Happy Book Birthday to TWINCHANTMENT, by Elise Allen!

'"Let's not wait until a better way comes along--let's make a better way come along. Our Ascension Ceremony's next week, right?  Once it's over, and we're officially in line for the throne, let's just tell the truth!" 

"The truth?"  Flissa echoed.  "About us?"'

This magical adventure features princess twins who must pretend that they are one person.  What an incredible hook!  I found this story engaging, fast-paced, intriguing and filled with mystery.  The sisters perfectly balance each other out in a way that's heartwarming and hilarious.  Themes of loss, loyalty, friendship, teamwork, trust, illness, death, and grief will get readers thinking and talking.  I can't wait to find out what happens as the story continues in book two! 

Three Perfect Picture Books

"Nothing like a frosty cold drink," said the bear. '"So much better than 
the forest-temperature drinks at home."

THE GREAT INDOORS, by Julie Falatko and Ruth Chan is a clever and witty, as usual. Julie Falatko creates a whimsical world where animals take their vacation in someone's house. Filled with the hulla-baloo of animals in a house, the adventures don't stop until the very last page when you discover....well, I won't ruin the surprise. Such a fun read aloud, and good book for laughs.










Bare bear... "Stop right there!  You should be wearing underwear!!!"


Happy Book Birthday to UNDEREWEAR! Jenn Harney's rhyming text and expressive illustrations make this the kind of story that readers will want to read aloud over and over again. It starts with a bang and continues to make readers laugh with hilarious illustrations and clever text. 







Once again, the tree branches 
gracefully swayed back and forth
and leaves floated down.

Lawrence studied the leaves as he gathered them--the 
yellow one with rounded edges.

LAWRENCE IN THE FALL, by  Matthew Farin and Doug Salati is a beautiful story about a little fox who needs to show his collection at school. But, he doesn't have a collection! Little Fox forages the forest with Papa, eventually finding a beautiful collection of his own. Expressive illustrations combine with lyrical text to create the kind of story that will evoke discussion about nature, trees, collections, getting lost, and show and tell. 





Why you should read BAT and the End of Everything, by Elana K. Arnold


"I thought she was getting a ride home with Ezra," Bat said. He knew his voice sounded whiny, but he couldn't make it sound different.

A BOY CALLED BAT and BAT AND THE WAITING GAME, are two of my favorite recent chapter books. BAT AND THE END OF EVERYTHING is the perfect end to the trilogy. It masterfully shows the inner life of an autistic boy. Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book is fun to read and will resonate with kids and adults alike. The friend and family relationships and portrayal of autism and it's challenges are authentic and compelling.

BAT is quirky, likable and genuine. His reactions to the world and to other people show how he misunderstands people's cues, yet it is obvious that his intentions are always good. Throughout the book, people misunderstand BAT'S good intentions, particularly when he speaks very literally without realizing how it will make others feel. 

In this third book, BAT has a better understanding of how other people might misunderstand him and keeps some of his thoughts to himself in a way he wouldn't have earlier. His sibling relationship has changed also. Janie, his older sister seems to understand BAT better and voluntarily spends time with him. She also has hard days in this book which helps BAT realize that he's not the only one who struggles. 

I love how well BAT cares for Thor, his skunk, how much he worries about releasing Thor into the wild, and how both Thor and BAT calm down when they are together. The book covers themes of loss, autism, divorce, diversity, pet care, parents dating new people, friendship, siblings, and connection.

I highly recommend all three books! Both my 8 year old son and I found each one compelling and thought provoking.


BAT AND THE END OF EVERYTHNG
By Elana K. Arnold
Published by Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780062798442

About the Book
Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) ahs been the caretaker for Thor, the best skunk kit in the world…but the last day of third grade is quickly approaching, and Thor is almost ready to be released into the wild. The end of school also means that Bat has to say good-bye to his favorite teacher, and he worries about the summer care of Babycakes, their adorable class pet. Not only that, but his best friend is leaving for a long vacation in Canada.
Summer promises good things, too, like working with his mom at the vet clinic and hanging out with his sister, Janie, but Bat can’t help but feel that everything is coming to an end.
National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold returns with the third story starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.



Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including Damsel a Michael Prinz Honor Book, and What Girls are Made of, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com


March 26             Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 27             Kirsti Call @kirsticall
March 30             Read Now Sleep Later @frootjoos
April 1                  BluestockingThinking @bluesockgirl
April 2                  The BoookMonsters @thebookmonster
April 3                  Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @melissaguerrette
April 4                  Librarian’s Quest @loveofxena
April 5                  Novel Novice  @novelnovice
April 6                  Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders
April 7                   Lit Coach Lou @litcoachlou


Must Read March Releases!

The universe poured into me.
My brain was overloaded.
It smoke and glowed red-hot. And then
it actually exploded.

My 8 year old son and I read THE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD  in one sitting. We both loved the playful language, humor, and interesting facts embedded in each poem. Anyone interested in astronomy will find this a delightful read. Whimsical illustrations enhance the well chosen words to create a true work of art.









Birds are like thoughts. They come, stay awhile...and then fly away. They fly where their hearts call them. Birds are free. They make our imaginations soar.
I adore bird books! BIRDS's lovely lyrical text combines with whimsical illustrations to produce the perfect read-aloud. I love how it starts with different types of birds and what they do and then ends with how birds are metaphors for life! Kids will enjoy the colorful illustrations and the variety of birds on each page. This book is truly a work of art.







It all started yesterday when my roommate, Barbra, got out her new recorder. She only knows this one terrible song and keeps playing it over and over again. I hate the recorder! And you're not even allowed to use the word hate. But I just did, so there.

Reminiscent of THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, this hilarious and interactive book will joke your child right out of a bad mood. The idea of an angry cookie is comical and Cookie's strong personality shows kids that feelings aren't permanent and it's okay to feel mad sometimes. This is a great book to evoke discussion around how thoughts leads to feelings and how to deal frustration. ANGRY COOKIE is a super fun read aloud!




Circle closed her eyes. "I wonder," Circle said. "What kind of shape was it?"

CIRCLE is an interesting book about friendship, overcoming fears and imagination. I love all the Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen books--the illustrations perfectly compliment the sparse text. Although I found the ending intriguing, I felt I was left hanging in the end. Perhaps this is another thing we can learn from this book--not all mysteries will be unshrouded!






What new releases have you read recently?

The Fairest Kind of Love, by Crystal Cestari

"Out of wishes, and out of time, I decide to make what I'm sure will be an Amber Sand Top Five Worst Choice Ever..."

Happy Book Birthday to THE FAIREST KIND OF LOVE, by Crystal Cestari!


Although I never read the first two books, in this series, I ADORED this book. This story is filled with mystery, complex characters and magical teens who never do what their parents want them to do. I love Crystal Cestari's story voice and can't wait to read the first two books in the series.

This is the perfect entertaining romance--all about a matchmaker whose skills are on the fritz, who only wants to see matches again and help people find their true loves. So. Much. Fun. 




"Sharp wit makes [Cestari's heroine, Amber Sand] an authentic and relatable narrator as she's forced to learn how to see the magic in everyday."--Publishers Weekly

"This cute take on paranormal romance is stuffed full of entertaining supernatural creatures: a nightclub-owning vampire, a high school siren, a gold-digging leprechaun...more adventures to come."--Booklist

More about the book: 

Amber Sand has spent half her life solidifying other people's happily-ever-afters. As a matchmaker, she has the ability to look into anyone's eyes and see their perfect match. But lately, her powers have been on the fritz, and not only is she totally unsure whether her matches are true, she can't see anyone in the eyes of her boyfriend Charlie Blitzman. With Amber and her friends graduating high school and about to take off for various colleges, Amber is hoping to have one last carefree summer-but she's also dying to find a way to fix her powers, and learn, for better or worse, if she and Charlie are truly meant to be.

So when an online matchmaker named Madame Lamour comes to Chicago, Amber sets out to talk to her and find out who her match is once and for all. Of course, when it comes to the magical community, nothing's ever that easy, and Amber soon finds herself caught up in a breathless showdown that involves a fairy family feud and a magical-creature auction--and requires teaming up with a certain siren nemesis. Can Amber and her friends save the day one more time before setting off for their new lives? And will Amber ever learn whether Charlie is her one true love?

With tons of laugh-out-loud moments, appearances by all your favorite characters, and one totally tearful reveal, you won't want to miss a single swoony moment of this romantic conclusion to the Windy City Magic trilogy.

More about the author:  

Crystal Cestari lives just outside Chicago with her daughter.  Her hobbies include avoiding broccoli and wanders the aisles at Target.  She holds a master's degree in mass communications, and writes all her stories longhand.  She is also the author of the first two books in the Windy City Magic series, THE BEST KIND OF MAGIC and THE SWEETEST KIND OF FATE.  Visit Crystal at www.crystalcestari.com and on Twitter @crystalcestari

Jed and the Junkyard Rebellion, by Steven Bohls

"Who Am I?

He tried to think.  The image of a burning heat melting his mind surfaced.  He shook his head.  Memories felt buried and looked blurry--dreams he could not remember.

What am I?"

Happy happy book birthday to JED AND THE JUNKYARD REBELLION, the perfect companion to JED AND THE JUNKYARD WAR!  Quirky, magical, steampunk with genuine surprises combined with a fast plot and wacky world building make this a must read.  The book reminded me of Serenity and Cinder; filled with danger and humor at the same time.  Themes of friendship, loyalty, temptation, choices, heroism, love, adoption and family will evoke discussion and thought.  As Jed discovers his true potential, the reader is swept up in his journey and how he transforms from scrawny inept boy into a self assured, powerful, literal golden boy. 






The Simple Art of Flying, by Corey Leonardo

Happy happy book birthday to THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING by Corey Leonardo--a breathtakingly beautiful book. The stunning cover, lyrical writing, and 3 points of view makes this a phenomenal debut novel. Since the story is told through poetry, prose, letters and a medical log, each character is distinct, complex and relatable.

I love Alistair, the African Grey Parrot whose intellect and determination to escape to be with his sister drive almost all of his actions. He writes the most beautiful poetry. One of his poems is written after Bertie (POV #2-- a grieving old woman who writes letters to her dead husband), attempts to teach him his colors:
"That ribbon is not BLUE--
It's ghost-whale ocean-dust.
That couch-it's not pink--
It's pearl-berry petal-wisp..."


Fritz is the 12 year old aspiring doctor whose differences make it hard for him to make friends. His medical logs and interactions with other characters in the story help us understand his fears, his longing to connect with his father, and the price he's willing to pay for friendship. The book covers themes of grief, loyalty, hard work, friendship, family love, pet/owner relationships, freedom, depression, anxiety, and discovering that you've always had what you needed all along. 

THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu Plus GIVEAWAY!

"Thoughts fluttered frantically around Lark's head, looking for somewhere to roost. Iris was keeping things from her. Iris was sad. Iris was crying in camp. Iris was skipping camp. Iris had been wound up so tightly, and now she was unwinding everywhere. 'Something's wrong, Lark said quietly. 'really wrong.'"

I read this stunning story about identical twin girls in one day. This magical book captivates with beautiful writing, complex characters, and realistic relationships. Anne Ursu does an incredible job of putting you inside the head of 5th grade girls. She interweaves a plot filled with mystery, emotion and humor. The book encompasses themes of doubt, fear, loyalty, love, family, friendship, monsters (literal and figurative), feeling different, and being ok with being different. 

To win a copy of this book, comment on this post. If you share on facebook or twitter, you get another entry. Giveaway closes in one week. 

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different.
    When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story  starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive,  dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each  other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.
    When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different  classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself  as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city  around them: things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand  that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

PRAISE FOR THE LOST GIRL

“The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island

“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts

“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)


Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com










FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 2: About to Mock
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 3: Novel Novice
MONDAY FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 7: Kirsticall.com
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 9: Book Monsters
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club

William Wakes Up, by Linda Ashman

Happy Book Birthday to WILLIAM WAKES UP, by Linda Ashman and Chuck Groenink!  It's a darling combination of THE LITTLE RED HEN and TEN LITTLE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED.

"On a quiet morning,
sleepy and still,
William looks out on
a moss-covered hill.

He hears a faint and distant tune,
and says, "My friend will be here soon.
it's been a long and wintry wait--
we need a cake to celebrate!"

Expressive illustrations combine with the rhyming and lyrical text to make a delightful and whimsical read aloud. The premise of celebrating Spring with some spring cleaning, a cake, and a party with the birds is super fun--perfect read aloud for a wintry day when we need a little sunshine in our lives!


SIX MG AND YA READS FOR 2019

I’ve decided that 2019 is going to be my best year ever. Here are 6 books that have already paved the way for my best reading year yet!
  1. The SECRETS OF TOPSEA middle grade series by Kir Fox & M. Shelly Coats delightfully suprised me. The first book, A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT’S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!, is filled with interesting characters and wacky circumstances, It’s the kind of book that makes you laugh and wonder. The story follows Davy’s journey as he figures out the town and how to make friends. By the end he’s figured out who he really is. At least we think he has. This book keeps you guessing until the very end.
2. THE EXTREMELY HIGH TIDE, is a quirky, whimsical, perfect follow up to the first book. The complex cast of characters and fast paced plot make for a delightful read. I especially love that the story includes kids with challenges without labeling them as challenged. It covers themes of friendship, loyalty, autism, introversion, inclusion, teamwork and acceptance. This is the kind of book that takes you by surprise and evokes discussion.
3. DRAGON PEARL, a middle grade by Yoon Ha Lee is available today! Filled with humor, intrigue, and interesting characters, this book combined space opera and Korean Mythology.
Thirteen year old Min, a fox spirit, runs away from home to find her older brother, clear his name, and find the dragon pearl so she can save her planet. The quest is riddled with twists and turns, complex decisions and fast paced action and dialogue. I found the read compelling and the story thought provoking. This book will evoke discussions of family, grief, loss, trust, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship.
4. THE CAMELOT CODE, THE ONCE AND FUTURE GEEK, by Mari Mancusi, is the kind of fractured story I love to read. What would King Arthur do if he traveled to the future and learned about all the trouble he would have at the end of his life? This middle grade novel is filled with twists, interesting characters, and references that will make people laugh. Both hilarious and heartwarming–definitely worth the read!

5. Somehow I missed THE SKIN I’M IN, a YA by Sharon G. Flake the first time it was released 20 years ago. Disney Hyperion released it again recently. Just. Wow. Powerfully written, compelling and relatable. Maleeka’s middle school struggles are moving and will resonate with anyone who is scared of the consequences of their choices. This book should be, and is required reading!
6. Released recently by the new press, Page Street, I was delightfully surprised by HOME AND AWAY, a new YA by Candice Montgomery. Beautifully written, complex, thought provoking. It’s the kind of book that covers race, discrimination, friendship, the meaning of love, family, betrayal, and everything in-between. I finished reading it on New Years day. It felt like the perfect read to start my best reading year yet.
What are you reading this year?
*This was originally posted on Writer's Rumpus, here.