Monday, October 20, 2014

Frank! By Connah Brecon

FRANK! By CONNAH BRECON

About the Book: 

Try as he might (or might not), Frank is a bear who is always late. And when he starts school, the trouble really begins.

Frank has very good reasons, like the time he had to save a cat stuck in a tree and the morning he found himself challenged to a charity dance-off, and even the time he had to rescue a family of bunnies from a huge, smelly ogre.

Frank's teacher has heard enough of Frank's excuses, but what happens when a giant zombie lizard king really does attack the school?

Sometimes there is truth to the most unusual of circumstances, and being helpful can pay off in the most unexpected ways.

What I thought:  

Frank! is a really fun picture book. We all know that one person who is always late and that's why we'll all be able to relate to Frank. Frank comes up with some of the most absurd excuses for being late--I mean, it's not often you're mistaken for a famous dancer and get challenged to a dance-off by an Elvis look-alike. It's also not often that you find a family of bunnies being bullied by an ogre and must say something. That's why in the end, when a giant zombie lizard king really does attack the school, it's Frank who comes to the rescue. I absolutely love the illustrations and find them to be pretty unique compared to other picture books on the market. Children will especially love the bright colors and will pick up the quirky appeal. This would be a great picture book to use in the classroom to discuss making excuses, being on time, and working together. Then everyone can have their own dance off!

Additional Information:

Age Range: 3 - 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids (September 30, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0762454237
ISBN-13: 978-0762454235

Watch the Frank! Book Trailer:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Princes Charming Return in The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom rocked middle-grade literature last year as it dared to go where no other book had dared to go--into the worlds of the men behind some popular fairy tales. We're all familiar with the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty, but author Christopher Healy decided to introduce us to Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Duncan and Prince Gustav--the princes behind these fairy tales.

This year, Healy has taken it another step further with the sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle. Our Princes Charming do not disappoint and 
they have to save the day again.  Liam is forced to marry Briar Rose, who is only interested in Liam's treasures. However, when Briar Rose discovers that a popular sword is missing, she forces Liam and the princes to find it. Only problem is, it was stolen by the Bandit King and is in the witches' old castle, which nobody dares step foot in. 
You can expect the same things you'd find in any fantasy tale. Yes, there are castles, fairy princesses, dragons, giants and trolls.  And yes, there's adventure. But you'll also find a large amount of humor, and a look into the princes who are often overlooked. The princes' characters really come out in this book.  They're cartoony, silly and all out zany, but that's what moves this story along nicely. And just when you thought there would be no more stories to tell about the princes, you'll find yourself looking forward to the third installment.

Additional Information:
Reading level: ages 8 and up 

Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (April 30, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0062118455
ISBN-13: 978-0062118455



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Dragon and Dangerous Princess blog tour

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing children's book authors Jim Averbeck and Dashka Slater for their “Dragon and the Dangerous Princess” blog tour. Jim Averbeck is celebrating the release of his latest picture book, OH NO LITTLE DRAGON and Dashka Slater is celebrating the release of her new picture book, DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER. I just love the fact that the two authors have teamed up together to shout-out their books and each one presents a new take on your typical dragon and princess characters.


Jim:

What was the inspiration behind OH NO LITTLE DRAGON?
Dashka and I have been touring the blogs and I’ve mentioned elsewhere about the name of my guide on a trip to China being “Xiao Long” which means “Little Dragon” and how I wanted to write a story with a positive attitude toward boys. So maybe for this blog I’ll talk about inspiration for the visual look of the book. I saw that someone on Goodreads said the art was “Charles Schultz - inspired” and, while I didn’t think of it while I was doing the art, I am an admirer of his work. I grew up drawing pictures of the Peanuts characters, particularly Snoopy, who had a sort of pop culture blossoming in the 70s. I can definitely see his influence in the art for this book. I was also inspired by the clean feel of books by someone like Oliver Jeffers.  I love how he uses lots of white space around his boldly colored characters. That’s why the backgrounds in my book have been set in white and simple grey, bringing all the focus on Little Dragon and his awesome fire.

Why were you determined to show that boys have another side than just the rambunctious one?
Because they do. But lately in kid’s lit there has been a trend toward loud, crude depictions of boys for humor’s sake.  I like a lot of those books, but I wanted mine to have a boy who sheds a few tears.

 
I noticed on your website, you have a unique way of making dragons--out of toilet paper tubes! How did you come up with that idea?
Dashka and I had a booth at a “mini-maker faire” in Oakland. I knew I wanted to do a craft that was cheap, easy, and dragon related. I saw a blog online about making dragons out of TP tubes. It was very simple- basically coloring the tube, drawing eyes and sticking a red streamer in its mouth for fire.  I thought it might be good for the smallest kids.  But older kids needed something more challenging. Then I saw these:
http://www.recyclart.org/2009/09/toilet-paper-roll-faces/
and I thought, I could actually sculpt dragon heads with the kids. So I figured out how to cut fold and bend a TP tube to get what I wanted. The results are here:
http://www.jimaverbeckbooks.com/2012/10/tp-tube-dragon.html


Dashka:

What was the inspiration behind DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER?
When my son was in first grade, he came home from school one day and announced he was going to write a story about a queen who wants to plant rose seeds but ends up planting nose seeds instead. I immediately pictured all the comic possibilities of sneezing, snoring nose plants and I was wild to read the story. So I did what any mother from a writing family would do -- I pestered the poor child incessantly. “When are you going to write that nose story?” “Are you still planning to write the nose story?” “How are you coming on that nose story?” Finally I asked him if it would be OK if I  wrote that nose story. In my version the queen became a princess, and the princess had a fondness for dangerous plants. The tone of the book was inspired by E. Nesbit’s fairytales. I discovered her when I was about ten and I instantly fell in love with her sly humor. I loved the way she talked to the reader, as if she understood that children are much more clever and perceptive than anyone gives them credit for.

Why were you determined to show another side to princesses?
I actually never set out to write an unconventional princess tale -- it just never occurred to me to write a conventional one. I made Amanita be the kind of character I like to read about -- someone feisty, unusual and a bit bossy (kind of like me, in fact). Because the story idea came from my son, I wrote it imagining boys reading it as well as girls and I’ve been delighted to discover that boys like it as much as girls do. But really, I just wanted to write a funny story that takes place in a slightly off-kilter fairy tale universe and that I hoped would appeal to everyone.

What effect has having two parents as writers had on your career?
I suppose it made the life of a writer seem both more and less possible. I grew up reading, being read to, and discussing books, and books were constantly being quoted or referred to when anyone tried to describe something. (Conversations in my family tend to begin with, ‘What are you reading?”)  Because they are both writers, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my love of words -- and gave me lots of feedback (not all of it positive) on whatever I wrote. So I understood that writing was something that people actually did for a living and that it was hard work and required lots of revisions. I also understood that it involved lots of rejection and not very much income, which made me think I had better find some sort of alternative career. Unfortunately for my bank account, I never found anything else I was willing to work as hard at. Yet here I am, making my living as a writer, which is something that still seems miraculous to me. I still send early drafts of my books to both my parents for critiques, too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to make spaghetti cupcakes

I'm excited to be a part of the CUPCAKE AND CRUSHES blog tour, spreading the word about the second installment of the delightfully delicious CUPCAKE CLUB series. You can read my review here, but today I'm happy to share with you a great guest-post from Carrie and her mom: A recipe for spaghetti cupcakes!

Learn how to make this incredible cupcake. It may sound a little unconventional, but put it together just right and you have a delicious—and clever—lunch!

Jeremy’s Pastalicious Cupcakes

Spaghetti Cupcakes
Makes 6
                1 Cup tomato sauce
                4 ounces ricotta cheese
                3 ounce Parmesan cheese
                8 ounces shredded mozzarella
                1 tablespoon milk
                1 egg
                1 package pre-cooked whole wheat spaghetti
                1 package of turkey meatballs

Directions
1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.
2.       In a large bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, 1 tablespoon of milk, and 1 egg.
3.       Pour the cooked spaghetti into the bowl with the tomato sauce cheese mixture. Toss the spaghetti in the mixture, making sure to coat all of the noodles.
4.       Add spoonfuls of the mixture into greased muffin tins. It can come up to just below the top of each opening. Press down so the noodles are packed into muffin tin—they will apart if not packed enough.
5.       Dip the turkey meatballs in tomato sauce and the top of cupcakes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
6.       Bake for eighteen to twenty-two minutes.
7.       Let cool for a few minutes. Run a butter knife around each one to loosen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to throw a pajama party


I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the BEDTIME PAJAMA PARTY BLOG TOUR promoting Jeanne C. Blackmore’s new children’s book HOW DOES SLEEP COME?  Elizabeth Sayles’ illustrations paint the coziest, most relaxing pictures that will have the little ones yawning in no time.

Before bed, Jacob asks his Mom, “How does sleep come?”  His mom answers with soothing images that leave Jacob’s eyes drooping as he lifts off to dreamland. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky has been kind enough to provide a Pajama Party Kit that will keep the party interested and provide the children the ability to become a part of Jacob’s bedtime adventure. 
PAJAMA PARTY

BEFORE the party starts:
·       Download invitations that are sure to get responses! 
·        If you want to create your own invitations:
o   Use construction paper to cut out little pajama bottoms and write the desired information on the legs.  Use colored ribbon to make a cute bow on the top to look like pajama draw strings. Put in an envelope and send.
·        Dress to impress in your snazziest pajamas. (Don’t leave out your stuffed animal for comfort!)
·        Make sure you have all your food and materials ready and set up for the guests. (I always have extra so that everyone smiles.)
o   Food Ideas:
§  Milk and Cookies:
--Cookies made in moon, star, and teddy bear shapes
§  Cupcakes with moons and stars as decoration toppings
§  Sliced Apples with Peanut Butter (but check for allergies first!)
·        Decorations are easy for a Pajama theme!  Push living room furniture out of the way first.  Throw pillows around the living room and place plenty of blankets around for a cozy atmosphere.  To add affect, create a starry sky by hanging white twinkly lights around the party area.


DURING the party:
ICEBREAKER GAMES
·        Use the creative writing stars found in the Sourcebooks Pajama Party Kit as an icebreaker.  You can ask questions such as, “What is the best bedtime snack?” or “What stuffed animal do you cuddle with at nighttime?”
·        Easy obstacle course to get energy out before reading the book:
o   Pretend they’re Jacob sprinting to his bed before lights out: jump the pillow, crawl under the chair, go around the footstool and end up in the living room (or party area) for the reading. Have crepe paper “finish” and “start” lines taped to the floor.
READING
·        As you read HOW DOES SLEEP COME have the kids count sailboats and guess what animal will appear next.  Then, ask them how they think sleep comes.
SLEEPY TIME FOOD
            This would be the perfect time to bring out snacks! (see above)
GAMES
·         Like the rabbit in HOW DOES SLEEP COME, race and hop around.  To add effect: make a blanket out of cotton balls on the floor, so that it feels like clouds and snow. 
·        Pajama Contest with winners and prizes for most comfy, most sleepy time props, brightest PJs, and more.  Prizes could be a small plush toy or candy.
·        If it’s a sleepover, have a sleeping bag relay race (similar to potato sack race)
·        Decorate pillowcases to make your very own Dream Canvas to sleep on!  
o   Buy blank pillow cases and assorted permanent markers (safe to sleep on) and draw away!
o   You can also use the pillow case as a cape to look like Jacob on the cover.

Use the downloadable Sourcebooks
Pajama Party Kit for activities that will allow the kids to interact with Jacob’s bedtime in How DOES SLEEP COME?


PARTING GIFTS:
·        Slip one of the cookies they might have enjoyed during the party into a cellophane CD envelope, tie with colored yarn, and add a nice Thank You note or tag.  On the less expensive side, simply use sandwich baggies or saran wrap!
o   The Thank You note can be made with colored construction paper cut out in moons or stars, punch a whole, and attach to yarn!
·        Packets of hot cocoa mix, so when they go home and get ready for bed, they can feel all snuggly and warm.
o   To jazz up the packets, add a Thank You note using the ideas listed above.
·        Make your own bookmarks with dreamlike pictures like the ones you find in the book
·        Purchase glow-in-the-dark stars and put a few in 5.5 " L x 1.5 " W envelopes. You can write Thank You on the front and draw on moons and stars.

Have fun planning your Pajama Party to celebrate HOW DOES SLEEP COME?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Does Sleep Come lulls little ones to sleep

When it's time to put your baby to sleep, do you often turn to the tried-and-true staples? You know what I'm talking about... Time for Bed, Goodnight Moon, or the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I love these just as much as the next Mom, but I was excited to discover HOW DOES SLEEP COME by Jeanne C. Blackmore that was published in September.

In her picture book debut, Jeanne Blackmore creates the perfect soothing atmosphere for your little one to fall asleep. A mother is putting her son to bed when he asks, "How does sleep come?" Jacob's mom tucks him in and goes on to describe how sleep is like snowfall, a fog, a cloud, a cat and more.

“Sleep comes quietly. Like a snowfall that blankets a meadow on a dark starry night, and lays down a soft white canvas for rabbits to leave footprints.”

The text is beautiful and calming to read, just what you need to set the mood for nighttime. The illustrations also have a magical way of capturing that same calm and provide an amazing backdrop for any child to quietly, silently, softly, peacefully, and gently fall asleep. A must have for any new baby!

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (September 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1402271050
ISBN-13: 978-1402271052
Source of review copy: Publicist
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Give young readers a lesson in art history

Looking to give your young artist a lesson in art history?

Celebrate art with Linnea in Monet's Garden. To celebrate the book’s 25th anniversary, Sourcebooks is bringing Linnea in Monet’s Garden back to print this October to inspire a new generation! Young readers join Linnea on her art-inspired adventure in France: visiting Monet's garden, standing on his famous Japanese bridge, gazing at the water lilies, stopping by Notre Dame, watching the sun rise over the Seine, and stepping into the colorful world of the impressionists.

This book is a wonderful addition to any aspiring artist's collection.Young readers will be fascinated by the reproductions of Monet's paintings, family photographs and beautiful watercolor illustrations of Linnea's adventures. If you're also planning to bring your young artist to Paris, the anniversary edition includes a list of museums and things to do in Paris. It's amazing that 25 years after it's orginal publication, this book is still a great resource that captures the magic of art.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; 25 Anv edition (October 2, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1402277296
ISBN-13: 978-1402277290

Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tabbed board books perfect for toddlers

If you're looking for sturdy, toddler-friendly board books, look no further. These wonderful books by Palm Kids will not only stand the test of time, they'll also provide kids with hours of entertainment.

COUNTDOWN BY THE SEA introduces kids to numbers 1 through 10. Together you can countdown from 10 and find different items you find by the sea. For example, the number 10 features 10 chairs, ten buckets and ten shovels and it's up to your little ones to find them. Kids will have fun as you read the rhyming story and they'll be captivated by the vibrant colors on each page.

Additional Information:

Hardcover: 20 pages
Publisher: Palm Publishing; First Edition edition (May 15, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1607277018
ISBN-13: 978-1607277019
Source of review copy: publisher

 When you need a break from practicing your numbers, check out COLORS UNDER THE SEA. Tabs on top of the book feature a different colored fish. Just turn to the page and your child will learn all about that color! The rhyming story makes for a fun read-aloud  and in the corner of each page, children are asked to find certain items. I love the fact that each of these books are sturdy, durable and offer tabs on the top of each book, making it easy for children to turn to the page they'd like. Kids will love the theme, rhyming story and bright colors. Definitely a must for the toddler in your life.


Additional Information:
Board book: 20 pages
Publisher: Palm Publishing; First Edition edition (June 15, 2012)
ISBN-10: 160727700X
ISBN-13: 978-1607277002
Source of review copy: Publisher

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A story that inspires us to never give up hope

We've been inundated by stories of replacement refs and blown calls, but if you're looking for an inspirational story when it comes to football, be sure to check out BELIEVE: MY FAITH AND THE TACKLE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE by Eric LeGrand.

Eric LeGrand has an amazing story and he shares it in this memoir, available as both an adult and young adult edition. LeGrand is a former defensive tackle for the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights football team who suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was left paralyzed by a crushing on-field tackle during a heated game with Army. This book chronicles his journey from his youth to becoming a football player to his injury to his remarkable quest to walk again.

There's no doubt this story has received national attention as LeGrand's positive outlook and strong faith should be something we all can learn from. I was so touched by this story and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read about LeGrand's experience. I hope young readers get the chance to snag this book because it not only brings more attention to spinal cord injuries, it inspires us all to never give up hope.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 224 pages Publisher: HarperCollins; Young Readers' ed edition (September 25, 2012) ISBN-10: 0062225820
ISBN-13: 978-0062225825
Source of review copy: Publisher

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Seed by Seed teaches young readers about Johnny Appleseed

My son's kindergarten class is starting their apple unit this week and perhaps yours is, too. If that's the case, you might want to check out the latest picture book by Esme Raji Codell, SEED BY SEED: THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF JOHN "APPLESEED' CHAPMAN.

We've all heard the folktales of Johnny Appleseed and this picture book introduces young readers to the American hero. Young readers are transported to a different time. A time where there are no airplanes in the sky and phones ringing, but rather the creaking of wagon wheels and the crackling of campfires. Young readers learn that the tales of Johnny Appleseed are three parts legend, one part fact, and stories we're not sure are true. 

SEED BY SEED is a great addition to any library or school and kids will love the fact that any apple they eat today might possibly be a descendant of a tree planted by Johnny Appleseed. The book dives into how Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of a nation and encourages young readers to plant their own seeds.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (August 21, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0061455156
ISBN-13: 978-0061455155
Source of review copy: Publisher

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Poem As Big As New York City is an inspiring journey through the Big Apple

At the heart of children's literature are children, so what better way to celebrate their creativity than by putting together an entire book written by New York City students?

A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY was organized by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, a 45-year old nonprofit organization that offers creative writing programs for students and teachers throughout the five boroughs. What they did is not only inspiring, but it's a reminder of what young people are capable of. For two years, the Teachers & Writers Collaborative implemented a curriculum framework that served as a guide for students to write in poetry workshops. Students were instructed to imagine the poem as a character, traveling through the city and observing all it has to offer. And the result is an entire book that's a  kid's-eye view of The Big Apple, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the subway, the Statue of Liberty and more.

I was born and raised a New Yorker and this book transplanted me back into the heart of the city. The sights, sounds and images are amazing and I can only imagine the creativity it took to put this entire project together. The poem is a great read, and the illustrations by Masha D'yans are truly unique.

For more information about Teachers & Writers Collaborative, please visit www.twc.org

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 38 pages
Publisher: Universe (September 4, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0789320835
ISBN-13: 978-0789320834
Source of review copy: Publicist

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Introducing my Etsy Shop Clay a la Mode

Introducing...

I'm excited to announce that I've set up shop on Etsy! I LOVE books and I LOVE writing, but another outlet for me has been polymer clay. Polymer clay is so versatile, easy to work with, and you can create such amazing things! You'll find various items, including...

Women's Bracelets...

Girl's Bracelets...
Fun charms...


And more. I would truly be honored if you would head over to Clay a la Mode on Etsy and favorite my page, tell a friend about it, or just peruse for your future gift needs. You can also follow Clay a la Mode on Facebook, so you're the first to know when new items are listed.

I look forward to sharing more of my creations with you and can't thank you enough for your continued support!