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Best Friends for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1969/1994. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: It was a fine summer morning, so Frances took out her bat and ball. "Will you play ball with me?" said her little sister, Gloria. "No," said Frances. "You are too little." Gloria sat down and cried. Frances walked over to her friend Albert's house, singing a song: Sisters that are much too small To throw or catch or bat a ball Are really not much good at all, Except for crying.
Premise/plot: It was easy for Frances to dismiss Gloria as an unworthy playmate, but when Albert (and later Harold) dismiss Frances, well, Frances learns that sometimes a sister can be a friend--a best friend. It's summer and Frances loves to play with her friends. One day Albert rejects Frances because it's his "wandering" day. And the next day, Albert and Harold reject Frances because she's a girl, and girls can't play baseball as well as boys. But Frances is not to be stopped. Even if it means playing with her little sister, she'll show Albert what is what! If Albert wants a no-girls-allowed club, then she'll start a no-boys-allowed club.
"Do you want to play ball?" "All right," said Gloria. "If any boys come, they can't play," said Frances, "and I think I will be your friend now." "How can a sister be a friend?" said Gloria. "You'll see," said Frances. "For frogs and ball and dolls?" "Yes," said Frances. "And will you show me how to print my name?" said Gloria. "Yes," said Frances. "Then you will be my best friend," said Gloria. "Will it just be today, or longer?" "Longer," said Frances. (20-21)
My thoughts: I do like this one. But Frances isn't always nice in this one. Then again neither is Albert. Or Harold. The only one that is nice all the time is Gloria.
Text: 3 out of 5 Illustrations: 4 out of 5 Total: 7 out of 10
Friends Stick By You When You're In or Out of Hot Water
Occasionally, I underestimate the amount of help I'll need for a project, and later find myself struggling. When our first daughter got married, I thought it wouldn’t take long to clean a reception venue designated for 155 people, especially if friends chipped in on the effort.
My assumption was wrong on two accounts. I assumed people would stay and help with the clean up. Our friends assumed we had a clean-up team in place, and since they weren’t asked to stay, they did not. It was my fault. Plus, I should have realized if I find a home for five difficult to clean, then a space for 155 would be challenging! Nonetheless, God was merciful and we completed the job with a few family members.
But, when our second daughter began planning her wedding reception, I knew we had to do things a bit differently. My aches and pains had increased greatly in the three years since the last wedding. I’d need more assistance on all fronts.
Three relatives and a friend were coaxed into helping decorate for the reception while another friend and I worked on floral centerpieces and bouquets. Two more families helped with the baking. My wonderful mother took charge of pressing all the table linens. Thankful for my dear friends and family, I thought I had all the reception bases covered. Right down to the servers and a clean-up crew.
Three servers were designated for the buffet and two other people were in charge of clearing dirty dishes from the tables. Two more delegates were to run the rented china and glassware through the commercial dishwasher. Impressed with my planning, I imagined a beautiful, snag-free reception.
Eh. Even the best-laid tables can go awry.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful reception. The food tasted delicious and the fellowship delightful. However, pretty early in the evening we were in “hot water.”
Even though we tried to think through all the logistics in advance, we still encountered a few hurdles. It soon became evident the salad bar and the buffet line would go more smoothly and move quicker with more servers.
The dish-washers were needed to help serve food. And later, the original food servers and the two collectors of dirty plates were desperately needed to help the initial two dish-washers.
Apparently, after the meal began, the facility ran out of hot water.
Then, after a few loads, the commercial dishwasher broke down. My diligent plan for a smooth evening was in a heap of “hot water” for the lack thereof.
Even the best-laid tables can go awry.
However, if my friends panicked, I didn’t see it. No one made the comment, “You said I’d only have to collect dirty plates—no one said I’d have to wash them.” No one high-tailed it out the back door. In fact, they didn’t even tell me about the simmering situation in the kitchen until the evening was almost over.
After the guests gave the bride and groom a sparkler send-off, we gave our guests good-bye hugs and wished them well. Then, I went to the kitchen to see if we were in knee-deep or barely treading water. To my surprise, my sweet friends—all of them—the catering crew, servers, dish-washers, and plate collectors were in there smiling and chatting away. They rinsed what food they could from the plates and stacked them for washing later, when the hot water hopefully returned. I knew they had to be exhausted. I hugged each of them and told them how much I appreciated them. They only had one request—wedding cake!
My friends could have left, but they stayed. They worked with what they had to make the best of a tough situation. I love my friends. Moreover, I must add my love for my family as well.
When I left the kitchen, there they were, already busy clearing and breaking down tables. And not just the ones I had asked in advance to stay and help. God opened the floodgates. Grandparents, siblings, cousins. My heart swelled with gratitude. Not just for the family and friends God has blessed me with, but especially the ones with whom He has blessed my daughter and her new husband.
One of my greatest joys was watching their friends. Most of them had a one-to-three hour drive ahead of them and it was already almost nine o’clock in the evening. When I came out of the kitchen to help clear tables, there stood a troop of college kids and recent graduates. I never expected them to stay.
God always takes my assumptions and uses them to teach me. Sometimes He teaches me through the tough love of consequences. Other times it's lessons of mercy and grace. But one thing I'm learning is to trust Him with all things.
“What can we do to help?” one of my daughter's friends asked.
Knowing some had a good distance to travel; I told them they needed to get on the road. They weren’t lightly responding out of politeness.
One said, “But we’re not going to do that. We’re fine. We want to help. So tell us what we can do.”
They wouldn’t budge until I began sharing ways they could help.
That’s when this mama’s heart was blessed beyond measure. Just as God had led me to choose wonderful friends, so too had He led my daughter.
It's encouraging to know your child has friends who will stick by her even when the days aren't so sweet.
It’s encouraging to know my daughter and her husband have the caliber of friends who will stick by them in the future. When they run into hot water…or out of it, whatever the case may be.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
This adage has been told to innumerable children, but in Elyse's case, words do hurt. Elyse has a rare condition called cognadjvisiblitis, or CAV. When she hears nouns or adjectives describing her, they appear as black words on her arms and legs.
In elementary school, Elyse could count on her best friend Jeg, the kindness of young children, and the assistance of teachers and school administrators to ensure that only positive words would appear on her skin, HAPPY, CUTE, SMART. These words were not only complimentary, they were non-irritating. Unkind words surfaced dark, large, and bold - causing extreme itching and discomfort.
Middle school behaviors cannot be controlled so easily. First, she is dumped by her boyfriend, and then she loses Jeg to the cool girls clique. No one can ensure that only positive adjectives find their way to Elyse's ears. It's no wonder that she takes to wearing long sleeves and pants, regardless of the season.
Things begin getting both better and worse as Elyse follows the advice she finds written on mysterious, but mostly encouraging, blue notes. The notes exhort her to compete for the school's coveted position of class trip Explorer Leader, but the contest exposes her to social situations that aggravate her CAV. Her nervous mother takes her, yet again, to the doctor renowned for, but mostly ineffective in treating CAV,
"People go to meetings, I said. "And take walks. It's not that crazy."
Dr. Patel scooted closer to get a better look at my words. DUMB was still there. So were IDIOT, LOSER, STUPID, UNLOVABLE, WORTHLESS, and FREAK, the whole crew. They were going in all different directions, and some were bigger than others, but they were all thick, dark, mean, and itchy, and felt like ridiculously scratchy clothes-the ones that also have ridiculously scratchy tags-I couldn't ever take off.
While the postulate of a school choosing a class trip leader in reality-TV-style, seems a bit far-fetched, the underlying middle school drama rings true, and the book's unique premise of CAV will give readers pause for thought.
Sticks and Stones offers more than just middle-school angst and coming-of-age experiences. Similar to the lives of real children who deal with name-calling everyday, Elyse's story is not one of overcoming this adversity, but of living with it. Elyse's story is a reminder that not all things can be made "right," but we should all take care that we do not contribute to making things "wrong."
(An added bonus: it's a mystery - who is writing those blue notes?)
This is a debut novel for former teacher and school librarian, Abby Cooper. She's off to a great start. Look for this one in July, or pre-order a copy.
A hopeful tale of friendship and flower power, Alison Jay‘s wonderful wordless picture book Bee & Me opens with a young girl startled by a buzzing bee.
No-one likes to be stung and it looks like the bee might be all over before the story’s even begun. Fortunately, a crack in the door of curiosity and bravery opens up the way for an joint adventure bringing plants and flowers across the grey city, delivering beauty and benefits to all city inhabitants, whether honey bees or humans.
Many layers of storytelling run parallel to the main plot. Repeat readings will lead you into the lives of several city inhabitants, when you peer through apartment windows, watching what happens as time passes and the plans of the girl and her bee blossom. It made me think of a recent discussion I had with author Phil Earle, in relation to his fabulous Storey Street series, where he talked about his firm belief that there is story worth hearing behind every door (or in Jay’s case, through every window). A further strand in Jay’s fabric of storytelling follows the growth of friendship between the girl and another young resident in her block of flats, as if distilling how nature can save us from loneliness and make us feel re-connected once more.
Worldwide, bees are in decline. Because of their role as pollinators, we need bees, and bees – facing the threat they now do – need us. This upbeat, optimistic, can-do example of how children are able to make a real and beneficial difference to their world will hopefully inspire a new generation prepared to make a difference.
Enthused by Bee & Me the girls and I set about creating lots of Bee Seed Tape to give away to all our fellow allotmenteers. Seed Tape is a strip of biodegradable material with seeds already imprinted in it, evenly spaced and super easy to use for speedy planting.
First we dyed (organic) toilet paper, spraying it with natural food colouring.
When the paper was dry, we stuck on seeds using a thick flour/water paste (as thick as possible, so that the moisture in it didn’t encourage the seeds to germinate). We chose to use seeds for sunflower and borage because bees love these plants and the seeds are large enough to handle easily.
Once our seed tape was dry we turned it into bees. Our bee body (which was designed to double up as a plant label) was made from a lollipop stick on which the seed types written on it.
The seed tape was wrapped around the lollipop and held in place with some black ribbon to create bee stripes. Ping-pong balls and pipecleaners were used to create bee heads, and instructions for planting the seed tape were stuck onto black cardboard wings (you can download the template here if you’d like to use ours) threaded on to the black ribbon.
Now it was time to share and plant our bee-friendly seeds so off to the allotment we went:
Here’s the seed tape rolled out before we covered it up with soil.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such fun seed labels before!
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Bee & Me include:
Using out-of-date seeds to create mosaic artwork. Seeds and seed pods come in the most spectacular range of shapes and sizes and are great fun for using as an art material.
Going on an after-dark walk around the neighbourhood to look in windows. Can you spot, as in Bee & Me, someone reading a book? Someone painting a picture? Someone knitting, (extra points for these) tossing a pancake or writing a story on a typewriter? What tales could be behind these glimpses into the lives of others?
Adopting a small public space in your street (perhaps by a verge or under a tree) and planting some flowers or herbs to brighten up the lives, not just of bees, but also of your neighbours? Be inspired by Todmorden’s community herb gardens or London’s Guerilla Gardeners (with examples from around the world).
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
It's been a while since I've done a picture book roundup. Here are three that struck my fancy:
Kind. This boy is the best!
Have you seen Elephant?
Written and illustrated by David Barrow. Gecko Press, 2016
A kind young boy plays hide-and-seek with his elephant friend and takes care to keep the game going, despite the fact that his friend is a very poor hider! Have you seen Elephant? is bright and cheerful and funny, and above all - kind. This is the first book I've seen from Gecko Press and the first by David Barrow. I love it!
Confined? Can the colortamer catch them all?
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color
Written and illustrated by Julia Denos Balzer Bray, 2016
Bright, bold, and expressive, Swatch is a color tamer - trapping and using colors in the most fantastic of ways. A bold and fearless artist, no color had escaped her artistic eye ... no color but one,
"Morning came, and there it was, fast fading and fierce, the King of All Yellows, blooming in the sidewalk crack in spite of the shadows. Swatch was ready .... At last, Yellowest Yellow would be hers."
Or would it?
This is the first book that Julia Denos has written as well as illustrated. I would love this book even if my favorite color were not the hero of the story!
Find. Where is that cat?
Spot, the Cat
Illustrated by Henry Cole Little Simon, 2016
A beautifully detailed, wordless book - more than just a seek-and-find, it follows the path of an adventurous cat in the city and the boy who wants to find him. Join the young boy and search the city for Spot, the cat.
I am ridiculously excited to share Booked with kids, friends and librarians. Kwame Alexander hits the sweet spot again, this time scoring a goal with his mix of soccer, family, first crushes, friendship and poetry.
Nick loves soccer, whether it's playing futsol with his best friend, dreaming of playing professionally, or staying up late playing FIFA online. What Nick hates are books. More specifically, he hates that his dad makes him read his own dictionary of unusual words.
Kwame Alexander has crafted a novel that is fast to read, full of wordplay and humor, and leaves you thinking. I love the way he captures the bantering between Nick and his mom, as well as between Nick and his best friend Coby. Right from the beginning, he shows how kids play with words in smart, sophisticated ways. My students love telling jokes, and will love seeing if their friends get this. Just see if they see why this is such a funny way for Nick to introduce his dad, the linguistics professor:
"In the elementary school spelling bee when you intentionally misspelled heifer, he almost had a cow."
As Nick struggles with his parents' impending divorce, bullying at school and figuring out how to talk to the girl of his dreams, he discovers that words and poetry can actually be cool. A great follow up to The Crossover!
Want to read more? Check out this terrific NPR interview with Kwame from this weekend:
I'm so jazzed to share this that I've already placed an order for 15 books (!!) with my favorite local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, and I will be sharing these with friends tomorrow. I hope to share soon how kids respond to Booked. My sense is that Booked will resonate more with middle school students than elementary students, but I do think many 5th graders will enjoy and relate to Nick's struggles.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
It’s a madcap tale of one bright Nate Bannister, who – rather admirably – makes a conscious effort to keep his life interesting; every Friday the 13th he chooses to do three things which are either a challenge or likely to bring some adventure. This year this includes creating an enormous, invisible cat who does indeed make life rather more exciting… by going on the rampage.
Fortunately Nate has a loyal friend (indeed, his only friend), Delphine, and together they try all sorts of things to stop the crazy cat from destroying their neighbourhood. Inventions galore and smart thinking abound, but it’s not at all straight forward, because the Red Death Tea Society (ominous baddies of the most evil variety, who just happen to have astonishing tea brewing skills) are set on preventing Nate and Delphine from saving the day.
This riotous book, ideal for 9-12s, celebrates being a little bit different and being curious and clever. Brilliantly, it does this with a great dose of silliness and laughter, so it always feels exhilarating and never sanctimonious. Pacey, eccentric, highly imaginative and with characters and a story line likely to appeal to both boys and girls, I’d suggest How to Capture an Invisible Cat to anyone who loves off-the-wall adventure and thinking outside the box.
There’s something very mysterious about the Red Death Tea Society and so we couldn’t resist having a go at making up some tea they might enjoy. We gathered our tea making ingredients; a mixture of warm spices (cinammon, cardomum, cloves, star anise), fresh herbs (rosemary, sage mint), citrus zest (lemon and orange) and sugar lumps, plus small muslin squares to make the teabags (alternatively you could make teabags out of coffee filters using these instructions, or be inspired by this tea bag themed pinterest board).
Deciding on tea flavours was a bit like mixing up magic potions.
Once the flavours were carefully selected, the muslin squares (about 12cm long on each side) were tied up with red thread, and a tea bag label was stapled onto the thread (using a knot to hold it in place).
M designed the logo for the teabags, but if you’d like to use them you can download them here (pdf).
Once all our teabags were ready, we made boxes for them:
Thinking of three things which would make your life more interesting and attempting to achieve one of them! They don’t need to be quite as crazy as Nate’s ideas – you could decide as a family to learn a new language or skill, try a new cafe or just asking your local librarian for a book recommendation. And if you want to know when all the Friday the 13ths are – here’s a handy table.
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
Happy Feline Friday! Steve of Burnt Food Dude started Feline Friday. A fun meme that is simple to join and fun to post.
All you have to do is post a picture, drawing, cartoon, or video of a cat, then visit Steve's blog, go to the top of the menu bar and click on the Feline Friday Code. Paste the code under your cat picture, add you name and link and join in the fun. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and see a variety of adorable cats and kittens being themselves. You can even post a photo of your own feline when he/she is not looking. :) Have a spectacular day!
Books for newly fluent independent readers often have great pace (to entice just one more page turn) and lovely characterization (encouraging growing kids to explore their own unfurling wings), but books for this age group with turns of phrases and fine, fine threads of words which make your heart sing are quite unusual.
And yet, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea written by Polly Faber (@Pollylwh) and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy (@ClaraVulliamy) has all of this, plus buckets more. Illustrated on every spread with immense charm, humour and warmth, and with an overall design to make small hands hug it close to their heart, this little hardback is everything you’d dream of, if trying to come up with something to foster an association of sheer joy and enchantment with books.
Mango Allsorts and her best friend Bambang (a friend who just happens to be a tapir) are looking for a new hobby, and would you believe it, but it turns out that after failures with ballet and baking, flamenco dancing hits the spot.
Bambang, however, doesn’t get the chance to attend many lessons before an escapade involving climbing trees (there’s nothing a tapir can’t do when it comes to snaffling cake), a diamond engagement ring and a devious neighbour result in Bambang being put behind bars, not just once, but twice! Will the friends be able to use Bambang’s new dancing prowess and Mango’s clever problem-solving skills to save the day? Or could it be that their very partnership is put in peril as a result of Bambang’s newly discovered skill?
Joyous, open-hearted and very funny, these tales of Mango and Bambang are simply brilliant. A charismatic exploration of friendship, with a dash of quirkiness and oodles of wit, along with endearing illustrations (reminding me of Joyce Lankester Brisley and her Milly Molly Mandy books) that really draw out the beauty of the stories, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea is utterly delightful. My girls and I are really hoping that this second set of tales featuring Mango and Bambang won’t be the last.
If you spend any time at all hanging out with Clara Vulliamy you’ll very quickly learn that she is the Queen of Secret Haberdashery Supplies. I know of no other author or illustrator who has such an eye for beautiful ribbons, notions and buttons. With this in mind the girls and I wanted to create something Mango and Bambang-y which Clara herself (and, of course, Polly too) might enjoy making and thus we came up with the idea of designing flamenco costumes. This quickly developed into puppets of Mango, Bambang and friends all dress up in flamenco finery.
Creating your own Museum of the Unusual. Of course, I wouldn’t encourage you to be as mean as Dr Cynthia Prickly-Posset, but starting a collection of things you find weird and wonderful (without resorting to stealing them from your neighbours!) is a fun idea. Maybe your museum will be full of strange shaped stones, or bizarre things you’ve found down the back of the sofa… If you’re looking for some display ideas for your museum, you might find inspiration in past museums we’ve created here, here and here
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It's the early 1950s and office boy Trevor Roberts just wants to be a full-fledged reporter for his hometown paper, the Lowestoft Journal, but so far, he only get reporting jobs once in a blue moon, and usually not very interesting. One March morning, Trevor is sent out to see if Mr. Friston's tortoise has woken up from his winter hibernation. Little did Trevor know that that would be the beginning of a long friendship and a wonderful article for the newspaper.
Slowly, over a series of weekends, Trevor peddles out to the two converted railroad cars that Henry Frisson's lives in and hears the story of how he acquired his tortoise, whom he named Ali Pasha, during World War I. Told in a series of flashbacks and using his saved wartime memorabilia, including his diary, Henry recalls wanting to see the world as a boy, and joining the Royal Navy hoping to realize his dreams. But shortly after, WWI breaks out and Henry's ship, HMS Implacable, heads straight for Gallipoli. There, Henry finds himself on shore and in the trenches, charged with the duty of removing wounded and dead soldiers from the battlefield, ironically in the company of the Turkish soldiers they were fighting with.
It is in the midst of fighting one day that Henry is knocked down into a shallow crater by a shell blast, followed by a hard object hitting his head. It turned out to be a tortoise whom Henry befriends while waiting for the fighting to end. Henry decides to rescue the tortoise and sneaks it on to the HMS Implacable, hiding it in his battleship station, the Number Two Gun turret. Because Henry found his tortoise on the Gallipoli Peninsula, which was part of the Ottoman Empire then, he decides to name it Ali Pasha, after one of its rulers.
From Gallipoli, the HMS Implacable heads to the Suez Canal, and eventually back to England. And Ali Pasha go home with Henry, where the two lived out their days together.
I always know that when I pick up a Micheal Foreman book, I am going to like the story and the artwork equally and The Tortoise and the Soldier is no exception. Here is a wonderful, lifelong story that begins on the battlefield of one of the worst campaigns in WWI and continues of over 70 years.
And though the center of the story is about Henry and Ali Pasha, there is a lot of story relating to Henry's family, his school days, his brothers fighting in Europe, and mostly centrally, his relationship with the other sailors assigned to Number Two Gun turret. Foreman subtly shows the reader how important it is to be able to not just get along with those who live in such close proximity to one, but also how much better it is if you really like each other and work together. As Henry tells Trevor, his shipmates would bring Ali Pasha treats from their own meals in the hope that he would bring them luck.
Perhaps the best message a young reader can take away from this story, is that the enemy, in this case the soldiers from Turkey, are really at bottom no different from Henry and his mates, a important discovery he makes during a short cease fire to collect the dead.
This is a very pleasant story, one told for the most part with a light touch, but make no mistake about it, Foreman doesn't sugar-coat what happens in war, on the sea and in the battle field. Recognizing oneself in the enemy, and realizing how deadly war is are both good reasons for kids to read this book. But so is the enduring friendship between man and tortoise.
The Tortoise and the Soldier is historical fiction based on the lives of the real Henry Friston and Ali Pasha. Foreman includes information, photos and other artifacts about both man and tortoise, as well as his own personal story knowing Henry during WWII. But it is Foreman's own watercolor illustrations that really enhance and give depth to the tale he is telling:
Henry meets Ali Pasha
This is a wonderful story that is sure to appeal to many middle grade readers.
This super cutie book showed up in the post the other day, and I promptly snagged it to take it home. I constantly on the look-out for all things super hero, and when there is a girl power theme, I'm all for it. Plus, Lisa Yee? I'm all in.
Wonder Woman has lived on Paradise Island with her mother her whole life, and she has been happy there. But Wonder Woman actually goes behind Hippolyta's back and applies to Super Hero High. It's not that Wonder Woman wants to leave home and her mother, but she does want to spread her wings and figure out who she is.
Wonder Woman is ecstatic when she finds out she is accepted, and is even more thrilled when her mother lets her go.
The thing is, Wonder Woman hasn't exactly been around the block. Have you ever met someone who takes everything literally? Well, that is Wonder Woman to a "t"! When she is told to get a clue she goes looking for one! Imagine moving from Paradise Island to being roomies with vlog obsessed Harley Quinn?
Permeating the school are the regular high school cliquey concerns, but what is on the minds of everyone is the upcoming team selection for the elite Super Triathlon Team. Whispers around the hallways say that Wonder Woman was recruited for this very task, and that she's a shoe in. Wonder Woman is starting to believe it too, because someone is leaving her nasty notes encouraging her to leave the school. Can Wonder Woman live up to her mother's standards while figuring out the ropes of high school?
Readers meet so many characters along the including Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Star Sapphire, Cheetah, Frost, Golden Glider, Katana, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Crazy Quilt, Hawkgirl among others. I was grateful for an internet search or two to figure out who is who. Perhaps a back-matter listing of characters and attributes would be helpful.
Overall, this is a super fun start to a series that will fill a gap. While the characters are over the top in a comic book way, their larger than life characteristics obviously fit the occasion. Even though the books are branded as DC SuperHero Girls, boys will pick up these titles as well. The pages are filled with plenty of action and drama, and I can't wait to see what comes next!
Today sees the publication of one of the books my girls and I have most eagerly been awaiting this spring – The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine. It’s the second novel featuring two terrific, daring and delightful Edwardian detectives, Sophie and Lil, as they solve a new mystery involving East End gangs, sparkling jewellery with a curse upon it, and powerful and dangerous aristocrats. Masters of disguise, Sophie and Lil get to pass themselves off as debutantes enjoying their first season in London’s high society, providing plenty of opportunities for dressing up and a little bit of mischievous fun at the same time as cracking a puzzle that’s been a problem even if Scotland Yard.
It’s with great pleasure that I today welcome the book’s author, Katherine Woodfine to share with us some of the background information she learned about social events like afternoon tea and fancy dress balls whilst researching The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.
“The London Season was jam-packed with parties, balls, events and dinners – so much so that many a debutante found herself completely exhausted by the frenzy of social activity! In The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth we follow Veronica and her debutante friends to some of these events – from garden parties to afternoon tea gatherings, grand dinner parties, and of course, coming-out-balls.
Balls were an especially important part of the London Season. They usually began later in the evening – guests might have already attended a dinner party or another event. During the Season, balls were typically held in grand London houses, where guests would dance, eat a delicious supper, and perhaps stroll out onto a terrace to cool off between dances.
On arrival at these balls, young ladies would be given a dance programme: a small card listing all the evening’s dances, with a tiny pencil attached. They then had to wait patiently by the side of the dance-floor with their chaperones, hoping for a young man to approach and ask them to dance – young ladies were never allowed to ask men to dance with them! He would then write his name in the appropriate space on her dance-card. Most debutantes would dread being left to sit on the sidelines, and their great hope would be to fill their dance-card up as much possible before the dancing actually began.
The most important of all the dances was the supper-dance, because after this, a young lady’s partner would take her through to have supper, meaning that they would have chance to spend more time together. But even this was not really an opportunity to talk privately with a potential suitor: even whilst chatting over supper, a debutante knew that her chaperone was always watching! The sharp eyes of Edwardian high society were always on the look-out for even the slightest signs of improper behaviour.
As well as more traditional balls, the Edwardians enjoyed themed dances such as the Royal Caledonian Ball, where men dressed in Highland attire and everyone danced Scottish reels. They also loved fancy-dress balls – though their costumes are perhaps a little different to those we might wear at a fancy-dress party today!
In The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, Veronica’s coming-out-ball has a fancy dress theme, which gives Sophie and Lil the chance to disguise themselves and go undercover for some investigation amongst London’s society set. Here they have a chance to see a grand Edwardian ball for themselves – but it doesn’t take them long to discover that they are not the only people at the ball who have secrets to hide…”
A little bit of glamour, lots of intrigue, excitement, quick thinking, confident heroines – all of these are wonderful ingredients in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. Thankyou Katherine for creating such enjoyable and thrilling stories to share. Our only problem is that now the long wait for the third book in the series beings…
Here Comes Valentine Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers 12/22/2015 978-0-525-42915-9 88 pages Ages 3—5 Junior Library Guild Selection “Cat is no fan of VALENTINE’S DAY, especially when it brings a new dog to the neighborhood. “Ouch. I’m sorry, Cat. …
Chuck and Woodchuck Written & Illustrated by Cece Bell Candlewick Press 3/08/2016 978-0-7636-7524-0 32 pages Ages 4—8 “When Caroline’s classmate Chuck brings a woodchuck to show-and-tell, Woodchuck is so funny, their teacher says he can come to school every day! Woodchuck is friendly to everyone, but he’s especially sweet to Caroline. He gives her Chuck’s hat …
Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books are fast becoming a favorite of children and parents alike. The author and illustrator has created a little polka-dotted elephant with a big heart. The Little Elliot series — Little Elliot, Big City; Little Elliot, Big Family; and Little Elliot, Big Fun — is heavily influenced by the zeitgeist of the1930s and conveys wonderful messages about family and friendship.
Mike Curato and MerryMakers president Clair Frederick joined StoryMakers host Rocco Staino to talk about the series of Little Elliot books and the huggably soft plush products created by the toy maker. Little Elliot is one of the newest members of the MerryMakers family.
We’re giving away three (3) signed copies of Mike Curato’s Little Elliot, Big City; Little Elliot, Big Family; and a MerryMakers plush toy. Enter now!
Little Elliot, Big City
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy like cupcakes And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter a friend.
When Mouse heads off to a family reunion, Little Elliot decides go for a walk. As he explores each busy street, he sees families in all shapes and sizes. In a city of millions, Little Elliot feels very much alone-until he finds he has a family of his own.
Little Elliot, Big Fun Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Available August 2016
In this third story of Little Elliot and Mouse, the friends head off in search of adventure . . . and lots of fun. Little Elliot, the polka-dotted elephant, and his friend Mouse go to the amusement park to see the sights and ride the rides water chutes, roller coasters, carousels, and more. But Elliot isn’t having much fun the rides are too wet, too fast, too dizzy, and just plain too scary until Mouse figures out a way to help him overcome his fears. Together, Mouse and Little Elliot can do anything.
Worm Loves Worm Written by J. J. Austrian with illustrations by Mike Curato
Published by Balzer + Bray
Perfect for fans of And Tango Makes Three and The Sissy Duckling, this irresistible picture book is a celebration of love in all its splendid forms from debut author J. J. Austrian and the acclaimed author-illustrator of Little Elliot, Big City, Mike Curato. You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm . . . and a worm. When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next: They get married but their friends want to know who will wear the dress? And who will wear the tux? The answer is: It doesn’t matter. Because Worm loves Worm.
Mike loves drawing and writing almost as much as he loves cupcakes and ice cream (and that’s a LOT!). He is the author and illustrator of everyone’s favorite polka-dotted elephant, Little Elliot. His debut title, Little Elliot, Big City, released in 2014 to critical acclaim, has won several awards, and is being translated into ten languages. The follow up book, Little Elliot, Big Family, was just released in October, 2015, and has received several starred reviews. At least two more Little Elliot books are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Mike had the pleasure of illustrating Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, which is available January 5, 2016. He is also working on several other projects, including his first graphic novel. Mike lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Title: Be A Friend
Author & Illustrator: Salina Yoon
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, January 2016
Themes: individuality, imagination, friendship
Dennis was an ordinary boy
…who expressed himself in EXTRAORDINARY ways.
Dennis is an ordinary boy who expresses himself in extraordinary ways. Some children do show-and-tell. Dennis mimes his. … Continue reading →
I had never heard of the British author and poet A. F. Harrold before I encountered The Imaginary at a bookstore just before Christmas but I was definitely familiar with illustrator Emily Gravett, a longtime favorite of mine (read my reviews of her picture books here.) Gravett's playful, detailed style is perfectly paired with Harrold's engrossing, creative, slightly creepy story of a girl, her imaginary friend and the fiend who is trying to eat him, making The Imaginary a truly stand out book.
Amanda Primrose Shuffleup has an incredible imagination. And, when she opens up her wardrobe door one rainy evening to hang up her wet coat and finds a boy named Rudger, her imaginary world gets even bigger. From landing a spaceship of alien planets (the thorn bushes in the backyard) to a hot air balloon that lands them in the "sticky, steamy South American jungle" to a "complex of caves, deep and dark, that stretched out for unknown miles underneath the stairs," Amanda and Rudger go everywhere and do everything together. And Amanda's mother, while she can't see Rudger, is perfectly accommodating, serving him bowls of cereal and making room for him in the backseat of the car. And, while Amanda can be careless with Rudger's feelings from time to time and very self-absorbed, Rudger wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Rudger - and Amanda's - worlds are turned upside down when Mr. Bunting arrives at the front door, claiming to be conducting a survey about, "Britain today. And children." His strange behavior is disconcerting enough, but what's more disturbing is the fact that he has a miserable looking girl with him who can see Rudger. Mr. Bunting and his gloomy imaginary friend are after something, and they seem to turn up everywhere Amanda and Rudger go until their relentless pursuit puts Amanda in the hospital and Rudger Fading from existence and in a strange kind of imaginary friend limbo.
This limbo, which the imaginaries call the Agency, is housed in a library - the one place with enough imaginings housed inside of it to keep the imaginaries alive until they can find a new human. Rudger makes a few missteps before he figures out how to get to Amanda and save her and himself, but not before a very harrowing, sinister battle in Amanda's hospital room. It turns out that Mr. Bunting can only be fed by the, "slick, slippery slither of fresh imaginary." For Mr. Bunting, just as "imaginaries needed t be believed in to go on, so he needed to eat that belief to keep himself going." Not since I read Neil Gaiman's Coraline and the Other Mother, have I been so creeped out by a character in a book.
The Imaginary is an absolutely fantastic, unforgettable book. Harrold's writing is superb and the rules by which the imaginary friends exist and cease to exist make sense. He creates a world immediately and efficiently - there is no part of The Imaginary that I felt could have been edited down, which is not the case with most books I read. Harrold is also gifted at capturing the way children think and talk. There is an especially fascinating and funny turn in the book where Rudger, in his efforts to get to Amanda, takes on the job of being the imaginary friend to her classmate, Julia Radiche. However, since Julia is doing the imagining, Rudger is now Veronica, who needs to get used to wearing a dress and having long hair. Emily Gravett's illustrations, which are black and white, mostly, with perfect pops of color here and there, bring to life Harrold's writing in a way that makes this book all the more memorable.
And did I mention what a beautiful book The Imaginary is? From the slightly smaller trim size to the fantastic endpapers to the thick pages, this book calls out to be picked up and enjoyed!
Originally published in the UK in 2014, The Imaginary is newly out in paperback there with this intriguing new cover!
Robyn is a tinkerer. She loves building things with her dad, but since her dad's job has taken up most of his time lately, Robyn is on her own. One night after Robyn sneaks out as usual to head to the junkyard to find a voltage adapter for a project, things seem a bit off. Usually dodging the guards and scaling the fence are fun endeavors, but this night the guards are more soldier-esque than usual. And this time when she made it over the fence, there was a dog.
Luckily Robyn is a prepared girl, and has a pocket full of bacon to keep the dog at bay. True, the bacon was orignally for Robyn's friend Barclay who calls the junkyard his home, but Robyn is thankful she packed it.
It turns out that changes are afoot in a much more far ranging way than just upped security in the junkyard. This night comes to be called the Night of Shadows, and what it is is a coup. The standing government and all of the members of parliament are rounded up and/or killed. Robyn's father works for the government.
When she races home, she finds a horrifying sight. Her empty house is in shambles and her parents are gone. All that is left is a puddle of blood in the kitchen. Robyn is a wanted girl.
Now Robyn is forced to try to remember all of the warnings her father gave her that she only half listened to. The ones that started with "If anything ever happens to me and your mother...". Upon hearing strangers back in her house she takes the few items from her safe and takes off into the forest.
What comes next is an adventure that will keep readers up well into the night. Solitary Robyn must learn that sometimes it's okay (and necessary) to trust others. Her group of friends must learn to live by their wits and manage to help others who may not be so resourceful along the way.
Magoon has reimagined the world of Robin Hood in an alternate time period and has woven in technology and the idea of the big brother very well. Readers do not need to be familiar with the original tale to have a rip roaring time, but the ones who are familiar will likely be pleased with the reimagining of many of the main characters. Magoon has also woven in moon lore as an aspect of the world building that brings an air of fantasy to the whole story.
I cannot wait for the next installment of this exciting story!
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Below is my review of the audio book version of Dead Boy by Lauren Gale and read by Robbie Daymond. Great plot with some unexpected turns.
GALE, Laurel. Dead Boy. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $35. ISBN 9781101916827. digital download.
Gr 5-7–Crow was once a regular boy who played baseball and had friends and loving parents. But now, he’s dead. At first, being dead wasn’t so bad, but then his rotting flesh began attracting maggots. He couldn’t eat or sleep. His parents divorced. His mother will tell him only that his parents “wished him back to life,” but what kind of life? He’s trapped in a house kept purposefully cold to slow the putrefaction of his flesh. When Melody and her father move in next door, she and Crow become secret friends against the wishes of their parents. Together, they begin to unravel the terrible secret of his parents’ wish. Their forbidden friendship will be tested as they face a series of deadly challenges in their quest for the truth. Though the book’s description promises humor, narrator Robbie Daymond’s presentation of Crow is morose and forlorn. His cheerful portrayal of Melody offers the only break from the macabre atmosphere. VERDICT - Not for the squeamish, this one will be best for middle school fans of ghoulish favorites like The Night Gardener (Abrams, 2014) or The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (S. & S., 2012). [“A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor”: SLJ 7/15 review of the Crown book.]
Bear Snores On is the first book in Karma Wilson’s series about Bear; a huggable and loyal friend, connoisseur of popcorn, and avid swimmer. It’s that time of the year and Bear has gone to sleep for a long time. What happens when several of his woodland friends happen upon his warm lair?
Bear Snores On is a great book you can use to teach young readers about seasons, hibernation, friendship, and sharing. There are so many big lessons in one small book!
Karma Wilson’s reading of Bear Snores On was filmed during Angie Karcher’sRhyming Picture Book Revolution Conference (RPBC). The purpose of the RPBC is to educate and support authors who write rhyming picture books.
KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!
Parents and Educators: Click here to download free Bear Snores On activities! Explore books written by Karma Wilson including more books about Bear!
ABOUT BEAR SNORES ON
Bear Snores On(Illustrated by Jane Chapman) – One by one, a whole host of different animals and birds find their way out of the cold and into Bear’s cave to warm up. But even after the tea has been brewed and the corn has been popped, Bear just snores on! See what happens when he finally wakes up and finds his cave full of uninvited guests — all of them having a party without him.
Karma Wilson grew up an only child of a single mother in the wilds of North Idaho. Way back then (just past the stone age and somewhat before the era of computers) there was no cable TV and if there would have been Karma could not have gotten it. TV reception was limited to 3 channels, of which one came in with some clarity. Karma did the only sensible thing a lonely little girl could do…she read or played outdoors.
Playing outdoors was fun, but reading was Karma’s “first love” and, by the age 11 she was devouring about a novel a day. She was even known to try to read while riding her bike down dirt roads, which she does not recommend as it is hazardous to the general well being of the bike, the rider, and more importantly the book. Her reading preference was fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, etc…) and historical fiction (L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, etc…). Those preferences have not changed much.
Karma never considered writing as a profession because her mother was a professional writer which made it seem like boring and mundane work. At the age of 27 she realized that she still loved well written children’s books of all kinds, from picture books to young adult novels. By that time Karma was a wife and the mother of three young children. Trips to the library with her children were a combination of emotions…when they got a good book there was fun to be had by all, but so many of the books weren’t what her children wanted to listen to.
Too Many Carrots Written & Illustrated by Katy Hudson Capstone 2/1/2016 978-1-62370-638-8 32 pages Ages 3—5 “Rabbit loves carrots. In fact, he loves them so much that they are crowing him out of his cozy burrow. When his friends offer help, Rabbit happily accepts. But will too many carrots cause too much trouble …
Mouse Scouts. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What a cute start to a new series for young readers! I found Sarah Dillard's Mouse Scouts to be a delight. The book introduces us to two friends: Violet and Tigerlily. Both are in Mouse Scouts. To clarify, they are newly promoted from being Buttercups to being Acorn Scouts. The book introduces us to other mouse scouts, and their scout leader, Miss Poppy. By the end of the book, they'll have the opportunity to earn their first (presumably of many) badge. The badge they're aiming for? The "Sow It and Grow It" badge. Readers may learn along with Violet and Tigerlily a few facts about gardening.
I enjoyed this one. I did. It was a simple, straightforward story for young readers. I like the characters. And I really liked the illustrations. This is one series book that was genuinely pleasant to read, even as an adult.
Mouse Scouts: Make A Difference. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I was so glad to have the opportunity to review both books in this new series by Sarah Dillard. After reading the first book in the series, I was ready to continue on with the series. The book stars Violet and Tigerlily. These two friends don't always agree perfectly on every little thing, but, they have a way of coming together when it really, truly matters. It was just a fun treat for me to spend time with these two again, and to get another opportunity to get to know the other scouts as well.
In this one, the mice are attempting to earn the "Make A Difference" badge. I was able to guess what one of their projects would be, but, I was pleasantly surprised by an additional way they all came together to make a difference. I wasn't expecting that at all!
Overall, both books are super-easy to recommend. I think both books will appeal to young readers--girls especially in first and second grade.
This week’s Tuesday’s Questionis: 'What's The Most Outrageous Experience You've Shared With A Friend?’ -Sorry, it's a week late-
As stated in my last post, my computer, "Sam" was admitted to the hospital last Monday for minor surgery. I thought I'd have him home in time to publish a question by now, but that didn't happen. -As it turned out I had to pay a few costly repairs before Sam was discharged.-
I know it sounds goofy to name your computer, but I think I’m technologically advanced or maybe even a visionary, ‘cause Computer Technicians are beginning to remind me of doctors, which makes sense, seeing how computers are the twenty first century's version of the television set.
One of these days, we'll depend on our Computers Techs. as much as we do our Physicians and Veterinarians, so I decided my computer should have a name, gender, and a tons of personally.
Anyway, that is why I’m publishing my weekly post, ‘Tuesdays Question’ so late in the day a week later, I'm sorry, I apologize for the delay and for missing my blogging buddies posts. -Thanks for your patience.-
Alright, with that out of the way, all you have to do is answer the following question and feel free to comment to each other. If you have a blog/website I will link your answers back to your blog/website.
Also, there is a possibility that your answer will be published in a separate post. This is something new, I used to post all comments, but now I've decided to surprise you. Either way, I will link back to your site.
Alright, if you haven't already left, here's this weeks question again: "What's The Most Outrageous Experience You've Shared With A Friend?"
Here are a few examples: Something you saw or experienced in public, watched on film, places you’ve been to visit, etc…
The one person in the world who knows your outlandish, wild, free-spirited side is your best friend/friends.- Because they know and love you for who you are.-
For instance, when I was about thirteen and in junior high school, my best friends’ father referred to me as“Trouble,” instead of “Ann.”
I think great friends find themselves in crazy situations because we share an unconditional love that encourages us to be ourselves.
If love is the grandest gift ever bestowed upon mankind, then friendship is one of its finest ingredients-
When I was sixteen- In 1977- my father bought me a 1966 Chevrolet Malibu and boy could that car fly. To make a long story short, the city had just finished building a new interstate through Baton Rouge and we were more than happy to try it out, you know make sure it was safe for everyone else.
Oh, I've never told my son this story, especially when he was a teenager because you would not believe what we did. One of us would sit in the backseat directly behind the drivers seat, then hop on the interstate and punch the wheel to the floor, and I mean literally to the floor.
Then, when we got a steady speed going, we'd count 123 quickly and switch seats. In other words, if I was in the back, she would slide over to the passenger side, then I would jump in the drivers seat and continue driving.
Every time I remember us doing that I say a little prayer for us as well as our children who would have never been born if this prank among many others had ended in a bad way. Especially, since we took the future fathers of our children were one many of our trial runs.
Thank God for large and small miracles.
Alright, that's my outrageous experience shared with a friend, what is yours?
Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita and Knit Together author and illustrator Angela Dominguez creates heart-warming tales about family and togetherness. Angela Dominguez is a two-time recipient of the American Library Association’s Pura Belpre Honor (2014 and 2016).
It’s kind of a love letter to my mom.
— Angela Dominguez on “Knit Together”
Angela’s picture books are rooted in the themes of family, tradition, and friendship. Several of her books including Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita;Let’s Go, Hugo; and Knit Together pull from relationships with family members and artifacts from her childhood. A wind-up toy inspired French bird Hugo. Angela’s memories of wanting to be a skilled knitter like her mother led her to write a book to remind children they can be talented in their own way. An aunt’s interest in indigenous cultures informed the writing of a version of Mary Had a Little Lamb with a Peruvian twist.
Angela’s books aren’t only an option for children growing up bilingual; they are excellent for those who want to expose young readers to the Spanish language and Latino culture.
Aspiring illustrators will enjoy hearing about Angela’s process and seeing what a book looks like from start to finish.
We’re giving away three (3) sets of books from Angela Dominguez. Each set includes signed copies of Maria Had a Little Llama and Knit Together. Enter now!
All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
From an award-winning illustrator comes a sweet story of mothers and daughters, drawing and knitting, and learning to embrace your talents just right for Mother’s Day. Drawing is fun, but knitting is better because you can wear it Knitting isn t easy, though, and can be a little frustrating. Maybe the best thing to do is combine talents. A trip to the beach offers plenty of inspiration. Soon mom and daughter are collaborating on a piece of art they can share together: a special drawing made into a knitted beach blanket. For every mom and daughter, this is an arts-and-crafts ode creative passion and working together.
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Dominguez presents a humorous and endearing portrait of a stubborn French bulldog and a determined little boy.
Everyone knows about Mary and her little lamb. But do you know Maria? With gorgeous, Peruvian-inspired illustrations and English and Spanish retellings, Angela Dominguez gives a fresh new twist to the classic rhyme. Maria and her mischievous little llama will steal your heart.
Let’s Go, Hugo! Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
Hugo is a dapper little bird who adores the Eiffel Tower — or at least his view of it from down here. Hugo, you see, has never left the ground. So when he meets another bird, the determined Lulu, who invites him to fly with her to the top of the tower, Hugo stalls, persuading Lulu to see, on foot, every inch of the park in which he lives instead. Will a nighttime flying lesson from Bernard the Owl, some sweet and sensible encouragement from Lulu, and some extra pluck from Hugo himself finally give this bird the courage he needs to spread his wings and fly?
Marta! Big & Small (August 23, 2016)
Written by Jennifer Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Marta is “una nina,” an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends. As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is “sabrosa” tasty, very tasty But Marta is “ingeniosa,” a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results. With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.
Hello “Hola.” Some people speak Spanish. Some people speak English. Although we may not speak the same language, some things, like friendship, are universal. Follow two young giraffes as they meet, celebrate, and become friends. This bilingual tale will have readers eager to meet new friends and “amigos.”
COMING IN 2017 Sing Don’t Cry
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company
Pura Belpre Honor winner, Angela Dominguez, based this musically driven story on her beloved grandfather. Her abuelo always encouraged her to stay positive and carry on.
ABOUT ANGELA DOMINGUEZ
Angela was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had A Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. When she is not in her studio, Angela teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013. She also enjoys presenting at different schools and libraries to all sorts of ages. Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and is represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency.