Friday, March 6, 2015

Meet Avi's Newest Book, Catch You Later, Traitor!

Brooklyn, New York, 1951.

Twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? At the same time, Pete’s class turns against him, thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher; even Kat, Pete’s best friend, feels the pressure to ditch him. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood--and even their freedom--at risk.

In the tradition of his Newbery Honor book Nothing But the Truth, Avi’s newest novel tells a funny, insightful story packed with realistic period detail of a boy in mid-twentieth-century America. Its unique look at what it felt like to be an average family caught in the wide net of the Red Scare has powerful relevance to contemporary questions of democracy and individual freedoms.

About the Book:

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Series: None
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers (March 10, 2015)

My Thoughts:

Catch You Later, Traitor is about Pete, a young boy that starts investigating his family's secrets. The book has a fairly slow pace, but like most of Avi's plots, there is a point to everything. Personally, I liked the slow build up and the way Pete gathers information over the course of the story. I liked the mystery surrounding his father. I liked the characters. They were complex, realistic individuals that made believable choices and mistakes. They all had a motive for what they were doing.

Of course, I didn't love absolutely everything about the book, but most of those things were due to personal interests. I read so many books that it's difficult to find one that I truly enjoy, but this was one of them. It was a treat to read a book and slip into that world so completely. Part of what made this book so interesting to me was Pete's experience with his teacher, Mr. Donovan. I had a weirdly similar experience at about the same age. I also liked the questions the book raised about freedom of speech, individual rights, and the welfare of the public.

This is a great book for middle grade readers, especially if they like baseball, detective stories, and don't mind the slow buildup.

Content: Clean

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Help Morgan the Ox Get Published with Kickstarter!

Leah Kiser has illustrated each page of this rhyming book.  It's a silly story about a ping pong face off between a musk ox and a cockatoo.  If you would like to help this book get published, visit the Kickstarter page to find out more.


About the Book: 

Morgan the Ox by Seth Ode, illustrated by Leah Kiser 
Age range: 4+ 
Genre: Picture book
Pages: 45
Format: Hardcover
Synopsis: Find out what happens when a tiny cockatoo challenges a macho musk ox to a game of ping pong in this dramatic tale about giving your all and losing graciously. 

FREE Shipping Bonus!

If you back the project, you are eligible to claim FREE shipping on your hardcover book! 

Here's how you do it:

Leah will send a message back to you to confirm the free shipping.  If you do not receive a message within 24 hours of the end of the campaign, you can revoke your pledge.


If you want to learn more about this project, the author and illustrator, or how you can be part of it, please visit the Kickstarter page.  You can also watch the book trailer and a video of Leah reading a sample of Morgan the Ox on her website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Trouble With Magic by Danyelle Leafty

Once upon a time, a young girl with too much magic on her hands turned her sister into a toad. On accident, of course.

Bettony is doing everything she can to turn her sister Cadmilla back into a person. Unfortunately, magic hasn’t been as much help as she thought it would be.

Instead of the fairy tale she’d hoped for, Bettony has had her hands full trying to de-toadify her sister, figure out her magic, and deal with the loss of her song.

That is, until she does the unthinkable and “borrows” her fairy godmother’s wand. Only for three nights—just long enough for her sister to attend the three royal balls that could be the answer to her future dreams and happiness.

After that, she’ll return the wand and confess her crime. In the meantime, though, she has a happily ever after to plan, a fairy godmother to avoid, and magical aid from an unexpected source.

And maybe, once this is all over, she’ll see about getting a wand of her own.
After all, how much trouble can a single wand cause? Bettony is about to find out . . .

About the Book:

Age range: 10 and up

Series: The Secret Stepsister Society Book 2

Genre: Fairy tale/fantasy

Print Length: 173 pages

Publisher: Curious Leaf Press (January 2, 2015)

My Thoughts:

This was a cute book, but not without its imperfections. I read the first book quite a while ago, so my memory of the story was murky, and this book didn't bring me up to speed as well as I'd hoped. While it was beautifully written, there were quite a few typos where words had been left out, extra words, or the wrong word used. The pace was slow, confusing at times, and focused a lot on Bettony's internal struggles, which makes me doubt if children would like the book.

Regardless of whether or not kids will like the book, I liked it. I really liked the way it ended and the changes Bettony made along the way. I like the author's style of writing and I think she has wonderful potential. While I didn't understand everything that happened in the story, I liked that the solution to Bettony's troubles was not easy to discover, yet simple in nature.

If you haven't read this series, start with the first book, The Trouble with Toads.  It's an unusual and funny spin on an old fairy tale.

Content: clean

Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pass or Fail? Flunked by Jen Calonita + Author Interview!

I've been a fan of Jen Calonita for several years, so I'm thrilled to introduce her new book and share my interview with her.  I read Flunked a couple of weeks ago, but did I like it?  Keep reading to find out! 

Interview with Jen Calonita:

1. What inspired you to write about a reform school for fairy tale villains?
What's not to love about a villain turned teacher? Are they always able to keep their villainous or jealous side down? Or do they let it slip out? Can they be trusted? Or are they still keeping secrets? I loved figuring out all the layers to the story and how they worked with our new young heroine, a pick pocket named Gilly.

2. What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Getting to revisit so many wonderful fairy tales. I loved reading the different versions of the classics and diving into Grimm's and Hans Christian Anderson's. I also discovered quite a few new fairy tales I loved.

3. If you could visit any time or place, where and when would it be?
I'd love to meet my grandparents as teenagers. My grandmothers, who have passed away, were so much fun that it always made me wonder how much MORE fun they were having in the forties when they were teens. I think it would be great to go back and hang with them, wear the beautiful fashions, and really get to know my grandmothers as girls.

4. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Friendly's Butter Crunch. I try to stick with frozen yogurt when I can, but when we go to Friendly's with my boys all I want is Butter Crunch with Heath Bar on top and melted marshmallow!

5. Do you have any hidden talents?
I'm really good at fixing broken objects. Seriously. Give me some crazy glue and a pair of pliers and I can have a toy or a table back up and running in no time.

6. Other than your own, what is your favorite book of 2015 so far?
I'm reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and it's sooooo good! I'm mad my book club isn't reading it because it is so great to discuss. I'm also reading a fellow SourceBooks author's upcoming YA called SPELLED, which is a mashup of The Wizard of Oz and fractured fairy tales and it's awesome! I feel like SPELLED is FLUNKED's big sister!

About Jen:

Jen Calonita has interviewed everyone from Reese Witherspoon to Justin Timberlake, but the only person she’s ever wanted to trade places with is Disney’s Cinderella. When Jen isn’t plotting, she’s working on the sequel to FTRS in Merrick, New York, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and their Chihuahua named Captain Jack Sparrow. Visit Jen at jencalonitaonline.com.

About Flunked:

Age Range: 10 - 13 years

Grade Level: 5 - 8

Series: Fairy Tale Reform School (Book 1)

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (March 3, 2015)

Genre: Fairy tale/fantasy

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Would you send a villain to do a hero's job?

Flunked is an exciting new twisted fairy tale from the award-winning author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series. "Charming fairy-tale fun." -Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series.

Gilly wouldn't call herself wicked, exactly...but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly's a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).

Until she gets caught.

Gilly's sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its heroic mission. There's a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?

"Fairy Tale Reform School is spellbinding and wickedly clever. Gilly is smart, spunky, and a hilarious narrator, and I cannot wait to read about her next adventure!" -Leslie Margolis, author of the Annabelle Unleashed novels and the Maggie Brooklyn mysteries

"Fairy Tale Reform School is a fresh and funny take on the enchanted world. (And who hasn't always wanted to know what happened to Cinderella's stepmother?)" -Julia DeVillers, author of the Trading Faces identical twin series and Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker

My Thoughts:

This is a fun, quick read that tweens will like. When Gillian gets caught stealing, she is sentenced to time in the Fairy Tale Reform School.  The school is run by ex-villains who are trying to change the troubled youth placed in their care. It isn't long before Gillian figures out that something fishy is going on at the school and it might not be as safe as it first appeared.

While I liked some of this author's other novels better, this book was a fun, lighthearted adventure that was enjoyable to read. The action scenes were quick and didn't get too tense.  The general feel of the book was upbeat and fun. The only romance is Gillian noticing the vibrant color of a boy's eyes. It's a squeaky clean magical tale appropriate for kids ages 10 and up.

Content: clean

Source: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Picture Book Out Today! Olive Marshmallow by Katie Saunders

Olive Marshmallow by Katie Saunders

Age Range: 3 - 6 years

Grade Level: Preschool - 1

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: little bee books (March 3, 2015)

Genre: Picture book

Source: From publisher for review

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Book:

Archie is noticing some changes at home. Mommy’s tummy is looking really big. And there seem to be lots of fluffy, frilly, pink things around the house. Mommy says Archie is getting a baby sister, but he’s not sure he wants one. Enter baby Olive, who comes home from the hospital looking like a marshmallow all bundled up in her blankets. Will life ever be the same again for Archie?

About the Author:

Katie Saunders graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a degree in illustration. When she isn't illustrating children's books, Katie works on greeting card and toy design. Katie lives in England and works in a little studio that her father built near her garden.

My Thoughts:

What an adorable book!  I've read several picture books that deal with a new baby coming into the family, but this is my favorite.  My kids especially loved this book since we are expecting another baby in our own family soon.  They have asked me repeatedly when I'm going to the hospital for my sleepover, and if our new baby will look like a fluffy pink marshmallow.

This book works so well for two reasons.  The first is that it's written from the point of view of the child and his experience with the new development in their family.  The second reason is the beautiful illustrations.  The colors and the artwork are very visually appealing.

This is a great book to have on your shelf if you are expecting a baby and want to share the experience with your other young child(ren).

Source: I received a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Weekly Update (3/2/15): What I've Been Doing and Reading

The past two weeks have been a little insane around here.  We had some freezing rain and snow, so consequently, school was cancelled for 8 out of the past 10 days.  I don't think I'll ever get used to the way schools in North Carolina close down.  Remember, I'm from Canada.  School didn't close unless it was -40 degrees and the buses wouldn't start or there was a white-out (a blizzard with enough wind and snow that you can't see five feet in front of your vehicle). However, I AM glad that the schools here are cautious.  It's not worth risking the safety of all those children just to squeeze in one more day of school. 

Since my kids were home, we did some science experiments, made some crafts, and played with friends.  I also did some painting!  It's the first time in several years that I've broken out the paints.

The first image is a repeatable pattern I made for some custom fabric.  The second is a portrait of Jesus.  I'm hoping to get more painting in soon.  It's something I really enjoy doing.

Here's what I've been reading.

What I read last week:
I read A Bear Called Paddington to my kids last week.  It was super cute!  I also read Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade.  I love her books.  If you are looking for clean, uplifting stories with Christian values, give her books a try.  Lastly, I finished Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale.  Again, another great author to read.  Her middle grade books are fantastic for kids ages 10 and up. 

What I'm currently reading:
I know this looks like a lot of books to read at once, but this is not unusual for me!  I'm reading Percy Jackson whenever the mood strikes me, doing science experiments with my kids from Crazy for Science, and reading Operation Bunny to them at bedtime.  I just started Both of Me, and it is very interesting.  I also just started Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters.


What I'm reading next:
This is my must read list for March.  Once I've read these, I'm going to try and knock off a few other books from my TBR pile.

That's it for me!  What are you reading?

Giveaways to Enter:

The Littlest Bunny: An Easter Adventure (Win a copy of the book in your state/city!)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History

What I Thought:
This was an interesting book to read. There were lots of things I liked about it, and some I didn't. The book takes a look at various famous (and some lesser known, but important) people and legends from history. It then exposes the false ideas and misconceptions we have about these people.

On the positive side, the author has a sarcastic, humorous "voice" that makes the book fun to read. There are also several lesser known legends that I found interesting and I liked learning about them. The book is well researched, easy to read, and interesting enough to keep the intended audience (kids ages 8-12) interested.

On the down side, I didn't agree with the assessment of many of the historical figures.  The sarcastic "voice" that made the book so fun to read also reduced these legends into bumbling knuckleheads that happened to trip into fame, fortune, or power.  I have a difficult time believing they were as clueless as they are presented in this book.

Obviously, I have mixed thoughts on the book. I think kids will like it. It's informative and fun to read, but I'm not completely sold.

Content: clean

Source: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


About the Book:

  • Author: Brianna Dumont
  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 9
  • Series: The Changed History Series
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Sky Pony Press (November 4, 2014)
  • Genre: Nonfiction


Fakes, frauds, and phonies. Sounds like a book filled with criminals and delinquents, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Some of the biggest names in history can be found between these pages—and the light isn’t flattering. (We’re looking at you, George “I must not tell a lie” Washington.) Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History is the first book in a new nonfiction middle grade series that will explore the underbelly of history, making you question everything you thought you knew about history’s finest. Follow the fake lives of these twelve history-changers to uncover the fabrications of the famous, and the should-be-famous!

Famous “Phonies”:
Confucius • George Washington • Pythagoras • Hiawatha • Gilgamesh • Major William Martin • William Shakespeare • Pope Joan • Homer • Prester John • Huangdi • The Turk

Find the Book:

About the Author:

Brianna DuMont is a self-proclaimed history buff with a degree in art history and archaeology as well as classics. She has traveled extensively in search of great museums and historical sites to visit. When she is home, she is an independent historian and full-time writer who is quickly becoming best friends with her local librarian. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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