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1. Squash grow on vines, so …

I decided to learn a new form of social media and create a Vine video about Bernice, the butternut squash, who is a very good friend to Sophie in my new picture book SOPHIE’S SQUASH (Schwartz & Wade, 2013).

Vine videos are six-second videos, usually shot with a smart phone, that loop continuously. Here’s how Bernice got her moment in the spotlight.

Sophie’s Squash

 

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2. A chance to win cool books

You could win these booksWelcome to my new website. Thanks for stopping by. While you’re here, please enter for a chance to win this awesome collection of recent book releases from authors represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

You could receive:

  • TAKE ME TO YOUR BBQ, a picture book by Kathy Duval.
  • ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, a middle grade by Linda Mullaly Hunt.
  • GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES, a middle grade by Mike Jung.
  • KATERINA’S WISH, a middle grade by Jeannie Mobley.
  • BLAZE, a young adult book by L.B. Crompton.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post. If you follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@PatZMiller), you will earn extra entries. I’ll choose the winner on Aug. 20 and contact him or her for shipping information, so please leave your email address.

Thank you! And watch for my debut picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, releasing Aug. 6, 2013 from Schwartz & Wade.

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3. KID REVIEW: Patrick peruses “Nighttime Ninja”

PatrickNeither of my children were ever fans of nighttime strolls.

My oldest threw herself over the edge of her crib once when she was abut 18 months old. She landed with a thud and a wail, so we were well aware of what had happened.

My youngest would occasionally come downstairs in the middle of the night when she was three or four, but she’d always stand right next to my face until I woke up with a start.

But lots of other kids love to explore at night. Like the main character in Nighttime Ninja (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012) written by Barbara DaCosta and illustrated by Ed Young.

But this child doesn’t think he’s exploring. He thinks he’s being a ninja. And the lovely paper collage illustrations show him as a ninja, so it’s not until relatively late in the book that you discover who he really is and what he’s really after.

In fact, today’s guest reviewer, was thoroughly surprised by how things played out.

Take it away, Patrick.

—————

Today’s reviewer: Patrick

Age: 8

I like: Skiing, playing soccer, playing on my iPod.

This book was about: A little boy who wanted to be a ninja — and he was trying to get down to the kitchen to get some hot chocolate. (Editor’s note: When I read the book, I thought the boy was trying to get ice-cream, but I can see how it could be hot chocolate, too. That’s one of the pleasures of picture books — how many ways they can be interpreted.)

The best part was when: The picture just showed his eyes

I smiled when: When you know it’s a boy and not a real ninja. I thought it was a real ninja the first time.

I was surprised when: His mom said, “How about a back-to-bed mission?”

I was worried when: The lights flooded on.

This book taught me: You can’t get up in the middle of the night.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Exciting.” “Interesting.” “Confusing.” (Because I was sure it was a real ninja.)

My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “He crept down the twisting moonlit hallway, and knelt in the dark shadows, listening.”

Other kids should read this book because: You don’t really know what’s going to happen at the end of the story at the beginning. There’s a lot going on and a lot of surprises.

——————

Thank you, Patrick!

Patrick says he doesn’t usually sneak around at night. But one time he went to get a cookie. But it wasn’t a very successful mission. Half of the cookie fell into the dog kennel.

Nighttime Ninja is Barbara DaCosta’s debut picture book. And, it’s done really well.

It was an ALA Notable selection, a Publishers Weekly “Best Children’s Illustrated Book of 2012″, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, was a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2012, a Horn Book “Book of the Week”, and a finalist for James Patterson’s “Read Kiddo Read” contest.

If you’d like to learn more about Barbara, you can visit her blog.

If you’d like to learn more about Ed, who is a Caldecott Award medalist, you can visit his website or read this wonderful interview on the blog Seven Impossible Things.

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4. KID REVIEW: Jordan reads “The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule”

Jordan and No Dog AllowedIshan Mehra is a boy with crazy ideas.

He’s also a boy who wants a dog.

Really, really badly.

But Ishan’s mother is scared of dogs — even the nice one next door — so she says “no” every time he asks.

The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule (Albert Whitman, 2012) written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Carl Pearce tells how Ishan’s single-minded determination wins over his parents despite his crazy ideas and their sometimes disastrous results.

Meet today’s guest reviewer, Jordan, who is here to tell us more. Jordan doesn’t own a dog, but he does have an older brother. And a fish.

———————

Our reviewer: Jordan

Age: 8

Things I like to do: Play football with my brother. And, I like to go to my grandma and grandpa’s house.

This book was about: A boy named Ishan who wanted a dog. His mom didn’t let him get a dog. There was a dog next door named Oggie. Mr. Jackson, the person who owned Oggie, fainted and went to the hospital, and the boy wanted to help keep the dog for a while. When he got the dog, he helped his mom make friends with it. Then, he asked his mom if he could get his own dog, and she said, “Yes.”

The best part was when: When he got the dog.

I smiled when: He was taking blankets off his brother, Sunil.

I was surprised when: When he was a good cook. He made potato-stuffed bread.

I was worried when: When he was making a project in the art room. I didn’t know where he was.

This book taught me: Not to force your parents to get you a dog.

Two words that best describe this book are: “Dog.” “Rules.”

My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “Where do you get such crazy ideas?”

My favorite picture in this book is: When his dad’s glasses were under the bed.

Other kids should read this book because: If you didn’t have a dog, you could find out what it’s like to have one.

———————-

Thank you, Jordan!

Kashmira Sheth has written many other books for kids who are preschoolers all the way up to teenagers. Aria recently reviewed one of Kashmira’s picture books – My Dadima Wears a Sari.

You can learn more about Kashmira and her many books by visiting her website. You also can read this interview with Kashmira on Debbi Michiko Florence’s blog.

If you’d like to learn more about Carl Pearce, you can visit his website. You also can read this interview with Carl.

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5. I’m over on EMU’s Debuts blog

PeopleI have a new blog post over at EMU’s Debuts (the blog for debut authors represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency).

In it, I talk about how writing a book isn’t the solitary endeavor many people think it to be.

Indeed, for me, writing a book takes a village.

You can see my full post here.

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6. KID REVIEW: Dharma loves “Lemonade in Winter”

DharmaSometimes, you can’t argue with a kid with a dream.

Sometimes, you just have to smile and let them do what they want to do, whether it’s wear their frilly princess dress and fairy wings to school, pretend they’re a super-hero for weeks on end or drink their milk from a bowl on the floor — just like a kitty.

Parents the world over know that sometimes, if nothing harmful could happen, the best thing you can do is just roll with it.

That’s sort of what happens in Lemonade in Winter: A  Book About Two Kids Counting Money (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

This picture book tells the tale of Pauline and John-John, a brother-sister team with a mission — to have an outdoor lemonade stand in the middle of their cold, snowy winter.

Mom and Dad try their best to be logical.

“Nobody will be on the street.”

“Can’t you see it’s freezing?”

But Pauline and John-John will not be dissuaded.

Lemonade in WinterMoney is pooled.

Provisions are purchased.

And a lemonade stand is opened.

What happens next?

Let’s ask today’s guest reviewer.

—————————

Today’s reviewer: Dharma.

Age: 8

I like: Pizza, math, biking, and video games like Aion.

This book was about: Two kids counting money.

The best part was when: They were making lemonade and limeade. It was exhausting. You just know it.

I laughed when: The girl kissed the man for buying her a limeade.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Crazy.” “Easy.” “Silly.”

My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “You kids are crazy.”

You should read this book because: If you are a kindergartener or in first grade even, it will help you learn to count money, maybe.

—————————

 To learn more about Emily Jenkins, you can visit her website or read this interview on the blog Writing and Ruminating.

To learn more about G. Brian Karas, you can visit his website or read this interview that was in Publishers Weekly.

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7. A GLEE-ful read: The book I’d recommend to Marley Rose

Fat AngieNo matter how you slice it, Marley Rose, the new lead singer for the New Directions at William McKinley High, has had a year of ups and downs.

Ups

  • She auditioned for and was named to the defending national champion glee club.
  • She was designated “the new Rachel” by most other club members.
  • She found friends, which was something  she apparently didn’t have in her previous school.
  • She won the lead in the school’s production of “Grease.”
  • She had not one, but two, boys pursuing her romantically.

Downs

  • She spent much of the early part of this season hiding her family’s poverty.
  • She also tried to keep her friends from finding out that her mother was the very large school lunch lady.
  • She turned into a female Finn Hudson, unable to definitively decide who she wanted to date — Jake Puckerman or Ryder Lynn.
  • She was so eager to be accepted that she developed an eating disorder. (Here I’d just like to add that eating disorders are much more complicated and insidious than Glee has even begun to show. For a real idea, read Brave Girl Eating, a memoir by Harriet Brown.)
  • She eventually collapsed on stage at sectionals, disqualifying the New Directions.

That’s a lot for a sophomore to handle.

And some would argue Marley has handled it by doing … not much of anything. She’s tentative. Unsure. Passive. So she sits back and waits for things to happen instead of pushing forward and making things happen. After watching the first few episodes this year, my own teenage daughter said, “She needs to grow a spine.”

But you know me. I think reading the right book can help resolve many problems in life, including the lack of a spine. So if I were a Glee librarian, I’d hand Marley, who’s played by Melissa Benoist, a copy of  Fat Angie (Candlewick Press, 2013) by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.

Why?

Because its main character, Angie, seems to have more downs than Marley.

Yet Angie has something Marley does not. An iron resolve that helps her fight her demons and move forward. That movement might not always be productive, but it’s never timid. Let’s review.

Angie is struggling mightily. Her older sister, who was adored by all, enlisted in the military after high school and is now missing in Iraq — captured by enemy soldiers. And her family is handling the stress differently. Angie’s father has moved out. Her mother has immersed herself in work and only talks to Angie to criticize her. Her older brother is running with a rough crowd and is  in-and-out of trouble with the school and the police.

And Angie? She gained 29 pounds and had a very public suicide attempt when news reports indicated her sister’s body might have been found. The reports were wrong, but Angie’s response cemented her reputation as a freak and made her the target for two kids at her school. Oh, and she’s discovered that she just might have romantic feelings for a girl named, of all things, KC Romance.

Frankly, Angie is just hanging on by a thread.

But her commitment to her sister helps her stand up for herself when Stacy Ann bullies her. It helps her answer when KC talks to her. It drives her to try out for the varsity basketball team even though she’s an out-of-shape, overweight freshman. It drives her, as she puts it, to “follow through.”

The sad thing about this story is that Angie doesn’t have much of a support system for her attempts to make things better. Her relationship with her mom and her brother is strained. Her therapist twists everything she says into a new, unflattering diagnosis. And while KC admires Angie, she has some demons of her own that prevent her from being a constant ally.

So some of Angie’s decisions go awry. Others work out better than she could have planned. And along the way, she develops a cautious friendship with the boy across the street and gets some words of advice from her basketball coach.

But mostly, she finds she can rely on herself — which is helpful when the next news reports about her sister turn out to be true.

Marley has more support than Angie.

Her mother adores her. The glee club accepts her. Her eating disorder hasn’t been mentioned recently. Now, Marley just needs to accept herself, trust her decisions and deal with their results. This book could help her grow that spine and stand up for herself when she needs to.

Which would make my inner librarian very proud indeed.

Want more GLEE-ful reads?

Here are the books I’ve recommended to other Glee characters:

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8. KID REVIEW: Emma evaluates “Each Kindness”

Each KindnessEach Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012) is a picture book by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis about how seemingly small actions can have large consequences.

A new girl comes to school and tries to make friends. When Chloe, the narrator, is unkind, the girl keeps trying. And then the girl is gone and Chloe is left only with the memory of her unkindness.

Here’s what Jacqueline had to say about why she wrote the book:  ”At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treated unkindly. I wanted to understand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a second chance at kindness – and sometimes we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.”

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center awarded Each Kindness the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book.

Let’s hear what today’s guest reviewer has to say:

——————-

Our reviewer: Emma

Age: 5

Things I like to do: Run, especially on my two-wheel scooter. I like to swim at the lake. I like to read.

This book was about: Maya was different, and the other kids didn’t like her. Chloe was sad that she didn’t smile back at Maya.

The best part was when: Chloe was at the water and wishing she was kind to Maya.

I smiled when: Maya was jumping with her jump rope.

I was surprised when: Maya played by herself.

I was worried when: Chloe didn’t be Maya’s friend.

This book taught me: To be kind to the new kids. Or everybody.

My favorite picture in this book is: The jumping rope pictures with Maya and the picture of Maya joining the class.

——————-

Thank you, Emma!

If you’d like to learn more about Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis, you can:

  1. Visit Jacqueline’s website. There’s tons of cool stuff, including answers to lots of questions she gets from kids doing homework assignments!
  2. Visit E.B.’s website. He calls himself an “artistrator” because he illustrates books and creates fine art. He’s also a teacher.
  3. Watch this video interview with Jacqueline.
  4. Watch this video interview with E.B.

 

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9. KID REVIEW: Josepha rides with “The Roller Coaster Kid”

Roller-CoasterZach loves his grandma and grandpa.

He especially loves spending time at the amusement park with them.

But while Zach’s grandpa adores riding a roller-coaster called The Whipper, Zach is scared of it and prefers riding the Big Wheel with his grandma.

After Zach’s grandma dies, Zach’s grandpa just isn’t happy. Zach hopes if they go to the amusement park, he’ll see his grandpa smile again. But Zach still doesn’t want to ride the roller-coaster.

Will he face his biggest fear? Will it make a difference?

 The Roller Coaster Kid (Viking, 2012) is written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Roger Roth. It’s a story of family and love and facing your biggest fear.

Let’s welcome today’s guest reviewer, who is going to tell us more about it.

——————

Today’s reviewer: Josepha

Age: 7

I like: Swimming, reading and being creative.

This book was about: A kid who had to face his worst fear. And his grandpa told him to be brave and face his fear. And the boy’s grandpa was known as the “Roller-Coaster Kid” when he was young because he road The Whipper 100 times, so the boy wanted to ride the roller-coaster too, but he was scared.

The best part was when: The boy faced his fear.

I was surprised when: He yelled at his grandpa, and said what he really said, “I miss grandma.”

My favorite word or phrase in the book is: “When the time is right, you will face your fears.”

My favorite picture in the book is:  The picture that shows all of Oceanside Park.

Three words that describe this book: The Roller Coaster Kid.

Kids should read this book because: They will learn they should face their worst fear. Don’t be scared, just be brave. You might not be that scared once you’re on it. You can’t judge a thing on how it looks. You have to try it before you judge it.

——————

Thanks, Josepha! (By the way, Josepha says she likes roller-coasters because, “They go super fast and are fun to ride.”)

Author Mary Ann Rodman won the 2006 Charlotte Zolotow Award and the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for her picture book My Best Friend (Viking, 2005).  Here’s an interview she did shortly thereafter. Mary Ann also blogs at Teaching Authors.

Illustrator Roger Roth’s earlier book The Sign Painter’s Dream was featured on “Reading Rainbow.” You can see Roger’s website or check out this interview with lots of examples of his fabulous art.

And, finally, if you’d like to see a kid review of another roller-coaster book, check out Leo talking about Roller Coaster.

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10. KID REVIEW: Claudia guzzles “The Lemonade War”

The Lemonade WarWhat’s better than a nice, cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day?

Not much.

Unless it’s a nice, cold glass of lemonade AND an engrossing page-turner of a book.

Because spring is just starting to peek its head around the corner, it’s the perfect time to read The Lemonade War (Sandpiper, 2009) by Jacqueline Davies — either for pure enjoyment or to plan your money-making venture for the summer.

To get the full scoop on this book, which is the first in a series, let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer.

 ————————-

Today’s reviewer: Claudia

Age: 9

I like: Macaroni and owls and soccer.

This book was about: Jessie and Evan are brother and sister. They both love to sell lemonade on hot, beautiful summer break days! One day, Jessie and Evan both get in a fight. They decide that whoever gets $100 from lemonade earnings in the last six days of summer break wins. The winner gets to take the loser’s money! They both work really hard to get $100 in less than a week. Who will win? The pressure is on both Evan and Jessie. You have to read the book to find out who wins.

 The best part was: I gave this book five stars because of its adventure and enthusiasm. You can get pictures in your head from the descriptive words, and you can relate to it. I have a brother, and I can relate. But we never had anything as intense as the competition in this story. It is also so enjoyable because of the brother-sister rivalry. I couldn’t put this book down, it was so great! This book is great to read as a group or book club. I definitely recommend it. I hope you enjoy it.

Three words that describe this book are: “Exciting.” “Surprising.” “Competitive.”

You should read this book because: You can relate, and it is exciting to see who wins.

————————-

Thank you, Claudia!

You can find out more about Jacqueline Davis and her many other books by visiting her website or reading this interview.

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11. Teen review: Je’Kyah ponders “Peace, Love and Baby Ducks”

Je'Kyah reviews "Peace, Love and Baby DucksSisters can be the best of friends. Or the worst of enemies.

Or, they can change so much you don’t know who they are.

That’s what happens to 15-year-old Carly in Lauren Myracle’s young-adult novel Peace, Love and Baby Ducks (Dutton, 2009). She comes home from summer camp to find that her younger sister, Anna, has turned into a beautiful, shallow teenager who’s more interested in fashion, friends and boys than Carly ever was.

Carly doesn’t know what to make of Anna — or her extremely well-off family and its focus on money and appearances. Carly’s summer camp made her re-evaluate her priorities, and she’s not sure her family’s lifestyle lines up with them any more.

What will she do?

Let’s see what today’s guest reviewer has to say.

——————

Reviewer: Je’Kyah

Age: 15

I like: Playing softball, cheerleading, eating Chinese food and watching movies.

This book was about: A girl, Carly, and how she adjusted to her little sister growing up and their experience in high school together. It’s also about how she learned she was a lot closer to her friend Roger than she thought she’d be.

The best part was when: Anna conquered her fear of the high dive and Carly realized she wanted to be more than friends with Roger and they kissed in the pool.

I laughed when: Tracy, the babysitter, left Carly and Vonzelle at the hardware store and they had to walk home.

Peace, Love and Baby DucksI was worried when: Carly couldn’t find Anna after they had a fight.

I was surprised that: Anna got drunk at the party and their parents didn’t figure out they had a party in the house. Also when their dad started crying after he talked to Carly about her Beverly Hillbillies video.

This book taught me: Why having a good relationship with your sister is important.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: Roger’s subtle hints toward Carly throughout the book.

Three words that best describe this book are: Funny, realistic, a good read.

My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “Dr. Smiley has halitosis.”

You should read this book because: It doesn’t end the way you think it will.

——————

Thanks, Je’Kyah!

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s also one of our country’s most frequently “challenged” writers, meaning, her books have appeared at the top of the American Library Association’s list of titles most often requested for removal — or banning — from our public libraries’ shelves. If you’d like to learn more about Lauren Myracle, you can:

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12. I’m up on the NEXT BIG THING …

So many books, so little time.A whole bunch of writers are posting blogs talking about their Next Big Thing.

That is, what book they are working on right now.

I’ve enjoyed reading other’s posts — especially the fabulous Melanie Crowder’s. Her debut novel, Parched, comes out from Harcourt Children’s Books in June, and you really should go pre-order a copy at your first possible chance.

But I wasn’t sure what I should write about myself.

The thing is, I’ve got lots of picture books in the works. One about rocks. One about a small football fan looking for a way to make a difference. One inspired by Olympic champion Wilma Rudolph. One about gum. One about — heaven help me —  a boy detective who thinks his brother is a duck.

But defining any one of them as my next big thing kind of scares me. I mean, I don’t even know if they’ll sell and end up as actual books.

So I’m taking the safest path and answering questions about a picture book that already is sold, although it won’t be out for quite a while. It’s called Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story, and it will come out from Schwartz & Wade in the next few years.

All the Next Big Thing writers are responding to a standard set of questions. So here I go:

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Several generations of a family pitch in to create the perfect, mouth-watering Thanksgiving dinner.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was sitting in a meeting that had nothing to do with families or food when the words, “Mama be a cooking pot, cooking pot” came to me. I had no idea what they meant, but I wrote them down and ended up building the book around them. It was NOT a quick or easy process. For the full, hair-pulling details of writing the rhyme that eventually became this book, see this blog post: Revising my way to YES.

What genre does your book fall under?

Picture book.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s a tough one. My picture book has a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle and four children who all need to look at home in the kitchen. Except maybe the baby. Jill McElmurry is illustrating the book, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. My editor is Anne Schwartz of Schwartz & Wade.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m a big fan of The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee. If my book could be a third as cool as that one, I’d be thrilled. And when I was beating my head against the wall over the rhyme scheme I read and re-read two books by rhyming master Dori Chaconas — Hurry Down to Derry Fair and On a Wintry Morning. They helped me see what was possible.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft probably took a few hours. The mind-numbing, time-consuming work was in the multiple, multiple revisions that changed the rhyme scheme and the kinds of food the family makes. My first draft was just a regular meal. The final draft was Thanksgiving dinner. That was a big change. Not much rhymes with “turkey.” And did I mention that I don’t really consider myself a poet? Getting this story into its final shape was a triumph of tenacity over talent.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Once I got started, I wanted to write a book that captured all the love and warmth and tradition that are part of cooking with your family. I learned to cook with my family from an early age. That’s why the book is dedicated to my parents, Allen and Jean Zietlow.  I also enjoy cooking with my daughters. Just this weekend, we made anise cookies and brownies using my grandmother, Esther Zietlow’s, recipes. At least in my family, cooking is love. And I wanted that feeling of love and security to be embedded in every page.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I like the gender equality of it. Even though it’s an old-fashioned Thanksgiving, the men and women and boys and girls all help with the meal. It’s not just ladies in the kitchen.

I’ve invited some of my writing friends to participate in “The Next Big Thing” blog chain. In the next few weeks, look for blog posts from:

  • Cathy Stefanec Ogren on her blog, Humor Me.
  • And, hopefully, a few others that are yet to be determined.

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13. KID REVIEW: Miriam shares “This Moose Belongs to Me.”

Miriam, her mom, and "This Moose Belongs to Me.You might not think you could keep a moose for a pet.

But if you read This Moose Belongs to Me (Philomel, 2012) a picture book by Oliver Jeffers, you’ll find out that you just might be able to — if you give that moose a lot of latitude and aren’t too choosy about its name.

The book’s main character, Wilfred, has a moose he calls Marcel. Marcel is a fine pet even if he comes and goes as he pleases and doesn’t always completely follow his owner’s rules for being a good pet.

All is well until Wilfred follows Marcel on one of his jaunts and finds out other people think Marcel is their moose. And call him names like “Rodrigo” and “Dominic.”

Whatever can a moose-loving boy do?

Today’s guest reviewer and her mom have a cat named Lenny. And he only belongs to them. At least, as far as they know.

Take it away, Miriam!

——————

Today’s reviewer: Miriam

Age: 6

I like: Horses, “Star Wars,” playing my video game “Lego Batman,” art, snuggling and playing with my cat.

This book was about: A moose and a boy.

The best part was when: It said it was getting late and the monsters were about to come out.

I laughed when: The man said, “Dominic, you’re back! And you brought me an apple!” at the very end.

I was worried when: I wasn’t worried at all — EXCEPT for when the woman said he was really HER moose.

I was surprised that: The boy was thinking about a bunch of things, and the moose came.

This book taught me: It didn’t teach me anything. But the boy learned about sharing.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: The very end where the man calls the moose “Dominic.”

Three words that best describe this book: Moose and me.

My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “Dominic, you’re back! And you brought me an apple.”

You should read this book because: It’s silly!

——————

Thank you, Miriam!

Oliver Jeffers’ books include How to Catch a Star; Lost and Found, which was the recipient of the Nestle Children’s Book Prize Gold Award  and was later adapted into an animated film; The Way Back Home; The Incredible Book-Eating Boy; The Great Paper Caper; The Heart and the Bottle, which was made into an iPad application narrated by Helena Bonham Carter; Up and Down; and the New York Times bestselling Stuck.

Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oliver now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. If you’d like to learn more about him, you can:

  • Read this interview where Oliver talks about how he creates his books. The best line in it? “My eyes are open, and my brain is a sponge.”
  • Watch this video of Oliver discussing his work.

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14. Happy New Year!

I’m starting out the New Year by blogging on EMU’s Debuts, a blog for writers at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency who have books coming out in the next year or so.

My post today is about how – after years of writing, revising and waiting – it feels really good to finally be able to say, “My book comes out this year.”

The blog even has a sample of Anne Wilsdorf’s marvelous artwork for SOPHIE’S SQUASH. And a link to a cool interview with Lee Wade of Schwartz & Wade.

If you get a chance, please check it out.

http://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/a-new-year-of-new-experiences/

And I wish all of you a peaceful, wonderful 2013.

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15. KID REVIEW: Sonia says “Animals Welcome”

Sonia and her cat, Vince, admire Animals Welcome by Peg KehretLots of people love animals.

But fewer people dedicate a substantial portion of their lives to helping lost, homeless or hurt animals that come their way.

Author Peg Kehret does. And many cats, dogs, bear and deer have wandered past her home near Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State.

In her latest book, Animals Welcome (Dutton Children’s Books, 2012), Peg shares the stories of some of the more memorable animals she’s helped find safe, loving homes and explains her lifelong commitment to animal welfare.

This book was the perfect choice for today’s reviewer. Sonia loves animals, and has two cats that used to be strays. She’s shown with both of them at the right. Vince is in the top picture, while Sunny is in the bottom picture. (Just ignore the unmade bed and unfolded laundry in the background. I do.)

Take it away, Sonia!

—————

Sonia and her cat, Sunny, admire Animals Welcome by Peg KehretOur reviewer:  Sonia

Age:  10

Things I like to do: Play on my D.S, watch TV, ride horses, play Candyland with my dad, watch anime shows on my iPod.

This book was about:  A woman who rescues animals that are abandoned or stray and helps them get better and tries to find them a good home.

The best part was when: The women found Mr. Stray, a cat, and had her husband make a house for him to live, and the house had a heater inside so the cat would stay warm.

I smiled when:  The women found a stray mama cat and her kittens and when the women tried to get the third kitten in the carrier, it didn’t work because the kitten hid in the piano. The woman had to wait for the kitten come out from the organ after her husband was banging on the side.

I was surprised when:  The husband was sick and then felt better but then died. I felt bad for the woman.

This book taught me: That when you see a stray animal, you can always help it — even though you don’t even know the animal.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Animals.” “Love.” “Caring.”

My favorite picture in this book is: The picture of Mr. Stray peering out of his special house. And the picture of the writer on the cover holding the cat she adopted herself.

—————

Thank you, Sonia!

This book is a refreshing, informative, entertaining and much-needed look at the real life of helping animals who need it and how one committed person can make a difference.

Author Peg Kehret has also written fiction children’s books – three of which were inspired by her pet cat, Pete, before he passed away.

To learn more about her, you can:

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16. We wish you a quiet Christmas …

Christmas can be loud.

Family gatherings might include movies, cheering at televised sports, debates about who really drank the last of the eggnog, games, feats of strength and more.

But if you’re lucky, Christmas will also have some quiet times. Times to appreciate what makes the season special.

Deborah Underwood’s new picture book, The Christmas Quiet Book, is the perfect book for celebrating those quiet times, and the perfect incentive for working more of them into your celebration.

Pam and Clark hold The Christmas Quiet BookSo I asked several of my family members to tell me their favorite quiet parts of Christmas — and hold Deborah’s beautiful book (which is illustrated by Renata Liwska). Here’s what they had to say:

FIRST PHOTO

Clark — Watching big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow falling onto a country landscape.

Pam — Now:  Reading a good book next to a lit Christmas tree — a blanket and a dog on my lap and a mug of warm cider next to me. When I was younger:  Lying on my stomach looking at (but not touching) the presents under the tree.

Daniel and Rebekah and The Quiet BookSECOND PHOTO

Daniel — Being alone. (Perhaps because he’s having a little too much brotherly/sisterly togetherness in the photo.)

Rebekah — Hearing Christmas music playing in the background while I’m relaxing.

THIRD PHOTO

Tom — Watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the snow falls.

Tom and Gwen and The Quiet BookGwen — Waking up early and lying in bed realizing that it’s Christmas.

FOURTH PHOTO

Sonia — Staying awake Christmas Eve night until I hear someone filling my stocking.

Allen — Going out for lunch with my daughter after shopping for my wife’s present. And, sitting back and looking at the tree with all of the unwrapped presents at the end of Christmas Day.

Sonia and Allen hold The Quiet BookI didn’t take pictures of my mother or husband. (Not that they’re not EXTREMELY photogenic, they are!) Here’s what they had to say:

Jean — The candlelight service at church when we all hold lighted candles and sing “Silent Night.” And the second best quiet time is when I get up early on Christmas morning, and everything is ready, and I can quietly sit and anticipate  everyone’s arrival.

Mark — Seeing lit candles in the window when it’s dark.

And me? My favorite quiet part of Christmas is sitting alone in a room that’s totally dark  – except for the lights of the Christmas tree. That’s followed closely by eating Christmas cookies all alone in a corner of the kitchen!

What’s your favorite quiet Christmas tradition? Share it in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about Deborah Underwood, you can visit her website or read this interview. You also could read this kid review of Deborah’s The Loud Book.

If you’d like to learn more about Renata Liwska, you can visit her website.

Just make sure to do it softly.

And have yourself a quiet little Christmas.

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17. KID REVIEW: Elias enjoys “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site”

Elias holds the book "Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.Construction equipment isn’t usually considered cozy.

But the crane, truck, cement mixer, dump truck, bulldozer and excavator featured in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (Chronicle Books, 2011) written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld are the perfect things for young heavy equipment operators to snuggle up with at night.

As the book points out, even hard-working trucks and construction equipment need to sleep when their day is done.

If you’re familiar with the bedtime classic Goodnight Moon, it may seem strange to say goodnight to heavy machinery, but the book is undeniably appealing to it’s target demographic of truck lovers, and its rhyming text and winsome illustrations strike just the right nighttime note.

Today’s guest reviewer is a truck lover who enjoys reading this with his parents right before bed. Take it away, Elias!

————–

Today’s reviewer: Elias

Age: 4

I like: Toys

This book was about: Construction vehicles going to bed.

The best part was when: The crane went to bed with a teddy bear and nightlight like me.

I laughed because: The excavator has a tooth that sticks out. It was funny!

I was surprised that: Construction trucks went to bed.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: The excavator’s tooth and other parts of the pictures.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Bedtime.” “Sleeping.” “Trucks.”

My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “Hey! Pipe down!”

You should read this book because: It’s a good book.

————–

Thank you, Elias!

You can learn more about Sherri Duskey Rinker at her website. Or read this interview to learn how a first-time author of a rhyming picture book made the New York Times bestseller list.

You can learn more about Tom Lichtenheld at his website. You also can read this kid review of Shark vs. Train, another successful picture book for Tom.

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18. KID REVIEW: Ricky enjoys “The Frank Show”

Ricky and "The Frank ShowMost people have family members they think are a bit embarrassing.

Maybe Great-Aunt Martha honks when she laughs or Cousin Vito always has a long-winded story about his latest business deal.

For the main character in The Frank Show (Abrams, 2012), a picture book written and illustrated by David Mackintosh, the embarrassing family member is his grandfather, Frank. And what’s worse, he has to bring Frank to school for show and tell and talk about him to his class for a whole minute.

It’s not that Frank does anything particularly mortifying. He’s just not fond of newfangled gizmos and gadgets and thinks most things were better in the old days.

What’s worse is that all the other kids have interesting relatives. Kristian’s dad is a comedian on TV. Fay’s cousin tells you if your bag is too heavy at the airport and Saul’s aunt swam the English channel.

Frank’s just a grumpy grandpa.

Or is he? Let’s ask today’s guest reviewer.

Take it away, Ricky!

————

Today’s reviewer: Ricky

Age: 8

I like: Watching ESPN. Playing with my neighbors. Playing with my brothers and sisters. Riding my skateboard. Being lazy and watching TV.

This book was about: Show and tell and a boy who has to bring his grandfather, Frank. Everyone asks him all kinds of questions.

The best part was when: Frank didn’t like any ice-cream flavors except for vanilla.

I laughed when: I laughed all the time.

I was worried when: Frank first came to school. I thought people might laugh at him. But it turned out really well. They sat around at lunch and talked and thought he was cool.

I was surprised that: The kids made friends with Frank. He was so cool. He caught a fly in his bare hands and let it go.

This book taught me: You shouldn’t be afraid of your parents coming to school.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: When Frank is in battle riding a horse and blowing a horn.

Three words that best describe this book are: The Frank Show.

My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “You bet it did, hombre.”

You should read this book because: It’s fun!

————

Thank you, Ricky! Ricky says that if he had to bring a relative to school for show and tell, he’d bring his brother, Brian, because he has a sports car.

If you’d like to learn more about David Mackintosh, you can visit his website.

Or, you can read this kid review of another one of his books — Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School.

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19. KID REVIEW: Michael meets “Boy + Bot”

Michael and "Boy + BotYou can find friends in the strangest places.

Like when you’re collecting pinecones in your wagon.

A robot appears. You play. And, suddenly, you have a friend for life.

At least, that’s how it happens in Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino’s Boy + Bot (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012).

This delightful picture book shows how Boy and Bot try to take care of each other, even when they don’t fully understand each other. And the illustrations showing that care are charming.

Today’s guest reviewer, Michael, was happy to make Boy and Bot’s acquaintance and share his thoughts on the book.

Take it away, Michael!

———-

 Today’s reviewer: Michael

Age: 8

I like: Playing my video game — Xbox 360. Playing with my little sister, Micayla.

This book was about: A boy and a bot who got to be friends. The bot’s switch got turned off so the boy took him to his house and tucked him into bed. Then, the bot took the boy home and gave him oil and read an instruction manual to him.

The best part was when: Boy and Bot were having fun walking on the log.

I laughed when: Bot gave the boy oil.

I was worried when: Bot was taking the boy away. I didn’t know where they were going.

I was surprised that: Bot got turned back on when Boy’s parents opened the door.

Other kids reading this book should: Try to be friends like they were.

Three words that describe this book: “Want to play?”

You should read this book because: You will know what friendship is about.

———-

Thank you, Michael!

Michael says he is friends with Ricky and Thomas. (Reviews from them are coming soon!) They like playing football and other sports together.

If you’d like to learn more about first-time author Ame Dyckman, you can visit her website and read this interview at Miss Print. Ame also tweets at @amedyckman.

If you’d like to learn more about illustrator Dan Yaccarino, you can visit his website and read this interview at Core 77.

And, finally, here’s a fun video trailer you can watch about the book.

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20. KID REVIEW: Gianna is grateful for “Bear Says Thanks”

Gianna and "Bear Says ThanksBefore they tuck into their turkey or their tofu on Thanksgiving, most people think about what they’re grateful for.

And today’s guest reviewer, Gianna, knows what she appreciates: “Food, water, family and clothing.”

She also knows what she’ll be eating for Thanksgiving: “Turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie — of course — mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s so much food, I can’t really remember it all!”

The book we’re featuring today tells a similar tale. Bear Says Thanks (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012) is written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

It’s all about Bear, who is bored. And hungry. Bear wants to invite his friends to a feast, but his cupboards are empty. So his friends bring the feast to him, instead. Bear is worried that he has nothing to contribute, until he discovers that he has something very special indeed.

Let’s see what Gianna has to say.

—————–

Today’s reviewer: Gianna

Age: 7

I like: To play hide-and-seek with my neighbor. Peanut-butter ice-cream. Reading books.

This book was about: How the bear was bored and missed his friends, but he didn’t have any food to give them. So his friends brought food, and they ate it together.

The best part was when: Bear said, “Thanks.”

I laughed when: I thought Bear was going to say, “Thanks,” but he said, “Wait!” instead.

I was worried when: Bear said, “Wait!” I thought they might not have their feast.

I was surprised that: Bear’s friends came with the food.

My favorite picture in the book was: When Bear plopped down because he was frustrated.

My favorite words in the book were: “And they lay out their feast on a quilt on the ground.”

Other kids reading this book should watch for: Younger kids should watch for how Bear says thanks. It’s important to do.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Food. “Thanks.” “Sharing.”

 —————–

Thanks, Gianna!

If you’d like to learn more about Karma Wilson, you can visit her website. She’s written other books about Bear and his friends.

If you’d like to learn more about Jane Chapman, you can visit her website. She and her husband have, between the two of them, illustrated more than 140 books.

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21. CAT REVIEW: Vince ponders “Pilgrim Cat”

Vince mimics "Pilgrim Cat.In this season of giving thanks, I am happy to welcome my cat, Vince, back to the blog. Vince has reviewed quite a few cat-themed books for me over the years, but lately he’s taken a break because he hasn’t been feeling well.

But Vince has been bouncing back, and said he felt up to another review.

So here he is. Take it away, Vince!

——————-

Have you ever noticed Thanksgiving is always about the turkey?

Not that I’d want to trade places. But it’s always turkey this and turkey that. I mean, it’s just a bird.

So when I saw the cover of a picture book called Pilgrim Cat (Albert Whitman, 2004), I was intrigued. There, on the cover of what was clearly a Thanksgiving book, sits a cat on a perch regally surveying his minions, I mean the Pilgrims.

I liked the cover so much, I had to try to imitate it. How do you think I did?

I’m still waiting for my minions to show up, but I’m sure they’ll be here soon. Everything moves slowly during the holiday season.

In fact, Faith, the little girl featured in the book, has to wait a long, long time as the ship she’s on travels from England to the New World.  Luckily for her, there’s a pouncy, mouser of a cat on board to keep her company. They become friends, and when Faith gets sick waiting for the men to build homes, the cat curls up right next to her head and stays there until she feels better.

I was very proud of my literary counterpart at this point in the story. I’ve been known to do the same thing when the smallest human at my house is sad or sick.

So once everyone is on dry land and getting settled in, Faith returns the favor by sneaking fish to the cat when the adults are planting corn.

But then, the unthinkable happens. The cat goes missing. Faith cries, but even that doesn’t bring it back. I had to admit I was a bit worried here. I, of course, know that cats can take great care of themselves, but this is the wilderness we’re talking about. Bears. Panthers. Deep forests.

Fortunately, Squanto, an Indian who has befriended the Pilgrims and met Faith’s cat, finds the cat in a hollow log with — get this — kittens!

I did not see that coming.

Faith is thrilled. She carries the cat and the kittens home in her apron and they become a integral part of the Pilgrim village. Then, when the Indians and the Pilgrims join the for the first Thanksgiving feast, Faith has even more cats to sneak treats to under the table.

Now maybe I’ve become more of a softie lately because I haven’t been feeling well, but this story made me say, “Awwwww.”  So I’d highly recommend it.

Now, if only my minions would arrive. I could use a snack!

——————-

Thank you, Vince! It’s great to have you back.

Pilgrim Cat is written by Carol Antoinette Peacock and illustrated by Doris Ettlinger. You can learn more about Carol Antoinette Peacock at her website. You can learn more about Doris Ettlinger at her website.

If you’d like to see other books Vince has reviewed, here are a few:

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22. TWO AUTHORS YOU SHOULD KNOW: Jim Averbeck and Dashka Slater

Princesses and dragons have been staples of children’s literature since the very first fairy tales.

But as fairy tales have evolved, so have the kinds of princesses and dragons you’ll see. Case in point are two recent picture book releases — Dangerously Ever After written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Dial, 2012) and Oh No, Little Dragon (Atheneum, 2012) written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck.

How are these characters different? For starters, the princess in Dangerously Ever After has a pet scorpion and a taste for danger. And the dragon in Oh No, Little Dragon is a sweet fellow who gets into normal childhood mishaps, only to find there’s nothing his mother can’t fix.

Today, we’re lucky enough to have Dashka and Jim visiting Read, Write, Repeat to talk about their books.

Dashka SlaterFirst, let’s talk to Dashka about her princess book.

I hear you and Jim are on a “Dragon and the Dangerous Princess” blog tour. Isn’t it usually the other way around?
Don’t believe everything you read. Dangerous princesses have been making life exceedingly difficult for sweet little dragons for centuries! Hunting them nearly to extinction with their demand for dragon-skin handbags, raiding dragon hoards whenever they need spending money, insisting on equal time in the dragon-battling arena, and in Amanita’s case, stealing plants out of their gardens.

Is Princess Amanita friends with other nontraditional princesses in children’s lit? Who do you think she’d get along best with – the Paper Bag Princess? Princess Bossypants? The Princess Knight?
Princess Amanita loves sharp things, so she particularly enjoys hanging out with The Princess Knight, who always has a good supply of swords, daggers and lances. She has a good time with The Apple Pip Princess too, since they share an interest in all things botanical.

How much of her is inspired by you? Do you like dangerous things and thorny roses? What about humongous noses?
I’m actually a gibbering coward when it comes to many dangerous things — I tend to close my eyes on the roller coaster, and I’m perfectly content skiing on the bunny slopes. But I am attracted to dangerous characters, spiky plants, edgy humor, bad language and spicy food. And now that you mention it, my husband does have a pretty big nose.

What do you hope young princess readers will take away from this story?

That there’s a vast difference between smelling good and smelling well.

What’s the story behind your story? How did it come to be?
One day, my then-six-year-old son announced he was going to write a story about a queen who meant to plant rose seeds, but planted nose seeds instead. I couldn’t wait to read it! But when a couple of weeks had gone by and he still hadn’t written it, it seemed the only way I might get to read it is if I wrote it myself. That’s motherhood in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Jim AverbeckNow, let’s talk to Jim about his dragon book:

Who’s Little Dragon’s literary dragon hero? The Reluctant Dragon? The dragon in My Father’s Dragon? The dragon in the basement of Gringotts that Harry Potter frees? Someone else?
Smaug from The Hobbit.  Little Dragon respects his pure destructive power but also recognizes his largely ignored tender side. In fact, in a sequel I am writing to Oh No, Little Dragon!, Little Dragon’s father is reading a story about the lies the hobbit spreads about dear Uncle Smaug.

Little Dragon sounds like quite a handful. What was the worst thing you ever did as a child? Could your mother fix it?
I was a most helpful child, actually. I mean, the vase and ash tray were much more difficult to knock off the coffee table once they had been glued down. And I understand that two dozen raw eggs, thrown from a great height onto the driveway, are a good conditioner for the concrete. And it furthered science to find out that you could chop down a tree with the claw side of a hammer, given enough time. And since I learned that the firemen are our friends, it was an act of friendship to give them a reason to take the hook and ladder truck out for a spin.  So there was really no reason for mom to fix any of it, even had she been able to.

What should rambunctious little dragon readers take away from this story?
That it is very dangerous to take a bath, unless you are properly equipped.

What’s the story behind your story. How did it come to be? 
I’ve told in other interviews how, when traveling through China, my guide’s name was “Little Dragon” in Chinese. That’s what started me on the path to writing the book. But there’s another part. I was once teaching a class on writing picture books. We did an exercise where I put a character in the center of the page and asked people to cluster characteristics of that character around it.  When I wrote “9-year-old boy” in the center, all the characteristics that came back were negative: smelly, destructive, dirty, etc. I have to admit I was surprised and a bit offended. One mom in the audience raised her hand and said, “I have a 9-year-old boy, and I think he’s sweet and brave.”  This made me want to write a story about a rambunctious boy, but to show his emotional side too. I think that experience informed the creation of Little Dragon, whose greatest concern is that he be loved.

And finally …

What type of readers would enjoy both your stories?

Jim: I think any reader between ages 2 and 10 years of age, or less than 24 months old who is either a boy or a girl would enjoy both stories. Also people with at least one X chromosome.

Dashka: Any reader who likes swords as well as pretty dresses, fire as well as water, roses as well as thorns, peanut butter as well as jelly, hats as well as shoes, and princesses as well as dragons. All right-thinking people, in other words. Also people with allergic rhinitis and anyone who has suffered the heartbreak of an extinguished fire. Consult your doctor before reading any dangerous literature.

So if you get a chance, check out these delightfully dangerous picture books and share them with a child in your life.

Dangerously Ever AfterOh No, Dragon

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23. KID REVIEW: Thomas takes on “The Boy Who Cried Ninja”

Thomas and The Boy Who Cried NinjaAll kids know they ought to tell the truth.

But what if the truth is so wacky, so weird or so wildly improbable that no one would ever possibly believe it?

That’s the situation Tim finds himself facing in The Boy Who Cried Ninja (Peachtree, 2011), a picture book by written and illustrated by Alex Latimer.

It starts simply enough. Tim’s parents ask him who ate the cake, where dad’s hammer is and what happened to Tim’s bookbag. Tim dutifully explains how a ninja ate the cake, an astronaut needed the hammer and a giant squid ate his bookbag.

Tim ends up raking leaves for not being honest.

So when a pirate drinks all the tea, a crocodile breaks the TV antenna and a monkey wearing nothing but underpants throws pencils at Tim’s dozing Grampa, Tim says he’s responsible.

Guess what? He ends up with more yardwork.

What’s a kid to do? Let’s ask today’s guest reviewer.

Take it away, Thomas!

————

Today’s reviewer: Thomas

Age: 8

I like: Playing sports like football, basketball and soccer. Going hiking.

This book was about: This boy named Tim. There were a bunch of creatures, and the first one was a ninja. It snuck in Tim’s house and took the cake, and Tim’s mom blamed him. Tim told the truth about the ninja, and his mom didn’t believe him.

The best part was when: If I were Tim, I would have liked the part about getting so much ice cream. My favorite flavors are vanilla and cookie dough.

I laughed when: The boy invited all the creatures to his house for a party and they were all lined up outside. I wouldn’t want any of them in my house — especially the squid and the crocodile.

I was worried when: What if they didn’t get the party invitations? Then, his parents would never have known it wasn’t him who did all that stuff.

I was surprised that: All the creatures took Tim’s stuff.

This book taught me: Not to lie.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: Which creatures took what.

Three words that best describe this book: “Not to lie.” Or, “Tell the truth.”

You should read this book because: It’s a good book. You could learn stuff.

————

Thanks, Thomas!

If you’d like to learn more about Alex Latimer, who lives in South Africa, visit his website. Or, you can read his blog. Or follow him on Twitter at @almaxlat.

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24. Gabi needs some “Extra Yarn”

Gabi and "Extra YarnI am not a knitter.

But several years ago, I decided to knit — with some help from my daughter — a scarf for every child in her grade-school class.

We made red scarves and green scarves. Purple scarves and pink scarves. Scarves with fringe. Scarves with ribbon yarn. Skinny skarves and wide scarves.

And when we were done, we still had extra yarn. Don’t believe me? See the photo below.

Annabelle, the main character in Extra Yarn (Balzer + Bray, 2012), a picture book written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, faces a similar situation.

She finds a box of yarn and knits something bright for herself. And then, she knits something for everyone and every thing in her dreary, colorless town.

But she never, ever, runs out of yarn.

This attracts the attention of a fashionable archduke who vows to have the girl’s yarn box and needles for his very own.

Does his dastardly plan succeed? Let’s ask today’s guest reviewer.

—————

My extra yarnToday’s reviewer: Gabi

Age: 7

I like: Playing with my friends Gianna and Adam. Playing kickball. I play every day outside for recess.

This book was about: Annabelle had extra yarn, and she made something for everyone in the whole city. (She even made a sweater for a pick-up truck.)

The best part was when: Annabelle made yarn for her dog and Nate’s dog and everyone in the whole city.

I laughed when: She made sweaters for everyone — even her teacher.

I was worried when: I thought she was going to run out of yarn and not have enough to knit for everyone.

I was surprised when: The archduke opened Annabelle’s box, and there was no yarn at all.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: The extra yarn.

Three words that  best describe this book are: “Snow.” “Yarn.” “Annabelle.”

My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “You’re just jealous,” said Annabelle. “No I’m not,” said Nate. But it turned out he was.

You should read this book because: It’s funny. Especially when the pick-up truck is wearing a sweater.

—————

Thanks, Gabi! (By the way, Gabi says her favorite sweater is made out of purple yarn.)

This book has been mentioned as a possible contender for the Caldecott Award, which is given to the best illustrated book each year. The winner will be announced in January. And if you look closely at what’s in the photo behind Gabi, you’ll see that she’s standing in front of the door to her school’s library. And all the pieces of paper on the door are books students think are Caldecott worthy.

To learn more about Mac Barnett, you can visit his website. Or, you can read this interview in School Library Journal.

To learn more about Jon Klassen, you can visit his website. Or, you can read this Publishers Weekly article about the book he’s best known for — I Want My Hat Back, which he wrote and illustrated.

And if you want extra yarn for a knitting project of your own, you can have some of mine. I’m still waiting for the archduke to drop by.

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25. KID REVIEW: Molly recalls “Saluting Grandpa”

Saluting GrandpaSometimes, a book hits close to home.

That’s what Saluting Grandpa: Celebrating Veterans and Honor Flight (Pelican Publishing Company, 2012) written by Gary Metivier and illustrated by Robert Rath did for today’s guest reviewer, Molly.

Molly’s grandfather is a World War II veteran, and he recently went on an Honor Flight with Molly’s dad. Honor Flights take veterans to Washington D.C. where they visit the memorials dedicated in their honor.

Veterans are treated with great respect throughout the trip and recognized by the trip organizers and community members along the way who thank them for the sacrifices they made to serve their country.

These trips often lead to family discussions and the the passing of vital information from one generation to the next.

Take it away, Molly!

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Today’s reviewer: Molly

Age: 9

I like: Reading, playing video games and eating mashed potatoes.

This book was about: How a boy wants to make his grandpa proud by perfecting his salute by the time his grandpa gets back from the Honor Flight.

The best part was when: The boy’s grandpa started to cry, and the boy thought he was sad.

I laughed when: The grandpa said, “Back straight! Suck that belly in! Lift that elbow!”

I was worried when: The boy’s grandpa looked sadder than before.

I was surprised that: The grandpa didn’t want to go on the Honor Flight at first.

This book taught me: About the Honor Flight and the veterans.

Other kids reading this book should watch for: The grandpa’s emotions.

Three words that best describe this book are: “Honor.” “Pride.” “Veterans.”

My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “Just as Andrew got one body part going in the right direction, some other body part would go somewhere else.”

You should read this book because: You will learn about the Honor Flight and the veterans.

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Thank you, Molly!

Molly’s father wrote a blog of his own describing the Honor Flight trip he took with his father — Molly’s grandfather. It’s a very moving firsthand account of an Honor Flight and well worth the read. Check it out here: A Flight for the Ages.

If you’d like to learn more about author Gary Metivier, you can visit his website. You also can read this article.

If you’d like to learn more about illustrator Robert Rath, you can visit this website.

And, you can learn more about the Honor Flight Network here.

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