Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Professor Astro Cat's Solar System: Q&A with His Human Crew

A quick interview with the creators of Professor Astro Cat, I mean, er...his human crew members!


Let me just go fangirl on you for a moment and say that, as usual, the book is wonderful in both text and illustrations.

I noticed that you mention comets, but not meteors or exoplanets. What was your process in deciding what to include?

BEN: Thanks! Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System acts a stepping stone to
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers Of Space. As it is for a younger audience, we have stripped things back to keep it simpler and cleaner which means that we could not include everything we wanted.

DOM: Yes, what to include and not include in our books is always tough to decide. We tend to arrange the information as a hierarchy, start at the bottom and go as far up as we can. In this way we try and make sure everything is as understandable as possible.

Obviously the ship with the large clear dome makes it easy for the Prof and his pals to see the wonders of the solar system. Were there any particular inspirations for the design of the ship and space suits?

BEN: I loved watching Hannah Barbara cartoons as a child so the Jetsons are certainly an influence. The space ship, although very good for touring the solar system, is certainly a nod to them.

Professor Astro Cat and Astro Mouse’s space suits are very much inspired by space suits in the 50s and 60s that were too impractical for use. I found them very funny so used them as a starting point when creating them. As I designed Felicity’s space suit much later, her design is more slim line and much easier to manoeuvre in.

Many schools have been focusing on the solar eclipse (August 21, 2017), and discussing eye safety during viewing. Did you have that in mind when you were working on the pages about the sun, or was it a precaution you would have included anyway?

DOM: I’m really excited about the eclipse, I’m going down to Oregon state to see it and have got my eclipse glasses all ready! I think we would have included this anyway as it is important to make sure we don’t damage our eyes.

Including details about space probes like Messenger and Mariner, or the Hubble Telescope give readers ideas for further investigation. Where do you go to research topics like that?

DOM: The NASA website is a really great source of information so I go there to make sure I’m getting my facts right.

You use labels, bold print, and a glossary to help readers process the information. Teachers love nonfiction text features like those, but have you considered making a teaching guide to go with the Astro Cat titles?

BEN: Not yet but hopefully as we make more books this could become a possibility. We want Professor Astro Cat to be as useful to children, teachers, librarians and parents as possible.

Professor Astro Cat says that finding ice on Mercury is “Pretty cool, huh?” And while standing on Venus, the explorers have an umbrella that is being dissolved by the acid rain. Do you feel that humor helps make a topic interesting and easier to learn? (I do; I’m just blatantly fishing for agreement here.)

BEN: Haha, yes, definitely. That is the fun part of illustrating the book with imaginary characters because we can stretch and play with what is and isn't possible as long as it doesn't interfere with the message or information we are trying to convey.

Did either of you dream of being an astronaut when you were a child? If so, where would you have wanted to explore?

BEN: I don't think I did. I always wanted to draw for a living but I’m sure Dominic would go in a heartbeat.

DOM: Going up into space would be absolutely amazing. Especially when you hear the astronauts from the Apollo missions talk about walking around on the surface of the Moon. Imagine that. Standing on a completely different body in space!! I think I would want to go to whatever planet out there harbours abundant life. That would be mind blowing.

Thank you so much for your time! I love your books and they are incredibly popular with my students. We will be eagerly awaiting whatever topic you decide to tackle next.

BEN: Thank you!
DOM: Thanks!

For readers who haven't discovered Professor Astro Cat yet - he appears in other titles, including Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space and Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure. Stay tuned for more educational adventures from the smartest cat in the universe!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver Awareness Tour 2017


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter to win a Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver themed prize pack!
One (1) winner receives:
  • A copy of Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri Horn
  • A Dewey Fairchild themed gift pack. Includes items such as cookies, gum, notebooks, pens/pencils, Tootsie Rolls, Monopoly game etc.
Giveaway rules:
  • Enter between 12:00 AM Mountain Time on August 1, 2017 and 11:59 PM on August 31, 2017.
  • Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
  • Winners will be selected at random on or about September 3, 2017.
  • Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Prizes provided by Amberjack Publishing.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver

Written by Lorri Horn
Illustrated by Agnieszka Grochalska

Publisher’s Synopsis: Dewey Fairchild isn’t just good with parents, he’s great with them. He’s so good at handling parents that he’s built a thriving business out of it. He even has a secretary, Clara―a great alibi and an even better baker. Dewey settles the most troublesome of cases, from an overprotective mom who won’t let her child go to class on her own, to a dad who can’t stop picking his nose any chance he gets!
Dewey has no problem handling other people’s parents, but when he overhears his parents talking one day, he faces a challenge he never expected. Dewey can solve any problem parents may cause, but what will he do when the parents who are causing problems are his own?

Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Amberjack Publishing | August 8, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1944995164

Available Here:

About the Author: Lorri Horn is an educator and an author. She has a degree in English, a teaching credential, has been Nationally Board Certified, and has taught pubic school for over 14 years. She loves cheese (and wants it to be its own food group, which made working on a vegan book a challenge), humor, baking, books, and spending time with her family. Lorri’s background as a career schoolteacher and instructional leader make her especially sympathetic to the needs and perspectives of children, and this sensitivity features in her work as an author. Lorri blogs on her website, Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Phi Delta Kappan, The College Board and Mayim’s Vegan Table. Lorri lives in California with her husband, son, and their dog, Wolfie. 
About the Illustrator: Agnieszka Grochalska is an illustrator living and working in Warsaw, Poland. As a child she wanted to be an astronaut or a jet pilot. Eventually she changed her mind and dedicated her keen eye and steady hand to drawing precise and detailed compositions reminiscent of classical storybook illustrations.
She received a MFA in Graphic Arts in 2014, exploring traditional painting, printmaking, and sculpting along the way. Currently she works predominantly in digital medium, striving to make it look as natural as her works drawn traditionally. Her illustrative works were featured in group exhibitions both in Poland and abroad.
Agnieszka enjoys travel and cultural exchange with people from around the world, referencing those experiences in her works alongside the Slavic folklore of her homeland. When she isn’t drawing or traveling, you can find her exploring the worlds of fiction in books and story-driven games.
Agnieszka’s works can be viewed in her online portfolio at



The Children's Book Review
Teacher Dance
Word Spelunking
To Read, or Not To Read
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
icefairy's Treasure Chest
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
LitPick Student Book Reviews
The Fairview Review

Imagine a cross between Encyclopedia Brown and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. That's right, a young boy with detective abilities who also happens to be good at "curing" problem parents. Dewey handles issues ranging from germaphobic mothers to fathers that belch (and worse) in public. With the help of his secretary Clara and her dog Wolfgang von Fluff Bucket, young Mr. Fairchild finds cures for overprotective mothers, fathers who won't stop playing pranks, and other dilemmas brought to him by kids from all over town. Sometimes he even enlists the assistance of his friends in gathering information or find the right approach for clients to break their parents of all these bad habits. As he puts it, "Desperate mothers called for desperate measures."

Each situation is handled successfully and readers will be amused by the solutions to the problems. Scenes like the joker dad sucking his thumb in shock over being pranked himself will have readers laughing out loud. But what will really win everyone over is the fact that Dewey has a parent problem of his own and doesn't know how to solve it. It proves that no one is perfect and that we can all use some help from our friends. Seraphina and Colin's attempts at undercover work in the dental office of Dewey's father are hilarious and show how far true friends will go to help each other.

This book is appealing on many levels. There are the funny parent problems and the even funnier things Dewey has the kids do to break those parental habits. Readers who like secret hideouts or clubhouses will love Dewey's office and the way clients enter and exit. For those who enjoy spies and detectives, there are the stakeouts, message drops, and using Wolfie to smuggle tape recorders. And there is plenty of word play and puns. Looking over the file of the burping father, Dewey finds that he also picks his nose in public, and "had to admit, having a public nose picker for a father pretty much nosed ahead of other people's problems." He tells his secretary, "Get it, Clara!? I'm picking her case first!" Go ahead and groan, but it is funny.

Perfect for middle grade readers who enjoy humorous stories involving parents, friends, and lots of cookies.

I am participating in this blog tour in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Amberjack Publishing.

Summer Reading 2017 Gorillas in Our Midst


No, not "Gorillas in the Mist," there are actually Gorillas in Our Midst! Well, that's what the narrator of this book tells us. This small, bespectacled boy reminds us that "You should always carry a banana with you." Actually, I've never heard that piece of advice before, but he explains why it is so important - "Because you never know when there might be a gorilla around." Not that you will see them, because they are "masters of disguise." They also work as ninjas, astronauts, or other jobs where they can wear a mask. Famous gorillas you have probably heard of include Gorilliam Shakespeare and Apebraham Lincoln. 

If you were not aware that gorillas are roaming freely through neighborhoods, you should probably read this book and get some pointers on what to look for. There are signs that can help you out, if you pay attention. And...try not to confuse gorillas and orangutans. Okay?

The premise of the story is funny to begin with, and the illustrations will make everyone smile, if they don't just break down and chuckle out loud. Scenes of gorillas in scuba gear or teaching humans sign language may cause enough merriment to make your cheeks sore from all the grinning.

Summer Reading 2017 Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World


Aside from penguins, birds of prey are the most popular in our library collection. The books on eagles, owls, and hawks are always in demand, so I'm glad to have another to put on the shelf. But I am also happy that it is a piece of narrative nonfiction, and the story it tells of the peregrine falcon and efforts to prevent its extinction is fascinating. Author/illustrator Celia Godkin describes the problems caused by the insecticide DDT, how it made the "eggshells so thin that they broke easily." Many falcons could not successfully hatch any young to carry on their species. She also describes how conservationists and volunteers collected eggs and raised them in sanctuaries to help preserve the peregrines.

The illustrations show the details of coloring on the falcon's wings, the fluffy softness of the new chicks, and the crowds of protesters who worked to get DDT banned. The pictures also capture the streamlined shape of the peregrine as it dives, and in a beautiful spread, the aerial courtship dance is framed against the blue sky. The cover illustration does an amazing job of capturing the sense of speed with an almost time-lapse image of a diving peregrine. An author's note gives additional information about the peregrine falcon and DDT, as well suggesting some websites for further research.

Summer Reading 2017 Lailah's Lunchbox


Okay, so I love any story where the librarian helps out and gives good advice. And that is just what happens when Lailah has a hard time explaining to her teacher and classmates about Ramadan. She is excited to be old enough to fast during the holiday, but also worried that everyone at school won't understand. Mrs. Carman, the librarian, has the perfect solution. "You know what I always do when I can't get my thoughts out or when I get shy about talking? asked Mrs. Carman. "I write my thoughts down." And that is just what Lailah does, writing a note to the teacher and also composing a poem about Ramadan.

I was fortunate enough to meet author Reem Faruqi at ALA Midwinter this year. She wrote the story of Lailah based on her own childhood experience of moving from Abu Dabhi to Peachtree City, Georgia and facing the challenge of explaining Ramadan to her new friends. Stories that celebrate cultural diversity and also show others being respectful of those beliefs are a wonderful find. The way the teacher and librarian both support Lailah and help her to feel comfortable is a good example for readers.

Summer Reading 2017 Rodzilla


Illustrated in a style that reminds me of the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movie, Rodzilla tells the harrowing tale of a city under attack. The intrepid reporter for Channel 15 keeps Megalopolis up to date on the latest movements of Rodzilla as he rampages through the city. "He's the mightiest creature to ever roam the streets." And the destruction and mayhem caused by stink-rays, slime missiles, and hurled attacks leave citizens able to only "gaze in horror at his toothless grin."

Dan Santat's watercolors capture the desperate faces of those caught by the stink-ray, the gooey green biohazard of the slime missile, and the earth shaking as Rodzilla belly flops in the center of town - sending vehicle flying through the air and buildings toppling. Rob Sanders perfectly reproduces the terse and over the top dramatic style of live news coverage in the text of this epic encounter. And readers will be delighted with the twist in the story line (nope, not telling).

Perfect for readers who enjoy gross humor, monsters that aren't too scary, and surprise endings.

Summer Reading 2017 Crazy About Cats


Owen Davey creates beautiful books. Anyone who has seen Mad About Monkeys or Smart About Sharks knows what I mean. As I've said before, the illustrations are crisp and clean without being cold or mechanical and have very retro vibe to them. The table of contents is located within the deep shadows among rain forest plants. There is a large 2-page spread showing the relative size of each species that is awesome in its ability to convey the wide range of possibilities from the largest tiger to the rusty-spotted cat. And another spread showing the various patterns that help to camouflage the cats in their habitats is incredibly detailed, right down to distinguishing the difference between the rosettes on a jaguar from those of a leopard.  

A wide selection of cats of different sizes and abilities are included. Commonly known species like the cheetah and lion are seen, along with those of lesser notoriety such as pampas cats or Asiatic golden cats. And the section on cat mythology even mentions the Maneki-Neko beckoning cat figurines.

The facts are presented in 2-page sections ranging from marking territory to awards for loudest roar, longest jump, and longest tail. Several different types of charts and diagrams are used to present facts such as the modern species of wild cats, or the adaptations that give the Asiatic golden cat its "real life super powers.' There are catchy headings for each section. Young readers may not catch the word play ("Paws for Thought"  or "Kitten Caboodle" ) but adults who will be reading along with many of those youngsters will appreciate the humor.

This is an excellent addition to any library collection, especially those serving an elementary or middle school audience. While the text is not overly technical, it also does not talk down to young readers. The author seems to understand that those who are fascinated with a subject will usually have the patience to work out what the text says so that they may satisfy their curiosity.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.