The Unintentional Adventures are Anything but Bland!

 

Image Copyright Jen Hill

Calling all quirky book lovers!  The witty writing style of Kara LeReau will have you entertained from start to finish.  The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters is a series based on Jaundice and Kale Bland, two sisters who would rather be darning their neighbors’ socks and eating cheese sandwiches, but instead find themselves on face-paced, dangerous adventures.  When their parents left on an errand years ago, the sisters never expected to find out that they were galavanting around the world on high-stakes missions, nor do they have any plans to join them.  But life doesn’t always go as planned, and Jaundice and Kale find themselves in the midst of the action.  Join them on their adventures in The Jolly Regina and The Uncanny Express.

We had the chance to talk with Kara LaReau about The Unintentional Adventures, as well as ask her some questions about herself.

3 ?s about The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express

 

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

Magic, mystery, marshmallow.

What can fans of The Jolly Regina expect from this new Bland Sisters unintentional adventure?

Similar to The Jolly Regina, you’ll find a lot of humor and subversions of adventure tropes (this time, it’s Agatha Christie mysteries, particularly Murder on the Orient Express) and traditional gender roles. Also, there’s a bit of a twist at the end, so hang on, folks!

Were there any other character names in the running before you settled on Jaundice and Kale?

Never. That was a case of exactly the right names coming to me at exactly the right time!

3 ?s about Kara LaReau

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

Probably something to do with cooking and baking, my other passions. When I’m feeling really insecure about my writing, I fantasize about quitting and opening a B&B.

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

Lately it’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Van Glaser, which continues to warm my heart, even in this snowpocalyptic winter.

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

A bottle of Champagne — bubbly and fun at parties.

Giveaway!

There are several ways to enter the giveaway! The winner will receive both books signed by Kara and an awesome bland swag pack!

Here are the different ways to enter:

-Comment below

Or

-On Instagram -tag a friend or repost our post about these books

Or

-On twitter -follow us, like and retweet our tweet about this blog!

Each will earn one entry! Good Luck!

Thank You, Kara, for allowing us on the Uncanny Express Blog Tour!

Kara LeReau

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters
in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College
in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick
Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such
as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and NO SLURPING, NO
BURPING! A Tale of Table Manners, illustrated by Lorelay Bové; an
award-winning chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated
by Matt Myers; and a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional
Adventures of the Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill.  Kara lives in
Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

To learn even more about Kara, please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter. 

Voices From The Underground Railroad


Happy Book Birthday to Voices From The Underground Railroad from Kay Winters and illustrator, Larry Day.  I met Larry last year, along with his writer wife, Miriam Busch, at a book signing at Second Star To The Right Bookstore.  We chatted about their work and how I was involved in a kidlit enthusiast group called Storymamas. They both were kind enough to follow us on social media. Larry began tagging Storymamas while in the process of drawing this book. We loved every sketch, draft and drawing he showed. We knew that as the publishing date got closer, we wanted to help spread the word about this wonderful book. The final copy of the book is magnificent. The colors, details, and facial expressions Larry has created is spectacular.  Kay writes this book using several points of view. The two main voices are, Jeb and Mattie, who are escaping slavery to seek freedom through the underground railroad. Kay’s text is so powerful and the pictures Larry has drawn make you feel all the emotions these characters are going through. It is a fabulous book to teach readers about the historical events during this time. We hope you will add it to your home, school, or classroom libraries.

Here is the book trailer! Check it out!

Larry was also kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself.

3 ?s  about Voices From the Underground Railroad

What are three words you’d use to describe this book?

Escape. Running. Freedom.

The colors, the facial expressions, and details on the page are truly spectacular. What was the process for getting each page the way you wanted it?

What a good question!

Normally, I draw expressions without thinking. Detail comes naturally. Expressions come from a respectful appreciation of the subject.

What was the collaboration like with Kay? Did she see your drawings through the draft phase? Did she send you information on what she envisioned?

I always share with authors. There are times when an author’s information is crucial to the visual story.  One never knows.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Another great question!

Sometimes. I think about losing the capability to draw.

If that happened, I would write.

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

How about four, instead:

Milo’s Hat Trick, Jon Agee.

Alfie, by Thyra Heder

Bone Dog, by Eric Rohmann

Lion, Lion, by Miriam Busch

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

Blueberries!

Thank you Larry for chatting with Storymamas. We are excited about all your upcoming projects, including a collaboration with Jerry Spinelli, publishing by Holiday House in 2019!

To learn more about Larry feel free to visit his website or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

All Three Stooges -Erica Perl’s Newest Book & Interview

Erica Perl’s newest book All Three Stooges enters the world tomorrow.  I had the pleasure of having the ARC and reading it a few weeks ago. For the past several years, I think that middle grade/young adult authors have done such a wonderful job dealing with difficult issues so many kids are exposed to in their daily lives, ones that occur personally or that they might see on the news or social media. This book is no exception. All Three Stooges is told from the perspective of a boy named Noah. Noah loves hanging out with his best friend, Dash and Dash’s father. While hanging out together the three of them would perform and watch comedy bits together.  Unfortunately, Dash’s dad dies suddenly and Noah has a difficult time dealing with his death. Throughout the book Noah is not only mourning the loss of Dash’s dad, but Dash has shut Noah out of his life.  For Noah, someone who loves comedy and entertaining others with his jokes, he finds it difficult to navigate his life without his best friend. In an honest way, Noah desperately wants his best friend back, and it leads to many poor decisions and having to really think about what is important in his life.  With such a heavy theme, Erica has done a good job of weaving humor and pop culture references, which adds a good sense of lightness to the book.  Also, within the book, Erica, educates the reader about the Three Stooges and other famous comedians. Within the first page it asks you to google the Three Stooges scene “seltzer fight three little pigskins.” (You should, it is pretty funny). After I finished the book I wrote Erica and told her I felt the book was heavy, emotional, funny, and made me think. There are probably so many students who loose a loved one in middle school and don’t know how to navigate their feelings. I know this book will touch the lives of many who read it.

Thank you Erica for writing a book that deals with such a touchy topic in an enjoyable and heartfelt way. Erica was also kind enough to answer three questions about the book and three questions about her.

3 ?s  about All Three Stooges

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

Three words? That’s hard for someone as word-y as me, but I’ll try. First is loss, both because Dash loses his dad and Noah loses his best friend. The second word is longing, because Noah spend a lot of time wishing things could go back to the way they were (when Dash’s dad was alive and Dash was still speaking to him), and this motivates him to make some pretty bad choices. The third word is laughter. This is because it what cemented the friendship of Noah and Dash in the first place (their love of comedy), and because it is what keeps us going even in the toughest of times.

What is one skit/sketch mentioned in the book that you would tell readers to google immediately and watch?

I love Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, which is in the book and is the basis for the title of the book. There are several versions out there, I should note, so here’s the one I’d suggest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX5Z-HpHH9g (“All Three Stooges” is mentioned at 2:41)

In your author’s notes, you mentioned you wanted to tell this story from Noah’s perspective, had you ever drafted or considered from another point of view?

Noah’s voice was the one that was in my head, and it helped me really focus on the ripple effect of a tragedy. I think this perspective also felt the closest to my own, since I have lost a friend to suicide and I am close to several people who have lost immediate family members to suicide.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

There are a lot of other things I like to do – dance, run, play with my kids and my dogs, bake pies, sing, and ski – but so far I’m not aware of any opportunities to become a singing, skiing, pie-baker. For this reason, I’m planning to stick with writing books!

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

One of my favorite books is Roald Dahl’s DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. I didn’t consciously connect that book with ALL THREE STOOGES while I was writing it, but I think the way in which Danny worships his dad (but doesn’t know his secrets) is not unlike how Noah views Dash’s father, Gil.

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

I wish I could say “seltzer!” because it plays an important role in this book, but the truth is: I’m trying to stop drinking carbonated beverages. I used to drink it every day but now I only have seltzer every once in a while, so it is not in my fridge. One of my favorite things, though, that IS in my fridge is a jar of capers. Tiny, pickled, salty little capers – yum! What do they tell you about me? That I love things that seem cute but pack a big punch. Like capers and hedgehogs (note: I don’t eat hedgehogs, or keep them in my fridge).

Thank you Erica ! To learn more about Erica and all her other wonderful books, check out her website or follow her Instagram and  twitter. 

 

Get Your Mitt Ready & Maple Syrup Out- Just Like Jackie – Review & Author Interview


There is a common phrase that many of us teach our children “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, but when it comes to books, it’s a different ball game. Book lovers, you know what I mean! How often do we pick up a novel based on the cover? This is exactly how we got introduced to Lindsey’s book Just Like Jackie. We saw the cover reveal on twitter and our jaws dropped. The illustration of a young girl and man in the cold snowy trees with just enough light poking through, we knew we had to read it! We were lucky enough to receive an ARC from a friend and we tapped right into it!

Lindsey has created this wonderful main character, Robinson. When we first meet her she is beating up a boy in school who called her a name. Robinson has a hard exterior, but as we get to know her we learn that she is dealing with so much inside and like many kids, is trying to do her best to survive each day. As we read the book our heart ached for Robinson, who lives with her grandfather, and begins to notice that he is often forgetting things and having a hard time finishing sentences. She tries so hard to keep it a secret because he is all the family she has. As we read it we were thinking how this book would really connect with many students, who outside of the school walls have so much going on in their home lives. It once again reminded us, as educators, that students have so many stories, many of which are never shared in classroom, but can effect their presence at school.  The book tackles themes of friendship, bullying, illness, loss of parent and more, the plot moved along well and we felt we got to grow with the characters. We hope you have a chance to read and get to know Robinson too. 

Lindsey was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and three questions about her.

3 ?s  about Just Like Jackie

What three words you would use to describe Just Like Jackie?

Honest

Inclusive

Intimate

What was the process for creating this book with so many important themes?

Whenever I write for kids I think back to my own middle grade years and try to focus in and really remember the things that made me feel something intensely. JUST LIKE JACKIE was born of the moments I recall sitting with my grandpa, when he would forget the ends of his sentences and I wouldn’t know for how long I should wait to see if he remembered, or if I should finish his sentence for him, or just nod and pat his hand as if to tell him that everything was going to be OK. I felt uncomfortable and sad and I wished I could do something to help his memory get better. This experience and these emotions helped me develop Robbie’s tender side, her relationship with her own grandpa.

JUST LIKE JACKIE was also born from a feeling of rage when a neighborhood boy smashed a robins’ nest out of my backyard tree with his wiffle ball bat. I had been watching and waiting for those eggs to hatch into little birdies and when the blue shells splattered across my lawn my ten-year-old hands clenched and my fist connected with his face. This feeling helped me develop Robbie’s fiesty side, her anger with bully Alex Carter.

From these two seed emotions, I was able to build the rest of Robbie’s story.

Tell us about your experience with fixing cars and making maple syrup.

When I was growing up, my dad worked for Toyota and my favorite part about visiting the dealership was the service shop out back. I was always amazed by the mechanics who knew how to assess a problem, hoist a car up on lifts, and fix it. I liked their dirty hands and oil-smeared uniforms. Unlike Robbie, I have never actually fixed anything on car in my life, but have always been in awe of people who have that technical know-how.

Maple syrup is a different story. I definitely got my hands sticky with sap every sugaring season growing up in Vermont. My grandpa had a maple farm out in the woods with a thousand taps and holding tanks with old engines that would push the sap into the sugarhouse where we’d boil it down to our Stoddard family maple syrup. Like Robbie’s grandpa, mine also had Alzheimer’s, but out at his sugarhouse, flushing lines and chopping wood and boiling sap, he never missed a beat.  

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I was a middle school English teacher in Washington Heights, NYC for ten years and LOVED it. It was very hard to leave the classroom, but at the time of this two-book deal with HarperCollins, I also had my first child and returning to the classroom seemed like it would be too much. It felt like a good time to focus on my writing career in a way that I hadn’t been able to in the past because teachers work full FULL time. My husband and I are expecting a second child in February and I’ve just finished a second book, and my brain is churning on a third, but I hope to return to education, in some way, in the near future.

Another dream of mine has always been to open an independent bookstore. I know it’s a lot of work and I’d have a lot to learn but I am SO HAPPY in bookstores.

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

On the adult side, SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward. This book gutted me. I had to put it down several times just to breathe.

On the children’s side, BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson. The story of her family is itself an incredible journey through American history, and her poetry both sings and pierces on every page. It’s unforgettable.

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

Can I cheat and say my freezer? Because I’m never without at least one pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Half Baked– I like the flavors with chunks, left on the counter until it’s just the right consistency, and eaten out of my Housing Works Bookstore mug. THAT, and a book, is my picture of comfort.  

Thank you Lindsey! To learn more about Lindsey, check out her website or follow her on twitter. 

Wide Awake Bear & Chat with Author: Pat Zietlow Miller

If you’ve ever had the child who just can’t fall asleep, Pat Zietlow Miller’s newest picture book is just what you need. It is a sweet story about a bear who just can’t fall asleep during winter. He has many thoughts of spring and it makes it even harder to fall back to sleep. This story is a great read for the younger kids in your life. The pictures are warm and gentle and match the rhythm of Pat’s text.

Pat was gracious enough to gift Storymamas with the F & G of the book and we can’t wait for it to be welcomed into the world so we can buy a copy for our own kids! The book will be released on January 2nd!

Along with our advanced copy, Pat was willing to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Wide-Awake Bear

The dedication to your mother-in-law is so sweet, can you tell us more about why you chose her?

My mother-in-law, Lynn Miller, lives in Door County, Wisconsin, an area full of charming, small towns with a resort feel. She has taken my books and walked into every little library up there and basically insisted that the unsuspecting librarians purchase my books. She’s also convinced bookstores to carry them and came very close to getting a local bakery to make themed-cookies that coordinate with my books. She’s a force of nature. All that effort and support are worth a dedication at the very least.

What does your workspace look like?

I always wish I could say that I write in a funky coffee shop in Manhattan or in a cottage on a  sweeping, sheep-filled moor in Scotland. But, no. I write at my kitchen table in Madison, Wisconsin surrounded by mail, newspapers, snack wrappers, cats that want to sit on my computer keyboard  and the occasional dirty sock. Why is there a dirty sock on my kitchen table? Who knows? I’ve stopped asking. We will be moving later this fall, and my goal is to have my own reading/writing room that is a debris-free zone. We’ll see if that happens.

What was your process for writing Wide-Awake Bear?

The story is based on an absolutely epic meltdown of a tantrum my youngest daughter had several years ago when I woke her up from a nap to go to volleyball practice. Later, when I asked her why she’d gotten so upset, she uttered this memorable line: “I was a hibernating bear. You woke me up, and I went into a bear frenzy.”

That comment inspired the book. I tell the whole story in this blog post.

This is the same daughter who inspired my first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. I may need to start giving her co-author credit.

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

This is probably cheating, but I’d want to be an editor. I love making copy as good as it can be. And I’m an AP Style geek. I love knowing that sauce-covered, grilled meat is “barbecue” not “barbeque” or “BBQ” or any other variant.

And, I’ve always thought being the person who names nail polish colors would be an awesome job. Maybe I could do nail polish colors to coordinate with children’s books, like:

  •    Blueberries for Sal.
  •    The Man with the Yellow Nails. (Who needs a hat?)
  •    Pinkalicious.
  •    My Many-Colored Toes

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

STARS, a picture book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee. It’s picture book perfection, and the simplicity of the language is something I constantly aspire to. And it has memorable lines for adults and kids. Read it. Buy it. Share it. Love it.

But I have a whole shelf of much-loved books that I keep for inspiration. And I have a list of practically perfect picture books on my blog. Check it out.

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

Every day, I take a Fage raspberry yogurt to work with me. (I have a non-kidlit-related job.)  So the fridge always has a week’s supply. And you might find a Dove dark-chocolate candy bar cooling in there too. That candy is better cold.

Please also check out some of her other picture books we’ve enjoyed:

 Sophie’s Squash

The Quickest Kid In Clarksville

  Be Kind – Released February 6th (and we can’t wait)

For more information on Pat Zietlow Miller, check out her website or follow her on Instagram & Twitter.

Kid Review: Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race

Hannah, our guest blogger,  brings us today’s #middlegrademonday recommendation. Below is her review of Chris Grabenstein‘s Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race:

The book Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein is the 3rd book in the Mr. Lemoncello series. It was a good book, but some parts of it might be hard to understand if you haven’t read the other 2 books. I was able to make many predictions that were close to accurate, but there was a big twist in the end. When I met the author, I realized that he was a lot like his character, Mr. Lemoncello.

If you like puzzles, games, and reading, this is a book you should read.

 

Hannah is currently a 5th grader, but was in my class as a third grader. When she was in my class she loved getting my recommendations of books to read. She only read one book at a time and put others on her “shelfie” (phrase we call our mental shelf of books we want to read).  Hannah loved our #bookmadness16 tournament, reading all the nominated books (caught in the act on the tweet below). She often used our class twitter account to report out the winners of each round or to tweet to the nominated authors! 

 

   

I am so happy Hannah and I still keep in touch and talk about books. And I appreciate her taking the time to give us a kid review of a book (series) we have enjoyed!

 

Hannah is a 5th grade student who loves to read, dance, ski, and hike. She is a great big sister and loves sleep away camp.

 

 

Spotlight On: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

If you’ve never heard of or interacted with Debbie Ridpath Ohi, you need to immediately! We met her a few years back at Nerdcamp Michigan, when she had just come out with her debut picture book, Where Are My Books?   

During our chat we asked her if she’d Skype with our students in the coming year and she was thrilled to do so. Boy, are we glad we asked her. Our students had the best time “meeting” her. She had boundless energy and was also able to do a demonstration of how she created her found object art. During the Skype she turned a crumbled up piece of paper into a beautiful ballerina wearing a tutu.  One of the questions I asked her toward the end of our session was “what advice would you give to these students?” Her answer was incredible and the message she spoke about is still mentioned to this day, over two years later! She told my kids she had wished she knew earlier, that you don’t always need to be perfect the first time! Here’s a tweet a student sent her following the Skype session:

Besides being a wonderful person, I want to talk about her illustrations. We were so excited to read her new solo book Sam and Eva that came out a few weeks ago. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, but the book itself has many important themes. If you have not read this book, it’s a great one to add to #classroombookaday to discuss friendship, flexible thinking, or how art can tell many stories!

We are so happy she continues to come out with new books so often. Whether she is doing both writing and drawing or just illustrating, you will love her work! Debbie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her. Enjoy!

3 questions about the book

What can fans of your work expect from Sam and Eva?

A fun creative clash between two young artists, inspired by cartoon wars that a friend and I had back in our university days. Sam is drawing when Eva arrives, wanting to collaborate. The creative clash that ensues when their drawings start to come to life is fun and chaotic…but then both children realize things are getting out of hand and decide to work together. Sam & Eva is about art, creative collaboration and friendship.

What does your workplace look like?

As you can tell, I do not have one of those spacious, sunlit artist studios that overlooks a verdant meadow blooming with wildflowers. My office is in the basement, and I have covered up the windows with colourful scarves because (1) I never look out the windows anyway when I’m working, and (2) one window “looks out” under our deck and the other is blocked by bushes.

My husband Jeff and I call my office my “cave.” And I do so love my Office Cave.

What was your process for writing and illustrating Sam and Eva?  Was it the same as when you created Where Are My Books?

For Sam and Eva, I came up with a picture book dummy (a rough mock-up of the picture book) ahead of time and sent that to my editor, Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster Children’s. He accepted it the next morning! I had to put off working on Sam & Eva for a while since I was working on other book projects first, so I had to reread it several times when it WAS time to work on the book to remind myself of the story.

Then I worked on the text with Justin, improving the story flow, page turns and language. Although I started working on character sketches earlier, I didn’t start working on the layout sketches for the interior spreads until the text was finalized. During the art phase, I worked mainly with my art director at Simon & Schuster, Laurent Linn. Laurent helped me figure out how to improve the visual aspect. I’ve worked with Justin and Laurent on my other picture books with S&S, and I learn so much from them with each project!

In contrast, Where Are My Books? took a lot longer to finalize the story and art. The main reason? It was my first solo picture book! I felt like such a newbie and had so many questions. Hm…in many ways, I still feel like a newbie and do keep asking a lot of questions! I figure that’s a good thing, however — it means that I’m still learning.

3 questions about you

If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you want to be and why?

A songwriter/musician. I’ve always loved making music with other people, and have written and co-written songs for my music group as a fun hobby, plus have done a few session musician gigs. A couple of the songs I wrote made it to national radio! In a parallel universe, I think I’d try to make a living writing music and playing music. It’s a whole other type of creative collaboration.

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

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It’s the first book that made me aware of how voice can enhance my reading experience.

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

Ha! Fun question. Hm, let me think. Ok, how about this: some radish tops, leaves attached. Most people discard this part of the radish but I like saving them for potential found object art. Also: some shrivelled up basil leaves – I had been planning to use them for found object art but, um….forgot!

Thank you Debbie for chatting with us!

To learn more about Debbie please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

Kim Bogren Owen – Book Reviews

Orchids

What immediately struck us about Orchids is the beautiful, clear, crisp picture on the cover. We love how the entire book is dedicated to this one gorgeous flower. We see this book being a great resource for us as an introduction to the beautiful flower or if one of our kids wants to learn more in-depth information about orchids. The book is filled with wonderful facts about orchids, which are accompanied by bright photographs that support the text. What we appreciated about the book is that it can be read and enjoyed by the smallest reader who wants to learn about shapes, colors and sizes. Kim does an amazing job of making connections for the reader from text to self and to the world. From the very first page she describes how orchids come in all shapes and sizes, just like people, and goes on to make a connection to orchids being symmetrical, just like our faces! She weaves interesting facts into the connections that children make to things they eat too. For example, how the vanilla orchid is pollinated by people and used in some of the most delicious foods we eat (oatmeal, cookies and ice cream). It is also wonderful for an older reader, possibly a budding botanist, with text that is also more complex and shows different ways an orchid affects our lives. At the end of the book, Kim gives suggestions to extend learning, the ideas are geared more toward younger readers, involving different multi-sensory activities, but can be adapted for all ages. Orchids can be a wonderful book to start a conversation about flowers, nature, pollination, vocabulary, and the life cycle, or it can be a great reference to use to explore more about these flowers which make so many people happy! We only hope she has more of these beautiful nonfiction books in the works; we think this would make a wonderful series!

 

Art Part – A Child’s Introduction to Elements of Art

Kim mixes art concepts and vocabulary with work of art by children. Art Part – A Child’s Introduction to Elements of Art is a useful guide for a young artist to learn that creating art can take on many shapes and forms. We like the wide range of art concept words ranging from concrete ideas to more abstract. After each page she provides a blank page for the reader to practice these concepts. We know sometimes it is hard to write in a book (even if it’s allowed), so when purchasing the book Kim allows you access to practice pages so you don’t have to write in the book or if you are working with more than one reader, you have multiple pages so there is no arguing (we love how she thought of that). We can see this book helping parents show their kids more ways to create art, but we also see it being useful in an art classroom. At the end of the book Kim writes ten ideas to further explore art and all the concepts learned in the book; a helpful guide for artists. As teachers and parents we would love to add an idea. The page where Kim discusses texture we would ask our children to go on a texture scavenger hunt and find the types of textures she describes: prickly, smooth, hard and soft and then glue in the artifacts they found so there is a tactile element to the texture page, similar to the touch-and-feel board books our babies love.

Kim also runs wordsreflected.com  a blog that gives parents and educators ideas on how to promote language and literacy with young children.  You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Also, if you’d like to purchase either of these books. Please click this link. 

 

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge – The Story of A Girl You’d Want to Know

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by: Kristin L. Gray

I met Vilonia on a beautiful summer morning before my kids were awake. Drinking coffee I began the book. I learned quickly that like myself, Vilonia was a leftie, which had her playing first base in baseball and she was now going to try out pitching. Even though I’m an adult, making connections with characters draws you into a story, and from page two I was hoping my boys wouldn’t wake up for awhile so I could learn more about her.

I learned from reading the book that Vilonia is a true friend. She is loyal to everything she meets.  I say everything, because you need to read it to hear what happened with the goldfish 🙂 She is committed to her family, although her mom is having a tough time since her mother passed away and Vilonia is trying desperately to keep the family together. Her dedication and kind heart shine through in the whole story and you only wish Vilonia would be your friend, too!

Kristin’s story has many fun moments where you want to be in on the action, while other parts speak to you about how hard it is to loose people you love.

Kristin was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and three questions about herself! Enjoy and don’t forget to get your copy of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge today!

Three Questions about Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

Tell us more about how you came up with the unique name of Vilonia Beebe.

Great question! Vilonia and Beebe are two towns in Central Arkansas, near the city of Little Rock (where I grew up).

Were there parts that are based on real life events? (Without giving us any spoilers).

Yes! I’m a preemie, like Vilonia! So the first page is my birth story. I weighed two pounds at birth. Also, my dad, like Vilonia’s, is a fisherman. (I do wish I had Leon and Vilonia’s treehouse, though.)

In the acknowledgments you said – to Jesse who told me to “write this book already”.  How long was the journey to writing Vilonia’s story?

Vilonia’s story took me a whole year to write. Then, I spent another year in revision with my agent and editor. Then many months of waiting before she actually appeared in stores and libraries as a real book.

Three Questions about you

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

Possibly an artist or illustrator. As a kid, I was always drawing. I’d give anything to be able to sketch or paint whatever I wished. Hmm. I also like cupcakes a lot. So being a baker would be fun. But I wouldn’t want the pressure of baking a wedding cake! Oh! I know. Maybe a scientist or archivist? I love research and random facts.

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

I just finished Claire Legrand’s SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS (2016). It is a wondrous, magical tale of family, secrets, adventure, and bravely speaking truth.

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

So, let’s keep this between us, but I hide mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups in my refrigerator so my family won’t eat them all. Ha!

Thank you for having me. I love the Storymamas!

To learn more about Kristin visit her website or you can also find her on Instagram or Twitter.

Melanie Crowder talks Three Pennies & More…

I met Melanie at an event a few months ago at Second Star to The Right Books in Denver, Colorado. Melanie sat in a room with me and we book talked many Middle Grade book titles to other educators. She of course gave her own book talk about her book, Three Pennies. Although it was on my TBR pile, I hadn’t yet read it. But man, after her talk about how important this book was to her and the passion in her voice, I knew it had to be moved up. After the talks, Melanie turned and gave a copy to us. I went home and promptly started it….


They say books should be mirrors and windows for readers. This book was a window for me into the difficulties of being a child in the foster care system. In the author’s notes Melanie mentions that she advanced time lines for the sake of the story and is fully aware things take much longer than portrayed in the book. The short chapters, told from different perspectives made such a heavy book seem light and easy to read. I felt that the book read almost as if I was watching it as a movie. The raw emotions from the characters help you step into their shoes. You felt for Marin when she explains why she wants to be invisible in her foster care home. And the desperation when she wants to find her mother. Melanie has created a wonderful book that many would see as a mirror, and I hope that one day those children will find a loving home.  

Melanie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Three Pennies

Were you familiar with the I Ching prior to writing this story?

I wasn’t—at all!

Here’s the story. The last time I visited Montana for my niece’s birthday, my sister had this amazing idea to do a scavenger hunt on bikes for the kids that would lead them ultimately to this sweet little ice cream shop. Perfect. The kind of party a kid would remember forever, right?

Well, the kids were five, so some were ready for the BMX course, but others were still rocking the strider bike. It was a little bit of a logistical challenge, to say the least…

At some point, when faced with too many decisions piling on top of each other, my sister said:

Enough! Let’s ask the I Ching what we should do.

Me: The what?

Her: The I Ching. Duh.

Okay, so I needed an education. My sister explained that the I Ching is an ancient Chinese divination text, credited to Confucius, that has been used for centuries by people to guide them through life. She explained that you could ask questions about everyday kinds of things, or you can ask the BIG questions of life.

So my sister is telling me all about how the I Ching works and I have an honest-to-goodness physical reaction. Something between goosebumps and that feeling you get in the middle of a thunderstorm when there’s a little too much electricity in the air.

I just knew in that moment that someday I was going to write a book about a girl who used the I Ching to figure out her life’s problems.

How did the idea of the different perspectives come to you?

You know, it was that way from the very beginning. That’s just how the story came to me.

This is such an important topic, what was the journey to getting it published?

I am very fortunate—I have an excellent relationship with my middle grade editor. Three Pennies was our third book together. So when I got the idea, I polished up a few sample pages and sent them her way. I loved the story. She loved the story. The publisher loved the story. And that was that!

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

When I was a middle grade reader, I was positive I’d be a marine biologist. These days, though, something to do with digging in the dirt sounds pretty great.

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

I read The Blue Sword once a year, usually when the weather turns colder. It’s a little like comfort food by this point!

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

My family has lived in Oregon for generations, and some of the best memories from my childhood are from running around my great uncle’s filbert orchard on the McKenzie River. To this day, I keep a bag of filberts in my fridge for snacking and for when I’m missing home.

Thank you Melanie for talking with storymamas!

To learn more about Melanie and her other books visit her website or you can find her on Instagram or Twitter.