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<<October 2016>>
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1. WALL ART - kate banazi

Today's P&P posts focus on strong graphics - starting with the work of Sydney based artist Kate Banazi. Originally from London Kate studied at the prestigious art school 'Central St. Martins'. She creates striking screen printed works and collages featuring geometric shapes and lines that give an optical illusion of depth. In 2016, Kate was one of twelve artists, designers and architects

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2. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-24-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

Books I Read This Week:

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies
Candlewick Press, 2016
32 pages
Recommended for all!

You know how all pictures books are great for reading aloud? Well this one seems to NEED to be read aloud. Teach reading? Then read this book to your students, no matter the age. Humorous, whimsical-eye catching art, and a perfect tie in to how stories are set up. My favorite page: when the octopus sits down to play the ukulele, "because music is good for the heart." 

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Candlewick Press, 2016
48 pages
Recommended for all!

I love a good mystery and a good puzzle, and this book is a little of both. All the text is told in a language created by author/illustrator, Carson Ellis; who, by the way, creates some amazing artwork.
I imagine myself sharing this story with my students, asking them to imagine what is being said. Are there patterns in the language? How does the text connect to the images? What do you think is being said? Curious and creative readers will enjoy!
I love the spider. Well, I detest spiders, but I love what the presence of the spider does to the story.

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2016
56 pages
Recommended for all!

So it ends. The trilogy comes to a close as you turn the final page in this story. Remember the bear and the rabbit...and how the bear solved the problem of his hat being stolen? Some say smush, some say chomp, all agree, it didn't end well for the hat stealing rabbit. And remember the fish, that tiny hat stealing fish that brags about how clever and shifty he is. No remorse. Well, remember what happened to him? With thoughts of hat stealers getting what comes to them, readers will be delightfully curious about how two of the same creature will end this latest conundrum around one hat and two wanna be hat wearers. I mean, this thought will come to mind: Does that tortoise EAT his companion?! Or is that just me that thought that...?

I'm Currently Reading:

I have more books to read than I can make a dent in, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I chose this one based on its awesome title and fantastic cover art. Not ashamed at all! And much to my delight, I discovered by very own hometown featured in the first few pages! Thankfully I have yet to cross paths with the Evil Wizard Smallbone in real life...eek.

Thanks for visiting!

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3. What Steven Universe Tells Us About Children’s Books and Libraries in Pop Culture


I’ve grown a bit fond of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe lately.  Coming to it a bit late (I believe we’re on season 4 now, yes?) it took a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode to explain to me why the series was as groundbreaking and important as it was.  This is advantage of having a five-year-old.  When something like this comes up you can pretend you’re watching a new series for them when, in fact, you’re just curious for yourself.  If you’re unfamiliar with Steven Universe I’ll try to sum it up quickly: In this world there are superhero female characters called “Gems”. Steven, our hero, is half-Gem, half-human, which is unique. The show then proceeds to upset stereotypical notions of gender and love.

If you pay any attention to the New York Times bestseller list, you might have noticed this book on the Children’s Chapter Books list a week or two ago:


It’s a Steven Universe book.  There are a couple of them out there, written for kids to wildly varying degrees of competency.  This one I intend to read soon.  It got me to thinking, when I discovered it.  After all, children’s literature and Steven Universe fuel one another in a more direct manner.  The world of SU has television shows, movies, and bands that are unique and often very funny.  They also have their own literature.  For example, a common romance/scifi novel might look like this:


And children’s books are particularly interesting.  When Steven is banned from television for 1,000 years he finds that he really likes reading.  Two series in particular catch his attention: The No Home Boys and The Spirit Morph Saga.  I just want to take a look at these books because I’m always interested in how children’s books are portrayed in works of pop culture.


The No Home Boys series is written by Dustylegs Jefferson.  The original series apparently came out in the 1930s and was about two boys on the run, solving mysteries along the way.  Sounds a bit like The Boxcar Children meets Hardy Boys.  You might throw The Black Stallion in there as well, though, since there was also apparently a “disastrous graphic novel adaptation” of the book as well.  One of the characters on the show writes this review of it:

nohomeboys“Some fans turned up their noses at the new adventures of the No Home Boys. The old series was a down to earth travelogue – a gritty portrayal of growing up during the Great Depression. The new series was full of magic demons, talking animals and ninjas. Sure it didn’t have the same campfire charm, but the expanded “Hoboverse” had much more character development and backstory for readers to sink their teeth into.”

To me this sounds like what happened with more recent Black Stallion books, though the graphic novel adaptation throws it squarely into the Hardy Boys camp as well.  Whatever the case, I love the thought put into the series.

unfamiliarfamiliarThe Spirit Morph Saga is a bit different.  It’s a multi-book series about a girl who discovers that she is a witch, gains a familiar (a talking falcon named Archimicarus), and attempts to rescue her father, who was kidnapped by a one-eyed man.  Though some folks online compare the book to His Dark Materials, it bears far more similarities to Harry Potter and, in a strange way, Twilight.  An entire episode of Steven Universe is based on the fact that at the end of the series the falcon turns into a man and marries Lisa in a big multi-chapter sequence.  Connie, Steven’s best friend, is incensed by this.  It’s rather delightful to watch.


Alas, Steven was granted his television rights again (though the set seems to be destroyed on a regular basis) so no new book series beyond these two have come up recently.  There was, however, a trip to the local library.  It was pretty standard stuff.  A librarian was shushing the kids all the time.  Computers were minimal.  It looks like nothing so much as a library that has failed to get additional funding (which, considering the economy of Beach City, is not unbelievable).  Ah well.

Here’s hoping for more faux children’s books series in the future.  In the end, they say more about perceptions of children’s literature than anything else.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



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4. THE INQUISITOR'S TALE by Adam Gidwitz

The Inquisitor's Tale (Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog) by Adam Gidwitz, illuminated by Hatem Aly (Sept 27, 2016, Dutton Children's Books, 384 pages, for ages 10 and up).

Synopsis (from the publisher):  1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.
Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Why I recommend it: A medieval story that's still quite timely. It speaks volumes about the way we treat each other today. It's also one of the most unusual MG novels I've ever read. You'll find yourself so caught up in the story and so curious about where this is leading that you'll want to put off tasks and cancel appointments just so you can keep reading. (Not that I, coughcough, did those things...)

Favorite lines: There are so many! It's a very quotable book. Randomly picking one:  "William always admired the Italian boys' way of looking up from under their eyebrows that was either totally respectful or utterly disrespectful, and you could never tell which." (from p. 35 of the advanced reading copy)

Bonus: It's illuminating as well as entertaining. You'll learn a lot about thirteenth-century France. Adam Gidwitz spent six years researching this novel and it paid off beautifully.

Author's website

For another take on this book (and a fun interview with the author) visit Middle Grade Mafioso's post from October 3, 2016.

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6. MMGM Links (10/24/16)

I seriously don't know how we are now ONE WEEK away from LODESTAR. But it's happening. And my To Do list is officially EXPLODING.

So as a quick reminder, again--I'll do my best to keep up with MMGM over the next few weeks, but it's always tricky when I'm traveling (sometimes internet is spotty--or my itinerary is so crammed I don't have a moment to breathe, much less assemble links). So bear with me if it's a little bumpy around here. (And once again, if you haven't checked my events page to see if I'm coming to see you, go HERE)

Also, this is the final week to take advantage of the LODESTAR Pre-Order giveaway so make sure you don't miss your chance. For details, and the form you'll need to fill out in order to get your swag, go HERE.

And now, on to MMGM!

- Middle Grade Minded joins the MMGM fun with a review of DRAGON OF THE MONTH CLUB. Click HERE to welcome them to the group.  
- Jess at the Reading Nook is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--JOURNEY'S END. Click HERE for details. 
- Tara Creel has a review--with an interview--of IF THE MAGIC FITS. Click HERE for all the fun. 
- Sue Kooky is whispering about THE WHISPERING SKULL. Click HERE to check it out.  
- Justin Talks Books is voting for THE KID WHO RAN FOR PRESIDENT. Click HERE to read his feature.  
- Patricia at Children's Books Heal is singing praises for THE MASK THAT SANG. Click HERE to see why. 
- Bookish Ambition is rooting for DISAPPEARING ACT. Click HERE to see what they thought. 
- Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is featuring NBA Star Amar'e Stoudamire's STAT series. Click HERE to see what he has to say. 
- Suzanne Warr is spotlighting INVISIBLE INKLING.  Click HERE to see why.   
- Got my Book has an audiobook review of THE CITY OF EMBER. Click HERE to see what they thought.  
- Completely Full Bookshelf is recommending WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER. Click HERE to see why.  
- The B.O.B. has an epic list of Greek Mythology books. Click HERE to see what they are.
- Greg Pattridge is rooting for THE BEST MAN. Click HERE to read his review.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--EDNA IN THE DESERT. Click HERE for all the fun. 
- Heidi Grange is taken with TOOK. Click HERE to see why.  
- Jenni Enzor is championing THE TURN OF THE TIDE. Click HERE to see what she thought.  
- Sally's Bookshelf is sharing SCAR: A Revolutionary War Tale. Click HERE for her feature. 
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time.  
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week  
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site. 
- Shannon O'Donnell is back--and planning a weekly MMGM again. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.   

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately--and please don't forget to say what book you're featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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7. Formatting Your Novel

Here are the basics of formatting your novel for submission, including submitting via email.


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8. ILLUSTRATION - paul farrell book

Illustrator, graphic designer and print-maker Paul Farrell's debut book 'Great Britain in Colour', was published on 22 September by Boxtree and Pan Macmillan. The 166 full page colour illustrations are one years' work and the book was completed almost two years from the start. It is a personal journey full of memories and travels from the last 45 years or so. There are hidden gems, familiar

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9. Kate the Great and a Giveaway

Suzy Becker must be a ten-year-old girl disguised as a grown-up because she NAILS her adorable character Kate in her new book, Kate the Great: Winner Takes All.

Kirkus says: "A zippy little visit with a likable 10-year-old"

ZIPPY is the perfect word.

Reading this book gave me so many flashbacks and stirred up happy memories from my own childhood.

Like speaking ubbi dubbi. Anybody remember that? The kids on the TV show, Zoom, used to do it. 

Dubo yubou ububbi dububbi?

And the egg thing!

Someone breaks an imaginary egg on your head. Remember that?

From the book:

I sit on the edge of her other bed.  "I'll do the egg thing." After three imaginary eggs, I'm feeling very sleepy.


Do NOT read this book if you don't want to laugh because it is so dang funny.

You WILL laugh. 

A lot.

But the best, best, best parts of this book are the hysterical drawings and handwritten notes.

Here are some of my favorites:

Gene is the school bus driver

This book has kid-appeal written all over it.

Kate is definitely great. 

And so is Suzy Becker.

Because she's GIVING AWAY A COPY!!

Just leave a comment below by 10/27. (I'll also be asking for retweets on Twitter.)  

Kate the Great: Winner Takes All is the sequel to Kate the Great: Except When She's Not, published by Crown Books. Available in stores November 1. 

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10. ‘Trolls’ Launches With $18 Million Internationally; GKIDS Expands ‘Miss Hokusai’ in U.S.

"Trolls" debuted at No. 1 in nine markets.

The post ‘Trolls’ Launches With $18 Million Internationally; GKIDS Expands ‘Miss Hokusai’ in U.S. appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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11. Rainy Day Sale

My mum used to tuck things away for 'a rainy day'. This was usually a pile of old comics or a book that she had picked up at a jumble sale, for when I was sick or if it was literally a rainy day. I've been saving my book toys for a rainy day, and that time has come. So everything I have left from my book 'Little Needle-Felt Animals' is up for grabs. I've tried to keep prices as low as possible, and there are small things -

 And larger things - 

I am often asked how I can bear to part with my work, and my usual answer is that I can't pay the bills or mortgage with a needle felt cat. I am pretty torn about selling these little friends, as creating them for my book got me through my darkest hours when I lost Andy. But they've decorated my studio for long enough, so I'm hoping at least some of them will find new homes. They're all available in a special sale section in my Etsy shop here. All come with signed name tags and a little certificate tag.

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12. दीपावली की रात्रि में टोने-टोटके – दीपावली की सफाई

दीपावली की रात्रि में टोने-टोटके – दीपावली की सफाई – दीपावली आती नही कि टोने टोटके से ना सिर्फ सडक, चौराहा बल्कि हमारा इंटर नेट भी ऐसी पोस्ट से भर जाता है. जिसमें जगह जगह लिखा होता है कि फलां टोटका करो लक्ष्मी प्रसन्न होगी… फलां करो ये बरकत आएगी… और हैरानी है कि हम […]

The post दीपावली की रात्रि में टोने-टोटके – दीपावली की सफाई appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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13. Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by Gary Northfield, 288 pp, RL 4

I absolutely love the concept for Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by the genius Gary Northfield! If I had to nutshell it, I'd say, think Terry Deary's Horrible Histories meets 13 Story Tree House. Julius is a hilarious character living in a time period that makes for some crazy adventures. Northfield layers in the history, from using Roman numerals for the page numbers to giving characters Roman names, as well as the names of famous Romans, and using Latin and the historically accurate names for the fights, fighters, arenas and more that appear in this book. There is even a tutorial on how to read Roman numerals and a glossary at the back of the book!

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! begins in African plains at a watering hole, called the Lake of Doom by Julius, that he does not want to be at. Actually, the book begins with Julius schooling readers about what zebras are really like, burps and all. It stinks (an illustration shows a yak pooping in the lake) is "sooo boring!" and presents the constant danger of being eaten. Wandering off from the Lake of Doom and trying to outrun a lion, Julius and helpful but annoying warthog named Cornelius and . . . a lion.

Never fear, it's not as bad as it seems! The naive Julius hears talk of a circus and caravans, of juggling monkeys and bears dancing with ostriches and he gets pretty excited. Unfortunately, the circus he is going to is the Circus Maximus (well, actually the Colosseum) and he is going to be performing in it, not watching it. This is such a fantastic conceit and I really hope that kids take to this kind of mash-up of history and humor so that Julius Zebra spawns imitators the way Diary of a Wimpy Kid has.

Instead of losing his life to gladiators in the ring, in an effort to keep himself from becoming "someone's fancy carpet," Julius grabs a sword and saves his tail, winning over the crowd and the Emperor, Hadrian. Julius earns himself a spot in the gladiatorial championship in 30 days that will celebrate Hadrian's birthday. As the new "People's Champion," he will get to fight for his freedom, and fame and wealth. Julius, Cornelius and a gang of animals, including Lucia, a vegetarian crocodile, Pliny the mouse, Milus the lion, Rufus a giraffe and Felix, a gazelle, begin training for the battle and also for escape. I don't want to give away the ending, but there is a second book in this series...

Source: Review Copy

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14. आज की ताजा खबर क्या है – आतंकी खबरें

आज की ताजा खबर क्या है- एक समय था जब लाल बत्ती चौक पर अखबार वाले आज की ताजा खबर चिल्लाते हुए अखबार बेचने के लिए भाग दौड करते थे आज भले ही मीडिया, नेट सुपर फास्ट हो गया. पर न्यूज चैंल वहीं की वहीं अटके पडे…कहने को 24 घंटे का चैनल है पर खबर […]

The post आज की ताजा खबर क्या है – आतंकी खबरें appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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15. Reminders About Small Group Instruction

Whenever I pull a small group for a lesson, there are some important guidelines I try to remember and follow.

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17. Sky wants to Visit Earth

The blue canvas is alive,
In search of a wife,
To complete his life,
Or to take a jibe,

A jibe at the destiny,
That spills the electron,
The electricity is drawn,
Leaving the rest to sanity,

 He looks from the top,
The world of desires,
Hidden umpteen fires,
Thinks of taking a stop,

But suddenly the circle,
Converts to an octagon,
As inert as the halogen,
The humanity turns purple,

The green army missing,
Nobody actually cares,
Nobody here dares,
Monotony ruling & kissing,

Oh! The back stabbing and pain,
He gets withdrawn instantly,
From the faces,weird and ugly,
And finally catches the local train,

Well the local isn’t so vocal,
He observes the creatures,
From such height those miniatures,
Doesn’t seem to be focal,

Oh! He spots them hiding,
Behind a green paper,
But environment tapers,
They weren’t law abiding,

And he crosses the barriers,
Touch the essence of elation,
Human calls it education,
Still confused, moving as carriers,

He looks around for freshness,
History doesn’t seem to amuse,
As the economy fails to deduce,
Confusion remains to harness,

What a world, he thought,
Everything yet empty,
Miniatures went to kempty,
Carrying a slot,

He calls his friends,
And they started crying,
Oh! Humanity started dying,
Incessant rain joins the trends,

Finally, he stitches confusion,
Pondering about his birth,
He remain above the earth,
Trusting his intuition. 

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Today (October 23, 2016), via Twitter, I received a photo of a page from Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise by Suzy Kline, published in 1991 by Viking.

Here's the photo:

Mr. Cardini (the principal) asks Doug (one of the main characters) if he's finished with a get well card he's making for his teacher, Miss Mackle, who is in the hospital. Doug replies:
"I just need to color in my Indian's headband. I gave him 15 feathers."
"You're putting an Indian on Miss Mackle's get well card?"
"Well, sometimes the Indians didn't have a very good Christmas. It was cold and there wasn't always enough food. I just thought it would make Miss Mackle feel better if she knew the Indians had hard times, too."
"Good thinking, Doug. There's a saying for that--misery likes company."
I gather that Viking is part of Penguin Puffin. Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise was apparently part of Scholastic's offerings, too. There's a lesson plan for using it at the Scholastic website. Not a word there, of course, about the problems in that passage. Horrible Harry is a series... I wonder what I'd find in the other 24?!

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19. Inktober Day 24: Aide-de-Cramp

Aide-de-Cramp. Day 24 of #Inktober2016.

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20. Artist of the Day: Kento Iida

Discover the art of Kento Iida, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day.

The post Artist of the Day: Kento Iida appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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21. FIVE QUESTIONS with HAZEL MITCHELL, author/illustrator of “TOBY”


Welcome to the second installment of my “5 Questions” series. On a weekly or bi-weekly or completely random basis, I will interview an author or illustrator and focus on a specific book. In the coming weeks, we’ll spend time with Matthew Cordell, Jessica Olien, Matthew McElligott, Lizzy Rockwell and more. Why? I like these people and I love their books. Sue me. Today we get to hang out with Hazel Mitchell, who is as glorious as a glass of champagne at a good wedding. Drink deeply, my friends . . .



JP: Greetings, Hazel. Thanks for stopping by my swanky blog. I hope you don’t find the vibe too intimidating. I put up the tapestry just for you. The lava lamps have been here for a while. Because nothing says “classy” quite like a lava lamp. Sit anywhere you like, but the milk crates are most comfortable.


Hazel: Thanks, JP. This is certainly an eclectic place you’ve got here. Wow, is that a glitter ball? Next you will be wearing a white suit. Excuse me while I remove this stuffed meerkat from the milk crate . . . 

1c971b5bc7c4a067d09cad45ee38361cCareful with that meerkat, it’s expensive. Hey, do I detect an accent? Wait, let me guess! You are from . . . Kentucky?

No getting anything past you! Kentucky, Yorkshire, England. OK, just Yorkshire, England. I’m a late pilgrim.

We recently sat side-by-side at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival, where I got the chance to read your wonderful new picture book, Toby, and eavesdrop on your lively interactions with young readers. At times, alarmingly, you spoke in the voice of a hand puppet. So let me see if I’ve got this straight: Toby is a real dog, but not a true story, exactly? How does that work?

toby-realistic-sketchesYes, we did sit next to each other and it was a lot of fun to see you in action! I didn’t know you were eavesdropping, I’d have dropped in some of those Shakespearean ‘asides’ just for you. And I must watch that hand puppet voice, I even do it without the hand puppet . . .

OK, to the question: Yes, Toby is a real dog. I rescued him from a puppy mill situation back in 2013. He was so endearing and his journey from frozen dog to bossy boots captured my heart. I began drawing him, because that’s what illustrators do, and before I knew it I was weaving a story round him. But I didn’t want to feature myself as the owner in Toby’s story, that was kind of boring and I figured Toby needed a younger owner, one who children could relate to. So I gave Toby a boy who adopts him and a Dad who is struggling with moving house, looking after his son AND now a new dog. The fictionalized setting gave me lots of ideas and emotions to play with, but the stuff Toby gets up to in the book is taken from things he did in real life.


I can see it’s a work that comes from your heart. And by “see” I mean: I could feel it. A heartwarming story for young children living in a cynical age. The book is beautifully designed. I especially admire the pacing of it, the way you vary the number and size of the many illustrations. Please tell me a little about that decision-making process.


Thank you. I love that you say ‘feel.’ I wanted this book to be about emotions and feelings and bring the reader into the internal dialogue of the boy and dog’s fears and frustrations. Just small things you know, but life is full of small things that make up the big things. And again, thank you for your kind words on the design, working with Candlewick, my editor (Liz Bicknell) and art director (Ann Stott), was a joy. We did a lot of drafts at rough sketch stage and as the layout of the book evolved a lot of graphic novel style panels crept in and then the wide double-spreads to open out the story. I like how it flows. The choice of colors really adds to the story I think, moody blues and beiges that reflect the emotions and then brighter colours when things are going well. The boy and dog are connected by the colour red –- Toby’s collar and the boy’s sneakers. 

Oh, thank you, Hazel, for sharing those behind-the-scenes details. I appreciate seeing the black-and-white sketches, too. I think even when readers don’t consciously notice those subtle details, they still manage to seep into our unconsciousness. It’s fascinating how much thought goes into the work that most readers probably don’t think they see.





I like that your book doesn’t gloss over the challenges of owning a dog. It’s not always cuddles and sunshine. Why did you feel it was important to include the downside of dog ownership?

Because that is the reality of life and children are very capable of dealing with realities and working through problems. Sometimes it’s adults who want everything to be cuddles and sunshine, and try to save youngsters from the real world. Well we can’t do that, because it comes at us fast. I never get tired of seeing or hearing about a child responding to a book and saying, “Yeah, that happened to me,” or “I know that feeling.” It’s like you’ve been given a gift. 


I see that you live in Maine. You must get this question a lot, but why isn’t Toby a moose? Do you see many moose up there? Can we please just talk about moose for a little while? And what goes on in Maine? Do you eat lobster all the time? While reading Stephen King? Or do I have some misconceptions? How did you end up there?

Toby channels his inner moose at times, which is scary in a poodle. There aren’t so many moose around our way, but drive a little North and there is moose-a-plenty (that could be a good name for a snack?). 

Sounds delicious.

I once drove home from a school visit in the FAR NORTH at twilight (that was my first mistake), it was misty and I was driving down a road where I swear there was a moose every 5 yards. I drove 30 miles at 5 MPH. I got home after six months. These moose were SO darn big and SO close to the car I could literally see up their nostrils. Man, moose need help with superfluous hair.


Wow, you really did see up their nostrils. You are scaring me a little bit, Hazel. Eyes on the road. Speaking of scary . . .

Stephen King lives in the next town over, but you know, he’s a recluse. I eat lobster with lobster on top. Delish. When I moved to the US of A from over the pond I landed in the South. Then moved to Maine. I like the cold much better! (And the lobster).

Do you have ideas for any more Toby stories? I think readers will want more.

I do have more ideas about stories for Toby. But we will have to wait and see. Readers! Write to my publisher! 

I’m so glad you visited, Hazel. It’s nice spending time with you. I hope Toby enjoys a long and mischievous life in children’s books.

It’s been fun. Best five questions anyone asked me all morning. Thanks for having me drop by … oops … there goes a lava lamp!

Six bucks down the drain. We’re done here.


imanismooncvr_300-819x1024In addition to Toby, Hazel Mitchell has illustrated several books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? Originally from England, where she attended art college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. You may learn more about Hazel at www.hazelmitchell.com

TOBY Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts

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22. Announcing the Winner of the Children's Christmas Book: Operation Birthday Blessings

Congratulations, Janey G. from South Carolina! You've won a free copy of Angelika Martin's children's book.

I'll give Angie your full name as the winner from my blog. Go ahead and contact her on her website at http://www.jesseandbongo.com/contact.html. Contact her before the end of October so she'll have plenty of time to personalize your book for you.

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway. I've got several more fantastic giveaways coming up soon!

I hope you all have a week full of joyful blessings and a peace that passes all understanding,


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23. The Inspiration Behind The Milly’s Magic Quilt Stories

A Guest Post by Author and Artist Natasha Murray

I really enjoyed creating and illustrating these books and hope that children 5+ will enjoy Milly and Patch’s adventures.

Milly’s quilt is made up from fabric that once belonged to some colourful characters with stories to tell. Some of the patches are from her baby blanket. One night, Patch her pet rabbit appears on her bed and Milly discovers that if she holds her hand on one of the squares they are both transported to a magical land.

As a child, I enjoyed the TV cartoon series ‘Mr Ben’ and loved seeing where the changing room at the fancy dress shop would take him. This was really what inspired me to write these books. 

There have always been rabbits in my life and one named Napoleon, I loved dearly. She was a blue grey colour and we thought she was a boy until she had babies. Napoleon got sick once and I crept out in the dark and sat in a sleeping bag on a step near to her hutch with her in my arms and stayed there all night. I am glad to say that she recovered. If I had been allowed, then I would have had Napoleon live in my bedroom with me.

It’s always fun to look at drawings and work that you did when you were a child and some of my stories were strange and I wonder what was going through my head at the time. The idea for ‘Humbert the Lonely Giant’ came from a story I remembered writing when I was at secondary school. I have always loved reading and thought the library was an exciting place to be. I enjoyed fairy tales and especially loved Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Wood.

I grew up in North London and lived near to a playing field surrounded by trees. My friends and I would make camps, hideout and live out magical adventures there. Make believe was always an important part of our lives. We also loved riding our bikes around the block at breakneck speed.

I now live by the sea and spend a lot of time writing, designing, daydreaming and thinking up new and exciting tales for all ages.

To view all Natasha's books please click here

Thank you very much Natasha it was fun to read about your childhood and the inspiration behind your stories. Barbara

 Natasha's mention of secondary school reminded me of a very long, convoluted tale I wrote when I was at school. In my story, the action took place in a series of ‘lost' tunnels and ghostly lighthouses, based almost entirely on books written by Enid Blyton.  After I married and left home, my mum had the very good sense to consign it to the dustbin. Had she not I might well be in trouble for plagiarism!

Did you write stories when you were a child?  Have you continued to write or is it just something you did at school?

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24. A Little Nibble

I saw a little nibble
In my mini-pumpkin gourd,
But one small bite is more than
What that gourd can well afford.

The likely culprit (chipmunk?)
Didn’t like the taste he got,
Though just a tiny hole’s enough
To welcome in the rot.

What’s meant as decoration
For a Halloweeny mood
Is, to all non-human creatures,
Nothing more than gratis food.

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25. Monday Mishmash 10/24/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. NaNoWriMo  I have decided to officially participate in NaNoWriMo next month. I've unofficially participated in the past, writing a novel in the month of November, but since I have an adult mystery that needs to be written, I'm committing to doing this. Who else will be participating?
  2. Editing  I'm finishing up another client edit this week.
  3. Plotting  I have the research done for my adult mystery, but I need to flesh out my plot before NaNo begins.
  4. Fading Into the Shadows e-ARCs  e-ARCS for my YA paranormal (releasing January 16, 2017) Fading Into the Shadows are being formatted tomorrow! I'm so excited for this book. If you'd like to sign up for an e-ARC, you can do so here.
  5. Cover Reveal Signups  If you're interested in signing up to help me reveal the cover of Fading Into the Shadows on November 16th-18th, you can find the form here. This is a social media cover reveal, so you don't need a blog to participate.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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