Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Material Girls


What if the country's economy was turned around by having teenagers running everything? What if kids were chosen in middle school to become fashion designers, movie producers, media stars and then the rest of the population followed whatever trends they set, no matter how extreme? Doesn't that seem a little drastic? But that is just what has happened in the society that Ivy and Marla live in. We're not given a specific date, but it seems to be fairly near to our time, though still a bit futuristic. Ivy Wilde is a top pop star with a carefully created and maintained persona; her manager and publicist choose her songs, her clothing, even her boyfriend. Marla Klein is a superior court judge at one of the top five fashion houses, choosing which clothing will be endorsed and produced by the company and what the newest trends will be. But their paths cross at just the right time and they collaborate on a project that all the "Silents" (adults working behind the scenes in the big corporations), don't like at all. Will they stand their ground or cave in to the pressure and conform?

This story takes a lot of current issues and shows what happens when they become accepted as the norm. For instance, Ivy's publicist arranges her entire schedule, including how often she should be drunk and disorderly in public to keep up her "wild girl" image. Torro-LeBlanc, the design house where Marla works, cautions her that she is showing too many individual opinions during the court sessions. They say she needs to be more cohesive with the other judges. And in the background of all this glitz and glamour are sweat shops with underage workers where all the beautiful new trends are manufactured and all the "adequates" who receive a normal education and work in offices or as doctors or other necessary professions, feel envious of those "tapped" to leave school early for one of the elite positions. Who wouldn't want to shake things up in an environment like that?

Told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Ivy and Marla, the book moves at a fast pace and keeps the reader guessing about what will happen next. Will this person actually rebel against expectations? Will that one turn out to be an ally or a foe? Who will win, the corporations or the individuals? And there is also a smidgen of romance mixed in, but I can't tell you who winds up with whom.

If you like stories about underdogs taking on the big shots of the world, about individuals trying to find their place and a career that actually fulfills them creatively and individually, and about finding out how far you are willing to go to pursue your dreams, then you should give Material Girls a try. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Me and Miranda Mullaly


Miranda Mullaly has everything going for her - she's a cheerleader, on the student council, is liked by teachers and students, makes good grades, has a loyal best friend, and has a wonderful boyfriend. But in a turn of events that quickly turns her life into something from a romcom movie, there are suddenly 3 boys in her class who all decide that they are in love with Miranda and need to win her affection.

Let's play The Dating Game. Bachelor number 1 is Sam Dolan. Sam's hobbies include pulling practical jokes, avoiding his homework, and trying to ignore his sisters. Bachelor 2 is Duke Samagura. Duke enjoys criticizing the education available at Penn Valley Middle School, making straight As, and starring in school musicals. Bachelor number 3 is Chollie Muller. (Chollie's name is actually Charlie, but he couldn't say his r sounds when he first started school and the nickname has stuck with him ever since.) Chollie likes all types of sports, hanging out with his older brother Billy, and is a generally easygoing guy.

So, what will each of the bachelors do to convince Miranda that he is the man of her dreams? Well, I can't say too much without ruining all the fun, but I can give you a few hints. Their efforts involve school musical auditions, vandalism (of sorts), snow shovels, reading Twilight, researching global warming, asking siblings for advice, and the Valentine's Dance. In a way it reminds me of a middle school version of "There's Something About Mary."

If you enjoy stories in school settings with lot of humor, pranks, and a bit of romantic interest (requited or not), then give it a try. You may just fall for Miranda Mullaly, too.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed
Author: Jen Calonita
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publishers: Sourcebook Jabberwocky

About Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:
Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains.
It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

About Jen Calonita:
Jen Calonita has published more than a dozen novels, has seen her works translated into nine languages, and is the recipient of the Louisiana Young Readers Award. When Jen isn't plotting, she lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their feisty Chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow. Visit Jen at
Excerpt from Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:
Miri’s voice crackles through the magic mirrors in Fairy Tale Reform School. “Let the first annual Wand What You Want hour begin!”
Wands begin popping up in kids’ hands as we walk through the halls, and we all cheer. Pop! My wand arrives in my hand—long, dark-gray, and nicked like it’s seen a few battles. Hmm…what to try first… I’m just about to test the wand out, when I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Instinct tells me to dive out of the way. When I look up, I see a classmate spelling the troll next to her. The girl turns into an ice sculpture. Geez, that was close. I better stay alert.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Kids begin casting all around me. The crowded hallway is suddenly full of talking woodland creatures, toads, fireworks, and a pretty impressive cloud raining licorice. Kids are cheering and fighting, and the sound of all those wands working is enough to give me a headache. I hurry away from the spell zapping, looking for somewhere to practice alone.
The chaotic hallway disappears behind me, and a new empty hall arrives in its place. I happen to know this hall leads to the school courtyard so I hurry down it and head outside. Ahhh…this is more like it. The warm sun is shining bright high above the castle walls, making me wistful for adventure. I can never sit still for long.
“Pardon the interruption! We hope you are enjoying your wand experience, but remember, all wands disappear at the hour mark so choose your magic wisely,” Miri says. I’m relieved to find no mirror in the courtyard, which means she can’t see what I’m up to. That magic mirror is forever tattling on students for bad behavior. “As a reminder, flying is not advised.”
“Not advised, but she didn’t say it was against the rules,” I say to myself. I flick the wand over my stuffy, uncomfortable pale-blue uniform and turn it into a comfy peasant shirt and pants. I swap out my ugly school shoes for my beloved lace-up boots. Now that I’m comfortable, I get to the task at hand. I’m sure an actual spell would work better, but since I don’t know one, I just imagine myself flying, and Bam! I’m slowly floating up, up, up in the air. Score!
A Pegasus flies by me pulling a coach with four students in it.
Hi, Gilly!” they shout and wave.
When you save your school from a wicked fairy, people tend to remember your name. Even if you don’t remember theirs.
“Hi!” I say, lying back like I’m floating on a cloud. Wow, this is relaxing. I stretch my arms wide and—oops!
My wand falls from my grasp. Uh-oh. I begin to plummet, spinning faster and faster with no sign of stopping. Before I can even think of a way to break my fall, whoosh! I feel my body hit a blanket and bounce up, then land again on a magic carpet.
“Ten minutes into Wand What You Want, and you’re already having a near-death experience?” my friend Jax asks. His curly blond hair looks white in the bright sunlight. He casually
Pre-Order Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:
See where the magic began in Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Mr. Postmouse's Rounds


Mr. Postmouse is a busy guy. He loads his wagon up and makes his way through the village, making deliveries at nearly every house. Each animal (or animal family), has a very distinctive home. For instance, bear's house has a bee hive on the roof with pipes that bring the honey down to the kitchen and drip it right into convenient jars. Rabbit's house has a bedroom for all the kids with bunk beds stacked 7 tall. And it is that way for each type of animal. There are tons of details to look at and then look again because you probably missed something the first time. Some parts made me laugh out loud, such as Mr. Postmouse in a fireproof suit having barbecue with his friend dragon, or the sun lamps keeping snake warm in his den.

Another wonderful part is the nod to familiar stories, such as Bear and his guest, a golden-haired girl, eating bowls of porridge together. And the pigs helping the sheep escape from the wolf's closet while wolf is busy filing his claws will get a giggle from everyone. ( I really like their black shirts and masks.) Other details cater more to the type of animal who lives there, such as the jay with all the shiny things he has carried off (and on the next page there is a notice posted to the tree about a missing ring, which we can see in jay's nest). 

Some parts may escape the notice of very young readers. When it says that Mr. Postmouse luckily has nothing to deliver to the snake, it may need to be explained that snakes eat mice. Then, when they see the car-shaped lump in snake's belly, that will really seem funny. The fact that the flies live in a house with a very odd shape may seem strange until you explain that it is a pile of dung. It could be a game as absorbing as an I Spy or aWhere's Waldo? book trying to find all the little tidbits, like the artwork hung upside down in the bats' house, and then figuring out why they are shown that way.

Loads of fun and lots of laughs will surely accompany each reading. The book's trailer does a great job of presenting the charm of the story.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wishapick Blog Tour - Guest Post by author M.M.Allen

Wishapick Blog Tour Header Image

Creating Mood in a Story and with Music

MM Allen & Deborah Wynne MM Allen: Mood is a feeling a reader or listener gets when reading a book or listening to music. It can also be a variety of feelings all at once. What you feel when reading a book or listening to music is created by the author or composer for your enjoyment. I develop mood in my stories using words, dialogue, descriptions and action. Within my narrative, I may change the mood by describing an action. In Wishapick, Jack had many harrowing, ominous, and heroic moments involving his interactions with King O’Sirus. In the passage below, in his last battle with the king, Jack in one second of descriptive action was rendered helpless.
He knew he was in trouble as the king thrashed his head about in a rage. Jack barely held on. Yellow bile dripped from the king’s mouth. Jack lost his grip and slipped. The king flexed his muscular body and tossed his head. Chest first, Jack crashed onto the meadow. In agony, with the wind knocked out of him, unable to move, he curled his body into a fetal position. – Excerpt from Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk.
Deborah Wynne: Creating mood in music is similar to creating mood in a story, but rather than dialogue, action and descriptions, a composer will use melody, rhythm, tempo and mode, among other things. If I want a happy mood for a song, I will often use complimenting harmonies in the melody line, a smooth rhythm, an upbeat tempo and a major tonality/mode. If I want to change the mood in a piece of music, I might move to a slower tempo and perhaps a minor tonality/mode, which will feel more contemplative or sad. The mood of a song must of course fit the lyrics. On the Wishapick Cd, an example of mood change in a song would be in King O’Sirus and Queen Sanctuary. When King O’Sirus (a threatening character) is singing, the tonality is in the minor mode and he sounds quite scary, but as Queen Sanctuary (a character of grace and goodwill) begins to sing, the mode changes to a major tonality and the mood of the song moves from scary to comforting. The lyrics below reflect this change of mood. King O’Sirus: I’m the King of the night and I’ll give you such a fright, if you fall into my deep dark den. I will coil, I will hiss and my rattle you can’ miss, so welcome now let’s begin. Queen Sanctuary: Go, Jack, to the deepest darkest place, go now and don’t worry. I will help you, soon you shall escape, my name is Queen Sanctuary. –Lyrics from Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk. MM & Deborah: Words, imagery, and sounds take on a different meaning when presented by different authors and composers. Interesting, exciting and fresh ideas spark our imaginations through the feelings a story or piece of music evoke in us. To feel something uniquely ours, whether it be happy, sad, whimsical or forlorn, is the authors or composers gift to us as reader or listener. We do hope the feelings you get from our work, Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk will spark your imagination so that new exciting fresh ideas will be born into the work you do. With every good wish - MM Allen & Deborah Wynne Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

About Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

Wishapick Tickety Boo and the Black TrunkDarkness. Utter blackness. Was this why his mother had refused to let Jack unlock his father’s old trunk? It had been two years since his dad had died, and all Jack could think about was examining whatever treasures were stored inside the beloved trunk. But when he finally lifted the lid, he didn’t just fall in—he fell through it into a pit of rattlesnakes! Trying to recall his mother’s stories about “the Breath of All Good Things”—anything to shed light on his current situation—Jack wishes he’d paid better attention rather than mock the tales as childish myths…and that he’d waited to enter the trunk with his sister, Lilly, so they could at least face this together. Like L. Frank Baum’s Oz and C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, M. M. Allen brings to life the fantastical world of Wishapick—a land of courageous animals ruled by a cruel rattlesnake king who has condemned the villagers to live without light. Chosen as the reluctant hero to save the villagers, Jack must face terrifying creatures and overwhelming odds if he wants to help his new friends—and return home himself.
"... a breathy and fantastical storytelling style, imaginations will flourish and the tale will be enjoyed by kids ages 8-12 who enjoy the genre of fantasy.”—The Children's Book Review
Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk is available on Amazon.

Fun Stuff

wishapick_albumart_deborahwynne2_200x200 Wishapick Soundtrack Be sure to check out the companion music CD, Wishapick, for purchase or download from Book Club Questions Get to the heart of Wishapick by downloading this set of book club questions: Wishapick by M. M. Allen: Book Club Questions

About M. M. Allen

M. M. Allen, author of the acclaimed children’s picture book Let’s Play Ball, is the mother of two adult children and aunt to twenty-three nieces and nephews, including ten great-nieces and great-nephews. MM is a former teacher and university lecturer. She has also worked extensively in marketing and communications with varied businesses and non-profits. MM lives in a picturesque northern California town where she enjoys writing, tending to her rose garden, and caring for her West Highland terrier, Pip. | Facebook

About Deborah Wynne

Composer and lyricist Deborah Wynne created a companion CD of songs to accompany Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk. Wynne’s primary talents lie in choral singing, stage musicals, and composing. Her musical projects include the 2013 album Strands of Gold and 2007 musical Moment of Truth. She is an active singer and composer in Santa Barbara, California, where she lives with her husband and their two shelties, Sparkle and Gracie.

Wishapick and iPod Nano Giveaway

Win Wishapick_ Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk and an iPod Nano Enter to win an autographed copy of Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk written by acclaimed author M. M. Allen; plus an Apple iPod Nano to listen to your downloaded copy of the Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk soundtrack composed by the talented Deborah Wynne! Giveaway begins November 5, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 31, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wishapick Tour Dates

Thursday November 5 2015 The Children's Book Review Tour Kick-Off & Giveaway Friday November 6 2015 The Review Wire Book Excerpt & Soundtrack Clip Tuesday November 17 2015 Suz Reviews Creating Mood in a Story with Music Monday November 23 2015 On Starships & Dragonwings 5 Things About the World of Wishapick Tuesday November 24 2015 Valerie's Reviews Book Excerpt & Soundtrack Clip Tuesday November 27 2015 Batch of Books Author Interview with M. M. Allen Saturday December 5 2015 The Fairview Review Wishapick Book Review Thursday December 10 2015 Inspired by Savannah Wishapick Book Review Tuesday December 15 2015 Just Another Mom Wishapick Book Review Wednesday December 23 2015 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Author Interview with M. M. Allen Sunday December 27 2015 Little Miss History Author Interview with M. M. Allen

Fall Reading 2015 The Fox and the Star


This is a lovely fable of Fox and his only friend, Star. The two friends are together every night and have wonderful time. When Star disappears one night, Fox is too worried and lonely to do anything but curl up in his den. Eventually he rouses himself and goes looking for star. What he finds is well worth the search and he learns a valuable lesson, "Look up beyond your fears." Imagine what the world would be like if all of us could look beyond our fears and find the courage to go out and try new things.

The illustrations are amazing. The creator has done cover designs at Penguin Books, but this is her first book as author/illustrator. You can see the strong sense of graphic design in the pages. There are pages full of brambles and thorns or tall straight trees that Fox must wander through on his search for Star. One spread focuses on Fox's eyes and you can see Star reflected in them. One of my favorites is the scene looking up through the trees and all the leaves to see Star shining in the space between the branches. 

Both the text and the illustrations are suited for readers of all ages, and everyone will find something personally meaningful in reading it.

Fall Reading 2015 Fires of Invention


Living in COVE is supposed to keep everyone safe from the outside world, a world too dangerous to live in because of the pollution from too much technology. So there are rules against creativity or against unauthorized tinkering, rules that tell you what foods to eat on which days, and rules for just about everything else. But Trenton has a very inquisitive mind and strong mechanical skills; he just can't help wanting to take things apart and improve them. When he discovers a strange metal tube, his curiosity leads him to Kallista, another inquisitive mechanic. Their search to find other pieces like the tube and to solve the mystery of why Kallista's father left all these pieces leads them to a secret big enough to endanger their lives. 

This story reminded me of The City of Ember for many reasons. There is the setting itself, a city buried underground away from a world that is dangerous to humans. Then there are the main characters who are both teenagers working to solve the puzzle of what the city's founders were really trying to do. School is another similarity - the students all are assigned jobs in the city when they reach a certain age and many of them are not placed in the jobs they hope to get. Even the secret passed down from a family member happens in both stories, although the secret in Ember is misplaced due to the sudden death of the secret's keeper.

If you like stories where characters are fighting a system that restricts them from what they are truly born to do, or where kids are trying to do the right thing and dishonest leaders are trying to stop them, or even if you just like large mechanical dragons - then this book is for you. Be careful though, because it will hook you and then you will have to read the rest of the series.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice


Fans of classic adventure and quest stories will find all the expected elements in The Goblin's Puzzle: an orphan who hopes to discover his fate, a beautiful princess, a clever commoner, a goblin, an ogre, a dragon, an evil sorcerer, duels, dungeons, etc. And they are all necessary for the plot, not just extra trimmings thrown in to impress us as readers. After all, a hero traditionally needs to defeat three monsters, each one more powerful and dangerous than the one before it. The beautiful princess can't be endangered by horrible monsters unless the evil sorcerer is involved. (Okay, she could. But what would be the fun in that?) And there must be a resourceful and quick-thinking peasant to make all the royalty and nobility look foolish with their powdered wigs that it takes two butlers to hold in place (not that I'm judging anyone).

So the boy with no name quite accidentally begins a quest to find his fate and his place in the world and encounters all these people and creatures, along with a few others such as the major domo who works for the sorcerer, the rule-quoting chamberlain who is part of the king's cabinet, and a sage who is a terrible farmer. Of course he has a talisman (a ring from his father), and along the way he acquires some weapons, but he also manages to make some friends and gain some confidence along the way.

I appreciate how the boy's knowledge of the way the world works is based on the traditional tales he has memorized. Although he has never been taught to read or write, he has listened carefully to every tale he has ever heard and carefully filed them away. I also like that the clever commoner is a girl, and that she is not content to just marry someone in the village and settle down. Instead, she is determined to become an apprentice sage and use the knowledge and reasoning skills that she has been developing under her father's tutelage.

This is a fun read because of the balance between action, danger, and humor. By the time we reach the end of the book, we feel as if the boy and both Alices have become our friends and we are cheering loudly for them to win and the villain(s) to lose. Perfect for middle grade readers who like fantasy adventures and cheering for the underdog.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2015 Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story


Rhyming text that carries you along, repetitive rhythm that helps young readers predict what will come next, and warm family scenes in each illustration make this book a winner. Whether it is read over and over at home for the holidays, or used as a read-aloud in class or library story time, readers of all ages will enjoy the sight of an extended family making their holiday meal preparations. As an educator, I especially like the short summary every few pages featuring all the verbs used in the previous rhymes - what a way to call attention to the actions in the story. The illustrations themselves will generate tons of discussion about the wood stove, the hand pump at the sink, and the historical clothing shown. It will also be a good jumping off point for comparing and contrasting what each child is accustomed to seeing at their own Thanksgiving meal. 

A wonderful read for so many reasons. I highly recommend it!

I won a copy in a Curious City DPW giveaway, and I am counting my blessings that I was so lucky. Visit Curious City DPW for a reader's engagement activity idea.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 After the Ashes


Hot ash falls from the sky. Burning chunks of stone plummet to the ground and explode on impact. Tsunami waves over 100 feet high wash everything away, tearing apart churches, homes, and businesses. No, it's not the latest box office smash - it is an actual historical event, the eruption of Krakatau in the Dutch East Indies in August of 1883. This is the backdrop for the story or Katrien and Brigitta, two teenage girls living in the town of Anjers on the coast of Java. 

At the beginning of the book things are not going well between the two girls. They had been good friends until a misunderstanding at Brigitta's 10th birhtday party. Now they seem to enjoy sniping at each other and trading insults. It doesn't help that they seem so different; Katrien is a budding scientist and spends her time collecting samples in the jungle, while Brigitta surrounds herself with other girls and never gets dirty. To make matters worse, Katrien's aunt and the other adults in town constantly hold Brigitta up as an example. Ugh! Adults can be so obtuse sometimes.

But when disaster strikes, the two girls have only each other to depend on for survival. Suddenly their disagreements don't seem so important. But can two 13-year-olds make it out of the jungle alive when their entire town has been flattened by a natural disaster?

Readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially stories like the "I Survived" series, will find After the Ashes a fascinating survival adventure based on true events.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The After-Room (The Apothecary #3)

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly across the sky as a bird? Or perhaps you've imagined yourself as a secret agent, tracking bad guys like James Bond? Maybe stories of magic potions or alchemists make you curious? Well, if any of those sound like the basis for an exciting adventure, try mixing them all together!

In this exciting conclusion to The Apothecary series, all the story lines from the first two books are wrapped up and come to a close. Locations range from Ann Arbor, to Rome, and several spots in China as Janie, Benjamin, and their friends try to track down stolen uranium and a missing nuclear device, establish contact with Benjamin's father, and avoid trouble with the mob. Returning characters include Jin Lo, Count Vili, Pip, Danby, and Mr. Burrows. There are betrayals, arrests, a hit & run, pirates, and a high school dance - which all sounds like some fantastic plot that Janie's parents have written into a movie script. Unfortunately for our heroes, it is all too real and too dangerous.

Readers who enjoy the high-stakes action in books like The 39 Clues will be pleased with the suspense and tension in The Apothecary. Whether it is the fear of being forced to help mobsters, worrying over a nuclear strike in China, or trying to find stolen uranium before it falls into the hands of North Korean extremists, it is all life and death decisions for two high school kids to deal with. And since the Pharmacopoeia that has been in Benjamin's family has recipes for concoctions that can help develop ESP, allow contact with ghosts, and cause transformations, there is plenty of a magical/fantasy element to capture the imagination, too.

Whether you like historical fiction, fantasies, stories where kids are saving the world (and most of the adults are clueless), or perhaps even a hint of romance - there is something for everyone in The Apothecary and you will be sad that it is ending.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Pippa Morgan's Diary


Oh no! Pippa's Best friend Rachel has moved to the wilds of Scotland, where there is not even a cell signal or a way for them to video chat. What will Pippa do? Be the loneliest girl on the planet, of course. But then there is a chance for some companionship when her teacher has a popular girl named Catie sit with Pippa and do a class project. Before she realizes what she has done, Pippa blurts out a white lie that gets Catie's attention and then doesn't know how to tell the truth. It snowballs from there, with more and more people finding out and the stakes getting higher. How can she ever tell the truth without totally embarrassing herself and losing her new friends forever?

Fans of other diary/journal style stories such as Dork Diaries and Dear Dumb Diary will enjoy the outrageous situations that Pippa gets herself into as she tries to make new friends and keep everyone from finding out her lie. For readers who are not quite ready to tackle something the size of the Dork Diaries books, Pippa's is only half as long (about the same length as the Dear Dumb Diary stories). 

A great series for readers who enjoy friendship and school stories with lots of humor. For example, Pippa talks "Fridge Surprise (which) is whatever Mom can find in the fridge served with rice or pasta...I'm scared what she'll make with yogurt and cauliflower." 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Pablo and Jane and the Hot Air Contraption


An entertaining mashup of picture book, graphic novel, and seek & find styles - Pablo and Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is a thrill ride. The title characters are stuck inside on a rain day with nothing to do. They've already explored everything fun in their neighborhood such as the ruined asylum and the haunted orphanage. Unless the Cat in the Hat shows up with Thing 1 and Thing 2, what else can they find to amuse themselves? Armed with their flashlights, the pair venture out into the rain and discover the contraption. Once they climb on board, they are whisked away to ... well, let's say "different" places. Places like Lopsided London, Terrifying Transylvania, and the Bone-Chilling Bayou. In each location they must find parts to help repair the hot air contraption or they will never make it home!

This is great for fans of I Spy and Look & Find books or humorous adventures in graphic novel style. The story is told in comic book style panels up to the point where the contraption takes off, then there are 2-page spreads for each wild place that the kids visit and the reader must help them search for the missing parts. I can't keep the I Spy and similar types of books on the library shelves, so I know this will be popular for the same reasons. The zany comics style adventure will pull in the graphic novel/manga crowd. And the hot air contraption will appeal to the makerspace group. (Is that a hat trick - getting all three types of readers with one title?)

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review purposes.

Fall Reading 2015 Seaside


Imagine growing up in a town where everything revolves around the sea, where your status depends on your prowess in fishing and sailing, and where you are belittled if your father has turned his back on the sea. You would probably do anything you could to clear the stigma from your name, even take insane dares from the local bully just to prove that you were not a coward. That is just what Bobby is dealing with. Mix in a young octopus named Walter who is trying to find his mother (captured in a fisherman's net), a chubby pelican named Pucello (who reminds me of Scuttle from "The Little Mermaid"), and you've got a recipe for some serious escapades going on. But there are also darker characters - Mario, the bully (who is so mean he fed his sister's favorite doll to a dog), his gang of followers, Captain Bonicelli and his ship's mates Frimp and Frump are all cruel and unscrupulous. How can a boy who is younger and smaller, a young octopus, and a clumsy sea bird hope to triumph over these villains?

The theme of dealing with grief weaves through the story line. The whole village is still dealing with the loss of an entire ship's crew back in the days that Bobby's grandfather worked out at sea. Bobby and his father are mourning the loss of Bobby's mother. His father has given up a life at sea because there are so many painful memories associated with it. The school teacher, Ms. Peach, is still living alone and childless after the death of her husband. Even the mother octopus, Ophelia, fears and distrusts humans because her father was killed by fishermen. That may make the story sound very somber and dull, but it is full of suspense and danger with a few laughs mixed in.

Landlubbers and seafarers alike will enjoy rooting for a boy who wants to run off to sea and an octopus who wants to learn more about humans.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

You may find out more about the author on his website.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 My Hometown


Have you ever wondered what your town looked like before you were born? Maybe you've studied a time period in history class and thought, "What were things like back then?" This nearly wordless book gives you a glimpse of what a town might seem like in bygone days. The front cover gives you a hint of what's inside by juxtaposing the modern town in vibrant color on one side of the street and a black and white scene with early model automobiles on the other side. Inside, we see a typical day in a town full of people jogging and playing and beautiful fall leaves on the trees. But drifting through the sky is a newspaper that blows up to a boy on his bike. When he opens the paper, things begin to change. Suddenly we are seeing the town being built around 150 years ago (guessing from the picture of Abe Lincoln in the newspaper). The scenes change from color, to sepia, to grayscale and back again, and each two-page spread takes us to a different time. There is a page where early cars share the street with a horse and buggy. In another there are art deco flourishes on the buildings and a lady dressed in flapper style. Scenes with scrap metal drives going on are followed by equal rights demonstrations and folks in long sideburns. A recession with boarded up and abandoned buildings on the main street leads into a revitalized downtown area and a return to the present. 

Without ever saying a word beyond the introductory phrase, "Every town has a story.." these scant 40 pages take us through decades of change. It would be wonderful to use as an activity where readers can look for clues in the pages and try to date each spread by identifying clothing and hair styles, architecture, automobiles, other technology (like the things for sale in shop windows), etc. Or perhaps it could be combined with online resources like the historical imagery available in Google Earth 6, or the way WhatWasThere ties historical photos to Google Maps so that you can see how familiar streets looked in the past. It could even become a class project to find historical images to submit.  Students could even create their own version of the book featuring scenes of their town's main street. The book doesn't need words because it will generate tons of discussion.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2015 Welcome to Monstrovia (Tales of Monstrovia: Case One)


Giants who build houses out of beaked beans. Dragons with handlebars and sidecars. A goose that goes, "Cluck!" A courtroom presided over by Judge I.M.Fair. What kind of place is Monstrovia? Well, it's the place where Brodie Adkins, Jr. winds up spending the summer with his uncle while his mom is in China selling rubber bands for braces to dentists. Brodie has been acting out and getting in trouble ever since his parents divorce, so his mother decides he should stay with his uncle while she is goes out of town on a business trip. It's bad enough when he thinks he will be spending his time with an uncle he has never seen in Key West. But when the plan lands and he is picked up by the cabbie his uncle sent, Brodie finds himself taken to Monstrovia where he is one of the few humans around. 

Imagine being surrounded by fictional beings like giants, gnomes, dragons, and characters from stories like Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Jack & Jill, or Little Jack Horner. It turns out that they do exist in this land that not many humans have heard of or visited, and Uncle Jasper Doofinch is a lawyer who specializes in defending these individuals when they are in trouble. Brodie is determined to talk to his mother and get out of this place as soon as possible, even if it means spending the summer in foster care. Against his will, he gets involved in his uncle's latest case - it involves a boy named Jack, a beanstalk, and a murder charge for the death of the giant, Mr. Bulk. Sound a bit familiar?

This is the first in a series about the adventures of Brodie and his uncle as they help out the desperate clients who come to Mr. Doofinch for legal assistance. Be prepared to laugh, groan, and maybe even shiver as they encounter bats, spiders, fire-breathing serpents, and man-eating creatures while trying to see that justice is done. The story is full of fast-paced action, references to storybook characters, and humor of the sort that makes middle grade readers snort out laughter. 

Recommended for those who enjoy fairy tale mashups or fractured versions and don't mind a snarky main character who learns a few things and grows up a bit along the way.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.