Friday, April 29, 2016

Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat

When taking a road trip, especially one to Grandma's house, the drive can seem endless. To the point where time doesn't just stand still... it moves backwards.

All I can say about this book is that Dan Santat is a genius. This book is cray... And I mean that in the best possible way. From time moving so slow you have to read the book backwards, to robots talking in QR codes, and even the beloved Beekle making a surprise appearance, Are We There Yet? is sure to entertain the most discriminating readers.

Despite winning the most coveted prize in children's picture book illustration last year, Dan Santat continues to push himself creatively and artistically, which for many people would be hard to do after experiencing such a career high. In Are We There Yet? Santat returns to his more humorous side that we're used to seeing in his books, but he found a way to show his readers that he's trying new things and not resting on his laurels. While I certainly love The Adventures of Beekle, I almost love Are We There Yet? more (almost) because my appreciation for Santat's work went from excited for his Caldecott win to realizing he is a full-fledged artistic genius.

Check out the fabulous book trailer for Are We There Yet?



Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
Published: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Copy

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Audiobook review: The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

Lovers of Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl (there's quite the Trunchbull-like character in this novel) will surely find nothing dull about The Doldrums, the story of a young Archer Helmsley who lives with his parents in the house formerly occupied by his grandparents. While Archer has never met his grandparents, he feels very close to them and wishes he could accompany them on their great adventures around the world. Instead, he must be reminded daily by his mother that life should be lived with an abundance of caution because no one wants to end up presumed dead as a result of a rogue iceberg in Antarctica like his grandparents. 

But Archer is convinced that his grandparents are in fact alive and he enlists the help of his two friends -- Adélaïde L. Belmont who moved to their little town from France and claims she lost her leg to a crocodile, and Oliver Glub, who is as practical as Archer is impetuous -- to accompany him to Antarctica to find them. 

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, but also checked out a physical copy of the book at the library so as not to miss out on the stunning color illustrations that reminded me a bit of Molly Idle's style.

Bronson Pinchot narrates the audiobook and does a fabulous job. After listening to him narrate The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, I already decided that if I ever saw him narrate another audiobook, I would listen to it regardless if I wanted to read the book or not. His voices are always so full of life and character. I especially loved how Pinchot interpreted the character of Oliver Glub, someone who knows how to rock a lisp. 


I can't wait to read the next book in the series. 


The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
Audiobook Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Published: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperAudio
Pages: 358
Audiobook Length: 6 hours, 19 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Audiobook download provided by publisher
 
If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-25-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.


Last week's posts:
 
Interview with Audrey Vernick, author of The Kid from Diamond Street
The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin blog tour + giveaway


Last week I finished reading with my ears: 

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon 
Full review coming soon! 


Favorite picture books last week:

What is Punk? by Eric Morse, illustrated by Anny Yi
Fabulous intro to punk music and culture using rhyming verse and clay illustrations  


Breathe by Scott Magoon 
Spare yet profound text brings in lessons of mindfulness, taking risks, and enjoying life. The gentle, friendly illustrations give the reader a sense of inner peace and stillness. Definitely a must-read.  


Diana's White House Garden by  Elisa Carbone, illustrated by Jen Hill
Wonderful story of the young girl who helped tend the White House Victory Garden during World War II. Makes you wonder why more of us don't have our own gardens. I'm glad to see the movement of community gardens returning.  


Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Lovers of Elephant and Piggie are sure to draw comparisons to Dog and Bear, two unlikely but adorable friends.

Still Reading:

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

I could have finished this last night, but I was tired and didn't want to fall asleep reading it. I want to give this beautiful story my full, undivided attention. So I will likely finish it today. 


Currently reading with my ears:
 
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 
Even though I'm listening to this on audio, I also have a physical copy from the library so I can take notes on important points I want to always remember and be able to reference in the future. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Kid from Diamond Street: Author Interview with Audrey Vernick

It's no secret that Audrey Vernick is one of my favorite authors. In fact, of all the authors works I have talked about and reviewed here on my blog, her work shows up the most. So when her new picture book came out, I knew I had to interview her. As someone who isn't a fan of baseball, I'm always amazed at how much I become a fan inside the pages of an Audrey Vernick book. And after reading this interview, she continues to make me eke out some admiration for this sport just a little bit more. 

 



In looking at your body of work and knowing you personally, baseball is clearly a passion of yours. I have said many times that the only time I care about baseball is when I'm reading your books. So I'm just going to rip the band aid off right off the bat (pun intended). Why baseball? Convince this doubting Thomas.

Photo courtesy of Audrey's author website
Well, no. You can’t convince someone. I only know this because no one could convince me to watch and love any other sport. But I can tell you what I love. The room/space/time in a game (which is probably the very thing other people don’t like). It’s the only team sport not played on a clock. Baseball leaves room for your mind to wander, allows me to think back, remember, look ahead, make connections.

So there’s that.

There’s also something magical about being witness to certain events. Two old Yankee Stadium memories I cherish—the Home Run Derby that Josh Hamilton didn’t win but in which he hit home runs that had every Yankee fan screaming and gasping and high-fiving strangers while screaming “HAM-IL-TON!” We were cheering on a Texas Ranger! And I get chills whenever I remember being in the house for Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit.

There’s also the beauty of a strike-‘em-out/throw-em-out double play.

And grown men jumping like boys, joy radiating off them in nearly visible waves.


I love how you came to write Brothers at Bat because the story was literally right in your own neighborhood. How did you come about Edith Houghton's story?

I received a lot of rich research material from the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Library when I was working on Brothers at Bat. At one point, Tim Wiles, who was then director of research, mentioned that there had also been an all-sister softball team. I thought that would be a perfect follow-up to Brothers at Bat and asked for the file. And they couldn’t find it. While casting about for a new idea, Tim mentioned the Philadelphia Bobbies.

You couldn’t read about the Bobbies without realizing that Edith Houghton, the team’s youngest player and biggest star, needed a book all her own.


As a teacher, so often research is really difficult to sell to students. What kind of research went into writing a biographical book like this, and what advice do you have for teachers to help give students authentic reasons for and ways of researching?

I think I understand why research is difficult to sell. It didn’t interest me either. It just seemed so dry and boring and I did not care. As a student.

And then my natural curiosity led me to want to learn more about some people whose stories felt important—like Effa Manley—but about whom little had been written. I’m not someone who enjoys piecing puzzles together but I imagine the satisfaction is similar. Some examples that were especially delightful:

Trying to track down Larry Doby’s uniform number when he was on Effa Manley’s Newark Eagles, I found Doby’s son on facebook. He didn’t know either! I sent out a hail mary email to a New Jersey librarian help desk address and forgot about it until months later, when some wonderful librarian sent back the answer, which Don Tate was able to include in the illustration.

Writing about Edith Houghton, I had the basic story—was able to use an audio recording of an interview with Edith herself that the Hall of Fame had in its archives. But the interview was done when Edith was in her 80s and was not rich with the kind of details I hoped for in writing her story. Along came Nettie Gans, an orphan, who was also on the Bobbies and who—THANK YOU, NETTIE!—kept a diary of the team’s barnstorming tour across the State and on to Japan. She included the kinds of details you’d expect from a young woman, like the dances they attended, who got hurt at which game, the mischief the team got into on their trip home.

I think it would have to be a hard sell to delve into research for a subject you’re not passionate about. I’m pretty sure that’s the key—caring deeply about your subject.


Are there any more baseball-related books planned for the near future? What other books do you have coming out soon?

How kind of you to ask! I have a book coming out in…probably 2018. A Clown Walked Into a Ballpark: Max Patkin’s Funny Life in Baseball (illustrated by Jen Bower) is about the life of the man known as the “clown prince of baseball.” In a time before mascots, baseball clowns entertained spectators and Max was probably the most famous among them. It was absurdly fun to write—and your students might like knowing that I found some of my best sources on youtube—interviews with Max himself.

Also this year, one more picture book—Unlike Other Monsters—and a novel, Two Naomis, written with my friend, the uber-talented Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Next year, a follow-up to First Grade Dropout entitled Second Grade Holdout and a picture book written with my gifted pal Liz Garton Scanlon, entitled Bob, Not Bob. In a remarkable turn of events, both of my 2017 releases, with two different publishers (Clarion and Disney, respectively) are illustrated by Matthew Cordell, a truly great illustrator and a truly great guy.



Phew! That's a lot of books! You are one busy writer! :)

When I interview authors and illustrators, I always ask them this same question at the end of my interviews, but I'm going to challenge you to give it a baseball theme. Since my blog is about food, books, and travel, what is your favorite baseball-related food, book, and place you’ve ever traveled?

Game on! The thing is, as I always say at school visits, I have NEVER been able to choose a favorite anything other than baseball team (Yankees). So I’m going to tell you things that I like a lot. On account of not having favorites.

There’s nothing like a hot dog at the ballpark but other memorable baseball foods in my life—local minor league funnel cake, garlic fries in San Francisco. Oh, and there was that burger at Target Field in Minneapolis. That was amazing. The Juicy Lucy. Mmm.

Books—for adults, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach So many picture books! I’m in awe of Matt Tavares’ work as an author/illustrator, even if he is a Red Sox fan. Jonah Winter’s picture books are what first interested me in the form—I remember reading his book on the Negro Leagues with my son—hoo boy, did we love that. And his You Never Heard of books are just great. My kids and I also adored Peter Golenbock’s Teammates.

The old Yankee Stadium would be up there with my favorite stadiums—I haven’t warmed up to the new one yet. My family went on a trip when my son was 13 and my daughter was 10 (my husband and I were adults) to Chicago and San Francisco. Wrigley Field—I don’t even have words. There was magic crackling in the air from the moment we walked in. And AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, was just fantastic. There are many other parks I want to see—in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, L.A.

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today Audrey! 

And if you're reading this and haven't read any of her books, what are you waiting for? :)  You can start with this one:


The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Published: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Clarion
Pages: 40
Genre/Format: Picture Book Biography
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Copy (but I'll surely be buying my own copy very soon!)

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin blog tour + giveaway

Thank you to Walden Pond Press for inviting me to be part of The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin blog tour! And thank you to Ben Whitehouse for the illustration for this blog tour.

One lucky reader will win a signed finished copy! (Keep reading)

About the book:
Roald Dahl meets The Penderwicks in this quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about two siblings who run away from home to escape working in the family coffin business.

John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his little sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job—building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel Great-Aunt Beauregard.

When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.

Check out a new video from Walden TV about The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin:

Download the John Coggin activity kit


Visit Elinor Teele's website to learn more about the author.


And now what you've all been waiting for....

The Giveaway!

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading! 4-18-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

I finished reading with my ears:

The Tiara on the Terrace by Kristin Kittscher   
Even better than The Wig in the WindowAnd as much as I love Young and Yang as protagonists, I especially love all the quirky secondary characters, particularly the exaggerated way in which the audiobook narrator voices these characters. Overall a highly entertaining middle grade mystery. I would love to see Young and Yang as the stars of their own TV series someday. :)


Favorite picture books last week:

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
David Litchfield, you had me at piano. And you kept me turning pages at this tender, quirky prodigal son story. 


Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora 
Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora are a dream team. I hope they never stop making picture books together. Their work has just enough quirkiness to be unique and appealing to adults, but not so much that it's inaccessible to kids. I especially love that some beloved characters from previous books make an appearance in Horrible Bear! Read this carefully to see if you can find them.


The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno  
As someone who isn't a fan of baseball, I'm always amazed at how much I become a fan inside the pages of an Audrey Vernick book. Her writing is that engaging.


I started reading:

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
So excited I got approved to read this on NetGalley!


Still reading (though I put it on pause to start reading the aforementioned book:

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar  

I'm enjoying this book but it has been slow going for me.  


Currently reading with my ears:

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon 
I'm listening to this, but I also checked out a physical copy of the book at the library so as not to miss out on the stunning illustrations.  


Current giveaway:
Celebrate National Parks Week with National Geographic Kids!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Celebrate National Parks Week with National Geographic Kids! (+ GIVEAWAY!)

April 16th marks the beginning of National Parks Week and 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service! All week long you can get into any National Park for free! National Geographic hopes this will inspire you to plan your own National Parks Adventure:  




If that video doesn't inspire you and your family, here are some books from National Geographic Kids to get them to want to add the National Parks to their bucket lists. Book descriptions are from Goodreads.



National Parks Guide U.S.A

More than two hundred million people visited our national parks in 2009. National parks are some of America's most treasured places, and the National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A. is the perfect way to bring the fun and amazement of these majestic places to kids. Divided by region, (Northeast & Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West), this guide is both accessible and tons of fun. NG Kids color treatments, full-color photographs, and layering of information make information jump off the page. Features include tips on exploration, information about animals, sidebars, checklists, fun facts, maps, cool things to do, and much more. Conservation information, a find out more section, glossary, and index add ample back matter to round out this book.


Funny Fill-In: My National Parks Adventure

Mad Libs, National Parks style









Junior Ranger Activity Book

Calling all explorers and nature-lovers! From Acadia to Zion, discover all 59 of the United States' amazing National Parks in this jam-packed book of games, trivia, jokes, fun facts, and so much more, all inspired by the National Parks outdoor-based Junior Ranger Program. Great for generating pre-trip excitement, long car rides, poking around historical sites, or general learning, these fun and sometimes silly activities will entertain while they draw kids into the majestic and historic importance of America's national parks. Check out the most amazing park habitats, plus awesome sights and animals you might see, from birds to bears. Fun facts are jam-packed onto every page, so kids learn something amazing about each cool park. 


Buddy Bison's Yellowstone Adventure by Ilona E. Holland

Butterflies flutter, birds soar, and geysers burst into the sky. Join Buddy Bison and his two new friends as they explore the majestic Yellowstone National Park. Breathtaking photographs of Yellowstone serve as the backdrop for the wacky adventures of a curious pair of twins, Elena and Christopher, who are spending the summer with their aunt Rosa, a park ranger.

Instead of waiting patiently when their aunt gets an emergency call, Christopher wanders off. That's when Buddy Bison, the adorable plush toy clipped to Elena's backpack comes to life and to her aid. The unlikely pair heads out on a wild adventure through Yellowstone to search for her brother. As soon as Buddy leads Elena safely to her twin, her new oversized pal disappears. What happened to Buddy Bison? Did Elena imagine him or did he really come to life? This charming tale is sprinkled with helpful tidbits about the park, weird-but-true facts about the animals, and more fun facts kids adore. A comprehensive afterword offers a short history of the park and ways kids can get involved in parks preservation.



Here are some more links to inspire your National Parks wanderlust
NatGeo's online guide to the National Parks

Find Your Park, Love Your Park

The Greatest American Road Trip
Former NatGeo staffer Jonathan Irish travels the country, visiting all 59 National Parks in 52 weeks.



GIVEAWAY!
I'm giving away all four of the National Geographic Kids books mentioned above.

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
One winner will be selected
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