Posted in Media, picture books

A Crazy-Much Love video, read by the girls who inspired the story

Almost two weeks ago, I was thrilled to bring you a writeup about A Crazy-Much Love, a love story about international adoption, by Joy Jordan-Lake and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. If you thought the book was pure love and joy wrapped in pages and a cover, wait until you see this video, read by the girls who inspired this book. Here’s the backstory:

Fifteen years ago, nine separate families each flew to China to adopt a baby. A bond was formed among them that transcends culture and distance. Today, those nine girls—their parents and siblings—are extended family to one another. A Crazy-Much Love by author Joy Jordan Lake, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez, is a celebration of their love. Here, the girls read from their shared story.

I can’t wait to let these girls read this story at my next storytime.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Crazy Much Love, by Joy-Jordan Lake

Back in February, I was thrilled to take part in a cover reveal for A CRAZY MUCH LOVE by Joy Jordan-Lake and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. Now, I’m even more excited, because this gorgeous book is out in the world and I can finally tell you about it!

A Crazy-Much Love, by Joy Jordan-Lake/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez,
(Sept. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542043267

Ages 4-8

This is author Joy Jordan-Lake‘s first picture book, inspired by her own international adoption, and her words capture the longing, joy, and utterly all-consuming, crazy love of motherhood. In this story, a child’s parent share the moments throughout their child’s life, and try to put into words the overwhelming, “crazy-much love” they have for her: imagining her, as a baby dreaming about them as they tried to get their home ready and just right for her arrival; the big, crazy rush to fly to her, hold her in their arms, and bring her home; the incredible love she’s been surrounded with from the beginning, a “crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors”. Childhood milestones  – the first bath, first steps, first word, first tricycle ride, and first time on a school bus – take on sacred meaning, their every moment filled with love and gratitude for existing. As the family cuddle together and their daughter asks, “How long does it last, the crazy-much love?”, and laughs because she knows the response, we know, too: that crazy-much love never, ever ends.

Sonia Sánchez’s digital artwork beautifully brings Joy Jordan Lake’s words to life, creating a family story that translates warmth and love on every page. The artwork looks handcrafted, with warm colors and brushstroke-similar artwork that almost makes readers feel like they’re looking into a family diary. Add this one to your storytime collections and your picture book shelves.

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. Learn more about the author at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

 

“The standout illustrations burst with energy and are as saturated with color as the subject of the story is showered with love. A perfect gift for an adoptive family—and every family that has a deep and abiding love for their young children.” —Booklist

“An honest and encouraging story about a transracial adoption.” —Kirkus Reviews

One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Crazy-Much Love, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses only, please!). I’m trying a Google form this time, so please let me know in the comments if it’s not working for you! Contest closes 9/27. Good luck!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mercy Watson gets a picture book prequel!

A Piglet Named Mercy, by Kate DiCamillo/Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, (Apr. 2019, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763677534

Ages 3-7

Mercy Watson, star of six chapter books, gets her start in this prequel picture book by her team, author Kate DiCamillo and illustrator Chris Van Dusen. Here, we meet the Watsons, an ordinary married couple that feels maybe a little too ordinary. But when a piglet gets bounced out of a truck and ends up on the Watsons’s doorstep, it’s love at first sight. The neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln, may not be thrilled, but her sister, Baby Lincoln, joins the love fest right away. Mr. and Mrs. Watson are over the moon with their new baby, swaddling her in a blanket and giving her a bottle of milk. Baby Lincoln even names her, calling her a mercy, and the name sticks. You don’t need to be familiar with the chapter book series in order to love A Piglet Named Mercy, and it will serve as a nice lead-in to the series, allowing young children to grow up with Mercy. The artwork is bright and cheerful, with a retro twist; Mrs. Watson rocks an apron and headband, and vaccums and sweeps the porch while Mr. Watson trims the hedges, mows the lawn, and washes the car; they have apple cheeks and big smiles. Eugenia and Baby Lincoln have old-school updos and sweaters with long skirts; for someone who’s a conformist, Eugenia is rocking some fabulous blue hair.

A Piglet Named Mercy is sweet reading – a nice adoption story, too – and will bring in new Mercy fans while giving the existing fans a new story to enjoy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Cover Reveal: A Crazy Much Love by Joy Jordan Lake

Author Joy Jordan-Lake has her very first picture book debuting in September: A Crazy-Much Love is all about adoption, and the crazy-much love that just grows and grows. And I’ve got a cover reveal, right here!

A Crazy-Much Love, by Joy Jordan-Lake/Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez, (Sept. 2019, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542043267
Ages 3-8

From Goodreads: “How MUCH is the crazy-much love?” This simple question is answered as a parent recounts the journey of adopting her daughter and the many milestone moments that follow. From the child’s first bath and first time riding a tricycle, all the way to her boarding that big yellow bus, the crazy-much love grows SO MUCH that it spills out the windows and busts down the doors. A warm, lyrical celebration of the deep love parents hold for their children, and a comforting message for kids about how there can be only one special YOU.

I can’t wait for this one. Get this on your Fall radar!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is amazing!

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling, (Sept. 2017, Sterling Children’s Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781454923459

Recommended for readers 9-12

I was lucky enough to attend a children’s author dinner at BookExpo this past year, and got to hear several authors, including Dusti Bowling, talk about their upcoming books. As Ms. Bowling spoke about the work she put into her book, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, you could just see the passion she poured into her story of Aven, a kickass middle grade heroine of a new kind: she’s an adoptee, so, yay!; she’s headstrong, smart, focused, and she’s witty. And she happens to have been born without arms. She loves to tell people wild stories of how she lost her arms: an alligator wrestling match is my favorite, but she’s got a few doozies.

Aven starts the novel as the new kid in town. Her parents have moved to Arizona, where her dad accepted a job running a floundering western theme park called Stagecoach Pass. Now, Aven gets stared at. She’s different. She relies on her feet like most people rely on their hands. She’s eating lunch in the bathroom, because she can’t stand to have anyone stare at her eat with her feet. But she meets Connor, a boy with Tourette’s, and Zion, who’s shy about his weight, and things start looking up. The friends lean on one another, drawing and giving strength to each other.

That alone would be a great storyline, but throw in a mystery – a BIG mystery – at Stagecoach Pass that Aven is determined to unravel, and you have an incredible book in your hands. Aven, Connor, and Zion are kids that I want to know; Bowling breathes beautiful life into them and makes readers care about them. She provides positive, complex, realistic portrayals of kids living with disabilities and how they meet those hurdles every day, every hour, every minute. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus has numerous accolades and received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness.

I adored this book and can’t believe it took me this long to finally get to it. Give this to your Wonder fans, display and booktalk with books starring smart middle grade heroines, like Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, and of course, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Check out Dusti Bowling’s author webpage for a free, downloadable discussion guide and to read up on news and updates.

Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

Adoption Themes in Aleks Mikelson and Zaria Fierce by author Keira Gillett

Today’s guest post from author Keira Gillett takes a look at adoption themes that run through her fantasy novels, the Zaria Fierce trilogy and Aleks Mikelson and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well. I love the fact that her two main series characters are not only adopted, but come from loving homes where they consider their adoptive families their families, period. And don’t miss the super-awesome giveaway at the end of this post! Thanks again for Keira for her loving, sensitive look at adoptive families.

Adoption Themes in the Zaria Fierce Series

There are many references in literature in which guardians for kids are these terrible people. I feel very strongly that there are ways for kids to have adventures in books without mean, cruel, negligent, or abusive adults. Enter the stargazer – a device I invented that freezes time so Aleks, Zaria and the gang can go on adventures around Norway, saving their friends and the world, and not panic their parents.

In real life and in fiction, there are many reasons why kids are available for adoption, because there are many family backgrounds for both birth families and adopted families, which lead them to the decision to choose adoption. My younger sisters are adopted, and my parents, especially my mom, has always been very open with them and with my older brother and myself.

Knowing all this, I wanted a better reflection of adoption to be portrayed for my sisters, and maybe other adoptees like them, because it was very important to me to show that an adoptive family can be nice, and yet a decision to reunite or a desire to reunite can still be part of the equation. That’s why both Aleks and Zaria have nice parents. They love their parents and can’t see living with their birth families.

As for the birth families being different, as important as it was to show that adoptive families can be nice, it was also important to show a balance in the portrayal of them in as sensitive a manner as possible, as I know adopted children may superimpose a pleasant scenario over a harsher reality, if they knew and remembered their birth parents, or similarly spinning pleasant stories about why they were available for adoption, if they didn’t. Or the pleasant fantasy of what it might mean to be reunited. While these pleasant scenarios may pan out for some adoptees, others may be disillusioned, if they seek out and meet their birth parents.

It was easy to create these two scenarios, because my characters have different motivations and backgrounds. For instance, Zaria’s birth mother gave her up for adoption in order to protect her from cruel and manipulative dragons who, if they knew of her magical ability, would seek to kill her. Zaria can understand it and forgive her birth mother. That said, she feels closer to the woman who raised her and doesn’t want to hurt Merry’s feelings by letting her know she reconnected with Helena, which as a side note, is another feeling adoptees may face and internalize, because they do love their adoptive family. Zaria’s in the happy position that she could tell Merry, and Merry would understand, but Zaria herself isn’t ready. It’s new for her, and she’s still working out her feelings on the matter.

For Aleks, he grew up in a family with another adopted family member, Ava, his Grams. It gets even more complicated, when one considers that Ava and he both come from the same place and the same fey family, a few generations apart. Fey lore has had the idea of changelings for a long time, and it was easy to build upon this, especially taking into consideration the rest of the lore surrounding fairies as being cold and cruel, which holds true in the Zaria Fierce Series. Ava warns Aleks about the terrible dangers he’d face if he ever returned to Niffleheim, where changelings are killed on sight. The fey are very power hungry, and it’d be a bad idea to altruistic behavior. He got very lucky in Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword, because Zaria’s wish on the well granted him protection, and in the end the children won – with Hector’s help – their freedom and a personal escort out of Niffleheim.

To add to all that is the overarching theme of magic. Zaria learns she has magical talent, and as she embraces it, her magic becomes part of her identity. Aleks has always known he had it and that it made him different. To him, being and feeling normal, as well as fitting in, is extremely important, which coincides with another potential desire for adoptees, who may look around at all their friends in traditional family units and feel the same desire to be normal. As revealed in Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, Aleks has the chance to become human (his idea of normal) on his sixteenth birthday if he stays and celebrates it at home with his adoptive family. It’s a very appealing prospect, but in doing so he will lose his magical fey gifts. It’s not something that concerns him, because he doesn’t feel like he needs them, and he thinks that this is an easy decision for him to make.

And it might be, except for unlike Zaria, Aleks doesn’t have the luxury to choose when and how he interacts with his birth family. Appearing at his window one day is his fey sister Nori, and she’s telling him he has to return to a place filled with unimaginable danger to stop a dragon nobody can remember except her. It takes a huge amount of bravery to go back, and coupled with that decision to return is a choice and opportunity to become human that may be taken out of his control. He risks not only his life, but his identity in going back. His road ahead is filled with many pitfalls, and with his fairy powers on the fritz, it’s going to be harder to navigate than he first thought.

 

Giveaway: To celebrate the release of Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well, I’m hosting a giveaway for interested readers. The winner will receive a dragon scale necklace, that I made, and a Dropcard containing a digital copy of Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest and other goodies. Open internationally. Ends 8/13/2017.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog asking me a question, or sharing with me your favorite Zaria Fierce character, or sharing your favorite book featuring an adopted character. To get a bonus entry share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #zfgiveaway1. For another share your favorite Zaria Fierce book cover on Instagram using the same hashtag #zfgiveaway1. Good luck!

 

Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well (Book 4 in the Zaria Fierce Series)

“It’s time for you to come home.”

First Aleks’ mom loses the car keys, which he finds in the fridge, and then Christoffer forgets how to get to Aleks’ house. On the surface it doesn’t seem so bad, but events become more disturbing as the day progresses. Something strange is happening in Norway, and Aleks Mickelsen is the only one who can stop it. Too bad for us, the last thing he wants is another adventure.

 

 

About the Author: Keira Gillett

When she’s not working or writing, Keira Gillett loves to play tabletop games. Nearly every week Keira gets together with her friends to play. It’s no wonder she invented a game of her own for her Zaria Fierce Series. You can find the rules to this game within the second book and make your own version of it through a tutorial on her website. She’d love to hear from you! Why not send her a picture of you and a friend playing the game?

Find her at http://keiragillett.com/

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Call Me Sunflower explores alternative families

Call Me Sunflower, by Miriam Spitzer Franklin, (May 2017, Sky Pony Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781510711792

Recommended for ages 9-13

Sunflower Beringer can’t stand her first name, so she has everyone call her Sunny. And she really can’t stand that her mother uprooted her and her sister, and left their dad, Scott, back in New Jersey to run his bookstore while she attends grad school in North Carolina. Now they’re living with a grandmother they barely know, and she’s the new kid in school. Ugh. Sunny has to do something, so she creates Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”: a can’t-miss list of ways to bring her mom and Scott back together, including making playlists of Scott’s favorite songs and getting her mother a makeover. While she works on a family album that will remind Scott and Mom of when they were in love all over again, though, she discovers a picture that changes everything. A strong subplot involving animal rights activism and Sunny’s relationship with her grandmother really gives Call Me Sunflower depth.

I’m becoming a Miriam Spitzer Franklin fangirl. I loved Extraordinary (2015); in Sunny, I found many similiaries to Pansy, Extraordinary‘s protagonist. Both stories are realistic fiction, told in the first person, about girls dealing with big life changes. They have complicated friendships and they have both There are humorous moments, and each has a unique voice, a unique point of view; Ms. Franklin captures the frustrations, the fears, and the unique experience of being a tween in a relatable voice that readers will gravitate to. I love that she created an alternative family structure with an adoptive family outside the traditional husband-wife setting and gave us a family unit that is working it all out. I admit to being a little confused with Sunny’s birth story – she is adopted, but has pictures of her mother holding her at the hospital – but that’s likely because my own adoption experience happened differently. All in all, a bittersweet, tender look at families. Pair with realistic fiction like Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart, Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm, and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Babies Come From Airports!

Babies Come from Airports, by Erin Dealey/Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, (Jan. 2017, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-557-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming story of a family growing through adoption is a sweet way to explain that sometimes, babies come from airports – but all babies come from love. Narrated by one of the children in the family awaiting a new sibling, readers enjoy a scrapbook and accompanying story of the adoption process.There are maps, drawings, and pictures of the current family, interspersed with Mom’s journey home and Dad and the boys’ trip to the airport to reunite their family. There are amusing moments, like Dad’s statement that all babies come from labor, a nice dual meaning for parents who know all too well about the work involved, from paperwork to pregnancy and delivery (which comes with its own set of paperwork), with becoming a parent; the narrating child refers to his airport friend, Security, who welcomed him to the country on his “Gotcha Day”. The boys welcome Mom and their new baby sister and add photos of her first car ride and room to the scrapbook. The family is multicultural: the new baby and Mom are en route from Beijing, and while we don’t have specific origins for the two older brothers, a chore sheet on a bulletin board provides the names Nico and Adar.

What a sweet addition to new baby/new sibling/adoption collections! The rhyming text keeps a nice rhythm through the story; the gentle artwork makes the adult sweet and soft, and the kids excited and enthusiastic. The scrapbook look and feel adds an element of fun to the story. This is a great book to give to kids who are adopted, whose families are in the process of adopting, or to explain international adoption in general to children. Hand this to families, along with a copy of Richard Van Camp’s We Sang You Home and Todd Parr’s We Belong Together.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Barbie and her sisters are having a puppy party!

barbieBarbie Puppies #1: Puppy Party, by Danica Davidson, (Dec. 2016, Papercutz), $7.99, ISBN: 9781629916088

Recommended for ages 6-10

Barbie’s got another graphic novel out, and this time, she’s having a puppy party! She and her younger sisters are planning an adoption event for the local shelter, and it’s also their puppies’ birthday! The puppies are worried they’ll be forgotten about, but would Barbie and her sisters let that happen? No way!

This is an adorable addition to Papercutz’s Barbie graphic novel line. The art is sweet, colorful and bright, the story is all about doing good for others and shines a light on pet adoption.

A good buy for Barbie fans and large graphic novel collections – I know I’ll be getting this for my library!

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Two teenagers take to the Canadian trails to work out their problems in Gone Wild

gone-wildGone Wild, by Jodi Lundgren (Sept. 2016, Lorimer), $27.99, ISBN: 9781459409897

Recommended for ages 14 and up

This is another selection from Canadian publisher James Lorimer & Company’s line for reluctant and struggling readers. The publisher’s ability to find and champion interesting, relevant realistic fiction that speaks to teens and the issues facing them these days is huge, and Lorimer has managed to find authors that provide diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and situations that will speak to teens.

Told in alternating third-person narratives, Gone Wild is the story of two teens who head to a wilderness park on Vancouver Island to work out the problems they each have going on. Seth is a teen who was bullied by his half-brother until he went to foster care; he was adopted, but his parents have split, leaving him open to verbal abuse by his mother and psychological bullying by his mother’s boyfriend. Fed up with it all, he storms out and finds himself on the trail.

Brooke’s a high school with a control freak mother, who never lets her feel like she measures up to Brooke’s older sister. When Brooke thinks she may be pregnant, she grabs her gear – she loves outdoor sports and hiking – and heads for the trail, to clear her head and work things out.

Eventually, the two teens meet and work together to get through the wilderness, to figure out the directions their lives are going, and to find the strength to take control back for themselves.

This was a good, quick read. The characters were well-developed and faced some big topics: life-changing topics. We’re dealing with teenage pregnancy, abuse, and adoption, for starters, so more conservative readers may shy away from this book. For teens who are living with their own struggles, though, the idea of finding a way to clear your head and walk it out may be soothing, a real help. You don’t have to find a hiking trail; urban kids can find a quiet place in a park, or work it out on the basketball court or track, for instance; it’s the idea of finding a constructive way to work through life and the curveballs it throws at us.

Because this is a book aimed at reluctant and struggling readers, the text gets to the point quickly and is matter-of-fact in its discussion. All readers will appreciate the candor that Jodi Lundgren uses to tell her story.

A good addition to realistic fiction collections, especially where grittier subjects find readers.