Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Science, Mystery, and Magic: The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee

thelma beeThe Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, by Erin Petti/Illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod, (Sept. 2016, Mighty Media), $16.99, ISBN: 9781938063725

Recommended for ages 9-13

Eleven year-old Thelma Bee is always doing something. She’s reading, she’s working on science experiments, she’s hanging out with her best friend – a guy! – Alexander. Her father runs an antique shop in town and her mother is always off on some kind of adventure, exploring and searching for different animals, so she’s got adventuring and imagination in her blood. When a dour woman shows up at her father’s shop with a small box, things start going very, very wrong: her father is kidnapped by a ghost that very night, and it’s up to Thelma, Alexander, and a local group of ghost hunters to get him back safely. It’s a scary mission, but one Thelma has to undertake – and she’ll learn a lot about herself in the process.

The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee is so much fun! Middle graders are going to love the smart, spunky middle grader that doesn’t care about the mean girls and their dopey fashion choices – she has better things to do. When her dad is kidnapped by a ghost, right in front of her, she charges into action, amassing the facts she knows and researching what she needs to fill in the gaps of her knowledge and save her dad. She’s a great heroine for middle graders, girls and boys alike, because she shows that science, facts, and a clear path of reasoning will get you through some tough times.

The book is fast-paced, leading us into action pretty quickly, and not letting any lag set in. I’ll be booktalking this one hard, and pairing her with Hermione (Harry Potter) and Annabeth (Percy Jackson) for my fantasy-loving readers. Put this one right next to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Sally Gardner’s Wings & Co. series, and Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy to create a solid girl-power reading display.

The book trailer is below, and you can visit Mighty Media’s Thelma Bee page here. Erin Petti’s author page is here.

If you’re going to be at BEA/Book Con this week, I am SO envious! Have a great time, and visit Mighty Media at Booth 2170 when you get a chance! They’ll be at BookCon from 10am-6pm, and Erin Petti will be signing ARC’s of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee at 1PM, with a bookstore event to follow at 5pm at (Uncharted Books). 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Monster Needs to Go to School!

monster needs to go to schoolMonster Needs to Go to School, by Paul Czajak/Illustrated by Wendy Grieb (May 2016, Mighty Media Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-938063-74-9

Recommended for ages 3-6

Our big, blue Monster and his best buddy, Boy, are back – and this time, they’re taking on going to school! Monster needs to go to school, but he’s really nervous. He didn’t really have anything to worry about, though – he has a great first day and makes lots of new friends – and even stops bullying when he sees it on the playground.

This latest entry into the Monster & Me series takes a fun look at starting school, giving little ones who may be getting ready for Pre-K or Kindergarten an idea of what to expect (and reinforcing these ideas for kids already in daycare and pre-k programs): learning the ABCs, raising your hand when you want to speak, and inviting others to play at recess. Monster also has an important lesson: when he sees bullying on the playground, he stops it right in its tracks. The fact that the would-be bullies are Monster’s friends drives home an even more important point about standing up for others, even if you have to call your friends out on their behavior. It’s not an easy lesson to teach, but Czajak and Monster do it in the best way; having Monster say, “I know we’re friends, but teasing’s wrong. It’s something I despise. No one should be ridiculed. There is no compromise.”

Wendy Grieb’s artwork is inclusive, featuring multiethnic classmates and teachers. Monster is big, blue, and lovable, with a toothy smile and a bushy tail. If this is a child’s first introduction to Monster and friends, they’ll jump right in and enjoy the bright colors, lovable monster, and the rhyming text that invites kids to sit back and enjoy a story about how exciting school is.

This is a great addition to collections, especially for little ones getting ready to move up to Pre-K and Kindergarten. My little guy is starting Pre-K in the Fall (how did that happen so fast?), so I’ll be reading this to him all summer to get him ready for the new routine he’ll discover. Schools and libraries should add this to collections to ease new students into the coming school year. I’ll be booktalking this to my parents at storytimes all summer, myself.

The Monster & Me series includes Monster Needs His Sleep, Monster Needs a Costume, Monster Needs a Christmas Tree, Monster Needs a Party, and Monster Needs Your Vote. Each book has new ideas to teach Monster and the readers who come along for the ride. The series is a 2015 Silver Moonbeam Children’s Book Award winner for Best Picture Book series. Mighty Media has a Monster & Me webpage where you can learn more about the books and download event kits loaded with resources for parents and educators!



Posted in Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Ugly Dumpling puts a new spin on a beloved fable

ugly dumplingThe Ugly Dumpling, by Stephanie Campisi/Illustrated by Shahar Kober (Apr. 2016, Mighty Media), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-938063-67-1

Recommended for ages 3-7

There once was an ugly dumpling who didn’t look like the other dumplings. This made him feel really badly, until along came a cockroach, whose heart reached out to the dumpling’s, and showed him the beauty of the world.

Sounds familiar, right? Well… kinda. The latest update of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fable The Ugly Duckling, The Ugly Dumpling looks beyond the surface to tell a sweet story about friendship, being different, and being proud of it. The dumpling, living in a restaurant, was uneaten and ignored because he didn’t look like the dumplings around him, but when he takes up with the cockroach, he realizes that the world around him is beautiful and so is his place in it – and he learns that he’s not a dumpling like those boring other guys after all! But the sweetest part of the story comes when the cockroach is discovered by the other food and the customers – and Dumpling realizes that it’s his turn to reach out to a friend in need.


Told in short, sentences with key words emphasized by beautiful artwork, like the “hiss” of a wok and a “thwack” of a cleaver, The Ugly Dumpling teaches kids not only that it’s okay not to fit in, but encourages them to accept one another’s differences – celebrate them! – and reach out to anyone who may feel ostracized and alone. I can’t think of a kinder, more valuable message to teach our kids these days.

Shahar Kober’s art is a perfect complement to Stephanie Campisi’s sweet story. I’m not a bug fan by any stretch of the imagination, but he manages to create a bug companion that is adorable and as touching as the cockroach in Wall-E (and that’s a HUGE thing for me to say). And think about it – what creature is as reviled as a roach? Ratatooie made mice in the kitchen a cute thing, we all love Desperaux, so by taking a cockroach – no doubt someone who’s all too aware of being an outsider and disliked – and having him reach out to a poor dumpling to say, “It’s okay – there’s so much beauty in the world around you,” is a beautiful gesture borne out of a true understanding of The Golden Rule. Kober manages to make a dumpling sympathetic and emphathetic, with kind words wrapped around him to give him life.


I love this story and can’t wait to read it with my preschoolers. It’s a great add to libraries and collections that promote tolerance and kindness among children, and maybe some adults could stand to learn a thing or three from its message, too.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Tristan Hunt graphic novel teaser!

Tristan Hunt fans! As if you weren’t already excited for the next chapter in the Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians series, here’s one more thing to look forward to: The Shark Whisperer graphic novel teaser included in Stingray City!


Illustrated by Molly Murakami, The Shark Whisperer is going graphic – just like the Percy Jackson graphic novels, which bring exciting life to the unputdownable books – and you can find the first chapter on RIGHT NOW. Come May, you’ll find Tristan and his first encounter with the shark tank, lovingly tucked into your copy of Stingray City. Will we get an online comic, or a full graphic novel version of the series? We can hope, right?


In the meantime, take a look at the Shark Whisperer excerpt I’ve got here, or point your browser to and follow Mighty Media on Pinterest for teacher and librarian resources.






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

Tristan Hunt and friends return with Stingray City!

stingraycity-useStingray City, by Ellen Prager (May 2015, Mighty Media Press), $9.95, ISBN: 9781938063701

Recommended for ages 9-12

When we last left Tristan Hunt and his Sea Camp friends, they’d had a rough summer that included being held prisoner by a crazy scientist and being chased by their environment-menacing foe, billionaire JP Rickerton. Camp ended early to get the heat off the kids, but Tristan and his friends aren’t out of action just yet: there’s an emergency by Grand Cayman, where stingrays and other sea life are disappearing. Tristan, Hugh, Ryder, Sam, and Rosina are called in to investigate, but they may end up missing along with the stingrays they’re trying to locate!

This third installment is the most fun Tristan Hunt adventure yet. Ms. Prager has hit her stride with this third book; her writing flows smoothly and she’s as comfortable with these characters as they are with one another. There’s more joking around now; more confidence; the kids are a little more inventive with their strategies and bolder when it comes to taking initiative. Tristan isn’t quite as focused on his on-land clumsiness as he’s been in the past, and, being teenagers now, they’re also starting to notice one another.

The Jamaican-accents are back, too! This time, instead of sharks, we’ve got stingrays calling the kids “bobo” and “mon”, adding some more humor to the storyline. There are some tense moments and some straight-up James Bond-type stunts happening here, courtesy of a billionaire inventor introduced here. (The books take place around Grand Cayman, there are going to be millionaires, folks.)

Readers are going to get some harsh truths in this book: not everyone appreciates life. But that’s why Tristan and his friends work so hard to keep the waters safe. You’re going to read about some pretty terrible conditions that people inflict on sea life and people who try to stop them, but it’s nothing that a kid can’t handle, and hopefully, he or she will come away with a greater respect for our world and the creatures we share that world with.

Lots of great conservation and environmental messages here, some new questions introduced (I still have questions from the last book!), and overall, a big, fun read. A plus to your middle grade realistic fantasy (I know that’s not a genre, but it should be) collection.

Do you want your own Tristan Hunt starter set? Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win books 1 and 2 (The Shark Whisperer and Shark Rider)!

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

Tristan Hunt is back in The Shark Rider!

The boy who can talk to sharks is back at Sea Camp for another year in The Shark Rider!

When we last saw Tristan Hunt, he’d had a heck of a summer. He’d just learned that he was part of a very special group of kids: kids with underwater talents, whether it was the ability to speak to sharks, echolocation, the ability to communicate and change color like an octopus, or more. Invited to Sea Camp, a special summer camp that helped these kids develop their talents and do rescue work for the environment, Tristan and his friends ended up on the radar of J.P. Rickerton, a billionaire who leaves a trail of environmental havoc wherever he goes. This time out, though, the kids are a year older, a little more in command of their skills, and jump right into the adventure waiting for them.

tristan hunt

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, Book 2: The Shark Rider, by Ellen Prager, (May 2015, Mighty Media Press), $49.95, ISBN: 978-1938063510

Recommended for ages 8-12

This time, there’s an emergency situation near the British Virgin Islands. Fish are dying in large groups, and sponge are disappearing from the area. Tristan and his friends are dispatched to the scene to see what they can find out. Is J.P. Rickerton on the scene again? You have to read it to find out, but I will tell you that there’s another wacko billionaire businessman making his appearance in The Shark Rider! Some of our favorite sea creatures are back this time, too, including Hugh’s buddy, Old Jack the Octopus, but there are some new animals on the scene, too, including a vegetarian shark and a mantis shrimp with an anger management issue. Who may be my new favorite minor character ever, and possibly my new spirit animal.

Ellen Prager ramp up the action in this second book, throwing the kids right into the heart of things. Where the first book was a little bit of Harry Potter with a dash of Percy Jackson, The Shark Rider adds some James Bond to the fun, with but she also gives us new gadgets (robo-jellies!), intrigue, and filthy rich villains. We also learn more about our oceans and the animals we share them with, including some very British sharks whose personalities are a bit more buttoned-up than the Bahamian bunch we met last time, but still witty and up for a tussle with the bad guys. You’ll root for the good guys, hiss at the bad guys, and have a blast reading this story.

Don’t forget, author Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and children’s author, with an author webpage that budding conservationists and marine biologists will love!

Make sure to read The Shark Whisperer and The Shark Rider by May – Stingray City is coming!


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

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians: Middle Grade marine adventure!

shark whispererTristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, Book 1: The Shark Whisperer, by Ellen Prager, (May 2014, Mighty Media), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1938063442

Recommended for ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Tristan Hunt is kind of a klutz. He trips and falls a lot, which garners him a lot of teasing at school and disappointed glances from his father at home. The luckiest thing happens to him, though, when he falls into a shark tank while vacationing with his parents in the Florida Keys – not only does he emerge unharmed, but shortly after the incident, he receives an invite to a very special summer camp – a summer camp where all the campers learn that they have special talents when it comes to the ocean and the creatures that live there. Tristan can communicate with sharks – that’s a pretty handy talent to have! – and once he’s in the water, he’s not a klutz at all.

That’s not all, though. The camp staff not only teach the kids to hone their abilities, but use them to protect and rescue sea life. They’re supposed to wait until they’re older and receive more training before they qualify for missions, but when critical mission pops up and the team is short-staffed, Tristan and his friends may have to save the day.

This is the first book in a middle grade series that Mighty Media was kind enough to send me, and I am thrilled that they did. With hat tips to both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, this summer camp for gifted kids is packed with adventure and wonder – the kids are thrilled, yet nervous, about discovering and embracing their new abilities. There’s some great information about various forms of sea life in here, making this a must-read for kids with an interest in sharks, dolphins, octopuses, or any other sea creature. Once it’s established that the kids can communicate with the animals, they each exhibit their own personalities, which adds some fun to the mix (and the sharks with Jamaican accents are hilarious).

Author Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and children’s author, so she brings a great deal of expertise and knowledge to the book. Budding conservationists are going to want to have this book in their collections, too. Ellen Prager’s author webpage offers more information about her background, beautiful photos, fun facts, and printable puzzles to share.

The series is also perfect for your more conservative students and readers. It’s clean, the kids are respectful to adults and one another (mostly), and the adults are fun to be around while exhibiting concern for the kids’ welfare. We’ve got a villain who cares nothing for life outside of his own interests, and has the resources to make enough trouble for the Sea Guardians that we know he’ll be around for at least another book.

This is a fun series for both boys and girls that may have been missed when it hit shelves last year – make sure to give it a look and consider adding it to your shelves this year. I’m always a fan of finding a little magic in my tween realism when I can find it.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Hit the Election Trail with Monster Needs Your Vote!





Monster Needs Your Vote, by Paul Czajak/Illus. by Wendy Grieb (Aug. 2015, Mighty Media Kids), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-938063-63-3

Recommended for ages 4-8

It’s election season, and Monster wants to get involved! He’s got a bunch of different platforms he supports – longer summers, dessert for dinner – but he quickly discovers a more important cause to stand for, and shows kids that no matter what your age, you can make a difference!


This latest book in author Paul Czajak’s Monster & Me series gives kids a glimpse into the election process – choosing a platform, the power of a grassroots movement, and the campaign trail, in particular. Monster’s focus on education and literacy makes this a great classroom and library read-aloud – never talking down to the youngest of readers, Czajak Grieb use rhyme and adorable, kid-friendly illustration in eye-catching, bright colors to talk to kids. A free, downloadable Campaign Kit from the publisher is loaded with great add-ons, including facts about Presidents and First Ladies, a political vocabulary sheet, Monster coloring sheets, and more.

The coming Presidential election is already heating up, with a huge primary on the horizon and a lot of passionate issues on the table. Monster Needs Your Vote is a valuable addition to educators and parents who want to get kids involved. I can’t wait to see what my preschoolers think of it (although I expect that dessert for dinner will be a key concern)! Monster gets my vote – I hope he gets yours!

Have a sneak peek at Monster Needs Your Vote right here, then hit that campaign trail!