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.

*GIVEWAY* To Meet One Purrfect Kitty

I have to start by saying that I lied in the title of my post, this wasn’t one purrfect kitten, but that’s what I loved about this book! Let me explain. Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten is about a kitten who starts kittygarten but soon becomes overwhelmed with the closeness of people, noises of the room and lack of time to be alone. Kitty finally has enough and refuses to go back to school. During her time at school, one student took a fondness for her and goes to her house to check in on her each day she isn’t at school. After a few days, Kitty finally decides she is ready to return. Geared with “survival gear” she is prepared and learns how to make the experience of kittygarten a wonderful one.

When I first got this book I felt something inside having the story about someone starting kindergarten. My son is entering kindergarten and I know he won’t have the noisy block corner or close circle time mentioned in this book. But I have to say a few pages into the book I started to shed the sadness and look at this book in a whole new light. It isn’t a kindergarten book, it’s an “everyone who might be starting something new” book. I adored how this character wasn’t purrfect, and that she loved being alone and that being in large groups is not something that she feels comfortable with. This book can be used to teach many social emotional lessons. I see Kitty as an introvert, a character trait we don’t often see. We also see her get so fed up with her environment that she “quits” kittygarten, a boiling point we’ve seen our kids and students come to. And at the end when she comes back with her survival tools is a great to show kids that we also have tools we can use to help in uncomfortable situations.

Let me leave you with the last line “kittygarten has its ups and downs (mostly ups).”

The was the purrfect ending to a story that had my emotions up and down (but mostly up!). Thanks for making this story happen Laura and Hiroe!

And thank you Blue Slip Media for sharing this with us! All opinions are our own!

More about the author: Laura Purdie Salas is an award-winning author of more than 125 books for children, including her recent books Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations, illustrated by Micha Archer, and Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons, illustrated by Mercè López. Her books have received such honors as Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books for Children, IRA Teachers’ Choice, the Minnesota Book Award, and NCTE Notable book. Laura went to kindergarten in Florida and now lives in Minnesota. She hates crowds and knows a good friend makes everything better. Learn more about the author at www.laurasalas.com. Twitter: @LauraPSalasFacebook: @LauraPSalas


Illustrator: Hiroe Nakata grew up in Japan and moved to the United States when she was sixteen. She is a graduate of the Parsons School of Design. Artwork from her first picture book, Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate, was chosen for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition. Since then, she has illustrated numerous books for children, including her recent titles, Baby Builders, written by Elissa Haden Guest, Baby’s Blessings, written by Lesléa Newman, and One More Hug, written by Inside Edition’s national correspondent Megan Alexander. Hiroe vividly remembers her daughter’s struggles in kindergarten and is happy to report that, at fourteen, her daughter excels in school and plays in the school band.Instagram: @hiroenakata

“Young readers will identify with Clover’s feelings about starting school or any new adventure… A perfect story to share at the beginning of the school year.” —School Library Journal“Salas shapes a read-aloud that will spark conversation with first-timers who are sensitive to stimulus, while Nakata humorously conveys the resolute feline’s emotions in expressive watercolor images.” —Publishers WeeklyCheck out the book trailer, activity sheets, and more at https://laurasalas.com/clover/ 

Giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). To win follow our blog and comment on this post. You can also enter on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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!

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.

Books Can Inspire To Help Those Around Us

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month! And if you know us, you know there is a book recommendation coming. Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan, is a fun book that makes you think of all those feisty felines and what they do best…attack! Whether your a cat person or a dog person, we hope you can agree that there are so many animals out there that need help.

We have a lot of wonderful animal shelters and rescues in our area, and we teach our own children that they can help these animals. They’d prefer to adopt them all, but we find other ways to help out.

Last summer our kids held a lemonade stand and donated the proceeds to the shelter. People were more than generous in their donations, and it was meaningful for my daughter to walk in with a jar of money to give directly to the shelter.

Most shelters also have a wish list on their website, which can include anything from used bath towels to newspaper to baking soda. These are inexpensive and easy ways to help, and make for feasible options to include your kids in the donation process.

As we kick off summer, our bucket list continues to grow. But woven into the parks we want to visit, or activities we want to do, are the ways that we can teach our kids to be good humans and help others. When we finally get some warmth and sunshine, you’ll find us on our bike path, holding a tall glass of lemonade with your name on it.

Head on over to our Instagram account, @storymamas to enter to win a copy of Max Attacks! Thanks to Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy with us.

Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

Thank you Candlewick for allowing us to be a part of The Infamous Ratsos Blog tour. All opinions are our own.

We are big fans of the entire series and were equally thrilled after reading the latest story involving Ralphie and Louie. We adore all the characters, how they are unique and are always learning from each other and themselves.

In Project Fluffy, Louie decides to help Chuck get Fluffy to like him, even if it comes at the expense of his friendship with his brother.  Louie spends his time writing poems for Chuck, and helping him execute a plan to win her heart.  In the end, Chuck and Louie learn that the best plan isn’t a plan after all, and rather doing what you think they like, you should pay attention to what they like instead, is whats most important.

Kara LaReau took the time to  answer 3  questions about The Infamous Ratos-Project Fluffy and 3 questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

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

Poetry, love, skateboards

What can fans of the series expect from this book? (and any hints on the future of the series!?)

As always, Louie and Ralphie try to do the right thing, but make some mistakes along the way. Louie is trying to help Chuck Wood, the most popular boy in school, get a girl’s attention, but Louie has some pretty flawed plans to make that happen. And Ralphie is jealous of all the time Louie is spending with Chuck. So it’s about how we express our feelings to those we care about, and it’s a bit about objectification.

This is the third book in the Infamous Ratsos series, and there will be three more! In fact, I just delivered Book Five a couple of weeks ago; I can’t believe I only have one left to write!

How did you originally come up with the characters Ralphie and Louie?

I was thinking about taking the leap and trying to write a chapter book (I’d only published picture books up to that point) but I knew I needed to find just the right idea. At the same time, my grandfather had just died, so I was thinking about him a lot — in particular, I was thinking about the stories I’d heard about him and his older brother, who were known in their neighborhood as “troublemakers.” No one has ever seemed to be able to tell me just what kind of trouble they got into! So I started imagining their shenanigans, and that’s how Ralphie and Louie were born. (FYI, my grandfather’s name was Ralph and his older brother’s name was Lou!)

3 ?s about You

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

I don’t have one in particular; I like to think about the personality of the parents. Recently, I bought some friends Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers, the new board book version of The Storm Whale by Benji Davies; and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by my pal Jen Hill.

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

Julia Child, Gilda Radner, and Mr. Rogers. They all brought light into the world, in one way or another.

What has been your most memorable “author” moment in the last year?

The Infamous Ratsos was chosen for One Book South Dakota! I got to go to Sioux Falls and Brookings for the celebrations, where I spoke to more than 2500 kids! But really, any time I get to connect with my readers is a good day.

Kara speaking to 2,500 kids!

Thank you Kara for answering our questions! To learn even more about Kara, please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.