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 Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Tween Reads

Know all the tropes! The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity/Illustrated by Christopher Baldwin (July 2021. Margaret K. McElderry Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781534460867

Ages 12-16
This hilarious sci-fi/gothic romance novel is perfect for a YA audience. Haley is a high school student who loves gothic romance novels, from the Brontës to Henry James. Her teacher is exasperated: no more castles! No more brooding heroes! Find a different genre to write about! As Haley heads home, she spies someone drowning, and jumps into the river to save him, awakening in a place that seems to hit on a lot of her gothic tropes: stately manor with hermitage. Three brothers, two of whom are broody, and one carefree dilettante. A surly housekeeper. A ghost. She’s in Willowweep, a pocket universe that’s fighting to keep an alien force called The Bile from taking over and entering our own universe! Haley has to call on her own skills – hey, she’s a gothic heroine, right? – to help the three brothers save their universe, and our own!
What starts as a funny story loaded with gothic romance tropes becomes an hilarious sci-fi, gothic romance mashup with steampunk elements and characters you’ll recognize and love. Haley is a heroine who is equal parts smart, funny, and one step ahead of everyone because she knows her gothic tropes. Artwork easily blends science fiction/steampunk devices and glowing ooze with rambling moors, brooding heroes, and… possessed woodland creatures. It’s worth it, I promise you. The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor is great fun for YA fans, and may get them reading that copy of Wuthering Heights a little differently now: hey, it worked for Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies!
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Long Distance: A summer camp like you’ve never experienced!

Long Distance, by Whitney Gardner, (June 2021, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $14.99, ISBN: 9781534455658

Ages 10-14

Vega is a girl who’s not thrilled with summer vacation this year. Her parents have moved her from Portland, Oregon, to a new life in Seattle, and she’s miserable. She’s left behind her best friend, Halley, and to add insult to injury, her dads are sending her off to Camp Very Best Friend, hoping she’ll make some new friends. When the Camp VBF bus pulls up, Vega’s got a strange feeling about this camp… and it only gets weirder once she and the other campers arrive! Cell phones don’t work, and the counselors are just… different. Together with fellow campers Qwerty (like the keyboard), and twins Gemma and Isaac, Vega decides to get to the bottom of this odd camp in a hilarious story about making friends! Early in the story, Vega Googles how to make friends; each piece of advice she receives heads a different chapter, giving readers a humorous idea of what to expect. The characters are likable, and dialogue and story move at a good pace, and readers are going to love this summer camp story. Artwork is colorful with cartoon-realistic characters, similar to Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale’s characters. A good book to hand to introverts – Camp VBF is filled with kids who don’t find it that easy to make friends, until they’re put into the unusual situation that sets the stage for this story. Vega is interested in astronomy, Qwerty relates to computers “better than people”, and Gemma and Isaac are all about rocks and minerals, so there’s a nice little STEM/STEAM thread quietly running through the story. A fun summer story that satisfies wanderlust.

Visit Whitney Gardner’s webpage for coloring pages and more info about her books, including one of my favorites from last year, the 2020 Cybils-nominated Becoming RBG.

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

Jamie Sumner’s Roll With It gives life with CP a face and a story

Roll With It, by Jamie Sumner, (Oct. 2019, Atheneum), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534442559

Ages 10-14

Twelve-year-old Ellie loves to bake. She writes letters to famous chefs and cookbook authors, asking questions to make her own art better. She’s frustrated by her overprotective mom, having to go to the bathroom at school with the help of an aide, and her father, who exists in theory, not so much in practice. Ellie also has cerebral palsy, or CP, which keeps her wheelchair-bound, but never out of the game. After her grandfather, who has dementia, drives his car into a local supermarket, Ellie’s mom packs up and heads to Eufala, Oklahoma, to live with and help out. Ellie’s grandmother is thrilled to have her family for a visit, but makes it clear that she’s not putting her husband into a home. Ellie starts school and a new life in Oklahoma, befriending Coralee and Bert; schoolmates who have their own eccentric flairs, and taking on a school that isn’t ready for Ellie.

Inspired by her son, Roll With It is author Jamie Sumner’s first novel, and with it, she has given us a main character who is upbeat, smart, funny, and darned independent. She’s a tween on the verge of teenhood, coping with adolescent feelings and frustrations on top of family worries, like her grandfather’s increasing dementia, concern about her grandmother, and a father that she’s disappointed in and hurt by. On top of that, she has the struggles that come with being in a school ill-equipped to work with her needs, and being the new kid in the middle of a school year. How does she cope? She lets you know what’s going on! Her voice is strong and clear, in her fantastic tweenage snark and honesty. Her friends Coralee and Bert have fully-realized backstories, giving them life beyond being Ellie’s friends in the background. Ellie’s grandparents and mother emerge as realistic, three-dimensional characters with big concerns of their own: family health, an absent spouse, bills, bills, bills.

A story about fitting in and standing out, following a dream and making your own way, Ellie is a character you want to cheer for and your kids will want to hang out with. Hand this to any of your realistic fiction readers, especially the kids that love Aven’s adventures in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind; for your baking aficionados, give to readers who loved Jessie Janowitz’s The Doughnut Fix/The Doughnut King, and Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic books. Talk this up to your teacher visitors, and suggest they take a look at it (I’m always ready to push good Summer Reading list ideas).

Roll With It has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Check out Jamie Sumner’s author webpage, where you can sign up to receive her newsletter and download a free discussion guide.

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Blog Tour: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

I’m excited to be a stop on The Okay Witch blog tour! I picked up a copy of this graphic novel at BookExpo this year, and loved it. Now, without further ado…

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all!

When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. With that revelation, Moth’s adventure truly begins – an adventure that spans centuries, generations, and even worlds – as she unravels the legacy at the heart of her life. (from the publisher)

Where to start gushing about The Okay Witch?

The story stars a heroine of color, and the main storyline addresses it from the beginning: Founder’s Bluff’s leader wanted, as Moth’s mother, Calendula states, “a town of sober, obedient, lily-white Pilgrims”. Women – especially women of color – who had any kind of independent spirit? Women of color? That didn’t fit into Judge Kramer’s mold, and it didn’t fit into colonial America’s mold, so they were hunted until Moth’s grandmother and her coven tore the fabric between worlds to create a safe space of their own: Hecate. Moth is a child of color in a mostly white town, where she’s bullied by young white men, one of whom happen to be a descendant of one of the founding families, who even asks Moth where “she’s FROM from”. Moth is a teen coming into her own power and struggling with the decision to embrace it or suppress it to “be normal” as her mother, who eschews magic and witchcraft, begs her to. When Sarah, Moth’s grandmother, shows up to see her granddaughter, there’s a power struggle on either side of Moth that represents her internal struggle.

We also get a sassy talking cat, Moth and Calendula’s friend reincarnated; who also happens to have the sweetest backstory (and gives the story an LGBTQ nudge, further establishing Moth and her family as awesome socially aware folks). Using witchcraft and witch hunts to address prejudice and racism, The Okay Witch makes history and current events equally relevant – and sadly, we see that not much has changed.

The Okay Witch is a fantastic coming-of-age story with characters you’ll love and return to long after you’ve finished the book. Give this to your Roller Girl readers, your BabyMouse readers that are ready to take on more challenging material, and your Raina Telgemeier readers.

The Okay Witch, by Emma Steinkellner, (Sept. 2019, Aladdin)
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-5344-3146-1
Ages 8-12

 

About the Author

Emma Steinkellner is an illustrator, writer, and cartoonist living in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated comic Quince. The Okay Witch is her debut graphic novel as an author. You can visit her webpage to see more of her illustration work.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

At the Heels of History, where the goodest pups make history, too – and a giveaway!

Filigree’s Midnight Ride (At the Heels of History #1), by Pam Berkman & Dorothy Hearst/Illustrated by Claire Powell, (Aug. 2019. Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1534433335

Ages 8-11

The story of Paul Revere and his daughter’s Pomeranian, Filigree, kick off the first in the At the Heels of History series, where kids get to read about major moments in history as seen through the eyes of the dogs that were there.

Filigree wasn’t always Paul Revere’s dog, but his Loyalist human was shipped back to England and he was adopted by Paul Revere for his daughter, Frances. Poor Filigree is looked down on by the other colonists’ dogs: Sam Adams’s Newfoundland, Jove, bullies him, and even the Revere family cat, Anvil, has complete disdain for the little dog. But Frances loves him, and wants him to protect her father when he leaves home for a secret mission that could put him in danger with the British troops. Is Filigree just going to be in the way, or will he play a major part in a pivotal moment in American history?

This is such a cute book and an enjoyable new historical fiction/What If series! Kids will get a kick out of reading the “real story” behind historical moments like Paul Revere’s famed midnight ride and the American Gold Rush (coming in the next book), witnessed by the loyal canines who stood by their humans as history happened. There are black and white drawings throughout, making this extra fun and giving readers visual context of the time periods and the characters. Filigree’s Midnight Ride’s subplot involves the rough (ruff?) relationship between Jove, Sam Adams’s giant Newfoundland, and little Filigree, so the artwork demonstrating the vast difference in size just adds to the amusing read. Back matter points out some important information about the famed Midnight Ride, which didn’t really happen the way that Schoolhouse Rock taught me that it did (but I’m still going to sing along to the song). There’s a word about marginalized voices, particularly the enslaved, and their support of the patriots against the British.

There’s a website for the series where you can find free, downloadable curriculum guides, fun facts, and downloadable mazes, puzzles, and more for everyone to enjoy.

A cute add to your intermediate/middle grade fiction sections, and a nice additional way to generate interest in history units. At the Heels of History has a second book in the series, Bo-Bo’s Cave of Gold, coming in April 2020.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Filigree’s Midnight Ride! (U.S. addresses only, please!)

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

Middle School #MeToo: Maybe He Just Likes You

Maybe He Just Likes You, by7 Barbara Dee, (Oct. 2019, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534450158

Ages 9-13

It all starts with an unwanted hug that takes seventh-grader Mila by surprise, on the school playground, when the basketball boys decide to join in on a friend’s birthday celebration. It keeps going: unwanted hugs, comments, even touches; barely disguised chuckles and cheers among the basketball boys. Mila knows it’s wrong. She feels uncomfortable, she feels it in her skin, but her friends think she’s being dramatic. The teacher she tries to talk to brushes it off. And it keeps going, because she doesn’t want to mention it to her mom: she’s got enough problems, raising two kids on her own and having a lousy time at work. When Mila steps into a karate class, though, and makes an unexpected friend, she starts to recover her confidence and realizes that she owns her own power, and if no one will help her, she’s going to take matters into her own hands.

Maybe He Just Likes You. Who hasn’t heard this phrase, growing up? It’s been the excuse, as old as time, for behaviors from hair-pulling to unwanted brushes across parts of our bodies; smirks and hapless shrugs with half-chuckled, half-muttered, “Sorrrrrry” responses. It’s been the excuse, putting it on young girls and women to endure the snickers and comments as we walk down the halls of school, play outside, walk into the workplace. Barbara Dee’s book introduces us to Mila, a seventh grader who finds herself the object of a group’s attention; their power play. She asks for help, and gets brushed off. Her friend, Zara, seems almost jealous of the attention she’s getting, not understanding that attention like this is unwanted, unasked for. She’s gaslighted by her tormentors, who tell her to “lighten up”; that she blows things out of proportion; that she can’t take a joke. Just as Mila begins to withdraw into herself, she starts taking a free karate class, and discovers a classmate who notices that something’s been going on, and encourages Mila to stand up for herself. Karate practice, plus this new, unexpected friendship, gives Mila clarity and the ability to bring attention to the behavior, and discovers that she is not the only one the boys have targeted.

Mila is a strong, smart character in whom readers may see themselves. Barbara Dee creates a painfully real story with Maybe He Just Likes You; a story that has taken decades to come to light, but isn’t backing down anymore. Mila’s first person narration makes it much easier to envision ourselves in Mila’s shoes, and Barbara Dee’s strong, clear voice makes Mila’s creeping discomfort and anger palpable, causing us to curl our fingers and grit our teeth. I wanted to cheer for her, I wanted to scream for her, I wanted to yell and demand that her educators take notice of what was going on – and wanted to sink into my seat with relief when someone finally does.

Sexual harassment has spent too long feeding on our silence. With the #MeToo movement, and now, a #MeTooK12 movement, kids are learning about respect, consent, and boundaries. Let’s support them. I hope that Maybe He Just Likes You will come with an educator guide with sexual harassment resources and lesson plans for K-12 educators. I have found some on the Web: Institute for Humane Education; Equal Rights Advocates; Harvard University’s “Making Caring Common” Project; and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools.

This is a middle school/upper middle grade novel, and needs to be read by adults, teens, and tweens. Booktalk and display with books like Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. There are more and more books available for YA on this topic; I’m glad that middle grade/middle school is getting their moment, too. School Library Journal has a great article from 2018, “Beyond “No Means No”: Resources on Consent“, and a Teen Librarian Toolbox article from 2014 spotlights two works by Jacqueline Woodson that can fall into either middle grade/middle school or YA. Author Barbara Dee writes about her inspiration in this Nerdy Book Club post.

Maybe He Just Likes You has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Barbara Dee’s author webpage contains information about her books, school visits, and an FAQ.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bone Soup puts a Halloween spin on a classic!

Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli/Illustrated by Tom Knight, (July 2018, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481486088

Ages 4-8

Naggy, Craggy, and Scraggy are three hungry witches. Alas, their cupboards are bare, but for a single bone. A single bone, you say? Piff-Poof! Naggy Witch has a plan: Bone Soup, the perfect Halloween treat! The witches travel throughout the town, gathering delights from the local monsters: a bit of water here, an eye of a giant there, some old toenails and some slimy sludge, until the entire town has contributed to a bone-chillingly delicious meal for all! Based on the classic tale, Stone Soup, Alyssa Satin Capucilli puts a wonderfully fun spin on this perfect read for preschoolers and, Kindergartners (and more!).

There’s repetition here that invites readers to join in: “Piff-Poof!” Naggy Witches cries as each ingredient goes into the cauldron, and the witches chant, with each stop, “Trick-or-treat! Trick-or-treat! We’ve something unusually good to eat. It’s bone soup, soup from a bone. A savory morsel is all it needs!” Get the kids chanting, let them be little monsters or witches, and pull out a cauldron (it’s Halloween season, you can find a $1.99 trick or treat cauldron anywhere) to let them throw goodies in.The charcoal and pencil art is adorable, with green, crazy-haired witches, giant blue monsters, and googly-eyed mummies and skeletons. The fonts are big and readable, changing size and color for emphasis. There’s a recipe for Naggy Witch’s Bone Soup at the end of the book, with thoughtful substitution suggestions for those of us who may balk at juice of a toad or colored flies. Author Alyssa Satin Capucilli has a great storytime activity kit for free download on her site, complete with word games for older readers, and a printable recipe to hand out to parents. My kids and my library kids know and love Ms. Capucilli’s Biscuit books, so that could be a good intro when telling parents about the author.

This would be a great feltboard storytime activity, or you can get creative and make your own eyeballs (ping pong balls are good), toenails (cut up some index cards into slivers), and a bone or two (it’s Halloween, there are plush or plastic bones to be found everywhere). I love this story, and can’t wait to get it in front of a group of Kindergartners next week for a Halloween storytime!

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

More Thunder Girls! This time, it’s Sif story… and Loki’s in trouble again.

Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures (Thunder Girls #2), by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams/Illustrated by Pernille Ørum, (Oct. 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481496438

Ages 8-12

The Thunder Girls are back! I loved the first Norse take on Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ middle grade mythology series, Freya and the Magic Jewel, so I was psyched to see another book hitting shelves so soon – and so were my library kids, who continue to gobble up the Greek counterpart to this series, Goddess Girls. Freya and the Magic Jewel was a hit, and I fully expect to have Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures clear the shelves shortly after it arrives.

Sif, Goddess of the Harvest, has been toying with going public with her prophetic abilities. She’s a bit of a seer, but she doesn’t like to talk about it, ever since she had a mishap in second grade that cost her a friend. But messages in her Runes class come true when Loki – that troublemaker! – cuts off her hair in a prank that has horrible consequences for Midgard (that’s us, folks)! Sif’s ability to affect the harvest on Midgard lies in her beautiful, flaxen hair; without it, the crops begin withering and dying, giving the giants a big advantage. Sif demands that Loki fix the mess he caused, sending him to the dwarfs – skilled blacksmiths – to craft new hair for her. But with Loki, it’s never that easy – he’s going to attempt to play one set of dwarfs against the other, and chances of it backfiring on him? About 100%.

This is a fun, kid-friendly retelling of some of Norse mythology’s Loki- and Sif-related tales: Loki cutting Sif’s hair and journeying to the dwarfs to craft golden gifts; Loki’s getting into trouble with the dwarfs, and the origin of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Set in Asgard Academy, fantastic Norse myth references abound and are made fun for middle graders. “Head” Librarian Mimir is a bouncing head that loves to bob around in fountains and finds an amusing way to repurpose Sif’s shorn locks; Frigga continues knitting on a scale that would make Mrs. Weasley cringe; and the warring Norse friezes in the Asgard cafeteria have a nightly food fight that takes no prisoners.

Way too much fun for middle grade readers who love a fun take on their mythology. Talk this series up with Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Grimmtastic Girls, Goddess Girls, and Heroes in Training. Joan Holub’s website has links to printable activities for Goddess Girls and Heroes in Training. Suzanne Williams’ website has Goddess Girls downloadable goodies and quizzes.

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

Children of Jubilee concludes Margaret Peterson Haddix’s latest series

Children of Jubilee, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, (Nov. 2018, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781442450097
Ages 9-13

The third book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile series is told through Kiandra’s point of view as the alien Enforcers raid Refuge City, capturing Edwy, Kiandra, Enu, and Rosi and transporting them to an alien planet, where they are forced to labor in mines as slaves with no bodily autonomy. Somehow, the Enforcers control their every movement, pushing them to mine and harvest strange bluish pearls from the planet, long past the point of exhaustion and only giving them their bodies back for the briefest amount of rest. Kiandra plots to find a way out, but she can’t do it alone – luckily, little Cana has found her way to the group; working under the Enforcers’ radar, she’s able to explore the planet and just maybe, find some help.

Margaret Peterson Haddix writes fantastic science fiction and dystopian fantasy. I discovered her Shadow Children series when my eldest read the first book, Among the Hidden, in elementary school. The two of us hit our local bookstore and bought every book in the series that weekend, and I can’t wait until my youngest is ready to read them in a few more years. She creates fascinating characters and morally ambiguous situations that leave a wealth of room for discussion. Children of Exile has been a voraciously readable series from the first installment; Children of Jubilee includes some final plot twists, subplots, and a reveal that left me picking my jaw up from the floor. It’s that good.

For my home and my library, Margaret Peterson Haddix books are a must-have. If you have sci fi/fantasy readers, they should be for you, too. There’s a free downloadable discussion guide for the first book, Children of Exile, on Ms. Haddix’s author website; they provide excellent jumping-off points for deeper discussion into the series.