Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Blog Tour: Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt

Two blog tours in one day, you ask? YES! That’s whatcha get when a cranky summer storm wrecks your Internet for a day. But look – a new Kathi Appelt book is always cause for celebration, especially one as good as…

Once Upon a Camel, by Kathi Appelt/Illustrated by Eric Rohmann,
(September 2021, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534406438
Ages 8-12

Newbery Honoree and National Book Award Finalist Kathi Appelt delivers an heir apparent to Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan (2015) and Sara Pennypacker’s Pax (2016). Set in Texas 1910 Texas, an aging camel named Zada has a life lived: she’s won camel races in Turkey for a high-ranking Turkish officer; she’s felt like she was flying across the fields and led army missions with her best friend, Asiye; she’s outsmarted lions and befriended birds. Now, protecting two baby kestrel chicks during a sandstorm, she keeps them entertained in an escarpment as she reflects on her life and hopes that she’ll find the chicks’ parents when the storm breaks… and before the lion returns. It’s an adventure with a heart as big as the desert, and with moments that will have readers enchanted and white-knuckled. Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann’s gorgeous oil painting, rendered here in blacks, greys, and whites, show sweeping sea voyages and cuddly camels and chicks; thrilling escapes and affectionate moments that give texture and life to Kathi Appelt’s sweet, funny, and bittersweet words. Once Upon a Camel is a gentle story of found family and survival, separation, and reunion. Animal fiction fans and fans of Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate will love this story.
If you don’t trust me, trust Richard the Camel, seen here with author Kathi Appelt during what appears to be an impromptu storytime. Look at Richard’s smile! He’s a member of the Texas Camel Corps – maybe a descendant of Zada’s?
Photo was taken at Texas Camel Corps. Photo credit: Doug Baum

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award Finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swap. Some of her award-winning books include Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and Max Attacks, to name just a few. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, visit her website at Kathi Appelt.com.

Find Kathi on Facebook and Pinterest!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahmed’s Journey is a study in mindfulness

Ahmed’s Journey: A Journey of Self-Discovery, by Jill Apperson Manly, (Jan. 2019, Jabu Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-9980220-0-0

Ages 4-7

Yogi, author, teacher, and award-winning author Jill Apperson Manly creates a quietly eloquent tale of mindfulness against a backdrop of the Arabian peninsula. A boy named Amend and his family have traveled across the desert to race their camel in the famous camel races. As Ahmed feeds the camels, he start to feel anxious about the race. As he meditatively rubs his favorite camel’s ear, he stands still, in the moment, and senses his surroundings, and his place within his surroundings. He senses a sandstorm building, and notices that his anxiety is causing a storm within him, too. He breathes, he takes an inventory of himself and his emotions, and rides out both the inner and outer storms. At the story’s conclusion, Ahmed feels strong, peaceful, patient, and wise; he’s confident that everything he needs within him.

Ahmed’s Journey uses techniques to walk readers through the process of mindfulness and being present. Ms. Manly uses visual and verbal cues to help readers get in touch with all of their senses, even bringing the tactile to life as she describes the grittiness of the sand, the discomfort of anxiety, and the warmth of love. The title refers to both the outer journey Ahmed and his family make to the races, and his internal journey to inner awareness. Gentle, earth-toned watercolor illustrations create a desert landscape and present a calming influence on readers. The text is brief and impactful, making this a wonderful story to read during a yoga or mindfulness storytime. A nice add to multicultural and yoga/mindfulness collections.

 

Award-winning author of Nothando’s Journey, Jill Apperson Manly’s second book, Ahmed’s Journey, deepens the themes of exploring thoughts, emotions and sensations. Manly uses international cultural festivals to educate the reader and teach the importance of  self-love. Jill is a certified iRest® teacher and Somatic Yoga Therapist and loves sharing yoga and meditation with children and adults, coaching girls’ high school basketball, and being a mom to her four children. She lives with her husband and children in Newport Beach, CA.

 

Some questions for Jill, courtesy of JKS Communications:

How important is it for kids to explore and know their own emotions?

Jill: There is nothing more important.  It is essential to learn and value who you are.

Do you think that emotional lessons can be integrated into school studies?

Jill: Yes, Absolutely! Globally and in the U.S. we are seeing this done right now. My first book, Nothando’s Journey, is part of part of an SEL curricula created by Think Equal (www.thinkequal.com) currently in 147 schools across 15 countries. The pilot program is being evaluated by Yale Center for Emotional Learning. Kids live in present. There is no better time to discuss how a child is feeling then when  it is occuring. Of course, you cannot disrupt the class to deal with each emotion so therefore, it is better to have a set time within a lesson, for example in social science, to include a SEL lesson.

How did your experience teaching and studying in Saudi Arabia affect the writing of Ahmed’s Journey?

Jill: My overseas teaching experiences with children gave me great joy. Picking stories from “far-away places” gives a different perspective and we all benefit by learning about others. It’s fun to think about riding a camel. Kids in America don’t get to do that. It is even more fun to think about racing one!

 

 

What aspects of yoga do you bring to writing children’s books?

Jill: Yoga is seen in mainstream America as primarily a form of exercise, in my books, some of the deeper benefits of yoga or any mindful (peaceful) practice are explored.

How were the emotions and sensations that Ahmed experienced in the book reflections of your experiences traveling abroad or those of your own children?

Jill: I hope my experiences do not create experiences for others. I hope they are only a springboard for a discussion of everyone’s self potential. There is SO MUCH in our kids and in ourselves that gets stuffed down or swallowed up or is undervalued. I hope my books encourage and support kids and adults to value who they are on the inside.

Why is it important for kids to experience cultures different from their own?

Jill: We are more alike than different. As we see others, we see ourselves.

What is some advice you can give to parents who have children experiencing fear and anxiety like Ahmed?

Jill: The best advice is to have the conversation around these topics. Our children have lots of anxiety and being able to help them address their anxiety around their fears is very empowering. My website has additional resources both for the child and adult on this topic.

 

How is Ahmed’s Journey a continuation of your first book, Nothando’s Journey?

Jill: It takes kids and parents to another place in the world to learn about others and, at the same time, to learn about themselves.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Intermediate

The power of stories: The Storyteller

storyteller-1The Storyteller, by Evan Turk (June 2016, Athenum), $18.99, ISBN: 9781481435185

Recommended for ages 5-10

Every now and then, you get an epic in storybook form. The Storyteller is such a tale. We sit down and listen to the storyteller: the narrator of the book, who tells us how the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara desert; how there were fountains of cool water, and storytellers to bring the people together. We also learn that as people forgot the perils of the desert, they forgot about the storytellers, too – except for a single boy, who happened upon a storyteller while in search of a drink of water. The storyteller spun tales for the boy, always leaving him thirsty for more stories.

Once a sacred duty to preserve a culture’s collective memory, the advent of television, movies, and the Internet whittled away at the practice of storytelling. What The Storyteller gives us is a beautifully complex, layered tale that illustrates the power of storytelling, an art that – according to the author’s note at the end of the book – is at long last making a comeback.

Mr. Turk’s art has an ancient feel to it, capturing the story’s spirit using a variety of instruments: water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire. The final product made me feel like I was holding a revered story scroll, reading tale straight from history.

storyteller-2

Evan Turk received the New Illustrator Honor from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for Grandfather Gandhi. Find more of his artwork at his author website. The Storyteller has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

This is a picture book more for school-age kids than little ones. The publisher suggests ages 4-8, but I’d bump it up to ages 5-10, because I feel like Kindergarteners would be better able to sit through the story and lose themselves in this tale. I also feel like this would be a great book to skew a little older with; for instance, upper elementary grades that have storytelling/fairy tales units would have great success introducing this book to classrooms.

storyteller-3

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Beyond the Red: Intergalactic politics and species war with a dash of romance

beyond the redBeyond the Red, by Ava Jae (March 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781634506441

Recommended for ages 16+

Kora is a reigning queen of an alien race that’s seen its share of violence: her parents were killed during a terrorist attack during her birthday; her people are locked in a race war with human settlers, known as red-bloods, that exist on her planet, and she’s been the target of assassination attempts. Her twin brother, Dima, holds a grudge against her – he and their deceased father felt Dima should have ascended the throne – not a woman – but birth order is destiny.

Eros is a half-blood soldier, raised by humans and yet, held at arm’s length because of his half-alien blood. His adopted parents and brother are killed during one of Kora’s army raids, and he’s taken prisoner, where Kora decides to make him her personal guard. She has some questions about his true identity, and decides he’d be a valuable asset to keep close to her.

Despite being wildly attracted to one another, they play it safe, knowing that Eros’ half-blood status could get him killed at any time, and would certainly be a death sentence for any children they’d have if they married. Kora accepts the proposal of a high-ranking diplomat, but an assassination attempt leaves her and Eros running for their lives. Now, they have to work together to save the human rebels and keep Eros’ secret on a much larger scale.

There’s a lot of storytelling and world-building in this debut from Ava Jae. The entire story provides the groundwork for a series, and the ending leaves no question about a sequel being in the picture. It just wasn’t my book, alas: it never hooked me. The story seemed to focus on a few points that were emphasized again and again: Eros’ physical attraction to Kora; Dima’s simmering rage toward Eros, his jealousy toward Kora; Kora’s vacillating on her attraction to Eros. We don’t know anything about the human encampment on this world, only that they seem to have been left there generations ago. I’m hoping more about the schism between the two races will emerge in future books, because that has potential for a huge story.

The novel is more young adult than teen for sensual content, violence, and mild language. Space opera fans and fantasy fans should give this one a look.