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!

Giveaway!! Along the Tapajós

This stunning book gives the reader a peek into life in the Amazon rainforest. Told through the eyes of a child, we hear about a typical day Cauā and his sister Inaê have: eating breakfast, going to school, moving to a new house as soon as the rain starts, which is the beginning of the winter season and finally going back home to get their forgotten pet turtle. There is so much to see and learn on every page about the Amazon and the way of life for children who live there. The illustrations are spectacular and share even more details about life in the Amazon. We were blown away by how beautiful this story and pictures are. My kindergartener was enthralled and wanted to learn more about the different animals and the way the children go to school. This would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library to show how children in the Amazon go to school, the animals that can be found in the Amazon, what a different community looks like and how they deal with drastic weather changes.

Thank you Blue Slip Media for sending us a copy for review. All opinions are our own!

**********************GIVEAWAY************************* Courtesy of Amazon Crossing, we are hosting a giveaway for this incredible book to one lucky reader! Head over to our Instagram or Facebook to enter!

About the Author/Illustrator: Fernando Vilela is an award-winning author and illustrator from Brazil. Published in Brazil under the title Tapajós, this book was inspired by one of his trips to the Amazon rainforest. He has received many awards for his books, and he has exhibited his artwork at home and abroad, including at the MoMA in New York and the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo. For his picture books, he has received five Jabuti awards (Brazil) and the New Horizons Honorable Mention of the Bologna Ragazzi International Award. He is also a plastics artist, and he teaches courses, lectures, and workshops on art and illustration. Learn more about him online at www.fernandovilela.com.br.

About the Translator: Daniel Hahn is an author, editor, and award-winning translator. His translation of The Book of Chameleonsby José Eduardo Agualusa won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007. His translation of A General Theory of Oblivion, also by José Eduardo Agualusa, won the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award. He recently served on the board of trustees of the Society of Authors. In 2017, Hahn helped establish the TA First Translation Prize, a new prize for debut literary translation. Learn more about him online at www.danielhahn.co.uk

★“The vibrant colors in Vilela’s illustrations and the expressive faces of Cauã and Inaê bring lightheartedness to their dangerous journey and the cyclical living it prescribes. A riveting journey.” —Kirkus Reviews(starred review)


“This is one of those engaging titles that offers a glimpse of a location new to most American readers. More translations like this one, please!” —Fuse #8 ProductionGiveaway!

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!

Being Small

As short kiddos my boys loved reading the book, Being Small by Lori Orlinsky, illustrated by Vanessa Alexandre. Both of my boys commented on how they like being short and small because they can do so many things…and the message of the book was received! We discussed how like the character in the book they can do so many things that taller people cannot. We also loved how the story is told in rhyme. With a wonderful message about confidence and self acceptance this book is perfect for all the young ones in your life!

Thank you Lori for sending us a copy for review. All opinions are our own!

Giveaway: Look!: Babies Head to Toe

We love this adorable board book, Look!: Babies Head to Toe by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Anoosha Syed. It is a perfect book for your little ones to discover their body and senses! As we were reading my little guy kept touching his body parts while making the accompanying noises and gestures that the babies in the book were doing!

In LOOK!, Robie created an introduction to parts of the body and senses for the youngest readers:

  • Captivates babies and toddlers with repetitive sounds and a melodic voice
  • Follow-up to her first board book, WHO?: A Celebration of Babies, which New York Magazine named one of the best board books
  • Helps infants make sense of their world and gives them opportunities to respond with their own sounds and eventually words; fosters infants’ language skills and conversations with others
  • Bonus material: developed note cards (front and back) that include 5 tips for parents and caregivers to share LOOK!

To enter the giveaway head to our Instagram @storymamas

About the Author:

Robie H. Harris has written award-winning and internationally acclaimed children’s books and is known for writing about serious issues with honesty, understanding, and humor. Harris has written over 20 books for everyone from toddlers to older kids, including the definitive Family Library about sexuality: IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL, IT’S SO AMAZING!, and IT’S NOT THE STORK!. Harris travels around the country speaking about how picture books address the genuine feelings and concerns of young children.

Book Trailer and Giveaway: Operation Photobomb

We are so excited to premiere the book trailer with for the hilarious book, Operation Photobomb by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie, illustrated by Matthew Rivera! The perfect photobomber, Chameleon, wants to be a part of everyone’s photos but the other animals aren’t excited to see his colorful smiles in their photos. Together they come up with a plan to make sure Chameleon knows what it feels like to get photobombed. Once it happens to him he begins to understand but he still can’t stay away and uses his camouflaging skills to be more discreet in his photobombing ways! But then he finally finds the perfect species that loves his photobombing skills!

To enter the giveaway head to our Instagram! US only please. Ends 9.1.19 CST at 10 pm.

About the authors:

Tara and Becky are sisters and collaborators. Tara lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina, with her husband and three boys. Becky lives in Chicago. Together they’ve written several picture books, including I Am Famous and I Used to be Famous, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, and Shark Nate-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Visit Becky and Tara online at http://beckytarabooks.com/.

Facebook: BeckyTara Books Twitter: @t_luebbe and @b_cattie Instagram: @taraluebbe and @beckycattie

About the illustrator:

Matthew Rivera began drawing animals when he was old enough to hold a crayon. His parents still prize the toucan he drew when he was five.He earned his degree in fine arts from the University of Arizona. Now he lives with his family in the jungles of Los Angeles where he may, or may not, photobomb unsuspecting tourists. Visit him on Instagram @matthewdidit.

Praise for Operation Photobomb “Illustrations in this upbeat offering are lush and playful.The narrative is a lighthearted take on the trickster tale . . . that will resonate with young readers. A fanciful foray into lessons learned.” —Kirkus

A Very Important Post

If you mention the name “Margaret Wise Brown”, most people’s minds instantly go to Goodnight Moon, The Important Book, or The Runaway Bunny, and childhood memories of reading her books come flooding back. She wrote over a hundred books, but her unique life was unbeknownst to many. Until now. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, written by Mac Barnett, with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, shares the story the infamous author that few really know.

We were generously given copies of The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown from Harper Collins to read and review, and we thank Sarah Jacoby for taking the time to share some thoughts with us!

Here’s our interview with illustrator Sarah Jacoby…

Can you give us an inside scoop on the illustrations that we wouldn’t learn from looking and reading the book? 

I actually have an entire blog devoted to the research behind the images. Check it out! (https://veryimportantmargaret.tumblr.com)

Here are some secret easter eggs:

Did you see the bunnies in the modern times library? One of them is supposed to be a little Mac and one of them is supposed to be a little me. (See photo of little Mac and art from the book).

There is also a scene with a horse and a flower cart. That is a real horse that I saw when I was visiting the Hollins University Archives. I had fun imagining Margaret riding her.  I learned from her yearbook that she was in the riding club. (See photo of horse and photo of Margaret in the riding club and art from the book)

You’ll notice that there is a flower pattern running through the book. If you look closely you’ll see it withering over time. 

Also! If you look closely you’ll notice that all of the historical-time images of Margaret doing things have a slight border. That’s to indicate that these images are contained by something-like the book the modern librarian bunny is reading. Everything else is full bleed (fills up the whole page). 

Is that enough secrets for now? There are more.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Oh boy, many many many books have stuck with me. Many. Let’s see if I had to choose one (from many!) I might choose 

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. She’s someone that I look at a lot (perhaps that’s obvious?) for her incredible art, but also for her imaginative storytelling. I recall reading the book when I was small and being awestruck by the character if Miss Rumphius-especially when she traveled to distant lands. As an adult I love the type of role model Barbara Cooney supplied there.  

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

I have many of one item: half drunk mugs of coffee. Perhaps that’s gross. Here’s what happens: I make a nice hot cup of pour over coffee in the morning. It takes me like, ten minutes. It’s a waste of time, I know, but I love it. It’s my little ritual as start to warm up and paint. I then take a couple sips and enjoy that hot mug of coffee as I begin painting. I then get distracted by painting and my coffee gets cold. Eventually I’ll put it in the fridge with the dream of making iced coffee in the afternoon. But I usually don’t get around to it. So yes, I have at least three in my fridge right now. What does this say about me? I am passionate and loyal to my activities at hand, but I am also highly distractible.  

Thank you Sarah for taking the time and answering our inside scoop question. We enjoyed learning more about the book and its process.

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.

Two Truths and A Lie & **Giveaway**

We are so excited to be on the Two Truths and A Lie: Forces of Nature blog tour. We love this series!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, this is the 3rd book by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. In each book the authors have given us three stories in each chapter. All the stories are engaging, fun, detailed and written with such conviction that you have to believe them. But things aren’t always what they seem, it turns out one of the stories isn’t true. Your job as a reader is to figure out which one is a lie. Seems easy enough? Well, you’ll just have to dive in to see!

What we think is so wonderful about this book (and the other two) is that it makes the readers detectives. In this day and age with so much content being presented at kids, it is nice to see a book that makes us use many of the reading skills we have been taught to figure out what is real and what isn’t, because, truth be told when you read it, all the stories are written so well, it is hard to figure out the lie. At the end of the book, and included in the educator’s guide, are tips to help readers determine what is the truth. These are such great tips and strategies that we can all follow in the “fake news” day and age.

Questions for Ammi-Joan (AJP) and Laurie (LIE):

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

AJP: One of the most fun parts about working on these TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE books has been spotting and selecting the stories that we want to tell. Something you might not know is that Laurie and I have an enormous spreadsheet on Google docs; every time we come across a fantastic story, we put the info about it into our spreadsheet. Then, when it comes time to write the next book, we have a whole mountain of material available to choose from. 

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

AJP: This is SO hard! I’ve been sitting here for ages trying to answer this question, and finally I started scrolling down my list of books I’ve read over the past years. Reader, this did not help! Instead, I just spent a highly enjoyable twenty minutes going, “Oh my goodness, that was such a good one!” and “I loved that read!” So many books have stuck, and all in different ways, that it seems impossible to spotlight just one. That said, the book I am in the middle of reading right now is MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS, and it is definitely one that will stick with me for a long time—it’s fantastic!

What is currently in your fridge that tells us about you?

AJP: In my fridge you will find… (a) three different types of butter; (b) multiple varieties of cheese; (c) a can of non-fat whipped cream. One of these facts is NOT true – can you guess which? ☺

Thank you to Walden Press for providing us with a copy to giveaway. (US only) There are several ways to enter:

  1. Follow our blog (if you don’t already do so) and leave a comment on this post
  2. Follow us @storymamas and authors Ammi-Joan Paquette & Laurie Ann Thompson on Twitter and Retweet
  3. Follow us and the authors on Instagram and Like/Comment on the post
  4. Follow us and the authors on Facebook and Like/Comment on our post

Be sure to checkout the educator’s guide that accompanies the series!

Lastly, did you figure out the lie from above?  It is a true fact that non-fat anything is not welcome in my fridge… if there is a more fundamental food fact about me, I don’t know it!