Thursday, December 7, 2017

Little Iffy: Giveaway and Review


Today I have something special for you. It's not my typical review. This review is a tributean homage to one of my all-time favorite book review blogs: Bookie Woogie. Like many tributes, it only holds a candle to the original.

Aaron Zenz and his kids created Bookie Woogie, and now Aaron has come out with a new book himself, and Everead is stop #4 on the blog tour. More about that later.

Mom: Ok, so today we are reading and talking about Little Iffy Learns To Fly by Aaron Zenz. Do you know who Aaron Zenz is?
Benjamin (age 9): . . .The author of Little Iffy.
Mom: Ha. Yes. What else has he done that we know about?
Jubilee (age 4): Make books!
Mom: Haha! Yes! He did Nugget on the Flight Deck, and The Spaghetti Slurping Sewer Serpent. He illustrated those, but he has written and illustrated other books, too.
[reading of Little Iffy Learns to Fly begins]
Benjamin: Backup backup backup plan!
Jubilee: (lots of giggling)
Benjamin: That's why they call her Eggs. Because she's always hatching a plan.
[reading ends]
Mom: Ok so what do you think?
Jubilee: Good.
Mom: What do you think of the story?
Jubilee: Good.
Mom: Tell me what happens.
Jubilee: They make Iffy fly.
Levi (age 7): No, they don't they don't make him.
Mom: What happens?
Jubilee: Somebody sprangs him up!
Mom: But it's by accident, right?
Jubilee: Yeah.
Mom: What do you think of the pictures?
Jubilee: Cool.
Mom: Now, the people who will be reading this won't be able to see the pictures. So, tell us about the pictures. (This is me, fishing for the sort of interesting illustration analysis that comes from the children of Bookie Woogie ...and...not getting it. Jubilee begins to describe each picture one by one.)
Jubilee: Um. Well. Little Iffy, in this picture you see his mom and him and his balloon. In this picture, his friends are near and he is happy.
Mom: Ok. Well, don't tell me about all the pictures. Just talk to me a little bit more aboutWhat if you were Little Iffy?
Jubilee: I would say "Don't worry, I'm going to learn it sometime. I'm going to do it, when I'm like, as big as you guys."
Mom: Is there anything you are scared to do? That people want you to try but you've never tried it and it's too scary?
Jubilee: Umm, sometimes at movies.
Mom: So if this book was written about you it would be called Jubilee Learns to Watch Movies?
Jubilee: YEAH!
Mom: Or Jubilee Learns to what?
Jubilee: Crochet.
Mom: Jubilee Learns to Crochet. You're scared of crocheting?
Jubilee: No.
Mom: That's just something you want to learn, huh.
Mom: What if this book was written about you, Levi?
Levi: I don't know!
Mom:Well what's something you want to learn? Little Levi Learns to . . . Leap.
Levi: Go down the fire pole.
Mom: Little Levi learns to Go Down the Fire Pole. Nice.
Mom: Hey Benjamin, if this book was written about you, what would the title be?
Jubilee: Little Benjamin Learns to...
Levi: BIG Benjamin Learns to.
Mom: Big Benjamin Learns to ...what. Learns to skate.
Levi: yeah
Mom: How about Big Benjamin Learns to Skate?
Benjamin: Maybe.
Mom: Ok what's one thing you would say to somebody who's a little scared? Like Little Iffy is?
Jubilee: I would say...
Benjamin: Climb on a seesaw then have an elephant jump on it!
Jubilee: I would say "Don't be worried, you can do it anytime. I have some plans to help you learn it. 
Mom: Haha! Nice!
Benjamin: What if it's about crocheting?!
Jubilee: Oooh.
Mom: hahaha!
Mom: What would you say to someone who is scared?
Benjamin: Jump off a cliff.

And, last but not least, here is some tribute art that Jubilee made of Little Iffy and his red balloon.

Well, that was fun!

If you would like to win a signed copy of Little Iffy Learns to Fly, you're in luck! I have one to give away.

If you would like to shop for a copy of the book, you can click the cover, below.

If you would like to read more about the book (and maybe even find some more giveaways to enter) check out the other stops on the book tour:

Mon Dec 4  :  An interview with Aaron Zenz at Mile High Reading  
Tue Dec 5  :  Nitty Gritty Details on Illustration at Seven Impossible Things 
Wed Dec 6  :  A Flash Giveaway at 100 Scope Notes  
Thu Dec 7  :  A Tribute to Bookie Woogie at Everead 
Fri Dec 8  :  Librarian’s Quest  :  http://librariansquest.blogspot.com
Sat Dec 9  :  Amanda’s Pile of Books  :  http://amandaspileofbooks.blogspot.com
Sun Dec 10 :  Kids Talk Kid Lit  :  https://strohreads.blogspot.com
Tue Dec 19  :  Nerdy Book Club  :  https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com
Mon Jan 1  :  Picturebooking Podcast  :  http://www.allthewonders.com/podcasts/picturebooking

Monday, November 27, 2017

Handy Tip:how to to get pen off a book cover


Hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving. I did!

But on Sunday night my four-year-old decided to scribble all over the cover of a new hard-back graphic novel I had just read for the Cybils.

I was kinda grouchy about it and told her she was going to have to pay to replace the book (Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten). But then I thought to myself "I wonder if magic eraser would take this off..." The cover was fairly glossy. So, with nothing to lose, I gave it a go.

I just use generic brand magic erasers. This is the thing I'm talking about. I buy them at the grocery store. I got the eraser a little bit wet and went to town scrubbing.

The results pleased me. I thought of taking a "before picture" but I didn't do it because I thought working fast might help. In hindsight that doesn't make a lot of sense, because ballpoint pen ink dries pretty much instantly, but that's my excuse. Here's the after picture. You can see in the pen isn't completely gone, especially in the crevice next to the spine.

Some marks still visible by his hand, on the cushion, on his face, but SO much better. 

If you're curious about Lint Boy, it's a cute book. My seven-year-old really liked it (probably because he really loves stuffed animals and has never seen Toy Story). It's about a little stuffed animal that is formed of lint in the dryer, and his friend. They get separated by the villain, an old hag who hates and tortures stuffed animals in an effort to get them to talk. As a child she thought they were alive, so she's got something to prove. As you can imagine, it all works out pretty well for the dolls and stuffies in the end. The illustrations are intricate and the muted color palette works nicely in the book. Here's another amazon link, if you want to check it out.

Have you ever had success repairing or rehabilitating a book? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Joke time!

Every Monday night we have family night at our house. And, as part of our family night we have a couple of minutes called Joke Time. We take turns being in charge of Joke Time each week and, let me tell you, it's a fun thing to have in your life.

Well, a few weeks back I got an email asking if I'd like to review a new joke book put out by National Geographic. Yes I would! Levi, my second grader, is big into jokes. Plus we've got Joke Time to think of every week. Sometimes I would try to quickly look up a new joke on the internet, but honestly having a book handy is a little safer, if you're looking for something the whole family can enjoy. (That said, I do have a favorite spot for corny jokes on the internet: Rinkworks.)

So. This new book is called Just Joking Jumbo. It pairs pictures of animals with jokes, funny dialogue and a few facts. The book has 10 chapters with titles like "Far-out Space Silliness," "Hilarious History," and "Nutty Nature."

Puns, question and answer jokes, riddles and knock-knock jokes are all mixed together in a hodgepodge that makes it easy to open the book to any page and find something fun. And I think the full color interior and creative layouts make it really fun to browse through.

But Alysa! Aren't joke books just a frivolous waste of time though? Shouldn't my kid be reading a real book?

No. Let me explain.

There are three reasons I like joke books: I like that they promote 1. independent reading, 2. comprehension and 3. fluency. If your 7-year-old wants to tell you a new joke without spoiling it, he has to read it on his own, think it is funny, practice it, and then present it to you. I can't think of any other type of book that is quite as good for that particular set of skills, and offers success and positive feedback so quickly.

The other thing I like about joke books is that then my kids spontaneously tell me jokes! When Jubilee (age 4) saw I was writing a post about this book she told me her favorite joke from it.

Jubilee: What state is aaalways chewing?
Me: What?
Jubilee: Massachusetts!

For your viewing pleasure, I have a video of Levi telling his favorite one, too.

I thought about giving Just Joking Jumbo as a wrapped gift to Levi this Christmas. It's almost too big to fit in a stocking, but I suppose one could . . . Anyway I decided I'd rather let him enjoy it now. But here's the Amazon link if you want to shop for it or for other joke books or whatever.   

Aaaand just in case you haven't seen it yet, here is a hilarious sketch from our favorite sketch comedy group, Studio C. We all watched this together around Halloween, and it came up at the absolute perfect moment during Joke Time last Monday night.

I died laughing.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cybils Update + 4 Good Graphic Novels for Teens

Hola! Here's the Cybils update

Me + my reading buddy
I'm a category chair... 
That's going pretty well, despite the fact that the baby was born right on the morning of a deadline. Haha! I was supposed to confirm with the judges I had selected that they would accept the position, and remarkably I was still able to do that. Then, when Sam was just a couple of weeks old, I had to wade through all the nominations and check them to see if they were published at the right time and if they were indeed graphic novels and if they were indeed published for teens/elementary. That took some time, because we had 171 books nominated (yay!) 153 of them turned out to be eligible. Since I'm also one of the first round judges (had to be, so that we wouldn't have an even number and get locked in ties when voting on titles), so I've got my reading cut out for me.

I got a book in the mail!
Today I got my first review copy -- so fun!It's a copy of Dog Night at the Story Zoo. I confess the title has me like, "whaaa?" So I'm looking forward to reading it and figuring that out.

I've read a bunch of books I haven't told you about!

So I'm just going to give you quick thoughts about each one. A little mini-review if you will. I'll start with these four ones for teens that I liked. Note that my opinions here don't reflect the opinions of the cybils panel as a whole; I'm speaking for myself.

Covers link to Amazon, if you're interested in full synopsis. If you purchase through my affiliate links, I get a small commission. 

The Adventures of John Blake: The Mystery of the Ghost Ship - This one was so good. I mean, Philip Pullman is a good author, so that's no surprise. He wrote The Golden Compass (fantasy) and The Ruby in the Smoke (historical fiction), both of which I like. He does seem to have something against parents, though. :-) Anyway, this is an awesome adventure about a greedy technology tycoon, a ship that travels through time, and a family on an extended vacation. The art is full color and excellent, and I'll definitely be looking for future installments. The characters seem like they each have their own backstory already, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better. This one is nominated in the teen category, and has some violence, as you can see from the big explosion on the cover.

Yvain - This one is also really good, but in a totally different way. I confess I'm not a big fan of the cover. I don't think it captures the awesomeness of what's inside. It is a retelling of one of the Arthurian legends, one I had never heard before. Yvain sets off on a quest to avenge a friend and get glory -- he ends up getting a wife, losing her trust, becoming a LOT more noble than he was before, and . . . I won't spoil the ending. But I loved the artist and author commentary at the end of the book.
And the art was really beautiful and full color. It was especially cool how the stories within the story were illustrated as if they were tapestries hanging behind the storyteller.

Ms. Marvel Vol 6: Civil War II - I read this one before I knew it was nominated for the award this year, because I really like the series. This installment tackles some interesting issues: how far can you go in preventing crime before it happens? What should you do when you realize you disagree with the people you admire? I'm very interested to see where the next installment takes us. While I liked Val. 6, I recommend starting with the first one: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal.

Lumberjanes Vol 6.: Sink or Swim - Another awesome adventure at summer camp for the girls in the Roanoke Cabin. This one has them working together as a team to help dissolve a misunderstanding between some selkies and a camp counselor who is more than she seems to be. This one felt like a "middle adventure" to me. I mean, if it was a TV show, it would have been a fun episode where the conflict was introduced and tied up neatly, with little sprinkles to remind us what some of the overarching conflicts in the series are. You could definitely start with this one, but again I recommend starting with the first one: Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy and proceeding in order.

Read anything good lately? Got any Cybils-related questions for me? I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's a baby!

The newest member of our family is here! I've been posting lots of adorable pictures on my Instagram, because not all of his grandparents have met him yet. 

That's changing this weekend though -- my family is coming to town and little Sam will be blessed in church.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book-on-the-Floor Alert!

Because I'm pregnant, bending over has become harder and harder as 2017 as gone on.

May 2017

August 2017
Sometime near the beginning of the summer I had a day when I was tired of telling the kids to pick up the floor and I just did it myself (with accompanying quote from Sebastian of Disney's The Little Mermaid playing in my head: "If you want somet'ing done, you gotta do it yourself!").

While the result was a clean floor, it came along with pain and lots of crabbiness on my part.

When I realized I had overdone it, I began my campaign to get the kids to pick up after themselves more often. As every parent knows, it's not easy to raise the bar on your kids. They're like, "Whaaaat?"


Over time this campaign has worked out pretty well, though, and my favorite story from it was when I told Jubilee to clean her room. She was despairing and saying it would take forever, so I said, "Don't worry, I'll help you!"

She looked at me and said, "But mom! You can't pick things up!"


"Well," I said, "I'll sit with you while you work."

But here's the thing. Much of what gets left on the floor around our house is books. And those books were getting stepped on and bent up and abused and that made me sad.

So one day I gathered all the kids together and told them about our new family rule:

No Books Allowed on the Floor!

I explained about all the books that were getting damaged and worn from our bad habits, and I outlined the plan:

"Any time anyone sees a book on the floor, they should pick it up and put it on the not-floor. Preferably on one of the many, many bookshelves, but anywhere is better than the floor.

"It doesn't matter who left it on the floor or who saw it first or anything like that. We're all going to work together to keep books off of the floor."

The kids saw the sense in this and have done much better about getting books up off the floor. Are they still leaving them there in the first place? Yes. But we're getting better.

And, the best part is that somehow this new rule has translated into a family culture of shouting "Book-on-the-Floor Alert!" before picking up a book (or, in my case, pointing to a book that needs to be picked up).

It's kind of fun. It's our thing.

What rules do you have around books in your house?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Books for a 7-Year-Old Girl

Hello Friends! A friend recently asked me on Facebook if I had any recommended reading for her daughter. I feel like it is the season! My own kids have started school and the boys, ages 7 and 9 and starting 2nd and 4th grade, have reading homework each night. 

My 9-year-old Benjamin is supposed to read for 30 min/night and my 7-year-old Levi is supposed to read for 15 min/night. What this means for us is that they have an excuse to start reading something, "for homework" and then they get glued to it and I enjoy the peace and quiet and don't stop them until they've finished the whole book. 

I snapped this photo of them reading the Lego Magazine on the kitchen floor before school,
in case they tried to convince me that they hadn't read anything yet, when bedtime rolled around. 
Bottom line: we're needing more and more books around here!

Related: They're reading too much, some days. Is this possible? I submit yes

Anyway, Lessa asked the following:

Any book recommendations for a 7 year old girl? Recent favorites have included the Ramona series and the Penderwick series. Reads comfortably to a 6-7 grade reading level.

I responded:

Yes! Have you done Sideways Stories from Wayside school yet? My 7 year old has recently LOVED them.  Also Odd Duck by Cecil Castelucci. and how about Saffy's Angel (and the series that follows) by Hilary McKay? I have heard excellent things about All-of-a-kind Family, but have not yet read it myself, if she's into the old-fashioned feel. Betsy-Tacy is also a great old-fashioned series!

And Lessa followed up:

Thank you!! We've read Betsy Tacy and enjoyed it, but I'll check out these other books for sure. And how could I have forgotten the delightful silliness of Sideways Stories from Wayside School?!

So here is a little bit more about each book I recommended for Lessa's daughter (You can click the cover images to shop or see more reviews on Amazon.):

Wayside school series by Louis Sachar -- This series has three very very silly books in it. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. They follow the kids (and wacky teachers) at an elementary school that was accidentally built as a skyscraper instead of a long, flat building. These books have been around long enough that I read them when I was in elementary school. It was a total treat to read the second one aloud with my boys, recently. They were giggling, reading ahead, and begging for one more chapter. For some reason we only owned the second book, so I gave the first book for Levi for his recent birthday.

Odd Duck by Cecil Castelucci - I picked this one because I can't resist a good graphic novel, and this one was the most Ramona-like graphic novel I could think of. I mean, Ramona is an odd duck. This book follows one odd duck as she meets another, and deals with their friendship. The art is beautiful and while some pages have panels, a lot of them are full bleed, which makes the book look a lot like a picture book. An extra long, thought provoking picture book about friendship and ducks.

Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay - I picked this one because this series is one of the best-kept secrets of middle grade fiction. The characters seem so, so real to me. That is one of the absolute charms of both The Penderwicks and Ramona books, so I thought good character development was a must. This book follows Saffron Casson as she discovers her family isn't what she thought it was. In my opinion the series just gets better and better as it goes along.

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor - As I mentioned above, I haven't actually read this one. But I really want to, now that I've read what Amy had to say about it. I even checked it out from the library, but it was a short loan period and I maxxed out my card that time, so this one returned unread. I understand it's about a family of girls growing up in NYC in 1907. And Amy said it is the perfect book to read in November.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace - I picked this one because I've caught Levi re-reading it again lately. (I also caught him leaving it on the bedroom floor, in violation of the No Books on the Floor rule I instituted this summer.) I was glad to hear that Lessa and her family had read and enjoyed it already. I need to get more of the books in the series, myself. They're lovely and pleasant. They follow best friends Betsy and Tacy through their growing up years, and are based on the real-life friendship that the author cherished growing up.

What books would you recommend for a 7-year-old who reads well and loves Ramona and the Penderwicks? I'm sure the more books we can recommend here, the better. 
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