Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monster Juice Guest Post by M.D. Payne

For Halloween, I have a special guest post by M.D. Payne, author of the Monster Juice Series (Penguin, August 2013).  He tells us what it was like to write for Middle Graders.  Thanks M.D. Payne for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Imagine that you were a building a house. You walk up to the beautiful acre you’ve just purchased, ready with every imaginable material—and a dozen burly workers—to get started. You’re ready to go, but before you can, the town authorities pay you a visit.

“We’re so sorry, Mr. Payne,” they say, “but regulations state you can’t actually use that type of wood. Oh, and those colors of paint are going to have to go. Ooooh, and would you hand me that hammer? It’s far too big. You’re limited to five fireplaces and one toilet, or you could have two toilets and three fireplaces. It’s your choice. Also, we’ll need to take any of your workers who are over 120 pounds. You can only keep the four smallest workers. Great! See you later. Have fun building your new house.”

You stand there, in shock and horror, wondering how on earth you’re going to build your dream home with just 1/3 of the material and help. You turn to your workers (who, by the way are in equal shock, as they’ve just been called out as the smallest), and the five of you shrug.

You’ve just got to get started.

This is exactly how I felt diving into the Monster Juice series. When you’re writing for 8-10 year olds, you’ve got less material (words, sentences, even story ideas) to work with than when you write for adults or even older kids. You can become quite limited, not only by plain words, but by streamlined plot devices. You can’t confuse the reader or they’ll slam the book shut, but you still need to keep the story going—and interesting.

The first outline I sent my editor for the series was warmly received (clearly, or I wouldn’t be here writing about my new books), but I remember him telling me, “there’s just too much going on here. You’re going to make their heads spin. You’ve got to focus on a few things and flesh those out.”

I was shocked. My number one worry was that there wasn’t enough going on—I never thought that I would be told that it was too much. And, the funny thing is, I understood I’d have to be careful about words. I had just forgotten that I had to be simpler in every aspect—including with my storyline. I had to keep things entertaining and straightforward—if I strayed from the main path, I might not have readers left when I get back on it.

On the other hand, what I lost in words, sentences and story ideas, I gained in two key tools: the hilarious mixing of horror and humor, and the ability to gross-out. Writing Monster Juice brought me back to my time in middle school, when Young Frankenstein was my favorite movie, and the first goal of one summer was to mow enough lawns to buy The Addams Family on VHS. I got to release my inner boy, and I had forgotten what a gross little monkey he was. He delights in a well-placed fart or inappropriate burp, something fueled by years of watching Ren and Stimpy, for sure.

And, don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about dumbing things down, here. First, I had to learn the limitations of my audience, and then I pushed them a little farther. My overall goal for this series has always been to get reluctant readers in the door and absorbing more complex ideas and words than they thought possible. Once I got my readers hooked with the farts and barf, wouldn’t they be more likely to take in a larger word or more complex thought without blinking, because they were having so much fun?

So, after my initial frustration of feeling like a Picasso with only 1/3 of my palate, I dove in and had a hilariously marvelous time.

In that time, I’ve placed a number of post-it notes on my computer, my desk, my wall (practically everywhere but on my 14 month old baby, but I’ve thought about it). But there are two that are front and center, right in front of my eyes, always vying for attention. One states “Keep it SIMPLE.” The other states “SCARIER. FUNNIER. SPOOKIER. GROSSER!”

These are my main goals as I build the Haunted House that is Monster Juice.

Official Book Trailer for Monster Juice: Fear of the Barfitron

For more information about M.D. Payne: twitter | website

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

The day before Halloween and I know that I probably should be doing a Halloween Nonfiction Picture Book post, but I finally got my hands of Leonard S. Marcus' Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing and just had to share this book with you.

Author/Illustrator: Leonard S. Marcus
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux (August 27, 2013)
Audience: 4th to 7th graders and beyond
Source: Purchased Copy
Biography * Nonfiction * Illustrators * England

Description from GoodReads:
Randolph Caldecott is best known as the namesake of the award that honors picture book illustrations, and in this inventive biography, leading children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus examines the man behind the medal. In an era when the steam engine fueled an industrial revolution and train travel exploded people’s experience of space and time, Caldecott was inspired by his surroundings to capture action, movement, and speed in a way that had never before been seen in children’s picture books. Thoroughly researched and featuring extensive archival material and a treasure trove of previously unpublished drawings, including some from Caldecott’s very last sketchbook, Leonard Marcus’s luminous biography shows why Caldecott was indeed the father of the modern picture book and how his influence lives on in the books we love today.

My thoughts on this book:
Last year, I participated in a Caldecott Challenge where I read every Caldecott winning book and as many of the honor books that I could find.  However, I realized as I began to read Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing by Leonard S. Marcus that I knew little about the man whose name is associated for one of the most prestigious honors to bestowed on an illustrator of children's books.

Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) was born, raised, and lived in England during the 1800's.  Despite his amazing contribution to the world of children's books, Caldecott himself would not be eligible for the award that bears his name. 

Terms and Criteria (taken from the ALA website):
  1. The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
  2. The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.  Books published in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.
  3. The committee in its deliberations is to consider only books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms.
I found that to be somewhat sad.  It was amazing to read about his contributions to the world of children's literature and thankful for the ways that he inspired both illustrators and librarians. However, I couldn't help wonder what Caldecott would think of the criteria.

Anyway, I digress.  Back to my thoughts on the book.  Marcus does a remarkable job writing an in-depth biography of Caldecott in the format of a children's picture book.  The text is substantial.  This is no lightweight story.  Readers learn of Caldecott's early years, his career in the bank (at the young age of 15), and his eventual rise to a sustainable & profitable position as an illustrator, which was rare in those days.  In addition to excellent biographical information, the book also contains original artwork by Caldecott and by others of his time.  It shows the influences that would have impacted Caldecott as he began his career as an illustrator.  I was amused to note that on the books that Caldecott created that it would say "One of R. Caldecott's Picture Books".

Despite Caldecott's natural charisma, sense of humor and amazing talent as an illustrator, he was plagued through his life with poor health and a heart condition from an illness as a child.  As a result, the world did not fully get to witness what Caldecott may have become if he had had more time.  Caldecott died during a trip to Florida in 1886 just a month shy of his fortieth birthday.

If you are a fan of children's picture books, then you will want to add this book to your personal collection.  It would also be a wonderful addition to a classroom or school library. Look for a copy of Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing at your local library or independent book store.         

Randolph Caldecott: The Music Video - This is a couple of years old but still great.

The Caldecott Medal 75th Anniversary Logo designed by Brian Selznik:

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cover Reveal: Fragile Brilliance by Tammy Blackwell


Today is the cover reveal for Fragile Brilliance (Shifters and Seers #1) by Tammy Blackwell!

Fragile Brilliance Cover lr

Maggie McCray has worked her whole life for the opportunity to attend Sanders College. It’s her one chance at becoming a world-renowned artist, and she’s determined nothing will get in her way. But when a murder brings Maggie and her powers to the attention of the Alpha Pack and the tragically handsome Charlie Hagan, her carefully planned future hangs in jeopardy.

Charlie Hagan isn’t happy when the Alpha Female assigns him as Maggie McCray’s personal bodyguard. Just being near the Thaumaturgic threatens to unleash the primal instincts he’s been suppressing for so long. Charlie knows if the coyote is uncaged, then the person he’ll most need to protect Maggie from is himself.

Fragile Brilliance is the first book in the Shifters & Seers series by Tammy Blackwell, bestselling author of the Timber Wolves trilogy.  It releases on Tuesday November 26, 2013.  Add it your want to read list on Goodreads.
About Tammy Blackwell
Tammy Blackwell

Tammy Blackwell is a Young Adult Services Coordinator for a public library system in Kentucky. When she's not reading, writing, cataloging, or talking about books, she's sleeping.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA - 10/27/13

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee from Unleashing Readers have adapted it to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

My last two weeks were insane.  Some of you know that a good friend of mine had to have emergency heart surgery.  During the time that he was in the hospital, I stepped in to help care for his three children so his wife could spend much of her time at his bedside.  I am excited to say that he came home today.  The long road to recovery continues, but we are thrilled by his progress to date.  Unfortunately, much of my time for free reading disappeared.

Here is what I have been able to squeeze in. 

Here I Am story by Patti Kim; Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Picture Window Books, July 1, 2013) - A wordless picture book that looks at the immigrant experience.

Daisy Gets Lost by Chris Rascka (Schwartz & Wade,  October 8, 2013) - Rascka's follow-up to A Ball for Daisy is really fun.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig; Illustrated by Patricia Barton (Knopf Books for Young Readers, October 8, 2013) - A story of differences and friendship that will be a great discussion starter.

Train by Elisha Cooper (Orchard Books, September 24, 2013) - Fans of Cooper will enjoy her latest book about commuters on a train.

No More Independent Reading Without Support by Debbie Miller, Barbara Moss; Edited by Nell K Duke, Ellin Oliver Keene (Heinemann, 2013) - This has some great stuff in it and it isn't a long read.  I am eager to share this with my Literacy PLC.

The Next Step to Guided Reading: Focused Assessments and Targeted Lessons for Helping Every Student Become a Better Reader by Jan Richardson (Scholastic, 2009) - I was doing some refresher reading on Guided Reading.

What I am excited to read with my ears this week:

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, September 17, 2013)

From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos (MacMillan, September 24, 2013)

So, what are you reading?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries - The Day of the Dead/El Día de los Muertos

It's time for another installment of  Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries.  This time we are doing something a little different.  Since Halloween is fast approaching, we decided to focus on scary stories, and other related topics.  Being in Southern California, I decided to talk about Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. 

Don't forget to check out the other posts as part of this series, and see what everyone has for you

     * Louise Capizzo, children’s librarian & Cathy Potter, school librarian: The Nonfiction Detectives
     * Mary Ann Scheuer, school librarian: Great Kid Books
     * Travis Jonker, school librarian: 100 Scope Notes

Check out the following picture books and app for use with Pre-K to 2nd grade.

The Day of the Dead/El Día de los Muertos
Author/Illustrator: Bob Barner
Translated by: Teresa Mlawer
Publisher: Holiday House (2010)
ISBN: 978-0823423811
Read Aloud: Pre-K to 2nd grade
Independent Reading Level: High 1st grade to 3rd grade.
Language: English and Spanish
Source: Purchased

My thoughts on this book:
When I was working at a school site with a Dual Language Immersion Program/Spanish, we used this book as part of our learning about The Day of the Dead in our younger classes.   Text is written in both English and then also shown in Spanish.

This is one of my favorite picture books for explaining about the Day of the Dead for younger students.  It simply explains what the Day of the Dead is and how it is celebrated.  The author provides notes about the Day of the Dead at the end of the book.  The illustrations are bright, and reflect the culturally aspect of the story.

Clatter Bash!: A Day of the Dead Celebration
Author/Illustrator: Richard Keep
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (2004)
ISBN: 978-1561454617
Read Aloud: Pre-K to 2nd grade
Independent Reading Level: Kindergarten to First grade
Source: Purchased

My thoughts on this book:
Clatter Bash! is designed for younger readers.  The story is told through the use of very rhythmic sounding words with some Spanish words interspersed throughout the pages.  The perspective of the story seems to be more from the skeletons who are celebrating the holiday.  Children would need some explanation as to why the skeletons are having a party. 

Though the text of the book is simple, the endnotes provide readers with a nice explanation of the Day of the Dead and the various symbols related to the day.  The illustrations in the book are colorful and very festive.  The use of color and style fit well with the origins of this holiday.

Rosita y Conchita: A Peek 'n Play Story App
by Mobad
Released: October 25, 2012
Language: English and Spanish
Devices: Designed for both iPad and iPhone

My thoughts on this book app:
This book app tells the story of twin girls, Conchita and Rosita.  One of the twins has passed away.  As Conchita seeks to remember her sister Rosita, readers are led through the various preparations and activities that families go through as part of remembering and honoring the dead.  

Though some parents may be concerned about sharing a story with young children about the death of a sibling, this is sensitively done in a way that helps younger children understand what the Day of the Dead is all about.  Parents and teachers should review the app prior to sharing it with students in case there are any individual concerns that need to be considered.

The app allows readers to either hear the story being read or to read the story on their own.  The story can be read in either English or Spanish.  Children also learn about how to make sugar skulls, and learn how to draw Rosita at the end.   The illustrations are colorful and reflect the art of the holiday.

How to incorporate this into the Common Core State Standards:
There are multiple way these texts can be integrated into the Common Core Standards; however, one suggestion would be to look at how two different texts can be similar and different, and to discuss the relationship between text and illustrations (Integration of Knowledge and Ideas). 

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mitchell Goes Bowling Blog Tour and Special Author & lllustrator Interview

Today I am thrilled to have author, Hallie Durand and illustrator, Tony Fucile stop by Kid Lit Frenzy. Check out this great interview where Hallie and Tony interview each other about bowling.

Tony Fucile interviews Hallie Durand

Who, from the Durand clan, has the best “strike” celebration dance?

I’d have to award this to my husband Michael. While he was fulfilling his ROTC obligation in Germany, he had his own “turkey” dance (“turkey” is three strikes in a row). The “dance” consisted of: shooting index fingers to the right, then left (quickly and with attitude), a 360-degree turn, and then a split. Pretty impressive, especially cause he could stand up right after the split! (He’s a good dancer.)

Describe your image of the perfect bowling ball.

The perfect bowling ball is not too heavy, and my fingers fit perfectly in the holes. Then the ball moves strong and fast down the lane and knocks all the pins down. The ball is red.

Who’s the most competitive bowler in the family?

That might be a tie, because we’re all fairly bad at the game, but we love to get Xs and we all hoot and holler when all those pins go down. My son has the hardest time with being behind, but he is also the youngest, 8. He has no problem letting loose when he gets a strike (none of us do!). We all need a few mozzarella sticks when we’re losing.

Who’s your favorite fictional bowler (excluding Dad and Mitchell)?

He’s in my mind. And he’s a raccoon who washes the ball with his little hand claws before he bowls. We had a pet raccoon when I was little, and he always washed his hard-boiled eggs with his hand claws. I’d like to see that raccoon bowl! Go Bandit!!

Hallie Durand interviews Tony Fucile

What’s your bowling average, and do you use gutter guards?

Since having kids I use gutter guards. It’s fun! The guards allow me to experiment with different deliveries and throwing techniques (mostly stuff I learned from watching The Flintstones) that would ordinarily land my ball in the next lane or two. I’ve never figured out a bowling average (I like to look on the bright side of things).

How did you nail the illustration of Dad’s “triple steamin’ hot potato dance?” How did you figure out how to draw this, cause it’s perfect!?

I shot video of myself and then selected poses from the footage to draw from. It always helps to get up and physically act things out to get fresh ideas. You never fail to surprise yourself with something. In this case something pretty ridiculous. This is why the evidence has been destroyed.

What do you snack on when you’re bowling?

Anything with melted cheese on it. That includes beer.

October is National Learn to Bowl Month. Celebrate with Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand and illustrated by Tony Fucile.

About the Author:
Hallie Durand is the author of Mitchell’s License, now available in paperback as Mitchell Goes Driving, among other books for children. About Mitchell Goes Bowling, she says, "I love hanging out at the lanes with my crew, especially when I get a couple of Xs!" She lives with her family in Maplewood, New Jersey. To learn more, visit her website at

About the Illustrator:
Tony Fucile is the author-illustrator of Let's Do Nothing! as well as the illustrator of the Bink & Gollie series by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. He has spent more than twenty years designing and animating characters for numerous feature films, including The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. He lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay area.

Readers can follow Mitchell as he tours the web! 

Sat, Oct 5Booking Mama
Mon, Oct 7The Children's Book Review
Tues, Oct 8Susan Heim on Parenting
Wed, Oct 9Sharpread
Thurs, Oct 10There's a Book
Fri, Oct 11Just a Little Creativity
Mon, Oct 14Once Upon a Story
Tues, Oct 15Geo Librarian
Wed, Oct 165 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Oct 17Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Oct 18As They Grow Up

And don't forget to complete the form below to enter for a chance to win a copy of Mitchel Goes Bowling.  You must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: Danny's Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment

Author/Illustrator: David A. Adler
Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky (September 3, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Second to Fourth Graders
Fiction * Friendship * Eccentricity

Description from GoodReads:
Danny Cohen's new friend is 100% weird.

New to Danny's fourth grade class, Calvin Waffle has a knack for following his classmates around to collect data for his science experiments. He carries jelly beans everywhere, and claims his father is a spy. Danny isn't quite sure just what to make of this quirky newcomer until Calvin reluctantly agrees to help the baseball team. His ability to correctly predict each pitch before it's thrown leads his team to victory and makes him a hero to his new friends.

David Adler, author of the popular Cam Jansen mystery series, creates another memorable character for his readers to befriend. Sure to be a publishing event.

My thoughts on this book:
Calvin Waffle is a bit strange.  He is interested in experiments, such as the one where he watches Danny Cohen for a week and writes down his observations.  Yet, that is only his baseline data.  Calvin must watch Danny for another week but this time he gives Danny jellybeans to put in his pockets. And though Calvin has some odd habits, Danny seems to accept them.  When Danny is paired up with Annie for a school report, that leaves Douglas to have to partner with Calvin. Will Calvin's strange ways hinder Douglas from getting a good grade? Does Calvin really have a father who is a spy or is that just a cover-up for his father leaving Calvin and his mother?

In some ways, this book is just as odd as Calvin.  I don't remember the last time where I read a story and the main characters actually brought homework to a party?!  However, Adler makes it work. He has created characters that readers will like.  There is humor but not so over the top that it becomes too much. And rather than teasing or bullying because someone is different, Danny's Doodles celebrates Calvin, who despite his strange behaviors and comments, actually has something very valuable to add.  I also loved that Danny's mother is an engineer and Calvin's mother has a similar eccentric streak as her son.

Danny's Doodles is a story that second and third graders will enjoy and look forward to reading.  Look for a copy in your local public library or independent bookstore.

For more about author/illustrator, David A. Adler, check out his website. To download an educator's guide for Danny's Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment, click here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Locomotive

Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher: Atheneum (September 3, 2013)
Source: Copy from Publisher
Audience: 2nd to 5th graders
History * 19th Century United States * Locomotives

Description from GoodReads:
All aboard! From the creator of the “stunning” (Booklist) Moonshot, a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America’s early railroads.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

My thoughts on this book:
Recently, I had the chance to hear Brian Floca speak at the SCIBA Children's Breakfast.  Floca's newest book is about trains, specifically steam engine locomotives.  Readers experience the first transcontinental journey made by the crew and families, as this iron horse travels across the country. 

During his speech at the breakfast, Floca shared with the audience about the making of the book.  He spoke about his own travels across the country to stop at locations where the train would have made stops.  Many of these are identified in the book.  He shared about the various primary and secondary sources he researched in order to bring this story to life. And through photographs, the audience also had the chance to watch Floca's creative process and how each step from sketches to ink drawings to watercolor paintings brought the book one step closer to the book we can now hold in our hands.

Trains hold a fascination for many.  Young children love stories about trains, watching a train barrel down a track, or riding on a train at a local park. Many of these children grow up to still maintain the fascination and interest in trains.  The brilliance of Locomotive is that it makes readers feel like they are right there from the first "ring of hammers on spikes" to the incredible attention to detail that is within each illustration to the types of fonts used to emphasize specific words and phrases. 

Floca has another winner on his hands with Locomotive.  Look for a copy of this book at your public library or local independent bookstore and experience the magic of trains.
More information about Brian Flocawebsite | blog | facebook | twitter | YouTube

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: The Year of Billy Miller

Author: Kevin Henkes
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (September 17, 2013)
Independent Reading: Second and Third Grade
Read Aloud: First to Third Grade
Source: Purchased Copy
Fiction * Family * Humor * School

Description from GoodReads:
Award-winning, nationally bestselling author Kevin Henkes introduces second-grader Billy Miller in this fast-paced and funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school. The Year of Billy Miller includes black-and-white art by Kevin Henkes and is perfect for fans of the Ramona books, Frindle, by Andrew Clements, and the Clementine series.

When Billy Miller has a mishap at the statue of the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big lump on his head. What a way to start second grade, with a lump on your head! As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad. Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers a short, satisfying, laugh-out-loud-funny school and family story that features a diorama homework assignment, a school poetry slam, cancelled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. Illustrated throughout with black-and-white art by the author, this is a perfect short novel for the early elementary grades.

My thoughts on this book:
Every once in awhile you need to pick up a book that makes you feel good. I figured that I had read enough Kevin Henkes' books to safely know that this would be one with great characters, a fun story, and maybe even something a bit special.  The Year of Billy Miller was exactly what I was looking for and I am glad I picked it up to read.

What is different about The Year of Billy Miller is rather than be a story that fixates on Billy's issues at school with one classmate or how he struggles with homework or paying attention, readers get insights into the life of this second grader through his relationship with his teacher, father, sister, and mother.  Some readers may believe that there were lost opportunities.  However, I felt as if, Henkes was really doing a character sketch of this very energetic young boy.  He is a typical second grader.  He accidentally misunderstands when a classmate says that her nickname is "Emster" instead hears it as "hamster".  While playing around with two red markers, Billy is worried that maybe his new teacher thinks he is making fun of her and the red chopsticks she uses in her hair.  And when he should be working on his poetry, Billy gets distracted with a water fight, and building a volcano, and even covering his little sister in mud.  As I read through the story, I kept saying "Yes, he is a 2nd grade boy."
There are several things that I love about this book.  Henkes use of language is superb which makes this an ideal read aloud.  Readers will also identify with Billy, his younger sister Sal, and even his father. And where most books feature mom prominently and dad takes a more backseat role, this book is reverse. Dad is an artist who stays at home to work and take care of the kids.  It is his father that cooks during the week and makes fabulous cookies.  Mom, on the other hand, works as at teacher in a high school. And though it is the relationship that Billy has with his dad that you see the most, there are a few scenes with his mom towards the end of the book, which are very touching.

So, what do you do with a book that is clearly written for a particular age group but is also 240 pages?  First, there is a lot of white space and has large type.  It would be a perfect independent read for mid-year second to third grade.  It will also provide kids with that "thicker" book they want to carry around. Second, even more so, it would make a lovely read aloud.  I look forward to sharing this one with students.

Meet Kevin Henkes video by HarperCollins:

Look for The Year of Billy Miller at your public library or independent bookstore.

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA - 10/07/13

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee from Unleashing Readers have adapted it to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

This week, I dove into a pile of picture books.  A few older ones.  A couple of new releases.  And a stack of 2014 releases.

Here's what jumped out of the pile from this past week...

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, September 17, 2013) -I loved this early middle grade novel about a 2nd grader.  Can't wait to use it as a read aloud.

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner (Clarion, October 1, 2013) - Not sure that we have another Caldecott winner but I really enjoyed this story about a cat, some very tiny aliens, and a mysterious language.

The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown, October 1, 2013) - With very few words, and classic Pinkney illustrations, this version of The Tortoise and the Hare is marvelous.

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee by George Shannon; Illustrated by Mark Fearing (HMH Books for Young Readers, July 2013) - A wonderful spin on the classic spelling bee in time for Halloween.

Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins; Illustrated by James Proimos (Scholastic, September 1, 2013) - Collins has created an autobiographical picture book of the year that her father served in the military during the Vietnam War.

On My Way to Bed by Sarah Maizes (Walker Childrens, September 17, 2013) - Just one very fun story about the struggles to get a child to bed.

Some 2014 releases...

Shoe Dog by Megan McDonald (Atheneum, March 2014) - I don't know if this is McDonald's first picture book, but she is best known for the Judy Moody books.  Dog lovers will particularly enjoy this.

Weeds Find a Way by Cynthia Jenson-Elliott; Illustrated by Carolyn Fisher (Beach Lane Books, February 2014) - Informational text for young children about weeds.  Very interesting.

Nest by Jorey Hurley (Simon & Schuster, February 2014) - A very simple story told in single words per two-page spread. 

Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Splash! by Candace Fleming; Illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Atheneum, March 2014) - A cranky old man and 3 mischievous bunnies and some fun at the beach.

So, what are you reading?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

LAPL Teen Book Fest - Saturday, October 12, 2013

What will you be doing to celebrate Teen Read Week (October 13-19, 2013)?

I will be joining with friends to attend The Teen Book Fest at the Los Angeles Public Library on Saturday, October 12, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

This year, I will be on the READ THIS, I DARE YOU panel with fellow bloggers: Alethea Allarey and Thuy Lam from Read Now Sleep Later; Maggie Parks from Young Adult Anonymous; and author/speaker, Lee Wind.  

Come on down to the Los Angeles Public Library on October 12th and kick-off Teen Read Week with a great day with authors and book lovers.  Hope to see you there!!!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Misadventure of the Magician's Dog Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway

I am excited to be able to host debut author, Frances Sackett today on Kid Lit Frenzy.  Join us as we celebrate the release of her first middle grade novel and the magic of middle grade boy readers. Thanks Frances for stopping by.

First of all, I want to thank Alyson so much for hosting me! This is an amazing blog: I’ve gotten a number of good book recommendations for my own kids by reading through it.

I wanted to write today about middle-grade boys. This is a topic that’s very dear to my heart, since I spend most of my waking hours with two of them (my son and my boyfriend’s son, both of whom are ten). And everyone knows that if you have a house with two ten-year-old boys, then as often as not, you’ll find yourself with three ten-year-old boys, or four… It’s a little like the premise for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Ten-year-old boys like nothing more than other ten-year-old boys; as a result, my house is generally overflowing with them.

What does this mean? It means I hear a lot of poop jokes on a daily basis. The word “balls” in almost any context will elicit an unbelievable amount of laughter. I find wrinkled, smelly socks left in every corner of every room, and way too often in the yard (why do boys take off their socks outside? Can someone explain this?). There are constant, SERIOUS discussions of Minecraft that mirror the passionate intensity with which members of the U.N. might debate solving world hunger.

Sometimes, when you’re dealing with all of these stereotypical ten-year-old boy qualities, it’s easy to forget how enormous those same boys’ hearts are. That even though they don’t always show it, they remember that two minutes ago they were toddlers who liked nothing better than to curl on your lap while you sang lullabies. That they’re paying attention to every word you say and every thing you do, trying to understand how to transition from that little child to the grown man they are rapidly becoming.

And that they need books to help them do this.

But boys don’t like “issue” books, you might argue. Girls will read about life and death and loss and love, but many boys are reluctant readers. They want adventure! And excitement! They want to laugh, for goodness sake! They don’t want to read about FEELINGS.

I’d agree with all of this except the last sentence. Yes, boys like page turners, and adventure, and excitement, and humor, just like they like poop jokes and video games. But I think we make a mistake when we underestimate their emotional capacity. They want to read about life and death and loss and love too, because—just like middle-grade girls—they sense the adult world, lurking just out of their reach, and they’re looking for points of entry.

But that said, they want their “issue” books in a different package. I will be honest: my ten-year-old boys are not picking up serious literary novels to read in a quiet moment. At their age, I read Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind. They’re not even close. But if you put emotional depth in a story that’s also got adventure, fantasy, fun, and poop, they’ll gobble it up—and look for more. I don’t know that middle-grade boys like mine are always served well when the publishing industry puts “issue” books on one shelf and “fun” books on another.

My passion for fun middle-grade boy books with emotional depth was one of the driving forces behind my debut novel, The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog. The main character in my book is a twelve-year-old named Peter Lubinsky who adopts a dog that can talk and do magic. The dog offers to teach Peter how to do magic too—but only if Peter first helps rescue the dog’s former master, a magician who has accidentally turned himself into a rock. There’s plenty of wacky humor and adventure: in his quest to rescue the magician, Peter gets to fly; he visits a magic carnival; and he’s attacked by dinosaurs too. But the novel has some serious emotions at its heart. Peter is the son of a deployed air force pilot, and throughout the book, he struggles to understand his complicated feelings around his beloved father’s absence. He’s insecure and pretty lonely, and his relationship with one of his sisters isn’t always easy. In fact, when he first learns magic, the only way he can do it is by tapping into his unacknowledged anger at all the things that aren’t right about his life—and how powerless he feels to change them.

Though many of my readers may not have deployed parents—and, sadly, probably don’t have magic dogs!—I wanted to write about emotions with which many middle grade boys could identify. But I also wanted to write a story that would keep those same boys flipping pages to find out what happens next.

Middle-grade boys are pretty amazing. I love their zany humor, their boundless energy, the profound joy they find in each other’s company. I also love the intensity with which they feel emotions: there’s nothing more heartbreaking than their grief or more heartwarming than their love. They deserve books that reflect the full scope of their wonderful complexity—poop jokes and all.

Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang
For more information about author, Frances Sackett, check her website: author's website

To check out all of the stops in the blog tour:

Monday, Sept 30 - I Am a Reader - Interview
Tuesday, Oct 1 - Read Now Sleep Later - Review
Wednesday, Oct 2 - Kid Lit Frenzy - Guest Post
Thursday, Oct 3 - Sharpreads - Review & Guest Post
Friday, Oct 4 - Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms - Review
Monday, Oct 7 - The Serial Reader - Interview and Review
to be cross-posted at I Am a Reader
Tuesday, Oct 8 - Dee's Reads - Review
Wednesday, Oct 9 - Paperback Writer - Guest Post

To enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - October Releases

As part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, I try to give a heads up on new releases for the month. Late September/October Releases...

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch; Oliver Dominguez (Candlewick)

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber; Illustrated by Brian Lovelock (Candlewick)

Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, Matt James; Illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood Books)

Wow, I Didn't Know That: Surprising Facts About Animals by Emma Dods; Illustrated Marc Aspinall (Kingfisher, September 24, 2013)

Let's Make a Difference: We Can Help Orangutans by Gabrielle Francine (BBM Books)

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: