#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, 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

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/21/20

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? 12/21/20”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer by Jim Benton

 

About the Book:
Title: Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer
Author/Illustrator: Jim Benton
Pub. Date:  September 15, 2020


Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for Comet The Unstoppable ReindeerSpecial thanks to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


My Review:

After breaking up an elf fight (tensions rise when elves don’t get a day off),  Comet is sporting a sling and cast.   And to make matter worse, the doctor grounds him from his annual Christmas ride with Santa.  Poor Comet is feeling pretty down and alone but then realizes Santa forgot his sack of toys. It’s 2020 so he calls Santa’s cell but with all the noise, Santa doesn’t answer.  

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Comet tries to lift the bag but it’s way too heavy.  Attempts using a lever and a hoist are unsuccessful.  Comet feels defeated until he reads a sweet letter from a boy who asks for a pig on a bike for his little sister.  After seeing that toy at the top of the sack, Comet is now determined to deliver it to the bright yellow house with a bright blue roof. 

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Circling the world, Comet searches for the house and realizes that flying and delivering gifts is a true skill.  He has to battle chimneys, minivans,  geese and hard landings.  Riddled with scrapes, limps, pains, and lumps, Comet is distraught.  How will he ever find the little boy’s house? 

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With a hilarious rhyming text, I laughed out loud after reading each page.  Benton did a fabulous job of keeping the plot moving with each stanza. Comet’s positive traits of helpfulness, diligence, perseverance, and empathy shined through both in the text and bold and energetic cartoon illustrations.  Comet’s feelings are very evident from looking at his expressions.  I especially loved the illustrations showing how moved Comet was when he read the little boy’s letter and later, finally figured out the location of his house (spoiler, but hey, Christmas stories must have a happy ending).

If you are looking for a humorous holiday book with a feel good message, look no further than Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer.  Looking forward to sharing it as a read aloud next week with my students!


 
Praise for Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer!
 
★“Along with being lit up by themes of caring for others and shouldering responsibility, this hilarious seasonal outing offers great read-aloud potential for its regular but natural-sounding metrics and rhyme.” —Booklist (starred review)
 
“You might want to gift this one a little earlier than Christmas so you can read it to your little ones every night leading up to December 25. It’s the adorable (and all-too relatable) tale of Comet, an unstoppable reindeer.” —Parade
 

About the Author/Illustrator:

Jim Benton is the award-winning creator of the New York Times bestselling series Dear Dumb Diary and Franny K. Stein as well as the popular It’s Happy Bunny brand. His books have sold more than fifteen million copies in twenty-five countries and have garnered numerous honors. Like Comet, Jim knows what it’s like to hobble around in a cast; however, he is still learning to fly. Find out more about him at JimBenton.com.


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Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses only). This giveaway is open from Friday, December 11, 2020 through Friday, December 17, 2020 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST.   Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated.  Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my Comet The Unstoppable Reindeer blog tour post.

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/7/20

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? 12/7/20”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for The Snow Dancer by Addie Boswell Illustrated by Mercè López

 

About the Book:
Title: The Snow Dancer
Author: Addie Boswell
Illustrator:  Mercè López
Pub. Date:  December 1, 2020


Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for The Snow DancerSpecial thanks to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


My Review:

No matter your age, there is nothing like waking up and seeing snow blanket your neighborhood.  Sofia is one of the first awake and basks in the quiet.  As she ventures outside, all she can hear is the sound of her feet on the snow–CRINCH, CRUNCH and SLISH SLUSSSSSSSSSSH.  Sofia stops abruptly and her face beams when she sees that the snow on the soccer field has not yet been disturbed.  

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Sofia wastes no time gracefully dancing a whole ballet on the beautiful coating of snow, but her silence is short–lived when a pack of loud and excited kids slide down the hill interrupting her solo.  Fortunately, Sofia’s annoyance is calmed by a small, younger girl wearing fairy wings who sweetly asks “Are you a Snow Fairy?”  Sofia replies “I’m not a fairy. I’m a dancer.” She takes the little girl’s hand and shows her that snow dancers can do ANYTHING.  

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The duo twirl, leap, skate, and slide but a snowball halts their snow dance.  Well, if you can beat them, why not join them?  Tired after the snowball fight, Sofia bids adieu to her new friend. She dances back to her warm home to sip hot chocolate and reminisce about her glorious snow day. 

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With lyrical text and lively illustrations, The Snow Dancer is not only a joy for the ears but also for the eyes. Boswell uses a lot of rich vocabulary to convey Sofia’s actions throughout the story.  For example, she bundled out of her sleeping house.  She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk.  As a reading specialist, exposing children to robust words supports their oral and written language.  Onomatopoeia is also peppered through the text which brings the story to life. As I was reading, I could actually hear the sounds that Sofia was making in the snow.  López’s gorgeous illustrations make the story leap off the page, for Sofia’s movements stepping into the new snow and dancing in the field were both graceful and playful.  I especially love the interaction between Sofia and her young friend which completely changes Sofia’s mood from peeved to pleased.  And the smile on the little fairy’s face when she grabbed Sofia’s hand is so sweet.  

What I love most about The Snow Dancer it is reminds us all of the sheer joy of a snow day.  Being a teacher, I am fortunate to still experience that delight even as an adult.  Here’s hoping that there is snow in the future forecast so we can all enjoy the true magic of a snow day (even if it happens on the weekend)!


Praise for The Snow Dancer!

“A spirited paean to the snow day that will appeal to children and their parents.” —Booklist

“Vivid imagery, onomatopoeia, and supple blue-gradient typography enliven Sofia’s journey as she learns to share her snow day. A dynamic tale of cooperation, adaptation, and friendship.” —Publishers Weekly


About the Author:

Addie Boswell is an artist and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She specializes in murals and picture books that focus on family, community, and the creative power of children. Her recent titles include Go, Bikes, Go! and Go, Boats, Go!, both illustrated by Alexander Mostov, and Five on the Bed, which she both wrote and illustrated. Her debut book, The Rain Stomper, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, was the winner of the Oregon Spirit Award. Learn more about the author at www.addieboswell.com.


About the Illustrator:

Mercè López is an artist from Barcelona, Spain. She holds a degree in illustration from Llotja Art School in Barcelona. Her recent title Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons by Laura Purdie Salas received multiple starred reviews and was named a Center for Children’s Books Gryphon Honor Book, an NCTE Notable Poetry Book, a Kirkus Best Picture Book, and a Parents Magazine Best Kids’ Book, among other accolades. Learn more about the artist at http://www.mercelopez.com and Instagram @mercelopez


 

The Snow Dancer low-res

Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Snow Dancer courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses only). This giveaway is open from Friday, December 4, 2020 through Friday, December 11, 2020 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST.   Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated.  Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my Snow Dancer blog tour post.

 
#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, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for The Rescue Rabbits by Eric Seltzer Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

 

About the Book:
Title: The Rescue Rabbits
Author: Eric Seltzer
Illustrator:  Roland Garrigue
Pub. Date:  November 10, 2020


Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for The Rescue RabbitsSpecial thanks to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


My Review:

If you are animal in trouble, there is no need to fear.  Ace, Chip, Dot, and Spot (also known as the Rescue Rabbits) are here!  Equipped with nifty gadgets such as a Super–Excavator to lift large animals and Rash–Away Lotion to soothe an itchy kangaroo, the Rescue Rabbits are always ready and prepared to help an animal in need. 

Not long after they return to their headquarters, the Rescue Rabbits receive a desperate call from Prince Rex.  And boy, is he in trouble!

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No problem is too big for the Rescue Rabbits!  But the first step to rescuing is finding Prince Rex.  Thankfully, Chip uses their Tracking Device to identify his location.  Once Prince Rex is free of both ants and chopsticks, the last step is getting him down from the tree. Unfortunately, Rex is not fond of ladders or ropes.  But the Rescue Rabbits remain cool and confident working together on a new plan which involves not only Super–Chopper 9000 but also Queen Rex, the prince’s mother.

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Propeller problems may stop other teams but Dot makes sure the Rescue Rabbits fly safely.  Once they reach Prince Rex, his mother’s voice (with the help of the Super–Megaphone) is all he needs to climb down on his own.   Worried about getting in trouble, Prince Rex shows contrition to his mother who warmly accepts not only his apology but also her son in her arms.

As a reading specialist, I have the pleasure of reading to a second grade class daily.  Thanks to Kindle Unlimited, I was able to share a digital version of this entertaining story with them this week.  Before reading, I asked the children to think about what the Rescue Rabbits can teach us.  Here are some of the lessons the students shared.

 

  • Help people.
  • Say you are sorry.
  • Work together.
  • Don’t give up. 

After the students shared their thoughts, we briefly discussed how the characters’ words and actions show positive traits such as responsibility, forgiveness, cooperation, collaboration, resourcefulness, creativity, and perseverance.  With an engaging and fun plot that champions positive virtues and bold and playful cartoon–like illustrations, the students (and this teacher) give The Rescue Rabbits two thumbs up!

 


Praise for The Rescue Rabbits!

“Readers will see in these pages a gentle spoof of cartoons and blockbusters that include endless product tie-ins, but the story also offers an amusing tribute to competency-themed pretend play.” —Publishers Weekly
 

About the Author:

Eric Seltzer received his BFA from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. He worked as a TV graphics designer and an advertising art director before writing and illustrating children’s books. His book Four Pups and a Worm was an IRA/CBC Children’s Book Choice, and The Long Dog was named a Gryphon Award Honor Book. He recently published the board book Arf! Buzz! Cluck! illustrated by David Creighton-Pester. Eric lives with his family in Michigan.

 
About the Illustrator:
 
Roland Garrigue is a prolific children’s book illustrator from Paris who attended art school in Strasbourg, France. His recent books include Cavekid Birthday, written by Cathy Breisacher, and Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters, written by Rachel Kolar. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @rolandgarrigue.

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Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Rescue Rabbits courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses only). This giveaway is open from Friday, November 13, 2020 through Friday, November 21, 2020 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST.   Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated.  Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my Rescue Rabbits blog tour post.