Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! by Trudy Ludwig

Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!

Trudy Ludwig, Author

Patrice Barton, Illustrator

Alfred A. Knopf, Fiction, Jul. 3, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Talking too much, Being a good listener, Social skills

Opening: Owen McPhee doesn’t just like to talk. He loves to talk, morning, noon, and night.

Synopsis:

Owen spends every waking minute chattering away at his teachers, his classmates, his parents, his dog, and even himself. But all that chatter can get in the way of listening to important instructions from the teacher during a science experiment. Not only does he mess up his own project, he messes up another group’s project. His chatter spoils story time. Even his classmate are annoyed and yell “quiet” when they’ve had enough and exclude him from playtime.

When Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis, he resorts to writing down the things he wants to tell his classmates. When he can’t write fast enough, it gives him a perfect opportunity to observe and listen to what others have to say. He may just learn something or have something to offer in a different way.

From the author-illustrator team behind The Invisible Boy comes a bright and lively picture book that captures the social dynamics of a busy classroom while delivering a gentle message about the power  and importance of listening…not only with your ears but with your heart.

Why I like this book:

Trudy Ludwig’s newest treasure, “Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!” is the perfect resource for home and classrooms. Many children — and adults — talk to much. And their nonstop chatter may cause problems, that include loneliness because everyone wants to avoid a chatterbox. But, Ludwig tackles this subject with humor and wisdom as she lets a spirited Owen find his own way of learning to listen to others. Owen doesn’t change overnight, but he realistically works hard to control his chatter. This story also reminds readers that it’s important to put others first. There is so much heart in Owen’s journey.

Ludwig once again teams up with illustrator Patrice Barton, whose colorful pastels are lively and dramatic. Barton brilliantly captures the dynamics between Owen and his classmates through page after page of priceless expressions! Children will also enjoy the great use of speech bubbles, which show how chatty Owen is. Check out the book endpapers.

Resources: The author has prepared Questions for Discussion that teachers can use in the classroom to personalize Owen’s story. Parents will also find the  discussion questions useful.

TRUDY LUDWIG is a nationally acclaimed speaker and an award-winning author who specializes in writing children’s books that help kids cope with and thrive in their social world, including My Secret Bully, Confessions of a Former Bully, and The Invisible Boy. An active member of the International Bullying Prevention Association and a contributor to Sesame Workshop, Trudy has received the Mom’s Choice Gold Award, the IBPA Gold Benjamin Franklin Award, and the NAPPA Gold Medal, and also been recognized as NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Books for Young People. Visit her at Trudy Ludwig on her website. Follow her on Twitter at @TrudyLudwig.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the author.

No Peacocks! – Bird Talk with Harry – Book Giveaway

Book Review and Interview with Harry the Peacock 

Book Giveaway 

No Peacocks!

Robin Newman, Author

Chris Ewald, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Peacocks, Behavior, Humor, Friendship, Teamwork

Synopsis:

Every day, Phil, Jim, and Harry are fed sunflower seeds by the staff who care
 for them at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But one day, they decide they’re sick of seeds. They make a break for the New York City streets in search of pizza or Chinese takeout. But everywhere they go, they’re told “No peacocks!”

So, they try to get an ooey, gooey, delicious meal closer to home. But 
how are they going to sneak into The Cathedral School’s dining hall and get their wings on the school’s world-famous mac ’n cheese? A little plotting, some stolen disguises, and help from the students, and the mission is a go!

Will the peacocks get their mac ’n cheese? Or will their cover be blown, forcing them to fly the coop? This fictional feathered tale was inspired by the real-life beloved celebrity birds living on the Cathedral grounds.

Why I like this book:

Three conniving peacocks with character and so much more. Robin Newman once again entertains readers with her masterful puns — this time bird puns — which will elicit some joyful giggles from children and encourage them to find more puns. The text is funny and the vocabulary rich.

Readers will cheer for these three proud and cocky friends as they plot to steal some of the school’s mac ‘n cheese. Phil, Jim and Harry are quirky, mischievous, and even devious in their pursuit of the cafeteria’s famous specialty. It is a perfect read-aloud at home or in the classroom!

Chris Ewald’s colorful and lively illustrations contribute to the fun-loving antics, hilarity and silliness of this dynamic threesome – Jim Phil and Harry.

I’ve got the inside scoop from none other than, Harry, one of the three resident peacocks.

The Scoop from the Coop: Bird Talk with Harry, the Peacock

This is the real Harry!  Photo courtesy of Robin Newman.

PT: It’s a pleasure to have Harry, the peacock, visiting the blog today. Harry is one of three resident peacocks living on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Harry, thanks for stopping by the blog. First, I have to tell you I’m a HUGE fan of peacocks.

Harry: Thank you! That’s very nice to hear. Peacocks have received a lot of bad press lately.

PT: Did you hear about the woman who was barred from bringing her emotional support peacock on an airplane?

Harry: Oh yes! Poor Dexter! Terrible! I bet if the woman had tried to bring her dog or cat on the plane instead of Dexter, it would have been a very different story. The P.C.L.U., Peacock Civil Liberties Union, has filed a suit against the airline. Phil, Jim, and I have also written letters to our peacock representatives in Washington, D.C.

PT: I have to say, when I think of city “pets,” I normally don’t think of peacocks. Is it rare to have peacocks as pets in Manhattan?

Harry: I’ve never met any other peacocks on the Upper West Side. So, I guess the answer to your question is yes.

PT: Do you get along with the neighborhood dogs?

Harry: That’s a “No” with a capital N! Dogs are the worst! They’re constantly chasing after us. I heard from the hawks, Norman and Madeleine, that a peacock who had lived at The Cathedral before Phil, Jim, and I arrived got into a terrible disagreement with a dog and sadly, it did not end well for the peacock.

PT: I’m so sorry to hear that. Now, the three of you are very much New York celebrities. You’ve been written up in a number of publications, including The New York Times, NY Daily News, Newsday, and Time Out NY. Is it hard being in the limelight all of the time?

Harry: Not at all. The tourists are wonderfully friendly (unlike the dogs) and they’ll often drop snacks on the ground.

PT: Everyone is raving about your new book, No Peacocks! by Robin Newman and illustrated by Chris Ewald. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Harry: Phil, Jim, and I love to eat! Peacocks are omnivores by nature and will eat just about anything. The book is about our quest to get our wings on The Cathedral School’s famous mac ‘n cheese. The book is about friendship, teamwork, and for fun, has a mild sprinkling of fowl behavior.

PT: I have to tell you that when I took my five-year old daughter to Disney World, she had a blast dancing with a white peacock.

Harry: Peacocks do like to shake their tail feathers on the dance floor, especially Phil.

PT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Harry. It’s rare that I get to interview such a New York City celebrity.  No Peacocks! is available in bookstores EVERYWHERE. You can also catch Robin Newman at The Warwick Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, October 6th, from 11 am – 4 pm. Her books will also be available at the Metro NY SCBWI table at the Brooklyn Book Festival for children’s day on Saturday, September 15th, 10 am – 4 pm.

No Peacocks! flew onto bookshelves September 4th. Give No Peacocks! a little book love by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. It will help Robin Newman spread the word.

Book Giveaway: All you have to do is leave a comment below by midnight September 17 and indicate you’d like to win a copy of No Peacocks!, and be a resident of the U.S. Sharing this post on Twitter and FB will also boost your chances of winning. I will announce the winner on September 19.

Website: http://www.robinnewmanbooks.com
Twitter: @robinnewmanbook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She is the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, and Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim, and Harry.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Book provided by the author.

Playing with Osito – Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 27, 2018

Official Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld

Playing with Osito

Lisa Maria Burgess, Author

Susan L. Roth, Collages

Barranca Press, Fiction, March 8, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Bear, Animals, Bilingual, Multicultural, Seasons, Humor

Opening: “It was the end of autumn. The sky was blue, so I went outside to play… At the top of the mountain, I met a baby bear. Osito also wanted to play, but he was cold.”

Synopsis: Osito wants to play, but his fur is growing slowly and he’s got the shivers. The girl thinks covering this baby bear with honey and a coat of wildflowers is a good idea. So with a SCHLOP, schloooooooop, schluup, Osito is happy licking the sticky honey. Osito warms up and he and the girl play. But then they hear a BZZZZ…BZZ…BBBZZZ. The bees arrive and Osito makes a run for the creek!

Osito climbs out of the creek and shivers in the warm sun. So the girl plasters him with honey and rolls him in grass, because bees don’t like grass. But goats do! How will the girl help Osito get warm?

Why I like this book:

This captivating and humorous bilingual story is set in the mountains that traverse the US and Mexico. It is inspired by Lisa Maria Burgess’ childhood memories of playing in the Sierra Madre of Chihuahua. Each page shows both English and Spanish translations on one side and an illustration on the opposite page.

This baby bear has character. Children will cheer Osito as he tries to get warm and giggle at the girl’s amusing and clever attempts to help him. They will enjoy the witty  repetition and have fun guessing what kind of coat the girl will dream up next for Osito.  Each coat she creates for the bear represents the changing seasons of the year: spring flowers, summer grass, autumn leaves and winter snow.

Susan L. Roth’s spirited and brightly colored collage illustrations are exquisite and really make this story sing. She created Osito and much of the landscape with tree bark paper, which has been made in Mexico since precolonial times. Roth’s  illustrations are a unique mixed-media collage of a variety of natural textures that represent many of the items that would be found in the mountains, even the beautiful Lupine and Paintbrush flowers that grow there.

Resources: There are fun facts about the endangered species used in the story  bears, bees and goats, and special flowers and trees known in the Sierra Madre. Children will enjoy learning a bit of English or Spanish as they read the story.  For example a bear is called “los osos” and bees are called “las abejas” in Spanish.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Their mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM: Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD: Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal Bowe, Gokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors
Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and MFL Publishing, Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham, Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

*I received a review copy of Playing with Osito from Barranca Press. The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

Mac Barnett, Author

Jon Klassen, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Humor, Cooperation,

Opening: Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.

Publisher Synopsis: When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

Why I like this story:

Have you ever wondered why wolves howl at the moon? Mac Barnett and John Klassen’s modern-day fable offers an answer in their quirky tale that is filled with dark and outrageous humor. The old-fashioned fairy tale language, “Oh woe is me,” and “Oh shame,” adds drama and charm to the storytelling.

Mouse meets Duck in the wolf’s belly and quickly discovers it is a home of sorts. Says Duck, “I live well! I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.” So the two create a kind of ruckus that make’s the wolf’s tummy ache and manage to get all the food and items they need to live high on the hog.  Readers will laugh out loud at their shenanigans and feel sorry for the gullible wolf.  When a hunter shoots at the wolf, the mouse and duck save the wolf’s life in a very unconventional way.

Klassen’s trademark sepia-toned mixed-media artwork perfectly suits Barnett’s story. There are a lot of details to explore both inside and outside of the wolf, and they add to the humor of the story. The expressive illustrations are priceless. Visit Mac Barnett’s website and Jon Klassen’s website to see illustrations from the book.

Mac Barnett is the author of three books illustrated by Jon Klassen: Extra Yarn, which won a Caldecott Honor and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which won a Caldecott Honor and an E. B. White Award; and Triangle. With Jory John, he is the co-author of the New York Times best-selling series The Terrible Two.

Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book; This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal; and We Found a Hat. He also illustrated two Caldecott Honor Books, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, as well as Triangle, all written by Mac Barnett.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City

Jodi Kendall, Author

Harper Collins, Fiction, Oct. 3, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-11

Themes: Pigs, Animals, City Life, Gymnastics, Belonging, Family Relationships

Book Synopsis: Little pig. Big city. Lots of trouble. Josie Shilling feels invisible. Her family is too big, their cramped city house is too small, and her parents are always distracted.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, her older brother, Tom, brings home a pink, squirmy bundle wrapped in an old football jersey — a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. Her name is Hamlet.

The minute Josie holds Hamlet, she feels an instant connection. But there’s no room for Hamlet in the crowded Shilling household. And who ever heard of keeping a pig in the city? So it’s up to Josie to find her a forever home.

But taking care of Hamlet makes Josie feel special when she usually feels overlooked in a family with five children. And there’s something about Hamlet that reminds Josie of herself.

Why I like this book:

Move over Wilbur, Hamlet’s going to steal your heart. Jodi Kendall’s debut novel is a heartwarming and rollicking story about the unlikely bond between a girl and a piglet runt.  Her story is loosely based on her childhood experience of owning a pet pig and finding it a home.

Hamlet arrives in time to boost eleven-year-old Josie’s self-esteem and give her purpose. At home she feels unnoticed. At gymnastics Josie feels like a freakish giant when all she wants to be is a really great gymnast. Josie’s bond with Hamlet boosts her spirit and helps her find courage and determination.

Readers will enjoy hanging out with Josie, Hamlet and all the Shillings. There are her friends, Lucy from gymnastics, and the Three Stoops gang, who work together to create a plan for finding Hamlet a home. The clock is ticking, Hamlet is growing, and Josie and her friends have until New Year’s Day to find a home for Hamlet.

There is heart, connection, humor and unexpected plot twists. After all, Hamlet is a one smart pig who learns quickly to use a litter box, fetch a flying Frisbee, open the fridge door, and climb the bunk-bed ladder. Although this pig causes a lot of mayhem, he unites Josie’s family during some challenging times. Readers will cheer for Hamlet!  Verdict: It’s a winner!

Fans of this piglet story will be delighted to know that there will be a sequel in the fall of 2018. Visit Jodi Kendall on her website.

Resources:  The author has included a curriculum guide on her website for activities and classroom discussions.

Jodi Kendall grew up in the Midwest with her family of seven and their household of countless pets, including hamsters, ducks, dogs, rabbits, an iguana, and, yes . . . even a farm pig!  You can find Jodi typing away at home in New York City, where she’s still an animal lover at heart. Jodi holds an MFA from the University of Arizona and is an active member of SCBWI. Visit Jodi at her website.

Greg Pattridge is hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Author Shannon Messenger has been on a whirlwind tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7. Thank you Greg for keeping the MMGM family together!

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

Sean Taylor, Author

Jean Jullien, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Jul. 11, 20017

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Monster, Scary story, Courage, Halloween

Opening: Hello, Little Monster. What do you want to do today? 

Publisher Synopsis: Our author would like to write a funny story, but his main character — Monster — has a different idea. He wants to be the star of a chilling, petrifying, utterly terrifying SCARY story. But scary stories . . . well, they can be very scary — especially for their characters! Particularly when they involve dark forests and creepy witches and spooky houses . . . Oh yikes and crikes, this is definitely not the scary story Monster had in mind! Maybe he wants to be in a funny story after all!

Why I like this book:

Sean Taylor has written a playful and clever story about the antics of a Monster who wants to star in a scary story, as long as he is the one doing the scaring. Taylor assumes the role of the narrator and commentator for Monster. The story is character driven and focuses entirely upon Monster. The text flows nicely as the narrator tries to help the Monster set the scene and select the characters. There is only one problem, the Monster doesn’t like dark forests, haunted houses, ghosts and witches.

This is a great example where Jean Jullien’s colorful, bold and creepy illustrations deliver a funny response, much to the delight of readers. The words and illustrations depend upon each other. Readers will focus on the hilarious facial expressions.  I Want to Be in a Scary Story is adorable and has a great ending. It is a perfect Halloween book for children.

Resources: Read the book again and have them help make up other stories for Monster. Give them paper and markers and let them make their own scary story. This is also a time to talk about what scares your child and what makes them feel safe.

Sean Taylor is an author, storyteller, and teacher who has written more than forty books for young children, including Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!, A Brave Bear and Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise.

*I won I Want to Be in a Scary Story on Mia Wenjen’s website, Pragmatic Mom. Visit her wonderful diverse children’s literature site.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit her website.

Books for Nourishing Friendship Series by Michael Genhart

Today I am sharing three new children’s titles that are part of Books for Nourishing Friendship Series, by author Michael Genhart and illustrator Steve Mack. They are captivating, funny and carry a powerful message that school children will understand.  They were published by Magination Press on Aug. 7, 2017, just in time for school.  The books are suitable for children ages 4-7 years.

Peanut Butter & Jellyous…sometimes friendships get sticky

Synopsis: Peanut Butter & Jellyous is a playful story about two best friends — Peanut Butter and Jelly. They are always together. When Peanut Butter wants to hang out with other friends, Jelly is very sad and jealous. Peanut Butter encourages Jelly to meet some new friends. They realize that they can explore new friendships with different kids and preserve their own original friendship.  The more friends, the merrier.

Themes: Best Friends, Friendship, Jealousy, Food

Cake & I Scream!…being bossy isn’t sweet

Synopsis: Cake & Ice Cream! is a story about a Cake who likes to spice things up and his best friend, Ice Cream who is cool and tries to get his way by being loud and bossy. When Ice Cream wants something, he wants it right now — even at the expense of knocking over Hot Fudge and demanding Sprinkles come to a party but not Nuts. When Candle gets burned out and leaves in a huff, Ice Cream finds himself sad and alone.  Ice Cream soon learns that screaming at everyone is a fast way to lose friends. Perhaps being bossy isn’t sweet at all!

Themes: Friendship, Ice Cream, Cake, Being Bossy

Mac and Geeeez!…being real is what it’s all about

Synopsis: This is a whimsical story about Mac and Cheese, who are best friends. When they are together, they get along really well. But when Cheese starts cutting up and showing off, he really grates on Mac’s nerves.  Cheese tries too hard to be popular by acting like someone he’s not and in all the wrong ways. Eventually, Cheese realizes he doesn’t have to be the “Big Cheese” and that being his warm self is the best way to be.

Themes: Friendship, Macaroni, Cheese, Getting attention in all the wrong ways

Why I like the Books for  Nourishing Friendship Series:

Michael Genhart’s text is lively, lyrical and will charm young children. He uses fun food word play and a good dose of humor in all three books.

Children will relate to strong and memorable characters that jump off the pages, identify with their friendship problems and learn some learn new strategies for coping. The characters deal with their own issues and do their own problem solving in all three stories — no adults involved.

Steve Mack’s illustrations are bold and colorful and explode off each pages. He captures the priceless expressions of the characters, which will make kids laugh out loud. Children do their own problem solving in all three stories. No adults involved.

Resources: This series will be a winning one with children. They are perfect classroom books for the beginning of a new school year. The three books include a Note to Parents and Educators with information about jealousy, bossy behavior, getting attention in all the wrong ways, and strategies to help guide children to cope and behave while being mindful of others’ feelings.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

The Great Treehouse War

Lisa Graff, Author

Philomel Books, Fiction, May 16, 2017

Suitable for Ages : 8-12

Themes: Parents, Divorce, Interpersonal relationships, Friendship, Tree houses, Humor

Synopsis: On the last day of fourth grade, everything in Winnie’s world changed. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced and decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time  evenly. Before the divorce, her parents didn’t care much about holidays except Thanksgiving. When her mother realized she was never going to celebrate Thanksgiving with Winnie because it fell on Thursday, she decided to pick a new holiday and celebrate it better. The competition began and soon every day was a special holiday, as each parent tried to outdo the other: Ice Cream Sandwich Day, Underwear Day, National Slinky Day, Talk Like Shakespeare Day, and so on. Winnie was kept so busy, she couldn’t study or finish her homework. Wednesdays in the Treehouse became a sanctuary with her cat, Buttons. When her teacher warned her she was at risk of  not passing fifth grade, Winnie had enough. That’s when Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted.  That seed  grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decided that the only way to change things was to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses.  Her friends ,who have their own parent issues,  decided to join her. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten demanding kids in one treehouse, Winnie discovered that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast!

Why I like this book:

Lisa Graff’s witty storytelling makes The Great Treehouse War a superb summer read for kids. And it will fulfill any child’s dream of wanting to live in a treehouse — especially a two-story treehouse built 15 feet off the ground.  It is equipped with a bathroom, art station, skylights, bookshelves, a toaster oven, shelves full of fruit loops and a zip line escape to Winnie’s Uncle Huck’s house.

It is a cleverly designed book by Graff for kids who are in fifth grade and preparing to move on to middle school. It offers readers both tantalizing prose and humorous drawings and doodles, maps, sticky note comments, how-to instructions, plans, and treehouse rules. It has a comic book appeal to it and is perfect for the intended age group.

There are 10 Tulip Street kids with 10 very distinct and quirky personalities, which add to the fun and mayhem. Their diversity is uneventful, because the only way you know they are diverse is by their names like Winifred Malladi-Maraj (aka Winnie). Winnie is a spunky, creative, compassionate and courageous heroine.  She possesses what she and Uncle Huck describe at “artist vision,” where she is able to intuitively observe the needs of others. Her cat, Buttons, is the greatest cat in the world.  Other memorable characters include: Lyle and his tooth collection; Jolee the scrabble champ; Greta and her friendship bracelets; the twins Brogan the acrobat and Logan the jokester; and Tabitha and her lizards.

The plot is wacky and unique because Winnie’s divorced parents have her trapped in the middle of their selfish battle for equal access to their daughter. Any child being pulled in two different directions by divorced parents, will relate to the unfairness of it all.  Graff’s silly and sometimes outrageous approach to divorce is age appropriate and makes the topic easier to digest. There are other unusual subplots that make this book such a clever read, but I won’t spoil it for readers.

Lisa Graff is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of A Clatter of Jars, Lost in the Sun, Absolutely Almost, A Tangle of Knots, Double Dog Dare, Sophie Simon Solves Them All, Umbrella Summer, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, and The Thing About Georgie. You can visit Lisa Graff at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

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The Warden’s Daughter

Jerry Spinelli, Author

Alfred A Knopf, Fiction, Jan. 3, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Growing up in a prison, Motherless, Grief, Coming of age, Courage

Opening: “It’s a BIRDHOUSE NOW. It used to be a jailhouse. The Hancock County Prison…It looks like a fortress from the Middle Ages…The prison was a city block long. It was home to over two hundred inmates, men and women, from shoplifters to murders. And one family. Mine. I was the warden’s daughter.”

Synopsis: Cammie O’Reilly lives in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Jail in Pennsylvania with her father, the warden. She’s twelve years old and motherless. Her mother was killed in a tragic accident when she was a baby.  Cammie spends much of her time mad at the world and heaven.  She searches for mother figures in the only women she knows — the inmates she spends her mornings hanging out with in the women’s exercise yard. They are not ideal candidates, like the  flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo. But she settles on trying to make the family’s housekeeper, Eloda Pupko, her mother figure. Eloda understands Cammie better than anyone. She see’s Cammie’s torment, knows she is headed for trouble, and helps her grieve in an unexpected way.

Why I liked this book:

Spinelli’s novel will tug at reader’s heart-strings from the first page. This compelling and emotionally deep novel is a coming of age story about a troubled teen who has never really dealt with the tragic death of her mother — a mother she never had the chance to know. Instead she’s grown up in an odd and cold atmosphere not meant for a child. And she yearns for the warmth of a loving relationship with a mother and family. The subject of grief is realistically tackled with honesty and sensitivity.

Spinelli’s novel is fast-paced, tightly plotted, and the tension palpable. It will keep readers engaged. The story is driven by a cast of colorful characters who are dealing with their own demons. They add for many somber and humorous moments to the story. Cammie’s narrates the story with her strong voice, fiery personality and a determination that earns her the nickname Cannonball. She’s in danger of lighting the fuse, as her anger reaches a boiling point over the summer.

Readers will enjoy exploring the prison fortress and life behind bars, visiting the death tower with its dangling noose and hanging salamis, spending time in the prison exercise yard and meditation area, and walking the forbidden outside deck.

Jerry Spinelli is the author of many books for young readers, including Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Milkweed; Crash; Maniac Magee, winner of the Newberry Medal; Wringer, winner of a Newbery Honor; Eggs; Jake and Lily; and Knots in my Yo-yo String, his autobiography.  Visit Jerry Spinelli at his website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne

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The Thing About Leftovers

C.C. Payne, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Jul. 19, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes: Divorce, Family Relationships, Cooking Contest, Friendships

Synopsis: 12-year-old Fizzy is dealing with a lot of change in her life since her parents divorce, including a new stepmother. She’s moved to a new town, Lush Valley, where yards are manicured and the girls at school dress like models. Fizzy doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere — at home with her mother’s new boyfriend or her father’s perfect wife. She also is on the wrong side of the principal and her math teacher because she’s always tardy; her mother always runs late. Fizzy’s life seems to focus around constantly packing and unpacking her suitcase as she is shuffled back and forth between her parents homes every week. She feels like a leftover, no matter how hard she tries to be perfect.

Fizzy is luck to have her Aunt Liz, who shares Fizzy’s passion for southern cooking. When her aunt tells her about the Southern Living Cook-Off, Fizzy is fired up. Cooking is a distraction for Fizzy. So she and her aunt begin sorting through possible family recipes. Fizzy is talented at taking a recipe and making it her own.  She’s excited about the famous cooking contest, her new friendships with Miyoko and Zach, and her dream of winning. If she succeeds, maybe her parents will notice and love her.

Why I like this book:

C.C. Bell has written a novel that will have universal appeal for teens dealing with the complexities of divorce, separation, parental loss, step-parents and blended families. Payne’s skillfully weaves the metaphor of left-overs throughout the story to depict Fizzy’s predicament. People aren’t crazy about eating left-overs, just as Fizzy feels like she’s “the left-over kid from a marriage and a family that no longer exists.” Her parents are so preoccupied with their own lives, she feels invisible and not appreciated.

The book is character-driven and the plot is realistic. It is an entertaining read about a tough topic. Fizzy narrates the story. Payne nails Fizzy’s dramatic, sarcastic, and witty voice. She digs deeply into Fizzy’s turmoil and her tendency to internalize her hurt feelings, which is a big problem for her. Instead of talking over her worries with her parents, aunt  or a school counselor, she lets everything simmer until her pain reaches a boiling point. Perhaps readers will learn from Fizzy and make different choices about their own lives. Others will cheer for Fizzy. Verdict: Be ready to both cry and laugh as you read The Thing About Leftovers! It’s a winner!

For teens who enjoy cooking, this book would pair nicely with the Baking Life of Amelie Day, about a girl with Cystic Fibrosis who competes in a cooking contest. Each protagonist has a different challenge, but the cooking themes link these two novels and makes them satisfying reads.

C.C. Payne is the author of Something to Sing About, Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair.  Visit C.C. Payne at her website.

Note: A special thank you to Rosi Hollinbeck. I won the copy of this novel on her blog, The Write Stuff,  last September. I really enjoyed spending my evenings with Fizzy in The Thing About Leftovers.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.