Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm---Giveaway Closed

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Grimm brothers' collection of classic fairy tales. To celebrate, Philip Pullman, most famously the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, has recently written a retelling of fifty of his favorites from the original collection. Penguin Books sent me a copy to review, and I have to say I was surprised---and ultimately happily so.

Pullman maintains the Grimms' original style and much of the original language. This is not an embellishment or re-imagining of the original tales, which is what I had anticipated. Instead, Pullman has examined multiple translations and versions of the original stories, added a bit of detail, minutely shifted storylines here and there, and created this lovely new version that maintains a classic feeling. At the end of each of the fifty stories, he describes the sources he used and the revisions he made and his reasons for doing so. I love these extra analyses; they add so much to the stories that I'd never considered or known before.

So. I was a little disappointed they weren't reinvented. But that was my own fault for misunderstanding what Pullman had done and why. Now that I know, I enjoy picking up the book and reading a tale or two while feeding my little baby five or six times daily. This is a great collection, especially nice for those who don't have time to sit for hours to finish a novel.

Now for the giveaway---if you would like your very own copy of Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, leave your name and e-mail address to enter a drawing for a copy. Also, fill in the blank on this little phrase for me: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without _______. The answer that comes to my mind, for instance, is The Carpenters. Love that Christmas album. I listen to it many times every December. What's a tradition or place you go or thing you must see/eat/listen to at Christmastime to really feel in the spirit? I love hearing about others' traditions.

To summarize this rather long-winded post:
1. Philip Pullman's collection of 50 fairy tales is great.
2. If you want to enter to win a copy, leave a comment with a) your name, b) your e-mail, c) Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without _______.
3. Giveaway is open now (December 29, 2012) through Friday, January 5, 2013.

And here's a book trailer, in case you're interested.

Want to purchase this book? Here are some affiliate links to it:
   philip Pullman fairy tales brothers grimm

The Name of the Star

*A personal note: Wow, my lack of posting is seriously out of hand! But, what can I say? All of my creative juices are being called upon to create a whole new baby. Without further ado, I will finally review a book for you! 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

This is an excellent thriller. By turns I was either biting my fingernails (not literally) or laughing my head off (also a metaphor).

The basic premise is this: In modern-day London, some psycho has started recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper. Similar locations, similar victims, and similar gory details. What makes it all so freaky is that nobody can catch him. He's following a schedule, for goodness sake, and yet the police can't even get a visual. CCTV cameras pointed at the scene seem to be malfunctioning, etc.  So that's the nail-biting part.

"So why," you ask, "were you laughing so hard that you had to pause for breath?" I will tell you. Our heroine, Rory Deveaux, hails from Lousiana, USA and begins the book by travelling to a London boarding school (sidenote: the reason she's going to English boarding school was well done, in my opinion). There across the pond she is always doing awkward and embarrassing things, which I frequently found funny. Then of course there is the love interest, who comes with some awkward and hilarious moments of his own.

The book was brilliantly paced, and I would have read it much faster than I actually did (three days) if I could have. In terms of characters, I found Rory charming, quirky, and easy to listen to. The new Ripper still kind of haunts me. The plot as a whole was a good balance of predictable and shocking (one really requires the other to work well, no?).

The bottom line: It was good. But maybe a little too scary for me.

The second book in the trilogy comes out in February 2013. Can anyone tell me if it's a little less disturbing? I think the fact that the most violent parts of the book were based on historical records really creeped me out.

book source: I picked this one up at KidLitCon. Many thanks to the publisher for handing out copies at Maureen Johnson's keynote address!


Post by Ashley
I'm pretty much crazy about everything I've read that Juliet Marillier has written. This is the sixth book of hers that I've read, and it was just as good as the other five.

My least favorite part about blogging about books, if you must know, is summarizing the plot. I feel like cheating today, so here's the summary from Juliet's own website:

Its name is spoken only in whispers, if the people of Alban dare to speak it at all: Shadowfell. The training ground for rebels seeking to free their land from the rule of the tyrannical king is so shrouded in mystery that most believe it to be a myth.

But for Neryn, Shadowfell’s existence is her only hope. She is alone and penniless, a fugitive concealing a treacherous magical power that will warrant her immediate enslavement should it be revealed.  She finds hope of allies in the Good Folk, fey beings whom she must pretend she cannot see and who taunt her with chatter of prophecies and tests; and in a mysterious stranger who saves her from certain death but whose motives remain unclear.

Will Neryn be forced to make the dangerous journey alone? She must reach Shadowfell, not only to avenge her family and salvage her own life, but to rescue Alban itself.

Neryn is a powerfully likable main character, and the world of Alban is equal parts tragic, detailed, and absorbing. Flint, the love interest, is full of secrets as dangerous as Neryn's own, and it takes a long time for trust to take hold. But Neryn is smart about it, not dramatic or overly emotional, which I really appreciate in her. Juliet Marillier's writing is beautiful, and her imagination just astounds me. I half-wish I could write a book someday, but I just don't know how people dream up such amazing stories. Ms. Marillier's dreams must be lovely.

Shadowfell gets a tad overly violent in a couple places, which I mostly just let my eyes skim over. But it's a great first novel in what will be, of course, naturally, and obviously, a trilogy. Fantasy books cannot exist alone, after all. It's some kind of unwritten rule that all authors adhere to. So grab it from your library. It's great. Oh, and definitely pick up Wildwood Dancing while you're at it. It's pure loveliness.
Previously: Ashley's review of Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

Have you met Itsy Mitsy?

So begins this totally adorable children's book I randomly grabbed off the library shelf. Itsy Mitsy is part Cindy Lou Who, part Precious Moments doll---totally adorable, in other words, but with tons of little-girl spitfire.

Itsy Mitsy hates bedtime. So she decides that she'll be running away to a place where there are no bedtimes ever, not even one. Her dad tearfully "helps" her pack. She must bring a friend. No bedtimes is one thing, but no friends? That would be terrible. So along comes her friendliest dinosaur, Mr. Roar. But Mr. Roar needs a snack. And his snack needs to be guarded from the bedtime beasties. And Puptart needs a light to bark at the beasties. And the light needs an outlet. And the outlet needs a house! And ... you get the idea.

I love that the story includes Itsy Mitsy's dad. I love the childish voice and imagination of it---how it's not quite real, and yet very real to Itsy Mitsy. I love the playful illustrations. And I love the poetic rhythm of the writing. This is just one seriously cute little book! Check it out. Itsy Mitsy is one little storybook gal you've got to meet.

Palace of Stone winner! Plus some questions answered

Ok guys, I couldn't choose my favorite question, so it was a random drawing. Congratulations, Shelly! And I can answer the questions Shelly asked:
Did she recognize you? Yep! We're pretty much best friends by now. (Either that or you tend to get a handle on your stalkers' faces.)
Did you call the phone to find it? No! I don't think we would have even noticed it was missing until after we had left -- it was a seriously lucky save.

Shelly wins!
Other questions I can answer:
Kayla asked about the Austenland movie. So did I, in the signing line. She said it is DONE. Done! She has seen it! (And that it is quirky. She loved it, but it's not super mainstream, being directed by Jerusha Hess and all. To which I say, of course! I was expecting that.) She has no idea, zero, nada, zilch about distribution. She said it's much more expensive to distribute a movie than it is to make it (to which I said, "same as a book, then") and it may go to festivals or something but she really has no idea. So, Kayla, I think you and me need to find out the hidden location of the footage, and then go there, with popcorn and muddy buddies and such and just refuse to leave until they let us see it. Unless you have ninja skillz, in which case we could steal it, watch it, and return it without anyone being worse off! I mean c'mon, I'd still totally pay to see it in a theater.
Jennifer Coolidge, R, plays Miss Charming. She tweeted this picture.
I found it on Connie Onnie's blog
Alex asked: I own Princess Academy but haven't read it yet. So my question is this: How eager should I be to read the first one in order to read the second? To which I said: If I were you I would NOT read the second until I had read the first. Unlike her Bayern series, with this one the story is a direct sequel and there would be major spoilers that, if you were me, you would regret being spoiled about.
The newest cover of the newest edition of Princess Academy.
Notice that it is not "The" Princess Academy. 

Stacey asked if she could win, and thus read her first Shannon Hale book. The answer to that is that she could have won, but sadly didn't. I'm so sad I didn't have a dozen copies -- one for each of you! Alas. If  I were going to read a Shannon Hale book for the first ever time, I would read The Goose Girl. That is the one I read first, and I was pretty much hooked for life. If you can't find that one at your library, I'm sure they'll have Princess Academy, because it got a Newbery Honor.
Her first book is the first Shannon Hale book you should read!

Anna would ask Shannon "who her favorite author is and/or who she is inspired by" -- just so happens that I've heard her answer this question lots of times, and noticed that without fail she always mentions Robin McKinley. This time around, she also mentioned Lloyd Alexander.

This is a book by Robin McKinley.
More books that Shannon Hale recommends, here!
Ok that's it for me tonight. Longest winner announcement ever! I have more KidLitCon recap stuff for you though. Coming soon.


My KidLitCon adventure began a day before the actual conference, so I'm calling this installment of the report "Day 0."

On this lovely Thursday, I met up with my friends Rachel and Marie just after 1 p.m. We drove the three hours to Chicago in style - with Rachel at the wheel and lots of yummy snacks. Ladies' road trips are the best, and the talk always makes the time fly.

Our first stop in Chicago was IKEA. (I know, this has nothing to do with KidLitCon or even books but just wait! I am about to impress you with my amazingness!) At IKEA I helped Rachel and Marie get their furnitures all picked out and such, and I finally got a new set of measuring cups for myself. I've been missing the 1/4 cup for a long time, since I melted it that one day. (Wait for it ...)

Rachel, on a spinny cow stool.
Marie, on a pink plastic chair.

We were about to check out when -- oh no! -- Rachel had lost the claim slip for the bed she was buying. The checkout lady called up to the furniture lady and while they tried to get it sorted, I slipped back into the warehouse part to look for the missing paper. Three aisles and two false alarms later, I found it! (Permission to be amazed: granted.) And where did I find it? Underneath Rachel's cell phone. That's right, her phone was almost lost forever in IKEA Chicago. (And now I am taking a bow, to all your applause.)

Quickly, we loaded our purchases into Rachel's Expedition and zoomed off to Anderson's Bookshop (and here's where the books come in). We snuck in just a minute or two late for Shannon Hale's appearance.

Shannon gave as charming and vivacious a presentation as I have ever seen her give. She was, in fact, jumping up and down at one point. Very lively. She took questions from the audience and talked about how going back to writing Miri's voice (for Palace of Stone) was easy for her -- typically, she said, she starts with a story and then finds the character in the drafts. This time, of course, she knew Miri well and had to find the story.

Shannon told us that she is working on a series of Easy Readers, to be called The Princess in Black. The series was inspired by her then-four-year-old daughter who was wearing a skirt and naming the colors. "Pink is a girl color, purple is a girl color, but black isn't a girl color," she said. Shannon protested. Her daughter countered, "Princesses don't wear black." So the books will be about a pretty pink-clad princess who, by night, dresses in black and rides out to do battle with monsters. She is also working on a science fiction book set in the present day -- as yet untitled.

After questions, Shannon Hale signed books. And this is where things start to get lucky for you, Evereaders. I couldn't wait until the end of September to read a Shannon Hale book that came out in August. And I couldn't get a spot in the signing line without ordering a book from Anderson's. So . . . I have an extra, signed copy for one of you!

A signed copy of this excellent book, delivered to your mailbox?
Learn how to win, below!
Just leave a comment on this post (perhaps you will tell me a question you would have asked Shannon Hale?) to be entered in the contest. Whoever asks my most favorite question will win. Or, if I can't decide, it will be a random drawing. Either way, I will announce the winner next Wednesday, October 10.

{This contest is now closed, but you're still welcome to comment!}

Good luck! I hope you win!

The three of us at Wendy's after the signing.
Why did I take no photos of Shannon Hale?
It is a mystery even to myself.
p.s. Oh yeah! After the bookstore we went to dinner and then to our hotel. I was very relieved that it wasn't shady -- since I booked it online two nights before. For some odd reason I got the biggest thrill walking into the hotel room. I yelled, "We're here!" Somehow being in the hotel made New York and KidLitCon the next day seem so much more real. Day 1 report, coming soon!

Micro-reviews: one of everything!

I'm so excited and overwhelmed! Tomorrow I leave for New York City (my first time there as an adult) and KidLitCon (the conference for children's literature bloggers)!

But. Before I go, I have to tell you about some of the books I've been reading lately. Great stuff!

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale -- This is the much anticipated (by me) sequel to Princess Academy. Miri and friends are headed for Asland and going to stay in the ...(dun dun dun) Palace of Stone! (That stone being Linder, the stone their village quarries, of course). It is set over the course of 6 months, and I confess the gaps in the timeline threw me at first. Once the action became more closely spaced in time, probably the last quarter of the book, it really hooked me. I don't know if that says more about the writing or about me as a reader, but there you have it. Loved the themes, loved the characters (well, the lovable ones), and the story overall.

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Volume 1 by Tove Jansson -- Charming! I read this one a while ago, and then started seeing references to Moomin everywhere. Moomin is loveable and silly and has friends and family of all types. Most memorable for me: Moomin on the Riviera, which was such a spot on story about vacations! The strip originally ran in London in the 1950's.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente -- I'd heard so many good things about this book, and I could tell from the title that I was either going to love it or hate it. Loved it! It reminded me of The Neverending Story, except that one dragged for me a bit, and this one didn't. Also I liked September much better than Bastian. I think there's a sequel coming out sometime, but it's not a cliffhanger.

Caddy's World by Hilary McKay -- As far as I'm concerned, the only problem with the Casson family books is that they make me forget that the Cassons aren't real, so I have to burst my own bubble when I imagine going to England to visit them. Hilary McKay is my absolute favorite realistic fiction author. For fans of the series (which started with Saffy's Angel) this one is actually a prequel, set in the year Rose was born and focusing on Caddy's experiences. My biggest problem with this one: too much grouchy Bill and not enough lovely Eve. :-)

Library Wars: Love & War Volume 6 by Kiiro Yumi -- These books just make me laugh so much. I read this volume in one sitting at the end of a rather rotten day and it says something that by the end I was in the mood to belly-laugh at Dojo and Kasahara's antics. It's manga, and reads R to L (backwards to us native English speakers).

B is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC by June Sobel and Melissa Iwai -- This one is the most recent winner for beloved picture book at our house. I grabbed it from the library and a couple of days later I said to Jacob, "This book has a nice flow. I appreciate that, since I have to read it over and over and over." Sobel's lovely poem takes us through the construction of an amusement park from beginning to end. Iwai's bold illustrations are our first clues that it is a park being built. The text and illustration work together seamlessly, and it was an immense hit with my two year old.

How about you? Read anything good lately?
...And now I must pack....



Christopher Paolini was quoted on the cover of this book as saying that the book's dragons were "some of the most interesting" he'd read. And while I don't love everything Paolini has written, he was right! Seraphina's take on dragonkind is unique, fascinating to think about, and indeed, very interesting.

Seraphina is a young woman trying to pass herself off as human---but she isn't, entirely. Her father was human, but her mother was a dragon, one who'd made the ultimate sacrifice of all her family, her loyalty, and her kind for the love of Seraphina's father. A treaty, only forty years old, brought a very tenuous truce between the human and dragon worlds, but recent deaths threaten to tip the precarious balance between peace and all-out war. And Seraphina finds herself in the middle of it all, trying to simultaneously hide her parentage and use its truth to her advantage in uncovering the identity of the crown prince's murderer.

The writing is so imaginative and lovely. The story twists and turns and is completely fun to get lost in. The characters are awesome. I really enjoyed this book. Though naturally, it'll have a sequel, as pretty much every last YA fantasy book these days does. So the ending is less than conclusive. But ah well. Definitely a good read.

Book Club: Around the World by Matt Phelan

This last week I hosted book club at my house. The book I chose was Around the World by Matt Phelan. (I've written about it before.) I wanted to introduce some of the smartest ladies I know to graphic novels, and this one was a big hit. For starters, almost everyone who came read it! (I, myself, have been guilty of not reading the book before I attend this particular book club.)

"I liked it! And I didn't think I was going to like it." 

"I was like 'Oh, no, I've got two book club books to read!' but then I opened this one up and yay! It was a graphic novel!"

"You can say some things in pictures that you can't say in words. Like when she is dancing."

"I love the expressions on their faces."

"I found Thomas Stevens' story really inspiring. He was unhappy with his life and he made a new life for himself in a time when it was really hard to do that."

"Nellie Bly was my favorite!"

"I thought Joshua Slocum's story was just so sad . . ."

"I could tell the flashbacks in the last story, because they were a different color."

"I had to read the last one a couple of times, it was confusing to me. There aren't many words."

"I don't like graphic novels, but I liked this one." 

If you're looking for a good book club book, I heartily recommend this one. It is the sort of book that both satisfies you and increases your curiosity. It contains three true stories of world travellers, written and illustrated by the same hand.

What books has your book club read lately?

KidLitCon 2012

I'm SO happy to say I will be going to KidLitCon 2012! I really cannot convey my excitement properly. But this is telling -- twice the conference has made it into dreams I've dreamt recently (one good, one bad).

* New York City * Children's Literature * Blogging * Making new friends *

It sounds so awesome to me! Which means I think I'm headed to the right place. If you're going, too, let me know so I can look for you. I'll be the tallish one with the longish brown hair and -- shoot I don't think that's going to cut it. I'm going to have to distinguish myself somehow...

Update: The Conference was great! I recommend KidLitCon to book bloggers, book reviewers, authors, illustrators and book lovers. We got to meet with publishers and see their upcoming titles in person. We got to hear speakers on SO many great bookish topics. We traded books, we ate dinners, we ran around the city at night looking for souvenirs:

One of the highlights for me was meeting Grace Lin. I love her books Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (a gorgeously illustrated chinese fairy tale story) and her Ling and Ting series for early readers (These two cute, hilarious twins and their jokes and antics)! 

I wrote about my adventures getting to KidLitCon here. Or perhaps you'd like to see the notes I took at a Newbery Authors event in NYC right after the conference? You can see those here

Apply now as a Cybils 2012 judge!

The application information and form are up over at the Cybils website, as of today!

As I filled out the application I realized that if I'm selected as a judge this year, it will by my fifth year. Wow! I really love the Cybils. I love the shortlists, and the winners, and that it is all run by volunteers from the kidlit blogging community.

Seriously, if someone asks me for book recommendations in an area of children's literature that I don't read as widely, the Cybils shortlists are the first place I go. Solid, every time.

This year, loads of book bloggers will come together to pick the best from 2012 in eleven categories: Book Apps, Easy Readers/Early Chapter books, Middle Grade Fiction, Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy, YA Fiction, YA SciFi/Fantasy, Picture Books, Nonfiction Picture Books, Middle Grade and YA Nonfiction, Poetry, and Graphic Novels.

Hooray for the Cybils!


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

This book is steampunk: history and fantasy meet and mingle, and it is great. Set in an alternate version of World War I, Leviathan alternates between Alek, the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Deryn, the daughter of a hot-air-balloon pilot who is determined to fly, even if it means breaking the law.

I really liked this one!  I had heard it was good, Ashley raves about the trilogy and so do others. I checked out the audio book for our cross-country drive this summer. Sadly, my CD player fritzed out. Luckily, I had brought a hard copy. "Be Prepared!" That's my motto. So Jacob and I read this to each other on the drive, pausing when our stomachs threatened us, and we both give it the thumbs up.

Westerfeld did a great job of exposition and world building -- we got to head right into the action and we learned about the world as we went along. Illustrations were interspersed throughout the book and helped me visualize some of the descriptions of intricate machines and engineered animals.

I was able to identify with both of the main characters and liked Deryn's determination particularly. In my opinion, Alek's best quality is his compassion.

The end of the narrative ties things up somewhat, but definitely leaves plenty of room for book two, Behemoth, and book three, Goliath. I've got book two now. :)

The author's note at the end explains which parts of the book are based in history and which are fictionalized  -- quite a boon to me, finishing in the middle of nowhere with no internet access. Another personal plus: no foul language (unless you count "barking" as a swear word) or inappropriate content (though some crushy feelings add tension to the end of the book). This is a book I wholeheartedly recommend that my parents and siblings listen to on their next road trip, and they range in age from nine on up.  

Moving season!

Summer is moving season. I didn't have to move house this summer, thankfully, but I've moved the blog! No worries, you can still get to Everead via everead.blogspot.com -- you'll be redirected to the new URL.

That's right, www.evereadbooks.com is our new address! So let me know if you see any bugs or have any trouble with feeds or anything. I would have got everead.com, but the going price was four digits and I wasn't going for that. At this point, Everead isn't generating income so the price tag was just laughable. 

On the subject of blog income, you'll notice the ads in the sidebar. They're google ads, and follow the pay per click model. That means if you click on something over there that interests you, I earn a few cents. (At the moment I don't have any pay per impression ads -- those would pay me for people just looking at them, rather than clicking them.) If you ever see objectionable ads on Everead, please let me know. 

Loads of blogs make money through advertising, and I'm not opposed to Everead being one of them. In fact, if you have a business, or a blog, or an idea or message that you'd like to put in the sidebar, contact me and if I think it is a good fit for the site we can skip the advertising agency middle man. Ads like those are called "boutique ads."   

It's probably my dream job to be a personal book shopper, so I've also toyed with the idea of offering other (non-advertising) services here on Everead. You should definitely email me if you want to hire me to buy books for you. One book, lots of books, whatever. At this point I'm not making it part of the site, but I'm open to it.

So, what have you moved this summer? 

What book brings back happy childhood memories for you?

First, the winners of our E-book Giveaway:

Strawberry Girl goes to Ruel!
The Paper Bag Princess goes to Annaliese!

Congrats, you two! Since this is an e-book giveaway, I don't need your physical address, just the email address you want the file sent to, and what format you'd like to recieve it in (Kindle, Nook, iPad, kobo, or Sony reader). Send that info my way by July 7 to claim your prize.

Now, what were your favorite books from childhood? Evereaders responded:

  • Father Fox's Pennyrhymes by Clyde Watson
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner
  • Little Bear books by Elsie Holmelund Minarik
  • Fanny's Dream by Caralyn Buehner
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch 


A digital copy of Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater is still up for grabs! Lots of info about this charming book can be found on its wikipedia page. Comment and let me know if you'd like to win. 

What childhood favorites are missing from our list?


E-book Giveaway: Childhood Favorites

Hello there! Which of these three lovely e-books would you like to win? All three of these are childhood favorites of mine.

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
I remember reading Strawberry Girl with my mother in early elementary school, and loving it! The funny thing is, I don't remember anything about the book. I just remember that I loved it. I'd enter to win this one just so I could refresh my memory (and so I could read it aloud to my kids when they got to elementary school)!

Apparently, it is the story of Birdie and her family on the Florida frontier. They are trying to start a strawberry farm despite droughts, cold snaps and dastardly neighbors. It won the Newbery medal.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
I read this one a couple of years ago, as an adult. I couldn't remember if I'd read it as a child or not, so I decided to give it a try. It was utterly charming. It's the sweet story of unassuming Mr. Popper and how he accidentally ends up with a set of performing penguins that make life grand.

Not long after I read Mr. Popper's Penguins, I heard a movie version was coming out starring Jim Carey. After seeing the trailer, I decided I'd pass on seeing it. So, if you saw the movie (or it's trailer) and were underwhelmed, you might try the book.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
The Paper Bag Princess is one of my very favorite picture books. I loved it as a kid and I love it now. It was one of the first picture books I bought when I moved away from home.  It is the story of Elizabeth, a lovely princess who cleverly rescues her handsome prince, Ronald. The story ends with an intriguing twist, and is beautifully illustrated.

This happy little giveaway will have three winners. It is sponsored by Open Road Media, as part of their summer reading campaign, "Avoid the Summer Slide!" Check out their video -- it made me smile.

To enter the contest:
Giveaway Closed! Leave a comment telling me which of the above-featured e-books you'd like to win, and what book brings back happy childhood memories for you. I'm looking forward to your answers! Winners will be announced on July 5th, 2012.


2012 ALA Award Winners!

Right. So the Newbery Banquet was last night, I guess. Some people were tweeting about it, and I was like, "I should see who won!" Then I looked it up and figured out that the announcement was made back in January! Pffsh. I knew that. I was only joking when I said I wasn't going to stay up last night to find out the winners!


As it turns out, I have not mentioned said winners here before. And so, without further ado, here is the information:

The 2012 Newbery, Caldecott and other exciting American Library Association awards have been announced!

The Newbery went to Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, which I have heard good things about. I'll definitely read that one.

Leila Roy thinks fans of  Richard Peck's
Grandma Dowdel stories will like it.
Newbery Honors go to Inside Out and Back Again, which somebody was saying was good, and ohit's a novel in verse. Breaking Stalin's Nose is the other Newbery Honor, and I don't know much about that one.

I find I either love or hate most novels in verse.

The Caldecott medal went to A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka.  Our family quite liked another one of his titles, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. Jacob's a big fan of jazz music, so he could sing right along with the book. Anyway, we'll definitely check out this latest book of his!

Who here has a dog? Any dog lovers?

Caldecott honors went to Blackout by John Rocco, which I enjoyed a lot; and Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell, which I also read and enjoyed (and which won the Cybils award this year!). Grandpa Green is the third honor book and I haven't read that one, though I've seen favorable opinions around the Internet. :)

A topiary! I will have to read this one.

If you're looking for books for beginning readers, the Geisel award winners are worth checking out (you know Ashley and I, and our families, loved I Want My Hat Back).

It really is a very funny book, and lovely for beginning readers.
I'm so pleased it got a Geisel Honor! 

If you're into audiobooks, check out the Odyssey award winners.

Rotters, written by Daniel Kraus and read by Kirby Heybourne
won the 2012 Odyssey award.

Anyway, this is by no means a comprehensive list; and, on top of that, it is six months later than one might expect it. But I think it's fair to celebrate the 2012 winners all throughout 2012, don't you? Which one are you most likely to read?

How do I make reading fun?

In January 2011, we got on a kick with Yoko by Rosemary Wells. At least twice a day I would read this frankly adorable book to Benjamin. In it, a little cat named Yoko is new to her kindergarten class. She isn't fast friends with Sophie or Olive or the Franks. She does "weird" things like bringing sushi instead of sandwiches for lunch and red bean ice cream for dessert. I love that Rosemary Wells doesn't shy away from the really emotional experiences kids have in early elementary school. This is true, by the way, in all her books, not just her books about Yoko. 

Anyway, we were reading Yoko constantly and Benjamin, being two-and-a-half, would ask me all the time what red bean ice cream was. Yoko brings hers to school in a Thermos cup. Well in early 2011 I got a new Thermos brand water bottle and Jacob mentioned the word "Thermos." So Benjamin immediately started pretending to eat red bean ice cream. I thought "Hey, I bet an Asian grocery would have some real red bean ice cream." So he and I went on a date to our local Asian food store. They not only had it, but there were lots of options! Apparently Adzuki is a popular flavor for treats of all kinds. We bought a pint of the ice cream and gave it a try. Jacob didn't like the texture, and Benjamin pronounced it "too cold." But that just meant there was more for meI like it! 
I also like red bean mochi.
This is the brand my neighbor gave me once and
I've since bought more for myself.

I had so much fun bringing this little piece of the book to life that later I made some sushi for us to eat as well. 

When teachers do this sort of thing in the classroom, they call it "making connections," and it actually improves children's reading comprehension and enjoyment. It is easier to relate to the characters and the story once you've done something written about in the book. And when you relate, you care enough to readeven if the book has some hard words. Text-to-self connections: they're fun and they're good for you!

So, if you're wondering how to make reading more fun for someone in your life, or if you're just looking for something to do on one of these long summer days, try a day themed around a book.  I was inspired to write this post because I loved reading about my friend Lindsey's ideas for just such a day centered on Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

How do you make reading fun? Comment below and share your story.

Read along with Shannon Hale

Hi! Can I just tell you how excited I am about the Squeetus Summer Book Club? Soooo excited.

Basically, starting on July 2, Shannon Hale is going to read and chat about a chapter of Princess Academy each day.

The new cover for Princess Academy in  paperback.
Also, over on her site, Shannon has published a prologue to Palace of Stone that won't be in the book, and the letter to readers that can be found in the front of the advance copies of the book.

Anyway, I will definitely be participating! Anyone else think it sounds fun?

Dragon Puncher

Dragon Puncher by James Kochalka

I first heard of this book on Laini Taylor's blog. Apparently her toddler loves it. Next, I saw it on the library shelf, and it really jumps out, rather. So I picked it up, and then I remembered having seen it on her blog before.

I read it on the spotstanding there in the library.  It's not long at all. I sort of snorted and thought it was silly. I didn't check it out, since I already had my two items (it's kind of a horrible tragedy that I'm only permitted to check out two items at one of the libraries in our community, but that is another story).

As time went on, Dragon Puncher popped back into my thoughts, and I eventually decided to check the book out so I could read it to Benjamin. Re-reading it, I just got more and more impressed.

I started to notice details the second, third, and following times I read it. The backgrounds are flawless! The expressions on the photo faces just crack me up*! Despite being silly, this book wasn't thrown together, it was crafted. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, too, because it is so obviously a labor of love for the author's son. It is a little bit of family history preserved for years to come. A book they can read together and remember the imaginary game they used to play.

The end-papers at the back of the book invite those who enjoyed Dragon Puncher to write Kochalka a letter. Benjamin took that invitation with my help. He dictated to me, and I helped keep him on the subject at hand. We included a return address, and one evening after Benjamin was asleep I checked the mail. We got a letter back! Super exciting! Both Jacob and I wanted to open it, but we waited until Benjamin woke up the next morning.
He is enchanted.
Here is the (handwritten) letterit came with some fun swag!
I heartily recommend writing a letter to James Kochalka. 
Sidenote: Having this book in my house has definitely made me more popular. We read it at a picnic and now all the four-year-olds want to read it when they come over. Okay, maybe just Alaster, the only one at the picnic. But still, "Can we read Dragon Puncher?" was the first thing he said when he walked in the door.

The Graphic Novel Book Club that I attend discussed some pretty heavy books in April, and the call came for something completely happy and fun for May. So I suggested Dragon Puncher and we universally agreed that it was indeed happy and fun! We also read Squish by Matt and Jenny Holm (Which is more substantive, but less colorful. Peggy is my favorite!) and Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre (which I didn't actually get to yet).

If you read Dragon Puncher, let me know how you like it! We'll definitely be checking out the sequel, Dragon Puncher Island.


*At first I was like, "What's up that they don't have mouths?" but then I was like, "It just makes the dragon teeth that much more impressive."

More Graphic Novel reviews, for babies, kids, teens, and grown-ups!

Winner! The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent

Man, just typing the title of the book is tricky! It's a tongue twister for sure. Without further ado, congratulate Kate! She is the lucky winner!

Sidenote: I loved Kate's comment. She said
at one point, i really believed that if i ate a watermelon seed, a watermelon plant would grow in my stomach. i was really careful about seeding my watermelon!
This is the part where I would usually say "Kate, email me your address so that I can ship the book to you." But Kate and I are friends in real life! And, happily, Kate just moved in across the street from me. So this is one package that will be hand delivered.

Giveaway [CLOSED] : The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent (signed!)

The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent by Laura Ripes, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

So, this is exciting!

Today I have a giveaway for you! A little while back the kids (and dad Aaron Zenz) at Bookie Woogie interviewed Laura Ripes and talked about her book The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent, which Aaron Zenz illustrated. It's a very fun interview. At the end of it, they had a giveaway (spoiler: I WON!) of two copies of the book -- one to keep and one to share. I thought that was so clever.

So now YOU can win! But first let me tell you a little about the book.

As you may have guessed from the title, The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent is a tongue-twister book with loads of S's. It follows Sammy Sanders as he searches for some way to show that all this suspicious evidence he has collected comes from a spaghetti-slurping sewer serpent.

I love that Sammy grows over the course of the short narrative -- at the beginning of the book, he's got something to prove, literally. By the end, he is a little more relaxed and realizes that knowing the truth for himself is satisfying, whether or not he can prove it.

I love the text -- plenty of S's without overdoing it (though I have to wonder where S's were cut -- in her Bookie Woogie interview Ms. Ripes says they were "reined in a lot.") And I like that it is a complete story delivered in short snippets. (read: Not too much text per picture for my 3- and 1-year-olds.)

The illustrations are charming and simple, realistic with a little bit of exaggeration -- very fitting for the story. Mr. Zenz works in colored pencil and with every project he does, he saves the pencil tips that break over the course of it. I'll have to ask him how many tips this project produced. :)

To enter to win a hardcover copy of The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent, signed by the author and illustrator, leave a comment on this post. If you'd like, you can talk about a time when you were gullible, like Ms. Ripes says she was in childhood, or when you "got" someone who was gullible.

The winner will be announced in one week, on Tuesday June 5.
Check out Everead's Giveaway Policy.

Good luck, and I hope that you win! It's a cute one.

p.s. Looking for a good book to give to a baby? Everead's top 5 picks.

UPDATE: Aaron Zenz says, "I busted 141 pencil tips in the making of The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent. :)"

Books to Give at Baby Showers

The baby shower invitation comes. 

The happy parents-to-be have got basics covered. 

I want to give a book. 

But not a book that someone else is also going to give them. 

So, I skip past most of the supermodels of infant books (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Where's Spot by Eric Hill). 

Instead, I go for one of these overlooked beauties.
(photos will link* you to B&N, titles to Amazon.)

I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy. I adore this book's bold black backgrounds and and simple silhouettes. In it, the whole neighborhood gets to meet a baby chick. "I held the baby, did you hold the baby?" The story culminates with sweet baby kisses.

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. This interactive classic invites readers to complete sensory tasks. Ashley and I like that it's not all rubbing faux fur. Readers are poking, lifting, and looking as well as rubbing. Published in 1940, you could call it the original touch-and-feel book.

Nursery Rhyme Comics by Various Authors, Chris Duffy and Leonard S. Marcus. This is one that parents can enjoy before baby is born, then read in bits and pieces to their child as his attention span grows. With so many different rhymes and styles (fifty!) there's sure to be something that everyone likes. Full review here.

Walk On! by Marla Frazee. I love Marla Frazee's vintage style. In this book she gives babies a handy guide for how to walk -- checklist included. "Are your shoes too tight or too loose? Is your diaper weighing you down? Fix whatever you can before you start over."  It's funny and sweet, and just as applicable to taking the first steps into parenting as it is to babies taking their literal first steps.

Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley and Janice Nadeau. This book speaks to me in a beautiful way. When I think of it, I know I'm not alone in believing that parenthood can be both unbelievably taxing and the most treasured experience. It tells the story of Miriam the beautiful baker, her loving husband Sebastian, and their beloved, colicky baby. Full review here.

Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton. Ashley and I think it is so fun to introduce new moms to Sandra Boynton. Barnyard Dance was one that I received as a shower gift and I've shared that love a couple times. There's something irresistible about Boynton's rhymes  -- they just fall out of your mouth as if you've known them your whole life. And her pen-and-watercolor illustrations are completely unique. Somehow her farm animals, monsters, penguins, and dinosaurs are incredibly cute.

Happy Birthday to babies everywhere! These are all tried-and-true (meaning it's bearable to read each one more than three times in a row).

What are some of your favorite books to give at baby showers? 

What is a favorite you've received?
*This post was updated with affiliate links on 10/9/2014 If you make a purchase after clicking, I will earn a small commission. Thanks for helping to make my passion (sharing books!) profitable. 
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