Posted in Early Reader, History, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cheer Up, Ben Franklin! There’s a party coming soon!

ben-franklinCheer Up, Ben Franklin!, by Misti Kenison, (July 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492652472

Recommended for ages 0-3

Poor Ben Franklin is sad! No one has time to fly kites with him today. George Washington’s rallying his troops, Betsy Ross is sewing a flag, Sam Adams is throwing a tea party in Boston, and Alexander Hamilton is too busy counting money. What’s a Founding Father to do? Ben’s friends are sure to pull through in the end, with a signing of the Declaration and a big fireworks party to cheer him up in this fun, adorable book by Misti Kenison.

This is the cutest book for budding historians (and the adults who love them: one of my best friends is an historian who wrote her thesis on Franklin, and she loves this book). It’s great for toddlers who understand what a drag it is when no one can play with them, and the artwork is adorable. Ape this book up in storytime! Ben’s giant, mournful eyes will get sympathy from anyone, and the big fireworks party at the end is a great way to celebrate with an Independence Day storytime. Thanks to Ms. Kenison for, to paraphrase Abigail Adams, remembering the ladies! Including Betsy Ross and Abigail Adams is important, to illustrate to readers that women were indeed a big part of founding the United States of America.

A timeline at the end of the book goes from 1773, when Sam Adams organized the Boston Tea Party, through 1801, when Jefferson became President. Each historical figure mentioned in the book is briefly profiled here, too. A must-add to libraries, schools, and personal collections, and also a perfect gift for the Hamilton fans in your life.

Misti Kenison is a web/graphic designer and author/illustrator of the Tiny Traveler series. Visit Misti at her Tiny Traveler site to learn more about her books, and download some fun printables!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

The Gray Twins reunite in The Whispers in the Walls

Scarlet and Ivy: The Whispers in the Walls, by Sophie Cleverly, (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $7.99, ISBN: 9781492634065

Recommended for readers 8-12

When we left Ivy Gray at the dismal Rookwood School, she had just found her lost twin, Scarlet; hidden away in an asylum by the tyrannical headmistress, who told her family that Scarlet was dead. Masquerading as Scarlet, Ivy attended Rookwood and discovered the truth about a great many secrets. The Whispers in the Walls picks up just as Ivy reunites with Scarlet and they go home, only to have their spineless father and cruel stepmother send the two girls back. Back to the school that hid one daughter in an asylum and lie about her death. Their father drops them off with a “But it’s different now, it’s still a very good school with a new headmaster”, and has the nerve to tell them he loves them after that, securing a Father of the Year award sometime in the future, I’m sure.

Things aren’t wonderful back at Rookwood. Penny, Scarlet and Ivy’s tormenting nemesis, is still there, and she’s worse than ever. Violet, Penny’s best friend, and bullying accomplice, the girl who was also hidden away at the same asylum, is sent back to Rookwood, but is quiet, withdrawn, and now rooming with Ariadne. Scarlet is insufferable to such a degree, Ivy finds herself distancing from her twin. The headmaster, the sinister Mr. Bartholomew, is a fanatical disciplinarian whose punishments go beyond reason.

The girls are thrown back into this maelstrom, with most of the student body none the wiser. But there are new secrets discovered at Rookwood; secrets about Mr. Bartholomew himself; a secret group of students from the past that may include Scarlet and Ivy’s mother, and another girl rescued from the asylum, hiding in the school.

The Whispers in the Walls is a good follow-up to The Lost Twin, but Scarlet is nearly insufferable. She’s difficult for the mere sake of being difficult, and may put off readers as much as she does her twin sister. Ivy remains a strong character who continues developing through the story; I hope she rubs off on Scarlet for future adventures. The new headmaster, Mr. Bartholomew, continues the tradition of awful school management – Rookwood seems set to go through headmasters and headmistresses like Hogwarts goes through Defense of the Dark Arts professors. There are several story threads presented in The Whispers in the Walls, only a couple of which are resolved; I’m looking forward to seeing where the third book takes us.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cultivate your little scientist with Baby University’s books

Baby University, from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, are a cute series of board books that break down principles of science for little ones. Written by quantum theorist and dad Chris Ferrie,  the first four books: Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies all use the example of a child’s toy – a ball – to explain science to the littlest scientists in training. The covers are adorable, incorporating pacifiers into the scientific art.

newtonian

Newtonian Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656203) introduces babies to a bouncy ball, explaining in short, bolded sentences how gravity affects the ball, which leads to an exploration of mass, acceleration, and force. Being Newtonian Physics, we also see the apple, and gravity’s effect on the apple and Sir Isaac Newton. The ending proudly exclaims that the reader is understands Newtonian physics.

relativity

General Relativity for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656265) uses the ball to explore mass, black holes, and gravitational waves. Babies are pronounced experts in general relativity at the end.

rocket-science

Rocket Science for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656258) looks at the ball, but changes the ball’s shape to a wing to explain air movement, lift, and thrust. From there, we learn how to put wings on a rocket to make it move, and how a rocket requires an explosion to propel it forward. Readers are affirmed rocket scientists at the book’s end.

quantum

Quantum Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656227) demonstrates energy and atoms – starring the neutrons, protons, and electrons – by using the ball. Readers learn about movement within the atom, and are bestowed with the quantum phycisist title at the end.

The books are simple and fun, with clean, computer-generated art and simple explanatory text. Are my toddlers at storytime going to get this? No, but it’s not going to stop me from handing out small rubber balls to parents to let the kids play with and get a feel for as I read the books. It’s exploring scientific topics early, introducing babies to the words and letting them become household names, words that maybe won’t frighten them when they get older, if they grow up hearing them. I’d read these with preschoolers, too, when they can grasp ideas a bit more.

I love STEM, and I love helping young children fall in love with science, especially the sciences (and their accompanying mathematics) that scared me away when I was a kid. These are fun, bright books to get in front of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers now, if just to introduce exciting new words to their vocabularies. At least, your little one learns that Sir Isaac Newton was beaned on the head by an apple. At most, you get a Nobel Prize winner who thanks you in his or her speech.

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Fairy Tale Reform School’s seeing some changes in Tricked

Tricked, by Jen Calonita, (March 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 9781492637950

Recommended for ages 8-13

Gilly and friends return in Tricked, the third installment of Fairy Tale Reform School, but things are very, very different now. Gilly’s in school to be a cobbler, like her dad, but she really isn’t into it. Her sister, Anna, is falling in with a bad crowd: Hansel and Gretel are jerks, causing trouble all over town. They go too far with one prank that lands the three of them in – you guessed it – Fairy Tale Reform School, but the school has been through some big changes: Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked stepmother, is no longer headmistress; instead, the master dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin, is in charge now, and the classes seem to encourage the kids to be more villain than hero. Gilly, Jax, and Maxine need to get back on the inside to find out what’s going on in those hallowed halls, get to the bottom of Rump’s treachery, and save Anna while Gilly’s at it: if Anna even wants to be saved.

I’ve been a Fairy Tale Reform School fan from the beginning, and Tricked is every bit as good as the first two. I love the way Jen also manages to address some of the very real things going on in the news today through FTRS, with a trickster who excels in the art of the deal (ahem) pulling the strings and making everyone in that school either blindly follow him or disappear. When things came together for me as I read, I realized how brilliant Tricked is in every respect, and I admire Jen Calonita for taking such a timely message on and communicating it to the kids who need to understand that when something doesn’t seem normal, it really isn’t.

There are strong subplots, addressing the frustration of being in a sibling’s shadow, making your own dreams happen versus living up to others’ expectations.

Tricked is all-around fun reading with big messages for young readers.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Dragons pop off the page – for real! – in Dragon Hunters!

31409133The Dragon Hunters (The Dragon Brothers Trilogy, #1), by James Russell/Illustrated by Link Choi, (Apr. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-4861-1

Recommended for readers 5-10

Brothers Flynn and Paddy are on a rescue mission: their dog has been kidnapped by a dragon! Mom thinks it’s all part of their goofing around, but the boys are determined and set off to rescue poor Coco from the dragon’s clutches – hope they can get out unsinged!

The Dragon Hunters – originally published in New Zealand in 2012 – is a fun, rhyming fantasy tale for grade school level kids, but preschoolers will also appreciate the rhyming tale and the cartoony art. The dragon is bold, red, and mean, gorgeous in its sinister ferocity. Pages alternate with full color art and sketches (I’ve got an ARC – this may not be the case with the finished version), and the longer length of the tale gives it an old-school, epic poem feeling.

The best part of this book? The augmented reality! Download a free app for your tablet or smartphone, hold it over the map endpapers of the book, and see the map come to life! There’s a little bit of sound, but the real thrill is seeing the landscape come to life, complete with little dragon flying over the mountains and the steaming Putrid Plains. My little guy went nuts for it, and so did my coworker’s tween daughter. I tried to capture it using my phone camera, but the Dragon Hunters site does this far better justice than my overworked Samsung. Take a look:

The site also offers free coloring sheets, which makes my passive programmer’s heart SING.

The Dragon Hunters is the first in a trilogy, all of which are publishing this year. The Dragon Tamers hits shelves in June, and The Dragon Riders arrives in August. James Russell has a chapter book series called The Dragon Defenders coming out this year – let’s hope it reaches American shores, so middle graders can enjoy Paddy, Flynn, and Coco.

Artist Link Choi’s work on The Dragon Hunters was a finalist for New Zealand’s Russell Clark Medal for Illustration. See more of his illustration at his website.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Holiday Giveaway: How to Catch an Elf!

The holidays are just around the corner and it’s time to catch an elf!

catch-and-elf

Sourcebooks’ newest holiday picture book, How to Catch an Elf (ON SALE; October 2016, $10.99), is the latest from the gang who brought us the New York Times bestseller, How to Catch a Leprechaun. This time out, one of Santa’s elves is wise to kids’ tricks: they can’t catch Santa, so they’re going to try and catch him! He’s got to navigate all the traps that kids set – and keep Santa safe and delivering presents! -as Christmas Eve progresses.

The endpapers bring you right into the fun, with peppermint candies across a pale blue background. The digital over sketched artwork is adorable – I love Santa’s and the elf narrator’s sweet facial expressions, and the traps are hilariously complex, like mad scientists in training got together and worked on them. The rhyming text makes for some fun reading, and watching the duo dodge flying food, prowling pets, and the Elf Snatcher 3000 allow for kids to point out some wacky Christmas fun. This is a great Christmas read-aloud – make sure to get those milk and cookies ready before you settle down with this book and your favorite little elves on Christmas Eve.

Want a chance to win a $50 gift card for some last-minute holiday shopping? It’s simple – snap a photo of your very own #elftrap and post it with the hashtag #catchanelf, to be entered to win a $50 gift card for last-minute holiday shopping! There are more details on the Sourcebooks Pinterest page. Good luck!

Want a chance to win your own copy of How to Catch an Elf? If you’re a US or Canada resident, just enter this  Rafflecopter giveaway and I’ll contact you if you’re a winner! This giveaway also runs through December 16, so enter now!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Spell Thief

The Spell Thief
By Tom Percival
December 6, 2016; Hardcover, ISBN: 9781492646648

9781492641773-pr

Book Info:
Title: The Spell Thief
Author: Tom Percival
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Summary:

Join Red, Jack, Rapunzel, and Anansi in this fun fairy tale mash-up chapter book series!

Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and his magical talking chicken, Betsy, have always been great at making new friends, like their BFFs Red and Rapunzel. But when Jack spots Anansi, the new kid in town, talking to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods, he immediately becomes suspicious. Everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy. Even if that means using stolen magic!

Goodreads Link: http://ow.ly/rDgP3065Ww6

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://ow.ly/ud3O3065WD0

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/o76x3065WMa

IndieBound: http://ow.ly/9sfN3065WPn

About the Author:
Tom Percival studied graphic design in South Wales and has illustrated several picture books. He lives with his family in Bristol, England.

Social Media Links:
Author Website: http://tom-percival.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AllAboutTomPercival
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPercivalsays
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/tomp/

1
A Ship Comes In

spellthief_1

Jack walked through the Deep Dark Woods with his pet hen Betsy tucked under one arm. He took a deep breath of the woodland air. It smelled fresh and exciting. Today was going to be a good day—he could just tell.

He walked toward a small, wooden cottage surrounded by a well-kept wooden fence. There was a fountain in the garden, also made of wood, but instead of water, it was blowing sawdust high into the air.

spellthief_whatsquawked Betsy.

 

 

“Don’t worry, Betsy. It’s only sawdust,” replied Jack. He wasn’t surprised that his hen had just spoken to him. After all, Betsy was a magical hen. Sadly, “What?” was the only thing she could say, which made most of their conversations rather one-sided.

spellthief_2Jack wiped his feet on the wooden doormat and knocked on the door. He heard booming footsteps from inside. The door swung open with a creak and a very woody smell.

A large man stood in the doorway, covered in wood shavings and holding a lopsided wooden cup.
“Well, look who it is!” he exclaimed with a smile, “Come on through, Jack! Red and the others are all out back.”

He ushered Jack inside, where every surface, and in fact everything, seemed to be made from wood…including the carpet and the curtains.

“So, how have you been, Jack?” asked Red’s dad.

“Good, thanks,” replied Jack politely. “How about you?”

“Oh, good, Jack, very good!” exclaimed Red’s dad. “In fact, I’ve just made a breakthrough!”

“A breakthrough?” asked Jack.

“With the wooden socks!” replied Red’s dad.

spellthief_3

“Don’t you mean woolen?” countered Jack.

“Woolen socks?” repeated Red’s father, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, “I’m a wood-cutter, Jack, not a wool cutter!”

“Er, right…” said Jack.

“Do you want to try them on?” asked Red’s father, holding out two very solid, very wooden–looking socks.

“Um, not right now,” replied Jack. “I’d better go and catch up with Red. But thanks for the offer.”

Jack raced through the house and into the garden. The tree house towered up in front of him. Red’s dad had carved it out of one giant tree.

Jack’s friends were all sitting in the main room when he climbed in.

“Morning, all!” he called out.

Red grinned, Rapunzel did her very best curtsy, and the twins waved enthusiastically.

“Hey,” started Hansel.

“Jack!” finished Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel often finished each other’s sentences. Sometimes it could be confusing.

“Hey, Jack!” called Red. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

“The good news?” asked Jack hesitantly.

“The good news,” said Rapunzel, leaving a long pause, “is that there’s a ship coming into town from Far Far Away!”

spellthief_whatsquawked Betsy.

 
Jack gasped. A boat from Far Far Away! His dad might have sent him a letter…

“Yep!” added Red. “It should be arriving any minute! We’re going to have a race up to Lookout Point to watch it come in—last one there is a smelly troll!”

“So what’s the bad news?” asked Jack.

“The bad news is that Hansel’s just tied your shoelaces together!” said Rapunzel, as she and everyone else scrambled excitedly from the tree house.

spellthief_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance at one of 2 Copies of The Spell Thief!
Runs December 4-December 16 (US & Canada only)