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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/6/22

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

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Spineless by Samantha San Miguel

12 year old Chicagoan Algie has asthma so his concerned mother takes him and his older brother to a health resort in Gilded Age Florida for the winter. Algie is in his element, for he aspires to be a naturalist and is enthralled by his surroundings.  When another hotel guest wants to harm a small octopus, Algie not only speaks up but literally goes overboard to save the creature.  Peculiar things begin to happen at the resort and Algie is puzzled. He become friends with budding field biologists Frankie and Lulu, the hotel owner’s daughters, and the trio go on a mission to discover what is real and what is a hoax. The small octopus, now aptly named Pulpy, becomes a sidekick and ally to Algie and the sisters as they search for the truth.  

Not wanting to give the story away, Spineless is a middle grade novel with dynamic characters, an exotic setting and imaginative and suspenseful plot.  Algie tugged at my heart because of his challenges with his health, his relationship with his family, and his discovery that his idol Professor Ransom Champion was a fraud.  Despite his struggles, Algie perservered and taught not only himself but also others the importance of observation, patience, doing the best with the day you have, being willing to accept help, and seeing the best in people.  Thanks to Jenny Lu of Union Square Kids Books for sharing an ARC. Spineless celebrates its book birthday on June 7, 2022. 


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Lulu & Zoey: A Sister Story by Carrie Finson

Sisters can be the best of friends or the greatest foes.  Written in rhyme, Finson honestly shares the peaks and valleys of having a sister.   On the very first page, Jackson’s animated illustrations show older sister Zoey’s frustration as Lulu interupts her work wanting to play.  Zoey’s subsequent facial expressions convey her growing annoyance with Lulu which advances to the sisters having a physical argument.  Finson’s lyrical text convey how Lulu’s actions hit a nerve with her older sister. Luckily, Aunt Eliza to the rescue who intervenes and soon the girls have time apart to cool down.  Their time alone renews their relationship allowing them to collaborate on writing and illustrating a story without conflict.  This partnership is important because on the last page spread, their parents return home from the hospital with their newborn baby sister.  

With words and pictures, Finson and Jackson realistically depict the ebb and flow of the sister relationship, for as Finson beautifully states “Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they’re friends. A sister story never ends.”  Thanks to the author for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group. Lulu & Zoey celebrates its book birthday on June 7, 2022. 


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Swim, Jim by Kaz Windness

Young crocodile Jim has a problem. He does not like the water. He is afraid of sinking to the bottom.  His parents understand, but his siblings, Sim and Kim tease him. Jim takes initiative by searching for a shallow swamp. Readers will quickly notice that Jim finds not a swamp but a pool full of kids using pool noodles and floaties. Once the kids go into the house to sing happy birthday, Jim outfits himself with accessories to help him stay afloat.  Turns out Sim and Kim followed Jim and encourage him to try out his new attire in the pool. When the floatie pops, Jim    panics, but Kim reminds him he can stand up to feel safe and she and Sim can teach him how to swim. Pretty soon Jim is swimming confidently in the pool until the kids return. Can Jim use his new skills in the family swamp? 

With adorable illustrations and a
main character you want to root for, Swim, Jim is a story that kids will love. When I read it aloud to a kindergarten class, they felt empathy for Jim because his siblings made fun of him and were happy when they supported him.  I love that Jim demonstrated resourcefulness in solving his problem. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for sharing a copy. Swim, Jim recently published last week on May 31, 2022. 


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 character.

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Catch That Dog! by Will Taylor

10 year old Joanie Dayton finds a dirty stray dog in the alley.  Lonely and desperate for a friend, Joanie brings the pup home knowing convincing her parents to let her keep him won’t be easy.  Money was tight in the Dayton family and Joanie’s mom preached hard work and good behavior, not chasing dreams. Fortunately, her father spoke up for Joanie and her mom reluctantly agreed with a firm set of rules.  Elated Joanie names him Lucky unaware that the dog not only has a name, Masterpiece, but also is a world famous poodle. 

Joanie and Lucky become fast friends because they both trust each other.  Joanie shares her artwork and her soft or lazy eye which gives her perspective when painting.  Once Lucky compares his relationship with Joanie to his relationship with his true owner Count Pulaski, he realizes the love and companioship he has been missing from his life.  When Joanie sees an article about a stolen dog in the newspaper, she realizes that Lucky is Masterpiece.  She can’t imagine saying goodbye to her very best friend but she can’t keep a dog that is not legimately hers.  And the reward money could immensely help with family.  Will Joanie and Lucky have a happy ending? 

Inspired by the true story of Masterpiece who disappeared in May 1953 and was never found, Taylor’s adventurous and heartwarming novel shares what may have happened to the “world’s most valuable dog.”  Taylor’s fictionalized account was so intriguing, I read the novel in one sitting, and I believe kids will be unable to put the story put down.  Joanie and Masterpiece are characters readers will cheer for!  After reading, I researched Masterpiece on the internet and found many articles about his life, disappearance and theories about what may have occurred.   Because of Masterpiece’s notriety, the poodle dethroned the beagle as the AKC’s most registered breed in 1960! Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. Catch That Dog! releases soon on June 28, 2022. 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
#Bookexcursion, Chapter Books, Debut Author, Early Readers, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/11/22

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence by Sonja Thomas

12 year old science-loving Mira Williams must face facts.  Her summer sucks (although her grandmother chides her for her inappropriate language).  Well, you be the judge.  Her best friend, Thomas, has moved far away, her father is laid off, her science fair rival, Tamika, has moved into Thomas’ old house, and her cat, Sir Fig Newton, was just diagnosed with diabetes.  And the worst part is treatment is so expensive, her parents think the only solution is finding a new home for Sir Fig.  No offense Gran, but I think Mia’s word choice is spot on.  

Mira cannot let go of Sir Fig without a fight. She convinces her parents to give her a month to make the money for Sir Fig’s care. Babysitting and selling lemonade are good starting points, but $2000 is a lot of money to earn.  Inspired by Tamika’s mother’s activism, Mia discovers a way to raise money, but now another worry has emerged.  Will Sir Fig respond to his treatments? Mira who typically only believes in facts must also have faith for as Gran says, “Faith allows for possibilities.” 

Written from Mira’s point of view, debut author Thomas beautifully captures the voice of smart, authentic, and determined young girl who readers will relate to and root for.  As I was reading, my heart hurt for Mira as she worried about both Sir Fig, her dad, and her friendships, but I appreciated how Thomas did not allow Mia to wallow in her sorrows. Mia’s determination was invigorating and I especially loved how Thomas showed how Mia’s experiences, good and bad, changed her, for the better.   Mira learned that with patience, curiosity, observation, and persistence, she had not only survived the worst summer of her life but also emerged stronger.   Thanks to the author for sharing with my #bookexcursion group. Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence recently published on March 22, 2022. 


Donut: The Unicorn Who Wanted to Fly by Laura Gehl Illustrated by Andrea Zuill

After seeing a bird flying in the air, a unicorn sweetly named Donut has one wish-to fly!  But wanting and doing are entirely two different things.  Donut makes multiple attempts to achieve her goal but none are successful.  Witnessing her struggle and desire, her animal friends lend their support to help make Donut’s dream come true.

I absolutely adore Donut!  On each page spread, Gehl’s text only consists of two words.  For example, Donut jumps! is followed by Donut thumps!  Gehl’s concise rhymes allow kids to join in the reading which is a read. Zuill’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.  What I love most is Zuill’s attention to detail, for readers can see Donut’s not only determination and frustration but her forest friends’ reactions and responses. With themes of persistence, friendship, and collaboration, Donut is another great picture book for teaching and/or reinforcing social skills. Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Random House Kids for sharing a copy.  Donut celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 12, 2022. 


Really Bird Stories
by Harriet Ziefert Illustrated by Travis Foster

When you are a bird with really big feelings or wants, the best name is well, Really.  In I Really Want to be First, Really is tired of always being last so his friends, a dog and a cat, give him the chance to be the leader. Really leads his friends to a tree to climb.  But when Pup and Cat get scared, can Really who can fly, take charge and lead his wingless friends back to the ground? In I Really Want a Bigger Piece, sharing a blueberry pie is not equal.  Really gets the smallest piece, Cat’s piece is messy, and Dog’s piece is perfect.  How can these three friends solve their problems so everyone is happy? 

Fans of Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon and Duck will REALLY love Ziefert’s and Foster’s new early comic series.   Appearing in speech bubbles, Ziefert’s lively text is all dialogue making the story easy for kids to access. Foster’s bright and energetic illustrations fill the pages and will captivate kids.  As a reading specialist, I love that the stories teach and reinforce positive virtues such as friendship, teamwork, sharing, and kindness.  In addition, a Think About/Talk About section follows the story where kids can make connections to each story.  More adventures are coming! A third book, I Really Want to Fly to the Moon, releases in September 2022. 

Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Red Comet Press Books for sharing copies of the series.  I Really Want to Be First and I Really Want a Bigger Piece celebrate their book birthday tomorrow on April 12, 2022. 


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 character.

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Being A Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari Illustrated by Pete Oswald

If you are looking for a picture book to support social emotional learning, I highly recommend Being a Dog.  Children not only get to learn mindful strategies, but also are exposed to vivid verbs (munch, romp, ruffle, wade, whirl) which enhances their oral and written vocabulary.  The back matter includes directions on how to take a mindful nature walk with a canine friend in all four seasons as well as instructions on a mindful breathing exercise. 

With rhythmic, concise text, and warm, expressive artwork, Being a Dog is a tale that gives children the “oppawtunity” to learn how to mindful of their feelings in order to reach their full “pet-tential.”  To read my full review, click here

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
#Bookexcursion, Chapter Books, Debut Author, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/31/22

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

Just Right Jillian by Nicole Collier

Fifth grader Jillian is smart but unbelievably shy.  When her class plays Last Man Standing to improve speed and accuracy in math, Jillian knows the final answer to win but is unable to speak or raise her hand.  Her silence allows her classmate and foe Rashida to win.  Jillian knows she needs to find her voice, but since her Grammy died a year ago, she feels lost.  Grammy always said, “Being shy is one thing. Hiding is something else.”  Jillian knows she is hiding by being quiet and blending in with all the other girls’ wearing dull colored clothes and her hair in a ponytail, but how does she find the confidence to be true self? 

Her teacher, Ms. Warren, sees Jillian’s potential and encourages her to enter the academic competition, Mind Bender.  Rashida won the competition last year as a fourth grader.  What chance does Jillian have?  Gradually, Jillian begins to embrace small steps towards change wearing purple or her hair untwisted until she finally find her JTRA (Just the Right Amount) of courage thanks to her friend Marquez.  And the incubating chicks her class is observing remind Jillian to find the courage to break out of her shell.  

Full of hope and heart, Just Right Jillian is a touching story about family, friendship, facing your fears, and finding out who you are.  While Jillian did not share all her insecurities with her parents, her mom and dad were always sharing words of wisdom.  I just loved their positivity and encouragement. 

  • “Never start your story with the other person.”
  • “If your heart knows what’s right, you already have the answer.  It’s up to you to commit to it.”
  • “When you have a something and you do it, it teaches you to know yourself better.”
  • “You don’t need any excuses to be yourself.” 

We all have a little Jillian in us. With Just Right Jillian, debut author Collier teaches us lessons on how to be brave when it is hard.  Thankful to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Just Right Jillian celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on February 1, 2022. 



Bad Kitty Gets Phone
by Nick Bruel

In this new full-color graphic novel adventure, Kitty is obsessed with the online game Feather Tap and keeps stealing her owners’ phone to play.  When she is given the opportunity to play with real feathers, Kitty is not amused. Instead she asks for her own phone in exchange for doing chores for three whole months.  Successfully completing the seven labors (picking up toys, making bed, washing bowl, cleaning litter box, changing the baby, repairing curtains, and giving Puppy a bath), Kitty earns a phone of her very own.  But with ownership comes responsibility and Kitty struggles in making good decisions becoming addicted to a violent game, a Cat Facebook app,  and ViewTube videos.  Her demeanor also takes a downward spiral engaging with heated online arguments with cyberbullies and ignoring her friend Chatty Kitty’s texts. As a result, her owners to take away her phone for a month.  Readers will love the hilarious chapter How to Take a Phone Away From a Cat which consists of seven not so easy steps.  

Bruel’s text and artwork gives readers not only the opportunity to laugh but also to learn, for Kitty’s actions and her owners’ response teach kids about internet safety and digital literacy.  I love that Kitty’s owners were constantly monitoring her activity and deleted apps that they deemed inappropriate or detrimental to her emotional and mental well being.  A recurring section, Uncle Murray’s Fun Facts, teaches kids the difference between fact and opinion.  Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy.  Bad Kitty Gets a Phone recently released on December 28, 2021. 


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I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Refiloe Moahloli Illustrated by Zinelda McDonald

In Southern Africa, ubuntu means connectedness.  It is the belief that people form their identities based on their relationship with others.   I Am You teaches children the meaning of ubuntu using a concise, melodic text and bold and expressive illustrations.  To read my full review including thoughts from first graders, click here.  


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 character.

Cat Dog by Mem Fox Illustrated by Mark Teague

In this interactive picture book, Fox’s clever call and response text and Teague’s lively page filling illustrations will appeal to kids of all ages.  On the first page spread, the text says “So there was a scary dog, right?.  The illustrations shows a cat peering behind a couch and a large white dog with clenched teeth.  When the page is turned, the text reads “No!” and the dog is smaller and docile.  The story continues with questions followed by either a yes or no.  Readers will soon discover that sometimes, the illustrations match the text, but at times, reality is actually depicted in the following page spread.  And while the title is Cat Dog, a mouse is also a main character and its antics drive the plot along.   If you are looking for a picture book to teach point of view or perspective, Cat Dog is a perfect text.  Cat Dog published on October 19, 2021. 


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/13/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

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The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters

Abandoned as an infant, 12 year old Logan Foster has lived at the El Segundo Transitional Orphanage for the past nine years. While Logan has eidetic or photographic memory of things he has heard, places he’s been, and people he has met, he cannot remember his parents or his younger sibling.  Logan assumes he has a little brother or sister because when he was found at airport, he was wearing a T-shirt with the words “World’s Best Big Brother.”  Since he excels at research. deductive reasoning and problem solving, Logan believes he will meet his sibling someday. Logan is not good at being told what to say or do which can be difficult when meeting prospective parents otherwise known as PPs.  In the past, his frankness hasn’t been received well, but when Gil and Margie, his seventh PP, ask him to be their foster child, Logan says yes.  

Not long after moving into Gil’s and Margie’s home, Logan observes things that do not make sense.  Gil never eats. All the food in the house is brand-new and unopened.  There are no pictures of Margie as a young girl. And when Margie’s arm leans against something hot, her skin turns silvery.  A comic book fan, Logan is pretty amazed to discover his foster parents are actual superheroes working for the Multinational Authority for Superhero Control (MASC).   Not long after this revelation, Logan becomes embroiled in Gil’s and Margie’s battle to fight against the evil, centuries old Necros.

Told from Logan’s point of view, The Unforgettable Logan Foster is a gripping, fast moving story that pulls you in from the very first page.   Debut author Peters nails Logan’s voice.  His decision to have Logan’s speak directly to his sibling helps the main character establish a close relationship with the reader.   Given all the obstacles he has faced in his young life, I admire Logan’s resilience and how his eidetic memory as well as his other skills become integral to helping Gil and Margie.  I also love the friendship between Logan and his next door neighbor Elena.  When Logan spills the beans on his foster parents, Elena doesn’t question him and instead, offers perspective by saying “I’m biracial, bilingual, taller than everyone in my class, faster and the only person who lives in two houses on the same street. Worrying about what’s normal is just a waste of time.”  Well said Elena. 

While some plot events are tied up at the end of the novel,  there are still questions left unanswered which leaves me hopeful that Logan’s adventures have only just begun.  Thanks to the author Shawn Peters for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  The Unforgettable Logan Foster publishes soon on January 4, 2021.  


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Carla and the Christmas Cornbread by Carla Hall Illustrated by Cherise Harris

Christmas Eve is one of Carla’s favorite days because she, her sister, and mother celebrate the holidays at Granny’s house.  I love how Carla’s drive to her grandma’s is described as an event sitting in the back seat with all the wrapped presents, looking at all the decorated houses, and singing Christmas songs with her family.  What Carla is most excited about is making cornbread with Granny.  Harris’ illustrations show Carla’s immense enthusiasm with her wide eyes and full grin.  Right before bedtime, Carla sees the most perfect iced sugar cookie sitting on a plate and cannot resist taking a bite.  When she is told it was Santa’s snack, she is devastated.   Fortunately, Granny calms Carla’s fears and together, they made Santa a special Christmas cornbread.  As Carla places the  cornbread on the table, her grandfather lends support saying “Santa gets tired of all those cookies, I bet.”  Will Santa love the cornbread as much as Carla? 

Carla and the Christmas Cornbread is a charming holiday story.  The engaging text and nostalgic illustrations beautifully convey the immense love of family and how honest mistakes can be remedied.  This picture book would also be a great mentor text for a small moment writing unit.  At the end of the story, Hall shares recipes for cornbread and cinnamon butter.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy. Carla and the Christmas Cornbread released on November 2, 2021. 


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The Little Owl and the Big Tree: A Christmas Story by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter

In 2020, a tree was cut down, put on a flatbed truck, and traveled to New York City to grace Rockefeller Center for Christmas.  No one knew there was a small owl who called the tree home.  She remained in her hole during the entire trip and didn’t poke out until workers unwrapped the tree.  Tired and hungry, the owl allowed one of the workers to hold her in the palm of his hand.  The rest of the book tells of the tiny owl’s journey to a wildlife rescue where she is nursed back to health and then released back into the wild.  

The Little Owl and the Big Tree is a sweet story that warmed my heart.  As I read the text, I felt as if Jonah Winter was speaking directly to me.  His concise text and conversational tone make it a perfect read aloud for young children.  Jeanette Winter’s painted illustrations remind me of folk art and could easily tell the story alone.  I loved searching each illustration for the owl, which was named Rockefeller.  An author’s note provides more specific facts.  The Little Owl and the Big Tree would be a great companion text to Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy.  It recently released on October 19, 2021. 


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

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Only My Dog Knows I Pick My Nose by Lauren Tarshis Illustrated by Lisa Bronson Mezoff

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

The love and trust between boy and his dog is lauded in this adorable picture book.  The boy shares that his family sees he does everything just right, but his dog knows the truth.  Sometimes, he doesn’t close his eyes and go to sleep, brush his teeth, and follow every rule.  In fact, there are a lot of things to which the pup is the only individual aware. 

As a dog mom, I love how the book celebrates the bond between a dog and its human.  My favorite part of the text is “When everything goes wrong, my dog helps me feel happy again.”  After a rough day, coming home to my Bella is the best therapy.  She is always there to greet me with wags and barks.  Tarhsis’ playful and humorous text and Mezoff’s warm water color illustrations honor a pet and its person’s tender relationship.  Dogs accept us as we are and their unconditional love is truly the greatest gift.  A sweet touch on the front endpages is a place for children to write their name as well as their pet’s name. Thanks to Scholastic for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Only My Dog Knows I Pick My Nose published on October 19, 2021. 


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
Board Books, Debut Author, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Nonfiction, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/1/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

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The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem by Jarrett Lerner

Comprised of Mr. Toots, a bean, Chip Ninja, Tomato Tammy, and Leonard, a nervous chunk of cheese, the Hunger Heroes are a team of food who have one mission-saving kids from a missed meal.  When the quartet gets an alert from a nearby elementary school, they quickly jump in their taco hovercraft in hopes of arriving in time before a student, Jason, takes his math test. The Hunger Heroes must not only gain access to the building but also get past his teacher, Mrs. Sternbladder whose classroom is a no-snack zone. Once inside, the team realizes that time is of the essence because Jason is fading fast. Mr. Toots knows that they need to distract Mrs. Sternbladder but how? Will the Hunger Heroes be successful in achieving their objective?

I am a big fan of anything Jarrett Lerner writes and illustrates because his books not only engage and entertain readers but also educate in a non preachy way.  In Missed Meal Mayhem, Mrs. Sternbladder appears cranky and then readers learn the backstory behind the teacher’s no snack policy. Prior to reading, Lerner even cautions readers that the chapter may cause them to empathize with an adult.  The Hunger Heroes are so adorable and remind me of the Del Monte Country Yumkins; we saved many, many labels to get the whole family (although we did not have the pineapple and plum). 

Del Monte Fruit & Vegetable 7 Piece Plush Toy Set 1983 Vintage Fruits  Vegetables Country Yumkins Del Monte : Toys & Games - Amazon.co.jp

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy. Missed Meal Mayhem celebrates its book birthday next week on November 9, 2021. Already eagerly awaiting the Hunger Heroes’ next adventure, Snack Cabinet Sabotage, due out in August 2022!


 
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Barb The Last Berzerker by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson 
 

In the land of Bailiwick, humans and monsters are at war and the Berzerkers keep the monsters in check.  Spunky Barb is the youngest and smallest Berzerker and is always told to stay back because of her age and size.  But when the Berzerkers are tricked by the evil Witch Head, Barb is only one able to escape and she doesn’t leave empty handed; she takes the legendary Shadow Blade, a magical sword with her.  Befriending a yeti named Porkchop, Barb is on a mission to find the Northern Zerks to help her her Berzerker family.

Character development is on point.  Readers will immediately determine from her words and actions that Barb is no pipsqueak; she is determined to not only help her Berzerker family but also others she meets in her quest to find the Northern Zerks.  Amid the humor, there is a lot of heart, for Barb is always putting others before herself.  Through her relationship with Porkchop, Barb shows that humans and monsters are not that much different and surprisingly, can be friends.  This friendship forever changes her, for even when she defeats the monster Grom, she feels compelled to save him from drowning in mud.   With an intriguing fast paced plot, dynamic characters, and vivid comic panels, kids will love this graphic novel adventure! Thanks to Simon and Schuster’s Children Publishing for sharing a finished copy.  Barb the Last Berzerker recently released on September 28, 2021.  And don’t worry.  Barb will be back in Barb and the Ghost Blade in May 2022!


 

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A Home Again by Colleen Rowan Kosinski Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

A newly built house eagerly awaits its first family to call their home.   As the family grows, their level of activity and noise increases until one day they leave the house with tears in their eyes.    Readers see a For Sale but the house is unaware. When people come to look at it, the distraught house makes it shingles shake and steps creak in hopes the family will return.. As times passes, the house’s despair in evident in its roof sagging and brown, weed filled garden until one day two men and their dog see past the squeaks, cracks, and weeds. Will the house be willing to be a home again?  

Told from the house’s point of view, Kosinki’s lyrical text and Docampo’s use of light and dark in the illustrations beautifully conveys the house’s range of emotions.  A Home Again teaches the important lesson that we can all can heal after a loss and learn to love again.  Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing a finished copy.  A Home Again celebrates its book birthday today!


 

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Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals by Laura Gehl Illustrated by Gareth Lucas

Toddlers and preschoolers will be captivated by this nonfiction picture book that introduces them to animals with unique characteristics. On each page spread, children learn a fact about an animal and as the concise text is read aloud, the rhyme scheme is revealed.  Lucas makes use of the whole page spread for his large and appealing illustrations of each animal. Even as an adult, I learned new information like the immense weight of a sunfish and glass frogs have see through skin.  And I especially love that at the end of the book, Gehl has included real photographs of all the animals and an explanation about their unusual trait.  

Thanks to Abrams and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing a finished copy.  Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on November 2, 2021. 


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.

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Awake by Mags DeRoma

A girl and her pup Oscar are all ready for a good night’s sleep but right before she turns off her light, she spies a spider and its web in her window. Now she is wide awake because she can’t go to sleep knowing a spider in her bedroom! As she ponders her options, Oscar holds the book titled Itsy Bitsy Spider in his mouth but she doesn’t give him credit when she thinks of the nursery rhyme.  The girl continues to brainstorm ideas until finally her frustration overtakes her and she captures the spider under a glass.  DeRoma’s illustration of the spider under the glass  tugs at the heart because the arachnid looks small and harmless to not only the reader but also the girl. This revelation changes the girl’s perspective resulting in her releasing the spider and naming it Harry.  

I love DeRoma’s debut picture book because it teaches kids about empathy.   The plot conveys the theme and on the back endpapers, DeRoma cleverly provides kids with illustrated step by step directions for how to kindly and carefully relocate a spider.  Oscar is a loyal companion never leaving his girl’s side.  Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy.  Awake recently released on October 19, 2021. 


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
Debut Author, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/25/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

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The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson 

Set in Sutton, New York in 1944, 13 year old Poppy Fulbright and her family own the bookshop, Rhyme and Reason. What makes Rhyme and Reason unique is that it searches in the past and the future for customers who need light and hope and brings them to the shop. When her older brother Al’s best friend dies in World War II, Al wants to go back in time to save him.  Rhyme and Reason has strict rules, one of them being shopkeepers must never use the magic for their own gain.  But Al becomes obsessed with moving forward with his plan undeterred when their father, who has mysteriously fallen ill, tells them the rule was made because the magic is complicated; it has more than one side. 

An observant Poppy begins to see odd things occurring at the bookshop and after some research discovers while bookshops spread light, love, and hope through stories, the Dark lies in wait searching for an open door.  Poppy must be the girl who chases the light to save Rhyme and Reason and all those she loves. 

Debut author Mindy Thompson time travel fantasy appealed to me immediately.  I cannot deny I was first drawn to the book because of the setting (a magical bookshop is a dream!),  but once I began reading, it was Poppy who made the story hard to put down. I liked her instantly because of her love for books, her kindness, and her want to make everything right.  Since Al was the oldest, he would inherit Rhyme and Reason and this hurt Poppy, for she had a deep connection with the shop. When strange things started to happen, she was not only worried for her family but also her best friend, Rhyme and Reason who she sensed was suffering.  Poppy learns that while the bookshop was magical, she has magic inside of her too. She just needs to believe in her own strength to find it.  

Thanks to the author and publisher for sharing an eARC.  The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams celebrates its book birthday tomorrow!


 

Waffles and Pancakes: Planetary-Yum (Book 1) by Drew Brockington 

A prequel to Brockington’s CatStronauts series, this early graphic novel series focuses on a young Waffles as a kitten. In this first adventure, Waffles and his sister Pancake go to the science museum with Cat-Dad. Young readers will giggle at the exhibits which are feline themed-Dino Cats, Hairballs in 4-D, and a planetarium show with cat constellations. When they visit the Hall of Planets, Cat-Dad reminisces about the CatStronauts’ moon landing. They join a guided tour of the exhibit and are so mesmerized, they get separated from Dad-Cat. These kittens are smarty cats and seek help from the guide and are soon reunited with their worried father.  On the drive to Mom-Cat’s house, Dad-Cat asks their favorite part. While the siblings say lunch, it is clear that the outing sparked an interest in the night sky as they gaze as stars. Readers will see the beginnings of Waffles’ interest in space travel.

 

What I love most about Planetary-Yum is the sweet relationship between the cat siblings and their divorced parents. Written in under 60 pages with engaging and expressive comic panels, primary age kids will enjoy this STEM adventure that is full of both facts and fun. Thanks to Wunderkind PR for sharing an ARC. Planetary-Yum celebrates its book birthday tomorrow.


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.

The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder Illustrated by Catia Chen

You will need to grab some tissues before you open Wilder’s debut picture book about an old dog’s last walk with his girl who he calls Little. I love that Wilder chose to have the dog narrate the story because while the story is sad, the dog’s words will make you smile. He calls the sun “fireball”, dirt “diggiedirt” and memories “waybacks.”  Wilder’s inventive use of language coupled with Chen’s gorgeous artwork lets readers know the dog has enjoyed the very best life with Little and their love will continue even after he leaves the earth.  

What sets The Longest Letsgoboy apart from other picture books about loss is that the story does not end with the dog’s passing.  After he closes his eyes, he feels the “flutter of beautifuls” lifting him up high. Again, Wilder’s lyrical text and Chin’s brilliant illustrations warmed my heart.  The dog watches over Little and her pack of “twopaws” (parents) as each  seasons comes and goes until finally he catches a glimpse of an “awwpuppy” on a “letsgoboy” with Little. Little acknowledges him by looking up at the sky and smiling showing that their love is forever.  And the last page spread is just breathtaking.  I know the loss of a beloved pet is devastating.  The Longest Letsgoboy helps the heart heal by focusing on the joy rather than the pain. 

Thanks to the author and Chronicle Books for sharing a finished copy.  The Longest Letsgoboy celebrates its book birthday tomorrow. 


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

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“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/5/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

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Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne 

Since her mom passed away five years ago, it has just been 11 year old Josephine and her fisherman dad.  Her father has recently started to date and Josephine is determined to keep them a family of two resorting to extreme measures like Operation Slime to scare anyone from staying around.  When her dad brings home Mariss to meet her, she is different from all the others; Josephine cannot scare her away no matter how hard she tries.  And it seems like Josephine is the only one who feels something is not right with Mariss.  With help from her best friend, Ahkai and the librarian, Mrs. Edgecombe, Josephine uncovers information to uncover the true identity of Mariss. 

Set in Barbados, Josephine Against the Sea is a story that pulled me in right away.  I absolutely loved Josephine’s boldness. I have not met many characters who have no qualms with dumping fish guts on others to protect her family.  Beneath that tenacity though is a girl who misses her mom, loves her dad, and desperately wants a spot on the cricket team.  As I got deeper into the novel, details emerged as to why Mariss has crept into her life.  I appreciate that Bourne reveals clues gradually which arouse my curiosity and made the novel hard to put down.  And through it all, I always rooted for Josephine because despite her not so good moves, all her actions came from a place of love.  

If you enjoy an intriguing adventure with dynamic characters, I highly recommend this novel! Thanks to author Shakirah Bourne for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Josephine Against the Sea celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021.  


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The Caiman by Maria Eugenia Manrique Illustrated by Ramon Paris  Translated by Amy Brill

In the small town of San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela, a young girl finds a baby alligator, a river caiman, who is believed to be an orphan.  Just as the girl was about to return the creature to the water, the town jeweler and watchmaker, Faoro passes by and immediately offers to take the baby alligator home.  The animal was so small that it not only fit in the palm of his hand but also in his shirt pocket.  Faoro names her Night for her dark skin. Night accompanies Faoro to his workshop and business booms.  How many places can you get a clock fixed, jewelry mended, AND pet a baby alligator?  

The Caiman is a heartwarming story about the incredible bond between a jeweler and an alligator.   To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


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Let Liberty Rise: How America’s School Children Helped Save the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of pride and freedom, but back in 1885, she arrived at Bedloe’s Island in 350 pieces and wasn’t able to be unpacked. Why? France had asked the United States to build a pedestal for the statue to stand on, but it was only half built. Why? Apparently, the the price of the pedestal was $100,000 and Americans weren’t too keen on contributing to the fund. 

With Stiefel’s spirited text and Groenink’s energetic illustrations, Let Liberty Rise is an uplifting story that makes me proud to be an American.  What I love most is the 120,000 donors to the pedestal fund were a diverse group made up of all ages and professions and it especially warms my heart that Stiefel made a conscious decision to highlight the contributions of children.  Children from all over the country gave up their earned or saved money to be a part of something bigger. To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


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.

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Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

Miss Lottie gives dogs a second chance. Gus was the first so under Dog Pack Law, he is the pack leader and has to give the seal of approval before Miss Lottie brings another dog into the pack.  Gus’ track record is perfect with Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie. When Miss Lottie introduces Decker to the pack, Gus smells something not right.  He wants to trust his gut instincts, but Miss Lottie keeps comparing Decker to her first dog, Mr. Beans.  Perhaps Gus’ dogginess is off and Decker just needs a chance so Gus gives a half hearted woof and wag. Immediately, Decker walks into Miss Lottie’s the van ahead of him. Uh oh!   Is Decker challlenging Gus as leader of the pack?

As the story unfolds, readers learn about all the dogs’ history and how they found their forever home with Miss Lottie.  Crimi also shares Decker’s story and why he acts the way he does. Reading the back story of each dog really hit me because as the proud dog mom of Bella (& Etta who passed in February 2020), it is very rare to know about dogs’ lives before adopting them.  Bella is a sweetheart wagging her tail 90% of the time, but if she hears the sound of metal, immediately, her tail goes down and she scurries to her safe spot under our bed. I can speculate, but will never know the roots of that behavior.  

At its heart, Secondhand Dogs is a story about  family, for after Miss Lottie’s husband passed away, she needed a purpose.  She soon discovered that giving dogs a second home was a way to heal and be whole.  Another important character in the story is Quinn, Miss Lottie’s neighbor who is coping with a lot of loss-his father’s sudden death, an accident which claimed the life of his dog, Murph, and his changed relationship with his older brother Jessie. After reading Secondhand Dogs, my heart was filled with hope, for whatever happened in the past, we all have a second chance to be happy.

Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for sharing an ARC with me.  Secondhand Dogs celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021. 

 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

 

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature, Novels in Verse, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/10/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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:

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi 

13 year old Nurah has lived in Pakistan her whole life, but everything changes when her father announces he has accepted a job in the United States.  Leaving her grandparents and her best friend, Nurah and moves to Peachtree City, Georgia with her older brother Owais, and her parents.  Getting acclimated is not easy, for although Nurah speaks English well, she encounters a language barrier learning to pronounce words more American and understanding vocabulary such as shopping cart instead of trolley.  At her old school, Nurah’s voice was loud, but in her new school, it is quiet.  Fortunately, swimming at the rec center brings Nurah and her brother comfort, for the water is like a cool hug reminding them of home.  When Nurah and Owais try out and make the swim team, she meets Stahr, her first friend in Georgia; now, Nurah has someone to talk and sit with at lunch.  Nurah loves swimming but is always in the wake of her brother who seems to win medals without even trying.  With practice, Nurah gains confidence not only in her swimming, but also in using her voice to speak up for herself and others.

Written in verse from the perspective of Nurah,  Faruqi’s gorgeous, lyrical text draws you in and allows you to truly get to know Nurah- her worries and dreams. When I read the verse title, Blue Cocoon, I was able to not only visualize but also understand what that rec pool in Georgia meant to Nurah.   When she and Stahr talk and talk at Baskin Robbins, Nurah compares her move to the melting cookies in her ice cream, for perhaps, over time, all the hard bits go away.  While Nurah initially seems quiet, readers learn that when she gets mad, she is like a tea kettle-calm but then explodes.  I love witnessing Nurah’s journey from uncertainty to realizing that her opinion is the only one that matters.  With this new awareness, she begins wearing her hijab proudly even including it in her self portrait which shows her courage to stand out rather than blend in.

In the author’s note, I appreciate that Faruqi shares that the story is based on her own experiences. Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Unsettled celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on May 11, 2021.

Glitter Gets Everywhere by Yvette Clark 

As the story begins, 10 year old Kitty is grieving the loss of her beloved mum.   She has the support of family-her father, older sister Imogen, and Gran as well as her godmother, her mum’s best friend who all are mourning along with her.  When her father announces an opportunity to temporarily move to New York City for his work, Kitty is resistant.  London is where all her memories of her mum are as well as her best friend Jess.

Living and going to school in New York City is both challenging and exciting for Kitty.  At home, everyone knew about Kitty’s story but at her new school, she doesn’t know how to answer questions about her mum.  A surprising friendship with Henry, a classmate and the son of a famous actor who is battling his own issues with his parents’ public divorce is good therapy as they both see the bravery in each other.

Clark’s debut is both heartfelt and hopeful.  My heart hurt for Kitty, but I also knew how much she was loved by her family and friends.  One of my favorite parts of the novel was Kitty’s birthdays, for her mum had written her letters to read and gifted her a charm to add to her bracelet.  Get tissues ready because these letters will make cry, but they also make Kitty realize that while her mum is no longer on earth, she would always be with her no matter where she is and while change isn’t easy, Kitty must embrace it and never be afraid to try new things.  For children experiencing a loss or transition, Glitter Gets Everywhere is a story of promise, for with grief, there is always love.  Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. Glitter Gets Everywhere published last week on May 4, 2021.

Ways to Grow Love (Ryan Hart #2) by Renee Watson

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Hart and her family in Ways to Make Sunshine.  In the second book of the series, it’s summer and while Ryan has becoming a big sister and attending her church’s overnight camp to look forward to, she also realizes that the baby is changing everything.  Because of her mom’s morning sickness, she has to go to the library with her grandma to pick out books for summer reading and it’s just not the same.  Ryan has been impatiently waiting to go to summer camp but between her older brother Ray’s ghost stories and finding out her friend Amanda invited Red to join them, she is nervous.  Red was mean to Ryan at Amanda’s birthday party and feels Red is competing with her to become Amanda’s best friend.

Ryan’s name means king and her parents remind her to live up to her name and be a leader.  At summer camp, Ryan offers to be cabin captain and the direction of their skit.  But when Ray and his friends continue to scare Ryan and her friends, Ryan goes along with something she knows is wrong.  What I love about Ryan is she truly strives to do the right thing but readers get to see her struggles as well especially as she navigates changes in friendship and family.

Written in under 200 pages with short chapters, dynamic characters, an engaging plot, and Mata’s charming black and white illustrations, Watson’s series is so accessible to readers transitioning into middle grade novels.  Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Ways to Grow Love released on April 27. 2021.


 Bella’s Pick of the Week

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

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Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides is a story of how even opposites can find some happy medium and become friends.  While Tallulah is prim and proper and Hudson is free spirited and messy, they both can’t refrain from enjoying the puddle.  This revelation is groundbreaking, for perhaps, they are not as different as they once believed.  Kang’s peppy dialogue is concise and on point which allows Weyant’s lively and humorous illustrations to not only move the plot along but also show the progression of Hudson’s and Tallulah’s relationship.

When I read this story to kindergarten students for #classroombookaday, I asked them to tell me what did the author and illustrator want us to learn.  Here are some of their thoughts.

  • “The dog and the cat both like to jump in puddles so that’s why they became friends.”
  • “You don’t have to like the same things to be friends.”
  • “It’s better to be friends than enemies.”
  • Dogs and cats are different but can still be friends.”

Pretty smart kids.  Thankful for picture books like Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides which support teaching theme with our youngest learners.

To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here. Thanks to Two Lions/Amazon Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy with me. Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides recently published on May 1, 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/19/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in 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 Gilded Girl by Alyssa Coleman

In 1906, 12 year old Emma has recently enrolled at Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic in New York City.  Her purpose?  To learn kindling, which will allow Emma to utilize her magic powers.  Emma is one of the privileged, for her wealth allows her the training to learn how to harness her magic; in contrast, Izzy O’Donnell, a servant working at the school, is expected to allow her magic to be snuffed out.  When Emma’s father is declared dead, a victim of the San Francisco earthquake, her status at the school quickly changes from student to servant.  While Emma and Izzy did not initially see eye to eye, they  become unlikely friends because they both desire to keep their magic.  Izzy will train Emma on being a servant and Emma will share her knowledge of kindling.  With help from another student, Frances, and Figgy, a house dragon disguised as a cat, Emma and Izzy train together so that they are prepared when the kindling winds arrive.  But when the winds come, the friends must work together to not only support each other but the other girls at the school.  

The Gilded Girl is a clever and innovative retelling of The Little Princess. I love that Coleman chose to tell the story in alternating chapters from the perspectives of both Emma and Izzy.  Readers get to know each girl well witnessing the transformation of Emma whose sudden change in social status teaches her about the injustices between classes and Izzy shows her willingness to trust as well as her vulnerability. Armed with this new insight, Emma and Izzy seek to make magic available to all.  

After reading The Gilded Girl, my heart was filled with hope, for Emma and Izzy are great role models for middle grade readers because of their perseverance, courage, and passion. Thanks to author Alyssa Coleman and Macmillian Publishers for sharing an e-galley with Beagles and Books.  The Gilded Girl recently published on April 6, 2021. 

The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity

On the surface, Abby seems like a typical 12 year old, but in reality, she is a descendant of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir.  She is eager to continue her mother’s legacy of hunting monsters known as Grendels especially since her mother’s mysterious death four years ago.  After her home in North Carolina is attacked by what Abby fears is a Grendel, she and dad relocate to Minnesota in order for Abby to attend Vale Hall, her mother’s alma mater.  While on the road, Abby and her dad are attacked again. Her dad is injured resulting in him falling into a mysterious coma. 

At Vale Hall, Abby gradually learns that the Viking Council does not believe that Grendels exist anymore and refutes her mother’s life work.  With the help of new friends, Grimsby and Gwynn, Abby goes on a mission to discover an antidote to save her dad and the truth to preserve her mom’s reputation. 

Told from Abby’s perspective, The Last Shadow Warrior is a fast-paced, riveting story that is hard to put down.  Mythology-based fantasy is not a genre I have widely read, but I really was drawn into the plot because Subity merged fantasy with a contemporary setting.  Abby is also a strong character who is willing to stand up for herself and others.  Her relationship with her dad was especially touching.  What also kept me reading was the humor for Subity included a lot of light moments to ease the tension.  While some plot events are tied up, there are still questions left unanswered which leaves me hopeful that Abby’s adventures are not over yet.  Thanks to author Sam Subity and Scholastic for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  The Last Shadow Warrior recently published on April 6, 2021. 

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Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Be a tree!
Stand tall.
Stretch your branches to the sun.

These ten words begin Gianferrari’s glorious ode extolling the sheer beauty of one of nature’s gifts and how humans have similar physical characteristics to this earthy treasure.   Trees and humans both have parts such as branches and arms, trunks and spines, bark and skin, and a crown at the top.   Sala’s warm watercolor illustrations gorgeously echo Gianferrari’s lyrical text showing the physical similarities so that even the youngest readers can see the connections.   To read my full review, click here. 


Bella’s 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.

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

12 year old Jolina and her parents have recently moved from the city of Manila to a small island in the Philippines.  Her grandmother, Lola Toyang recently passed away and her grandfather, Lolo Sebyo is recovering from a stroke.  As a result, her father now manages the family eatery, Bagayan Food Haus.  Being new to the island, Jolina does not have many friends yet.  Her Jack Russell terrier, Kidlat, is her constant and loyal companion.  

As the story begins, Jolina is enduring bullying from Claudine, a girl in her Bible study group. Because her mother works at Claudine’s family’s resort, Jolina feels she cannot tell anyone about Claudine’s awful behavior.  As an arbularyo  (healer) apprentice, Jolina gets weekly lessons from her grandfather and while she knows the dangers of using magic for the wrong reasons, she decides Claudine needs to be taught a lesson on how to be kind; therefore, Jolina concocts a love potion to get Claudine to be nice to her and it works!  But as she spends more time with Claudine and the girls truly become friends, Jolina feels guilty about her actions and learns firsthand the consequences of using magic for the wrong reasons.  

A blend of fantasy and realistic fiction and an intriguing plot, Sugar and Spite is an #ownvoices middle grade novel that will appeal to readers exploring themes such as family, friendship, and forgiveness.  It is no surprise that what I loved the most about the novel is the relationship between Jolina and Kidlat.  The bond between the girl and her dog was heartwarming and in the author’s note, Villanueva shares that Jolina’s and Kidlat’s deep connection was honoring her relationship with her beloved pet, Kubrick.  Thanks to Gail Villanueva and Scholastic for sharing an e-galley with Beagles and Books. Sugar and Spite celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 20, 2021.

 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

#Bookexcursion, Author Interview, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature, Novels in Verse

Happy Book Birthday ALONE: Interview with author Megan Freeman and Review

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I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity to talk with author Megan Freeman about ALONE, her debut middle grade novel in verse which celebrates its book birthday today!  I was blessed to read an ARC of ALONE and am so excited that Maddie’s story is published and available for all to read.  


The Interview:

BB: Hi Megan!  Welcome to Beagles and Books!  Congratulations on ALONE!  How did you get the idea to write this compelling novel? 

MF: The genesis for the story came from a mother-daughter book club gathering when my daughter and her friends were in fifth grade. We read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and the girls were fascinated by how Karana could survive alone on an island. I pointed out that the island was her home, and she was already comfortable there. The greater challenge was being alone for eighteen years. I asked them to imagine what it would be like for them to come home after school to find everyone in the entire town gone. What if they couldn’t reach anyone for help? What if no one came back? What would they do? How would they survive? I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and it became the seed of the story.

BB: Did you plan to write ALONE in verse or did that evolve as you were in the writing process? 

MF: The writing of the book went through many iterations and took many years. I first wrote the book in prose, third person voice, and past tense. After many rounds of revisions, submissions, and feedback from multiple sources, I began again, this time tapping into my experience and skill as a poet. I rewrote the story in verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to get inside Maddie’s head and explore the solitary and sensory nature of her experience. The prose had served the plot, but the poetry freed the story.

BB: In ALONE, Maddie’s town is evacuated but it is never explained why. Is there a reason you kept the evacuation a mystery? 

MF: The entire story is told through Maddie’s point of view, and so the reader can only ever know what Maddie knows. As a seventh grader in the beginning of the book, she’s not paying much attention to events happening beyond her friendships and her life in school. When she’s left alone, she becomes concerned about possible threats to her safety, but she doesn’t have much information so she can only imagine what might be safe or dangerous. By the time she’s finally reunited with her parents (spoiler alert!), she’s been alone for so long and she’s so relieved, that the cause of the evacuation is secondary to being with the people she loves and has been craving for three and a half years. The final poem in the book gives the reader some information about the nature of what happened, but it isn’t Maddie’s primary focus, so it can’t be the reader’s either.

BB: I was in awe of how resourceful and resilient Maddie was surviving on her own. Did her skills come from your personal knowledge or did you do research? 

The ideas for Maddie’s skills came from a variety of sources. I spent a lot of time looking around my house and my town and speculating on what would be helpful if I were trying to survive alone. I also asked myself what I might do and how I might think if I were in Maddie’s situation at her age. And of course I asked my friends and my daughter’s friends what they might do in different scenarios. I did have to research certain things, like what happens when the electrical grid shuts down and what the impacts would be on other utilities like water and gas.

BB: The poem, “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver really struck a chord with me especially the question “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Can you share what the poem means to you and why you included in ALONE? 

MF: I grew up hearing Mary Oliver’s poems read often, and “The Summer Day” packs a wallop of a punch, especially with that last question you quoted. At first, the intimacy of feeding a grasshopper in the palm of one’s hand and then reflecting on one’s mortality may seem incongruous, but it’s at the heart of what it means to be fully present and awake in one’s life. The speaker in the poem is entirely concentrated on the specificity of the grasshopper eating, and it’s the speaker’s ability to be so present that connects her directly to the miracle of her own life and her place in the natural world. It’s impossible to grasp the miracle of one’s life without being keenly aware of the inevitability of one’s death. To be truly present means coming to terms with the fact that every life is finite, including our own. When we stop taking our lives for granted, we realize there is no greater gift than to be present and alive to the beauty of each moment. The question at the end of the poem, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?” is an invitation from the speaker to the reader to become fully present in the world and to manifest a life worthy of the miracle it is before death takes it back.

In ALONE, Mary Oliver’s poem becomes the catalyst that helps Maddie think differently about her situation. Her close reading of each line leads her to become fully present to the truth of her life and to stop living in the future of hope or the past of regret. It allows her to let go of the longing that causes her so much suffering, and only then she is able to come to terms with her present reality. Once she does, she finds a measure of peace she hadn’t previously known, and she is able to move through her days with a lighter heart, despite her grief. ALONE is a book about physical survival, but it’s also about psychological and spiritual resilience. The existential angst that Maddie endures is no less a challenge than the life-threatening situations she finds herself in. To triumph in the story, she needs to overcome existential hurdles as well as physical ones, and this poem helps her do that.

BB: Are you working on any new projects you can share? 

I have a few things in the pipeline that I hope to share more about soon, and I’m currently working on a new middle grade novel that I’m really enjoying. It’s completely different from ALONE, but I love the characters and the world they live in. It’s a pleasure to greet them at my desk every day.

BB: Thank you so much Megan!  I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions providing a window into your process of writing ALONE.  


My Review: 

Maddie and her two best friends secretly plan a sleepover at her grandparents’ empty apartment. At the last minute, both friends cancel. Since Maddie has already lied to her divorced parents, she decides to stay there alone binging on old black and white movies and junk food.  When she wake up the next morning, she had no idea how truly alone she would be.  Her whole town, including her family, have been evacuated overnight. Because of her lie, her mom and dad each think Maddie is safe with the other leaving text messages that they will reconnect at the embarkation point.  With no cell phone connection, Maddie returns home but it isn’t long before she realizes not only is she on her own but also she will have to survive without electricity and running water. On her search for supplies in her neighborhood, Maddie rescues George, her neighbor’s rottweiler who becomes her most precious and loyal companion. 

Narrated by 12 year old Maddie, Alone is a riveting novel in verse by debut author Megan Freeman.   I was completely in awe of Maddie’s resourcefulness and resilience.   She takes turns living at both parent’s houses depending on weather, recalls her dad’s advice of staying put and how to flush  a toilet that won’t refill, scours the neighborhood for food and solar lights, gets lake water to wash clothes, and drives her mom’s minivan with her bike helmet (better safe than sorry). She survives looters, a tornado, and a wildfire. My heart also hurt for Maddie because her loneliness is acute.  As I read, I was so grateful she had George for company as well as books.  I love the verses when Maddie went to the Millersville Public Library to get books to teach her things as well as provide an escape. And when she discovers poetry, something awakens in Maddie’s soul.  Realizing that while her situation seems bleak, Maddie realizes she has to do something with her one wild and precious life which is to live as completely and fully as she can.   

Alone teaches us great lessons about the power not only to survive but also to believe in the power of new beginnings.  Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC of Alone with my #bookexcursion group.  Alone publishes on January 21, 2021. 

This review was originally published on November 23, 2020.


Meet the Author:

Megan E. Freeman-HiRes-photo credit Laur
Photo credit: Laura Carson Photography

Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets visited her classroom every week to teach poetry and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction, and her debut middle grade novel-in-verse ALONE will be published in January 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Megan is also a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and her poetry collection, Lessons on Sleeping Alone, was published by Liquid Light Press. An award-winning teacher with decades of classroom experience, Megan is nationally recognized for her work leading workshops and speaking to audiences across the country. Megan used to live in northeast Los Angeles, central Ohio, northern Norway, and on Caribbean cruise ships. Now she lives in northern Colorado.