate with this aspect of the story as well.  Despite Paige's many wonderful traits/characteristics, she is filled with myriad of insecurities as well. Through her developing friendships with Gabe, Jules and Longo, as well as with her sketchbook, Paige discovers more about herself and how she fits into the world around her and how others may see her.  All of these are themes that will connect with especially female teen readers. 

As I read this graphic novel, I was particularly taken with how the illustrations perfectly match the text. Some of the images were just so expressive and vivid which truly moved the text to a new level for me.  I immediately wanted to find people around me to share the images.  I encourage you to check out the book trailers below just to get a taste of the artwork from the book.

I can't wait to start giving this out as gifts or sharing it with teens that I know.  Page by Paige is a wonderful debut by Gulledge and I certainly look forward to future work from her.  

For more information about Laura Lee Gulledge, check out her websites:

To follow her on twitter:  @whoislauralee
To find her on Facebook:

The original book trailer on YouTube:

And the revised book trailer on YouTube:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Little Chicken's Big Day Book Trailer

Next week, Little Chicken's Big Day by Jerry Davis and illustrated by Katie Davis will be released out into the world.  I can't wait to pick up copies to share with friends.  Until then, enjoy watching the video:

To read more about book trailers from Katie Davis, check out her lastest post here.

Go Indie and pre-order Little Chicken's Big Day here

Monday, April 11, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Fourth Stall

Author:  Chris Rylander
Publisher:  Walden Pond Press (February 8, 2011)
Audience:  Ages 10 to 13 years
Source:  Copy for Review 
Fiction * Mystery 

Description from GoodReads:
Chris Rylander delivers a funny Ferris Bueler-style middle grade novel with The Fourth Stall.

Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours

Every once in awhile, I pick up a book and I am really struck by the writing.  I need to admit this doesn't happen to me a lot.  I may like or enjoy a lot of books, but there are fewer books that make me envious.  This happened to me as I read through Chris Rylander's debut novel The Fourth Stall about two sixth graders who run a business out of a bathroom in the east wing of their school.  Mac, along with his best friend and business partner, Vince, help other students with their problems - for a price.  Business is booming until one day trouble arrives in the form of a 8 year old bookie who wants out but his "employer" has other ideas.  Can Mac and Vince help Fred and still maintain their business and friendship? 

Rylander has created a story for Middle Graders that is part Godfather and part Film Noir with some humor thrown in for good measure.  And he is successful.  Rylander has nailed the essential tropes that fans of Noir expect but not in a way that seems trite.  With a cast of well-developed supporting characters, and just enough twists and turns, both children and adult readers will find themselves eagerly flipping pages to discover how Mac is going to solve this problem. And of course, when you arrive at the end of the book, you will want to find out what further trouble Mac & the gang will face.  (Glad to hear that there will/should be a sequel.)

In addition to a well-written story, a great cast of characters, and humor, Rylander has managed to capture boys and male friendship in his book.  Mac and Vince have been friends since kindergarten.  There is certainly a strong bond between them, but what happens when certain things arise that seeks to threaten that relationship?

For as much as I love this book, the educator in me feels the need to voice one word of caution - because of the style, there is some violence (kids do get roughed up) and some questionable behaviors (most principals/teachers will frown on a business being run on campus by students) on the part of Mac and his buddies.  However, when I find a story I love, and want to share it with students, I remind them that we need to "respect the story" and that "I trust that the antics such as the ones from the book won't be re-enacted out on the playground".   Most children are then able to sort through acceptable behaviors to behaviors written to make the story more exciting. 

Overall, I love this initial offering from Rylander, and I am very excited to see how his work develops and grows in the future. 

To check out The Fourth Stall Blog Tour Week 2, head on over to the Walden Pond Press blog here

For more information on Chris Rylander, check out his website here

Thanks to Kellie and Walden Pond Press, I have a hardcover copy of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander to giveaway.  This contest is open to readers in the U.S. or Canada only.  To enter to win, please complete the form 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.

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.  Comments with personal information will be deleted.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on April 11, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 18th.
3.  You DO NOT need to be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  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.
6.  Only US and Canadian participants may enter the contest.

Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop

April is National Autism Awareness Month.  "Experts estimate that every 3 to 6 children out of 1000 will have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)."  Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder impacting a child's language and socialization skills.*

My first real introduction into the world of Autism came after working for several years as a teacher for young children with hearing impairments.  I had switched teaching positions and had become an inclusion teacher for young children with Special Needs. It was in this position that I received a crash course in Autism and how to work most effectively with children on the Autism Spectrum.  Over the years, I have worked with dozens of children with Autism and thanks to the dedicated work of families and professionals I have seen many of them make remarkable educational progress. 

Over the years, I have always been amazed at the role siblings who are typically developing play in helping their brothers or sisters with Autism develop language and social skills.  However, it isn't an easy job.  I have selected three books for my giveaway that in their own way do a remarkable job of reminding us what a complex world it is for every member who loves and cares for a child with Autism.

Thanks to the following bloggers for hosting this Giveaway Hop and helping to increase awareness of Autism:

Lindsay @ Just Another Book Addict:

Heather @ Fire and Ice Photo:

Pixie @ Page Turners:

Kathy @ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer:

For additional information on Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, check out these links:

Autism Speaks

Autism Society

National Institute of Health
What is Autism?
*Autism Fact Sheet

For the Giveaway:
Each participating blog is hosting a giveaway. You will find lots of variety among the prizes. Some of the blogs are giving away prizes that relate to autism, other blogs are giving away gift cards or other prizes and posting information about autism to help make others aware.  I have chosen to do a 3 pack of books which all feature siblings where one sibling has Autism.

The 3-pack will include:
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He’s good at so many things  --  swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett.

But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet.

His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away.

Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun.
Charlie is like any other boy – and he has autism.

In this story, told from a sister’s point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love.   

Holly Robinson Peete, bestselling author, actress, and national autism spokesperson, has paired with her daughter, Ryan, to co-author this uplifting book based on their own personal experiences with Holly’s son and Ryan’s brother, RJ, who has autism. (Description from GoodReads)

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister. (Description from GoodReads) 

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"---in order to head off David's embarrassing behaviors.

But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal? (Description from GoodReads)

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.  Any comments with personal information will be deleted.
2.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on Monday, April 11, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on Thursday, April 14th.
3.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
4.  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.
5.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hot Off The Press! New Picture Books (7)

This is a feature that I do weekly called Hot Off The Press!  based on my weekly visits to Vroman's Bookstore and checking out their wall of new picture books.  Lately there have been so many recent releases that I was unable to get through them all in one visit. Here are the 6 new releases that stood out from the pile this week:

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People 
Author: Monica Brown
Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (March 29, 2011)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th

Every since reading The Dreamer by Pamela Munoz Ryan, I have been trying to figure out how to ladder it for certain students.  With this book, I have found the perfect introduction.  Brown does a fabulous job of summarizing Neruda's life into 32 pages and still manage to touch on important facts and themes.  The text is enhanced by Paschkis' illustrations in wonderful earth tones and with words in English & Spanish woven into the design.  I read the book through once and then returned to just admire and analyze the pictures.  Definitely a must have for any collection on poets.

Perfect Square
Author/Illustrator: Michael Hall
Publisher: HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books (April 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8

Some books begin with a smart concept but then they fizzle.  Hall manages to create a unique concept with Perfect Square and excutes it marvelously. A square begins perfect with four matching corners and four equal sides.  It was happy so says the book.  However, on Monday, something happens to the square and he must over the week continue to change both in color and shape.  There is a wonderful twist at the end.   Browse inside the book, click here

Spring Is Here
Author/Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Publisher: Holiday House (March 1, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8

I somehow missed this book earlier in the month and decided to add it in here.  Mole wakes up to discover that Spring has arrived.  He wants to share it with his friend Bear, who is still asleep.  So begins Mole's attempt to wake his friend.  This is one of those perfect read alouds.  Beautiful illustrations, great text, humor, and a fun twist at the end.  A definite keeper.
The Bear Who Shared
Author/Illustrator: Catherine Rayner
Publisher: Dial Books For Young Readers (March 17, 2011)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8

There are some picture books that have a gentleness about them and this is one that fits in that category.  Norris the bear is waiting patiently for the fruit to fall from the tree.  Tulip the racoon and Violet the mouse are not as patient in waiting.  The smaller animals learn a special lesson in sharing and friendship.  Another beautiful story for read aloud.  Rayner's illustrations blend perfectly with her text for a delightful story.
Chicken, Chicken, Duck

Author/Illustrator: Nadia Krilanovich
Publisher: Tricycle Press (March 22, 2011)
Audience: Ages 2 to 5

Young children will love the bold illustrations of all the barnyard animals and will enjoy repeating the sounds each animal makes.  But what are these animals up to?  The end holds a very special surprise.  Perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers. 

Take a sneak peak inside this book.  Click here.
Little Bea
Author/Illustrator: Daniel Roode

Publisher: HarperCollins (March 29, 2011)

Audience: Ages 2 to 5

This is another wonderful book for the under 5 crowd.  If you watch the trailer, you'll see why.  Bea is a very busy bee.  She has friends to see and things to do.  Another great read aloud that will go over well in a storytime or even in just 1:1 reading.  Don't be surprised if you here "again, again" when you reach the end.  Good news for fans of Little Bea - there will be a sequel out this fall, Little Bea And The Snowy Day.

To check out the book trailer, click here 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fool for Books Giveway Hop

Welcome to the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. A huge thanks to Belinda @ The Bookish Snob for co-hosting this hop and creating the awesome Fool For Books Graphic!

This Giveaway Hop is really quick just Friday, April 1st & Saturday, April 2nd.  There are over 200 blogs signed up to host a giveaway so have fun moving from one blog to the next blog.

 I am giving away a signed copy of Lisa McMann's new book Cryer's Cross.

Description from GoodReads:
Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer¹s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind. But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.
Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried....

To read my review, click here

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. PDT on April 1, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 2nd.
3.  You must be a follower of this blog to enter.
4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5.  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.
6.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.