Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The World's Greatest Detective


Toby Montrose is no stranger to trouble; it has dogged him since he was eight years old - and he's eleven now. So he can recognize trouble trying to slip under the door or hovering in the corners, and the bills marked past due and last notice that are arriving in his uncle's mail are sure signs of its presence. Since his parents were lost while boating, Toby has moved from one relative's care to another, and if Uncle Gabriel can't keep him, then it will be the city orphanage next. When a detective contest with a $10,000 prize is announced, Toby knows that winning it could get rid of trouble for good.

Sadly, one of the detectives is murdered before the contest even begins. And that isn't even the worst problem Toby has. There is a house full of suspects, each with a good reason for wanting the man dead. Toby is only his uncle's assistant, and hasn't ever solved any cases on his own. His uncle isn't there for the contest and the only person willing to work with Toby is Ivy, the unusual daughter of the family hosting the event. And things just keep going wrong. Will Toby ever banish trouble for good?

Full of humor, twists and turns in the plot, a lovable dog named Percival, eccentric characters, and sympathetic protagonist, is an entertaining romp that feels like a junior version of an Agatha Christie story. Highly recommended for middle grades and up.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Dragon Riders

Flynn and Paddy, our brave dragon tamers, return for their third adventure. As their pet dragon, Elton John, grows up, the boys work on keeping him a secret from their mother and trying to figure out what he likes to eat. One day, Elton scoops up the boys and Coco and flies off with them to a dragon gathering. The problem is - only dragons are allowed, and the others don't like Elton's human family. What follows is a daring bit of aerial acrobatics and cleverness that saves the day and leaves the boys cheering.

James Russell's jaunty rhyming text swoops us up and carries us into the story. Parents and teachers will be pleased to see words such as excursion, promptly, gnashed, and plunged. Young readers will be expanding their vocabularies while they delight in the story. The last lines of the story mention "distant roaring" and we can see out the bedroom window that a dragon that (not Elton), is flying across the sky. Could these be hints of what lies in store for Flynn and Paddy? We will have to wait and see.

Link Choi's illustrations bring the story to vibrant life. Full color artwork captures moments such as Paddy's sooty face after the dragon turns the spinach sandwiches to ash, or both boys shoving against the door of the shed, trying to hide the dragon from their mother. There are also pencil sketches showing Coco glaring at his empty bowl after his dog food is eaten by the dragon, or the various expression on their faces as Elton John carries them off into the sky. My favorite scene is the boys and Coco grinning on Elton's back after he outwits and out-flies the other dragons.

But beyond all that, there is even more. Using the AR Reads app, readers of all ages may explore the world of Flynn and Paddy's island in interactive 3D. The large map found in the endpapers of the book comes alive with motion and sound. The giggles of the boys, the whoosh of the dragon's flames, the roaring of a waterfall, all drift out of the scene. And we can see the dragon swoop in and out of view, the boys running down the mountain from the cave, or the flickering on the Ridge of Rising Flames. There is a video demonstration available at

Young readers will love having a new dragon story to read and re-read. This third adventure leaves us wondering what the boys, Coco, and Elton John will do next.

Highly recommended for ages 4+. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Summer Reading 2017 The Dragon Tamers


Flynn and Paddy, our two intrepid dragon hunters, are back. This time they become bored and decide to explore the attic. When they find a map of their island that shows a dragon hatchery, or course they must go and find it. As often happens to brave explorers, adventure ensues. The dragons hatch just as the boys and their faithful dog Coco arrive. In what looks like a reenactment of Jurassic World, the dragonets chase the boys back down the slope. One little hatchling imprints on the boys and follows them home, where they have to figure out how to raise a dragon.

James Russell's jaunty rhyming text swoops us up and carries us into the story. Parents and teachers will be pleased to see words such as horde, jolt, din, and amiss. Young readers will be expanding their vocabularies while they delight in the story. And most of them will probably agree that "The only cure for boredom (as all smart children know) is, of course, to go somewhere you're not allowed to go."

Link Choi's illustrations bring the story to vibrant life. Full color artwork captures moments such as Paddy laughing at Flynn's singed sandwich, or the way the boys gape at the hatching dragons with their mouths hanging open in shock. There are also pencil sketches showing Paddy in his pajamas making sandwiches for their expedition, or the sly grins the boys give each other as their mother scolds them for being late to dinner. My favorite scene is the dragon licking the Flynn's face while Coco sniffs at its long tail.

But beyond all that, there is even more. Using the AR Reads app, readers of all ages may explore the world of Flynn and Paddy's island in interactive 3D. The large map found in the endpapers of the book comes alive with motion and sound. The giggles of the boys, the whoosh of the dragon's flames, the roaring of a waterfall, all drift out of the scene. And we can see the dragon swoop in and out of view, the boys running down the mountain from the cave, or the flickering on the Ridge of Rising Flames. There is a video demonstration available at

Young readers will love having a new dragon story to read and re-read. This is only the second adventure starring these brave brothers builds on the first and leads easily into the next. After all, once you have hunted dragon and tamed one, you must progress to riding. Right?

Highly recommended for ages 4+. I read an e-book provided by the publishers through edelweiss.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Unbreakable Code (Book Scavenger #2)


Anyone who has read The Book Scavenger is already eagerly awaiting this sequel. If you have not started the series yet, then you can have the pleasure of reading both books back-to-back. This time, Emily and James are still dealing with the fame of their amazing find at the end of the first book, as well as having some worries at home. Emily overhears her parents discussing money issues, and James wishes his dad would cut back on his business travel and be home more often. But nothing compares with becoming part of the advisory board for their hero Mr. Griswold, the creator of the Book Scavenger game. As they rush from school to dance committee to meetings with Mr. Griswold, they also have time for more Book Scavenger clues and possibly a treasure hunt.

Two middle school kids trying to balance schoolwork, family life, and trying to solve an unbreakable code over a century old sounds like a lot to work into a story, but the author smoothly weaves it all together. Scenes with the dance committee debating over theme and decorations ring true, while the hunt for treasure and a possible arsonist are believably filled with tension and excitement. Many of the characters from the first story are back - Mr. Quisling, Hollister, Jack, and the families and classmates of Emily and James. And there are a few new faces that we can watch and wonder, "Is that the bad guy?" I love the librarian, Ms. Linden, with her green hair and tattoos.

Anyone interested in books, codes, ciphers, and treasure hunts should try this. Reading it makes me wish Hollister had his bookshop in my neighborhood; I want to curl up in the purple armchair and read.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Science Comics: Flying Machines


Join Katherine Wright, younger sister of the famous aviators, on a journey through the development of heavier than air flying vehicles. Katherine takes readers back in time and shows them the big names in aviation from more than a century ago. Penaud, Lilienthal, Ader, Voisin, Bleriot, Santos-Dumont, Curtis, Bell, Selfridge, and Whittle are all included, but she focuses on her brothers. The illustrations show the various gliders and planes that the inventors tried - with details about their sizes and the materials used to construct each one. The narration follows the chronological order of events, so it is easy to see how each attempt led to new ideas and improvements. Terms like axis of control and ailerons are shown and explained.

This series follows in the tradition of the Magic School Bus and the Max Axiom books by sharing science concepts through a graphic format. In this case, the comic style illustrations bring the history of aviation to life for readers. There are plenty of facts, and also helpful features such as a glossary, a list of books for further reading, a brief biography of Katherine Wright, and shorter (paragraph-length) bios of aviation pioneers. This book is an excellent introduction to the history of airplanes and aviation, and offers enough names to give readers a good place to start researching the topic more deeply on their own.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Way Home in the Night


The illustrations in charcoal, pencil, and acrylic gouache capture the mix of darkness and splashes of light that can be experienced when walking through a city at night. When you look closely, there is the grainy texture of an old photo and that texture creates another layer of distance and dimness to the scenes. The young rabbit who narrates the walk home notices details as the family passes along the street. The scent of freshly baked pie. The flicker of light from a television set. The sound of a party next door. All the senses are engaged as they approach home and bedtime.

This is a different kind of bedtime story. The city with a variety of animals as its inhabitants is an unusual mix of setting and characters. Generally we see people in their homes settling in for the night, or perhaps animals out in the country cuddling up with their young. The difference is a unique feature of this book and draws your attention in to find out exactly what these animals are doing in their shops and apartments. Scenes with a goat using a toothbrush or a deer asleep on the couch with an open book in its lap will have readers pausing and taking a second look.

The slow, steady progress of the parents carrying the small rabbit is like the steady tick of the clock toward bedtime. And the child wondering about the things they passed on the way home is similar to the way all of us have thoughts that float through our minds as we drift off to sleep. "Some nights are ordinary, and other nights are special. But every night, we all go home to bed." Those ending lines are comforting and tie us all together, whether we are the characters or the readers. 

With its subdued color palette and the shadowy darkness of the city scenes, this is a book that lulls you into restfulness as you read it. A nice, quiet bedtime story.

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

Summer Reading 2017 Walking with Miss Millie


Writing a book that lets middle grade readers see what the South was like in the 1960s is always a tricky balance. How much do you include? What do you need to explain and what can just be shown through the story itself? Tamara Bundy strikes that balance in her story of Alice and Miss Millie. When Alice eavesdrops on a conversation of her grandmother's neighbor, her mom makes her go apologize and offer to do something to make up for the rudeness. That is the start of walking with Miss Millie as she takes her dog Clarence on as stroll around the neighborhood. At first Alice resents the chore, just as she resents moving from Columbus to stay with her grandmother and resents her father's absence. But as the story continues, we see the change in Alice's attitude and her feelings about many of the things in her life that make her sad or angry.

Listening to Miss Millie tell about her life as a black woman in the South before the days of Civil Rights gives the historical situation a personal touch. And all the tragedies in her life have made her sensitive to the heartache she can see in Alice. As unlikely a pair as they are, the preteen and the 92-year-old find they have plenty in common besides their daily walks with Clarence. And the story also deals with family issues like a grandparent suffering from memory problems and a mother raising her children while the father is off "finding himself." Just as in real life, there is a lot going on with Alice. Some advice Miss Millie gave her is good for everyone to follow. "'s okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't." Those are words to guide anyone in life.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction, historical fiction (of the not too distant past), and stories about family and friends (of all ages).

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

Summer Reading 2017 Coding


Part of the Tech Bytes: High Tech series from Norwood House Press, Coding is an introduction to what coding is, its history, and its future. The book traces the development of computers, programming, and coding languages from the 1800s to the present day. Names such as Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, Konrad Zuse, and Grace Hopper are places in their historical context and their contributions are briefly described. The hardware developments that have led from computers that filled entire rooms to the latest in smart phones and tablets are also explored. And then the job of a programmer (although it is also pointed out that it is a "mindset"), is described. Everything from hackers and encryption, apps and social media, to virtual reality and artificial intelligence are discussed. And the future of the field is included - with mentions of Hour of Code, coding bootcamps, and further developments in computer animation and virtual spaces.

This is the perfect book for a young (or not so young) reader who wants an explanation of what coding is and how it fits into the use and development of computers. It gives an overview of the field and its history, as well as goals and challenges for the future. There are helpful features like a glossary and list of sources for further information, and sidebars and photos provide support for topics in the main text.

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate


Imagine an adventure that has deputies and outlaws, scientists and amazing inventions, and a cross-country flying scavenger hunt. That will put you somewhere in the neighborhood of The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate.  Waldo Baron, W.B. to his family, narrates the story of his family and their incredible flying (not floating), house. Waldo has two scientists for parents, and they decide to enter a contest to invent a unique flying vehicle so that they can use the prize money to hire an assistant. W.B. is not impressed with this idea for various reasons, but he doesn't have much choice as  the house lifts off and flies to Chicago for the start of the contest.

Filled with eccentric characters, wild pigs, baked beans, and dreams about talking squirrels, this book is never dull. Waldo is an entertaining narrator who shares his puzzlement over his parents and their theories, his admiration for the exploits of Sheriff Hoyt Graham, and even the extremes of his own clumsiness (getting poked in the eye by a cuckoo in a clock, for example). As I read, I pictured his father looking much like Doc Brown from "Back to the Future" and the house floating along like the one in "Up," but without the balloons.

If you enjoy humorous stories with lots of action, falling into mud pits, contests to see who has the smelliest socks, and a villain with "two very large revolvers strapped to his sides, as well as six knives buckled to his boots, a bow and arrow over his shoulder, a crossbow on his back, a sword sheathed at his thigh, a lasso around his waist, a slingshot in his back pocket, a tomahawk in his long underwear..." then pick up this book. You'll fly through it even more quickly than the Baron Estate flies through the air.

I read an ebook provided by the publishers through NetGalley.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Oh Susannah Awareness Tour: Giveaway and Author Interview

Oh Susannah Interview with Carole P. Roman

Q: You have the wonderful If You Were Me series about different countries, different time periods, and you’ve even added one about Mars. Then you also have other stand-alone titles like Rocket-Bye. How do you come up with so many different ideas? 
A: I write about what I love. I enjoy reading about culture and history. I’m that family member that gets called when someone has to write a report and needs help. The books are written just as much for my enjoyment as for my readers. Mostly I pick a country or time period because I want to learn about it. The poetry books Rocket-Bye, One to Ten, and Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? are love letters to my children and grandchildren. They are personal, and when I read the books to my kids over the phone, I think we all got teary. Captain No Beard is a celebration of imagination. Each book is based on an experience with different members of my family. I love space, so If You Were Me and Lived on...Mars was a present to myself. Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag is dedicated to working moms and the girls who will become them. We have to remember to pace ourselves.

Q: Do you work on more than one book at a time? For instance, do you have several books you are writing at once, maybe brainstorming ideas for one and rewriting a draft on another? Or do you wait until one has been sent off for printing before you start on something else? 
A: I am always writing and when I decided to do the cultural series I wrote five books at once. The same thing happened with the historical series, I wrote the first five in one weekend. I have at least three manuscripts going all the time.

Q: Where do you write? Do you have a home office, a quiet garden shed, a favorite corner in your local library? 
A: I write at work. I share an office with my brother who is visually impaired. He never knows when I am writing, so he’ll talk to me. I have the unique ability to write and have a conversation at the same time. I also write in my bedroom at night. I have a library in the house. I pretty much write wherever the computer is sitting.

Q: When you are writing, how do you set the mood? Is there certain music you listen to, or a special cup of tea you like to sip, or a lucky pair of comfy slippers that you wear? Do you have to turn off the telephone and close your email so you won’t be distracted? 
A: Nope, nothing. I just write. Nothing bothers me. I can get up, make dinner and go right back to it.

Q: How many drafts and how much rewriting do you generally need to get the text “just right”? Do you have anyone read your drafts and give you feedback - like family, friends, or a writers’ group?
A: I have several beta readers, good, honest friends that will tell me if a story is missing something. I usually add, but never really hit the delete button. Every time I reread I will fix it up to sound better. It’s like sculpting . . . you are constantly perfecting it. The books go into two editors, one for grammar and another for copy. They get one final edit from another good editor and then I press publish. Believe it or not, some errors still slip through. I always fix them. 

Q: Was there ever a teacher who encouraged you to be a writer when you were in school? Did you enjoy writing for class assignments, or is this something that has developed as you grew up?
A:  I loved school, particularly history. I had a social studies teacher who allowed me to write plays, direct them and then we showed them to the school. They were parodies about whatever subject we were doing that year, and hysterical. I won the highest honors in social studies in the school when I graduated.

Q; Is there anything you would like to tell us about upcoming projects? Or any fun facts about yourself that we should know? 
A: Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag is my first early reader chapter book. If it is well received, it will have a book two by this summer. I am a radio show host. I think that is a fun fact—I never expected to be hosting my own talk show and I am very excited about it. It’s called Let’s Say Hello to Our Neighbors and I have other authors on as guests.

Enter to win an autographed copy of Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; plus a “Cool Bananas” tumbler and “Havana” lunch cooler tote to stuff into your own backpack.
One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A copy of Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag, autographed by Carole P. Roman
  • A SunnyLife Havana Lunch Cooler Tote
  • A SunnyLife Cool Bananas Tumbler
Four (4) winners receive:
  • A copy of Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag, autographed by Carole P. Roman
Age Range: 7-10
Giveaway begins April 25, 2017, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 25, 2017, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Giveaway open to US and Canadian addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

SYNOPSIS: Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag
Written by Carole P. Roman
Illustrated by Mateya Arkova
Publisher’s Synopsis: From award-winning author Carole P. Roman comes a new chapter book featuring Susannah Logan, a young student having a very bad day. It all begins with homework trouble and an invitation to a sleepover that she doesn’t want to go to. Would you want to go to a sleepover in a creepy house? Rather than dealing with her problems, Susannah stuffs them into her backpack. But how much can a backpack take? Will she be able to confront her worries before the backpack bursts? Or will she just continue to hide them away? Join Susannah and her friends in this story sure to charm busy young readers everywhere.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | April 3, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1543034615
Available Here:


Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the Captain No Beard series. Both Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life andCaptain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis have received the Kirkus Star of Exceptional Merit. The first book in the series was named to Kirkus Reviews Best 2012. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis has been named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2015. Each book in the series has won numerous awards including the NABE Pinnacle Award, IAN Award, Moonbeam Award 2014, National Indie Excellence Award Finalist, Shelf Media Outstanding Series Award, ForeWord Review Five Star and Finalist in the Book of the Year, and Reader’s Views Children’s Book of the Year 2013. Roman is also the author of the award-winning non-fiction culture series, If You Were Me and Lived in… that explores customs and cultures around the world. She has co-authored a self help book, Navigating Indieworld: A Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children and grandchildren.


This post is part of the blog tour for Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Carole P. Roman.

Spring Reading 2017 Oh Susannah : It's in the Bag


It's an amazing coincidence that Susannah has a problem similar to one that I had in my own third grade year. (And an even bigger coincidence that we have similar names?) I had two homework assignments and spent too long on one, so that I didn't finish the other before it was due. Susannah stuffs her unfinished homework into her backpack, along with everything else that she doesn't want to deal with (or doesn't know what to do with), all day long. With each addition, her backpack gets heavier and heavier until it finally pops its zipper. The problem doesn't end even when she goes to bed, but follows her into her dreams. And finally, after waking her parents in the middle of the night with her dreams, Susannah tells them what is going on and asks for help.

Readers of Carole's picture books such as Rocket Bye or Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? are familiar with her portrayal of characters that seem to be children we know. Just as Susannah's homework situation was so much like mine, other readers will also notice details that seem pulled from their own lives. Who hasn't had a morning where the cereal spilled everywhere, had an item from their lunch make a mess in their bag, or received an invitation they would rather not accept? The appeal of this story is heightened by the sense of kinship we feel with Susannah and her dilemma. Adult readers will also sympathize with her parents and their hurried schedules.

Perfect for chapter book readers who enjoy realistic fiction and stories centered on school, family, and friends. The protagonist is an age that readers moving from picture books into longer stories can easily identify with.

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 The Van Gogh Deception


Did you enjoy Chasing Vermeer? Did you find Under the Egg intriguing? Perhaps you love the classic From the Mixed-Up Files of Mr.s Basil E. Frankweiler? Then make room on your bookshelf for The Van Gogh Deception.

When a boy with amnesia turns up mysteriously at the National Gallery, no one is quite sure what to do with him or where he came from. Placing him in short-term foster care and running ads asking for information about him seems a good place to start. But a trip back to the museum to see if it stirs any memories turns into a dangerous game of cat and mouse through D.C. The boy called Art (due to the name Arthur inside his jacket), and his foster parent's daughter Camille have to outwit trained operatives while still ignorant of what these agents are after.

Full of chase scenes, daring escapes, quick thinking and courage by our young duo, the pursuit leaves a trail from the museum through D.C. and has the police and Camille's mother following as quickly as possible. The references to classic pieces of art are accompanied by QR codes in the text that allow readers to pull up images of the painting or sculpture being discussed. And most of the images also have background information about the piece and its creator - perfect for anyone whose curiosity is piqued by the story.

Besides the books I already mentioned, other good comparisons would be to say this is a middle grade version of something like The DaVinci Code or "National Treasure." If you enjoy mystery and suspense mixed with action and clever protagonists, you need a copy of this book.

I read a copy provided by the publisher for review purposes