Posted in Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Vault of Dreamers Trilogy closes with The Keep of Ages

The Keep of Ages (The Vault of Dreamers #3), by Caragh M. O’Brien, (Aug. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596439429

Recommended for readers 12+

The conclusion to The Vault of Dreamers trilogy sees Rosie on the run from Dean Berg and Ian, the vault of dreamers technician that took care of her while she was kept in the vault in the previous book, The Rule of Mirrors. When she discovers that Dean Berg has hold of her family, she follows clues to an abandoned amusement park to save them and bring down the vault of dreamers. It’s more complicated than even Rosie realizes, though – she discovers her sister is among the dreamers and that bigger plans are in motion for viewers of The Forge Show. Rosie has to risk everything to save her family and keep Thea – her seeded consciousness, now suffering migraines – safe while making sure Dean Berg can never harm anyone again.

 

There is a real sense of urgency running through The Keep of Ages, but the execution gets bogged down in multiple subplots. One character, Lavinia, is almost too good to be true: the theme park designer, offers access to a place to hide, serves as a conduit to connect Rosie with her family, and is a font of information on the secret network of tunnels beneath the Keep, where the dreamers are held. The final resolution neatly ties everything up, but left me wanting a little more. Get it if you need answers to questions left in the previous book.

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Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Lost Boys chronicles the Iran-Iraq War through a boy soldier’s eyes

Lost Boys, by Darcey Rosenblatt, (Aug. 2017, Henry Holt & Co), $16.99, ISBN: 9781627797580

Recommended for readers 9-14

Twelve year-old Reza is a musical prodigy living in 1982 Iran. He lives with his widowed, fundamentalist mother, and craves visits from his Uncle Habib; a member of the resistance, he also encourages Reza’s love of music by slipping him cassettes of artists from Stevie Wonder to Thelonious Monk. His mother pushes him to join the war effort, telling him she would be proud to have her son die in service of Allah. Reza wants nothing to do with the conflict, but when his uncle is killed and his best friend, Ebi, signs up to serve, Reza feels he has nothing left without his best friend, and signs on. He and Ebi receive their “keys to heaven” – plastic keys that serve as symbols that they will achieve paradise when they die in service to Iran and the Ayatollah – and are sent into battle. War is not the glorious battle that Ebi dreamed about; it’s not full of exciting moments like he and Reza have seen in the movies. The boys are fodder for the minefields – tied together and sent into battle to clear the way for older troops. Reza is injured and sent to a prisoner of war camp, where he meets other boys his age and desperately tries to learn Ebi’s fate as he endures abuse at the hands of a sadistic prison guard.

I couldn’t put Lost Boys down, choosing instead to disregard my normal sleep schedule until I finished the last page. Reza is a heart-achingly real character based on far too many child soldiers. He and his classmates are promised glory and fed lies; in the end, all he lives for is the hope that he’ll be reunited with his best friend and live to enjoy music again. Set in 1982, the story is more relevant now than ever, as children are still pressed into service all over the world. Booktalk Lost Boys with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis for tween and teen readers; booktalk with Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine to illustrate the worldwide epidemic of using children as combatants. This article from Global Citizen shines a light on seven countries that still use child soldiers, and what we can do to help stand against the practice.

Lost Boys is an important book that sparks outrage and empathy, and is a must-add for collections. I’d love to see this on next summer’s reading lists.

Posted in Fantasy, Preschool Reads

Funk’s Fine Fractured Fairy Tale: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk!

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, (Sept. 2017, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542045650

Recommended for readers 4-10

Happy Book Birthday to It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk! I love fractured fairy tales: they let me get as silly as I want to be (need to be?) in a storytime, which lets the kids know they can be as silly as they want or need to be, too. After all, storytime is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

The story starts out as usual: the fancy fairy tale font, the “Once upon a time” opening line… but wait. Jack is sleeping! The narrator nudges him, and demands that he put on pants (this is the part where every kid in the room is on board with Jack) and get into the story. That’s when we get the idea that this narrator is a little pushy, and that maybe Jack has different ideas about how this fairy tale is going to go. Poor Jack is badgered into trading his pet cow for beans that make him toot, climb a giant beanstalk, and face off against a giant that he really has no quarrel with. Jack takes the story into his own hands, and brings things to a more satisfying conclusion.

Loaded with fairytale references – keep a sharp eye and ask your readers to point them out as they see them – and fun, cartoony digital art, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk! is an essential to fractured fairy tale collections. It’s not just for the little readers, either – you can get a heck of a reader’s theatre going on here, thanks to all the side conversations and the power struggle between the Narrator and Jack. Wanna see it in action? Check out Josh Funk’s website, where teachers and librarians stage their own reading. It’s also a nice way to talk to kids about believing everything they read: the Narrator likes to embellish a few areas, but Jack is quick to call out alternative facts where he finds them.

If you haven’t enjoyed Josh Funk’s books yet, you have got to start. I love Pirasaurs – because there are pirate dinosaurs – and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast make me laugh out loud. He’s got a load of great stuff available on his website, including downloadable coloring books and activity sheets, character cards, and book songs.

Want a shot at winning your own copy of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk? You know you do. Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

 

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books – such as the Nerdy Book Club Award-winning DEAR DRAGON and LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST along with IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, and the upcoming ALBIE NEWTON, HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (in partnership with Girls Who Code), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA. was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences, and has written a free 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.

Find out more about Josh at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction

A Nocturnals Easy Reader! The Moonlight Meeting

The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting, by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling/Illustrated by Waymond Singleton, (Sept. 2017, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-14-9

Recommended for ages 5-8

YAY! One of my favorite recent middle grade series is expanding to easy readers! The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting introduces younger readers to my favorite Nocturnal group of friends: Tobin, the pangolin, Dawn, the fox, and last but never least, Bismark, the sugar glider (don’t dare call him a squirrel). An unlikely pomelo fruit brings the three new friends together, as Tobin – forever hungry – and Bismark disagree over ownership rights. Readers get a fun dose of fart humor thanks to sweet Tobin, who’s a bit nervous and has… well, a bit of a reaction. (Readers familiar with Tobin and the latest middle grade Nocturnals story, The Fallen Star, will enjoy the reference.)

Waymond Singleton’s artwork is perfect for an easy reader audience, giving the group more definition and providing an animated feel. Bismark is all wide eyes and open mouth; Tobin’s glance is shyly cast downward, and Dawn is ever gentle and ready to step in to help. As with the middle grade novels, The Moonlight Meeting emphasizes friendship, teamwork, and sharing. Fun Facts at the end of the book provide descriptions about the real-life Nocturnal counterparts. The brief sentences and easy dialogue make this a great step for readers who are ready to move on from Level 1 readers. A leveling guide on the back of the book, similar to the Step Into Reading series, explains each leveled step for parents and caregivers. This works well with a preschool or kindergarten read-aloud, too.

I can’t wait to introduce The Nocturnals to my storytime group. The group’s website at Nocturnals World is a treasure trove of information for caregivers and educators, featuring curriculum guides, library resources, discussion guides, and activity kits. If you’ve got animal fiction fans, get them hooked early and add The Moonlight Meeting to your easy readers.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Oscar the Grouch gets messy! And a giveaway!

Oscar the Grouch is tired of ABC books full of nice, cute things! He wants a messy alphabet, and he wants your little readers to help him! Put Me in the Story’s newest Sesame Street book, The Messy Alphabet Book, is filled with messy rhyming fun from A to Z: “A is for applesauce, dripped down a wall/B is for birthday cake, wrecked by a ball/C is for cookies, all covered in goo/D is for doughnuts, all frosted with glue”. Cookie Monster, Elmo, Ernie, Abby Cadabby (who tries to sneak some nice stuff in), and even Slimy the Worm join in the fun, but the best part of the story is your little one; add his or her picture and name to the story to make your little reader join Oscar and friends. You’ll see drawings attributed to your child hanging on the walls in the story, and the Sesame Street gang will engage your reader with questions and an invitation to make a mess or his or her own!

The Put Me in the Story books are made so well, with sturdy pages and adorable artwork. I’ve been part of several Put Me in the Story book tours, and I’m always thrilled with the care and style put into their books. They make great gifts that last, and a good ABC book is always a welcome addition to toddler and preschooler bookshelves.

You’ve got a chance to win your own Sesame Street personalized book bundle, including personalized copies of The Messy Alphabet Book, Sesame Street: Just One You!, Sesame Street: I Love You Just Like This!, Sesame Street: Let’s Make a Friend, and an Elmo plush toy! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win:

Sesame Street: Messy Alphabet Book ($34.99 hardcover personalized book, $19.99 paperback personalized book)
Oscar the Grouch and his Sesame Street friends teach your child their ABCs by splashing and crashing their way through the alphabet together!

Sesame Street: Just One You! ($34.99 hardcover personalized book, $19.99 paperback personalized book)
All your favorite Sesame Street friends have gathered together to celebrate YOU!

Show your little star how special they truly are—with the help of Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, and more!

There’s nobody else in the whole world just like you—someone who can do all the things that you do! Your friends over on Sesame Street are here to tell you just how unique you and your gifts are.

The perfect storybook to shine the spotlight on your one-of-a-kind cutie! Personalize this book with a special child’s name on the front cover and throughout the story. You can also include a photo and special message on a dedication page.

Sesame Street: I Love You Just Like This! ($34.99 hardcover personalized book, $19.99 paperback personalized book)
Show your little one the many ways you love them with the help of your friends over on Sesame Street!

There are lots of ways to say “I love you,” but it’s how you share and show it that matter most! The sweetest book to share every day of the year, I Love You Just Like This! brings parent and child close and cozy together in a special storytime experience to spread some love. Often, always, and time and time again, this personalized book will show your little one how much you love them… just like this! Personalize the story with your child’s name, photo, and a special message with lots of love on the dedication page!

Sesame Street: Let’s Make a Friend ($34.99 hardcover personalized book, $19.99 paperback personalized book)
Welcome to “Let’s Make a Friend!,” hosted by everyone’s favorite game show host, Guy Smiley. Today’s contestant on the show is Elmo! Elmo answers questions about friendship from a team of panelists, and involves your child in his thoughts on different friendship scenarios. When the third judge, Cookie Monster, rushes off stage in search of cookies, your child steps in as the surrprise guest judge! This book will get your little one thinking about what it takes to be a good friend. Watch your kiddo’s face light up when they realize that Elmo’s winning prize is a hug from them!

Here’s your chance! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway today! Ends September 22!

Terms & Conditions:

No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Open to legal residents of USA who are 18 years or older. Giveaway begins September 11, 2017 at 12:01am and ends September 22, 2017 at 11:59pm (“Promotion Period”). Enter the Giveaway during the Promotion Period online by submitting the entry form. The entry form can be found on the following website at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7566/ . Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. ONE (1) winner will receive ONE (1) Sesame Street Personalized Book Bundle and Plush (approximate retail value or “ARV”: $155). By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Put Me In The Story. Put Me In The Story does not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of this giveaway. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are in no way associated with this giveaway.

GOOD LUCK!

Posted in Uncategorized

A Creepy Crawler Crossword from Education.com!

I’ve got another Education.com goodie today! This cute, bug-themed crossword is a fun way to get some spelling practice. Looking for more exciting educational games that are sure to have your child asking to play again? Check out all the spelling games from Education.com! Click here to download the crossword puzzle, and here for the answer key.  They’ll look similar to these mazes:

I’ve been using a lot of Education.com resources at the library these days; they’re great passive programs to offer the kids – coloring, mazes, crosswords, matching games – and the site is searchable by grade, age, and activity. Thanks to Education.com for the fun freebie!

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Bad Girl Gone: Revenge beyond the grave?

Bad Girl Gone, by Temple Mathews (Sept. 2017, Thomas Dunne for St. Martin’s Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250058812

Recommended for readers 13+

Echo is a 16 year-old girl who wakes up in a dark room; no idea where she is, no idea how she got there. She soon discovers that she’s in a place called Middle House; think of it as Limbo for teens who met brutal and unfair ends. Each of the teens has a special gift to help them bring their killers to justice; only then can they head toward the light. After Echo finally accepts that she is dead, and that she was murdered, she sets out to find out who killed her and why, while also helping her boyfriend, Andy, move on with his life.

This is an absolute teen revenge fantasy. Echo discovers that she wasn’t the nice girl she thought she was in life, and her boyfriend is so devastated after her loss that he contemplates suicide to be with her, and she gets to have a cute fellow ghost boy fall for her, too. All the teen residents of Middle House have paranormal gifts to help them get back at their murderers so they can move on to the afterlife, righting the ultimate wrong – but Echo gets a different choice. I didn’t love Echo or any of the characters in Bad Girl Gone, but it works for a light paranormal fiction reader. Bad Girl Gone is a quick read with an interesting plot twist, good for an additional purchase where you need more fiction.