#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. 

IMG_8807

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/5/21

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:

IMG_8770

The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie by Erin Soderberg Downing

Since Lucy’s mother died, her father, a university professor, threw himself into his research, and the 12 year old became surrogate parent to her two younger siblings, 10 year old Freddy and 8 year old Herb.   Then, out of the blue, their dad announces that one of their mom’s inventions sold for over a million dollars.  To fulfill one of their mom’s dreams, their dad bought a used food truck and the Peach family is going to spend the summer together traveling the Midwest selling pies.  While Freddy and Herb are excited about the opportunity, Lucy is skeptical.  Why is their dad who hasn’t taken a day off in two years suddenly willing to commit a full month to this food truck experiment?  Lucy wanted to think positively that the trip might unite them as a family, but it was difficult given their father’s track record. 

As the Peach family travels from town to town and endure highs and lows running the family business, Downing allows readers to get to know each sibling well.  An avid reader, Lucy is determined to read every book on the seventh grade summer reading list and Downing curated a list so amazing, I may adopt it for myself this summer.  Lucy is very strong person but assumed the role of problem solver not by choice and her frustration is finally manifesting.  Freddy feels he is a plum in a family of Peaches, for his passion is art, creativity, big ideas, and fun facts unlike his siblings and parents.  Throughout the Great Peach Experiment, Freddy though emerges as a natural leader and astute businessman.  While the youngest, Herb is a math whiz and feels he has a lot of contribute to the family business, but begins to feel restless when he was told he was too young to help bake pies, ingredients for his cinnaballs were too expensive or there wasn’t time to find a place to swim.  And while dad believes the main goal is to win top honors at the Ohio Food Truck Festival, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb make him realize that their family is the greatest prize. 

The Great Peach Experiment is a middle grade novel with both heartache, humor and most importantly, hope.  An added bonus were Lucy’s amusing letters to her Great Aunt Lucinda, Freddy’s sketchbook drawing for how he would spend a million dollars, maps, and Herb’s financial updates. Grateful to know that another Peach family adventure awaits in the future. Special thanks to Erin Soderberg Downing for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie releases tomorrow on April 6, 2021. 

IMG_8767

Something’s Wrong? A Bear, A Hare and Some Underwear by Jory John Illustrated by Erin Kraan

One morning, a bear named Jeff woke up and felt like he was forgetting something.  Readers notice right away that Jeff is still wearing the gift from his grandma-underwear! As Jeff takes a stroll through the forest, he still feels odd but clueless.  On his travels, he passes by many animals who look at him in bewilderment.  After Jeff walks away, they all speak directly to the reader uttering the same words “Why is that bear wearing underwear?”  Finally, Jeff realizes he needs to consult with his rabbit friend, Anders, whom he trusts to be honest with him.  Anders immediately knows what’s wrong and candidly tells Jeff what no other animal would say.  When confronted by all the animals,  embarrassed Jeff tries to talk his way out of his predicament, but Anders saves the day by sporting his own pair of tighty whities creating a new fashion trend.

When I read Something’s Wrong to kindergarten students for #classroombookaday, the laughter started on the very first page spread and remained until the end of the story.  John’s hilarious plot and clever solution along with Kraan’s adorably expressive illustrations were such a hit with the kids that asked if I could read it again.  As a an adult, what I loved most is the lesson of friendship.  Anders was indeed a true and trusted friend because not only did he tell Jeff the truth but his actions shows he likes Jeff no matter what he does or wears.  And support is pretty crucial with choosing friends and underwear!  Thanks to Morgan Rath of Macmillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy with Beagles and Books.  Something’s Wrong recently celebrated its book birthday on March 23, 2021. 

Happy Book Birthday to Albert Whitman Picture Books!

IMG_8709

Check out my blog post, Happy Birthday Albert Whitman Picture Books, featuring recently released picture books published by Albert Whitman. Thanks to Albert Whitman for sharing ARCs with my #bookexcursion group. 


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.

IMG_8765

Switched by Bruce Hale

Sloppy and spontaneous are not words that would describe sixth grader Parker Pitts for he likes things neat and orderly.  But with the recent loss of his grandmother Mimi and his older half sister Billie going away to school, he is forced to deal with a lot of change which is a bit overwhelming.  To make matters worst, his parents decide that he is now in charge of Billie’s unruly goldendoodle Boof until she returns home.  He begrudgingly takes care of the Boof, but when the undisciplined Boof gets a hold of Eshu, a trickster statue that was a gift from Mimi, Parker is furious.  As he attempts to save the precious statue, Parker makes a wish.  The very next day, Parkers wakes up in Boof’s furry body and Boof is now inhabiting Parker’s human body.  Given his penchant for cleanliness, it’s no surprise that Parker is not embracing the dog’s life.  In contrast, Boof loves the easy access to food and his free spirited nature makes Parker’s classmates see him in a whole new light.  Will Parker and Boof be stuck forever or figure out a way to switch back?

Reminscient of Freaky Friday, one of my favorite books growing up, Switched is a hilarious recreation. Once the switch happens, I thoroughly enjoyed reading both Parker and Boof’s point of view as they attempt to adjust to their new bodies.  While there are lots of laugh out loud moments, Parker learns valuable lessons about life, for yes, it can be messy and you can’t control and change it.  And if you just let it happen, you start to truly live.  Thanks to Bruce Hale for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Switched releases tomorrow on April 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.

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/8/21

 


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.


Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/8/21”

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/15/21

 

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.

Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/15/21”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Literature, Rockstar Book Tours

Blog Tour & Giveaway for Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd & Michelle Mee Nutter

                                              ALLERGIC                    

About The Book:
Title: ALLERGIC
Author: Megan Wagner Lloyd & Michelle Mee Nutter
Pub. Date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Graphix
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 240
Find it:  GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBDBookshop.org

 

img_8252

Beagles and Books is thrilled to be hosting a spot on the ALLERGIC by Megan Wagner Lloyd & Michelle Mee Nutter Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours.  All opinions are my own.


Publisher’s Summary: 

A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet! At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!  Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.


Review:

In Maggie’s family, her parents are absorbed with getting ready for the new baby and her twin brothers have each other which makes her feel a little left out.   That is all going to change on her tenth birthday.  Why?  Maggie finally gets something to call her own-a dog!  But when she visits the shelter with her family and meets the puppy she wants to adopt, her body reacts differently than her heart.  Maggie’s nose itches and she can’t stop scratching.  Her dream of owning a dog is shattered when she discovers she is allergic to any animal with fur or feathers.  And while hopeful Maggie tries out non-allergic pets, none of them work out long term.

Not only is Maggie feeling lonely at home, but also at her new elementary school.  Fortunately, Claire, who is just one year older, moves in next door and she and Maggie become fast friends until Claire gets a dog.  Feeling betrayed, Maggie distances herself from Claire but after some time, she gets the courage to apologize and explain the true severity of her allergies.  Back to being besties, Claire helps Maggie secretly get a pet mouse but between her allergies flaring up again and her brothers sneaking into her room, Maggie is forced to say goodbye again.  Will Maggie find a way to come to terms with her allergies and her place in the family?

Inspired by her own experiences with allergies,  Lloyd’s text was honest and heartfelt which helps readers identify and connect with Maggie. What I loved most about the story is Maggie’s realization that she is an integral part of her family, for when her mother goes to the hospital, her brothers really need her and once her little sister is born, she feels an immediate bond to this new little soul. Nutter’s warm and dynamic illustrations bring Lloyd’s text to life, perfectly showing her feelings as she experiencing both heartache and joy.

I read a lot of children’s books and Allergic is the first book I have ever read that tackles pet allergies.  But the story is not only about Maggie handling her allergies.  It is a story about how to manage changes in family, school, and friendship–topics that lots of kids can relate to.  I  highly recommend pre–ordering Allergic to add to your home, classroom or school library!


Praise for Allergic!

“Maggie’s inventiveness as she overcomes these trials is showcased through Lloyd’s captivating narrative and Nutter’s bright and dynamic illustrations. The story provides insight into the lives of those with allergies and the accommodations needed to avoid serious episodes … A heartachingly enjoyable tale of resilience.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review 

Readers will root for this realistic and relatable fifth grader, who’s capable of kindness well as envy and self-doubt. Lloyd folds in information about allergy tests, anaphylaxis, EpiPens, and other facts that Maggie and her friend Sebastian, who also has allergies, recite to each other. Layouts rely on three to four large panels per page, creating a smooth visual flow; Nutter’s muted, uncluttered art has a cozy feel … Maggie makes new pals here—she’ll find even more friends in elementary and middle school libraries, where readers will easily identify with her trials and accomplishments.” – SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL 

“A fun and entertaining story.” — BLEEDING COOL 

“The perfect graphic novel for kids of all ages.” — FROLIC 

Allergic is the sweetest story you’ll read all year. A touching chronicle of a young girl’s severe allergies woven into a meaningful journey of friendship, family, and self-discovery.” — Terri Libenson, New York Times bestselling author of Invisible Emmie


Megan Wagner Lloyd (by Seth Lloyd)About Megan:
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD is the author of several picture books, including Paper Mice, Building Books, Finding Wild, and A Fort-Building Time. She lives in the Washington DC area. Visit her online at meganwagnerlloyd.com.

Website | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 


Michelle Mee Nutter (by Greg Marquis)About Michelle: 
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, 3×3 Illustration, Creative Quarterly, and more. Michelle lives in Boston. Visit her online at michellemee.com.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads  

 


Giveaway Details: 
3 winners will win a finished copy of ALLERGIC, US Only.  To enter the giveaway, click the link below.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba21233/

Tour Schedule:
Check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Week One:

2/11/2021

For The Love Of Kidlit

Excerpt

2/12/2021

Beagles and Books

Review

2/13/2021

She Just Loves Books

Review

Week Two:

2/14/2021

Westveil Publishing

Review

2/15/2021

Adventures Of A Travelers Wife

Review

2/16/2021

Nerdophiles

Review

2/17/2021

Pick a good book

Review

2/18/2021

Lifestyle of Me

Review

2/19/2021

Twirling Book Princess

Excerpt

2/20/2021

Not In Jersey

Review

Week Three:

2/21/2021

BookHounds YA

Review

2/22/2021

Kait Plus Books

Excerpt

2/23/2021

Little Red Reads

Review

2/24/2021

A Dream Within A Dream

Excerpt

2/25/2021

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

2/26/2021

Jazzy Book Reviews

Review

2/27/2021

Midnightbooklover

Review

Week Four:

2/28/2021

Hurn Publications

Excerpt

3/1/2021

Locks, Hooks and Books

Review

3/2/2021

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review

CATCH MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD AND MICHELLE MEE NUTTER ON THE VIRTUAL ALLERGIC TOURAllergic Tour - 03.02.21 - Raina Telgemeier

March 2, 2021 5:00 pm (PST) Launch event hosted by Green Apple Books In conversation with Raina Telgemeier (GUTS) 

Allergic Tour - 03.04.21 - Jeff Kinney

March 4, 2021 7:00 pm (EST) Hosted by An Unlikely Story In conversation with Jeff Kinney (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID) 

Allergic Tour - 03.10.21 - Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright
March 10, 2021 4:00 pm (PST) Hosted by The Reading Bug In conversation with Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright (TWINS)

Bit About Books Winter Reading Challenge, Giveaway, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/8/21

 

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:

BB3

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

Living in London during World War II,  Edmund, William and Anna Pearce are orphans again.  Their parents died years ago and now their grandmother has died.  While they do not grieve the loss of their cold, distant grandmother, her death does impact them because she did not name a guardian in her will.  Other considerations are the Pearce children want to stay together and with the war, finding a family to adopt them all poses a challenge.  The solicitor recommends that the siblings join other children who are evacuating the city for the country.  And while the trio are heirs to a comfortable inheritance, this information must be kept a secret until a forever, loving home is found.  

From the very first page, this book had my heart.   The writing is exquisite and has a classic, timeless feel.  While I read, I truly could hear the narrator telling the story.  Each sibling has a distinctive personality which made them endearing.  The children encounter bullying, prejudice, and sheer indifference in their first two placements or billets, but they persevere because of their love for each other and for books.  In fact, books are truly their refuge because books give them warmth on a cold night and hope for someone who thinks they hang the moon, like their mother.  When they find the village lending library and befriend Mrs. Muller, the kindhearted librarian, your heart leaps because you feel a happy ending is looming but patience is required.  And when it does happen, tears of joy occur because a new story is about to begin full with love, promise and of course, lots of books!  Thanks to Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House for sharing an eARC.  A Place to Hang the Moon recently published last week on February 2, 2021.


BB2

Bunbun and Bonbon: Hoppy Go Lucky by Jess Keating

Bunbun and Bonbon are back in the second book of this early graphic novel series.  In the first book, Fancy Friends, Bunbun and Bonbon meet and become fast friends and members  of Team Fancy.  In Hoppy Go Lucky, when a couple of bad things happen,  Bunbun is convinced their luck has run away.   They seek the advice of their wise fox friend, Scout Von Fluffington, who suggest they set a trap to catch their good luck.  Bunbun and Bonbon are optimistic their plan will work using a donut as bait.  While the spunky pair do not trap their luck, they do catch a duck who offers his own tip, but that leads to more bad luck or maybe not because meeting a unicorn named Rosie Stardrop Sparklepants seems pretty fabulous to me.  She gives the duo the best advice of all-as long as you can smile, you will never lose your luck!

With bright and eye-catching illustrations, easy to read dialogue and themes of friendship, problem solving, and positivity, this fun series will be in high demand.  I am so happy that graphic novels are being written with young readers in mind, but I believe readers of all ages will be charmed by Bunbun and Bonbon. Hoping there are more adventures to come in the series.  Hoppy Go Lucky recently published on February 2, 2021.


img_8273

 

Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket by Sue Fliess Illustrated by Annabel Tempest

Told in playful quatrains, Fliess has written an inspirational story encouraging us all to chase our dreams.  What I love most is Sadie teaches us that dreams come true with planning, research, teamwork, determination, and problem solving.  And once a goal is accomplished, another idea can take its place.  Tempest’s bright and exuberant illustrations reinforce the positive themes. At the end of the book, Sadie’s notebook is included which shares facts about Mars as well as women in space.  Sadie motivates us all to be dreamers AND doers!  To read my full review and enter a giveaway, 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.

BB1

First Friend: How Dogs Evolved from Wolves to Become Our Best Friends by Kersten Hamilton Illustrated by Jaime Kim

How did dogs become our best friends?   This picture book uses a nonfiction narrative format to explain to kids how wolves evolved into dogs.  The story begins in the Stone Age.  A young girl and wolf pup meet and play but once they both grow up, their friendship must end, for humans and wolves are rivals hunting the same prey.  Many, many years pass and a young boy living in a hut meets a wolf pup.  They interact more closely with the boy scratching the pup and sharing his food, but like the girl, the relationship does not last although the pair watch each other from afar.   Over time, more children and wolf pups befriend each other.  Their relationship is more intimate trading items, drinking from the same water hole, sleeping side by side, and finally, traveling together to a new home.  On the last page spread, it is now present day and a beagle (yes, a beagle!) and a girl run toward one another full of excitement and love.  

Hamilton’s concise, melodic text and Kim’s warm and radiant illustrations are in perfect harmony.  Words were chosen and art was drawn thoughtfully and with purpose to show how wolves evolved into dogs.  At the end of the book, back matter includes more facts about their progression from competitor to companion as well as a bibliography.  And pay special attention to the gorgeous endpapers, for the front depicts their rival relationship in hieroglyphics and the child-like illustrations of a girl and her dog grace the back endsheets.  Thanks to author Kersten Hamilton and Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for sharing an eARC.  First Friends celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on February 9, 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

img_7161

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, Early Chapter Books, Early Readers, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Novels in Verse, Picture Books

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

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.

Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/11/21”

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/4/21

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.

Continue reading “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/4/21”

#Bookexcursion, Bit About Books Winter Reading Challenge, Middle Grade Literature

Bit About Books Winter 2021 Reading Challenge

Bit About Books

Happy New Year!  I am excited to participate in Bit About Books 2021 Winter Reading Challenge. Special thanks to Kathie MacIsaac for creating the challenge and hosting with Laurie Hnatiuk on their Bit About Books blog. The prompts have given me the opportunity to prioritize reading middle grade books that have been on my TBR list as well as upcoming 2021 releases.  Thanks to the generosity of authors, publishers, and publicists, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read and review some novels before they are published.  If you would like to learn more about the Bit About Books reading challenge which runs from January 1st-March 31st, click here.

The Prompts: 

BAB Reading Challenge

My Choices: 

  • Read any book of your choice (5 points):  We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly (May 2020)

  • Read a book with 100-200 pages (10 points): Some Place More Than Others by Renée Watson (September 2019)

  • Read a book with one word in the title (10 points):  Allergic by Meghan Wagner Lloyd  Illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter (March 2021)

  • Read an author’s debut book (10 points): The Gilded Girl by Alyssa Colman (April 2021)

  • Read a book with an animal main character (15 points):  The Hedgehog of Oz by Cory Leonardo (February 2021)

  • Read a book that has a direction in the title (15 points): Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban (April 2021)

  • Read a book published in 2021 (15 points): The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron (June 2021)

  • Read a book set in a country that is not where you currently live (20 points): A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus (February 2021)

  • Read a book that’s won an award (20 points): Other Words From Home by Jasmine Wargas (May 2019)

  • Read a book with a person’s first or last name in the title (20 points): Lily’s Promise by Kathryn Erskine (May 2021)

  • Read two books by the same author (30 points): I Can Make a Promise (October 2019) & Sea in Winter (January 2021) by Christine Day

Bella and I look forward to sharing our progress and reviews!

beagles & books