Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Exclusive Sneak Peak at Anne Ursu's BREADCRUMBS

I am so excited to share our exclusive sneak peak we have for Walden Pond Press's upcoming middle grade release, BREADCRUMBS. This a fabulous story! Here's a little bit about it:

Illustrated by Erin McGuire
Published by Walden Pond Press
To Be Released on September 27th, 2011

A stunning modern-day fairy tale from acclaimed author Anne Ursu

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

Before I share this fabulous sneak peak with you, I have to rave about this book. Not only is the cover beautiful and the illustrations captivating, but the story is amazing. I am so excited about the upcoming release. This is a book I highly recommend pre-ordering.

I'm thrilled to be able to share with you an illustration from the book along with this delightful excerpt.

It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems. It was the sort of snow that transforms the world around it into a different kind of place. You know what it’s like—when you wake up to find everything white and soft and quiet, when you run outside and your breath suddenly appears before you in a smoky poof, when you wonder for a moment if the world in which you woke up is not the same one that you went to bed in the night before. Things like that happen, at least in the stories you read. It was the sort of snowfall that, if there were any magic to be had in the world, would make it come out.

And magic did come out.

But not the kind you were expecting.

That morning, Hazel Anderson ran out of her small house in her white socks and green thermal pajamas. She leapt over the threshold of the house onto the front stoop where she stood, ignoring the snow biting at her ankles, to take in the white street. Everything was pristine. No cars had yet left their tracks to sully the road. The small squares of lawn that lay in front of each of the houses like perfectly aligned placemats seemed to stretch beyond the boundaries of their chain-link fences joined together as one great field of white. A thick blanket of snow covered each roof as if to warm and protect the house underneath.

All was quiet. The sun was just beginning to peek out over the horizon. The air smelled crisp and expectant. Snowflakes danced in the awakening sky, touching down softly on Hazel’s long black hair.

Hazel sucked in her breath involuntarily, bringing in a blast of cold.

Something stirred inside her, some urge to plunge into the new white world and see what it had to offer. It was like she’d walked out of a dusty old wardrobe and found Narnia.

Hazel stuck her index finger out into the sky. A snowflake accepted her invitation and she felt a momentary pinprick of cold on the pad of her bare finger. She gazed at the snowflake, considering its delicate structure. Inside it was another universe, and maybe if she figured out the right way to ask, someone would let her in.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: The Sleepless Little Vampire

Written & Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Published by Scholastic
Released on June 1st, 2011
Ages: early reader
Source: Book from publisher for review
3.5 stars- It's a fun read

Even creatures of the night can find it hard to sleep!

What could possibly be keeping a little vampire up tonight? Is it the growling of werewolves? Is it the cackling of witches? Is it the rattling of skeletons? No! It's that all scary creatures sleep during the DAY, silly!

This gentle, read-aloud romp gathers all the favorite fall frighties together for a book that's a year-round pleasure. See for yourself how Egielski masterfully lets the pictures grow and the pace build until the moment Little Vampire (empowered!) takes control.

Beautiful. Funny. A tiny bit scary. This one's a sure bet with Little Vampires everywhere.

It's simple wording, and entertaining illustrations make The Sleepless Little Vampire a fun read for kids of all ages. It's a story that early readers will be able to enjoy reading by themselves or with a little bit of help as there are few word on each page, but many site words they'll recognize. The book's fun illustrations will be a big hit with toddlers, as they'll have fun finding the creatures of the night found on each page. This is simply a fun, quick read for kids, parents and teachers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Interview with Jack Blank

We're really excited to have Jack Blank with us today from Matt Myklusch's The Accidental Hero & The Secret War. If you haven't already picked up the Accidental Hero, than you're really missing out on meeting this amazing young hero. I highly recommend picking it up before it's sequel, The Secret War is released on August 9th, 2011. Here's a little bit about The Secret War:

Picking up a year after the events of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, Jack and his fellow students are now well into their School of Thought training and are "sidekicking" for official, card-carrying super heroes. But, even though Jack feels more at home in the Imagine Nation, he's still hiding secrets from his friends Skerren and Allegra, both about his shocking connection to their enemy Revile and about his "Top Secret" school assignment, which involves investigating the RÜstov computer virus that affects the Mechas.

Jack is busy trying to find out how far the RÜstov sleeper virus has spread, working to find a cure, and striving to avoid the dire future that Revile warned him about. Meanwhile, Jonas Smart is working just as hard to discover what Jack is hiding from everyone. When a rogue Secreteer--the protectors of secrets of inhabitants of the Imagine Nation--starts selling secrets to the highest bidder, Smart is ready and waiting.

Jack knows that if Smart finds out the truth about him and Revile, he's as good as dead. When Jack discovers that the Secreteer causing all this trouble also has information about his father, the distractions really start piling up. If Jack is going to help prevent a second RÜstov invasion, keep Smart from discovering his secrets, and find out what a shadowy, half-mad Secreteer knows about his long-lost father, he'll need to learn to trust his friends, and to find the true path toward becoming a hero himself (quoted from Simon & Schuster's site).

Thank you for being with us today Jack. We've really enjoyed reading about your adventures in The Accidental Hero and The Secret War. What is one thing you like to do when you're not busy trying to save the world?
I'll guess I'll have to let you know when I find out! That's pretty much all I do these days. Right now, I'm in a superhero training program called the School of Thought, and when I'm not in class, I'm the sidekick for my friend Blue. He used to be a supercop. Now, he's a superhero. He says the main difference between the two is that no one tells him what to do anymore, which I think is funny. Blue's not the kind of guy you tell what to do. At all. And, when I'm not at school or fighting bad guys with Blue, I have another project I'm working on. A real save-the-world type of project. I've been on it a year now. I thought I was almost done, but I hit a snag recently. It's hard to get around it too, 'cause I can't ask for help. I can't tell anyone what I'm doing. I've probably said too much already.

What superhero do you most admire and why?
That's easy. Legend. I never met him, but he was the Imagine Nation's biggest hero. The absolute biggest. He died before I got here, sacrificing himself to save the Imagine Nation - and pretty much everybody else - from a group of aliens called the Rustov. It was a huge battle and he made the difference in it. My friend Jazen used to say, "Being a hero is all about getting up in the morning and trying to make a difference in the world. That's it." Legend did that even tough he knew it would cost him his life. I guess that's what made him the hero he was.

What have learned about yourself since you first came to Imagine Nation?
Too much... and not enough! Let's see... where do I even start? First of all, I wasn't born in New Jersey like I always thought I was. I was born in the Imagine Nation, a place filled with superheroes, supervillains, aliens, robots, ninjas, and more. You name it, it's there. I found out I have superpowers too, which I have to admit is pretty cool. I control machines. It's not all good news for me though. I still don't know who my parents are or what my real last name is. And, I found out I'm infected with an virus from those same aliens, the Rustov. Yeah, that was a great moment for me, finding that out. Turns out there's a cybernetic parasite inside my body trying to take me over, and there's no way to get it out. There's no cure. If that wasn't bad enough, I even found out that one day I'm supposed to-- Hmm... you know what? Nevermind. Next question, please.

What do you most admire about Stendeval?
Stendeval is just the greatest human being I've ever met. At least, I think he's human... he is 500 years old. Really, he's superhuman, but not just because of his age or his powers. Nearly everybody in the Imagine Nation has powers. What makes Stendeval special is what he's done with his. The life he's led, the wisdom he's picked up, and the lives he's touched. Mine especially. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. The faith he had in me back when nobody had any... I still don't know where that came from. The size of Stendeval's heart and his courage to stand up for what he believes in is what I admire most about him?

If you could have any super power (other than the one you have) what would you want to be able to do and why?
It's funny, I used to wish for different powers all the time before I came to the Imagine Nation. Back when I was reading my comic books at St. Barnaby's Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost I wanted to be able to fly, shoot lasers from my eyes, and a million other things. That all changed once I actually got powers of my own. Now, I just want to figure out how to use my powers the best I can. My powers are complicated. I can talk to machines and ask them to do what I want, but I can control any machine if I know how it works. That's why I have to study computer science, mechanics, and engineering all the time-- so I can figure out how everything around me works. For me, knowledge really is power.

Now we have a few quick questions to ask you in our speed round:

Favorite food?
Butter-battered FlopFlips with Kazellian Floovberries, but the Floovberries are pretty rare. They're tough to get.

Would you rather watch a sports game or read a book?
I wouldn't mind taking a break to catch a ballgame once in a while. Yankees baseball is one of the few things I miss about life in the "Real World."

Ball cap or no ball cap?
I used to have a sweet Yankees cap, but that got stolen by this guy Rex Staples who was kind of the bully at my old school. Haven't had a chance to get a new one, so I guess no ball cap.

Play video games or watch a movie?
Movie. With my machine powers, video games are way too easy to beat now.

Sleep in or stay up late?
I don't have much time to sleep and the bad guys don't go to be early, so I'm all about staying up late.

Math or Science?
Science... and engineering, too. The more l learn about that stuff, the more machines I can control.

Thank you Jack!
Thank you!

Thank you to Matt Myklusch and Jack Blank for the interview!
You can read my 5 star review and enter to win an ARC of The Secret War here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review- Clavis Young Reader Story Books

By Pierre Winters
Illustrated by Barbara Ortelli
Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on May 1st, 2011
Ages 5 & up
Source: book to review from publisher
4 stars- A fun read with whimsical illustrations

Nina is a young girl of six who is often grumpy and impolite. Her lack of respect and compassion earns her a visit to the circus of Mr. Thankyouplease, where the clever ringmaster tries to teach Nina some good manners. This picture book makes a plea for respect and politeness and explains how kind words and thoughtful manners can make life more pleasant.

With bright, whimsical illustrations, kids will love reading Nina's story on how she learned to use her manners. Nina often forgets to be nice and to use her manners until one day she finds herself at the Circus of Good Manners. This is no ordinary circus, it's a magical one that Nina finds through a whole in a tree when she hears someone calling her name. From there Nina finds herself in a circus that only uses good manners. She learns the importance of talking nice and using her manners all the time.

I loved the illustrations and the story's message. This is one that kids and parents will enjoy reading together.

Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on June 1st, 2011
Source- book from publisher for review
Ages 5 & up
3 stars- It's A Good Read

On a very hot night, Ricky decides to keep cool by sleeping outside in his tent, just as the other young bunnies do. Ricky's parents gently ask him if he will be all right outside by himself. He tries to be courageous as there are many new sounds outside at night. With the help of his Zorro cape, Ricky shows how he deals with being afraid of the dark and encourages emotional development in young readers who experience similar obstacles.

Ricky's story is one younger readers will relate to. Like many kids, Ricky enjoys being outside on hot summer days playing with his friends, swimming and eating an ice cream cone. With the warmer summer night's Ricky wants to camp out in his back yard. With fun, colorful illustrations, kids will enjoy reading about Ricky over coming his fears of sleeping in a tent alone. Ricky uses his imagination and a little reassurance from his Mum and Dad to realize that he really is brave.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Reviews: Clavis Toddler Board Books

Today's review is for a series of new toddler books for kids by Clavis Publishing. Their brightly colored, sturdy books are perfect for little hands. Their fun stories are ones kids can relate to. One of the things I love about these books is they have a colored train on the back of each book which corresponds to the specific, color coded age range, from babies to toddlers, making it easier to select the book you're looking for.

By Liesbet Slegers
Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on: May 1st, 2011
Source: book from publisher for review
Ages: 12 months & up
Pages: 12
3 stars- It's a Good Read

From filling the tub with water, using a washcloth, and shampooing hair to playing with a boat and drying with a towel, all the fun of taking a bath is depicted in this board book that explores the daily ritual of washing. The bright colors and simple shapes are ideal for toddlers, while the straightforward text will further enrich vocabulary and stimulate language development.

A simple, fun, brightly colored book for kids to enjoy about bath time. From getting ready for the bath, to having their hair washed and playing in the bath with their toys, young kids will be able to relate to the story and compare it to the things they do during bath time.

By Liesbet Slegers
Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on May 1st, 2011
Ages: 12 months & up
Pages: 12
Source: Book from publisher for review
3 stars- It's a Good Read

Pushing a toy car, kicking a ball, stacking blocks, playing a drum, and reading a book are just some of the ways a baby plays. With bright colors, simple shapes, and straight forward language, this board book explores the toys and fun activities in a child's daily life, while also enriching vocabulary and stimulating language development.

This is a great board book for toddlers, not only are the bright colors engaging, but they'll be able to identify with the toys the little boy plays with through the short, simple story.

By Guido Van Genechten
Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on May 15th, 2011
Ages: 24 months & up
Pages: 22
Source- book from publisher for review
3 stars- It's a Good Read

Every person and animal starts out as a baby; some babies are bald and some have hair all over their bodies. Some babies can only lie down while others can immediately stand on their own feet, and all babies are hungry, of course. Designed to help young children prepare for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister, this wonderfully illustrated board book of baby animals is oversized, making it perfect for lap reading.

A fun way for kids to learn about the different kinds of baby animals from sheep, dogs, horses and birds, and more. It's also a good book for kids will soon be an older sibling, they'll identify with Josh, who at the end of the story is a big brother to the new born baby in his family.

By Guido Van Genechten
Published by Clavis Publishing
Released on April 1st, 2011
Page: 20
Ages: 24 months & up
Source: book from publisher for review
3 stars: It's a Good Read

A sweet and tender story about a boy and his dad, this book encourages fathers and sons to play games and interact, just like the characters. Activities include the boy sitting on his dad's shoulders, crawling between his legs, flying high above his head, riding on his back, and the listening to him tell a story. The full-color artwork and oversized format makes reading fun and provides the perfect opportunity for family bonding.

This is another fun board book for toddlers. Full of simple, yet colorful illustrations, young kids will enjoy looking at the pictures on the sturdy pages and having the story read to them. Following the story of John, kids will get to relate to all the things he does with his dad, from playing together to having a bed time time story read to him. It's a good read for toddlers that will help them relate to and identify with young John and all the things they can do with daddys.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review & Giveaway: Too Many Blooms (Petal Pushers, Book 1)

By Catherine R Daly
Published by Scholastic
Released on March 1st, 2011
Ages 8-12
Source- ARC from publisher for review
5 stars- Great Series for Young Readers

Four sisters. One family-owned flower shop. Endless opportunities for fun...or disaster!

This fresh new series is full of girl--and flower--power.

Delphinium "Del" Bloom loves her grandparents' flower shop, where it's always peaceful and calm--unlike her cluttered house, where her three sisters--Rose, Aster, and Poppy--constantly cause drama. But then Gran and Gramps move away and leave the flower shop in the care of Del's scatterbrained parents! Their first order is for a big wedding and the bride wants everything--especially the flowers--to be PERFECT. Worse, the mean girl in Del's class happens to be a junior bridesmaid! Can Del help her family and save the day?

I love the cover on this book! It matches the story perfectly. This is such a fun read and one I wish I had when I was younger. I enjoyed getting to know Del and her close knit family, who do a lot together and are always helping each other out. Del's family dynamics reminded me a bit of my family when I was growing up. She's close with her mom, dad, sisters and grandparents, who get together each week for family movie night. Del also loves to help out in her Grandparent's locally owned flower shop on Saturday's, a shop that's been in the family for years. It wasn't hard to fall in love with Del. She's relatable, funny, very responsible and a relatable character.

Things change for Del when her Grandparents head off to FL. Its hard for Del to accept that they're gone, and even harder for her to realize that it's okay for her mom to run the flower shop the way she wants to. Through the course of the story Del learns the importance of working together as a family. I loved being able to be apart of her world for a bit. It was fun to see what middle school was like for her. She has some great friends, her first crush, and she has to deal with the school's Queen Bee, aka Ashley, who's less than friendly towards Del. What I loved about Del is that she stands up for herself and towards the end of the story when something happens to Ashley, Del does the unthinkable and helps her. There's also a sweet, innocent crush between Del and Hamilton, who by the way is a fabulous character to meet.

I really adored this story and I'm really looking forward to following Del her story with the rest of the series. This is a series I look forward to reading with my daughter and I highly recommend picking it up.


Thank you to Scholastic, we have a copy of Too Many Bloomers we're giving away! To enter, please fill out the form below:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: The Emerald Casket

Published by Walden Pond Press
Released on May 17th, 2011
Ages 9-13
Source- ARC from publisher for review
2nd book in The Archer Legacy
4.5 stars- A Fabulous Sequel

It has only been a month since Gerald Wilkins be-came the richest kid on earth. One month since he found out his great-aunt Geraldine had left him all her fortune and, with it, a murder mystery, clues to a diamond heist, and a target on his back. One month since Sir Mason Green made off with the contents of the diamond casket, an object of unspeakable power. And you thought your school vacation was eventful.

As book two of the Archer Legacy opens, Gerald, Ruby, and Sam come upon papers, drawings, and reams of research, all indicating that Gerald's family has been protecting a secret concerning nothing less than the fate of the world. Now Gerald and his friends are off to India to try to find out the truth. Friendships will be forged and broken. A city buried under the sea will be rediscovered. A whole mess of pigeons will be involved. And Gerald is going to have to make a choice between his love for his friends and the darkest desires of his heart.

It's entirely possible that this month might be even more eventful than the last.

Picking up right where The Billionaire's Curse ends, Gerald and his friends, siblings Rudy and Sam, find themselves in the middle of more heart pounding action, deadly twists, and more mystery as they try and uncover more clues to his Great Aunt's death and his family secrets. This times their adventure takes them to India, and what a trip it is. You don't even need to leave the comforts of home to feel like you've just gone on a first class trip with Gerald and his friends.

India offers a lot of fun, and adventure for the characters and readers alike. The action is engaging and I felt realistic for the story. One of the things that I enjoyed about this sequel was getting to know the characters more indepth. I've come to love each of the teens in their own ways. Each character offers a lot to the story and together they make a fabulous team of detectives. Their friendship and trust in each other is not only well written but it's relatable. Their interactions and humor together really bring the story to life and I think it's something that young readers will really enjoy. I also like the way Richard has written his adult characters, as I've come to love some of them and have my suspicions about others. I'm interested in finding out more about them in the next book.

With many more twists, adventure and mystery, The Emerald Casket is a fabulous sequel that leaves me wondering what lies in store for Gerald and his friends in France. This is an exciting series and one I'd recommend picking up. It's the perfect summer read.

Interview with The Archer Legacy Richard Newsome

I am really excited to have Middle Grade author, Richard Newsome with us today. Richard is the author of The Archer Legacy. His sequel The Emerald Casket will be released later this summer.

How would you describe your series in three words or less?
Epic murder-mystery romp.

Your hero is a thirteen year old boy who suddenly finds himself the richest kid in the world. What is one thing you would have purchased at 13 if you found yourself the richest kid?
It would have to be a bike, tricked-up with the latest of everything. The kid next door had an amazing dragster, that he loved more than anything else in the world. Every cent of pocket money went into detailing that thing until it vibrated when the sun hit it. Kids would line up just to have a ride on it. It was a thing of beauty and I wanted desperately to have one just like it.

You have a wonderful adventure wrapped into a murder mystery. What sort of adventure books did you enjoy reading growing up?
I was heavily into a series called THE THREE INVESTIGATORS. The investigators were Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, and they'd spend their days solving mysteries around the Hollywood canyons. A bunch of us at school would swap around the latest editions and I'd haunt second hand bookstores trying to find old versions. I also loved Agatha Christie murders -- the whole super stylised Britishness of her books really appealed to me.

I love that you incorporate places all over the world on Gerald's journey. What kind of research did you do for your story?
My first job out of high school was as a cadet reporter on our local newspaper, so I've always had a newshound approach to my writing. I really need to see and explore a place before adequately describing it. The first volume in the Archer Legacy series is THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE, and most of the action takes place in England. So I spent a few weeks exploring locations in London and Glastonbury in the south-west to find just the right settings for the action. The second volume is THE EMERALD CASKET and that's set in India, so it was off for two weeks around India, scouting for ideas and locations. At one point in the story I had to get my three heroes from Delhi in the north to a tiny fishing village in the south, and the best way is via train. So I booked a ticket on the Tamil Nadhu Express for a 43-hour journey in an un-airconditioned carriage down the spine of India. It was an experience!

Who would you have been friends with as a teen, Gerald, Sam or Ruby and why?
I'd like to say Ruby, because she's such a vibrant go get 'em type of person. You get the feeing that life around Ruby would never be dull. But I think she would have intimidated me into a tongue-tied wreck. So I guess it would be Sam. He's such a loveable doofus, that you know no matter how bad things get, he'd be there to support you.

What is one of your favorite books or series from growing up?
From a very young age, I loved YERTLE THE TURTLE by Dr Seuss. It is such a powerful story of democracy and the basic rights of all beings to equality and a life free from tyranny. It is extraordinary how much is packed into a few pages about some turtles in a pond. My voice still catches when I read it today. There was also a series by an Australian author, S.A. Wakefield, about the BOTTERSNIKES AND GUMBLES, about some mythical creatures in the Australian bush -- it is hilarious. And my latent Anglophilia can be traced to the WILLIAM books by Richmal Crompton, which describe the type of life every boy should lead; namely, endless mischief, tree climbing and trouble with grown-ups.

Thank you Richard for being with us today! Thank you to Walden Pond Press for making this interview possible.

You can read my review for The Billionaire's Curse here.

Be sure to visit Richard on his site here, follow him on twitter, facebook, goodreads, and go HERE to purchase his books.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review: The Billionaire's Curse

Published by Walden Pond Press
Released On: July 1st, 2010
Ages: 9-13 yrs old & up
Source- Book to review from the publisher
4.5 stars- A Great Adventure

Gerald Wilkins never considered himself a particularly exceptional thirteen-year-old. But that was before he inherited twenty billion pounds, a Caribbean island, a yacht, and three estates from a great-aunt he never knew. With this fortune, however, comes a letter. One from his great-aunt Geraldine. One that tells Gerald that she was murdered, and that it's up to him to find out why.

Along with his friends Ruby and Sam, Gerald embarks on a journey that will lead him from the British Museum to dodgy social clubs for the disgustingly rich to mansions in the English countryside to secret places far underground. Who was Geraldine Archer? And what secrets was she hiding? Unless Gerald, Sam, and Ruby can find out before the killer does, they may be next.

An exciting read with a who done it, The Billionaire's Curse will engage young readers who love a fun, thrilling adventure. Thirteen year old Gerald Wilkins's world is turned upside down when he's jetted off from his home in Australia to attend the funeral of his late great aunt in England, a billionaire who's left her fortune to him. To make matters worse Gerald's greedy parents up and leave him for a get away in the tropics, he's started to receive death threats and he receives a letter from his late Great Aunt saying she's been murdered. With no one to trust and a mystery to solve, Gerald sets off on an adventure of a life time.

Gerald is a down to earth character who befriends Sam and Rudy, two kids who save him from one of many bad guys who are after him. Together the three are determined to solve the mystery behind his Great Aunt's death, and the ties to the stolen diamond and uncover his Great Aunt's secrets. What I loved about the adventure were the settings, which included the English country side, the British Museum, distinguished British mansion and some elite social clubs. Each place held more twists and clues, and the most surprising place was the secret under ground crypt who's clues will lead the young heros on their next adventure.

Gerald, Sam and Rudy are character's kids will love reading about and will be able to relate to them on some level. This is a story full of heart pounding action, a lot of mystery and a story about friendship. There are a couple brief action scenes that may be a little graphic for young readers. I think this is a book that readers 9 years old and older will really enjoy. I'm looking forward to finding out what's in store for Gerald and his friends in the sequel, The Emerald Casket.

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~