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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: blog tour, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Q and A with Author Cindy Jenson-Elliot and a Giveaway!

Author Cindy Jenson-Elliot answer questions about her newest book, Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature. Comment for a chance to win a copy of this beautiful book that is destined to be one of your mentor texts!

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2. Celebrating Roal Dahl

2016 is the 100th birthday of Roald Dahl. The publisher of his books, Penguin Random House, has set up a special blog tour to celebrate the occasion.  

When I was in fourth grade, we read James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I had always been a reader but something about this book made me really fall in love with it. I loved it so much that I  wrote a letter to Mr. Dahl telling him how much I enjoyed the book and probably other fourth grade things like about what I liked to do, that I loved to read, and all that kid letter writing stuff.

I didn't realize that Roald Dahl had passed away just a year before and I'm not sure my teacher did either. She sent my letter along to the publisher. Several weeks later I received a package at school that was full of Roald Dahl goodies-bookmarks, posters, a mobile (I think for James and the Giant Peach but I don't remember!) and other book swag. The publisher wrote me back and said they were sorry to let me know that Roald Dahl had recently passed away but they were so happy that I loved his books and they wanted to share some special things with me since I was a reader and a fan.

I was always an incredibly shy kid. I felt more comfortable with books and didn't like to talk much at school. I didn't have a lot of friends and never really felt like I fit in in elementary school.

Yet when that package of book swag arrived, I was suddenly the most popular girl in my class. Reading was cool. Everyone wanted to share in the excitement in hearing back from the publisher. We had read the book as a class and everyone was excited to see what I got. Since I took the initiative to write the letter to the author and share my love of the book, I was the hero of the class.

My popularity didn't last forever and I was OK with that. I didn't want it to. But I always remember the feeling that Roald Dahl and his US publisher gave shy fourth grader me. I felt like my love of books mattered. That I wasn't odd for loving to read and visiting the library every day I could. That it was cool to be a fan of an author and to write to the author and tell them how much you liked their books. The day I opened that box of swag all about Roald Dahl, I felt like being a reader was my super power.

I think that moment may have been one to put me on the path to librarianship, even if I didn't realize it at the time. Now I get to share the wonderfulness of Roald Dahl's books with numerous readers and help them discover their own reading super powers. His books are some of my forever go-to choices for reading aloud. There have been many fantastic audiobooks produced of his titles as well that I suggest for family listening. His books are classics and reach across generations and I believe they will continue to do so. He never spoke down to children and I think that's something children of any year and time period want-to be respected and to be heard. I know when I received that package in fourth grade, I felt as though I had been heard.

Thank you Roald Dahl for all of your wonderful contributions to children's literature and for making me feel

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Alcatraz Series by Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Adventure
Release Date: 9/6/2016
To Purchase
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About the Book: (from publisher) The Dark Talent is the fifth action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. This never-before-published, fast-paced, and funny novel is now available in a deluxe hardcover edition, illustrated by Hayley Lazo.

Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom
of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even
worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and
his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the
Highbrary—known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders—the seat of Evil
Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way
to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?

“Like Lemony Snicket and superhero comics rolled into one.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I am so, so, very excited about this book release everyone! About nine years ago, not long after I first started working in the library, I came across a new book called Alcatraz Vs the Evil Librarians. I was looking for books for tween readers, especially books to suggest after Harry Potter, and this one just sounded so fun-a boy who has a talent of breaking things, a grandfather who shows up late to everything, and librarians who  have an evil plot to take over the world? I couldn't resist. 

I read the first Alcatraz book and I loved it. In fact, you can read my original review of Alcatraz Vs the Evil Librarians I posted not long after I started this blog! Since then, this series has been one of my go-to suggestions for tween and adult readers looking for a great series. I suggest it when they're looking for humor, fantasy, or just a good book. It's especially great as a family read aloud-there's something for everyone and I can really pull in adult readers with the fact that many are familiar with Brandon Sanderson's adult fantasy titles.

My patrons and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of the fifth book in the series-book one starts with an epic opening preview that we haven't gotten to see yet. I am so glad Tor Books was able to release all five of the Alcatraz series in beautiful new hardcover editions that are illustrated. I can't keep these books on my library shelf and I love having these new editions to hand to patrons. 

If you haven't discovered the Alcatraz Smedry series, you must do so! I know you won't be disappointed.  Of course, I can't tell them if I'm really an evil librarian or not, but if I was, I wouldn't be telling you to read this ridiculous fiction (or would I?)

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4. Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi 
Release Date: 8/30/2016 
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

About the Book: Alice was born in the magical world of Ferenwood but doesn't have any magic herself. In a land where color is magic, Alice is the lightest of all and doesn't fit in. The only person who ever made her feel special was Father-but he disappeared three years ago leaving Alice with her uncaring Mother and her three brothers. When Oliver Newbanks, an old nemesis, tells Alice that he needs help completing his task (the magical undertaking all children of Ferenwood must complete) and that he knows where Father is and can bring him home, Alice is faced with a tough choice. Oliver's magic lies in deciet and Alice is never sure if she can trust him but she wants Father home more than anything. The journey will be dangerous and take her into the odd land of Futhermore where nothing is as it seems and time must not be wasted. In a world filled with strange creatures and rules. Alice must find herself and her magic to bring Father home. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: There's been a trend lately in middle grade fantasy with more books appearing for this age group that are quirky, magical, Alice in Wonderland-types. Futhermore firmly fits into that category. With a magical land that never quite makes sense, things are measured in time, twisting rules that you, numerous villages with various quirks and citizens who want to eat up visitors for their magic, Furthermore is quite a twisty read. 

Alice's story is a fine one for readers who enjoy this type of twisting and somewhat confusing and creative fantasy. But I can also see more sophisticated readers getting frustrated as well. The author can easily get characters out of various escapades by adding some new revelation. There are multiple asides from the author/narrator as well, but these don't always work and instead some of the humor that is supposed to be there falls a bit flat. The narrator interjections are inconsistent. It also takes a long time for more explanations of the world building, but once you get there I thought it was well done if a bit convenient at times. 

Alice's story takes awhile to get going and once we get to her adventures in Furthermore, the story is fun and there are lots of unique adventures that Alice and Oliver have. But I was very let down by the ending which felt too quickly wrapped up. It felt like we went through a lot of meandering and adventure only to have it solved in an instant. It was as though someone said "hey, this book is getting too long-wrap it up now and stop writing!" It felt too abrupt and too clean an ending and answer for such an epic adventure. After multiple chapters and pages of a journey, everything was wrapped up in about twenty pages, so I was left with little closure and this was a bit of a let down. 

I do think Futhermore would be a good choice for readers who enjoy Wonderland-esque tales and I think some readers will very much get into Alice's adventures and the wondrous world of Furthermore. It's an engaging enough read and I think young readers will enjoy it and I think it may have some limited reader appeal-at least from my experience with the fantasy readers at my library. I just wish there had been some tighter writing and more depth to the novel. I had higher hopes for this one and while I enjoyed it,  I can't say it will be memorable for long after I read it but I had fun while reading.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from purchased ebook from personal library

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5. Monster Mash: Aaron Zenz Goes On Tour

Blog tours.  Generally speaking I don’t really do them.  Nothing against them personally, they just don’t always speak to the tenor and distinctive tone of individual blogs.  It takes a particularly keen one to get me out of my hidey-hole so that I’ll participate.  It takes, in short, Aaron Zenz.

But first . . . BACKSTORY!!!!

It was at least 10 years ago.  I was a young struggling blogger (“struggling” in this case meaning doing just fine with a nice steady job).  A fellow by the name of Aaron Zenz contacted me not long after I’d started and asked if I’d take a gander at his book, The Hiccupotamus.  It was coming out with a very small publisher, but there was something to it.  It was nice looking. Nicer than the average fare, so I took a gamble and said I’d give it a gander.  Not only was it nice, but it held together beautifully.   It also seems to be one of the longest lived books I’ve ever encountered, traveling as it has from Dogs in Hats Children’s Publishing to Marshall Cavendish to Two Lions.  If you look on Amazon you’ll see my May 16, 2006 review of the book there.

And I remembered that Zenz guy.  How could I not?  First off, his name was “Zenz”.  That’s just cool.  Second, he had this crazy cool blog he did with his kids called Bookie Woogie (not to be confused with the also amazing but different kid art site Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty).  For years I’d recommend it as what may be the most successful kids book review site written in large part by kids.  He’d also come up with these crazy amazing blog posts .  And in the interest of complete and utter honesty, they even reviewed Giant Dance Party and made fan art.  Like so:


But wait.  That’s not all.  Because on top of his art, his blog with his kids, and his kids’ kinda of freakishly good art (seriously, they should Pinterest this stuff) they also are responsible for a slew of some of the best 90-Second Newbery videos you’ve ever seen in your life.  I think if you keep watching this, the first four are by the Zenzes (Zenzi?).

None of this even touches on all the other stuff Aaron’s done over the years.  Nor, you will note, have I even gotten to his books.  As you can see, I save the best for last.

Starting with Hiccupotamus, I just kept on enjoying Aaron’s books for years.  From his art for Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed to Chuckling Ducklings to Hug a Bull, the man makes good literature for the small fry.  And now, the best one of all.

MonstersGoNightNow as I mentioned before, I don’t tend to do blog tours, and part of the reason why is because more than half the time I’m completely impartial (or worse) to the book that author is promoting.  Monsters Go Night-Night is different.  In one book you get the following:

  • A good bedtime book.
  • A story that is great for a range of ages (my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old get different things out of the book but both think it’s hilarious)
  • Writing that is actually funny for adults too (it may have one of the greatest potty gags I’ve seen in a long time)
  • Art that pops
  • The ability to be read to a large group (hard for any book to do, let alone well)

The whole premise is based on setting up expectations and then knocking them to the floor in a way that’s completely appropriate for very young ages.  Example:



Perfect for pajama storytimes everywhere.

But where did Aaron get the idea for this book?  Well, if you’re still up for some video viewing today, this completely adorable video (could someone PLEASE publish a book of Aaron’s literary monsters since I want to see his Gurgi?) explains all:

So here’s where it gets crazy good.  Did you see how Aaron turned his son’s art into monsters?  Well, he’s been doing the same for other people as well.  Aaron asked if my daughter (who is the five-year-old I mentioned earlier) would like to make a monster.  He, in turn, would turn it into a piece of art.  And the results?  Behold:


This was my daughter’s . . . .


. . . and this was Aaron’s.

Side by side . . .


Absolutely love that.

Long story short, this book good.  Get book.  Read book.

Still don’t believe me?  Then check out everyone else on this blog tour.  Lotta heavy hitters there.  Maybe if you don’t believe me you’ll believe them:

Mon Aug 15  :  Watch. Connect. Read.
Tues Aug 16  :  100 Scope Notes
Wed Aug 17  :  Nerdy Book Club
Thu Aug 18  :  Sharpread
Fri Aug 19  :  All the Wonders
Sat Aug 20  :  Playing by the Book
Sun Aug 21  :  Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Mon Aug 22  :  A Fuse #8 Production

And if you’d like to see the children’s art his did for these other bloggers’ kids collected for you in one place, just go to the Blog Tour Hub right here.

Thanks to Aaron for looping me into this tour.



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6. Blog Tour: My Thoughts: The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga

4 yummy frosted maple cookies.

Cover Love:
I really like this cover, I think it would make kids want to pick up this book.

Why I Wanted to Read this:
I really like a good alternate universe book and the synopsis of this one seemed right up my alley.  Here it is from GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that's crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home--if they can even get home!

My Thoughts:
Overall this was a great read.  There were a few things in the beginning that made it a little hard fro me to get into but once I was over that hump, the book flew.

One of the things that bothered me a ton were Zak's parents.  They were so frustrating.  They were convinced that Zak was doing "bad" things so rather than talk with him, they ground him.  Then they get him a psychiatrist, but are more into blaming each other for his behavior than really getting him help. It was very hard to get over this because every scene with them made me want to throw the book!

After a pretty slow start a little twist happens that caught my interest.  Once that came about, I was much more into the book.  Once they got to the alternate universe, I was very into the book.  The author set up a great world with the alternate universe.  There are a lot of similarities between our world and the one that Zak and his friends get to, but enough differences that cause them to be very lost and confused.  The rules of the new world and society are very different than ours and they don't have a lot of time to learn them.  The author did a great job of conveying their confusion and fear.  This new universe is very technologically advanced to us and open to a lot of new ideas, but they are also very backwards in some issues.  I was glad that Khalid was able to find an ally once they got to the alternative universe and thankfully it was one willing to believe and help out.  Giving them a guide was very important.

From the start of their time in the alternate universe I felt something was off in the story Zak was being told.  I'm not sure if this was because I'm an adult and I consume a lot of content, so I'm pretty quick to develop theories, or if it was easy to deduce.  I would like to chat with someone from the target audience after they read it to see if they jumped to the same conclusion that I did.

There is a lot of action and I guess what I would call "speculative science" in the alternate universe.  None of it was over my head and the story moved along very quickly.

To Sum Up:  I think this is going to be a big hit with middle school readers.  I will be buying a copy for my library and book talking it this fall.  I already have my first reader for this story picked out and I know he will love it.

Macmillan is giving away a finished copy of The Secret Sea to one of my readers.  US only, winner will be announced on August 29.  Loading... Read the rest of this post

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7. Weekend Reading #12

This weekend I am giving myself reading time.  I am finishing up The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga for a blog tour (see my post and giveaway of a finished copy tomorrow!).  Then I am starting Stray by Elissa Sussman.  This is a book from my library that I brought home for the summer (along with about 40 others).  I need to get some of them read before school starts so I'm starting with thi one.

What are you reading this weekend?

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8. MAMÁ THE ALIEN/Mamá la extraterrestre Blog Tour with René Colato Laínez

To celebrate the release of Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestreauthor René Colato Laínez will be stopping by the following blogs from August 15th to the 24th! Follow along as René Colato Laínez discusses his writing process, his thoughts on diversity in kidlit, and the recent debate over the term “illegal alien.”Below is the schedule of the Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre Blog Tour:René Colato Laínez BLOG TOUR

August 15: The Latina Book Club

August 17: Mommy Maestra

August 19: Latinaish

August 22: Pragmatic Mom

August 23: Reading Authors

August 24: The Logonauts

And in case you missed it, here’s René Colato Laínez’s post about his experience being called an “illegal alien” when he was young.

To find out more about René Colato Laínez and Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter. And if you are a blogger interested in being included on this or future blog tours, please reach out to us at publicity [at] leeandlow [dot] com.

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9. P.S. I Like You Blog Tour \\ Guest Post from Kasie West & Giveaway..

P.S. I LIKE YOU By Kasie West Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Point (July 26, 2016)  Language: English Age Range: 12 and up Grade Range: 7 and up What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery? While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has

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10. Weekend Reading #11

I will admit that a couple of things have really slowed down my reading this summer.  
First of all, Stranger Things on Netflix completely captivated me.  I binged on that really hard this week.
Secondly, I am playing Pokemon Go.  I adore this game, but my very favorite thing is that my son will ask me to drive him and his friends around to play.  When your 18 year old, about to go to college son wants you to go out and play a game with him, you go out and play that game!

Anyway, I am going to focus on some reading this weekend.  These are the two books I am currently reading.  I am participating in a blog tour for The Secret Sea in August.  I like the alternate reality aspect of this book.  I also received The Gallery in the mail and this cover is so gorgeous I bumped it to the top of my TBR.  I love the feel of this book in my hands.
(I am also going to Star Trek this weekend, can't wait!!)
What are you reading this weekend?

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11. Blog Tour: The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne AUTHOR GUEST POST

Please welcome author C.C. Payne to GreenBeanTeenQueen! She's here to talk about her latest novel, The Thing About Leftovers and her favorite books featuring food.

About the Book: (From Goodreads): Fizzy is a good Southern girl who just wants to be perfect. And win the Southern Living cook-offThe being perfect part is hard though, since her parents’ divorced and everything in her life has changed. Wary of her too-perfect stepmom and her mom’s neat-freak, dismissive boyfriend, she’s often angry or upset and feels like a guest in both homes. She tells herself to face facts: She’s a “leftover” kid from a marriage that her parents want to forget. But she has to keep all of that to herself, because a good Southern girl never yells, or throws fits, or says anything that might hurt other people’s feelings—instead she throws her shoulders back, says yes ma’am, and tries to do better. So Fizzy tries her best, but it’s hard to stay quiet when her family keeps getting more complicated. Fortunately, the Southern Living cook-off gives her a welcome distraction, as do her new friends Miyoko and Zach, who have parent issues of their own. 

My Top Five Food-Themed Books:

 1.) The Thing About Leftovers by C. C. Payne (that's me!): In the South, we love you with our food. In this novel, 12-year-old Fizzy Russo does just thatattempting to love her parents, new stepparents, and new friends with fried chicken, cheese grits, Kentucky Hot Browns (an open faced sandwich with Texas Toast, turkey, ham and bacon, covered with Mornay sauce, smothered in cheese, topped with a slice of tomato and baked until gooey and browning at the edges) and the like, and to win their love in returnnot to mention The Southern Living Cook-Off. Fizzy believes that winning the cook-off that will cause everyone to forgive her and love her more. (I listed my own book first because if you stop reading here, I hope it's to go buy my book, and because I can't yet afford to be the kind of author who humbly never mentions her own workbut I TOTALLY aspire to be that kind of author, so please buy the book!)

2)  Close to Famousby Joan Bauer: 12-year-old Foster McFee is making the world a sweeter place one cupcake at a time! She makes some unlikely friends with her fabulous cupcake creations (I told you food is love!) including a retired, reclusive movie star, a would-be documentary filmmaker, and the folks down at Angry Wayne's Bar & Grill who sell her cupcakes for her. I love the way Foster overcomes, pushing herself, practicing, and persevering . . . in baking and in life.

3)  Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary: I wouldn't dare make a list without including this classic, Newbery Honor Book. Most chefs say they can tell a lot about another chef simply by what he or she does with an egg. And so it is with Ramona Quimby, who cracks an egg on her head in the school cafeteria. Plus, the food at her family's favorite restaurant, Whopper Burger, sounds deliciousI'd definitely like to have my next birthday party there!

4)  For a younger crowd, I recommend Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett because . . . mashed potato snow? Hamburger storms? Pancakes floating down from the sky? Sign me UP for that! This imaginative picture book, with detailed, delightful drawings, and great humor, remains a fave in my familyit's one that you truly never tire of reading aloud.

5)  For older readers, I recommend Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray, because when the going gets tough, the tough get baking! Ruth's first step to dealing with any problem is baking a cake"sweet potato bundt cake with rum-plumped raisins and spiced sugar glaze" or "apricot almond pound cake" and the like. And she shares her recipesas well as humor, warmth, and wisdomas she deals with her teenage daughter, college-student son, out-of-work husband, live-in mother, estranged father, and financial strain. 

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12. My Thoughts: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

4 yummy yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Cover Love:  I love this cover, it's colorful and whimsical and includes so many elements from the book.  I adore it!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
When this book first came out, I saw a lot of comparisons to Savvy, which was a book I adored.  It went on my TBR list, but I wasn't able to get it read until now.  Wish I had started sooner!  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan. If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 
Romance?: No.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  The style it is written in makes for a quick and easy read:  short chapters told from different points of view.  The author nails all of the characters voices.  I love that the Talents each person can be simple, like accurate spitting, or more advanced, like baking the perfect cake for a person.  I bet the author had a great time deciding how people in this world can be Talented.

I loved little Cady and rooted for her through the whole book.  But while Cady felt like the main character, this was a book with multiple characters whose storylines are woven together so smoothly.  It was easy to keep track of who was who and what each one was doing.  And while I was able to make some educated guesses about where the story was going to end up, I was constantly and pleasantly surprised by the turns in the story.  And I LOVED how everything was woven together so beautifully at the end!

And all the recipes!  I am going to try some of these cakes.  Look for a future "Food From Fiction" post on that!

To Sum Up:  Awesome middle grade read.  This one is easy to get into the hands of the younger readers in my school!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a pack of Lisa Graff paperbacks!  Check out this post to enter.

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13. Interview Time! John Patrick Green in Conversation with Eric Colossal

Who? What? Where? When? Why?

It’s a blog tour, kiddos!  A tour of bloggy goodness.  More than that, it’s a graphic novel blog tour done to celebrate Children’s Book Week in all its fancypants glory.

The subject of today’s interview is none other than Eric Colossal.  Colossal, if the name is new to you, is the author of the danged funny RUTABAGA series.  I’m a big fan of those books as they combine two of my favorite things: quests and eating.  And in a bit of a twist, I won’t be doing the interview here today, though.  That honor goes to John Patrick Green, author of the upcoming HIPPOTAMISTER.

Take it away, John!

  • Colossal, EricYour series is about a plucky adventurer who constantly finds himself in sticky situations that he manages to get out of by cooking delicious foods. How did this concept come about?

Growing up, I loved fantasy stories filled with weird beasts and mystical magic but I was always confused about why no one talked about the food in these lands. I mean, here in the real world we eat some pretty strange stuff. We eat bee barf and call it honey, we grind up a rock and put it on our food and call it salt. How come people who live in these magical lands never eat the strange beasts they fight in the bottoms of dungeons? So I created Rutabaga to do just that!


  • At the back of each book are a few complete recipes that readers can cook. How do you come up with those? I’ll admit, even the fictional recipes Rutabaga makes on his quests look tasty! Where do you get the ideas for those?

There are two criteria I have for making a recipe to share: Does the recipe contain a fun activity and does the final product look unique. For instance, there’s nothing new about dipping grapes in chocolate but taking that idea and adding steps to the recipe that make the final product look like a chocolate spider with a big ol’ squishy butt, that’s a perfect recipe for Rutabaga! In fact, that recipe is in book 2 and it’s one of my favorites! 


  • What is your creative process like?

9781419716584I watch a LOT of documentaries on food and food culture. My favorite ones talk about why people eat what they eat. Sure it’s fun to find out HOW to cook something but if you tell me WHY a culture has the diet it has you don’t just learn about food, you learn about people, and stories are about people. Other than that, most of my time is spent at my computer writing and drawing. I make the entire book digitally which is really handy when you have 2 cats who like to chew on paper!


  • Which do you love more: food or comics? Please explain your answer in a piechart. Or maybe just a pie.

It’s a tough choice but I’m going to have to say I love food more. A comic can take up to a year to write, draw, and color but you can cook a huge 3 course meal in about 2 hours. Imagine if it took a year to make breakfast! And just for fun here’s that pie chart you asked for:


  • What else are you working on? Can we expect further adventures of Rutabaga and his trusty kettle, Pot? Maybe an entire cookbook?

I have so many Rutabaga stories to tell, you have no idea! I probably have enough material for at least another 8 books! As long as there are people who want to read about my goofy little chef and his metal pal, I’ll keep making them!

  • What comics or children’s books are you currently reading?

Below the RootThe last book I read was a young adult book called “Below The Root” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It’s an older book about a society of people who live in cities built on gigantic trees. They wear long flowing robes that allow them to glide around in the air to get from branch to branch. They’re an extremely peaceful race, they don’t eat meat, they don’t fight, they won’t even write on paper because it would hurt a tree to make the paper. The books follow a group of children as they uncover the history of their people and the sinister things that have been done in the name of protecting them. It’s a three book series and I greatly enjoyed it!


Thanks for the interview, guys!  And what a fantastic book to end on.  Honestly, it would have been even more awesome if you’d mentioned the Commodore 64 game of Below the Root that was based on the book (to the best of my knowledge, the ONLY children’s book to be adapted into the Commodore 64 gaming system format), but we’ll let it slide.


Want to read more of these interviews?  Here’s the full blog tour:

Monday, May 2ndForever YA featuring Gene Luen Yang

Monday, May 2nd  – Read Write Love featuring Lucas Turnbloom

Monday, May 2ndKid Lit Frenzy featuring Kory Merritt

Tuesday, May 3rdSharp Read featuring Ryan North

Tuesday, May 3rdTeen Lit Rocks featuring MK Reed

Wednesday, May 4thLove is Not a Triangle featuring Chris Schweizer

Wednesday, May 4thSLJ Good Comics for Kids featuring Victoria Jamieson

Thursday, May 5thThe Book Wars featuring Judd Winick

Thursday, May 5thSLJ Fuse #8 featuring Eric Colossal

Friday, May 6thSLJ Scope Notes featuring Nathan Hale

Friday, May 6thThe Book Rat featuring Faith Erin Hicks

Saturday, May 7thYA Bibliophile featuring Mike Maihack

Saturday, May 7thSupernatural Snark featuring Sam Bosma

Sunday, May 8thCharlotte’s Library featuring Maris Wicks

Sunday, May 8thThe Roarbots featuring Raina Telgemeier

Thanks to Gina Gagliano and the good folks at First Second for setting this up with me.



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14. My Thoughts: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

4 Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cover Love:  To be totally honest, I don't love this cover.  But I know it appeals to young readers because when I display this book it gets checked out a lot.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This is one of those books I bought when it first came out because I knew I would want to read it myself (one of the biggest benefits of being a librarian).  Then it got buried in my immense TBR pile.  I have had quite a few students check out this and book #2 (The Mad Apprentice), but I still hadn't gotten around to reading it until I was contacted about book #3 and taking part in Penguin's blogging event around the release of book #3 (The Palace of Glass).  I read The Forbidden Library and am hooked on this series!  Here is the synopsis:
Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.
My Thoughts:
This was such an inventive idea.  There is a little of Inkheart, in that a person can read themselves into a book.  But it's not like they go into the story, it's like they become the story, or a big part of the story.  These people are called Readers.  And they can't go into just any book, it has to be special books.  Alice discovers she is Reader quite by accident.  But, as you get to know Alice you realize, SHE CAN HANDLE IT.  She is amazing, on the level of Hermione Granger.  She is practical and smart and keeps her head about her.  I LOVED Alice!  She is a problem solver and that makes for the best kind of Reader.

The catch with this awesome ability is that the books that Readers can enter are basically prisons for all manner of creatures and the only way for a Reader to get out is for another Reader to get them out...or they can defeat the creatures.  Along the way Alice meets Ashes, a talking cat, Isaac, another young reader and her "uncle" Geryon.  There are several other characters as well, and you just know that nobody is telling Alice the whole truth and that everyone has different motives for using Alice and her powers.  There is also a little of a "there can be only one" attitude by some of the older and more powerful Readers.

Alice has her own mystery to solve, that of what happened to her father.  This world she is thrust into would me many a person curl up in a corner and wait for death, but no Alice.  She takes it on and makes it her own.

To Sum Up:  Great middle grade fantasy book with interesting characters and an awesome premise.  I will be finishing this series soon!

Penguin has offered up a copy of each of the books in The Forbidden Library series including the third book, The Palace of Glass, which was just published.  Please enter below (US only).  I will pick a winner on Saturday April 23.

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15. Blog Tour: Let's Fangril Over... TELL ME THREE THINGS by JULIE BUXBAUM

Blog Tour: Becca TELL ME THREE THINGS By Julie Buxbaum Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: Delcorte Press (April 5, 2016) Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and up Goodreads | Amazon Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about

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16. BLOG TOUR: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas // Phenomenal and 110% Un-put-down-able..

By Becca.. THE DARKEST CORNERS by Kara ThomasHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (April 19, 2016)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon For fans of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become. There are ghosts around every corner in

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17. Normal Norman - Riding the Blog Tour Train

Normal Norman, written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. britt, is a study in normalcy ... or not. I hear that word normal a lot, and in education, it's not a good word. What is a "normal" student? When we see unexpected behaviors you'll hear "That's just not normal." One size fits all doesn't work in the classroom, and it certainly doesn't work in the real world. And that's really an important point in this book, because normal means being true to yourself, not to the expectations the world holds for you.

We're at the tail end of this blog tour, and lots of other folks have written great reviews of this book (see schedule at end of post for links), so I want to take this in another direction. Here's where my mind went when I first read this book.

The front endpapers - As soon as I opened the book I knew I had a great example my science class. Have you ever taken the DAST? The DAST is the "Draw A Scientist Test." It is designed to get students to think about who scientists are, what they do, and where they do it. Most students draw something similar to what is seen in the front endpapers. What most picture when they hear "scientist at work" is a space similar to a chemistry lab, with beakers and test tubes, equations on the wall or board, the periodic table, etc. This scene is no different. That's okay, because I like breaking down the stereotype.
The opening - The book opens with this introduction.
Hello and welcome to "Normal Norman."
This is my first time narrating a book.
I'm a bit nervous. I hope it goes well.
My assignment today is to clearly
define the world NORMAL.
On the facing page is a picture of the Head Scientist (a man sitting behind a desk bearing a sticker that reads I science) and the Junior Scientist, our intrepid narrator. Clearly, the goal here is to come up with an operational definition. This can be a tricky concept for students, as an operational definition is a clear, concise detailed definition of a measure. By the end of the book it's clear that one does not exist for the word normal.

The narrator - Most students completing the DAST draw men at work in science, not women. I love that the junior scientist and "humble narrator" is a young girl, tasked with observing and describing Norman.

The science - Science experiments and demonstrations sometimes don't go as planned. They often provide unexpected results. They can be frustrating, particularly when they don't go your way. Our narrator learns this lesson very quickly. Scientists can't make results go their way, no matter how hard they try. And boy, does the narrator try to get Norman to act normal.

The language - I'm quite taken with the way Lazar has managed to use context clues to help define terms. Here's an example.
In fact, we selected Norma because our
scientists found Norman to be the most
average animal on earth. Regular.
Ordinary. A common, everyday creature.
Return from the brief interruption - Not all work scientists do happens in a lab. In fact, quite a bit of it happens in the field. When Norman asks the junior scientist to join him and his friends in their natural habitat, she naturally says yes, and the scene moves outdoors.

The ending - The fact that the head scientist picks up the clipboard and writes in some results is most satisfying. I won't, however, give away this perfect ending.

The back endpapers - The head scientist and junior scientist look a bit startled to find that Norman is now observing them. I had to chuckle. It was a wonderful contrast to the front endpapers.

Text ©2016 Tara Lazar, all rights reserved. Illustrations ©2016 S. britt, all rights reserved.

I thoroughly enjoyed NORMAL NORMAN and can't wait to share it. Thanks to Josh Redlich for including The Miss Rumphius Effect in this tour.

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18. Celebrating World Read Aloud Day AND The Knowing Book

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Boyds Mills Press, 2016

We are thrilled to be celebrating a wonderful new book that is destined to become a classic read aloud...on World Read Aloud Day!

The Knowing Book takes the reader along on the main character's journey from the comfort of home, out into the world to live and grown and learn, and then back home again. It is a wise book, a book of the heart, a book that will surely be given at many baby showers and graduations, and read aloud at important milestones in children's lives.

We were lucky enough to ask the author and illustrator some questions about the book and their process. Interspersed between the Q/A are some early sketches by Matthew Cordell.

When you wrote the book, what were your hopes for readers?

That they would find some comfort in knowing they aren't alone, that there are things they can always count on, that there are universal miracles that no one can ever take away from them; the sky, the stars, the overwhelming oneness and the magic of knowing the world is big and wide and always waiting, whether it be with a new adventure or a new hope in a hopeless situation. More than anything I hope they feel untroubled in some way. –Rebecca

Did you work together as author and illustrator? Can you talk about the process of creating this book together or separately?

Typically authors and illustrators do not work together in a close collaboration. The editor and/or art director of the book is the point person and all comments and communication are ran through that channel. But it was an open channel, and Rebecca and I were both very open to any thoughts and suggestions from each other. Our editor, Rebecca Davis is incredibly insightful and thoughtful and caring too. It was just a wonderful, wonderful process--beginning to end--of fine tuning this book to get it just right. –Matthew

I agree with everything Matthew said. And I love how he refers to it as "an open channel." We both felt so deeply about this book, and I think put so much of ourselves into it, in ways I'm still figuring out. To get each detail, each nuance right, we all had to listen to each other and be open to and respect what the other's artistic expression and heart wanted to share on the page. We were very lucky that our editor was a two-way guiding light. –Rebecca

This book, although a picture book, seems to have a strong message for people of all ages and in all stages of life. Who were you thinking of when you had the idea for this book?

When I had the idea, the feelings and emotions had come from where I was emotionally, and that was sad and a bit hopeless. But then I immediately thought of children who might feel somehow lighter, less burdened, more hopeful if they really, really thought about the universe always being there for them. But after it was all written and rewritten and I looked at it with new eyes, I realized it could be for anyone, any age. —Rebecca 

The title is brilliant. Was it the first idea you had or did it evolve?

Thank you, first of all! I would have said it was The Knowing Book from the start. But as I was putting together all of my drafts and correspondence having anything to do with the manuscript into its own box (I keep labeled boxes for each book) I saw a draft that had The Always Book jotted down, then crossed out with The Knowing Book written next to it. The "always" would have referred to the line "it is what you will always know." But I remember now repeating the word know, know, know, over and over and realizing that was the most important thought I wanted the reader to gain; that these are the things they will always know. –Rebecca 

How did you decide to illustrate this as a bunny rather than a child? What process did you go to to decide on that?

We went through a series of tests before I began illustrating the book. I wanted the character to be universal. I wanted all boys and girls (and grown-ups too) of all different backgrounds and ethnicities to be able to plug her or himself into this book and these words. In my experience, making the character an animal--if it works--is a sure fire way to do this. I tried a few different animals at first. A bear, a mouse, and a rabbit. The bear and mouse had the sweet sincerity I wanted, but they were almost too cute. And this book is not about being cute. It's much more honest than that. Of the three, the rabbit had the most insightful and inner wisdom and worth. We did also try a child, for the sake of trying. I did some sketches of a child that might be construed as a girl OR a boy. Depending on who might be reading it. But in the end, the rabbit was a unanimous choice. –Matthew

The illustrations and text work together to be serious and hopeful. How did you accomplish that?

I'm so glad to hear you say it that way. Because that's how I hope readers will see it. I think everyone who worked on this book saw and wanted for the same things. It really was such a good fit! If anything ever strayed from that path, it was gently corrected back into place by someone. From the moment I read Rebecca's manuscript I had a vision in my mind of how it would play out. I never wanted this book to be silly of funny or even sweet. Joyful, yes. But even dark at times, in a poignant sort of way. Real. Because that is real life for all of us. Children and adults. –Matthew

I'd like to add that my hope had been for The Knowing Book to be illustrated in a thoughtful, serious ("joyful" is perfect) way mixed with a whimsical spirit roaming through the pages. And Matthew made it happen. –Rebecca

It seems like your work is so perfect together! Will you do more books together, do you think? 

Gosh, I sure hope so! I love Rebecca's writing. It was an honor to be chosen to illustrate KNOWING, and I hope it's not the last!  –Matthew

I second that. I have my hopes that down the road there will be a very special book I write that might be just right for another Matthew Cordell pairing, and that he'll say yes when he sees it! –Rebecca

Thank you, Rebecca and Matthew for joining us on your blog tour, and congratulations on a fabulous collaboration.

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19. PASSENGER By Alexandra Bracken // Blog Tour, Review, & TWO Giveaways You DON'T Want To Miss!!

by Becca... Woot, woot! Today is a great day, because I FINALLY get to spread all my Passenger love around! Thanks Hannah for organizing this amazing blog tour, and Disney-Hyperion! I'm so excited to be apart of it, and share ALL THE FEELS with our readers today with my review, a giveaway of Passenger, AND a super special (cough painted by me cough cough) giveaway, exclusively for

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20. Teen Frankenstein Blog Tour: High School Horror Stories & Giveaway!

Welcome to my stop on the Teen Frankenstein Blog Tour!  High school can be one long horror story for some people.  In fact, I am pretty sure I just blurred out my first two years because as I wracked my brain for a horror story I came up with several cringe worthy moments.  Like the time, during my sophomore year, when I finally got some playing time in a varsity basketball game.  I was pretty excited and after our team meeting went bounding up the bleachers to chat with my parents.  Gracefully, I slipped and fell very hard on the old wooden bleachers.  In front of several senior boys, one of whom I had a crush on. Came away with quite the colorful bruises! 

Or the night after a volleyball game, when my parents had finally decided they had enough with my slouching, so my dad came up with a catalog to discuss how many models don't have boobs, so even though I didn't have any, I should still stand straight and be proud of myself.  MY DAD!!  Yes, that happened (Luckily didn't happen in front of any friends or schoolmates, I still cringe, and it still was during high school).

But, I made survived!!  I was given this "horror story" to post by a Macmillan employee who shall remain nameless!  As you can see, we definitely had something in common in high school:

It was 1997 and, for some strange reason, I didn't have a boyfriend. I was confused. If you asked me, I was pretty fly. My braces were color coordinated to match my glasses. My hair was a lovely shade of pale orange (thank you, Sun-In). I owned purple jorts! What more could you want?
'Well,' a friend said after I expressed these doubts at a sleepover, 'it's probably your lack of development...in the chest.' And just like that, my abnormally robust confidence was thrown into a tailspin. It was true. No amount of Bonne Bell lip gloss could make up for the fact that I was as flat as an ironing board.
But I was a woman of action. And if my pituitary glands weren't going to cooperate, I was going to take matters into my own hands. And this began a life of deceit. It started with wads of paper towels, stuffed into the ample space my training bra still provided. When I got tired of that itchy discomfort, I graduated to rolled up athletic socks.
And wouldn't you know it, it worked. Less than two weeks after I 'went sock,' whose attention should I catch, but that of Clive Schindler, one grade below me, but a foot taller, and exponentially more attractive. We met at a roller rink, and one 'couples skate' to KC and JoJo later, we were officially an item. Our relationship mostly consisted of awkward weeknight phone calls and one movie date, chauffeured by my father, who gripped the steering wheel so hard, I thought it might cease to function. Ah, young love was a glorious thing.
And then came the Day of Reckoning. It was actually a day I'd been looking forward to for some time- Trampoline Day in gym class. Unfortunately, it hasn't occurred to me that my, er, 'girls' might need some extra security. As I waited in line for my turn, I had no idea that my life was about to be irreparably changed. When my turn came, I executed my pike jump with enthusiasm that turned to dread as I hit the trampoline...because as I flew back up into the air, so did my carefully placed athletic socks, right out of my shirt. The left one hit poor old Ms. Zazanis in the head.
It was all over. By the last bell of the day, Clive had given me the ‘let’s just be friends’ speech. And while it was in many ways a valuable lesson about self-acceptance, I’ll never look at a trampoline the same way again.
Teen Frankenstein is written by Chandler Baker (who is so darling I  have a hard time believing she ever had a hard day in high school--seriously, check out her instagram--DARLING!).  Here is the synopsis from the Fierce Reads website:

Tor Frankenstein is, let’s call it obsessed, with reanimation or resuscitation, but experiment after experiment with lab rats fails. But on a dark and stormy night Tor hits a boy with her car. And kills him. Instead of calling the cops and ruining all her chances of winning a Nobel Prize by the time she turns eighteen, she decides to try her experiment out on him. It’s a success. But the experiment isn’t over yet. She must incorporate him into daily high school life for it to be a true success, and when students start being murdered, she fears the worst. We’ll leave the rest up to you to find out what happens to Tor and her monster.
Get to know Chandler at her website or on Twitter or Instagram.

I also get to give a copy of Teen Frankenstein away!  If you'd like to win a copy fill out the form below.  I will pick a winner on January 20th after the last stop of the tour. (US only please)!Loading... Read the rest of this post

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21. Currently 1-24-16


Watching:  Schitt's Creek.  This is a Canadian comedy that I have been waiting to watch since I first heard about it last spring.  Right now the first season is on Amazon Prime Video and it's hysterical.  Seriously.  Give this one a try.  It's only 13 episodes and I predict you will find yourself watching them more than once.

Listening:  A friend of mine recommended this podcast and I am really enjoying it.  It's just two next door neighbors sitting around discussing a topic of the week.  Since I am in the car more and more by myself (Max got his license, by the way) I have more time for podcasts.  I love discovering new ones to enjoy!

Reading: I was invited to be part of a blog tour for this book, Sweet Home Alaska.  It's actually a very fascinating book.  It takes place at the end of the Great Depression and is the story of a family that takes part in an Alaska settlement program.  I had no idea this even happened so I am learning new things as I read!

What are you currently enjoying?

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22. THE 100 {Blog Tour} - 6 Reasons Why BELLARKE Is The Ultimate OTP

From Becca... Welcome to Reading Teen's stop on The 100 tour, hosted by The Irish Banana. We have lots of exciting things in store like the part where I'm going to explain 6 reasons why #BELLARKE is the ULTIMATE OTP (that's One True Pairing), and then there's this fan-freaking-tastic giveaway at the bottom! Be sure to enter! Clarke Griffin and Bellamy Blake are MEANT TO BE.

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23. Weekend Reading #8

I am finishing up SWEET HOME ALASKA.  Next week I will be part of the blog tour for that book.  So excited for that post (on February 4!)

THE YEAR WE FELL APART has gotten good reviews and I love a good contemporary romance.  This is the physical book I am reading right now.

I started THE CRESSWELL PLOT the other day and am not quite sure how I feel about it yet.  Castella seems really immature, but then again, she has been raised in the woods by a crazy father.

I am enjoying all three of these books and am looking forward to getting some reading time this weekend.  I might have to enforce some SSR on myself!

What are you reading this weekend?

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24. Blog Tour & Food From Fiction: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Etsby Dagg

Today is my stop on the SWEET HOME ALASKA blog tour.  I adored this book and will be reviewing it in a couple days.  Today I am welcoming the author to my blog for a Food From Fiction post.  The main character, Terpsichore, loves to cook and bake and when we meet her she is the main cook for her family due to a deal she made with her mom.  A lot of food is mentioned in this book and more than once I got to thinking about making cookies after reading a few chapters.  I asked for a recipe from the author and she provided one that is discussed in the book.  Thanks for visiting today Carole!
Since the old-timer, Mr. Crawford, recommended this recipe and it is the star of Terpsichore’s best-selling cookbook at the Palmer Fair, the obvious choice is Jellied Moose Nose. 
After all, in the wilds of Alaska, you don’t want to waste a smidgen of the moose you just shot. 
If you actually make it and eat it, you will have earned the right to milk and cookies for the rest of your life. 

From the Recipe Book of Terpsichore Johnson 
Jellied Moose Nose 
Put a large kettle of water on to boil. 
Hack off the upper jawbone of the moose just below the eyes and boil it for forty-five minutes. 
Dip the jawbone in cold water and pluck the hairs from the nose. 
Wash the nose thoroughly. 
Boil the nose again in fresh water with chopped onion, garlic, and pickling spices until tender. 
Cool overnight in the water it was boiled in. 
The next morning, remove the meat from the broth and remove the bones and cartilage. 
Thinly slice the meat, pack it in a glass dish with high sides, and cover with the broth. 
Season with salt, pepper, or vinegar to taste. 
As the mixture cools, it will jell so it can be sliced. 
P. S. I’m a pescatarian, so that’s my excuse for never having tried it.
I am not a pescatarian, but I still don't think I would try it because I am also not an adventurous eater!
Pick up a copy of Sweet Home Alaska today. You will enjoy thoroughly enjoy Terpsichore and her adventurous, positive spirit!

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25. Interview: Suzanne Nelson

Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.

What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?

There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.

Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.

Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?

None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.

What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?

Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.

What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?

With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.

Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.

Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?

This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.

Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?

I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.

Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.

You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?

I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.

Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.

Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!

How about your most fun pair of shoes?

I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!

List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.

Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.

Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.

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