#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. 

 

#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, Early Readers, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Picture Books, Poetry

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/23/20

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.

Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/23/20”

Blog Tour, Debut Author, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for Kat and Juju by Kataneh Vahdani

Bella and I are excited to be part of the Kat and Juju blog tour!  Releasing on July 1, 2020, this picture book is written and illustrated by Kataneh Vahdani. Special thanks to Amazon/Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Continue reading “Blog Tour & Giveaway for Kat and Juju by Kataneh Vahdani”

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/27/20

 

Beagles and Books is thrilled 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:

Drew and Jot; Dueling Doodles by Art Baltazar

Dueling Doodles is the first graphic novel in the Drew and Jot trilogy. On the first day of fifth grade, new student Andrew meets Foz and the two boys become fast friends due to their love of drawing. They quickly decide to collaborate on a crossover comic strip featuring Andrew’s superhero Drew and Foz’s evil Doctor Danger. Soon other characters such as Jot, a canine sidekick for Drew and Poop Monster are born. But when Drew’s little sister Patsy borrows the sketchbook and adds her own characters to their story and Dr. Danger book jumps from Foz’s sketchbook to Andrew’s, the adventure goes to a whole other level. 

I love that Baltazar draws reality with the kids’ interactions as well as their artwork in the sketchbooks. I have no doubt that readers of all ages will not only devour this series but also will be inspired to draw and collaborate on creating their own stories. Special thanks to author Jarrett Lerner for recommending Dueling Doodles which recently published on January 7, 2020.

Mack Rhino Private Eye: The Big Race Lace Case by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender Illustrated by Karl West

In The Big Race Lace Case, Mack Rhino and his assistant, Redd Oxpeck have recently solved their 99th case and it doesn’t take long before they are handed Case #100. Apparently shoelaces are disappearing right before the Big Race in Coral Cove. With news of the Ant Hill Gang escaping the ant farm upstate, Mack is certain they are involved. But who are they working with? With an engaging and humorous plot, young readers will enjoy piecing together the evidence gathered by Mack to help solve the mystery.

In my district, second grade students read mysteries as part of an ELA unit but I must admit, it is difficult to find mysteries for striving readers.  So excited to read the first book in the Mack Rhino Private Eye, which is part of Aladdin’s Quix Fast Fun Reads. Launched in 2018, this book line supports developing readers in becoming independent readers. Written in under 70 pages with short chapters and illustrations on every few pages, Mack Rhino has other great supports to help children transition to chapter books. These accessible features include a list of characters with their role, the use of bold font for characters when first introduced and vocabulary words, which are then defined with pronunciation in a glossary. I plan to buy multiple copies to use with my striving reading group during the mystery unit,

Special thanks to author Jennifer Swender for sending me a review copy.  Mack Rhino Private Eye: The Big Race Lace Case just celebrated its book birthday on January 21, 2020. A second book, The Candy Caper Case will publish in May 2020.  

Trouble at Table 5: The Candy Caper by Tom Watson Illustrated by Marta Kissi

Molly likes things a certain way. She likes her socks folded not rolled up. She only reads one book at a time. Her pillows must be arranged in a particular order. So when she sees a big glass jar full of Skittles in her principal’s office, she needs to know how many Skittles are in the jar. Fortunately, Molly’s friends Rosie and Simon understand when she has something she can’t get out of her head. They not only help her concoct a plan to count the Skittles but also help her carry it out. Young readers will enjoy problem solving with the trio.

With progress bars at the end of each chapter, full and half page illustrations and only 96 pages in length, I just love this new illustrated Harper Chapters series which support kids in building stamina to read chapter books. Special thanks to the publisher Harper Collins for sharing an ARC at the NCTE convention.  The Candy Caper and Busted by Breakfast, the second book in the Trouble at Table 5 series will both be available on February 25, 2020. 

Etta’s and 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.

Honey: The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln by Shari Swanson Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Most of my knowledge of Abraham Lincoln is about his career as a lawyer and of course, as our 16th U.S. president.  Debut author Shari Swanson has written a heartwarming story about Abe’s boyhood friendship with his dog Honey. 

On his way back home from the mill, young Abe finds a stray dog with an injured leg.  He makes a splint with sticks, bark, and rawhide and takes the dog home with him.  From that day on, Abe and newly named Honey are inseparable.  Loyal Honey repays Abe for rescuing him by seeking help when Abe got stuck between boulders in a cave.  What I especially love about this story is Swanson embeds young Abe’s other acts of kindness towards animals saving those in distress.  Chuck Groenik’s warm and nostaglic illustrations complement the text well showing Abe’s gentleness and compassion.  Also included is a timeline titled Abraham Lincoln and His Animal Encounters which provides even more information and an author’s note which shares the origin of this picture book, for Abe’s childhood best friend, Austin Gollaher orally recounted stories to a journalist.  Honey: The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln recently published on January 14, 2020.  

Etta, Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading!

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/20/20

 

Beagles and Books is thrilled 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:

How to Make Friends with the Sea by Tanya Guerrero

Since I started reading How to Make Friends with the Sea before the New Year, I did not originally include it on my #mustreadin2020 list, but this novel, beautifully written by debut author Tanya Guerrero is now officially on my #mustreadin2020 middle grade list because this moving story has my whole heart.  Here’s why.

Twelve year old Pablo has lived most of his young life being anxious but with his parents’ divorce and his move to the Philippines, his apprehension continues to build. Unable to share his fears with his zoologist mother, Pablo’s anxiety reaches an all time high when she agrees to foster Chiqui, an orphaned girl with selective mutism and a cleft lip. But gradually, as Pablo spends more time with Chiqui, she eventually speaks to him and he learns that his fears of germs, dirt, and the sea are not as big as his fear of losing Chiqui. 

Being brave is hard when so many things scare you but Pablo is truly one of the most courageous kids I have ever met.  In the beginning of the story, my heart hurt for Pablo as he struggled with his anxiety but each time he took a small leap, my heart cheered him on.  Written from Pablo’s point of view, Guerrero’s voice for him is perfect, for she captures all of Pablo’s raw feelings and emotions so readers truly get to know him. What I love about Guerrero’s writing is that she makes it clear that Pablo’s fears never completely go away; rather, he learns to cope with his anxiety especially when it comes to Chiqui.  Pablo doesn’t do this all alone, for new friendships with his neighbor, Happy, his mother’s boss, Miguel and even meetings with barista Heinz and dog Lucky give him the strength to step out of his comfort zone.  How to Make Friends with the Sea is an honest and dynamic story about family, friendship, facing your fears, and forgiveness that I will carry with me forever. 

Special thanks to Tanya Guerrero and Farrar Strauss Giroux/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for sending an ARC to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order now, for How to Make Friends with the Sea publishes on March 31, 2020. 

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee Illustrated by Dung Ho

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business is the first book in a new early chapter book series written by #ownvoices author Lyla Lee. Narrated by seven year old Mindy, readers quickly learn she is navigating a lot of changes in her life.  Mindy’s mom has recently died, and she and her father move to Florida from California. She desperately wants a puppy and is extremely nervous about starting a new school. 

Her first day of school in Florida is challenging because unlike her old school, she is the only Korean American in her class and at lunch, classmates make fun of kimchi and seaweed.. While Mindy hates being the new kid, she is cheered up by her babysitter’s Maltese, which makes Mindy want her own dog even more.  On the very next day of school, Mindy is determined to be brave and seek out a friend.  Her plan works and not only does she have someone to sit with at lunch but also a classmate who asks to try some of her seaweed.  Soon seaweed becomes quite popular in the lunchroom and Mindy decides to make it a business, which gets her and her new friend in trouble.  Can Mindy mend their friendship?

Written in 77 pages with short chapters and full page illustrations in almost each chapter, Mindy Kim has great supports for primary students transitioning into chapter books. What I especially love is Lee skillfully tackles tough themes such as grief from losing a parent and microaggressions in a way that is accessible to younger readers. Special thanks to Jenny Lu of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a review copy.  Mindy Kim and the Seaweed Business and Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade, the second book in the series recently published on January 14, 2020.  A third book, Mindy Kim and the Birthday Puppy will release in May 2020. 

Etta’s and 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.

Thunder Pug by Kim Norman Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

When Percy the pug’s best friend Petunia the pig wins a blue ribbon at the county fair, their relationship changes. Sporting her ribbon everywhere, she gets the attention of many of farm animals leaving little time for Percy.  After stumbling upon Thunder Man, an old comic book, Percy reinvents himself as Thunder Pug donning a cape and spending his days rescuing those in need.  But being Thunder Pug was lonely without a sidekick so imagine Percy’s glee when Petunia joins him as superhero, Pink Lightning.   Together they learn that being a hero is a lot more fun with a friend!   A follow up to Puddle Pug, Thunder Pug is a celebration of friendship.  What I love about this story is it reminds children that even the best of friends can weather through any storm!

Etta, Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading!

#MustReadsin2020, Book Birthday, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature

Happy Book Birthday to From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Happy Book Birthday to Janae Marks and her debut novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, which is my first read on my #mustreadin2020 middle grade novel list! Special thanks to the publisher Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins for sharing an ARC at the NCTE convention.

image0.pngOn aspiring baker Zoe’s twelfth birthday, her life is forever changed when she checks the mailbox and finds a letter from her biological father Marcus who has been in prison her whole life.  While this letter is the first one Zoe has read, she learns that Marcus has been writing her letters for a long time. Curious about a man she has never met who calls her his Little Tomato and loves music, Zoe secretly begins writing to him unbeknownst to her mother and stepfather.  With each letter, Zoe gets to know Marcus better and finds it hard to believe that he is in jail for committing murder.  When Zoe finally gets the courage to ask him about the crime, he not only explains he is innocent but also shares his alibi.

As if the weight of clearing her father’s conviction isn’t heavy enough, Zoe is also juggling an internship at a local bakery, a possible audition with Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge, and a disagreement with her best friend Trevor.  Fortunately, being honest with both her grandmother and Trevor provides Zoe with support as she searches for the truth. ‪

Written from Zoe’s point of view, debut author Marks expertly captures the voice of passionate and determined Zoe who is an advocate for her father. Readers see Zoe struggle with lying to her parents along with her boldness and urgency as she seeks to uncover the truth about her father. Marks tackles tough issues such as institutionalized racism in a way that is accessible for middle grade readers. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is Zoe teaches us that one person can indeed make a difference and how family can forgive each other for making mistakes.

I highly recommend From the Desk of Zoe Washington! Just waiting for my hardcover copy to arrive so I can share with students and teachers!

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/13/20

Beagles and Books is thrilled 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:

image0.png

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is my first #mustreadin2020 middle grade novel and author Janae Marks celebrates her debut novel’s book birthday tomorrow! Special thanks to the publisher Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins for sharing an ARC at the NCTE convention. 

On aspiring baker Zoe’s twelfth birthday, her life is forever changed when she checks the mailbox and finds a letter from her biological father Marcus who has been in prison her whole life.  While this letter is the first one Zoe has read, she learns that Marcus has been writing her letters for a long time. Curious about a man she has never met who calls her his Little Tomato and loves music, Zoe secretly begins writing to him unbeknownst to her mother and stepfather.  With each letter, she gets to know Marcus better and finds it hard to believe that he is in jail for committing murder.  When Zoe finally gets the courage to ask him about the crime, he not only explains he is innocent but also shares his alibi.  

As if the weight of clearing her father’s conviction isn’t heavy enough, Zoe is also juggling an internship at a local bakery, a possible audition with Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge, and a disagreement with her best friend Trevor.  Fortunately, being honest with both her grandmother and Trevor provides Zoe with support as she searches for the truth. 

Written from Zoe’s point of view, debut author Marks expertly captures the voice of passionate and determined Zoe who is an advocate for her father. Readers see Zoe struggle with lying to her parents but they also see her boldness and urgency in her quest to uncover the truth about her father. Marks tackles tough issues such as institutionalized racism in a way that is accessible for middle grade readers. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is Zoe teaches us that one person can indeed make a difference and how family can forgive each other for making mistakes.

I highly recommend From the Desk of Zoe Washington! Just waiting for my hardcover copy to arrive so I can share with students and teachers!

You Can Do It, Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

You Can Do It, Yasmin is a collection of the four recently published books:

  • Yasmin the Soccer Star
  • Yasmin the Gardener
  • Yasmin the Writer
  • Yasmin the Friend

Each story is a chapter in this bound book.  Faruqi’s Yasmin is a great role model for young readers because while she can be hesitant, she demonstrates perseverance and innovation when faced with a problem. In Yasmin the Soccer Star, Yasmin learns soccer isn’t dangerous with a good coach.  In Yasmin the Gardener, she shows good problem solving skills when her flowers wilt.  In Yasmin the Writer, she realizes that heroes are everyday people.  In Yasmin the Friend, Yasmin’s observation skills help her find a way to get her friends to play a game together. 

Not only do I love Yasmin and her determination, but I also love that she has a strong support system in her parents, grandparents, friends, and her teacher, Ms. Alex (who I especially relate to, for she has short hair like me!)  Aly’s colorful and dynamic illustrations show Yasmin’s range of emotions which makes her very relatable.  Can’t wait to share the latest Yasmin stories with my students!  

Etta’s and 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.

Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

Written in an upbeat rhyme, Odd Dog Out is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that celebrates marching or rather dressing to your drum.  While every dog in the city looks and acts exactly the same, one free spirited female dachshund is the odd dog out. Feeling alone, she leaves her home in search of a place where she will feel more comfortable. After much traveling, she is ecstatic, for she finally finds a place where all the dogs look exactly like her except one dressed completely different.  Feeling empathetic, she consoles this odd dog out only to discover an important lesson.  Uniqueness is something to be proud of!  So when she returns home, the odd dog out is greeted warmly because she was greatly missed.  And it doesn’t take long for the city to embrace that being different is really great, for the last illustrations show the dachshunds proudly showing off their individuality.

There are countless reasons that I love Odd Dog Out. It is visually appealing with lively and colorful illustrations, and the cheery rhyming text begs to be read aloud. Add the powerful message of being true to yourself, which in my opinion means that author/illustrator Biddulph has pulled a hat trick in the world of picture books.  Special thanks to Brianna Robinson of Wunderkind PR for sending me a review copy.  Odd Dog Out recently published on December 3, 2019.

Etta, Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading!

 

happiness-is-a-warm-puppy-and-a-good-book