Meet the Exceptional Maggie Chowder

The Exceptional Maggie Chowder (Hardcover) | Albert Whitman & Company

We were so excited to meet The Exceptional Maggie Chowder! Author Renee Beauregaud Lute has invited us to join the book’s blog tour which releases this week! This story is one that will warm your hearts and leave you feeling like you’ve made some new friends along the way!

We meet Maggie Chowder who aspires to be just like her comic book hero, the Exceptional Eagirl. Like Eagirl, Maggie is hoping to become a forest ranger one day. When Maggie and her family move to a smaller house she tries hard to make the most of what she’s given. With many obstacles in the way, a brother who many don’t seem to understand like Maggie does, a mom who is exhausted from work each day, a best friend who has moved away into a huge house (and a puppy) and her grandma who comes to stay with them and is less than thrilled about her enjoying comics.

With each written chapter comes a short comic about the Exceptional Eagirl. Renee has cleverly paralleled the superheroes adventures with circumstances in Maggie’s life. It is a fresh take on storytelling that I enjoyed. I think this will give readers a chance to stop and reflect after each chapter. I also liked how authentic I felt the characters were. The problems Maggie encounter can easily be ones the children reading this book might face.

Renee was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and three questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Exceptional Maggie Chowder 

What are three words you would use to describe this book?

Funny, family-oriented (is that two words?), full of adventure (that’s definitely three words. I’m on the first question and I’ve already broken the rules, but the alliteration is so worth it!)

We adored how we got a glimpse into The Exceptional Eagirl’s world at the end of each chapter, how did that structure come to be? 

I really love comics and graphic novels. When I started writing The Exceptional Maggie Chowder, I had the thought–”wouldn’t it be cool if this character (Maggie) loved comics, and I got to invent a comic book and write comic scripts, and the comics kind of paralleled Maggie’s story?”–and I went for it! I had so much fun writing The Exceptional Eagirl comics, and I really can’t imagine this book without them. Luna Valentine is the comic artist, and she did such an amazing job!

 Fill in the blank: 

Fans of _Caterpillar Summer___ would really enjoy The Exceptional Maggie Chowder!

3 ?s about You

What is your “go-to” kidlit book to give as a gift and why?

I can’t stop gifting (nor talking about) The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. I love this series so much. My kids are ages 8, 6, and 4, and I read the first book out loud to them at the beginning of this pandemic. All three of them loved it, and that’s a really rare magic in a book! 

If you could have a dinner party with three people (dead or alive), who would you invite and why? 

I would invite Shirley Jackson, because she was so wonderfully strange and talented, and because I recently started reading through her memoirs about motherhood, which are incredibly relatable. She was a mom-writer who struggled to balance her mom life with her author life, and I feel that deeply, especially this past year. I would invite Jordan Peele because even though his movies terrify me, I am obsessed with them.  He’s ridiculously funny (I miss Key and Peele) and can tap into his strange side, so he and Shirley would have lots to talk about, and it wouldn’t be an awkward dinner party. Finally, I would invite Steve Martin, because he’s also a pretty great writer with a funny/weird side, but additionally he plays the banjo, and I feel like this dinner party could use some music. 

What is one item in your refrigerator  that tells us about you? 

The oatmilk coffee creamer. This tells you that I drink coffee (so much coffee. I love coffee) and that I’m lactose intolerant. (What a weird note to go out on. I am so sorry.)

Thank you for having us on your blog tour and for Albert Whitman for providing us with an advanced copy to read. All opinions are our own.

Kat and Juju *GIVEAWAY*

My boys loved this story about Kat, an independent girl with some anxiety around what others will think about her. She is a shy little girl and that makes her feel lonely. She just wants to have a best friend and she knows that once her birthday comes a friend will show up at her doorstep. That’s when Juju arrives; a big fluffy red bird.

Juju is very different from Kat and challenges her to experience life more boldly by doing happy dances, experiencing life and letting go. Kat is still worried but a baby bird changes all that when Kat and Juju need to help take care of the bird. They work together to help the bird become stronger and learn to fly. With this Kat does things she would never try before shown through the beautiful illustrations and expressions on Kat’s face. Kat realizes that worrying about what others think about her was holding her back from the friendships she could have and she breaks free from her loneliness and worry.

My boys and I had some beautiful discussions during our reading together. My six year old is just like Kat, a rule follower and constantly caring about what others think about him while my four year old is riddled with anxiety about the unknown. So Kat and Juju’s story gave us a chance to talk about these very real feelings in a nonthreatening way. While this book hasn’t changed them completely it sure has helped them reflect and relax just a little bit.

Thank you Barbara Fisch from Blue Slip Media for sending us a copy for review. All opinions are our own. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway! See below for entry information!

About the Author

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also saves fallen baby birds and rescues them. Together with her students, they have raised over 13 fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other. Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju


“This debut gently encourages personal growth while reinforcing the value of being different.” —Kirkus Reviews

**GIVEAWAY**

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Kat and Juju  courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Please follow our blog and comment on this post. Please feel free to enter on our other social media pages too.

It Is (Not) Perfect…..Giveaway

It is (Not) Perfect by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, hits so many important notes. While building a sand castle, one friend thinks it is perfect, while the other makes a suggestion for their “perfect” improvements. This suggestion cycle continues as new friends come to the sand castle. Together, with their “perfect” ideas, the friends build a huge sand castle that they all stand by, admire and deem it perfect….until…..

Well, without giving away the ending, which builds hope and resilience, I want to say that I admired the character’s ability to accept constructive criticism and be open to the suggestions. I adored the teamwork that they all showed and allowed others to help make the castle. On a deeper level this book can help us talk about what perfect really means, if there is one way to do something , or what is everyone’s definition of perfect.

A book to enjoy with all ages and conversations that are important with our kids. We thank Blue Slip Media for including us on the blog tour.

Some more information about the creators:

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Smallas well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05Instagram: annakangbookschristopherweyant   Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant“Colorful cartoon illustrations add a lightheartedness to what could be a stressful real-life situation for kids. Another life lesson neatly packaged in child centric humor.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This award-winning duo have created a lovely tribute to the old adage that perfect is the enemy of good. Recommended for purchase for all collections.” —School Library JournalGiveaway!

***Giveaway****One lucky winner will receive a copy of It Is (Not) Perfect, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Please follow our blog and comment on this post. Please feel free to enter on our other social media pages too.

Bear and Fred -Love is All We Need

Bear and Fred – A World War II Story written by Iris Argaman, illustrated by Avi Ofer and translated from Hebrew by Annette Appel, will touch the hearts of readers of any age. Told by Fred’s teddy bear with no name, this is a story of love and hope. Fred and bear stick together through World War II where they have to flee their home to remain safe from the Nazis. Bear becomes worn and tattered through the years, almost unrecognizable, but Fred cares deeply for him and finds ease in his stuffed friend.

There were a few moments while reading that pulled at my heart. Fred shares his secrets with Bear, as he knows that telling the truth to others could lead to danger. But talking to Bear gives Fred hope and the much needed comfort during this time. As I read I thought about how so many kids right now are using a stuffed animal as their companion in these uncertain times. I think reading this book might be a good reminder to all of us, that it’s ok to find an escape any way that feels right, even if it’s with our stuffed friends.

Another connection to the books was that I fortunate to have taken a trip to Israel many years back. While there I got to visit Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and take a guided tour with a docent there. The museum pours with emotion and I felt connected to the past as the guide spoke to us about all the photos and artifacts. The story of Bear and Fred came to be because Bear was in that museum. Unfortunately I didn’t see it while I was there, but author Iris Argaman did, and knew she had to tell Bear’s story.

Thank you Blue Slip Media for sharing this book with us. All opinions are our own.

Giveaway! Comment on this post and one lucky winner will receive a copy of Bear and Fred: A World War II Story, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. addresses). 
Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

Check out our other social media pages for more chances to win!

Here is more information about the creators:

Iris Argaman is the author of a number of books for children, including Bear and Fred, which was awarded the Yad Vashem Prize in Israel and the Giovanni Arpino Prize for Children’s Literature in Italy. She lives in Israel, where she is a lecturer on children’s literature, holds writing workshops, and writes activity books which promote museum education.
Avi Ofer is an illustrator and animation director born and raised in Israel and now based in Spain. His work has been exhibited in art shows and screened in festivals around the world. Annette Appel is a translator of books for young readers and truly enjoys the challenge of making stories written in Hebrew accessible to English speakers.

 “Translated from Hebrew, it reads seamlessly and beautifully presents a family caught up in war…Without in any manner diminishing the actual horrors of World War II or any current fighting, the author enables a child to grasp in some small manner the impact of conflict on a family. Moving and accessible.” —Kirkus Reviews

We Could Be Heroes and a GIVEAWAY!

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.

Twitter: @FinneganBegin

Instagram: @finneganbegin

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 Is Gray & GIVEAWAY

“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

Are You A Frank Or A Bean?

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!

Dory Fantasmagory: Tiny Tough

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.

My Jasper June

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.

Check out the teaching guide or enter to win a copy on twitter or instagram!

A Spiky *GIVEAWAY*

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:

  1. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, tag at least one friend (more tags = more entries)
  2. Follow us twitter, like and retweet post

Author Bios

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.