Book Review: May I Come In?

Happy Saturday! It’s a rainy, rainy day here and the perfect day to curl up with a book! Let me know what your rainy day read is in the comments. If you’re looking for a new book for the little ones, check out this perfect picture book for the coldest, wettest days of the year.

May I Come In? (2018, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

may i come in.jpg

From the publisher:

When thunder roars and lightning flashes, Raccoon is afraid to be alone in his home. So he hurries out to see if any of his neighbors in Thistle Hollow have room to spare for a friend in need. When Raccoon knocks on the doors of Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck, he is turned away. But then Raccoon spies a bright light in the storm. Will this next neighbor open up her house and heart to Raccoon? A tender story that reminds readers of all ages that a kind heart will always make room for one more.

may i come in page1

Review:

May I Come In, written by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Jennie Poh, is the perfect rainy day read! For little ones scared of storms, or others looking for a lesson on friendship, this story relates to children on multiple levels. The illustrations capture the darkness of a wild storm, while also showing the warmth of friendship and a dry place to stay. With some repetitive verse and onomatopoeia, this one is sure to be a hit as a read aloud.

may i come in page2

Lots of emotion, big thunder and sweet friends add up to a fantastic story sure to be enjoyed by readers young and old. Highly recommended for readers ages 3 to 7.

5 stars for rainy days and real friends.

Get your copy from Amazon or your local bookstore today!


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: My Red Velvet Cape

I hope you all had a fantastic Valentine’s Day filled with too much candy and all your favorite people!

I have some great books to share in the coming months plus giveaways and author interviews. Here’s a couple things to look forward to:

March 6 – Black Bird Yellow Sun – Author interview + Book giveaway

March 13 – I’m a Duck – Blog tour + Illustrator interview

Plus many more books!

Here is my belated Valentine’s to you all as we start another week 🙂


My Red Velvet Cape (2018, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

red velvet cape

From the publisher:

Mateo is so excited. It’s his birthday and he can’t wait! Not only will there be a party later with friends but his grandmother is bringing him a very special gift: a red velvet cape. It’s a cape for superheroes! Mateo imagines all the wonderful things that will happen when he wears the cape, from not needing to hold his big sister’s hand on the way to the bus to being more popular at school. But is the gift really what he thinks it is? Or did Mateo misunderstand what his grandmother said?

Review:

While My Red Velvet Cape, written and illustrated by Dana Sullivan, isn’t a Valentine’s book, it fits with the themes of the holiday. Just as kids look forward to a Valentine’s Day party, Mateo is looking forward to his birthday and his red velvet cape. He imagines all sorts of scenarios in which his cape will come in handy at school and playing with his friends. The illustration style gives the scenes a sense of movement and the reader will feel the excitement as Mateo rushes through his day, and the reader rushes through the book, both eager to see the red velvet cape. With a fun twist, the reader will experience a surprising roller coaster of emotions before reaching the happy ending.

This book is a lot of fun and adults will get a kick out of it too! Highly recommended for readers ages 3 and up. A great read for Valentine’s Day or any day!

4 stars for Mateo and friends


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review & More!

Happy Friday!

I hope you all have great books picked out for weekend reading. I have quite a few on my shelf at the moment. I also have a great review and author interview for you today, but first, what you’ve all been waiting for….drum roll please….

The winner of the Sleeping Bear Press and Jen Sattler giveaway is….Christina G.!

Congratulations Christina!

And now, on with the show!

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book/Lower Middle Grade)

ruined cinderella

From the publisher:

Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return . . .

Review:

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, written by Jerry Mahoney and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, puts a new, and very modern spin, on an old favorite. When Maddie’s stepbrother Holden “breaks” the Cinderella story, they are both surprised to be sucked into his tablet and dropped into Cinderella’s story. Taking on the roles of foot soldier and wicked stepsister, Holden and Maddie must work together (easier said than done) to set things right or be stuck in the story forever. With a crazy cast of characters, it’s not just Cinderella in the spotlight. My favorite minor character was Darreth, the Duke of Darkness, who is locked away in the dungeon but thunder rumbles every time his name is uttered.

Not just focused on the fanciful, the book does take time to ponder serious issues such as divorce set against the background of wicked stepmothers and rotten stepbrothers. Not to mention, the perfectly captured reality of bickering among siblings, or step-siblings. Add in logical twists and real emotions, and the story develops into something surprisingly insightful with characters more real than those found in most fairy tales.

The reader might hope for more illustrations, but otherwise this one is sure to get lots of giggles from the target audience. Fans of fairy tale retellings will especially enjoy this fun, quirky read. Recommended for readers ages 8 to 10.

4 stars for Cinderella and friends!


This is part of a series so readers who enjoy this “ruined” fairy tale, can check out more books in the series!


Interview with Author Jerry Mahoney

Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for taking time to visit with me and share about his writing career and inspiration!

After reading My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, I’m super curious about the other books in this series. How did you come up with the idea for this series and how did you decide which fairy tales to “ruin”?

When my kids were younger and I would read fairy tales to them, I would sometimes have to hold myself back from rolling my eyes or making wisecracks. I mean, they’re great stories, which is why they’ve stood the test of time. Still, though, it’s inevitable that after hundreds of years, some of them will show their age. So I would find flaws, like the notion that a prince would try to find one specific woman by trying a glass slipper on random women all over his kingdom. Obviously, lots of people have the same size foot. Besides, she’s supposedly the love of his life, so shouldn’t he remember what she looks like?

I would bite my tongue, though, and not mention the issues I had with the stories, because I didn’t want to ruin them for my kids. That eventually led me to come up with Holden, a kid who doesn’t mind ruining stories for people. In fact, he loves it!

Through him, I could do what I was afraid to do and ask tough questions about stories that are pretty universally loved. The more I started picking fairy tales apart, the more plot holes I found, and I learned that a lot of them were issues that many people had with the stories. Maddie sprung from the other side of my personality, the part that loves being swept away by a good, romantic fairy tale and doesn’t mind making a few logical leaps along the way as long as she’s enjoying the read.

I wrote MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA first, because it’s probably the most well-known and also had the most obvious plot holes to me. Then, when my publisher ordered it as a series of four, I read a bunch of fairy tales, then thought what plot holes Holden would find in each one and how the stories might change as a result. Together with the publisher, we decided which ones would make the best stories for the first four books in a series.

Of course, I have ideas for many more. I’m hoping these books will do well enough that I’ll get to write them! 🙂

Have you always enjoyed fairy tales? And if so, what was your favorite fairy tale as a child?

Who doesn’t love fairy tales? I think on some level, even Holden does. Lots of boys think that it’s uncool to like them, but show me a boy who refuses to go see a new Disney princess movie, and I guarantee you he was belting out “Let it Go” everywhere he went when he was 3.

I think “Beauty and the Beast” has always been my favorite. Of course, what Disney did with it was magical — with the dancing dishware and those gorgeous songs. But even if you take all that away, at the heart of it, it has such a sweet message about accepting people for who they are. Also, it’s one of the few fairy tales that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of love at first sight. Belle has to work really hard to get to know the Beast before she falls in love. That makes it all the more fulfilling when it finally does happen. And that’s been my experience in life as well. Sometimes, you have to dig really, really hard to find the good in people.

When you imagine someone reading your books, what do you hope they feel during and after reading your work?

That’s a tough question, because as a writer, you want to take readers through a range of emotions — excitement, fear, sadness, joy. I consider myself primarily a comedy writer, but sometimes, the moments I’m proudest of aren’t the jokes but the emotional payoffs. (In MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, it’s the moment where Beautianna gets into art school and tells Maddie that she’s realized she’s her fairy godmother. Oops, spoiler warning!)

Overall, though, I feel like if I’ve made someone laugh, I’ve done my job. There’s so much negativity in our world, so much conflict and so much to get down about. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’ve made someone forget about all that for a few minutes and just have a good time.

Readers are always curious about what an author’s day to day life is like. When you are working on a project what is your day like and what are some hobbies you enjoy outside of writing?

My other job besides writing is being a stay-home dad. So my writing day starts after I drop my son and daughter off at school. Then, I try to do a few hours of new writing on whatever my main project is at the time. As you probably know, publishing is very slow, so what I’m writing now might not come out for two years or more. Or if it’s not working, I may scrap it and start something new instead until I have a manuscript I really believe in.

After working on new writing, I usually have some business to attend to, whether it’s writing a synopsis for the book jacket, approving a cover or answering a questionnaire like this. 🙂 This part is always much easier and more fun than staring at a blank page and having to fill it with something new.

By then, it’s time to pick my kids up, and my duties switch to checking homework, cooking dinner and losing to my kids at Mario Kart. Once they’re in bed, I usually try to squeeze in a bit more writing. Late night is a good time for brainstorming new ideas. Then I’ll read in bed, because I love hearing other writers’ voices and getting jealous of how good they are.

Anything else you’d like to share about your books or your writing career?

Yes! First of all — shameless plug alert! — my next book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE, comes out in March 2018. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s full of crazy, horribly inappropriate humor (yes, fart jokes), and therefore no one should read it under any circumstances. I like to think of it as a next step up for kids who grew up on the Captain Underpants books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s probably not going to impress anyone’s teacher if they do a book report on it, but it’s hopefully the kind of book kids will want to read just for fun — even if they have to hide it from their parents.

Beyond that, I’m very busy working on some new projects that I hope to be able to share with everyone soon. If you want to know more, come visit my website www.jerrymahoneybooks.com, or follow me on Twitter (@WhyJerryWhy), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/) and Instagram (@jerrymahoney). Most of all, thanks for reading!


Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour + Giveaway Time!!!

Book reviews, an interview, coloring pages, AND a giveaway?! Could this day get any better?!

Thanks so much for stopping by and don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a prize package from Sleeping Bear Press!

Jungle Gym (2018, Sleeping Bear Press, Board Book)

9781585363902_fc

From the publisher:

With a cast of characters including a zebra, toucan, and a hippo, everyday concepts such as up/down and in/out are hilariously demonstrated by animal friends on a playground. A new board book series by artist Jennifer Sattler.

jungle gym spread

Dirty Birdies (2018, Sleeping Bear Press, Board Book)

9781585363896_fc

From the publisher:

One curious birdie playing in a mud puddle leads to four new friends, all getting into trouble. Toddlers learn to count from 1 to 5 with Dirty Birdies, where birds of all feathers get down and dirty and then all clean again. A new board book series by artist Jennifer Sattler.

dirty birdie pages

Review:

Jungle Gym and Dirty Birdies, written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler, are sure to be hits with emerging readers and toddlers. With bright, colorful illustrations and simple, short blurbs of text, children and adults will enjoy reading these clever books. Both books feature adorable animals in funny situations and lots of new words for the youngest readers. With opposites and counting at the forefront of these books, little ones will learn new concepts and words without even realizing it. Board books are great for introducing children to reading and to new ideas, and these two books will not disappoint. Highly recommended for children ages 2-5.

5 stars for five dirty birdies and all their jungle pals!


Dirty Birdies and Jungle Gym hit shelves February 15, 2018, but they are available for pre-order now! Click on the pictures below to see the books on Amazon.


Interview with author Jen Sattler

JenSattler

Thank you so much to Jen for taking time to visit with me and share about her books and writing career!

Both Jungle Gym and Dirty Birdies feature funny illustrations that can be appreciated by children and adults, but I think children will especially relate to the dirty birdies as they are often messy and enjoy many of the same things as the birds. What is the process like for creating a board book as compared to a picture book? 

So much of the humor in a board book is visual. That’s really why I wanted to do a whole series of them. I absolutely love board books.  With a board book there’s no big arc of a story or a lot of character development, it’s just fun! And when you’re having fun, learning new concepts is much easier (color, opposites, counting) When I’m putting together a board book each page can have a more singular impact. So much of the fun for little ones is learning to turn the pages, learning the physical act of reading a book, so each page is a little moment that they can come back to over and over again.

I see your books often feature (adorable!) animal protagonists. Can you tell me more about your creative process and how these animal characters come about? Do you choose animals for any particular reason? 

I love drawing animals because their human characteristics come out of their physical forms. Inevitably a character will emerge that just speaks to me. It starts to have a personality. When drawing people it’s too easy for me to reference someone I know. They’re not born out of the page so to speak.

I still enjoy reading children’s books as an adult, but there is something really magical about books when you are a child. Did you enjoy reading as a child, and what book do you remember most fondly from your childhood? What book do you enjoy most as an adult? 

I didn’t have many books as a child. We had a few Dr. Seuss books though and I loved them. (I used to call him “Der Seuss”, I thought that was how you pronounced “Dr.”) There also used to be books at the grocery store; Golden Books. If we were good, my mom would get us a book. Like I said, we didn’t have many!  I still have all of those and opening them up brings my memory back in a really visceral way. I see through my much younger eyes. You’re right, it really is magical. My favorite book was Horton Hears a Who.

As far as what book I enjoy most as an adult? I’d have to say that I never get tired of Sandra Boynton’s books. Especially Hippos Go Beserk. I think the humor in those books is for everyone. There’s no age limit on finding six hippos showing up to a party with an uninvited “guest” hilarious.

Did you always aspire to be a children’s book author and what was the road to publication like for you?

No, I sure wasted a lot of time trying to “adult”. After getting my MFA in painting I taught college students for a few years. Then I had my children. In no time our house was full of picture books and it was clear that THAT was what I wanted to do! No more paintings to just hang on the wall. I wanted to make kids laugh… I finally released my inner goofball! It took a lot of rejections before my first book Sylvie came out in 2009. Since then I’ve had over 15 books published. It’s the best career in the world.  The harder I work, the more fun I have.

Who has had the greatest impact on your writing and your career?

When I first started out it was my daughters Mayzie and Lilia that had the biggest impact on my writing. They would ask me questions. For instance Lili asked me why flamingos were pink and after some fact searching Sylvie was born. As my kids’ personality traits emerged issues like making friends or doing something you’re scared of would happen naturally and stories came to me through the characters I was drawing. Since the girls are pretty big  ( one’s in college, the other a junior in high school) now I spend time with toddlers and preschoolers at my daughters’ old preschool/daycare. There’s nothing like spending time with little ones. It’s pure joy.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your new books or your career?

I’ve always wanted to do a series of original board books. Their humor and simplicity is so pure and direct. There’s so much to learn at that age and so many fun ways to show them. Each thick board page is a little funny moment. No one is as in touch with joy as a toddler. It’s the best job in the world to make something fun to put in their hands.

Thank you again Jen!


Check out these great coloring pages for your little ones (or for you!)

Just click on the link for a full size PDF coloring page that you can print.

DirtyBirdies_colorsheet

JungleGym_colorsheet


Giveaway!

I’m excited to offer you a fantastic prize package from Sleeping Bear Press! Please comment on this post for your chance to win a set of books and a tote bag!

What is your favorite children’s book? Have you read anything else by Jen Sattler?

Or comment on something else that interests you!

Please comment by February 8, 2018 end of day. I will randomly select a winner from the comments and announce the winner on the blog on February 9, 2018.

A big thank you to all who read and comment on my blog. You guys are the best! 🙂


Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm CDT on February 8.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
  • Winner agrees to provide their preferred mailing address, to be forwarded to Sleeping Bear Press for shipment of prize.

Book Review: Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter

Hello book lovers!

I have great books coming up for you all, PLUS a blog tour and giveaway! Tune in to the blog February 2nd when I feature an interview with author Jen Sattler, her new board books, and a GIVEAWAY! Remember when I have a giveaway, all you have to do for a chance to win great prizes is comment on the corresponding blog post. Easy peasy!

Follow my blog via email and you’ll never miss out on a giveaway! 🙂

And now I take you to ancient Japan in a recent offering from Raggedy Moon Books…

Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter (2017, Raggedy Moon Books, Lower Middle-Grade/Chapter Book)

tokoyo

From the publisher:

An adventurous girl! Most noble-born girls of Tokoyo’s age learn to sing, paint, and write poetry. Not Tokoyo. She’s the daughter of a samurai in fourteenth century Japan. Tokoyo’s father trains her in the martial arts. When he is away, she escapes to the sea where she works with the Ama—a society of women and girls who dive in the deep waters for food and treasure. But disaster strikes her family. Can Tokoyo save her father using the lessons she learned and the skills she mastered to overcome corrupt officials, her own doubts, and a nasty sea demon?

Review:

Tokoyo, written by Faith L. Justice and illustrated by Kayla Gilliam, could be an enjoyable story for younger readers.

This is a book written for a young audience and will be best appreciated by that audience. From the perspective of an adult reader, the story is very short and there isn’t much character development. It would have been nice to see more interaction between Tokoyo and her father. The scenes are all short and plot driven leaving out a lot of the emotional turmoil that would build a connection between Tokoyo and the reader.

But for a young reader, Tokoyo will come through as a strong, independent and courageous young woman. The historical aspect is interesting, and young readers especially will be intrigued by the details of ancient Japanese culture whether those are fantastical elements or factual ones. Overall an entertaining read that will impress readers ages 8 to 10 more than older readers.

Three stars for this adventurous tale


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: My Family Four Floors Up

My Family Four Floors Up (2018, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

four floors up.jpg

From the publisher:

In a sunlit apartment four floors up, a little girl is eager to start her day. After breakfast she and her father, along with the family pup, make their way down the four flights of stairs in their building, and across busy city streets to the neighborhood park. It will be a day filled with joy, wonder, excitement, comfort and love – all of the things that we hope each day holds for little ones.

four floor up interior

Review:

My Family Four Floors Up, written by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Celia Krampien, follows the busy day of a young girl as she leaves her home to explore the city with her dog and father. The rhythm and rhyme are perfect, and parents will enjoy reading this story aloud to young readers. With short, descriptive phrases, adults will be impressed by how much is conveyed in so few words. Filled with fun adjectives and verbs, the youngest readers will learn their colors and words without even realizing the book is teaching them something new. Featuring many diverse characters, every child is likely to identify with someone in the story. Great illustrations and engaging text make this story ideal for the youngest of readers and their parents who are likely to enjoy reading this one no matter how many times it is reread. Highly recommended for children ages 3 to 7.

5 stars to shine over four floors up.


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: La La La

La, La, La (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)

la la la

From the publisher:

Conceived by Kate DiCamillo and featuring enchanting illustrations by Jaime Kim, this nearly wordless graphic story follows a little girl in search of a friend.

“La la la . . . la.” A little girl stands alone and sings, but hears no response. Gathering her courage and her curiosity, she skips farther out into the world, singing away to the trees and the pond and the reeds — but no song comes back to her. Day passes into night, and the girl dares to venture into the darkness toward the light of the moon, becoming more insistent in her singing, climbing as high as she can, but still there is silence in return. Dejected, she falls asleep on the ground, only to be awakened by an amazing sound. . . . She has been heard. At last. With the simplest of narratives and the near absence of words, Kate DiCamillo conveys a lonely child’s yearning for someone who understands. With a subtle palette and captivating expressiveness, Jaime Kim brings to life an endearing character and a transcendent landscape that invite readers along on an emotionally satisfying journey.

la la la inside

Review:

La, La, La, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Jaime Kim, is a beautiful, but slightly disappointing read. The illustrations and concept of the book are absolutely gorgeous. Parents and children will not be disappointed with the incredible artwork and the charming idea of a little girl who just wants to belong. What might disappoint, is the fact that the book consists of one word – “La”. Parents will have to use their imagination with this one as children are likely to have lots of questions about what is happening and demand more story from the pages. Recommended for parents who are ok with making up a story or who might enjoy just singing through this book with ones too young to care much for where the story is going or what it is about.

3.5 stars for the beautiful concept and illustrations


Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.