Spooky Stories!

Looking for some fun Halloween stories for the whole family?

I’ve been reading spooky stories all month and some are more sweet than spooky, perfect for sharing with even the youngest book lover.


mystery-of-the-haunted-farm

The Mystery of the Haunted Farm (2016, Nosy Crow/Candlewick, Picture Book)

Something spooky is going on at Farmer Greg’s farm. Ghosts, zombies, and slimy things are everywhere! Farmer Greg calls in the Ghost-Hunters and those three pigs get to work. But when they get out their Scare-O-Meter, it doesn’t detect anything unusual at the farm. Something really scary is going on!

The Mystery of the Haunted Farm, written and illustrated by Elys Dolan, is silly, spooky fun just in time for Halloween! The layout is similar to a comic book with speech in bubbles and some illustrations framed in sequence. There is a lot going on in both the illustrations and the text, and little ones will likely want to examine each illustration closely. While this might not be the most read-aloud friendly book due to the vast number of speech bubbles on some pages, it could definitely be a fun book to enjoy with beginning and independent readers where you and the young reader take turns reading pages. The format of this book isn’t for everyone, and some may find the pages too chaotic with the number of random words and dialogue. But for those who like comics or non-traditional formats, this book is a fun and silly read, perfect for sharing with children on Halloween.

4 stars to scare away the zombie ducks!


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Hubble Bubble: The Super Spooky Fright Night (2016, Nosy Crow/Candlewick, Chapter-Book)

When Pandora’s Granny tries to help, things never go as planned. And since Granny is a witch, her magic makes even the most mundane situations ridiculous. From dancing pumpkins at a party, to teddy bears coming to life, to a flat tire turning into a circus, life with Granny is always an adventure!

The Super Spooky Fright Night, written by Tracey Corderoy and illustrated by Joe Berger, is the first book in a fun new series for young independent readers. It’s difficult to find beginning chapter books that are both easy to read and have an engaging storyline, and this book definitely delivers. The characters are fun, and the situations are sure to get lots of giggles. Broken down by chapters and divided into three parts, this book is actually three short books in one. The format is great for those with short attention spans or as a quick story before bed. The length makes young readers feel like they are reading a book for older children, but it is still fully illustrated to keep their attention. This is a book parents will enjoy reading aloud, and can also be enjoyed by independent readers ages six to eight.

5 stars for Granny’s next magical potion!


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

The Midnight Glass

Hello all!

I’m excited to present you with a wonderful new middle-grade dark fantasy! I had planned to do several spooky posts all month long, and while I achieved that goal in my newspaper column, I can’t say the same for the blog.

But, to make up for it….I will be posting Halloween posts every day starting today through Monday!

This might cut into my Hocus Pocus watching time, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice…only for you.

I’m kicking off this fun weekend with a big post! I have a review, a publisher interview and an author interview to share. Get excited 🙂

And now…on with the show!

The Midnight Glass

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When I first heard of this book, I was immediately intrigued by the title. And I’ll admit, I did judge it by its cover…because I loved the cover!

Then I watched the book trailer….

And I knew I had to read this book!

I love that this book is from a new publisher and they have put forth a fantastic first book. The cover design, layout and feel of the book is fantastic. I would not have known this was a publisher’s first attempt if they hadn’t told me.


The Midnight Glass (2016, Branford Books, Middle-Grade Dark Fantasy)

When Wyatt’s mom accepts a new job, their family moves to the mysterious town of Davenport. Secretive and secluded, the town exists deep in the woods locked behind a gate. Wyatt is excited for the move, until they actually arrive. He thinks he must be seeing things when his classmates have green skin, gills, fangs and more! But the residents of Davenport aren’t the only mysterious thing…Wyatt learns the greatest mystery of all is that Davenport hasn’t seen the sun in over 400 years. As he adjusts to life in eternal darkness, Wyatt learns more and more about Davenport’s deadly secrets.

The Midnight Glass, written by D.T. Vaughn, is a great dark fantasy for Middle-Grade readers. With just the right amount of creepiness, readers will be eager to learn more about Davenport without being too scared to read in the dark. Readers will identify with Wyatt as he is bullied at his school and then doesn’t quite fit in at his new school in Davenport either. As Wyatt makes friends and stands up to bullies, children will root for him. Adding in all the fantasy elements, including curses and weird creatures, plus the normalcy of middle school, moving, and fitting in, makes this a book that touches on many popular themes. Some may find the pacing a bit slow, but most will be drawn into the rich world crafted by the author. Fantasy seems to be a popular genre for Middle-Grade, and adding the darker elements will likely appeal to many readers.

This story has all the elements to make it a hit with readers ages 9 to 12. For the hard to please pre-teen boys, this is an especially good choice.

Imaginative and fun, this book will have readers imagining their own Davenport, and all the adventure they might have there.

4 stars to hang in the brilliant night sky of Davenport!

Interview with Branford Books

I’m excited to introduce you all to a new face in the publishing world. Branford Books has debuted with a strong title in The Midnight Glass, and I’m excited to help spread the word! They were also kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about their new company and the future of Branford Books.

When was Branford Books established and what is your mission? 

Branford Books began in 2016 with the idea of starting something fresh for the publishing industry. Our goal is to bring new and exciting fantasy books to readers of all ages. We started our mission with one of our favorite genres, middle-grade.

Who is the owner/founder of Branford Books?

Branford Books is comprised of editor Shawn Conley, publicist Lauren Ruggles, and D. T. Vaughn, our first author.

What kinds of books do you publish?

Fantasy is at our forefront for books we’d like to publish, and that really umbrellas all of the subgenres from urban to high-fantasy to more subtle themes. Ultimately, we love books that spark the imagination and have well-designed characters to tug at our heart strings.

Congratulations on the release of your first novel, THE MIDNIGHT GLASS! Do you have any more releases planned for the near future?

Thank you for the well wishes for THE MIDNIGHT GLASS. We really hope the book captures readers like it has captured us! We are putting a lot of our energy behind this project because we feel that it deserves it; but as soon as 2017 rolls around, expect to see some enchanting new stories.

Are you open to submissions? And if so, how can an aspiring (or established) author submit to you?

At this time, we are not taking unsolicited material. However, that may change. We invite authors to visit our website and subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

What have been the biggest struggles with starting a publishing company?

The publishing industry is constantly changing and that can be a challenge. We love this business and we’re stockpiling new and exciting ideas to spark reader interest.

What do you hope for the future of Branford Books?

We aim to establish followings of fantasy readers who are always looking for the next exhilarating read. We also intend to have some of our books shift to new media like movies and television. It’s a process we’ve already begun, and it’s more thrilling than we could have ever imagined!

Anything else you’d like to say about Branford Books or THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

If you’re a reader who loves Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Louis Sachar’s Holes, or Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, we couldn’t recommend a better book for you than THE MIDNIGHT GLASS. It’s the dark fantasy novel about a lovable boy against the deadliest of odds. Get it in print and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or our site, BranfordBooks.com.

Interview with author D.T. Vaughn

The author of The Midnight Glass was kind enough to answer a few questions about the writing process and life as an author. I’m excited to share this interview with you and hope it offers some valuable insight into the writing process.

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

I started writing when I was about eight or nine years old. I would create little short stories in class and read them aloud to the other kids during story time. The first set of little books I wrote were called The Homework Stealer series. They were about a little man who secretly crept in at night and stole kids’ homework! Come to think of it… that might make a really good series now. The Midnight Glass is my first full-length book. I’m both the writer and the illustrator.

Where do you find your writing inspiration?

I often find myself coming up with ideas while I’m on the treadmill. It’s a funny place to think of them, but I just blank out to the world and imagine characters interacting with each other. My nephews are also huge inspirations for my middle-grade ideas. They have a lot of energy and it really sticks to me when I think about kids and how they experience the world.

What inspired you to write THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

For THE MIDNIGHT GLASS, I pulled ideas from my past and present. As a kid I was obsessed with the idea of living amongst werewolves and mermaids. So, I decided to create a world based on that. My family also gave me a lot of inspiration to write this book.

How long did it take you to write THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

The first draft took about a month. However, there were many, many more drafts after that and the book took about nine months to complete.

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

A rock star! And I was! For years I wrote music in a band and toured the nation. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people. Maybe one day I’ll write about that, too.

What was your favorite book as a child?

That’s a tough one to answer! I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl, but I also loved Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I think I’ve read that book more times than any other. He did a fantastic job of bringing to life each student and giving them an identity, wish, and purpose.

Who has most inspired you in your writing career?

In college, I worked at an elementary school full of amazing kids. They loved my weird drawings and stories about things like gluttonous hamsters and thieving goldfish. That was about ten years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I often pull inspiration from what they liked the most.

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

At first, the hardest part was the risk. I’m a full-time writer and I freelance various projects. However, starting a business can be scary. I worked nonstop for months before taking the leap and doing it full-time. Now taking risks is just part of the job and it’s crazy to see how they can work out.

What advice would you give to young writers?

First, writing is a career. If you love doing it, then you should go for it! Second, write as much as you can to improve. Third, ask for both praise and constructive criticism from peers and professionals. The praise will help determine your strengths and the constructive criticism will help you improve the gaps.

Name one interesting fact about yourself unrelated to writing 🙂

I’m a self-described sloth enthusiast! Even just seeing a sloth makes my eyes water with joy. Okay, that makes me sound crazy, but I don’t care–I love them!

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

I invite everyone to visit TheMidnightGlass.com to watch the stunning book trailer and to read more about me. I’m also available for readings and lectures if you want to meet me in person, just visit BranfordBooks.com for the contact.

Anything else you’d like to mention about THE MIDNIGHT GLASS or your writing career?

Thank you to everyone who has read this interview. Branford Books is a small business, which means that word of mouth means the world. If you liked THE MIDNIGHT GLASS, please tell your friends and family. Maybe even order a copy for a kid you know for the holidays. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it, too! Again, thank you for your support. I greatly appreciate it.


Eager to experience the world of Davenport and learn about the midnight glass? Check it out for yourself! The Midnight Glass is available now!


Thank you to Branford Books and D.T. Vaughn for taking time participate in my interviews and for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret of Goldenrod

The Secret of Goldenrod

Written By Jane O’Reilly

 

“The littlest things make you happy.”

“As the littlest things should,” Augustine said.

I requested this book when it first became available on Net Galley, and it has been a struggle not to start reading it right away. But I have to keep to my schedule if I want to get all my reviews done, and so I had to put off reading this for months and months while it continued to taunt me from my virtual shelf.

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Then Lerner Publishing put out this great behind-the-scenes blog post about the editing process and they used The Secret of Goldenrod as their example.

As you can see by my comment on their post, I’ve waited since April to read this book!

I loved their post for two reasons:

1. It had an outstanding (and super short) excerpt from the book, and 2. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the publishing process.

But now, at last, I have read The Secret of Goldenrod and get to share it with you all.

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With an October 1st publishing date, this is the perfect tale to kick off Halloween season.

A lonely girl…
A mysterious old house…
An antique doll.

So many things intrigued me about this book, but the antique doll really did it. What’s not to love about a possibly haunted house and creepy antique doll?

There are many things I loved about this book, but let me start with the one thing I didn’t love. I’ll get that out of the way, and then the rest of the post will just be a profession of all the wonderful things about this book.

For a book centering around a haunted house, the story was not very scary. I realize this is a middle-grade novel, so we don’t want to terrify young children, but a few times the story had the opportunity to crank up the scariness, and it fell just short of the spine-tingling mark. As it shied away from delivering truly scary scenes, it also shied away from dealing with heavy issues faced by the main character and her father.

And that’s all I’m going to say on that note, because overall I thought the book was great, and it will be a fantastic Halloween read for many young readers. In fact, the lack of terrifying scenes probably makes it better for many readers (and their parents).

These are a few of my favorite things

This book is chock full of fantastic middle-grade themes.

  1. Loneliness
  2. Family
  3. Making Friends
  4. Fitting In

While Trina is not your average fifth grader, she is someone children will still relate to. The only daughter of a single father, she loves school but faces “new kid” challenges nearly every year as her father moves a lot to fix up old houses.

This year, her new school jitters are compounded by the fact the whole town thinks Goldenrod, the house her and her father are living and working in, is haunted. With no friends, and no desire to return to school, Trina throws herself into the work with her father and ends up finding a mysterious and beautiful antique doll.

Trina is headstrong and adventurous, but that doesn’t get her into quite as much trouble as the reader might expect. As I mentioned before, the book shies away from anything too dastardly, so Trina approaches, but always stays well away from crossing the lines of temptation and trouble making. That’s not to say she doesn’t find herself in precarious situations, its just that the situations always work out a little too perfectly.

With a small cast of main characters, Trina and her doll take the spotlight with the house also featuring as a major character in its own way. Trina’s dad is a lovable character and the changing dynamics between him and his growing daughter are amusing and sweet. While Trina is the most developed character, the other characters don’t feel flat or act as fillers. Each character serves a purpose, and ultimately plays an important part in the story arc.

Weaving in generous amounts of traditional fairy tales, the story has a magical charm about it that is reminiscent of childhood, when anything seemed possible. I left this book wanting to read old fairy tales and renovate a Victorian house….and possibly play with antique dolls.

A beautifully told tale of family and home, this story is full of thought-provoking moments and poignant quotes. While I wish heavy emotions had been dealt with more directly and openly, this book still has resounding messages of love and forgiveness, which will resonate with readers of all ages.

This is a book children will adore. Highly recommended for children 8 and up.

5 stars for the book to wear forever and ever.

“What is more special than forever and ever?”

Thank you to Net Galley and Lerner Publishing for a reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday Special

Hello to all and I hope you had a wonderful and rejuvenating weekend!

I’m bringing you a new review today thanks to Book Look Bloggers and Zonderkidz!

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I received a copy of Love Letters from God Holy Bible NIrV, and once again, I am impressed with the Bibles Zonderkidz produces for children.

This book contains the complete text of the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible alongside letters for the reader which are formatted to be “written by God”.

The idea of God writing letters directly to the child is fun and a creative way to engage young children with Biblical text. Unlike some other children’s Bibles that only have a few inserts throughout, there are 80 letters throughout the book plus other bonus content like full-color inserts and writing prompts.

The letters encourage personal reflection and offer greater understanding of selected verses. By encouraging children to write their own letter to God, children are offered a different way to connect with God and the scripture.

Something to perhaps keep in mind, is to make sure children understand the letters aren’t really from God and those aren’t his true word, but they are a lovely way to facilitate his word and interpret it for children.

This Bible would be great for church libraries, children’s church and other church lessons for younger children.


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

Book Review: One Small Donkey

Christmas is coming slightly early with this week’s Christian book review.

I received a new book from Tommy Nelson publishing and I’m happy to welcome Christmas a little early to share it with you. 🙂

One Small Donkey

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Written by Dandi Daley Mackall

Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

One small donkey dreams of being big and important. But one small event is much bigger than a small donkey could have ever dreamed. When one small donkey plays a part in the first Christmas, he gets to be part of something that will change the whole world.

I love Christmas and I love Christmas stories, so I just had to review this book when I saw the chance. The cover is precious and the illustrations continue to enchant the reader throughout this charming book.

Christmas always strikes me as a magical season when it feels like anything can happen. In a way, this book captured that feeling with the small donkey getting his chance to do something big. And the illustrations capture the wonder of the first Christmas with Mary and Joseph surrounded by sweet animals.

The text is written in a rhyming scheme that sometimes feels a bit off, but overall the story is cute and fun for kids. The message is clear, that being little doesn’t mean you can’t do big things, and it gives parents a chance to talk to kids about big or little things they can do to help others.

Some readers may not enjoy this book as much as I did, but if you love Christmas stories you’ll likely enjoy this lovely tale.

4 stars that won’t shine nearly as brightly as the Christmas star.


Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing and BookLook Bloggers for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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!

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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! 🙂

youre my boo page spread.jpg

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

time for bed

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.