Guess Who’s Bringing THIS IS A SCHOOL to Their School?

school book and poster

The lucky winner of the signed copy of THIS IS A SCHOOL by John Schu (illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison) is…

Book Dragon AKA Heidi. I hope you will enjoy sharing this book with the students at your school. Please send me your address so I can mail the book off to you.

Thanks everyone for sharing the lovely things you appreciate about your own schools. THREE CHEERS for the wonderful and caring teachers, staff, and support personnel who make schools a great place for kids to be.

A safe and happy school year to all!

Author Rachelle Burk Presents: WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD + A Chance to Win a Copy.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new non-fiction picture book by author Rachelle Burk that introduces fourteen amazing women who defied the norms of their culture and made positive differences in the world.

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Discover 14 powerful women with brief biographies for kids ages 3 to 5

Women have always accomplished big things, but history books don’t always teach you about them. This feminist book for little girls and boys is filled with the stories of strong women who used their unique gifts to make the world a better place.

  • Women from all walks of life—Explore the amazing lives and accomplishments of diverse women like Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo, and Malala Yousafzai.
  • Colorful illustrations—Bring each story to life with big, vivid pictures on every page.
  • Kid-friendly language—Learn about these important women with language that’s easy to understand for new readers.

Get inspired by the stories of extraordinary women from the past and present with this top choice in women’s history books for kids!

I recently interviewed Rachelle to ask her about this book:

WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD (Rockridge Press) is a great collection of remarkable women for very young readers. Tell Us how the book came about.

Beginning in early 2020 I was fortunate to be offered book projects by educational publisher Callisto Media (Rockridge Press). The first was an illustrated chapter book biography of gymnast Simone Biles, for their “The Story Of” bio series for grades K-two.  WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD was my fourth book with Callisto Media.

How did you decide which women to feature in this important story of women pioneers?

The publisher provided me with a list of the women to be included in the book. Most were featured in “The Story Of” biography series, which I used as resources.

The eclectic illustrations styles throughout the book reflect the many talented illustrators from the chapter books, which adds to the uniqueness of this book collection.

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

What sets this book apart from other picture book biography collections of great women is that this one focuses in on what the individuals did to further women’s rights and other feminist causes. For instance, people know that Harriet Tubman helped many enslaved people escape. But after the Emancipation, she became active in the fight for women’s right to vote!

Women have always accomplished big things, This feminist book for little girls and boys is filled with the stories of strong women who used their unique gifts to make the world a better place. Explore the amazing lives and accomplishments of diverse women like Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo, and Malala Yousafzai. This book will give the reader images of women taking on challenges–from activism, to the arts, to physical sciences–at a level youngsters will find relatable.

Available from Amazon in Kindle and hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1638781710?maas=maas_adg_C622824C30B4A9F2F80B1591BB129216_afap_abs&ref_=aa_maas&tag=maas

I have a hardcover copy of this wonderful book that I will give away to one winner chosen at random from all who leave a comment on this post. Share your favorite female role model from history and why you find this woman inspiring. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second chance to win.

 

Rachelle is the author of picture books, chapter books, and a science adventure novel for children. She writes both fiction and nonfiction for ages 2-13. Her most recent Rockridge Press titles include the rhyming toddler book, Stomp, Wiggle, Clap, and Tap: My First Book of Dance, and Let’s Play An Instrument: A Music Book for Kids. For Rachelle’s other titles, or to learn about her school visits, visit her website at rachelleburk.com.

Back to School Giveaway: THIS IS A SCHOOL by John Schu Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

I am thrilled to celebrate a new school year with a special giveaway. I have a signed copy of THIS IS A SCHOOL by John Schu (AKA Mr. Schu) and illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison). The giveaway includes a poster dust jacket and an additional poster perfect for classroom display.

school book and poster

Here are some reviews for this wonderful book that celebrates all the things that make a school a special place.

Schu’s debut picture book salutes the school community and the positive role it plays in kids’ lives. . . Jamison’s watercolor, acrylic, and digital-collage illustrations employ a sunny palette, well suited to the text’s upbeat tone. . . . Schu emphasizes the school as a community, where growth, celebrations, transformations, and work all occur, providing a reassuring introduction to this near-universal experience.
—Booklist (starred review)

Librarian and book advocate Schu invites readers into a school community in which all voices are heard, each person learns, and everyone—and everything, including the plants in the school garden—grows. . . . This introduction to school communities shows children what happens inside a classroom via a vision of school at its best—one that leaves readers with a sense of belonging and inclusion.
—Publishers Weekly

To be in the running for a copy, leave a comment telling readers what you love about your school. I will draw one entry at random and announce the winner in September.

Two MG Book Reviews Featuring Animal Narrators

I have recently had the pleasure of reading two enchanting and original middle grade novels featuring animal narrators. Here are my reviews for these delightful books:

duetDUET by Elise Broach is an enchanting musical mystery about a bird and a boy. Mirabelle – the goldfinch narrator of the story – loves to listen to Mr. Starek play the piano from her perch on a tree outside his window. But since Mr. Starek’s sister died, he stopped playing. Until one day a boy named Michael comes for lessons. Michael needs to prepare for a piano competition and Mr. Starek is the best tutor. When Michael begins to play Chopin compositions on a piano like the one Chopin used, the music is so beautiful, Mirabelle begins to sing along. Her singing inspires Michael as much as Michael’s playing inspires Mirabelle.

This is a beautiful story of discovery and connection through the language of music. Not only did I learn a lot about Chopin, I also learned to appreciate the music of birds and the joy they get from singing. Highly recommended.

CLARICE THE BRAVE by Lisa McMann     clarice bookcover

A heart-felt and harrowing adventure on the high-seas told from the POV of a mouse named Clarice. When a mutiny occurs on the ship – the only home Clarice has ever known – she gets separated from her brother Charles Sebastian and ends up on another boat with Special Lady – the cat who ate her sister. Desperate times force Clarice to do things she never imagined, including putting her trust in her sworn enemy.

A tender and emotional journey of love, friendship, and learning to trust yourself. Highly recommended.

Both of these books are lively and fast-paced and sure to capture the imagination of kids…especially animal – loving ones.

Kathleen Wilford Presents Her Debut Novel: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt + A Chance to Win a Copy.

It’s been my pleasure to recently read an ARC for a new MG historical. Kathleen Wilford’s debut CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT (Little Press) is a delightful story set in the 1870’s during the migration of Americans to the prairies of the Midwest for homesteading. Here is my review:

This historical fiction story set in the 1870’s, is a fast-paced trip to the days of homesteading on the Kansas prairies. When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails? Cabby can’t even think about that.

Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?

The author does a wonderful job grounding the reader in time and place with period details and appropriate phrasing and language of the era. “My brain buzzed like it was full of gnats” is one of many similes that feels fresh and original. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, making for a quick read. Readers will enjoy Cabby’s antics and feisty demeanor as she navigates the unfamiliar world of the wealthy. A highly recommended debut.

I interviewed Kathleen to learn more about how she came up with her story.

Cabby Potts cover (no wrap)

What was your inspiration for Cabby Potts?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London.

I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and hardscrabble American homesteaders. I pictured an outdoorsy 12-year-old girl forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor, and the character of Cabby was born. Trying to save her family’s struggling homestead, Cabby plays matchmaker between her pretty, romantic sister Emmeline and the rich young lord of Ashford Manor. What could go wrong with that scheme?

As an author of historical fiction myself, I was immediately drawn into the setting and era of the story. What drew you to writing historical fiction?

I love the way historical fiction immerses readers into a different world. All good fiction is immersive, but with historical fiction, the past comes alive in a fresh way. And there’s a serious side too: I believe that to understand where we ARE, we need to understand where we’ve BEEN. Non-fiction helps readers do that too, but fiction adds an important layer of empathy.

As for this particular era, 1870’s Kansas, I’ve always been fascinated by pioneer literature, from Willa Cather to Laura Ingalls Wilder. My life is so easy compared to women who endured life on lonely prairies, living in sod houses and struggling to keep themselves and their families alive.

Tell us a bit about your research process.

I like to begin with books that situate the time period I’m studying in a larger historical context. I follow that up with more specific books and then with primary sources. For Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, I consulted homesteader journals, 1870’s editions of the Dodge City Times, an 1841 book by Dr. Samuel Sheldon Fitch called Diseases of the Chest (fascinating, trust me), Mrs. Beeton’s book on the duties of a housemaid . . . etc.! Since I work for Rutgers, I’m lucky enough to have access to the rich depth of primary materials owned by the university. I think primary sources are key not only to authentic details but to the language of the times.

Several experts also helped me with questions, and of course, Google is great for filling in details!

What amazing thing did you discover while writing?

How much time do we have?? I learned so many fascinating tidbits of information, many of which I couldn’t include in the book but would be happy to tell you about sometime. Some facts that DID make it into the book: people used to believe that walking on the prairie could cure consumption (tuberculosis)—housemaids were not allowed to whistle in the house—dried up buffalo dung was burned for fuel.

One fact that informed my book: fully half of all homesteaders didn’t make it and never “proved up” on their claims. We tend to romanticize homesteading on the prairies, but it was brutally difficult.

What message do you want young readers to take away from this story?

I hope kids will enjoy a funny, fast-paced story with lots of drama! Beyond that, I hoped to give readers a clearer picture of the homesteading life. Along with showing how difficult the life was, I wanted readers to see how race and class prejudices infiltrated even supposedly egalitarian rural America. Cabby wakes up to this prejudice as she forms a friendship with Eli, a half-Kiowa boy. She finally learns to use her “intemperate tongue” to stand up for him, her family, and her whole community. In Cabby Potts, I tried to portray a funny, feisty girl growing into more awareness of her world, with all its imperfections. She learns to use her voice to make that world a better place, something I hope we all can do.

What’s next for you?

I have some irons in the fire, but they’re pretty unformed at this point!

Kathleen has agreed to give away a signed ARC of the book to one lucky reader drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second entry. Winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Kathleen Wilford head and shoulders

Kathleen Wilford was born in Panama and has lived in four different countries and three different states—but never in Kansas. She studied literature at Cornell University and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she now teaches writing. When she’s not teaching or writing, Kathleen can be found outdoors, chasing her disobedient dog.

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is Kathleen’s debut novel for kids. Connect with Kathleen at https://www.kathleenwilford.com/ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/kathwilford

Ordering info is on my website or:

Pre-order Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cabby-Potts-Duchess-Kathleen-Wilford/dp/1956378049/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2297827D9DKDE&keywords=cabby+potts%2C+duchess+of+dirt+by+kathleen+wilford&qid=1658255877&sprefix=%2Caps%2C542&sr=8-1

Or at my local bookstore for a signed copy: https://bookwormbernardsville.indielite.org/now-available-pre-order-cabby-potts-duchess-dirt

Want Clean Beaches? How You Can Help.

Clean Beaches Week is the “Earth Day” for beaches. 

Held annually from July 1-7, it is a celebration of the clean beaches lifestyle.  Founded in 2003, the week has drawn enormous public support: over 150 coastal governors, mayors, and county commissions have now issued proclamations in support of the week.  In 2007, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions enacting the week by unanimous consent.

Beaches, provide recreation, supply us with a variety of delicious and nutritious food. They need our protection. You can celebrate CLEAN BEACHES WEEK by

Show beaches the love they deserve. beach

While you get ready for a day at the beach, here are some books to get kids excited about the day.

Beach Day cover jpeg

May Book Giveaway Winners…

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of this month’s kidlit book giveaways.

The winner of a signed copy of SHADOW GRAVE  by Marina Cohen goes to Jennifer Mary Grollmund

shadow grave picA copy of LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT by Rachelle Burk goes to Ellen Ramsey.

20220511_111027CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!

Please email me with your address so I can let the author’s know. Thanks to all who entered this month’s giveaways. Remember, one of the best ways to show an author how much you love a book is to leave a review on Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads.

Happy Reading!

Book Review and Giveaway: LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT: A Music Book For Kids by Rachelle Burk (Illustrated by Junissa Bianda)

I was recently approached by a publisher to provide an endorsement for a new non-fiction book for young children written by author Rachelle Burk. What a pleasure it was to read and review LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.

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Here’s my review:

A simple, lyrical, and kid-friendly introduction to the wonder and variety of musical instruments. Burk and Bianda take young readers on a colorful and engaging trip through the world of musical instruments and the ways they are played. It’s a perfect introduction that is sure to get kids excited about making their own music. Recommended for ages 3-5.

I am giving away a copy of this charming book to one lucky reader chosen at random. To enter, please leave a comment on this post. If you share on social media, you will have an extra chance to win.

Author Annette Whipple Presents: RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS.

Ribbit Cover

Did you know there are more than 7,000 kinds of frogs worldwide? Ever wonder why frogs blink their eyes so much? Blinking helps them swallow. The eyes help push food down into the stomach. Unique and interesting details like this have become a trademark for Annette Whipple’s books in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

This newest entry, RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS (Reycraft Publishing) follows the Q & A format of previous books (WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS, SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS) and provides many fascinating and kid-friendly facts about these amazing amphibians.

Ribbit p 6-7

The book also includes a craft, glossary, and numerous photographs to complement the text. It is  a welcome addition to a classroom library and science resources.

You can order this awesome book here: https://www.amazon.com/Ribbit-Truth-About-Annette-Whipple/dp/1478875879/

About MeAnnette Whipple celebrates curiosity, especially through her informational books for children.
Annette Whipple
Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books, 2022)
Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (Reycraft Books, 2021) 
Woof! The Truth About Dogs (Reycraft Books, 2021)
Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books, 2020)
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press, 2020) 
The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press, 2020)

SHADOW GRAVE: An Interview With MG Horror Author Marina Cohen + A chance to win a copy

There are many of us out there who love the spine-tingly feeling we get from reading a good horror story.  I’m not talking about the grisly, slasher fare that leaves little to the imagination. I’m referring to the well-written story that takes us to a scary place with a setting too irresistible to pass up, and keeps us turning pages even when we fear what might be around the corner.

Marina Cohen (THE INN BETWEEN, A DOLL’S EYES) has written that kind of story for the middle grade audience with her new book SHADOW GRAVE.

shadow grave picHere’s the blurb:

Tuck Everlasting meets The Village in this delightfully eerie middle grade novel about a boy trapped in a strange town where secrets turn deadly and the unnatural lurks in the night.

Twelve-year-old Arlo is afraid of fire, creepy TV shows, and even his own shadow―but most of all, he’s afraid of losing his mother to the disease that nearly claimed her life a year ago.

During a Thanksgiving road trip, a sudden collision with a strange beast in the middle of the road totals the family’s car, and Arlo, his mom, and his sister end up stranded in a small town.

There’s something off about Livermore. No one has a phone or a car, and the townspeople aren’t exactly friendly. Without phone service to make a call for help, the family stays at the Samuels’ mansion, but inexplicable sightings at night set Arlo on edge. When he stumbles upon a dark secret that the town’s inhabitants will kill to keep, getting out of Livermore becomes a matter of life or death.

I asked Marina how the story came about.

  1.  I was hooked on this story from page one. Tell us where you got the idea for Shadow Graves.

Being an author yourself you know that ideas come from everywhere—snippets of conversations overheard, strange facts randomly uncovered, interesting people and places one might chance upon. In fact, everything we experience goes into the compost of our imaginations and after time breaks down and eventually comes out as something (hopefully!) fresh and new and engaging. Several things went into the compost of my imagination over the years, including Natalie Babbitt’s brilliant and memorable novel, Tuck Everlasting, Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, an amazing tiny creature called the tardigrade, and the real-life ghost town, Livermore. All of these contributed in varying degrees to what would become the backbone of my story, Shadow Grave.

  1. The setting feels like a character in the story. How did you decide to set the story in New Hampshire?

Settings play such an important role in all novels, but in particular, horror novels. You are correct in that they almost take on the role of a character—in some novels, the setting is the antagonist! In my free time I enjoy researching real ghost towns, their histories, and what led to their demise. When I came across Livermore—especially one particularly gruesome fact that may or may not be true—I knew this was my setting. Even its name plays an important role in my plot. I’d driven through New Hampshire some time ago and had wanted to return and visit the remains of the town in the summer of 2020 before my novel went to edit, however, it seemed the world had other plans. Despite it being a real place, and though I did borrow pieces of its history, the Livermore in my novel is a fictional—almost mythical place.

3. You definitely achieved a creepy, yet realistic setting. It really drew me in from the first page. What are three things readers should know about the main character and his sister?

Arlo has had a rough year leading up to the start of this novel. His mother was diagnosed with cancer and though the outcome was positive the experience left him changed—a more muted and anxious individual. Though he follows the series Zombie Army of Darkness because all his friends do, he much prefers the Nature Channel. He’s both fearful and fierce, but his strength lies in his calm and thoughtful manner, while his sister, Lola, can be brash and bold. Arlo follows rules while Lola likes to break them.

4. They are the perfect foils for such a story. Your choice of words and metaphors paint such vivid pictures and really set the tone for this creepy story. Tell us a bit about your writing process and how you chose to tell the story.

Since the plots of my novels tend to be quite creepy it’s important for me to establish a creepy tone. Like music which uses dissonance and irregular rhythms to create an unsettled feeling, I like to paint pictures that are slightly askew, tilting the world and keeping my readers off-balance and unsure. I write as though I’m seeing my story unfold as a film before my eyes so I lean—perhaps too heavily at times—on the visual.

5. I fell in love with your language and word choices. One of my favorite passages…

“The moon hung like a silver pendant against the velvety black dress of night”

There are so many lovely descriptions like that.  What else would you like us to know about this story?

Though this novel is primarily intended to do what horror novels should—entertain while delivering chills and spine-tingling thrills—I hope this story will leave readers with some very important life questions to ponder.

6. What is next for you?

Currently I’m working on another creepy middle-grade—this one with sci-fi undertones.

Marina is giving away one signed copy of this book to a reader chosen at random. Leave a comment if you’d like to enter. If you share the post on social media, let me know so I can give you a second chance to win.

marina pic

Marina Cohen is an elementary school teacher and author of several middle grade books including The Inn Between, The Doll’s Eye, A Box of Bones, and Shadow Grave. Her novels have been nominated for several awards in both the US and Canada.