Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Pug & Pig and Friends!

The wait is over!! After four years, Sue Lowell Gallion and Joyce Wan have reunited to give us a new installment in the Pug & Pig Chronicles. I give you…

Pug & Pig and Friends, by Sue Lowell Gallion/Illustrated by Joyce Wan,
(Aug. 2021, Beach Lane Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534463004
Ages 3-7

Pug and Pig have worked out their differences in the first two books, so Pug & Pig and Friends begins with Pug and Pig playing in their yard with their friends, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat. Squirrel and Robin have loads of fun with the two siblings, but Cat is a different sort of friend… the “frenemy” likes to pounce on Pug when he least expects it, and it’s just not fun. When an unexpected rain shower begins, poor Cat is stuck in a tree and is too afraid to come down! Pug knows what to do to lure her down, though… Fun, friendship, and a bit of pranking are the heart of this adorable book with Joyce Wan’s too-cute artwork. Simple, short sentences describe the action and give us a gleeful group of friends. Cat is mischievous but not mean-spirited; Pug uses her penchant for pranks to help her – and get a fun bit of payback in the process.

I adore this series. It’s sweet, it’s adorable, it’s great for storytime for a broad range of kids. Happy Book Birthday, Pug & Pig and Friends!

As the daughter of a printer, Sue Lowell Gallion has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She is the author of the Pug & Pig series and the picture book All Except Axle as well as a nonfiction board book, Our World: A First Book of Geography, and three books in the Tip and Tucker early reader series. Sue lives in Leawood, Kansas, with a black lab mix who provides her with daily inspiration. To learn more and download free activities for all of her books, visit suegallion.com.

Twitter:  @SueLGallion

Instagram: @suelowellgallion

 

Joyce Wan is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including Pug Meets PigPug & Pig Trick-or TreatSleepyheads,You Are My CupcakeWe Belong Together, and The Whale in My Swimming Pool. Joyce lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey. Visit her at wanart.com.

TwitterFacebook, & Instagram: @joycewanbooks

Personalized and signed books are available at Rainy Day Books!

One lucky winner will get their own copy of Pug & Pig and Friends! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Celebrate holidays with Ellie May!

Ellie May on President’s Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Nov. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898195

Ages 6-10

Second grader Ellie May loves learning about the US Presidents and is desperate to show her patriotism during Presidents’ Week at school. She just has to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance during this week! She is on a mission to be presidential and to make sure her teacher, Ms. Silva, knows it; this way, she’ll be sure to get picked. But Ellie can’t seem to catch a break, whether she’s chopping the class plant (a cactus!) while trying to relive George Washington and the cherry tree, or taking apart the pencil sharpener and making a big mess, while attempting to tinker like Abraham Lincoln. Don’t even ask about how she tried to make her little sister, Midge, a flag, so she could teach her the Pledge at home. Ellie’s got a good heart and means well – she just has to learn to let that shine through, and most importantly, to be patient.

This is a brand new chapter book series that celebrates popular classroom holidays, and stars a dynamic, funny child of color named Ellie May. Second graders will love her, and they’re sure to see themselves reflected in her and her quest to be noticed. Patience? Who needs patience, when you’re eager? Ellie discovers she has a lot to learn as each of her attempts to show off for her teacher end in near catastrophe, but she’s surrounded by supportive friends, family, and teachers who are there to slow Ellie down and put her on the right path. Written in the first person from Ellie’s point of view, and illustrated with black and white sketches throughout, kids will enjoy this one – and it’s a great series to feature in classrooms and libraries. back matter includes the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, and of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

 

 

Ellie May on April Fools’ Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Dec. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898201

Ages 6-10

Ellie May is back, and is ready for April Fools’ Day! Her class is allowed to celebrate, as long as the pranks are made in good fun. Ellie decides she’s going to prank her friend, Ava, whose birthday celebration is taking place on the same day! After a few attempts at pranks fall flat at home and at school, she’s ready for the big day: but this is Ellie May, after all, and her attempt at a silly goof goes awry when she gets carried away in the classroom. After sitting it out and thinking it over, Ellie May starts understanding the true meaning of a good-natured prank, apologizes to her friend, Mo, and to Ava, and celebrates April Fool’s Day with her whole class as her teacher takes them outside for a rare bird sighting!

This second Ellie May story is every bit as fun as the first one. Ellie is trying so hard to make a name for herself that she gets a little carried away, but it’s never mean-spirited, and she’s always got someone there to point her in the right direction. Kids will see themselves and their classmates in this one, and the story lends itself to a good discussion about how getting carried away can lead to hurt feelings or hurt body parts. The teacher’s April Fools’ Day activity is a fun one – I may have to try that one in the library. Back matter includes an explanation on April Fools’ Day’s history and traditions. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun and promote reader interest.

This series is going on my to-buy list. Chapter books do really well here at my library, and books about classroom holidays – holidays, in general, for my growing readers – are always in high demand. I’ll have to mention this series to a few visiting teachers, too!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Dork Diaries’ co-author Erin Danielle Russell tries to trick the Tooth Fairy!

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy, by Erin Danielle Russell/Illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli, (May 2018, Simon & Schuster Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481467322

Recommended for readers 3-7

Erin Danielle Russell, co-author of the Dork Diaries, brings us a prank war on an epic level in her new picture book, How to Trick the Tooth Fairy. Kaylee is an adorable little girl with wild brown hair and a twinkle of mischief in her eye, and she’s all about a good prank. But see, so is the Tooth Fairy. In fact, the Tooth Fairy is THE ruling prank princes, and she’s got “more tricks in her bag than teeth”. The prank battle begins when Kaylee leaves a fake frog for the Fairy, rather than a tooth; the Fairy retaliates with a bunch of real frogs; pranks escalate until the unthinkable happens: TOPSY-TURVY TOOTH FAIRY TROUBLE! The two foxhole friends hide under a table and survey the damage in the aftermath, help each other clean up, and decide to join prank forces for future fun.

This is such a fun story, and not overly gooey or sweet. This is a prank war between two bright young ladies, one of whom happens to be the Tooth Fairy. As kids know, pranks can escalate and feelings can get hurt, and that’s what happens here: once that happens, the girls see the humor in what happened – sprinkles in the Fairy’s hair, a banana peel and water dripping off Kaylee’s – and work it out in a way that makes everyone happy. Well, except for future prank victims.

The oil paint illustrations are done on brown craft paper, giving a great feel to the spreads, and the characters are expressive, with winks, shouts, and smirks aplenty. This is a fun book about childhood mischief that kids everywhere will get a kick out of. I hope we get some more adventures with Kaylee… maybe we’ll see how she celebrates a birthday? Visit the How to Trick the Tooth Fairy webpage to learn more about our tricksters, view a trailer, and get updates.

 

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

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing!

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing, by Holly Kowitt, (May 2017, Macmillan), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250091321

Recommended for ages 8-12

Ordinary sixth grader Becca Birnbaum accidentally power slams a volleyball right into eighth grade It Girl Sloan “Selfie: St. Clair, setting off a chain of events that end up with the principal’s new, very large bra missing – and with the girls being the last ones to have it in their possession

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing (originally titled The Principal’s Bra is Missing) is one of those middle school tragi-comedy of errors that middle graders love. Ordinary Girl ends up with the In Crowd, but for how long, and is everyone happy with the arrangement?

I wasn’t in love with the two main characters. Becca is the run of the mill Nerd Girl who doesn’t stand out preferring to blend in with her small group of fellow nerd friends. Sloan, called “Selfie”, thanks to her habit of shooting selfies at all the lavish parties and locales she attends, is self-absorbed to the point of mania. When Becca, desperate to make up for the volleyball accident that left Selfie in a cast, tries to retrieve a confiscated shopping bag from the principal’s office, she grabs the wrong bag and sets the story in motion. From there, Becca takes the responsibility for the whole incident, while Selfie just meanders through the novel, alternately shooting selfies and crying about being in trouble while letting Becca do all the work. Becca never makes Selfie take responsibility for her own actions, preferring to drag Selfie along on their adventure.

Look, I’m reading this as a 40-something year old Mom who worries about my kids standing up for themselves. Are middle graders going to get a kick out of this book? Yes. It’s funny, it’s got underwear humor, and a kinda-sorta unlikely friendship between two school social classes. It’s a quick read, and perfect for a beach bag take-along. But if you’re book-talking this one, talk about Selfie, taking personal responsibility, and stereotyping in middle grade books. Please.

Posted in Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Boarding school thriller: Assassin Game

assassin gameAssassin Game, by Kirsty McKay, (Aug. 2016, Sourcebooks Fire), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492632757
originally published July 2015 as Killer Game

recommended for ages 12+

Cate attends an isolated boarding school where, every year, a select few are chosen to play a secret game called Killer. One person in the group is designated the Killer, who will play pranks on the rest of the group, “killing” them – put a rubber snake in a desk, a brightly colored water pistol fired at just the right time – as long as it doesn’t get out of control or disrupt classes, the faculty and staff tolerate The Game. Cate is thrilled to have been chosen, because she feels like she finally belongs in this school of “superkids”: geniuses and rich kids, all. At first, the game progresses as normal, but soon, one of the players has taken the Game too far, and Cate is next on the Killer’s list. Can she figure out who the Killer is in time to save herself?

I love good thrillers, and if they take place in an out-of-the-way location like a school, library, old hospital, even better. The Assassin Game has a great setting: a Welsh boarding school in the middle of nowhere, and an interesting cast of characters, but it does take a little while to build up steam. It’s a quick read, and there are some great pranks, plus high school friendship/relationship drama to bring things to a simmer and add some fuel to the whodunit fire. There’s not a lot of depth to the characters, but there doesn’t really need to be; that’s not what this book is about. You learn what you need to about them, and you learn enough to try and figure out motivations and who would have reason to burn whom.

If you have readers that like a slow-burn thriller with a satisfying payoff, give Assassin Game a shot.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s wants OUT!

last boyThe Last Boy at St. Edith’s, by Lee Gjersten Malone (Feb. 2016, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481444354

Recommended for ages 8-12

Seventh-grader, Jeremy, is not thrilled. His school, St. Edith’s, was formerly an all-girls’ school that briefly admitted boys, but it never quite caught on. He’s been counting down the number of boys leaving the school, until Andrew – #2 on his list – announced he was leaving, making Jeremy the last boy at St. Edith’s. It’s embarrassing and it’s really annoying, but his mom, who works at the school so he and his sisters can go for free, will not even consider letting him go to the local public school. Desperate, Jeremy decides to take matters into his own hands: he’s going to get expelled.

Turning to his best friend, Claudia, the two come up with a series of pranks that should do the trick. Jeremy has rules: no one gets embarrassed or hurt, and no permanent damage gets done. But the mysterious prankster’s first gag gets huge laughs, and Jeremy finds himself caught in the snowballing effect of pranking; he’s got to up the ante, but things start getting out of control. How far will Jeremy go to get thrown out?

I LOVED this book. Jeremy has a distinct voice that comes through loud and clear, and he’s got some valid arguments: he’s the butt of other school’s jokes; his own school’s teachers refer to the student body as “ladies”, so he feels humiliated in his own environment; his mother, however valid her reasons are for keeping him at St. Edith’s, is too stressed out to really listen and understand Jeremy; and his flaky tree-hugging dad is not there for him at all. He still manages to keep a sense of humor about him, and he’s a likable kid. He’s a good kid from a good family who just wants one thing to go his way, and he’s got a conscience – whether he always listens to it remains to be seen.

There are plenty of social and family issues addressed in this seemingly light read: family relationships; divorce; social classes; gender roles; friendship, and consequences. The Last Boy at St. Edith’s deserves a spot on summer reading lists, for sure. I’ll be putting together some discussion questions and a booktalk to generate interest in this great debut.

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. You can visit Ms. Malone’s author website for more information about her, including links to social media and information on school and library visits.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Olive & Beatrix – a fun Easy Reader chapter series!

9780545814805_30853The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders (Olive & Beatrix #1),by Amy Marie Stadelmann (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN:9780545814805

Recommended for ages 5-8

Olive and Beatrix are twin sisters, but they’ve got one thing that makes them very different – Beatrix is a witch, and Olive is more of a scientist. To get back at prankster Beatrix, Olive and her best friend, Eddie try to play a prank on Beatrix involving spiders, which backfires in a BIG way!

This is a fun, new Easy Reader chapter book series; part of Scholastic’s Branches line for newly independent readers. There are bright, colorful pictures on every page, bold, easy to read text, and an interesting, fast-paced story loaded with excitement and humor. There are even discussion questions at the end fo the book, to spur some conversation. Scholastic is offering a nice PDF excerpt of Olive & Beatrix on their Branches website, so you can check it out for yourself before you buy.

I really like the Branches books. I’ve got a few of the series on my library shelves, including Eerie Elementary, The Notebook of Doom, and Lotus Lane. The kids love them, and the fact that they’re easy chapter books really helps bridge that Easy Reader-Intermediate gap I sometimes find my readers experiencing. Plus, I’ve got kids coming in, younger and younger, asking for “spooky stories”. This will be a big addition to my Easy Reader shelves for those brave little readers!

This is the first series for author Amy Marie Stadelmann, but she’s got a great resume – she works on Nick Jr. preschool programming! She’s worked on shows like The Wonder Pets and Team Umizoomi, so she knows what kids like and she knows how important learning and literacy is. Check out her author website for a look at her illustration portfolio.

Posted in Humor, Middle School, Tween Reads

Book Review: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb (Razorbill, 2009)

Recommended for ages 10-12

Twelve year-old Oliver only pretends to be “slow”. He wants to keep his genius – and the fact that he is already a multi-millionaire and international villian – a secret from his family and the kids at school. Oliver spends his day blundering along in school, having his secret henchmen shoot darts at bullies (that cause some unpleasant gastrointestinal distress), drinking soda and root bear out of his secretly rigged water fountains, and tormenting his English teacher from a distance. At home, he maintains his secret evil empire.

Until Oliver is nominated for Class President by a classmate as a cruel prank. Initially, Oliver declines the nomination, but his anger toward his father, who Oliver perceives as being perpetually disappointed with him, drives him to get back into the election and play as dirty as possible to win it – even if he has to rig his running mates.

This book is hilarious. Written by the executive producer of The Daily Show, there is plenty of wit and a breakdown of politics on a middle school level that shows the reader how juvenile the entire political process can be. While at a times a bit heavy-handed, it still gets its point across, and in Oliver, Lieb has created a narrator that is like a young Dr. Evil meets Gru from Despicable Me. Middle schoolers will love the idea of a kid running an international evil empire from his underground lair and who has his school rigged for his personal comfort, all while tormenting teachers and bullies anonymously. The frustration of wanting to be loved by one’s parents while being aware of their flaws is a strong theme that will resonate with many readers.

There is a limited website for the book at Sheldrake Industries (Oliver’s cover company in the book) that offers some information about the book, a video with Josh Lieb, and a quiz where readers can figure out how evil they are.