Happy book birthday We Could Be Heroes by Margaret Finnegan! This book was a sweet and heartfelt read. You’ll fall in love with Hank, Maisie, Booler the dog and the parents of the two children are just as thoughtful and caring as the main characters. The story starts with Hank setting fire to a book his teacher is reading about the Nazis. He’s a sensitive and empathetic kid who takes the story to heart. Reading the book has made him so upset and he has decided he’s had enough of feeling upset when they read the book in class. He meets new-girl, Maisie and she notices he’s all wet from the fire alarm sprinkler. At first he feels uncomfortable with her but as they get to know each other a little bit he starts to cherish the time they spend together. They have a shared mission to save Booler, the dog with seizures who they feel isn’t being taken are of. It’s a wonderful story of the realities of friendship: the ups and downs, the connections, the love and the idea that “different isn’t less”. With characters who have differences it’s a wonderful story for middle grade children as both a “window and a mirror” for readers, a term coined by Dr. Sims Bishop.
About the Author
Margaret Finnegan’s work has appeared in FamilyFun, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and other publications. She lives in South Pasadena, California, where she enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog, and baking really good chocolate cakes. Connect with her at MargaretFinnegan.com.
ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY!
One lucky winner will receive a copy of We Could Be Heroes, courtesy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. (U.S. addresses only please). Please follow and comment on this blog post for one entry and visit Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages for other opportunities to enter. US only. Giveaway ends 2.29.20!
“This book was GRAYT!” Student A, 2nd grader from my Michigan class!
My students got to hear This Book is Gray for their Classroom Book A Day read aloud. It was a huge hit from start to finish. Before reading picture books, we peak under the book jacket (we call it the “undies”) to see if there is any new details to see. Sure enough, Lindsay has drawn readers a fun surprise. After checking out the undies we look at the endpapers, as those sometimes are part of the story. And yet again, Lindsay has used the beginning end papers to give readers some art language to help you understand the story better. All this fun information and we didn’t even start the story yet!
The book is set through gray’s eyes, why doesn’t he get used? He is important? He doesn’t always have to be a depressing color. As he tries to tell a story using only gray, the other colors show up.
“I liked when all the colors show up and interrupt” Student B says excitedly.
Lindsay weaves in some fun puns that had my kids chuckling when they caught her humor. But my students also realized that their were lessons on kindness and including others to take away from the book.
Thank you Blue Slip Media for having us on the blog tour and for providing the book for review. All opinions are our own.
**GIVEAWAY***Win a copy of this book for being one of our readers! For one entry, follow our blog & comment on this blog post. For additional entries head to our other social media pages. US only. Courtesy of Two Lions.
About the author:
Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives in Peninsula, Ohio, with her family. Gray is one of her favorite colors. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.Twitter: @lindsaymward
Frank and Bean is a clever early chapter book written by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar. This book was a huge hit with my 2nd and 3rd grade students. They had a blast getting to know both Frank and Bean. Thank you Candlewick Press for sending us the book for review. All opinions are our own.
My students thought the characters were “super funny” and enjoyed that they were so different. They loved looking at Bob’s pictures and how he captured their personalities so well. Many related to either being a Frank or being a Bean. We discussed some themes or morals we can take away from the story. Then the kids had some questions for Jamie……
And Now…..Questions from the Kids:
How did you come up with this idea?
It started with the idea of two picnic food friends named Frank and Bean. I first had the idea when my sons were in kindergarten and second grade. My youngest son, who’s chatty and loud, was obsessed with RVs, jelly donut holes, and playing the drums — just like Bean. My oldest, on the other hand, was more like Frank. He preferred walks in the woods, soft jazz, and yoga. So I kind of lived with my characters!
Why did you make Bean so loud?
If you’ve ever been on a long car ride with my youngest son, you’d know why! But I also wanted Bean to show readers how difficult it can be to find your own story or words in a loud and busy (and screen-filled) world. Frank shows Bean how to be quiet to hear the words within him.
It’s okay to be quiet — and even bored. That’s when your imagination really comes to life.
We discussed that 2 themes in the book were don’t be afraid to share things and don’t be afraid to be quiet or silly if you are, why did you choose to put these themes in the book?
I think they’re themes kids can relate with. For some, sharing what they wrote can be scary. Especially if you’re a quiet hot dog who’s used to being alone. Bean isn’t afraid to be his silly self — but he is scared of the night’s noises. But the thing about good friends is that they can help each other get over fears — and together make something special. Like a song about jelly donut holes, for example.
Will this become a series? We’d like a book 2!
Aw, thanks! There is a book 2! It’s called FRANK AND BEAN: THE FOOD TRUCK WAR. Bean decides to get a food truck and compete in the forest’s Food Truck Friday contest. But to win, he must beat the scary reigning champ, Mad Dog. Luckily, Frank is there to lend a hand — and make up a new song.
Teacher Question- Why did you make it an early chapter book reader? Did it ever start in a different format?
Early readers are my favorite format to write and to read. James Marshall’s books are the best! But yes, FRANK AND BEAN began as a picture book, until Bean demanded more room to express himself.
And finally thank you for giving us a book that reminded us to not be afraid to be ourselves!!
Thank YOU, smart human beans, for the excellent questions! Here’s to all the stories YOU’ll write this year! 🙂
Thank you for having us on the Frank and Bean Blog Tour. Check out the other places Frank and Bean have been and will be soon!
Arrrrgh, mateys! Dory Fantasmagory is back in Abby Hanlon’s latest book, Tiny Tough. We’ve been big fans of this series since the first one came out about five years ago. They are the perfect read aloud for younger kids, or for a first series for a beginning independent reader. Thank you to Penguin for providing us a copy to review.
Dory’s vivid imagination reconnects us with Mrs. Gobblegracker, Mary, and Mr. Nuggy as she once again navigates her feelings and place in the family. This time around, she imagines herself as a pirate, which helps her deal with her imaginary monster getting a new friend, feeling like a baby at home, and friendship issues at school.
My first grader loves the Dory Fantasmagory series and can easily relate to the characters and problems throughout the story. Preorder your copy today!
Looking for a fun family night activity? We do a lot of themed nights based on books (ok, and movies, too). The pirate theme of Tiny Tough lends itself to so many fun activities! Dress like a pirate night! Talk like a pirate night! We’ve done pirate night at our house…tacos for dinner and dress up! Have a little extra cardboard around the house? You can easily make pirate swords for your little swashbucklers.
About the Author
Abby Hanlon has taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. Inspired by her students’ storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children, and taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood. She lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn.
I knew I’d like this book before I even read it. There is something about Laurel Snyder’s writing that captivates me, connects me, and pulls me in.
My Jasper June did just that.
After one incident changed her family a year ago, Leah has struggled with the day to day distance growing between her and her parents. When she unexpectedly meets Jasper, her life changes. Together they both hide from their personal demons in a magical world they create and within each other they find the friend that they both needed. This strong bond is challenged when real life creeps back in.
A wonderful book that we think you will love! Thanks to Walden Pond Press for sending us a copy to review.
About the Author…
Laurel Snyder is the author of picture books and novels for children, including National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.
What happens when you think you are meant to be bad and then one day your world is turned around? In the book Spiky written and illustrated by Ilaria Guarducci, translated by Laura Watkinson, we find out just what can happen when Spiky looses his spikes. Now without his armor, he doesn’t feel as scary, or act in wicked ways. He simply feels lost, lonely and out of place. Fortunately a wise bunny comes along and helps him see that it isn’t what is on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside.
The message in the story is an important one, and throughout the book we see many animals acting in fun ways, which will get the kids giggling (who doesn’t love to see a bunny sun tanning?). Using this book with kids can be a huge help discussing how other people feel when you aren’t nice, or about stepping out of your comfort zone. The greatest lesson I discussed with my son was to judge people based on their thoughts and actions, and not how they look.
Thank you to Blue Slip media for sending us this book to read and review. All opinions are our own.
***GIVEAWAY*** To celebrate this stop on the blog tour, one lucky winner will receive a copy of Spiky, courtesy of Two Lions. To enter:
Follow us on Instagram, like the post, tag at least one friend (more tags = more entries)
Ilaria Guarducci studied at the Nemo NT Academy of Digital Arts. Since 2012, she has worked as a freelance author and illustrator for various publishing houses and advertising agencies. She has written and/or illustrated seven children’s books. Spiky, published in Italy under the title Spino, was shortlisted for the Soligatto Award for Best Picture Book. Ilaria lives with her family in Prato, Italy. Learn more at www.ilariaguarducci.blogspot.com.
Laura Watkinson is an award-winning translator of books for young readers and adults. She translated Soldier Bear and Mikis and the Donkey, both by Bibi Dumon Tak and illustrated by Philip Hopman, and Mister Orange by Truus Matti, all of which won the Batchelder Award. Additionally, her Dutch-to-English translation of The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt won the Vondel Prize. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in a tall house on a canal in Amsterdam with her husband and two cats. Learn more at www.laurawatkinson.com.Spiky is the first release from Amazon Crossing Kids, a new imprint for children’s books in translation. Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.
Thank you so much to Boyds Mills Press for sending us What If…Then We to review and to Rebecca Kai Dotlich for giving us the inside scoop! All opinions are our own.
We fell in love with dynamic author/illustrator team, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler awhile ago when we first got our hands on One Day, The End. Check out our interview with Rebecca about the book here and our interview with Fred about his debut chapter book, Garbage Island here.
We are so excited to share with you Rebecca and Fred’s latest, What If…Then We.
The book takes you on an imaginary ride with polar bear friends thinking up “what if” scenarios. What if… all the crayons in the world melted, we couldn’t find our way home, something really big and scary happens. Following the same format as its’ companion book One Day, The End with minimal words telling the story but so much meaning and creativity you can read this one over again and again and still feel like you’ve read it for the first time! The illustrations are beautiful and add so much depth to the words. It was hard to pick a favorite illustration but my five year old and I loved the detail on this one because we noticed the reflection of one polar bear in the water and the other polar bear painting the same picture.
We asked Rebecca Kai Dotlich for the Inside Scoop as she wrote this beautiful book…
When I began to brainstorm the “possibilities” and “what ifs …” in a tiny blue notebook, I was loosely envisioning a parent/child relationship — but as soon as I told that to Fred Koehler, my fabulous and creative illustrator, he said “I see them as friends.” And I thought for a moment and said “cool.” And that’s how it became about friendship, woven with the idea of imagination and possibilities. (Also, Fred had the sketches of his little polar bears on his phone and shared them with me over hot chocolate and we both felt immediately that the words of the story and the polar bears were a match.)
What can you imagine?
We were imagining the endless possibilities and teachable moments that could happen while reading. I read it with my five year old and I kept asking him to answer the what if questions. He loved sharing with me where his imagination was taking him. As we turned from page to page he started thinking about what we could create together to go beyond the book: use paper to make origami animals, birds, boats and waves; build a spaceship with cardboard boxes and use crayons to draw all the buttons and finally write our own version of what if…then we. We can also see using this in a classroom to inspire children to imagine various scenarios, to show that sometimes we don’t need lots of words to make a story interesting and captivating and to have discussions around friendship. What possibilities can you imagine, discuss, create and build while reading?
What if the book never ended…then we would be so happy and do a book dance! But for now let’s do a GIVEAWAY!
***GIVEAWAY INFORMATION**** Thank you Boyds Mills Press for sharing the book with us! They were kind enough to donate a copy to one lucky reader! Here are three ways to enter, (US only: Giveaway closes on Wednesday, 2/13 @ midnight ET).
A friend of mine got together with his brothers and created this special picture book called Chasing The Sun. Mike, who is the Masserman brother I know, has always been a great storyteller and one who loves to travel. This book is a product of many of his adventures and takes its readers on an adventure too!
Tiki The Turtle who lives on an island his whole life, begins to wonder where the sun is going each day. He spends the next day chasing the sun. He encounters many of his friends and asks for their help and wisdom for finding it, but in the end, after visiting many spots on the island and talking to many animals, the sun has come back. Will he ever find out where it went? Or be satisfied with seeing it each day before it disappears?!
Told in rhyme and with vibrant, bold color illustrations, this book will keep the interest of all readers. Reading with my son, we discussed how Tiki never gave up on trying to find the sun, at one point he gets tired and we think might stop, but he comes upon a snail who thinks can help. It was great to talk about not stopping when things get hard or you aren’t finding a solution right away. We also loved pointing out all the different animals Tiki chats with during his journey. The Masserman brothers put a fun facts page in the back so we were able to talk more about each animal mentioned.
Personally knowing one of the authors and hearing a lot about the other brothers, I know the book’s message is one they all believe in: taking it all in and appreciating what you have and searching for what might still be out there!
We asked the Masserman brothers to give us the INSIDE SCOOP…
Hailing from Irvine, California, these Wolverines (they all went to Michigan – Go Blue) grew up surfing, hiking, playing music, laying in hammocks, and exploring the world. They’ve surfed in Mexico, trekked in Alaska, backpacked through Southeast Asia, and are only just getting started!
This book has been a passion project ever since Mike spent his junior year in college abroad watching sunsets in Jerusalem, and scribbled a few notes in his journal about a kid chasing the sun. Many years later, Oren visited Mike in Sydney, picked up that old journal, and this brand new adventure had suddenly begun.
By then, Oren had moved to Maui and started writing ukulele music, where he had kids dancing on boats to his tunes. Tal was finishing up Dental School at the time, and with his unique take on what kids like (island adventure books), this brothers publishing trio was formed.
They hope to spread the aloha spirit with this book, and inspire people to appreciate the journey, dream out loud, and keep chasing it all.
Thank you to the Masserman brothers for joining Storymamas on their blog. To purchase the book, please feel free to click on the title of the book below. (It will take you to amazon, but it is not an affiliated link).
Have you gotten a chance to check out Q & Ray? It is a wonderful beginning reader, graphic novel series written and illustrated by husband and wife team, Stephen and Trisha Shaskan. So far there are three Q and Ray series. Q and Ray Case #1 The Missing Mola Lisa, Case #2 Metorite or Meteor-Wrong? and Case #3 Foul Play At Elm Tree Park. They are written in graphic novel style in which friends Q and Ray end up using their observational skills to solve a mystery. These are great books for students who enjoy reading mysteries and can be used by teachers to help teach the mystery elements. Using a creative spin, Trisha has based the storylines off of real facts from art, science and history. This latest book, gives facts at the end about The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, while the other books talk about art, the Mona Lisa and meteors. They are filled with knowledge, humor, fun expressions (Leaping Limburger), friendship and mystery! Be sure to check them out!
Trisha and Stephen stopped by the blog to answer 3 questions about the series and three questions about them!
Three Questions about Q & Ray series
We love how curious and willing to learn Q and Ray are, where did the inspiration come from for creating these 2 characters?
After we both graduated college, Stephen and I met while working at an elementary school. For the first time, I was an educational assistant in a second-grade classroom, but also taught storytelling and creative writing after school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. I found creative ways to engage students through stories, songs, humor, and imagination. Like our characters Q and Ray, the students were curious, eager, and able to learn. I have kept that teaching experience in my heart and I channel it, often subconsciously, while writing books. I am also a very curious person. Each of the Q & Ray graphic novels has a theme I wanted to learn about and one I know kids might be curious about—for example magic, Leonardo da Vinci, how meteors become meteorites, or the AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.) The characters names Q & Ray are a riff on Q & A, questions and answers, which is at the heart of a mystery. As far as mysteries go, I was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes while writing this series. I am a huge fan. As my sister Nicole Speed says, Holmes’ mysteries are “a brain massage.”
It is not uncommon for writers and illustrators to never meet, as a husband and wife team, how does the process for creating this book work?
All the books that we work on together are ideas that we have worked on together from the start.
Both of us read each other’s work and critique all of it—and help each other. For example, you’ll find phrases I contributed in Stephen’s picture books and the phrases Stephen contributed in my picture books. But the big difference in our books that we’ve created together is that we’re both involved in the whole process from the beginning brainstorm, to outlining the plot, to critiquing. But when it’s time to write, I go off on my own. And when it’s time to illustrate, Stephen works individually as well. We don’t interfere with each other during that part, which is fun because we usually surprise each other.
Which Q and Ray have been your favorite to work on and why? (We know it’s like picking a favorite kid 🙂 )
The first Q & RAY was so great to work on because it was my first time ever creating a fully colored finished 48 page graphic novel. I grew up reading comics and dabbled in creating them in my late twenties. When I was finished with the first book it felt like a huge accomplishment. As the series progressed, I continued to learn about creating graphic novels and really trying to push the form more.
For me, Q & RAY #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park was my favorite to write because I had learned enough about the graphic novel format to utilize it more fully. Plus: Doris Sams and the AAPGBL (All-American Pro Girls Baseball League) make appearances, which is so important to me. When I was a young athlete, I was often the only girl or one of a few girls surrounded by boys on the field, rink, or court. I didn’t know women once had a pro baseball league. I would’ve loved to have known that. Now I get to share that information with young people everywhere who also often don’t know about it.
Three Questions about You…
If you weren’t writing books for children, what would you be and why?
For twelve years, I was a preschool teacher. If I wasn’t creating books, I would probably be involved in early childhood education in some way as well as creating art. I’m always creating art. Even when I’m working on children’s books, I make time to do different art projects on the side: I’ve done political posters, made magic wands, installed a submarine room in our basement, and always have some little thing I’d like to try or something I find in an old sketch book that sparks some creativity.
I have worked in education and the roles I loved doing most would lead me to being a reading specialist, media specialist, or teaching ELL (English Language Learners).
What is one book you’ve read that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
There are so many, this is a difficult question for an author/illustrator. Our bookshelves are lined with books that have stuck with me. I think Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great example of a book that has stuck with me. It’s so well crafted, simple, and elegant. It’s a book that works as a reader and as a read aloud.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame captures the heart of my childhood: friendship and the river. I grew up in a Mississippi River valley town, Winona, MN, like Ratty who lives on The River that grips “things with a gurgle.” The River flows through the story and connects Mole and Ratty as does nature and its cycles. Grahame’s springtime has “birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting—everything happy, and progressive, and occupied.” Grahame’s lyrical language sings on every page. But the heart of this story is the friendship of the shy Mole and good-natured Ratty, the impetuous Mr. Toad, and worldly Badger who doesn’t like society. Despite their differences and shortcomings, the characters are wonderful friends to each other. No matter what happens in the Wild Wood or world beyond they help each other get out of trials and tribulations. In friendship, there is hope and refuge like the sparkle of sunlight reflected on the ripple of a wave.
What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?
Two bottles of cat medicine for our 19-year-old cat Eartha, who is my studio buddy and always so helpful.
A bottle of kombucha, which is for a house guest. I love welcoming friends and family into our home, so I always have something special in the fridge for an upcoming visitor.
Thank you so much Stephen and Trisha for stopping by our blog. We loved meeting both of you this past summer at NerdCamp and look forward to seeing you again in July!
Here are links to their websites if you’d like to learn more about them and their work:
The storymamas are huge fans of Tim Miller’s talents and our kids can’t get enough of his Moo Moo books! You could imagine our eagerness to read Horse Meets Dog, the new book he illustrated by author Elliot Kalan, and we appreciate the f&g copy sent to us by Harper Collins.
When Horse meets Dog, he thinks that he is a tiny horse, and similarly when Dog meets Horse, he thinks he is just a big horse. The whole book is the two of them going back and forth in comedic fashion, trying to show each other that they are correct. You’ll love the funny banter between the two animals and the wonderful illustrations!
Three Questions About Your Work…
The illustrations in Horse Meets Dog really make the story! What was the collaboration like between you and author Elliott Kalan?
Hello Storymamas! Thank you so much for your interest in the book and for having me as a guest! (You’re welcome…and thank you for stopping by!)
The collaboration between Elliott and me making HORSE MEETS DOG was pretty straight forward. Elliott wrote it before I ever laid eyes on it, and then I got to do whatever I wanted; my favorite kind of collaboration! Although I toiled over the illustrations more than anything else I’ve done so far, the visuals themselves came easy to me because Elliott’s writing is so funny it draws itself. In that sense the collaboration was a breeze and a lot of fun!
What is your process for creating illustrations?
My process is basically this: 1) Read manuscript and let whatever visuals come to mind rise to the surface intuitively.
2) Take note of those impressions by scribbling tiny thumbnails in margins of manuscript.
3) Go at character sketches in a same way, drawing the first thing that comes to mind and then refine until you’re satisfied.
4) Storyboard thumbnail first impressions to see how everything looks together.
5) Next, see how you can smoosh everything into constraints of pagination limit. Nix what isn’t necessary and give prime real estate to the most important moments. At the same time, think about overall balance of book as a whole. How can you give it rythem throughout and differentiate things so that the reader can experience the unfolding of story in the most impactful way.
6) Be open to feedback from Editor and Art Director! Nothing is better than the opportunity to hear their input to broaden your thinking and shed light on things you may not have seen (Dana Fritts and Donna Bray were wonderful to collaborate with, and we had a lot of fun untangling some riddles in the pagination together early on).
7) Make rough sketches for finishes from thumbnails. Basically roughing out the ideas on a larger scale.
8) Then I make finished drawings with ink and brush on a lightbox working from roughs. I rarely draw each composition whole, but do it in fragments. For example, I’ll do a piece of Dog’s ear, then the snout, then the body and so forth. I do this because I’m rarely satisfied with each drawing as a total because I make a lot of mistakes. So, to cope with my sins I build a collection of fragments for each composition and then stitch everything together like a collage in the computer.
9) Finally, I add the color digitally!
We are huge fans of your work! What can we expect from you next?
Thank you so much! I feel incredibly lucky to be making books, and it means the world to me that you don’t hate them!
What’s next? Well, I can’t tell you because it’s still top-secret, but I can at least share that it’s partly inspired a former student of mine who wore cat ears to class every day.
Three Questions about Tim Miller…
If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you be and why?
I would draw and paint things that I like to look at because that is the one thing that makes me feel most connected to everything.
What is one book you’ve read that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
Most recently it’s Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book. I’m in awe of it, and can’t stop thinking about how brilliant he is at realizing the potential of the art form.
What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?
Eggs. Other than that the fridge is currently empty.
Many thanks to Tim Miller for the interview! We had a chance to meet him this summer at Nerd Camp and appreciate the support he’s given us. You can get your own copy of Horse Meets Dog today, and can learn more about him on his website.