#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/4/19

img_2115

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads: 

When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller  Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Fans of Wherever You Go written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler will love their latest collaboration.  When You are Brave is an inspiring story about how to be brave in the midst of change. The story follows a young girl moving with her family to a new house in another town.  Miller’s concise melodious text and Wheeler’s use of subdued color are equally somber and match the girl’s trepidation as she embarks on her journey.  Halfway through drive, the girl closes her eyes and visualize a small light inside her.  The light grows giving her wings and the power to believe in herself.  Miller’s words are uplifting and beautifully conveys the little girl’s positivity and Wheeler’s illustrations become vivid and brilliant.

What I love about When You are Brave is that the girl reminds us that we have the courage inside of us.  When times are tough, it is easy to forget about this inner strength that we might conceal. Taking a moment to pause and breathe is the key to letting go of your worries and realizing you can weather any storm.

Special thanks to author Pat Zietlow Miller for sending a F & G to my #bookexcursion group.  When You Are Brave publishes soon on March 5, 2019.

img_7129-1

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine by Jonathan London Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Like all the books in the Duck and Hippo series, the theme of friendship is at the center of the story.  In The Secret Valentine, no one knows for sure who the mystery valentine is but all the animals have their suspicions.  To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here.

Etta’s & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

I love books that are told from a dog’s point of view. Homer is a dog but he feels wolfish at times.  Curious about what it would be like to live as a real wolf, he cannot pass up the opportunity to enroll in Wolf Camp.  After convincing his family, Homer attends Wolf Camp where he and other dogs learn the basics of how to be real wolves. 

Homer soon discovers that the food and sleeping accommodations contrast his comfortable life at home but he sticks it out and becomes a honorary wolf by the end of camp. While Homer adjust backs to his dog life in his warm bed and electric blanket, his certificate hanging in his room and his howl show that he will always be a wolf at heart.

I can’t wait to read this aloud to students. Kids will find humor in the text and illustrations especially as Homer shared his experiences at Wolf Camp. His letter home is hysterical! Special thanks to my fellow #bookexcursion member Lisa Maucione for recommending this wolf-tastic picture book.

 

 

 

#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/28/19

img_2115

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads: 

The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo

I love stories told from multiple points of view.  You know what’s even better?  Each point of view is written in a different form.  In The Simple Art of Flying, Pete’s Pet Shack is where the lives of Alastair, an African grey parrot,  12 year old doctor in training Fritz, and elderly yet young at heart Albertina known as “Bertie” intertwine.

Written in prose and verse, Alastair yearns to leave his cage and fly away to a palm tree with his devoted sister Aggie. Unfortunately, his anxiousness coupled with some injuries have thwarted his ability to successfully escape.  Readers soon learn that Alastair has quite an affinity for eating words which inspires him to write poetry.   Fritz shares his thoughts and feelings in his Official Medical Logbook.  He meets Alastair and Aggie when he helps out at Pete’s after school.  Aside from his dream of becoming a doctor, Fritz wants to save enough money to buy Aggie, which of course impedes Alastair’s plans. Bertie’s story is written in the form of letters to her husband.  Seeing Alastair in his sad state, lonely Bertie decides he will make a good companion.

As I read each character’s story, I quickly realized that Alastair, Fritz, and Bertie are all trying to cope with loss and change on their own. Author Cory Leonardo’s writing is exquisite. What touched me is how beautifully she was able to weave all the characters’ stories together.  Each of them was shouldering a heavy load alone.  But through their relationships, they learned an important lesson-“You don’t always get what you want out of life because what you do get is better than you ever imagined, better than what you even thought possible.”

The Simple Art of Flying is a must read for amid all my tears, the message of hope & love is abundantly clear.  Special thanks to Cory Leonardo and Simon Kids for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order this touching and heartwarming story now because The Simple Art of Flying publishes soon on February 12, 2019.

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Illustrated novels are becoming one of my favorite formats.  Told from the point of view of 11 year old Jingwen, Pie in the Sky is his story of immigrating to Australia with his mother and his annoying yet adorable little brother Yanghao.

Jingwen’s story really hit me because author Remy Lai’s writing and art was so authentic and honest.  While Jingwen is struggling to learn English and make friends, he sees Yanghao excelling at both.  The art is especially revealing for readers get to understand Jingwen’s real thoughts, for he truly feels he has landed on another planet where people look like aliens and speak in symbols.

What is most heartbreaking is Jingwen’s father passed away unexpectedly which leaves him with some unresolved issues.  Jingwen believes there is the only way for him to be able to make peace with his papa, improve his English, and get friends.  He must make all the Pie in the Sky cakes which were to be featured in the bakery his father planned to open.  Making these desserts isn’t a piece of cake because his mother has forbidden her sons to use the oven while she is at work.  But Jingwen is determined and convinces himself that a few little white lies won’t hurt anyone right?

Remy Lai’s debut novel gave me all the feels.  I laughed every time Jingwen and Yanghao called each other “booger” (which is A LOT!) and during their cake making escapades. I teared as the brothers fought with one another and learned more about the heavy weight that Jingwen was carrying in his heart.  Pie in the Sky is a book that can be a mirror or window for readers of all ages.  As a teacher, Jingwen’s story gives me a better insight into the lives of my English Language Learner students and the challenges they face acclimating to living in a new country.  Special thanks to Remy Lai and Macmillian Kids for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. I highly recommend that you pre-order Pie in the Sky now so it is delivered promptly on its May 14, 2019 release.

 Etta’s & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook: (Learn from the best!) by Anne Vittur Kennedy

Ragweed is one smart dog and he is willing to pass on his secrets to others who aspire to be a farm dog like him. As Ragweed shares this knowledge about pigs, cows, chickens and sheep, readers clearly discover that he doesn’t actually follow his own advice.  I wonder why?  Well, biscuits may have something to do with it.  Actually, biscuits have EVERYTHING to do with it.  Ragweed has his priorities! 

As a dog mom, I know Ragweed’s voice is perfect!  Etta and Bella are all about the biscuits too.  Anne Vittur Kennedy’s adorable illustrations make you fall in love with Ragweed even more!  Special thanks to Margie Myers-Culver for recommending this book.  Check out her awesome blog by clicking here. Love my Twitter PLN!

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/21/19

img_2115

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads: 

Unicorn Is Maybe Not So Great After All by Bob Shea

It’s been a long wait, but the unstoppable team of Unicorn and Goat are back!  It’s the first day of school and Unicorn is being upstaged by the latest craze-rubber bands that look like well anything circular.  Feeling like a yawn-icorn, Unicorn decides a transformation is the key to regaining the spotlight. Unicorn does get noticed, but the attention is NOT positive which leaves Unicorn feeling even worse.  How can Unicorn gets his mojo back and make up with his friends?

Like Unicorn Thinks He Is Pretty Great, this highly anticipated follow up teaches valuable lessons on self-acceptance, forgiveness, and friendship.  Special thanks to Dina Sherman of Disney Book Group for sharing a F & G with my #bookexcursion group.  This pretty great picture book releases in July 2019 so plan ahead!

The Night Library by David Zeltser Illustrated by Raul Colon

Were you ever disappointed by a gift you received as a child?  In The Night Library, a boy about to turn eight is less than elated to receive his early birthday present-a book.  During his restless sleep, the boy is visited by Patience and Fortitude, the lions who guard the New York Public Library.   Soon he is touring the library with the lions rediscovering the magic of books and how they connect us with the ones we love, even those who are no longer with us.

Zeltser’s poetic writing coupled with Colon’s gorgeous artwork makes The Night Library a must read.  An author’s note shares the history of Patience and Fortitude.  I can’t wait to share this story about the power of books with my students.  Special thanks to Random House Kids for sending a F & G to my #bookexcursion group.  The Night Library publishes in April 2019.

 

Yasmin the Zookeeper by Saadia Faruji Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Yasmin is back with 4 new books for young readers to enjoy!  In this adventure, Yasmin is excited about her school field trip to the zoo.   I can relate to Yasmin’s enthusiasm about riding a school bus!  Like her, I never rode a bus to school so the ride alone was thrilling to me!  During the field trip, the class get to see the animals up close. While Yasmin is overjoyed when she is picked to help feed the monkeys, a mishap occurs that requires some quick problem solving.  Luckily, Yasmin thinks fast on her feet which makes her zoo trip one she will always remember!

Yasmin is one of my favorite series to recommend to my readers transitioning to chapter books.  Author Saadia Faruqi has created an inquisitive character that young students can easily relate, for some of Yasmin’s experiences mirror their own.  Young readers can not only learn about another culture within the text but also with the backmatter includes Urdu vocabulary and Pakistani facts.  Aly’s bold illustrations of Yasmin clearly show her exuberant personality and her curiosity.

To view all the titles in the Yasmin series, please click here.  Like me, you will need to order them all! And while you are purchasing, pre-order Yasmin in Charge, which will be released in March 2019.

Etta’s & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Fenway and Hattie in the Wild by Victoria J. Coe

Of course, dog books hold a special place in my heart so an opportunity to read the upcoming Fenway and Hattie adventure is a truly honor.  When I found out In the Wild is the last book in the series (at least for a while), the reading became more bittersweet.

Fenway, Hattie, Food Lady and Fetch Man join next door neighbor Angel, her parents and of course pups Patches and Goldie on their annual camping trip.  Being newcomers to the campgrounds, both Fenway and Hattie are navigating new relationships and experiences.  In the woods, a Pomeranian named Coco is the boss and if you step on her paws as Fenway discovers, you’re in trouble.  Hattie, on the other hand, nervous about starting a new school is caught between being one of the “crew” with Angel and her friends and hanging with book loving June who shares an interest in her drawings.  Smelling trouble whenever a boy named Marcus is around, the ever loyal Fenway is determined to protect his girl Hattie from danger even if it means jumping into a pond. And to make matters worst, someone is stealing food from the campsite.  Coco has declared herself in charge of the investigation and this does not sit well with Fenway.

While I have enjoyed all of the books in the series, I think In the Wild may very well be my favorite. Victoria Coe’s fabulous writing mixes humor with heart revealing both Fenway’s and Hattie’s struggle with fitting in and how ultimately, they realize the only way to be happy is to stay true to themselves.  Special thanks to Lisa Maucione who won a copy of the manuscript and shared it with our #bookexcursion group.  And a heartfelt thank you to Victoria Coe for creating the Fenway & Hattie series.  Pre-order now, for In the Wild releases in May 2019.

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

#Bookexcursion, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What are You Reading? 1/14/19

img_2115

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

It’s a snow day for me which means a day of reading and snuggling with my book beagles!  I truly love my job but a snow day helps this educator have an opportunity to read and recharge which is always appreciated!  Yesterday Bella and I enjoyed a walk in the snow while Etta snoozed in the warm house.  Priorities!

Our Recent Reads:

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

As a reader, I love sequels but there is always that slight worry before opening the first page.  Will I still love the character?  Will the plot be as engaging?

Oh yes!  And even better than I could have ever anticipated! Thank you Diane Magras!

In the first book, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, Drest’s main goal was to save her imprisoned family which she bravely accomplished.  She was also struggling to figure out her own identity. Can a warrior be brave and kind?

The Hunt for Mad Wolf’s Daughter picks up immediately after the first book ended. Readers quickly learn that Emmerick’s disloyal uncle has spread false rumors that Drest is responsible for the young lord’s death.  As a result, Drest has a substantial price of her head.  While her family lauds Drest’s courage in rescuing them, she is once again relegated to the sidelines by her father Mad Wolf.  To no surprise, this does not sit well with Drest.  She remains steadfast in her determination to keep Emmerick safe disobeying her father’s orders and risking her own life to ensure Emmerick reclaims his rightful title.

The Hunt for Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a fast paced and thrilling ride that keeps you on the edge of your seats chapter after chapter.  In creating Drest, Diane Magras has created a truly amazing character and role model for readers of all ages.  Drest truly inspires me with her genuine compassion toward others as well as her determination to carve her own path & define who she is, not who others want her to be.  While it may be true that you can’t control our own legend, Drest learns it is possible to change your legend with the help of grateful and loyal friends.  It is my hope that Drest’s adventures do not end with The Hunt for Mad Wolf’s Daughter; I know I can learn so such more from this kind and brave wee lass!

A very special thanks to Diane Magras for providing our #bookexcursion group with an ARC of The Hunt for Mad Wolf’s Daughter.  Pre-order now for Drest’s latest adventure publishes in March.  To read my review of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, click here.

First Snow by Nancy Viau Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

img_6268

First Snow is a delightful picture book that celebrates the joy of the first snow of the season.  A brother and his little sister look out the window to see snow falling.  The children waste no time putting on their snow gear and head outside to join their neighborhood friends to play in the wintry wonderland.  Their beagle (yes beagle!) follows along to frolic in the snow!  To read my full review and enter a giveaway for your own copy, click here.

Etta’s & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Rags Hero Dog of WWI: A True Story by Morgan Theis Raven Illustrated by Petra Brown

This nonfiction narrative introduced me to two heroic war veterans.  Found by Private James Donovan on the streets of Paris, a shaggy mutt becomes his good luck charm when the soldier forgets his pass to be out in the city and is stopped by the French police.  From that day forward, the pup now named Rags is Donovan’s constant companion on base and in the trenches.  Rags quickly learns how to be a soldier warning his men of incoming shells, helping Donovan locate breaks in the lines, and running messages with the simple command “Go find!”

Author Morgan Theis Raven continues to share both Donovan’s and Rags’ amazingly heroic story which is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  The muted brown and grey illustrations complement the story well depicting the realities of war for an elementary age audience.

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

#Bookexcursion, Bookexcursion, Middle Grade Literature

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Delsie lives on Cape Cod with her game showing watching Grammy who has loved and cared for her since she was a baby. Recently, Delsie is feeling especially vulnerable wondering why her mother is not in her life and why her summer best friend Brandy has outgrown her.

I am a big fan of Mullaly Hunt’s novels because she creates such dynamic characters like Delsie. Written from her point of view, Delsie reveals her insecurities and struggles which makes her journey from feeling abandoned to recognizing how much she is truly loved so bittersweet. In time Delsie realizes that loyal friends Aimee, Michael, and newcomer Ronan, wonderful neighbors Henry, Esme, and Olive and most importantly her dear devoted Grammy will be there to help her weather any storm.

Shouting at the Rain is a truly heartprint story because it celebrates non traditional families by reminding us all that “family isn’t really about having blood and having the same last name. It’s made by the people who love you, who worry about you, and champion you.”

Special thanks to Nancy Paulsen and Penguin Kids for sending an ARC to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order this touching story about family and friendship now, for Shouting at the Rain releases in May 2019.

#Bookexcursion, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What are You Reading? 1/7/19

img_2115

Happy New Year! Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads:

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Delsie lives on Cape Cod with her game showing watching Grammy who has loved and cared for her all her life. Recently, Delsie is feeling especially vulnerable wondering why her mother is not in her life and why her summer best friend Brandy has outgrown her.

I am a big fan of Mullaly Hunt’s novels because she creates such dynamic characters like Delsie. Written from her point of view, Delsie reveals her insecurities and struggles which makes her journey from feeling abandoned to recognizing how much she is truly loved so bittersweet. In time Delsie realizes that loyal friends Aimee, Michael, and newcomer Ronan, wonderful neighbors Henry, Esme, and Olive and most importantly her dear devoted Grammy will be there to help her weather any storm.

Shouting at the Rain is a truly heartprint story because it celebrates non traditional families by reminding us all that “family isn’t really about having blood and having the same last name. It’s made by the people who love you, who worry about you, and champion you.”

Special thanks to Nancy Paulsen and Penguin Kids for sending an ARC to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order this touching story about family and friendship now, for Shouting at the Rain releases in May 2019.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

The Bookshop Girl is a story about Property Jones and her adopted family who own a small bookshop in England.  Property has been given her unique name because she was left in the bookshop when she was 5 years old and placed in the lost property cupboard by her now brother Michael.

Fast forward six years later, the Jones family enters and wins a contest to become the new owners of the Great Montgomery Book Emporium, which is every book lover’s dream.  The world’s first and only mechanical bookshop; just pull a lever and a themed book room awaits readers from the Room of Knights and Castles to the Room of Ocean Tales. Not long after taking over the infamous bookstore, Property and Michael uncover the truth behind why owner, Albert H. Montgomery gave the Book Emporium away.  In a race against time, Property must stop the villainous Eliot Pink and expose his duplicity.  While Property herself is harboring a secret of her own, her astute observational skills and determination help her ultimately saves the bookshop for her family and discover how strong she really is.

With a fast paced plot and only 125 pages long, The Bookshop Girl is a charming and enchanting mystery that readers will devour quickly. Bishop’s unique and quirky characters and whimsical setting are brought to life by the black and white illustrations by Poly Bernatene.

It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

An omniscient narrator attempts to tell the traditional tale of Hansel and Gretel but is quickly interrupted by the characters who have their own idea of their story.  For example, Gretel rebuts the notion that her parents wanted to get rid of her and her brother; rather, they are just taking a leisurely afternoon walk in the woods.  When the siblings meet the witch, Gretel dismisses this label and refers to her as a sweet old lady. What makes my heart happy is Gretel’s championing of women’s rights with her insistence in changing the title to Gretel and Hansel and arguing about why her brother gets candy and she is stuck doing chores.  “Get with the times-this is the fifteenth century,” she retorts!

Fed up with Gretel’s & Hansel’s (you’re welcome, Gretel) antics, the narrator turns the storytelling over to them which allows the duo to get creative growing mustaches, getting a pet unicorn named Fluffybottom, and opening up a bakery serving delicious sweets to their fellow fairy tale friends.

For fans of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel is a hilarious and worthy follow up that will leave you wanting more fractured fairy tales from the amazing collaborative team of Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor.  Funk’s witty writing is pure joy to read aloud and honestly I find it difficult to not laugh myself.  Taylor’s illustrations are so entertaining and chocked full of details that I reread the story just to view his comical digital art.  Please tell me there are more twisted tales to come!

Special thanks to Two Lions/Amazon Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending a F & G copy of It’s Not Hansel and Gretel to my #bookexcursion group. Pre-order now so you can share this laugh out loud story with kids, for it publishes on February 1, 2019.

Etta’s & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Bow-Wow-Meow by Blanca Lacasa Illustrated by Gomez

Bow-Wow-Meow is a charming story about being loved and accepted for who you really are.  Fabio is a small hound that doesn’t enjoy acting like a dog. His family including young Max continually try to coax him to bark, fetch, chase or roll over but Fabio is not persuaded.  When Max notices Fabio is not curled up in his usual spot at night, he stays awake and follows Fabio.  To Max’s surprise, he discovers that Fabio joins a group of cats nightly because he would much rather chase mice, play with yarn and bow-wow-meow with his feline friends.  Max sees how happy Fabio so once back at home, he shows his understanding by giving Fabio a dish of milk.  Finally, Fabio’s tail wags with excitement which makes my heart full.

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

#Bookexcursion, Author Interview, Early Chapter Books, Giveaway

Interview with Hillary Homzie, Author of Ellie May on Presidents’ Day & Ellie May on April Fools’ Day & Giveaway!

img_6275

Beagles and Books wishes Hillary Homzie’s Ellie May a very Happy Book Birthday! The first two books, Ellie May on Presidents’ Day and Ellie May on April Fools’ Day  publish today.  Hillary was kind enough to join me to answer questions about her new chapter book series about an enthusiastic and curious second grader.  To read my full reviews on both books, please visit my blog post here.

BB:  Congratulations on your new chapter book series!  I am so excited for readers to meet Ellie May!  Can you share with how you came to create her as a character? Any influences or inspirations?

HH: Ellie May announced herself to me. I didn’t pre-plan her. In fact, I had to keep typing to figure out what she would do or say next. She constantly surprised me with her enthusiasm and well-intentioned but misguided attempts at securing attention. She’s absolutely nothing like me. Okay, I’m sure there’s something of me in her somewhere. But she’s certainly nothing like the second grade me. I was much more lost in my own world, nose in a book or drawing. If anything, I’m closer to Lizzy, Ellie May’s best friend who’s artistic and not particularly athletic. However, Lizzy also like rules, and I can’t say I’m particularly bound by them.

So now, you really have me wondering, Laura. Where did Ellie May come from? I think I drew some inspiration from my middle son, who’s impulsive,  energetic and who tries his best to get into the center of things, which means sometimes he steps on a few toes. Hmm, it seems like it’s no coincidence that Ellie May is a middle child. In terms of influences, I’d have to cite the crisp characterization and humor in Beverly Clearly’s Ramona books and in Judy Blume’s Fudge Books.

BB: I love that Ellie’s lists, notes, and letters are included in the chapters. Was this an idea from your first drafts or did this come later?

It came about organically. Ellie May just seemed to want to me to dictate her notes. My editor Julie Bliven really liked them, so she asked me to do more, which means they are now consistently interspersed through the books. I have to admit that I got a little carried away with Ellie May’s creative spelling, and Julie had to pull me back, but she let me keep in quite a bit of it. Ellie May’s still working on her spelling. Hey, I just realized something. I’m not so hot at spelling myself. I’m constantly having to look things up, and I’m a firm believer that spellcheck is one of the world’s greatest inventions.

BB: Tell us your impressions when you saw the first sketches of Ellie May by Jeffrey Ebbeler.

HH: I was just thrilled! Jeffrey is extremely talented, and I feel so lucky that he’s working on the Ellie May books. He’s particularly adept at creating all kinds of humorous details that match the tone of the story. Plus, he truly individualizes the kids and perfectly showcases their personalities and expressions.

BB: The first two in the series are based on Presidents’ Day and April Fool’s Day. Why did you choose those holidays to begin the series?

HH: With my kids, it was a really big deal who got to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance, so I decided to use that as a scenario. I thought it would up the stakes if Ellie May wanted to be flag leader right before Presidents’ Day. Plus, studying and learning about Presidents’ Day can be a big part of the primary school curriculum during the month of February. It was an opportunity to have Ellie May consider what it meant to be a good leader, and the importance of honesty in leadership emerged as a theme. This is an issue that kids are especially hearing about right now in the news, and it will be a timeless issue.

Tackling April Fools’ Day next just seemed the thing to do. After all,  it comes only a couple of months after Presidents’ Day, and, well, it’s all about being funny. While Ellie May isn’t a joker, she’s a humorous character because of her mishaps, and so I thought having Ellie May decide to be the funniest kid in her classroom during April Fools’ Day would provide lots of opportunities for mayhem and mirth. In particular, I enjoyed weaving in a bit of the history of April Fools’ Day and other international holidays celebrating merriment. Plus, when I was in my twenties, I performed and wrote sketch comedy in New York, so I’m always up for a holiday that’s about making people laugh.

BB: Any plans for additional Ellie May books in the series?

HH: Well, I have written the first half of a Halloween book, which was so much fun because it involves Ellie May’s attempts at scaring people! Of course, there are so many other holidays I’d love to tackle—like Ground Hog’s Day. I mean, think about Ellie May in search of a ground hog. It just makes me smile thinking about it.

I know that sometimes I take myself way too seriously and Ellie May reminds me to get back to my inner child, risk-taking and fun–someone who is not being afraid to fail and seeks new experiences with enthusiasm and an open heart.

BB:  I couldn’t agree more!  Ellie May is a good role model for young readers and can teach us all a lesson about the power of curiosity, taking chances, and admitting and growing from your mistakes. I look forward to reading more Ellie May adventures and learning facts about holidays!  Thanks so much Hillary for taking the time to stop by Beagles and Books.

Hillary Homzie.jpg

Meet Hillary: 
To learn more about Hillary,  visit her at www.hillaryhomzie.com or follow her on Twitter @hillaryhomzie

Giveaway Details: 
To celebrate Ellie May’s book birthday, Beagles and Books is giving away paperback copies of Presidents’ Day and April Fools’ Day.  Contest begins today and will end on December 26, 2018 at 12:00 a.m.  Click the link below to enter.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/46a61dc011/?

#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What are You Reading? 12/17/18

img_2115

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads:

Ellie May on Presidents’ Day & Ellie May on April’s Fools’ Day by Hillary Homzie  Illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler

As a reading specialist, I am always excited to discover a new illustrated series to recommend to my young readers transitioning to chapter books.  Written from her point of view, Ellie May is an exuberant second grader who will capture your heart with her curiosity and tenacity.

In Ellie May on Presidents’ Day, second grader Ellie May has not yet been chosen to be flag leader and she desperately wants a turn before Presidents’ Day.  To make matters worst, Ellie May has less than a week to convince her teacher Ms. Silva that she deserves the honor.  Readers quickly learn that it’s difficult for Ellie May to contain her enthusiasm at school which leads her to get in trouble.  Ellie May attempts to win her teacher over by acting like former presidents displaying honesty like George Washington and an interest in taking apart gadgets like Abraham Lincoln.  Her plan though backfires because her honesty hurts another classmate’s feelings and tinkering with the pencil sharpener doesn’t please Ms. Silva.  Deflated, Ellie May begins to lose hope in becoming a flag leader but discovers that displaying true honesty is the key to her goal.

In Ellie May on April Fools’ Day, Ellie May is determined to be funnier than her classmate Mo and what better day to show her class than April Fool’s Day!  While her first prank works on her family, Ellie can’t seem to execute the joke at school.  After researching birds, she discovers that scrub jays trick spying animals by burying stones instead of acorns.  This new found fact gives Ellie May the idea for an even better prank but unfortunately her joke does not get the reaction she hoped for. Feeling frustrated, Ellie May resorts to a trick that gets her in trouble with Ms. Silva who not only reminds the class the difference between laughing with someone and at them but also shows them with her own April Fools’ prank!

Young readers will enjoy Ellie May because they will be easily able to relate to her.  She has the best intentions but at times, her enthusiasm and eagerness can get the best of her.  What I love most about Ellie May is she always admits her mistakes and shows remorse for her actions which makes her a great role model for students.  Ebbeler’s black and white illustrations beautifully complement the plot and demonstrate Ellie May’s excitement and energy for learning.  Another reason I enjoyed this series is because author Hillary Homzie included Ellie May’s handwritten notes and letters which gave me the opportunity to feel as if Ellie May is really telling the story.  An added bonus is back matter which shares a brief history of Presidents’ Day and April Fools’ Day.

Special thanks to Hillary Homzie for sending Ellie May to my #bookexcursion group.  Both Ellie May books will be released tomorrow on December 18, 2018. Visit Beagles & Books tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Hillary about creating the Ellie May series.

Tough Cookie by Edward Hemingway

Fans of The Gingerbread Man will adore this holiday retelling with a sweet message.  When Sugar Cookie Man is too slow to outrun Fox, readers think Cookie is a goner.  Unlike the original Gingerbread Man, Cookie is miraculously saved from being devoured. Much to Cookie’s chagrin, instead of tasting sweet and delicious, Cookie learns from Fox that he tastes terrible and tough.  Feeling sad and without purpose, Fox attempts to help Cookie sweeten up.  But no amount of eggnog, powdered sugar, and Christmas carols can get the job done.  Plan B is Cookie should improve his speed rather than his sweetness so Fox enters him in the Sweet Treat Christmas Race.  Cookie experiences yet another setback, for he crosses the finish line last.  Cookie doesn’t feel sweet or tough now.  Will he ever find his true calling?

Tough Cookie is a heartwarming story about self-acceptance.  Cookie assumed he was sweet and speedy and when he realizes the truth, he is heartbroken.  Hemingway adorably conveys Cookie’s emotions and feelings through the illustrations as well as the text with phrases such as “And that’s when Cookie crumbled” and “Everything I do is half-baked.” While at first his adversary, Fox becomes a good friend to Cookie in his efforts to help him solve his dilemma reminding him to “hang in there.”  Much to Cookie’s surprise, he realizes he is not to be eaten but rather to adorn the town’s Christmas tree as a decoration.  So that’s why he has a hole in his head! With this discovery, Cookie’s confidence returns, for he finally accepts himself for who he is.

With its powerful message, charming illustrations, and a fast paced engaging plot, I highly recommend teachers and parents to add Tough Cookie as a Christmas read aloud.  I look forward to reading with my students within the next two weeks before winter break. At the end of the book, an added bonus is Tough Cookie recipes-one for sugar cookies and one for ornaments.

Special thanks to Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

img_5961

Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins by Sue Fliess  Illustrated by Mark Chambers

What happens when it’s Christmas Eve morning and Santa wakes up feeling sick?  Have no fear!  Mrs. Claus is here to take the reins of his sleigh. And with no time to waste, Mrs. Claus quickly gathers the elves to help her prepare for her round trip journey to deliver presents.

Written in rhyme, the text is fun and cheery; it begs to be read aloud!  The bold and colorful illustrations are eye catching especially Mrs. Claus herself with her red curly hair, cat eye glasses, plaid skirt, and red stockings. Readers also spy contemporary references in the illustrations such as Mrs. Claus using a tablet for planning and navigation as well as holding a Starbucks-like cup of coffee as she embarks on her adventure.

I love finding new holiday books to share with students and recommend to teachers.  Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins is a delightful and entertaining adventure that readers will thoroughly enjoy.  Author Sue Fliess has created a dynamic character in Mrs. Claus for she demonstrates many positive traits.  She shows initiative and confidence taking over for Santa, orderliness in preparation for her journey, enthusiasm for delivering the presents, courage when facing bad weather, and calmness and resourcefulness when problems arise.  Illustrator Mark Chambers’ artwork is detailed and expressive, for he vividly conveys Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ feelings and emotions as well as the elves, reindeer, and other animals.

Special thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending a copy to Beagles and Books to read in exchange for a honest review.

Etta & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Santa’s Dog by Joann Sky Illustrated by Ed Koehler

One of Santa’s dogs, Lance accompanies him every Christmas Eve on his yearly sleigh ride.  But one year when it is particularly windy, Lance falls out of the sleigh. Luckily, an animal shelter takes in Lance and while Santa is concerned, he knows he must continue his journey. Santa returns for Lance on Christmas Day but the shelter is closed and Santa doesn’t feel right going in without permission.

A family whose army dad is headed overseas visits the shelter to find a dog to help them through the transition.  The soldier sees Lance and is certain he is the one.  Still missing Santa, Lance provided comfort to his new family throughout the year.  On the following Christmas Eve, Lance was reunited with Santa but realized that he had a big decision to make.  Does he stay or go?

Written in rhyme, Santa’s Dog is a sweet and tender holiday story that warmed my heart.  As a rescue dog mom, I am always championing books that feature animal adoption.  Lance is loved by all, but after some contemplation. he realizes that his true purpose is to remain with his devoted family.  Koehler’s vibrant and expressive illustrations catch the readers’ eye. Another reason this book tugs at my heart is that a portion of the proceeds go to support animal rescue causes.  To learn more, visit the website http://www.dogsandbooks.com

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

#Bookexcursion, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/10/18

Beagles and Books is excited to share another edition of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Reads This Week:

img_5912

New Kid by Jerry Craft

There is no question that navigating middle school is challenging for all kids. Now add in transferring to a new upscale middle school where you are one of the few kids of color in your grade. New Kid is a compelling and candid account of Jordan Banks’ first hand experience as a seventh grader at Riverdale Academy Day SchoolThis graphic novel tackles tough issues with honesty and humor which makes it a must read for students, teachers, and parents.  To read my full review, click here.

img_5517

Where is My Balloon? by Ariel Bernstein Illustrated by Scott Magoon

Owl has a red balloon and Monkey has his sock with a star. Owl asks Monkey to hold his balloon, but unfortunately, it pops.  When Owl returns to retrieve his precious belonging, Monkey is not truthful and tries to substitute other red items such as a chair, fire truck, and a parachute for the balloon.  Finally, Monkey admits that he popped Owl’s balloon, which devastates Owl so much that he rips up Monkey’s sock.  Once Owl calms down, he forgives Monkey.  Appreciative of Owl’s gesture, Monkey offers to share his sock not realizing it has been destroyed.  Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is Owl’s turn to find a replacement.

A follow-up to I Have a Balloon, Where is My Balloon? is a fun story which teaches young readers about honesty, forgiveness, and sharing.  Younger readers will enjoy the banter between Owl and Monkey as well as the bold and expressive illustrations of the duo.  Special thanks to Simon Kids for sending a F & G to my #bookexcursion group to read and review.  Where is My Balloon? publishes in January 2019.  

No Boring Stories! by Julie Falakto Illustrations by Charles Santoso

A star nosed mole, a giraffe necked weevil, a babisrusa, and a yeti crab collaborate to write stories. When they discover Bunny eavesdropping on their planning sessions, they are suspicious of her. Turns out that she is a writer herself and needs their help. Tired of boring stories, Bunny desperately wants to join their group because she likes to write weird stories about talking furniture or flying pizza.  Empathetic to her frustration, the animals allow her to listen into their work session and she observes their struggle agreeing to a resolution to their story. Can Bunny help them with an ending?  

Julie Falatko has written a sweet story about perseverance, acceptance, and collaboration. Bunny demonstrates persistence in wanting to be part of the writer’s group, the other animals finally accept her presence, and finally, the animals realize that their beginning needed Bunny’s ending and her ending needed their beginning.  Santoso’s illustrations are adorable but they also vividly convey Bunny’s creative frustration and her need to feel welcomed. Special thanks to Penguin Kids for sending No More Boring Stories to my #bookexcursion group,  It recently published in November 2018.

Etta & Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week:

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

img_6221-1.jpg

Latke, the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer Illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke

Latke, the Lucky Dog is a heartwarming story about a dog that a family adopted from a shelter. After he is adopted, Latke struggles with learning the rules of the house as they family celebrates Hanukkah. Latke eats all sufganiyot and laktes, unwraps the Hanukkah presents, and chews a dreidel and candles.  What I love about this picture book is that it not only shares Hanukkah traditions but also a family’s understanding of Latke’s transition from shelter life to their home.  Latke realizes that he is a lucky dog because of his family’s patience and love. 

Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books.  Have a great week!

#Bookexcursion, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Literature

New Kid by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft

There is no question that navigating middle school is challenging for all kids. Now add in transferring to a new upscale middle school where you are one of the few kids of color in your grade. New Kid is a compelling and candid account of Jordan Banks’ first hand experience as a seventh grader at Riverdale Academy Day School.

Because it is a graphic novel, readers have the advantage of both the dialogue and the illustrations. Craft’s frank dialogue coupled with his detailed and insightful illustrations allow readers to truly know Jordan’s thoughts and feelings as he, other classmates, and even teachers handle racism and microaggression from not only their peers but also teachers.

Jordan is a talented artist and Craft blends drawings from Jordan’s own sketchbook to give readers more of a window into his personal thoughts and feelings. Some of his sketches are humorous like “My Dad’s Tip for Being a Man! Shaking Hands” while others such as “Jordan’s Tips for Taking the Bus” share his honest realities of navigating his bus ride to school every day.

Craft doesn’t just share Jordan’s journey.  While New Kid is written from Jordan’s point of view, readers learn the challenges other students face through Jordan’s eyes. And through his first year, Jordan learns a lot about himself, others, and that he doesn’t have to choose between things to be happy.

New Kid tackles tough issues with honesty and humor which makes it a must read for students, teachers, and parents. A very special thanks to Jerry Craft for sending an ARC to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order now so you have New Kid in your hands when it publishes in February 2019.