Monday, January 22, 2024

Blog Tour: Not Quite a Ghost by Anne Ursu

When Violet Hart's growing family moves into an old house for more space, she is less-than-thrilled when she discovers her new bedroom is in the attic and is plastered with a hideous yellow wallpaper. It isn't long after her family moves into the house that Violet falls ill from a mysterious virus -- that keeps her feeling sick for weeks afterwards, with no answers from her doctors. In fact, not only do her friends question whether Violet is really sick, but so do her doctors. Due to her malaise, Violet spends a lot of time in her creepy room... and she eventually starts to wonder if she's actually alone up there and also how much of her mysterious illness is related to whatever is living (or dead) in her room. 

Not Quite a Ghost is a book that any adult that has taken enough literature classes in college will immediately make the connection to the famous short story by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, "The Yellow Wallpaper." In that story, a woman is left alone to "recover" from her postpartum depression by being isolated alone up in a room where she eventually descends into madness. Instead of postpartum depression, the main character in Not Quite a Ghost is a young 6th grade girl who is being told by her friends and the medical community that there is nothing wrong with her and everything she is experiencing is in her head. So in that regard, it is a book about medical gaslighting and the very real damage it causes to real people, disguised as a ghost story. 

I  am generally not a fan of fantasy stories because so often they are hard to follow and lack fully realized and empathetic characters. But because Ursu writes characters that feel like real people, I find myself not being able to stop turning the pages of her books. Not only is Violet a protagonist you root for, but there are a lot of other wonderful characters in this book that you fall in love with, including Violet's mother and stepfather, which is unusual in children's literature to have supportive and competent parents. 

I look forward to recommending this book to readers, kids and adults alike, who are experiencing any sort of chronic illness that has resulted in being written off by their doctors, as they will most certainly see themselves in this story. 

Not Quite a Ghost Educator guide


Anne Ursu 
is the author of acclaimed novels The Troubled Girls of Dragomir AcademyThe Lost GirlBreadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, among others. Her work has been selected as a National Book Award nominee, a Kirkus Prize finalist, and as a best book of the year by Parents MagazinePublishers Weekly,, and School Library Journal. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an unruly herd of cats. Find Anne online at



January 16 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

January 17 A Library Mama (@librarymama)

January 18 Charlotte's Library (@charlotteslibrary)

January 21 Teachers Who Read (@teachers_read)

January 22 Bluestocking Thinking (@bluesockgirl)

    ReadWonder (@patrickontwit)

January 23 A Foodie Bibliophile In Wanderlust (@teacherlibrarianbeth)

January 25 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers (@grgenius)


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Blog Tour: No One Leaves the Castle by Christopher Healy

Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is one of my all-time favorite middle grade series (read my review here). So when Walden Pond Press asked if I would like to participate in a blog tour for Healy's newest book, I was elated. But then when I discovered it took place in the same world as the Hero's Guide, I was even more excited. My entire reading experience wasn't just about following along with the mysterious quest of the main character in this novel, but also to find all of the Easter eggs from the Hero's Guide (I will have to re-read the series to find them all, I'm sure). 

My favorite thing about Christopher Healy's books is that because he leans into humor rather than drama, that makes the fantasy setting more bearable for someone like me who doesn't love fantasy novels. Because I'm too busy laughing, I don't have time to think about how I normally shy away from fantasy. 

If you or a young reader in your life love mystery, fantasy, and humor, add No One Leaves the Castle to your TBR! And most importantly, you don't have to have read The Hero's Guide series to enjoy No One Leaves the Castle (but I recommend you read it sometime in your life because it's one of the funniest series in all of children's literature). 

Agatha Christie meets the Brothers Grimm in an unexpected, hilarious, and wholly original new fantasy-mystery from the beloved author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

The Lilac. The bard songs say that she’s the world’s most fearsome bounty hunter. That there’s no criminal she can’t catch, no mystery she can’t solve.

None of that is true. Yet.

In reality, the Lilac is just a kid, and the bard who wrote all that is her best friend, Dulcinetta. But when a priceless artifact goes missing from the home of famed monster hunter Baron Angbar, the Lilac and Netta see their chance to apprehend the thief and make a name for themselves.

When they get to Castle Angbar, however, and meet the Angbar family and their servants and guests—an unsavory group of nobles, mages, and assorted creatures, each more shady than the last—the Lilac begins to wonder if the reward is worth the trouble.

And that’s before the dead body is discovered.

Now everyone is magically sealed inside the castle—and there is a murderer among then. If the Lilac wants to make it out with her reputation intact, it’s going to be up to her to figure out who the killer is. But everyone in the castle—even the Lilac herself—has secrets to hide, and as the walls literally start to close in around them, the Lilac worries that her first job as a bounty hunter may be her last….

Christopher Healy is the author of the New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and its sequels, as well as the Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem series. Before becoming a writer, Chris worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy-store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives with his family in New Jersey. You can visit him online at

Blog tour stops: 

August 2 Nerdy Book Club (@nerdybookclub)

August 7 Bluestocking Thinking (@bluesockgirl)

August 8 Teachers Who Read (@teachers_read)

August 12 Maria’s MĂ©lange (@mariaselke)

August 15 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust (@teacherlibrarianbeth)

August 18 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers (@grgenius)


No One Leaves the Castle by Christopher Healy
Publication date: August 15, 2023
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Audience: Middle grade
Disclosure: ARC received from publisher

Purchasing the book from the above Bookshop affiliate link supports independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2024 Giveaway


National Geographic Kids Almanac 2024 Blog Tour and GIVEAWAY!

Buy | Goodreads

The New York Times best-selling Almanac is packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, National Geographic exclusives, games, activities, and fascinating features about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. 

This new edition features:  

  • EXCLUSIVE National Geographic Explorer interviews and features   
  • EXCLUSIVE Interactive Almanac Challenge 2024, plus the results of the Almanac Challenge 2023  
  • BONUS SECTION of sidesplitting jokes and riddles   
  • NEW fun-tastic things to see and do in 2024  
  • NEW cutest animal superlatives and animal rescue stories  
  • NEW science and dinosaur discoveries  
  • NEW fun games, quizzes, and activities  
  • NEW weird and wacky places around the world  
  • NEW experiments to do, places to explore, and ways to change the world  
  • UPDATED reference material, including fast facts and maps of every country  

Check out for more information and to take the 2024 Almanac Challenge, Elephant-Stagram! 


“…this gathering of upbeat, vividly illustrated, browser-friendly dips into topics ranging from black holes to blue-footed boobies to Bolivian street food is hard to put down, and the pop quizzes and research guides at each chapter’s end will give studious sorts a leg up, too”.― Kirkus



National Geographic Kids Almanac 2024 Blog Tour and GIVEAWAY!

  • Three (3) winners will receive a copy of the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2024
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 7/2 at 11:59 pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter HERE

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Back in June at the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival, I had the privilege of being introduced to Thien Pham by the inimitable Raina Telgemeier. When Raina recommends a book and then introduces you to the author/illustrator, you go out and read that book (Side note, I even got the privilege of driving Thien and Raina to Detroit for an adventure as part of his 100 days of noodles prior to his book's publication). This graphic memoir blew me away and touched my heart.

Thein Pham's first memory is on a refugee boat from Vietnam to Thailand and to this day, he can still taste the sweetness of the rice and the saltiness of the fish of what he ate after a near catastrophic moment on that boat. In Family Style, we go on a journey with Thien Pham and his family as they navigate their lives as refugees and then immigrants to the United States, settling in Northern California. Each chapter in this book is organized around a specific dish as we watch Thien and his family live the American dream. The culminating chapter of this book is so beautiful and emotionally resonant that I will be thinking about it for a long time. What I especially love is that Family Style is a graphic memoir that can go on ANY library shelf... middle grade readers, young adults, and adults alike can pick up this book, enjoy it, and feel like it was written just for them.

Published: June 20, 2023
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 240
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Audience: Middle grade/Young Adult/Adult
Disclosure: Purchased copy

Purchasing the book from the above Bookshop affiliate link supports independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Blog Tour: The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder

Thank you to Walden Pond Press for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Laurel Snyder's newest middle grade novel that was published this month, The Witch of Woodland. 

About the book: 
Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with a story of one girl's quest to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions about what makes us who we are.

Hi, whoever is reading this. I'm Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

Things used to be simple--until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I'm weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue. In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

See, the thing is, I'm a witch. I've been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it's always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow...I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory, and wings like an angel. You probably don't believe me, but I swear it's the truth.

Miriam is like no one else I've ever met. She's proof that magic is real. And, it's hard to explain this part, but I just know that we're connected. That means it's up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

Anyway, it's worth a try.

My review: 
Laurel Snyder has always been one of my favorite middle grade authors. Her work is heartfelt and always makes you think without being obviously didactic. In The Witch of Woodland, Snyder writes a coming-of-age story that delves into Jewish folklore while still maintaining a contemporary vibe. We are so entrenched in Christianity being the default in American culture that coming across a contemporary coming-of-age story that looks at Judaism as more than a religion, but also in a cultural context was a beautiful and immersive reading experience. 

About the Author

Laurel Snyder is the beloved author of many picture books and novels for children, including the National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program. Laurel lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at

Download the Educators' Guide

Purchase The Witch of Woodland on (affiliate link)

The Witch of Woodland Blog Tour Stops: 

May 16

Nerdy Book Club


May 16

Unleashing Readers


May 17

Teachers Who Read


May 18

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


May 22



May 23



May 26

A Library Mama


May 30

A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

This amazing graphic memoir by Dan Santat is out in the world today and if you teach middle school especially, you need this book for your classroom library.

I read this book on my flight back home from NCTE back in November and I have been impatiently waiting to share this book with readers, but no more!
The premise of this book is that the summer before high school, Dan is presented with an opportunity to travel to Europe with a school group for 3 weeks, but he is initially ambivalent. He wants to experience new things, but he's not sure he wants to do it with some of his classmates. But as the trip goes on, he realizes how much bigger the world grows for him as he tries new and forbidden things for the first time (beer, cigarettes, coffee, and even steals a bike... this was the 80s... we were all feral in the 80s 😛), has his first summer romance, and he sees what the world has to offer beyond his small hometown.

I read this book on my flight home from NCTE and it was the perfect book to read on a plane. My experience living in Europe was in my 20s but I saw so much of my own experience in this book and how the world became so much bigger for me. I loved the way the story was structured, I love how it ended in a way that it felt like you were watching a movie, oh, and I also love that I understood most of the German throughout the book and laughed so hard when Dan was baring his soul to Helga, his Austrian host mother whom he lived with for a week and she said "Es tut mir leid, dass ich nicht verstehe was du sagt." This book has so much heart and is relatable in so many ways, whether that's the travel angle, the "middle school was torture" angle or the pining away for a summer romance angle. So many readers will devour this book and I'm so glad it's finally out in the world for more readers to love.

Published: February 28, 2023
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 320
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Audience: Older middle grade/younger YA
Disclosure: ARC received at NCTE 2022

Purchasing the book from the above Bookshop affiliate link supports independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

2023 Caldecott Predictions

One week from today the 2023 Caldecott Medal will be awarded. 

Our school recently finished our Mock Caldecott unit and our school selected... 

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

But having done Mock Caldecott for a few years now and having studied previous winners and honors as well as having served on a book award committee before (I served on ALAN's Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee for five years), I have my own opinions on which books I think might win.
My prediction for the medal: 

Berry Song by Michaela Goade
The artwork in this book is so stunning there are literally page spreads I would frame and hang up in my house. Like this one, for example:
If this book wins, no one will question it. It is an obvious choice. But depending on the makeup of the committee, I have a second possibility...

My outlier prediction for the medal:

Gibberish by Young Vo
Where Berry Song takes your breath away with its traditionally beautiful illustrations, Gibberish is something new and innovative and like nothing I've ever seen before. It also just happens to tug at my personal heartstrings because as a person who has lived in another country where I didn't know the language, the main character's struggles were incredibly real to me. But the way Young Vo communicates this feeling of being in a world of confusion is what stands out here. This book could tip the scales if there are enough people on the committee who are looking for something fresh, new, and different. 

Honor predictions:

Knight Owl
by Christopher Denise
What Denise does with lighting in his illustrations for Knight Owl is what makes these illustrations distinguished, but the adorable, brave owl is what made this book our students' choice to win for our school's Mock Caldecott. While I totally understand why they chose this book, I personally am getting Caldecott honor vibes from it. 

Kick Push by Frank Morrison
I don't have any basis for this prediction other than kids love it, it's a teensy bit subversive since the artwork has a street art vibe, and every year I always like to make an unexpected prediction because the year I had a feeling about The Rough Patch by Brian Lies but DIDN'T put it on our Mock Caldecott list because I hadn't heart anyone talk about it, I decided I will now always make at least one prediction that is a little outside the box (though not too outside the box since it's also one of Betsy Bird's predictions too). 

Hot Dog by Doug Salati
It's a book that a lot of people are talking about. It's giving Caldecott honor vibes. I can't explain why. It's just a feeling I have. 

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illustrated by Daniel Minter
This book has mesmerizing illustrations that kids absolutely love, but the text is what trips me up on this one. It's a book that a lot of kids loved flipping through but not actually reading. So I guess it depends on how much the committee considers the text when deciding on this one. 

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
I know a lot of people are predicting that this one will win, but I will always root for an underdog and the fact that Sophie Blackall has already won two Caldecott medals in the past eight years means I'd rather Farmhouse win an honor. Would I be surprised if it wins the medal? No. Do I want it to? Also no. 

Those are my predictions. What are yours? 

Purchasing books from any of the above Bookshop affiliate links support independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale.