More MG Books For Summer Reading + A Give-away.

Here are two more great middle grade books that happen to take place during the summer which makes them perfect for summer reading.  I’ve included my reviews for each one.

I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS by Lauren Boratz Logsted

“A wonderfully detailed trip back to the days leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to land the first man on the moon. Brings back the magic and wonder of that monumental accomplishment. Told through the POV of 12 year old Mamie as she and her best friend Buster prepare for the big event. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin get all the attention for stepping out onto the moon surface, Mamie thinks Michael Collins deserves the most recognition for bringing them back safely to earth. Perfect summertime read for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the event.”

 

BEAUTY AND BERNICE by Nancy Viau
“A feel-good modern fairy tale of a summer filled with adventure and discovery. This book will keep you smiling and eagerly turning pages until the very end. Fresh,
charming, delightful, and full of surprises. It is a story “made of awesome”.”
Beauty and Bernice
I will give away a copy of BEAUTY AND BERNICE to one lucky winner drawn randomly. Let me know what your favorite childhood summer memory is and your name will be entered. If you share this post on FB or Twitter, I’ll put your name in a second time.
Winner will be announced here on 9-2-2019.

 

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Middle Grade Books For Summer Reading Part 1.

With another school year over and a long stretch of summer ahead, we all want our kids to enjoy some fun and relaxation away from the demands of school. But, we also want our kids to be occupied in activities that encourage growth and engage the imagination. Why not head to the library for some great summer reading?

This post features some of the recent MIDDLE GRADE books I’ve had the pleasure of reading and want to recommend for kids. Each one is accompanied with my review. My first MG historical is also in the mix.  I will feature more middle grade in later posts as well as picture books.

Bob by [Mass, Wendy, Stead, Rebecca]  BOB by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

A magical and whimsical tale full of hope, friendship, and finding your way back home. Put on a chicken suit, grab a flashlight and some licorice and prepare to be transported to a place of wonder, courage, and kindness. A delightful read for the young, and young at heart.

GRANTED by John David Anderson Granted

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a fairy in the Haven. She, and the rest of the fairies have one purpose in life – to grant wishes. As Ophelia embarks on her first mission as a Granter – a fairy who makes a wish come true – a simple wish turns into anything but. Everything about this story delighted me: the clever names of the fairies, the descriptions of their world, how wishes get granted, Ophelia’s struggles to make the wish come true, the relatable characters, and Ophelia’s new-found friendship with an unlikely critter named Sam – also known as a dog. It’s funny, heartfelt, original, hard to put down, and one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. I hope we get to hear from Ophelia Fidgets and her Haven friends again.

WoCCover01  WHEELS OF CHANGE by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

Gr 4–6—Emily Soper is a 12-year-old who lives in a time of transformation. She sees big changes coming in Washington, DC in 1908—from women’s suffrage to the invention of the automobile. She is even going through a time of personal transition, as her mother and father begin pushing her to spend less time in her father’s barn and more time learning to be a proper lady. Resistant to amending her ways at first, Emily begins to see that it is important to have the courage to change when her father’s carriage making business is threatened by racial intolerance and the invention of the automobile. This superb work of historical fiction features a delightful protagonist and a likable cast of supporting characters. Jacobson’s writing is simple, elegant, and clever. The story’s pacing helps build to an exciting conclusion, and gives a great window into an important time in American history. Using a word game between Emily and her father, Jacobson smartly weaves in vocabulary and their definitions, without taking away from the story. The back matter also features an author’s note and recipes.—Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL

 

A Box of Bones by [Cohen, Marina] A BOX OF BONES by Marina Cohen

Twelve-year-old Kallie is a strong protagonist who confronts life with logic, order, and no nonsense.  Stories are lies, and magic and make-believe have no place in the ordered life she and her father have carved out after Kallie’s mother’s death. This ordered life turns upside down when Kallie receives a puzzle box. By solving the puzzle and opening the box, Kallie discovers a set of intricately carved bones.  Something else escapes from the box, something that defies logic and order. This fast-paced page turner alternates between Kallie and Liah – a young bone carver from back in the time when the box’s contents were carved. As Liah’s life begins to intertwine with Kallie’s, everything Kallie knows and believes is shattered. For the first time in her life, logic and order are of no use to her. How will she solve the mystery of the box that is messing up her life?

This is a story of suspense, secrets, and lies that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Jagger Jones and the Mummy's Ankh JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH by Malayna Evans

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”. Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?  Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

These are all fast-paced and exciting stories that should interest even reluctant kids.

Remember, if you and your children enjoy a book, one of the best ways to show the author your love is to write a review about the book on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s a wonderful way to spread the word about great literature for children.

HAPPY READING!

MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

COVER

When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

ankh-cover

  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

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Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.

 

 

Julian Lennon Presents:A Trilogy of Stories To Teach Children How to Love Our Planet.

The complete trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Julian Lennon, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, philanthropist, and photographer.

Jump aboard the White Feather Flier, a magical plane that can go anywhere on Earth! In this three-book set, Julian Lennon’s books immerses children into interactive and unique journeys where they will meet the White Feather Flier.

The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page and use your Imagination Power to make the Flier glide through the air or transform into vehicles that will help those in need.

This set includes:

  • Touch the Earth
  • Heal the Earth
  • Love the Earth

Heal the Earth (Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Advent)

Touch the Earth (Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Advent)

 

Love the Earth (A Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adve)

These inspiring, lyrical stories are rooted in Lennon’s life and work and are filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children. The books each include a special poem written by Julian Lennon to fit each story.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

Amazon link:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=julian+lennon+children%27s+book&i=stripbooks&crid=36HHNFI0B06RP&sprefix=julian+lennon%2Cstripbooks%2C400&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_13

Author/Illustrator Paula Wallace Presents a New PB: Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies + a Chance to Win a Copy.

Today it is my pleasure to interview children’s picture book author/illustrator PAULA WALLACE who just released a new picture titled MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES. Paula tells where the idea for this delightful story came from and how she illustrated it. My review of the story will follow and then you will have an opportunity to enter a drawing to win a copy .

Here’s Paula:

Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies evolved from a series of paintings created after an artist residency at the Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The school was established for children unsuccessful in a conventional school setting and my residency was supported by WhyArts, an arts organization whose service is dedicated to those on the margins, the under-served, and those with disabilities. 

Reginald and the Bunnies_cover
The kids and the teaching/support staff provided a wealth of opportunity to observe and fully appreciate the challenges and energy and love required to serve children (ages 5-20) who carried so much trouble with them. Of course, I also observed other children in my family or my friends’ or at church – there’s the remarkable universality of movement and curiosity and testing of boundaries. Yet teachers, moms and dads, caregivers of every stripe need a break – and so do children. In Mr. Reginald & the Bunnies we see that everyone is looking for a little respite, a little change. We also see that sometimes all our planning and great expectations can be upended and, as a result, we have to roll with it.
All of the paintings are oil on panel. Because I also do fine art painting for galleries, oil is the tool I know. I can move from one painting to another as they dry enough for me to take them to the next level. Needless to say, there were rabbits everywhere while working on the book. Anna Olswanger, my agent, really put me through the paces to fine tune everything. She could look at work objectively and honestly – something very important to artists and writers who are often too close to their work. Making changes, stretching and pulling the work, even hearing “no,” can be daunting and humbling and deflating. Yet there is a grace in all of that sweat, an appreciation for doing your best to give it your best. After all, the story and the pictures are not something to hoard and hide, they’re meant to be shared, making all the work so much sweeter.
IMG_2679
By the way, I learned that Foreward Reviews named Mr. Reginald & the Bunnies among the finalists in the picture book/early reader category! 
Darlene’s Review: Mr. Reginald the rabbit and his neighbor Mrs. Paddock live in a quiet neighborhood where they pride themselves for the orderly lives they lead. They like everything to be tidy and “just so”. This order is disrupted when Mr. Reginald gets a visit from his three rambunctious nieces and nephews. Get ready for a sweet and delightful romp with an old-fashioned, homey feel reminiscent of Peter Rabbit. The soft, colorful illustrations add whimsy and humor to the playful and energetic antics of the rabbits. Snuggle up and put on your bunny slippers. This has the makings of a favorite read-aloud bedtime story for the youngest readers.
To enter and win a copy of MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES, leave a comment on this post. I will put your name in a hat and one winner will be chosen at random from all who entered. If you share this post on FB or Tweet it, let me know and I will add your name again. The winner will be announced on  this blog on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

IMG_1967

Artist and author, Paula Wallace, has a studio in the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wallace, a graduate of the University of Iowa, recalls a professor saying “the artist’s job is to pay attention.” Her art and stories are informed by her work with children and other under-served communities, as well as the urban and rural landscapes in which we dwell.

Wallace has illustrated for other authors, as well as writing and illustrating her own books, including Choose Your Days (Cinco Puntos Press) and Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies (Pomegranate.) In 2018, Choose Your Days represented Nebraska at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Her work as a fine artist includes many gallery exhibits in the United States and Italy. Her work is held in private collections throughout the United States and internationally.

PB Author Laurie Wallmark Presents:Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life.

Best-selling Non-fiction PB Author of ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston books), and GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE (Sterling) has a new book about one of the most glamorous women from WWII era Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr. LAURIE WALLMARK’S  new book explores the brains behind the beauty of one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies.

hedy lamarr 100 dpi 3x3.8

  • Horn Book:  “Lamarr … devised a new and improved system, the workings of which are explained in simple terms in Wallmark’s peppy text”
  • Kirkus: “The process of invention and inspiration are explained in a succinct and inspiring way”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Part picture book biography and part tech primer”

Darlene here with my review of the book:

HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE is an engaging and entertaining tale of the brains behind a Hollywood legend. I love how playing the piano inspired Hedy to invent a secure torpedo guidance system. This book gives clear and easily understood descriptions of frequency hopping and how her pioneering work helps us keep cell phone calls and texts private. My favorite quote: “Do good anyway…think big anyway…build anyway.”An inspiring message from an inspiring woman. 5 Stars

Laurie Wallmark
Laurie-72dpi-3x4.5-web
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling, 2019)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017)
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)

Writing Reviews For Beloved Books:How Did I Do? Are You Up For the Challenge?

Last January I began this blog with a personal challenge to write a review for KidLit books from Authors I admire. You can read about the challenge here: https://wordpress.com/post/darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/4428

I am happy to say that I posted EIGHTEEN REVIEWS for PB, MG , and YA books and even gifted three of them in contest give-aways. Here is the list of titles I reviewed – in no particular order  – all of them amazing reads and worthy of recognition.

  1. CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?  by Irene Latham and Charles Waters (poems)
  2. 101 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU GROW UP  by Bianca Schulze (book list for kids)
  3. SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK by Patricia Keeler (PB)
  4. THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES by Peter Brown (MG)
  5. SAM & EVA by Debbi Ohi (PB)
  6. GRANDMOTHER THORN by Katey Howes (PB)
  7. ECOSYSTEM by Josh Bellin (YA)
  8. 7 ATE 9 by Tara Lazar (PB)
  9. COUNTING ON KATHERINE  by Helaine Becker (PB)
  10. JUST ONE THING by Nancy Viau (MG)
  11. QUINCY THE CHAMELEON by Barbara DiLorenzo (PB)
  12. WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by Vesper Stamper (YA)
  13. LOVE IS KIND by Laura Sassi (PB)
  14. I REMEMBER YOU: A RUBY’S PLACE NOVEL  by Holly Schindler (adult romance)
  15. THE ART OF BEING REMMY  by Mary Zisk (MG)
  16. A PROMISE STITCHED IN TIME by Colleen Kosinski (MG)
  17. EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE by Tracy Holtzer (MG)
  18. ALL THE LOVELY CHILDREN by Andrew Nance (YA)

I read more than FIFTY books, but managed to write reviews on the above 18.  I hope to do better this year and spread the word about great books, and under-represented authors.

Care to join me? Next time you read a book that you love, let the author know in the best way possible: write a few sentences telling him or her what you enjoyed about the story, and share it on Goodreads or Amazon. Take it from me, it will make a writer’s day and let other readers know about great books.

kid books

Happy Reading and reviewing.  May 2019 be a great year!