Blog Tour! The Storybook Knight: Interview and Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Storybook Knight

Welcome to another fun blog tour!

Today I’m sharing my review of The Storybook Knight and some fun bonus book content. Plus, I had a chance to interview the author/illustrator team behind this fun book!

storybook knight

The Storybook Knight (2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Picture Book)

Leo is a knight, but he doesn’t like to fight. He would rather read than seek out danger. His parents have a different view of how a knight should behave so they send Leo away on a quest to fight a dragon. Leo embarks upon his quest with his faithful horse, saddlebags full of books, and a story in his heart.

The Storybook Knight, written and illustrated by Helen and Thomas Docherty, is a tale of following one’s heart and believing in oneself. Children will love the clever rhyme and adorable illustrations as they root for Leo and his books. The concept of Leo knowing his heart, but being forced to try something different by his parents will resonate with young readers. Leo carries his love of books with him on his quest and it serves him well. He goes on a great adventure as his parents wished, but he always stays true to himself. A beautiful and subtle lesson of trying new things, but maintaining one’s integrity at all costs. Especially relevant in this age of social networking when children are bombarded with messages from all sides and face more peer pressure than ever.

Wonderful read! A book for children to carry in their hearts, or saddlebags, when facing life’s obstacles.


Interview With Helen and Thomas Docherty

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Thomas and Helen Docherty are the husband and wife team behind The Storybook Knight. They were kind enough to answer a few questions about their newest book, the creative process, and working together as a team.

Where did you get your inspiration for THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT?

HD:  It was Tom who came up with the idea of a knight who didn’t want to fight, but he wasn’t sure how to develop the story, so he passed it on to me.  I decided to give our knight a passion for reading and some pushy parents who send him off on a quest to ‘prove’ himself… but of course, he ends up proving that the word is mightier than the sword. I think that’s an important message for us all!

How many books have you published together? 

HD:  Four, so far: The Snatchabook, Abracazebra, The Storybook Knight and an earlier book which we co-wrote (and Tom illustrated), Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure.

What is the creative process like working as a team? Do you develop the story together or does one part develop more fully before the other (writing before illustrations or vice versa)?

HD:  When we work together on a book, the writing always comes first, as a story has to be commissioned by a publisher before Tom can start work on the illustrations. In some cases, as with the Storybook Knight, we work on the initial story idea together before I start writing.

TD:  By the time I come to illustrating Helen’s stories, I’ve had a long time to watch Helen develop the text, so I often have quite a few ideas in my head of how the characters and scenes might look. And as the illustrations progress I’m always showing the rough drafts to Helen and getting her feedback and advice – I really appreciate her input.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

HD:  An author! I spent most of my childhood writing stories and making them into little books, which I also illustrated. But I put that ambition aside for a long time; I was a language teacher (French, Spanish and English) for many years before I finally started writing again and became a published author.

TD:  I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think I was too busy climbing trees and playing ball with my brothers to give it much thought. Having said that, I always liked drawing and as I got older it became clear that I was going to end up doing something creative. But it wasn’t until after I had graduated from Art College (where I studied sculpture) that I thought back to all the amazing illustrated books I had enjoyed as a child and begun to think that I might like to do something like that myself.

As a child, what was your favorite book? 

HD:  I had so many favorites! But some of the books that I loved and re-read the most were Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and a series of books about a girl called Aurora by the Norwegian author Anne-Cath. Vestly.

TD:  I am dyslexic and really struggled with my reading when I was young, so picture books and comics were very important to me because I could ‘read’ the pictures, instead of the words. My favorite books were the Asterix comics, and I spent hours looking at and often copying the pictures. It was Asterix books that eventually got me reading, and I’ve never looked back since!

Which part of the writing or illustrating process do you enjoy the most? 

HD:  The part I enjoy most is when I’ve got a really exciting, complete story idea and have worked out the rhyme scheme I’m going to use. Usually I’ll start with a sentence – not necessarily the first one – which establishes the rhythm of the story in my head. Then I’m ready to start writing… the fun bit!

TD:  I love the start of a project when I’m doing lots of quick sketches and you can see the characters and the world around them grow. I also love thinking about the colors that I will use to add drama and atmosphere to the story.

What struggles have you faced as a writer or illustrator? 

HD:  The hardest part is coming up with a watertight idea for a story. The best stories have their own internal logic; you may not see the end coming when you’re reading the story, but when it does, it all makes complete sense. But of course, those brilliant ideas don’t come every day. The other challenging aspect of being an author is that not every story you write ends up being commissioned – I’ve had plenty turned down by my publishers. You have to learn to get over the disappointment and keep going!

TD:  I have good and bad days, just like everyone else. I still do most of my work by hand, using paper and inks and watercolor. A large page can take me a couple of days to paint, and sometimes I mess up and have to start all over again. This can be quite stressful!

Anything else you’d like to add about your work or THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT?

HD:  A little known fact is that the original storybook knight was called Gareth, after my dad (and also after one of the Knights of the Round Table). However, our UK publishers wanted a more universal name, so I chose Leo instead – which is our nephew’s name, and works well in lots of languages. The Storybook Knight has been translated into Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian and Slovenian so far.

TD:  My favorite character in the story is Ned, Leo’s faithful horse. He doesn’t say anything, so I had lots of fun giving him a personality of his own: loyal, brave, and always on the lookout for a tasty snack.


Bonus Book Content and Giveaway

Storybook Knight landing page

Join Leo’s Storybook Knights, plus pledge your allegiance and receive a certificate of membership!

Download an educator or activity kit

Are you sharing The Storybook Knight in your classroom or looking for more ways to engage your child? Download an educator or activity kit for even more adventures with Leo and Ned.

Rafflecopter: Enter for a chance to win an original sketch of Leo and Ned by illustrator Thomas Docherty! Comment on this blog post plus tweet about the giveaway for two chances to win!

Click on the link below to go to the rafflecopter entry page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you have trouble entering or have any questions please comment below or contact me.

Learn more about the author and illustrator by visiting their pages or following them on Twitter!

Thomas Docherty on Twitter: @TDIllustration

Helen Docherty on Twitter: @docherty_helen


Thank you to Thomas and Helen Docherty for taking the time to answer all my questions and to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for letting me be a part of the blog tour and providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Reading!

You’re My Boo and Author Interview with Kate Dopirak

Book Review: You’re My Boo

I am so, so excited to share this book with you all!

I met Kate at an SCBWI Conference in Pittsburgh and have been anticipating the release of this book since the moment I knew she would be published.

Now that her book is here, I get to rave about how wonderful Kate and her book are! 🙂

I’m really not surprised that You’re My Boo is quite possibly the most adorable and sweet book I have read in a very long time. Between Kate’s make-your-heart-melt writing and Lesley Breen Withrow’s so-cute-it-hurts illustrations, this book will be cherished for years and years.

youre my boo

You’re My Boo (2016, Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster, Picture Book)

“You’re my peek-a-boo, my sneak-a-boo, my laughing-till-you-squeak-a-boo.”

Mama fox loves her Boo, whether he is building or breaking, laughing or crying. Every day, in every way, she loves him just the way he is.

You’re My Boo, written by Kate Dopirak and illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, is begging to be read again and again. With ridiculously adorable text, and absolutely precious pictures, children will want to read this story with their parents over and over. Written in a fun rhyming scheme, with short catchy phrases, kids will love to hear this read aloud. This is a fantastic story of unconditional love for adults to share with their children or grandchildren.

Take your read-a-book-boo to the store and get this melt-your-heart-boo(k) today! 🙂

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Interview With Author Kate Dopirak

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Photo credit: Family Art Photography

I feel so blessed to have met Kate at the Pittsburgh SCBWI conference in 2014. One of the many blessings of having worked for the circus 🙂 Through that meeting we have kept in touch and she has been a fantastic resource and inspiration as I continue my own writing journey.

Kate is beautiful inside and out, and I am so excited for her, and the release of her debut picture book, You’re My Boo.

Kate was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book and her life as an author.

How long have you been writing and when did you publish your first book?

I’ve been writing for kids for ten years. My work has been purchased by newspapers, magazines, and educational publishers. YOU’RE MY BOO (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster) is my first book.

Where do you find your writing inspiration?

My sons inspire most of what I write. My nieces, nephews, and neighbors get in on the action sometimes, too. I watch them do something or hear them say something and – BOOM! – a story idea starts.

For example, my son didn’t want to get out of bed one morning. I got the idea to write SNUGGLE BUNNY, a story about a young bunny who doesn’t want to get out of bed and soon finds himself with a lot of company. It’s available now for pre-order from Cartwheel/Scholastic.

Another time, I tucked my nephew into bed, and he wanted me to tuck in his toy car, too. Because of that, I wrote TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE CAR, which will be published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster in 2018.

Philip Stead’s picture book speaks truth: IDEAS ARE ALL AROUND.

What inspired you to write YOU’RE MY BOO? 

YOU’RE MY BOO is a love letter to my boys – a silly goose love letter.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh, wow – what didn’t I want to be? A gymnast, a ballerina, a Pitt cheerleader, an artist, a photographer, an ambulance driver, a vet, a pediatrician, a librarian, a teacher . . . but most of all, I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  

What was your favorite book as a child?

I still remember where I was when I read William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES for the first time. That book made me want to write. I keep a conch shell in my office because of it.

Who has most inspired you in your writing career?

The list is long. I’ve been blessed with a super supportive family, inspiring teachers, and talented, honest critique partners. And I can never thank SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) enough.

What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of writing? 

I love sharing this writing journey with my husband and sons. Brainstorming new story ideas, reading drafts of manuscripts, discussing revisions, commiserating about rejections, celebrating sales – it’s all the better thanks to them.

What advice would you give to young writers?

Read what you love, and read a lot of it. Write what you love, and write a lot of it.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

I love visiting new places with my family, even if it’s just a trail down the road where we’ve never hiked before.

What is the most interesting place you have visited? 

We took our boys to New Orleans last winter. Everything about that place interested us – the food, the music, the people, the art, the Mardi Gras parades, the street performers, the Pelicans game, and The National World War II Museum.

Name one interesting fact about yourself unrelated to writing 🙂

I spent a great deal of time trying to fly when I was little. I would run and jump from the top of our stairs or from our raised patio. I even tried using an umbrella, Mary Poppins-style, but never experienced much success. I did end up in a cast, though, which was the end of my flying attempts.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books? 

My website is katedopirak.com, and I’m @katedopirak on Twitter.

Anything else you’d like to mention about YOU’RE MY BOO or your writing career? 

I’d like to thank Lesley Breen Withrow for illustrating YOU’RE MY BOO. She and Beach Lane’s Lauren Rille made magic as far as I’m concerned. You can find Lesley at lesleybreenwithrow.com, and she’s @lesleybreenwithrow on Instagram.


Thank you again to Kate Dopirak for taking time to answer all my questions 🙂 and thank you to Simon & Schuster for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Reading!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Max At Night

Max at Night by Ed Vere

It’s Blog Tour (and Giveaway) day!

I’m so excited to share Max at Night with you all.

Following Ed Vere’s Max the Brave and Max and Bird, comes an all new Max the cat story in Max at Night.

max at night

Max at Night (2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Picture Book)

Max is sleepy. He has drunk his milk, brushed his teeth, washed his ears, Now he needs to say good night to everything before he can go to bed. But where is the moon? Max can’t go to bed without saying good night to the moon. So begins Max’s midnight journey to bid the moon good night.

Max at Night written and illustrated by Ed Vere follows the nighttime routine of a little black cat named Max. The book starts off with simple sentences and a gentle, poetic, sleepy feel as Max prepares for bed and bids things good night. Then Max goes on a bit of an adventure as he tries to find the moon and the tempo picks up taking away from the sleepy feel. The sentences become longer and more complex and the book might make kids wake up a bit as opposed to making them ready to fall asleep. Wonderful illustrations and a cute story that will be enjoyed by many children, but maybe not the most sleep inducing bedtime book. This book would be great when paired with another quiet bedtime book such as Goodnight Moon. 

Max is an endearing and brave character, perfect for bedtime or anytime. Children will love to read about Max and his sweet determination in Max at Night.

Four bright shiny stars for Max to hang in the night sky.


Blog Tour Bonus Time!

Check out these links for bonus book content.

Max at Night landing page: A whole page for Max! See page excerpts, order the book or request a free storytime activity kit (while supplies last)

Download the activity kit: Great for teachers or parents, download this activity kit full of printable activity pages.

Rafflecopter: Enter for a chance to win an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere and a copy of Max at Night! Usually a fancy rafflecopter box would appear here, but WordPress doesn’t allow such things 😦 So just click the link below and follow the rafflecopter instructions.

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

If you are new to Rafflecopter giveaways or have any questions about how to enter, please email me or leave a comment below.

For more information about Author/Illustrator Ed Vere, check out his website, or follow him on Twitter (@ed_vere) and Instagram


Thanks for stopping by and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and for letting Three Show Saturday participate in this great blog tour!

Happy Reading! ❤

 

Book Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Let me open with, I LOVED this book.

If you would like more details, please see below:

kingdom-of-ash-and-briar

Kingdom of Ash and Briars (2016, Holiday House, Young Adult Fantasy)

Sixteen-year-old Bristal is a perfectly average orphan, until she discovers she’s one of only three remaining elicromancers. Ancient, immortal beings, elicromancers were nearly wiped from existence after centuries of warring in the realm. Now Bristal in one of them, and an exceptionally powerful one at that. With the rare gift of shape-shifting, she can become anything or anyone she chooses. In an ancient battle of good versus evil, Bristal finds herself torn between two paths. As power builds within her she must decide to help the mortals of the realm, or release her power and face unknown terrors. Relying on her shape-shifting abilities, Bristal works toward the good of the realm, protecting princesses, disguising herself as a man, gaining the confidence of kings, and always working from the shadows. But war, and an army of darkness approaches, and Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars, written by Hannah West, is an incredible and engrossing new fantasy. Drawing inspiration from traditional fairy tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan, the story weaves these tales together in an exciting and new way. Bristal is a likable and clever main character, and readers will appreciate both her strengths and her weaknesses. Though she is a powerful elicromancer, she is so well-written as to still have many human qualities, making her both believable and relatable. The world-building is quite good, though it’s a bit limited in scope. However, it is not difficult to envision Bristal’s world or feel a part of it.

This is a sweeping, epic fantasy, and it’s surprising that it was not written as a trilogy. The world, characters and plot are exceptionally well-crafted, and there is so much happening in the plot that the book could easily have been extended. For the most part, the pacing is well done, and it’s impressive the amount of information and plot twists that occur within 355 pages, but there were points in the story when the passing of time was unclear. The first part of the book also felt a bit rushed, and the villain was established somewhat hastily. The villain is perfectly terrifying and believable, but she only begins to feel really real toward the middle of the book.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a brilliant retelling of traditional tales. With exceptional creativity, swoon-worthy love interests, and sweeping scenes, this is one of the best new young adult fantasy books I have read in quite a while.

A beautifully told fantasy with strong female and male characters, fairy tale romance, action, and adventure. Highly recommended for teens and adults who enjoy fantasies and fairy tales.

Five stars for Bristal, may they each shine as bright as her elicrin stone.


Bonus Book Content

Check out the book on the publisher’s website with bonus questions for classroom discussions.

Learn more about author, Hannah West, at her website.

The Kingdom of Ash and Briars hits shelves September 15, 2016


Thank you to Holiday House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Reading!


Quick Note:

Somehow I got all my dates completely wrong for upcoming blog tours and such. Probably because I had to rearrange my newspaper review schedule and I was looking at that old schedule when I posted. So…here is the updated (and correct) schedule for upcoming tours, reviews, interviews and such

September 15: Max at Night Blog Tour

September 20: You’re My Boo Book Review and Author Interview

September 22: The Storybook Knight Blog Tour and Author Interview

September 29: Guest Book Review by a young reader of Mysterium Book #1: The Black Dragon

I have also updated the original post 🙂

Book Review: Time for Bed, Sleepyhead

Time for Bed, Sleepyhead: The Falling Asleep Book

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Written by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. and illustrated by Gail Yerrill

In this hypnotic book written by renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, children are encouraged to fall asleep through visualization techniques and calming words. As the Little Bear in the story snuggles into bed, Mama Bear explains why sleep is so important and then tells him a story. With an emphasis on imagination, the book’s storytelling style encourages children to close their eyes and imagine that what is happening to Little Bear, is actually happening to them.

I found this book quite intriguing but I’m a bit torn on how to review it.

First the things I loved:

The illustrations are darling and definitely help move the story along. All the little animals are lovingly made and give the book a soft, sweet feel, perfect for a quiet bedtime book.

I also love the idea of this book. The style of writing makes the reader feel like Mama Bear is talking directly to you. This is fun and I think children will feel very engaged in the story. I love that the book encourages children to visualize what is happening and close their eyes and relax. I think this technique would be fun and effective for getting children to quiet down and prepare for sleep.

It’s not that I didn’t love other parts of the book, I just found it to feel a bit clinical. The doctor is using techniques he has applied in his own practice in the way he tells this story. For some reason this felt a bit weird to me. The story isn’t bad and the technique isn’t bad, it’s just when the two combine in a children’s story, it didn’t completely work for me.

The book is trying to do two things. Be a lovely, sweet bedtime story, and also a step-by-step, hypnotic, persuasive tool.

I believe the joining of these two concepts leads to the awkward feeling I had while reading it. The warning at the beginning of the book also seemed a bit strange. The book warns to not read aloud in a car as it may cause the driver to become drowsy.

I recognized the techniques used in the book from some relaxation exercises I did in a class at school once. I think these techniques are fun and effective, and if the book is looked at as only a tool for these techniques, then I think it is excellent.

If you are looking for a fun, quiet story that can be enjoyed anytime, then this is not the book you are looking for.

For what this book is doing, by combining a form of visualization similar to hypnosis and still providing a fairly decent story, I think it does the best it can.

I would recommend this book as long as you purchase it knowing, it really is “The Falling Asleep Book” and is not just a cute bedtime story.

September Line-Up and New Reviews

I can’t believe September is here already. I am so excited for this month on the blog because I have great things lined up to share with you all!

September 15: MAX AT NIGHT Blog Tour

max at night

September 20: YOU’RE MY BOO Book Review and Author Interview

youre my boo

September 22: THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT Blog Tour and author/illustrator interview

storybook knight

With the blog tours, I will have lots of great links and bonus content to share for each book. I just love blog tours 🙂

Then in October, I have spooky books lined up for the whole month, plus I’ll be hosting a special event at my store for kids. There will be more interviews and blog tours as well.

I feel so lucky to have so many opportunities to share great books and new authors with you all.

Today I have three great new books to share and I hope you will all get a chance to check them out at some point.

Happy Reading!


mind boggling number

Mind-Boggling Numbers (2016, Lerner Publishing Group, Non-Fiction Picture Book)

Can a piggy bank hold 1 million pennies? How many glasses of lemonade would it take to fill a swimming pool? Is it possible to send a birthday card to everyone on the planet? This book has all the answers, and the numbers are mind-boggling!

Mind-Boggling Numbers, written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Julia Patton, is an incredibly fun read! Written in question and answer format, the questions are both fun and puzzling, resulting in some fascinating answers. Children and adults will find the math engaging, and everyone is certain to learn something new. The questions present unrealistic situations, but then use real math processes to reach the answer. These word problems are way more fun than figuring out traditional problems. The illustrations accompanying each Q & A are charming and funny, and will keep children entertained as they contemplate each dilemma. And to top it off, at the end of the book, each problem is worked through in depth, showing the math steps necessary to reach each answer. Any book that can introduce math in a fun and entertaining way is a definite winner!


herbies big adventure

Herbie’s Big Adventure (2016, Capstone, Picture Book)

Herbie is just a little hedgehog but he’s growing fast and his Mother says it’s time for him to go on a big adventure. Herbie doesn’t feel ready for a big adventure all by himself, but he leaves home anyway. What awaits little Herbie in the big, adventurous world?

Herbie’s Big Adventure, written and illustrated by Jennie Poh, is a great reminder for both parents and children that sometimes children are ready to experience things on their own without parental guidance or supervision. The theme of independence, self-reliance, and resourcefulness is well-told but other aspects of the story distract from the poignant message. Herbie encounters obstacles along the way, and when he seeks shelter, the words and accompanying illustrations might be confusing to children. Otherwise the illustrations are precious and delightful, inspiring children to go on their own big adventure.


the changelings

The Changelings (2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Middle-Grade Fantasy)

After inheriting her Grandmother’s house, Izzy and her family move to the most boring town ever. Izzy is certain nothing exciting will ever happen to her here, until she starts hearing stories about the witch who lives next door. Soon Izzy and her little sister, Hen, discover strange piles of rocks around their house and shadows slipping through the woods behind the house. It’s all exciting and fun until Izzy hears mysterious music and Hen disappears into the forest behind their house. Now, with only the neighborhood “witch” to help, Izzy sets out on a wild adventure to save her sister.

The Changelings, written by Christina Soontornvat, is something of a modern day fairy tale. With tales of faeries and changelings, this book will likely spark interest in older, traditional fairy tales such as those by Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. Most middle-grade fantasy seems to focus on witches and wizards, so a book with a different focus in the realm of fantasy is refreshing. The book is entertaining and children will love the characters, mystery and magical aspects, but the beginning feels rushed. There is little set up for the story, and much of the information about the neighbor being a witch is established by a conversation with the cashier at the local grocery store. This introduction does not feel authentic, as the setting and neighborhood has not yet been described in detail and certainly not in a creepy context. Once the story progresses, and Izzy enters the faerie realm, the plot picks up and becomes more engaging. A fun read for children ages 8 and up.


Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for reading copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Friday Fun Reads

Happy Friday!

Hope you all had a wonderful week!

I’ve spent the week thinking about all the reviews I do and I’ll likely be making some changes. I’ve been reviewing four books each week for my newspaper column and I’m thinking of changing that to two books.

Reviewing four books takes quite a bit more time than I realized, and I feel I can do each book more justice and provide a longer review if I focus on just two each week. I’ve struggled with the format of my reviews because I personally hate spoilers and I find the line between saying too little and saying too much, to be very thin.

So with the change to two books a week, I’m going to increase the length of my reviews while not spoiling anything. Wish me luck 😉

As for today, I have a few reviews for you from my favorites over the last couple of weeks. Do you have any books lined up for the weekend? What are you kids reading at school?

If you ever read any of the books I review on the blog I would love to hear from you! Commenting is a fun way to make connections and build community 🙂


thud and blunder

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

When the town goes up in flames, Thud and Blunder dash in to save the day! Then when they discover a dragon is to blame, they head out to slay the dragon. When the heroes encounter the dragon though, the great beast bursts into tears. Is the dragon evil or not? Thud and Blunder are still determined to save the town from destruction but there may be more to the dragon than they realize.

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon, written by Sean Tulien and illustrated by Pol Cunyat, is an action-packed beginning chapter book perfect for beginning and reluctant readers. The illustrations are vivid and give the book a comic-book feel. The heroine, Thud, and the hero, Blunder, are fun, non-traditional hero types which children will love. The story itself is funny, unpredictable and sometimes silly, making this an overall great choice for young readers. Lucky for young readers, this is part of the Thud and Blunder series so they can join these characters on many more adventures.


norberts big dream

Norbert’s Big Dream (2016, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

Norbert is not a regular pig. Norbert is a pig with a dream. While other pigs sleep and eat slop, Norbert is preparing to make his dream come true. One day he will swim the English Channel! But when the big day comes will Norbert be able to find the English Channel?

Norbert’s Big Dream, written by Lori Degman and illustrated by Marco Bucci, is a charming read about chasing dreams and what it means to reach one’s goals. This is a great read anytime, but especially during the Olympics as children watch athletes compete and live out their dreams. Norbert is just a pig but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big or working hard. Children and adults will love Norbert and his great attitude. Beautifully rendered illustrations round out this exceptional book.


dino mike and the dinosaur doomsday

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

Dino-Mike has traveled the world digging up dinosaur bones with his Dad, but he didn’t expect to look for bones in Antarctica! Tracking the evil Dr. Bones, takes Mike, his friends, and his Dad to the coldest continent in search of more fossils. But Mike and his friends aren’t alone, soon the Bones siblings arrive and make lots of trouble. With the ability to call up living dinosaurs, the Bones siblings hope to make Mike and his friends extinct!

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday, written and illustrated by Franco Aureliani, has a fun premise and great layout for young independent readers, but the execution falls a bit flat. This is just one book out of the series, so reading the first books may make the story more compelling. The adventure and inclusion of dinosaurs will be a hit with readers, but the conflict-resolution aspect feels rushed. The build-up to each conflict is short with a resolution following almost immediately. The reader does not have time to feel any real sense of danger or nervousness for Mike since the dire situations are resolved neatly and immediately. Start with the first book in this series, Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack!, and see if Dino-Mike’s adventures are a hit with your independent readers ages 6-8.


pyramid hunters iron tomb

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb (2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Middle-Grade Adventure)

Sam Force is expecting the usual, boring visit to his Uncle Jasper in Egypt. What he isn’t expecting is to find his Uncle missing. Narrowly avoiding arrest at the airport, Sam discovers clues left by his Uncle, and finds himself relying on new friends to follow the trail. Using his knowledge of ancient Egypt, and with Hadi and Mary’s help, Sam embarks on a wild adventure to find his Uncle and uncover the secrets of The Iron Tomb.

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb, written by Peter Vegas, is a wild chase through Egypt’s streets and her history. Starting with an action packed teaser, the book then picks up with Sam en route to Egypt. Shortly thereafter, the action starts and never stops. Combining crazy action sequences with a smart and capable main character, make this a great choice for young readers. This adventure is sure to be a hit. Appropriate for children ages 10 and up.


Thank you to all the publishers for providing copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading to all!

Book Review: Miracle in Music City

Hello all!

Time got away from me! I have been busy reading and reviewing and getting new things lined up for the blog, and I completely forgot to put up posts last week.

I’ll get caught up with a few posts today and tomorrow full of new books!

In September, I will be participating in two blog tours for fantastic new picture books from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. I continue to be impressed by the content and quality of picture books from this publisher. As part of the blog tour, the publisher will be providing links to enter a rafflecopter for giveaways. I will also share a book trailer and author interview during the tour as well! Exciting times! 🙂

In other writing news, I registered for the SCBWI Middle of the Map conference in Overland Park, KS this fall.

Anyone else attending?

The last conference I attended was in Pittsburgh and I absolutely loved it! My excitement will be off the charts by the time November arrives.

Now, what you came here for….the book review!

miracle in music city

 

Miracle in Music City (2016, Zonderkidz, Middle-Grade Mystery)

The Glimmer girls have spent all summer on tour with their Mom. Now they are home and trying to readjust to normal life. The girls soon find out that might be easier said than done. Then their Mom asks them to help her with an annual benefit and auction, and the girls find themselves drawn into another mystery they are determined to solve. It seems life may never get back to normal for these smart and sassy sisters.

Miracle in Music City, written by Natalie Grant, is the third book in the Glimmer Girls series. The series is reminiscent of older, popular mystery series such as Boxcar Children and Babysitter Club, through the structure of the book and the situations the young characters find themselves in. This series is likely to be more popular with girls than boys as the plot often focuses on the dynamics of sisters, and female friends. As this is published by a Christian publishing company, the book does make reference to God, Jesus, and praying several times throughout the book. Overall, a sweet tale with a mystery and great message of helping others.

Though this is considered a middle-grade book, younger readers might enjoy it as well. Strong independent readers should have no trouble reading this book on their own.

Thank  you to Zonderkidz and Book Look Bloggers for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Back to School Books!

I can’t believe school is starting already! It doesn’t affect me directly, but it’s fun seeing all the kids getting ready for their first day of school.

I did do a back to school theme this week for my newspaper column and I have some great book reviews to share with you all. Trying to keep with the theme, I do have a back to school specific book, but overall, all books are great reads for the back to school crowd 🙂

Do you have any young readers headed off to their first day of school?

What books did they read in their classroom on their first day of school?


time for earth school dewey dew

Time for (Earth) School Dewey Dew (2016, Boyds Mills Press, Picture Book)

Dewey Dew doesn’t want to go to school. Not on his planet, not on any planet, and certainly not on planet Earth! Earth kids aren’t like Dewey Dew and Earth words are hard to say. Dewey Dew thinks school is hard and scary, but maybe he will learn school can be fun too.

Time for (Earth) School Dewey Dew, written by Leslie Staub and illustrated by Jeff Mack, is a fantastic read for young ones starting school for the first time or just nervous about going back to school. Dewey Dew is an adorable alien facing all the normal first-day-of-school jitters in a new way. He is comically different from Earth kids and worries about fitting in, which young ones will easily relate too. With charming illustrations and fun, simple text, this is a great read for parents to share at home or teachers to share with their students.

5 stars


counting barefoot critters

Counting with Barefoot Critters (2016, Penguin Random House Canada, Picture Book)

Kids can count to twelve as they follow an increasing number of critters on an outdoor adventure. Each activity brings a new member to the group, and so the group moves on to bigger and better things each time. You can count on these critters to make counting fun!

Counting with Barefoot Critters, written and illustrated by Teagan White, teaches the numbers one through twelve to children in a fun and engaging way. Presented with fun critters portrayed in beautiful illustrations, children won’t even realize they are supposed to be learning their numbers. Love the layout of the book, and presentation of each number. More than just a book about counting, this is a lovely story book to be enjoyed by parents and children.

5 stars


girl who drank the moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016, Algonquin Young Readers, Middle-Grade Fantasy)

When the people of the Protectorate abandon a child each year, they think they are paying tribute to an evil witch in the woods. If they pay the witch with a child, she’ll leave their village alone, but Xan is a good witch. She is kind and gentle, and has no idea why the villagers leave a child in the woods each year, but she rescues each one. She delivers the babies to loving families in another village, feeding the children starlight on the long journey. But when she accidentally feeds a baby girl moonlight, a chain of events is set into motion that Xan could never have foreseen. Loving the child as her own, Xan raises the girl and learns more about the Protectorate and the real witch in the woods than she ever imagined.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill, is a lovely new fantasy for the middle-grade crowd. The story is beautifully told through alternating perspectives as each character’s story weaves into the greater story arc. While the characters lacked some depth, they are all enjoyable and the plot is mysterious and magical. This is an original tale told with a nod to traditional fairy tales as it draws on typical fairy tale features such as witches, dragons, and magic. A fun read for fans of fantasies and fairy tales.

4.5 stars


And since school days might feel like the slowest days ever to some kids, I present to you, the slowest book ever….

slowest book ever cover

The Slowest Book Ever (2016, Boyds Mills Press, Non-Fiction Middle-Grade)

From sloths to snails, this book is SLOW! If you were hoping to read about the cheetahs or falcons, this is not the book for you, but slow things are cool too. From front to back, this book is packed full of fun facts, clever narration and entertaining illustrations. Whether you read it very slowly or very fast, this book is sure to make you slow down and think about new things.

The Slowest Book Ever written by April Pulley Sayre is a refreshing book for middle-grade readers. Filled with interesting and unique facts, and presented in a clever style, readers will not feel like they are learning as they enjoy this book. The author’s writing style is lively and engaging with facts presented in clever and humorous ways. The only complaint about this book is in regards to formatting. The text runs into the binding and is sometimes difficult to read. Overall, a fantastic read for ages 9 and up.

4.5 stars

 


What was your favorite first day of school book? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Happy First day of school to all!

 

Thank you to Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Random House Canada, Algonquin Young Readers and Net Galley for copies of these books in exchange for my honest reviews.

Interview with Aaron Becker

I have returned from my journey to Uganda, and have many stories to share in future posts, but today is all about your “Journey” dear readers 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the Journey Trilogy blog posts while I was away and I would love to hear your thoughts on the books.

This is the final post on the trilogy and I will be sharing a short interview with author/illustrator Aaron Becker, but first I am excited to announce the winner of the two book giveaway.

Congratulations to Amanda Kincaid! You have won the first two books in the Journey Trilogy 🙂 A huge thank you to everyone who read the blog posts and commented!

Author Interview

aaron becker

Aaron Becker is the brilliant mind behind the Journey Trilogy. He is an author and an illustrator, so while the trilogy does not have words, he did create the story which is told through his fantastic illustrations.

Mr. Becker was kind enough to answer a few questions from me about life as an author and illustrator, and his Journey trilogy. I am excited to share this interview with you and I hope you all will find his books at your local bookstore or library.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

It’s mostly an internal search – looking into events and places in my life that have moved me and settled into a feeling that’s worth exploring through art. Whether it’s a walk around town or a trip to a foreign country, I always try and stay open to what might move me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Like most boys born in the wake of the apollo missions, I wanted to be an astronaut. That soon made way to dreams of being an architect. But with both careers, I realized that the day to day work was something that I didn’t have a passion for. Instead, what interested me were the big ideas behind them, and with illustration, I can travel through space or build buildings whenever I want!

What struggles have you faced on your way to becoming an author and illustrator?

Whenever you’re putting yourself out there with your own creation, you always run the risk of your work falling short of your vision – or – your vision not resonating with the audience you hope to find. I think it is this fear of failure that drives me to do the best I can whenever I’m working – and I have to struggle to keep it in check every day I show up at my drawing table.

What do you hope is the greatest takeaway for children after they read the JOURNEY Trilogy?

My hope is that they can find value in their imagination as a tool worth investing in. All too often, kids learn that the only things of value are those things that they can consume, rather than what they can create. My hope is that children (and adults alike) find something inside of themselves while navigating these wordless adventures.

If you’re not quite ready for this journey to be over, check out these links for more information and activities.

Journey Trilogy Activity Kit

Video Interview with Aaron Becker

 

Thank you to Aaron Becker and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to promote this fantastic trilogy and offer a giveaway to my fantastic readers.