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.

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

Dog Driven & GIVEAWAY!

Look at that cover! This middle grade novel is just as thrilling as the front cover makes you believe! What a page turner! A book of bravery, determination, grit, perseverance and figuring out that your challenges only make you stronger young readers will be drawn to this story.

Fourteen-year, McKenna is asked by her younger sister, Emma to run her team of sled dogs through a terrifying and dangerous race in order to raise awareness around Stargardt disease. A disease that Emma has had since she was a young child and one that McKenna fears she is developing symptoms for as well. The Great Superior Mail Run is a race complete with terrible ice and wind, freezing temperatures, scary owls and a treacherous trail to deliver mail just like they did way back when. How can McKenna say no now that she is having her own vision challenges as well? However, no one knows McKenna has been having some of the same challenges except her sister because she’s been doing a really good job hiding it from her parents and her friends, which in turn has made her feel more isolated then ever. With a connection to a historical dog sled with a letter at the end of each chapter being sent back and forth in the 1890’s we loved the special story inside the story.

This book was beautifully told and you will inevitably cheer for McKenna and her new musher friends (a term for a person who leads sled dogs in a race) as they struggle to deliver the mail

About the Author:

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School, and the Survivor Diaries series, lives in Whitefish Falls, Ontario where for ten years she owned a team of eighteen Alaskan Huskies. Learn more at terrylynnjohnson.com. Twitter: @TerryLynnJ

Other Reviews:

★ “Like Gary Paulsen’s Winterdance, Johnson shows the deep bonds and trust between musher and dogs . . . .”—Booklist, starred review

★ “A densely plotted, fast-moving, thematically rich tale set at the intersection of ability and disability.”—Kirkus, starred review

ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Dog Driven, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses only please). Please follow and comment on this blog post for one entry and visit our other social media pages for other opportunities to enter. US only. Giveaway ends 12.5.19!

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!

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!

The First Men Who Went to the Moon – With Author Interview & Inside Scoop

I was able to bring my son to a lovely author event sponsored by Book Beat, in Metro Detroit area, this past month. To celebrate March is Reading Month, Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rhonda Gowler Greene both spoke at the Oak Park Public Library about being an author and their new books.

Rhonda’s presentation was centered around her newly released book, The First Men Who Went to the Moon. It is a wonderful story that teaches readers about how Apollo 11 took its men on a mission to the moon. The book uses a rhyming and repetitive text structure that is also circular. On the side of each page, is even more information and facts about the text and illustrations. The book is entertaining, engaging and informative. The illustrations by Scott Brundage are gorgeous and make you feel as if you are in space. The story will hook readers of all ages. My son and I loved hearing her speak and have enjoyed reading the book and learning even more about the historical event!

Rhonda was kind enough to answers some interview questions and give us the inside scoop on the book!

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

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  When I wrote the story a few years ago, I didn’t have the anniversary in mind.  But, I’m so glad the manuscript sold when it did and the book is out for Apollo 11’s 50th.  

The story sold the summer of 2017.  I was told then the book would have a Spring 2019 release.  The publisher definitely wanted it out for the anniversary. I was so happy to hear that, but also a bit worried it might not actually happen because getting a picture book published in less than two years is a very tight squeeze.  Several of my books took three to four years from contract to release. But everyone worked VERY hard to keep the book on schedule. Right around Thanksgiving when I was so busy with other things, I had revisions to do. Then I had more due right around Christmas.  The illustrator (Scott Brundage- whose art for the book is amazing!), my editor, the copyeditors, the fact checkers, the designer, etc. were crazy busy, too, meeting deadlines. Everything came together though—and beautifully. I appreciated the team effort!

The 50th is being celebrated all over the country this year, and especially in July because the Apollo 11 mission was July 16–24, 1969.  I’m honored to be speaking and signing at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on July 21.

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

  I would be a children’s media specialist/librarian because I love books and I love working with kids.  I actually got my master’s to be a media specialist. (Before that, I was an elementary teacher.). I never worked as one, though, because I became a stay-at-home mom after my husband and I started a family (4 kids within 7 years).  I read A LOT to my kids. I think that sparked an interest in writing stories of my own. Luckily, after a few years (and 220 rejections!), I began selling some of my stories to publishers.

Maybe I’m a librarian at heart though.  I own so many books, my house looks like a library!

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

 Wow, it’s hard to pick just one.  I can think of certain books in all genres that have stuck in my mind.  But, I’ll pick one of my favorite picture books– Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.  It’s a classic and a 1996 Caldecott Honor Book.  I never get tired of reading it. The writing by Lloyd Moss is so clever.  And the whimsical illustrations by Marjorie Priceman match the text perfectly.  Maybe it sticks in my mind because I have a music background (minored in music/piano) and— because I love going to the symphony!

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


 Homemade yogurt.  I hate to cook (would rather be reading or writing!), but I make my own yogurt, a big batch every couple of weeks.

Thanks so much Rhonda for putting together a wonderful presentation and for stopping by Storymamas for this interview. The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and is out now! Lastly, we wish Rhonda all the best at Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in July!

Happy National Pet Day!

It’s National Pet Day! Whether you’re a dog love, a cat person, or prefer pets with gills, today is the day to celebrate those companions we can’t live without.

We’ve partnered with Penguin to share some recent books about some clawful cats. Be sure to check out our instagram and twitter pages for giveaway info!

Flubby by J.E. Morris – My emergent reader at home instantly gravitated to these two books. Adorable illustrations, accessible text, a cat with a personality…what’s not to love? The repetitive and decodable text make this book series perfect for your early reader.

Think you have a mischievous pet? You haven’t seen anything until you read Klawde – Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth. Told from alternating points of view, we’re introduced to Raj, who has just moved from New York City to Oregon, and Klawde, an evil cat who was banished from his own country to planet earth. The two become friends, and Raj eventually learns that his new cat can talk. Throughout the book, they learn to navigate their new homes and the trials that come with being somewhere new. This funny series will attract your pet lovers, your science fiction readers, and any kid who loves a quirky, funny book. There are currently two Klawde books that are out, with the third being published in October.

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet by Adam Hargreaves, is a book that is relatable to almost every kid out there. Molly has a pet mouse, but decides she wants a pet that is bigger and better…perhaps a rhino, or an elephant. In the end, she realizes that her small pet mouse is the perfect size and the perfect pet for her.

Big or small, scaly or furry, pets have become a huge part of who we are. Give them a big hug today as we celebrate National Pet Day!

Where Do Your Wishes Go? The Collectors- Inside Scoop & *GIVEAWAY*

I was at an arcade with my 4 year old son this weekend. I gave him a set amount of quarters he can spend. His eyes immediately set on the claw machine. The claw machine that is known to cause frustration and heartbreak among its players. My son was adamant about using his money to get one of the balls inside. As a parent I am doing my best to convince him not to waste his time, but he kept putting his money in and getting no results. Although outwardly I was trying to set him up for failure, I can see the scene now, all quarters gone, no ball and one hysterical crying kid; so what did I do quietly inside my head? I made a wish and asked for him to win a ball. And you know what, two attempts later, when quarters were almost gone, he moves his claw and gets THREE balls! Not one, not two, but 3! He was so happy! As I was for him and I knew I would not leave with a crying kid.

As we exited the arcade a thought passed over me, it took me back to one of the theme’s in the book I just finished. In The Collectors, we find out that some wishes won’t ever come true, as they aren’t wished in a correct manner, but the ones done in a correct way, will come true. When a real wish goes through, you don’t wish for how it comes true, so at times it might end up being granted, but at the expense of someone or something. Truth be told, the way I wished for my son winning, according to the book, wouldn’t have come true, but the fact that it did come true and I could have never predicted the how (him winning 3 balls!) made me stop and think more about this book after finishing it. And that’s what good books do!

The Collectors by Jacqueline West just took home the Schneider Family Book Award Honor for Middle School book! This action packed story follows our main character of Van. Van likes to keep to himself, but while at a park one day, he finds his curiosity take over when he observes unusual behavior from a girl and a squirrel, it appears they are stealing coins from the fountain. Van tries to figure out what he just witnessed and in doing so is thrown into a good vs. evil underworld of the collectors, a group collecting and keeping wishes from coming true. With a hidden world, talking animals, and not knowing who to trust, Van tries to navigate this world and find out who is being genuine and what the real truth is about our wishes.

This book keeps you on the edge of your seat with some valuable messages along the way. Van, our main character wears hearing aides, but it was fascinating how Jacqueline writes how he hears the world around him, and that in Van’s eyes, his disability is viewed as his normal, despite what others feel. Friendship, what makes a true friendship, and that many of us can struggle in different ways but by giving people chances, we can open doors to understanding new things.

Jacqueline stopped by the blog to answer this question. (Read to bottom to see how you can win a copy of the book).

Can you give us any inside scoop on the book that we wouldn’t learn from reading it? 

When I started writing the story that would become The Collectors, I didn’t know that Van was hard of hearing. Most of the other elements of the story were in place — Van’s collecting hobby, his life with his opera-singer mother, his discovery of an underworld filled with secretive people, odd creatures, and gathered wishes — but it wasn’t until I was halfway through the first full draft that I realized: Oh. Van wears hearing aids. It felt like the character had told me this important fact about himself only after I had gotten to know him well. And once I knew that fact, everything else in the story fell into place. All of the logic and all of the magic worked in ways they hadn’t before. It was incredibly exciting, and incredibly scary,because, as a hearing person, I wasn’t sure I could do Van’s perception justice. But I had wonderful help with my research, from librarians to teachers to several deaf and hard of hearing students. (Of course, you can learn that bit from reading the book — at least, you can if you read the acknowledgements!)

***GIVEAWAY INFORMATION**** Thank you Jacqueline for sharing the book with us! She was kind enough to donate a signed copy of The Collectors to one lucky reader! Here are three ways to enter, (US only: Giveaway closes on Tuesday, 2/12 @ midnight ET).

  1. Follow our blog and comment on the this post
  2. Follow us on twitter @storymamas and retweet
  3. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, and tag a friend

Q & Ray Creators: Author/Illustrator Interview

Have you gotten a chance to check out Q & Ray? It is a wonderful beginning reader, graphic novel series written and illustrated by husband and wife team, Stephen and Trisha Shaskan. So far there are three Q and Ray series. Q and Ray Case #1 The Missing Mola Lisa, Case #2 Metorite or Meteor-Wrong? and Case #3 Foul Play At Elm Tree Park. They are written in graphic novel style in which friends Q and Ray end up using their observational skills to solve a mystery. These are great books for students who enjoy reading mysteries and can be used by teachers to help teach the mystery elements. Using a creative spin, Trisha has based the storylines off of real facts from art, science and history. This latest book, gives facts at the end about The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, while the other books talk about art, the Mona Lisa and meteors. They are filled with knowledge, humor, fun expressions (Leaping Limburger), friendship and mystery! Be sure to check them out!

Trisha and Stephen stopped by the blog to answer 3 questions about the series and three questions about them!

Three Questions about Q & Ray series

Stephen

Trisha

We love how curious and willing to learn Q and Ray are, where did the inspiration come from for creating these 2 characters?

After we both graduated college, Stephen and I met while working at an elementary school. For the first time, I was an educational assistant in a second-grade classroom, but also taught storytelling and creative writing after school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. I found creative ways to engage students through stories, songs, humor, and imagination. Like our characters Q and Ray, the students were curious, eager, and able to learn. I have kept that teaching experience in my heart and I channel it, often subconsciously, while writing books. I am also a very curious person. Each of the Q & Ray graphic novels has a theme I wanted to learn about and one I know kids might be curious about—for example magic, Leonardo da Vinci, how meteors become meteorites, or the AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.) The characters names Q & Ray are a riff on Q & A, questions and answers, which is at the heart of a mystery. As far as mysteries go, I was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes while writing this series. I am a huge fan. As my sister Nicole Speed says, Holmes’ mysteries are “a brain massage.”

It is not uncommon for writers and illustrators to never meet, as a husband and wife team, how does the process for creating this book work?

All the books that we work on together are ideas that we have worked on together from the start.

Both of us read each other’s work and critique all of it—and help each other. For example, you’ll find phrases I contributed in Stephen’s picture books and the phrases Stephen contributed in my picture books. But the big difference in our books that we’ve created together is that we’re both involved in the whole process from the beginning brainstorm, to outlining the plot, to critiquing. But when it’s time to write, I go off on my own. And when it’s time to illustrate, Stephen works individually as well. We don’t interfere with each other during that part, which is fun because we usually surprise each other.

Which Q and Ray have been your favorite to work on and why? (We know it’s like picking a favorite kid 🙂 )

The first Q & RAY was so great to work on because it was my first time ever creating a fully colored finished 48 page graphic novel. I grew up reading comics and dabbled in creating them in my late twenties. When I was finished with the first book it felt like a huge accomplishment. As the series progressed, I continued to learn about creating graphic novels and really trying to push the form more.

For me, Q & RAY #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park was my favorite to write because I had learned enough about the graphic novel format to utilize it more fully. Plus: Doris Sams and the AAPGBL (All-American Pro Girls Baseball League) make appearances, which is so important to me. When I was a young athlete, I was often the only girl or one of a few girls surrounded by boys on the field, rink, or court. I didn’t know women once had a pro baseball league. I would’ve loved to have known that. Now I get to share that information with young people everywhere who also often don’t know about it.

Three Questions about You…

If you weren’t writing books for children, what would you be and why?

For twelve years, I was a preschool teacher. If I wasn’t creating books, I would probably be involved in early childhood education in some way as well as creating art. I’m always creating art. Even when I’m working on children’s books, I make time to do different art projects on the side: I’ve done political posters, made magic wands, installed a submarine room in our basement, and always have some little thing I’d like to try or something I find in an old sketch book that sparks some creativity.

I have worked in education and the roles I loved doing most would lead me to being a reading specialist, media specialist, or teaching ELL (English Language Learners).

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

There are so many, this is a difficult question for an author/illustrator. Our bookshelves are lined with books that have stuck with me. I think Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great example of a book that has stuck with me. It’s so well crafted, simple, and elegant. It’s a book that works as a reader and as a read aloud.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame captures the heart of my childhood: friendship and the river. I grew up in a Mississippi River valley town, Winona, MN, like Ratty who lives on The River that grips “things with a gurgle.” The River flows through the story and connects Mole and Ratty as does nature and its cycles. Grahame’s springtime has “birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting—everything happy, and progressive, and occupied.”  Grahame’s lyrical language sings on every page. But the heart of this story is the friendship of the shy Mole and good-natured Ratty, the impetuous Mr. Toad, and worldly Badger who doesn’t like society. Despite their differences and shortcomings, the characters are wonderful friends to each other. No matter what happens in the Wild Wood or world beyond they help each other get out of trials and tribulations. In friendship, there is hope and refuge like the sparkle of sunlight reflected on the ripple of a wave.

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

Two bottles of cat medicine for our 19-year-old cat Eartha, who is my studio buddy and always so helpful.

A bottle of kombucha, which is for a house guest. I love welcoming friends and family into our home, so I always have something special in the fridge for an upcoming visitor.

Thank you so much Stephen and Trisha for stopping by our blog. We loved meeting both of you this past summer at NerdCamp and look forward to seeing you again in July!

Here are links to their websites if you’d like to learn more about them and their work:

Stephen : Stephen’s Website 

Trisha: Trisha’s website

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.