Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Jeopardy! by Benjamin

On Sunday night my eight-year-old, Benjamin, made us a jeopardy game. I have got to record it, because it was adorable. The categories were his favorite fantasy book series: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, The Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy, Harry Potter by J.K Rowling, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by RIck Riordan, and Dreamdark by Laini Taylor.

The questions were not strictly Jeopardy style, in fact they were quite the opposite. I don't think Benjamin has ever watched an episode of Jeopardy. He has taken a lot of AR quizzes though.

Here were the questions:

100 Who is the main character?
200 Who is the Magruwen's champion?
300 Who is the Magruwen?
400 What dragon was the last to die?
500 Who is Magpie's favorite person and why?

Percy Jackson
100 Fill in the blank: Camp ___ ____
200 Double tragedy, lose 200
300 Who is Annabeth's mom?
400 What is the name of Percy's sword?
500 Where is Kronos's throne room?

Harry Potter
100 Name Harry's 2 best friends
200 What do dementors guard?
300 How many times has Harry faced Voldemort?
400 What kind of tart is Harry's fave?
500 What is a bezoar?

building the game
100 What book does Alcatraz use 2 lies?
200 Is Bastille a Smedry?
300 What is the High Library?
400 Do 10 jumping jacks or lose 100 points.
500 What Smedry has the talent of making rude noises?

100 Tragedy, lose 100
200 Who is the trickster?
300 Special, gain 300
400 Mister Fox's looking glass has a ____
500 Daily Double: Who is Fay Longintime?

Levi and I had a great time playing the game, even though we both ended up with a negative score. I haven't read the Alcatraz or FIB series, and it's been long enough since I read the others that I was a bit rusty.

Benjamin wanted me to be sure to post the answers to the questions for you, in case you wanted to play for yourself. I'll put those in the comments.

If you're curious about any of these series, Benjamin and I are happy to answer your questions. Also, I linked to their Amazon pages above, for your convenience. If you shop through my affiliate links to Amazon I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Did some of this money go toward purchasing the last Alcatraz book, The Dark Talent? Yes it did.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fractured Fairy Tales: 8 Great Titles that Mix Things Up

Hello! Today I have another helpful booklist for you, from Bethany Jensen. You can see previous posts by Bethany here. Thanks for these great suggestions, Bethany. 

In my last post I shared the funny way my dad read our bedtime stories. My favorite jumbled stories were fairy tales, the stories I know by heart. I grew up with classic characters like Rindercella, her Gary Fodmother, and the never-waking princess Aurora Borealis.

Speaking of lights in the heavens, here are two fairy tale twists that take place in a land far, far and even farther away than the Brothers Grimm ever imagined.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing

In this story aliens travel the galaxy in search of homes of their own, but they have to watch out for the big bad robot. There is lots of fun language, although I'm still not sure how to pronounce Nklxwcyz (I wish that was a scrabble word). Also, Mark Fearing studied Nasa photographs for the illustrations. Very cosmicly cool.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt

Cinderella is a intergalactic fix-it gal. Instead of a shoe that fits, the prince is looking for that special girl that can repair a spaceship. His only clue is a lost socket wrench. I love this concept and the sparkling word choice. The illustrations are saturated in color and in a style reminiscent of 1960's space. I half-expected to see the Jetsons zoom by across the page.

Now back to Earth. My all-time favorite fractured fairy tale is:

Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen and Diane Stanley

No, this book is not the awful truth about bedhead and morning breath. It is almost twenty years since its publication, but I still love this retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I remember reading this in my younger years and liking the illustrations of the prince in a jogging suit; so relatable. This story is about being beautiful on the inside and how that can shine through to the outside, even if you don't have the perfect hair, nose or teeth. And if you do have all the perfect features, you can still be nice. I don't want to leave out pretty people. Don't be fooled by the title. This book is for you, too.

And something with a little mix of everything:

Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar and Troy Cummings

I think this is a darling story of Little Red finding a partner to skate with. I love all the cameos of other fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. The opening pages have Little Red gliding across the ice through whimsical painted fairy tale land and you can pick out some of the familiar stories.

Finally (because this list could go on forever, so I really must stop somewhere) I want to mention a series of stories that share fairy tale versions from all around the world. These aren’t funny twists, instead each book contains three to four of the same fairy tale told by a different culture. The illustrations are beautiful and unique for each story. The stories are shortened and simplified which is good for a young audience. Sometimes the shortness of the text seems jarring as so many original fairy tales are actually very dark. I think it’s fascinating to learn the tales from countries around the world and the origins of our favorite fairy tale gems.

Snow White Stories Around the World by Jessica Gunderson.

Little Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World by Jessica Gunderson.

Rapunzel Stories Around the World by Cari Meister.

Cinderella Stories Around the World by Cari Meister.

That was fun! Thanks again, Bethany. Now I have a bunch of books to put on my library list. Do any of you readers have other favorite

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cybils Nominations Open!

Hey everybody!

Cybils nominations are open. If you loved a book that has been published in the last year (for the children's or YA market) I hope you will nominate it. Go here.


p.s. If you're too lazy, at least leave your idea in a comment here, then I can follow up with it and others can nominate on your behalf.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bookish Update


Exciting thing: I have been selected as a Round 1 judge for the Cybils awards in the graphic novels category! Hurrah! That means my fall will be full of rea-rea-reading!

Time for a throwback to that time I hosted GN book club
Fun book: Speaking of graphic novels I enjoyed reading this one recently! Very cute and much more fun to read now that I have been lost in NYC myself a couple of times. If you want to hear about my NYC adventures you will have to start chanting for it in the comment section.

Fun book II: Tonight I read The Hole Story of the Doughnut with Levi and oh man! It's great! Totally adorable and cool and I'm going to have to nominate it for Cybils non-fiction this year.

Do this: Nominate books for the Cybils awards. If it's been published in the last 12 months and it's a children's or young adult book and you liked it, definitely nominate it. Nominations open Oct 1.

Currently reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for book club. Mixed feelings, but it IS helping me get rid of clutter.

Story Club: I think we have a final cover now! Shouldn't be long until you can buy my super awesome guide to storytelling with kids. I hope you love it. I used it tonight at bedtime, myself.

That's all for now!

Share me your bookish updates, plz.

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Interview with John Allison

Good morning! Today I have for you an interview with author John Allison -- the one I promised in my review of the Bad Machinery books.

I've found this a very difficult interview to do because I keep having to go back and read more Bad Machinery and other interviews of John (you know, just so I'll "be ready") and then I find myself up past my bedtime, giggling quietly so as not to wake anyone.

By way of quick introduction, John Allison is the British author/illustrator of many books, including the Bad Machinery series currently being published in the USA by Oni Press. You can find out lots more about him and read massive amounts of his work on his website, Scary Go Round. I definitely think you should do that.

Without further ado, the interview:

So, one of the things I love about Bad Machinery is that the series does such a great job of capturing people in all phases of life. You've got the pre-teens (who age into their teens) as the stars of the books, but you've also got their younger siblings and older siblings and parents and teachers and even some of the elderly represented as the series goes on. I feel like all of the characters are spot-on. The fact that you're so good at representing all these different phases of life makes me wonder what your own life experience is like. To what do you credit your savvy? 

To be a half-decent writer, I think you've got to be such a vampire. I hear it over and over again when I read interviews with other writers. You've got to have your eyes open to the way people interact. And it's harder when you work from home, in quite a solitary job, because I don't actually see that many people. And you can't just transcribe people close to you, because they catch you out! It's easier with teens. They're all over the place, they're noisy, they make the place look untidy. So much grist for the mill.

I find books and TV series that are just about one narrow age group airless. I think I always have. The idea that the generations barely interact, or exist in these separate bubbles! Even if most of the interactions are built on misunderstanding, that's the good stuff that you want to get to. Every generation has something to teach the ones before and after it.

When I heard that Bad Machinery is coming out in a smaller format, I was both pleased and disappointed. I was pleased because the new size it will fit better on my shelves, but I quickly remembered how much I love sitting with the large format on my lap, sharing it with my husband or sister or kids. How do you feel about the new format size? Will it change the way you draw?

The large format will still be coming out, alongside the smaller reprints. I didn't design the comics originally to be reproduced so big, the reprint size is the size I originally pictured them, so there's no call to change how I draw. For the life of the series, I've heard divisive views about the size of the books - older readers struggle with them. I've also seen copies in a few bookshops that are really beaten up because they stick off the shelf.

Who inspires you, in your work or otherwise?
This is a tough question, because I don't sit down and think, I want to be like x or y or z any more, I internalised the people who I modelled my work ethic on in my twenties and early thirties, and now it's just me, a Frankenstein's monster of all these people I admire. I bought all three of IDW's huge Alex Toth retrospectives recently and just chewed through them. For me he's the ultimate comics artist, the ultimate storyboarder, the complete package. But not a great pers
on to the people around him. Still, that's the person who, recently, has inspired me to improve.

I admire the way you're able to make Bad Machinery fun and engaging for both adults and kids. Did you design the series with a multi-generational audience in mind?
Bad Machinery was a completely cynical creation, designed to be very generic, by someone who is completely incapable of steering the ship straight. Kid detectives! What could be easier than that? But I don't know if I ever wanted to write a straight kids' book. I might have thought I did, for a morning, but it was probably pretty mutated out of shape by the time I got to drawing the first page. I didn't like being talked down to as a young reader, so I tried to write in a way that reflected that.

Since you're British, I have to ask; how do you feel about American politics right now?
American politics is sad. The campaign finance, the graft, the pork, it's the cancer in your democracy. That a person would be elected to office, and then spend a considerable part of their time raising money for re-election on an endless 4-year cycle rather than working on behalf of their constituents, is furiously depressing. Candidates advertising on TV, endlessly attacking one another in person or by proxy through PACs, no wonder your government is in bipartisan ruins. The Citizens United ruling! What a disater! Trump is a sideshow, Clinton is a sideshow to a system of government throttled by money and special interests. I guess at some point that particular levee is going to have to break.

Yes, so I don't really have any strong opinions about American politics.

What is your favorite part of the writing/creating process?

Coming up with ideas is a lot of fun. When it's really working, I feel like I'm on the moon. I've trained my brain over nearly twenty years to fly pretty free, and probably broken it in the process. I need a lot of sleep, and I stopped drinking alcohol because (among other reasons) it kind of broke the ideas machinery for a day or two every time I did it. I also love drawing. I've always written just so I have something to draw. It's fun to be in charge of a little world.

What question have you not been asked in an interview, but think you should be asked? (Both the question and the answer, if you like.)

Despite the fact that I've published lists of my favourite albums every year that I've been doing comics, and have lists on the website going back to 1987, no one has ever asked questions about my love of musical list-making. No one has ever asked about my strict rules of best-of-all-time lists. I feel like I am an iceberg and the comics are the bit above the sea and my lists are the bit below the sea, vast and unknowable. Whether I could answer these questions is moot because I am not sure I should be asked them. I won't even put on a record I like when a friend visits any more. It's just for me now.

Haha! Thanks for the interview, John! And thanks for making great books.

Just for fun, here is a comparison of the large edition cover to the smaller edition cover.
This baby measures 9" x 12"

This one will be about 6" x  9"
More info about the new size can be found at Good Comics For Kids. The first 6x9 "pocket edition" will be released on March 17, 2017 and two will be released each year. More of my thoughts on the series can be found here, here, and here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Picture Book Giveaway!

Hurrah! Today I have a great picture book giveaway for you!

This giveaway comes to you from Candlewick Press.

If you sign up for my email list, you will be entered to win a prize pack that includes 1 hardcover copy of Journey by Aaron Becker and 1 hardcover copy of Quest by Aaron Becker.

The third and final book in the series, Return, just came out on August 2, and the publishers want to get you all excited, if you weren't slavering already. I mean, the illustrations are practically mouthwatering. Especially if watercolors make you drool.

All three of the books are wordless, no text at all, and they follow a girl with a magic drawing implement who enters another realm. Journey is a Caldecott Honor book. My kids love these, especially my boys, who are 8 and 5 years old.  Really I recommend them for any library, and think they'd be great coffee-table books anywhere.

On the back of the book Kirkus Reviews is quoted as saying "Picture books rarely feel this epic." I have to agree. Each page is beautiful, and together they tell adventure stories that just get better with re-reading.

If you want to win, put your email in the box in my sidebar over there that says "Get the Everead Newsletter." If you want to know more about the newsletter before you sign up, that's here. If you try to give me your email but it doesn't work, leave me a comment here or email me at and I'll get things fixed up for you.

Contest closes Aug 23, 2016 and the winner will be contacted via email.

Also, the images above are links to the books on Amazon, in case you want to read reviews, look inside, etc. (You do want to look inside. Just sayin.' But you can't look inside Return yet. Don't ask me why.) If you shop through these links, I earn a small commission.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Recommendations & Anticipations


Just thought I'd do a quick post about what I've been reading lately (besides Bad Machinery of course).

Library selfie! Book Nerds for life.
We had the happy experience this last weekend of visiting the Bairs! Some of you may remember back when Ashley used to post here on Everead more frequently. (Here are posts by Ashley.) Well, while we were visiting, I read some really good books, of course. Apparently she's been holding out on me.

The Here Comes the ... Cat Series by Deborah Underwood was a huge hit with my kids. We read three of them at the library. Yes, when we visit friends out of state we happily visit their local libraries. These just made us all laugh, and especially tickled Levi, who will be starting first-grade soon. We read The Easter, Valentine, and Tooth Fairy themed ones. I look forward to reading the others.

From the Bair family's personal library I read three Elephant & Piggie books I haven't read yet: I Will Take a Nap, Waiting Is Not Easy, and The Thank You Book. They were all fantastic, of course. I think my favorite of the three is Waiting Is Not Easy. If you have a child who could knock you over with their groans of agony, you will appreciate it. Sad to see the series end, but thankfully its full of great books, and I haven't collected them all yet, so I have some collecting left to do. ;)

I read Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant a couple weeks ago, and that was a fun one. A good adventurous graphic novel for the 12+ crowd. It looks like there is a second book, so I'll have to find that one and read it.

A few weeks ago we decided to fast from dairy as a family, to see if it would help our skin problems. Jacob, Jubilee and myself all had some itchiness we were hoping to cure, and my doctor recommended avoiding dairy. So when I delivered all of our cheese and milk and yogurt and so forth to my friend Tara, she let me borrow The New Moosewood Cookbook.Holy Cow it is beautiful! (Beef pun intended, it's a vegetarian cookbook.) It's all hand-drawn as far as I can tell. I feel kind of silly admitting we've only made one recipe from it, but I do not feel silly at all recommending it because lots of the recipes look really really tasty, the book is so beautiful to browse, and the one we tried, Moosewood Fudge Brownies, was delicious. After two weeks dairy free it was apparent that Jubilee's skin was doing better, Jacob's was doing equal or worse and mine was doing equal or maybe a smidge better. So. we're loosening up a little, and letting Benjamin have some of his favorite meals again, but still avoiding dairy because Jubilee is 3 and it's just impossible to take a bite of your preschooler's favorite food right after you tell them they can't have any. It's just heartless.

Along those same lines I also borrowed Disease Proof Your Child from Tara. I've read it before, but reading it again has been a good reminder to me to eat healthy. I tend to go overboard and feel like I can't eat ANYTHING after I read that book, but then I remember that I just have to start where I am (which is what Dr. Fuhrman says to do anyway) and then I end up eating more veggies and being happy about it.

Now for books I haven't read yet:

On our way to visit Ashley in NJ, I gave Benjamin a copy of The Egypt Game to read. I've never read it myself, I just bought a used copy of it because I had seen it recommended and it is a Newbery Honor. Benjamin told me I simply must read it. It looks suspenseful! So I'm looking forward to reading that and discussing with him.

I'm also looking forward to reading A Kingdom Far and Clear, which my brother Ransom got me. I didn't even know that one of my favorite books was part of a trilogy! But apparently it is and now I get to read more in the Swan Lake series. I wanted to read it aloud to the kids at first, so I tried that out, and they didn't bite. Hm. I think it was just a matter of timing and will try again. But I think in the meantime I might have to read it myself. I can't always just be waiting for them to be excited about a read-aloud, even if it was one of my favorites as a child. (More that I've blogged about this book here.)

Also looking forward to reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I dunno if I'll buy it or not. Do you think I should buy it? We have all seven of the series, but none of the other books in the Potter-verse. Are any of them worth it? I'm talking about Tales of Beedle the Bard, Magical Creatures, etc. etc. If you have opinions, please share.

What good books have you read lately? What books are you looking forward to? Don't hold out on me.

p.s. I almost forgot Tikki Tikki Tembo! The Bairs had it checked out from their library and we read it to the kids at least 7 times over the course of a few days. Jubilee especially loved it, but really we all did. I think maybe we need to own that one. It's even better than I remember.
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