Monday, April 17, 2017

Author Chat with Laurie B Arnold (Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?)

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?
Author: Laurie B Arnold
Published Date:  March 7th 2017
Publisher: Prospecta Press

In this sequel to the popular kids novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting For You!, it’s summertime and Madison McGee’s best friends, Violet and Noah, join her in Costa Rica, where she’s staying with Rosalie Claire. Their dreams of lazy sunny beach days come to a screeching halt when Madison’s grandmother, Florida Brown, unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep. Dangerously ill with a mysterious ailment, Florida needs help. But the magic in Rosalie Claire’s fanny pack has stopped working. Only one person knows how to revive it - Grandma Daisy. The only problem? She’s been dead for five years.
Enter the MegaPix 6000. Together, Madison and her friends have to figure out a way to turn the magic TV into a time machine so they can visit Grandma Daisy and save Florida. Once the intrepid trio hurtles into the past, a dizzying adventure unfolds, filled with heart-filled, unexpected consequences.

Laurie B. Arnold has two grown sons and lives with her amazing husband and perfect fuzzy dog on a rocky beach on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. When she’s not on Bainbridge Island, she spends a lot of time in her home-away-from-home, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Laurie has worked as a seedling planter in a nursery, an assistant teacher with developmentally disabled children, and a video producer. Laurie has written and designed countless children’s interactive games, a trio of picture books, and scripts for animated kids’ TV shows, including “Dragon Tales.” Her first novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! – the first in the Hello There trilogy – was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews 2013 Book of the Year Awards for Juvenile Fiction and was a New Mexico Battle of the Books pick for 2015-2016.

What gave you the inspiration to write Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?? 

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? is a follow-up to my first MG novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! I hadn’t committed to writing a sequel until my early readers pestered me, wondering what happened next to Madison McGee. It was particularly the kids who struggled to find the “right” book and clicked with Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! that spurred me on. I have a son who was once-upon-a-time a struggling reader, so getting kids to read became one of my big motivations. Plus, I missed hanging out with those characters and wanted to spend more time with them!

Who is your favorite character in the book? 

Ooh, that’s like asking to choose my favorite child. Ask my kids. It can’t be done. If I had to choose, I’d pick two. Madison McGee, the main character, is an indomitable optimist with great resilience and a big heart. In the first book she was dealt a double-whammy with her single mom dying and having to move in with her wacky grandmother who she barely knew. In this second book, Madison travels back in time and meets her mother, Angela, when she’s also a kid. I loved writing Angela because I sometimes imagined what it would be like to meet my own parents when they were children. Would I have liked them? Would they have liked me? Would we have been friends? What would it have felt like to be equal to them? Madison gets to play out my own childhood fantasy with her mother, who is dealing with some hard issues. Eventually Madison helps her kid-mom to see the world with a brand new perspective. I’m always a sucker for a character who transforms enough to see the light. 

And which character gave you the most trouble when writing this story? 

That would have to be “Bad Guy” Walter Brinker, but in the end he was a blast to write. I struggled with how bad to the bone he should be given I was writing a middle grade novel. It was also a delicate balance to create someone who seemed just on the edge of dangerous, but wasn’t so black and white that he still believably had room for redemption. 

 What scene are you most proud of, and why? Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate? 

The scene I’m proudest of was also the most emotionally challenging. It’s when the kid-version of Angela is missing and Madison’s intuition and memory of something her mom told her nearly twenty years in the future, helps her track her down. It’s a pivotal moment when Madison helps her mom see that her life has possibilities beyond the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. All the while Madison knows she can’t reveal that she knows what lies ahead in her mother’s future, both good and bad. She carefully guides her to embrace a new vision, trying not to spill the beans that in the future Angela will grow up to be Madison’s mother. 

 Why do you think your book would be a great choice for Summer Reading? 

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? (just like Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You!) is an adventure set during the carefree days of summer vacation. They’re the kind of books that appeal to boys and girls, avid readers and those who have a tough time finding the “right” book. Maybe the secret sauce to getting kids to keep turning the pages - and to read them over and over - is the humor, heart, fast-paced adventure, and whopping dollop of new-fangled magic. Not to mention a sprinkling of a few lessons along the way. At least it would have been the perfect summer fare for me when I was young! 

What do you like most about the cover of the book? 

How can I not love a scruffy dog hanging out on the beach under a palm tree wearing shades?

Your Hello There series is written for middle grade readers, how did you decide to write for this age level? Was it a choice, and how did you find it different than writing for other ages?

As a lover of happy endings, I now can’t imagine writing for any other age group. Prior to writing novels for MG, I wrote for preschoolers: picture books, computer games for young children, and animated TV shows, like “Dragon Tales.” While I loved that and it fit my “happy ending” criteria, I longed for something with more breadth, depth, and meat. With middle grade, I now have the freedom to write more complex stories with more fully drawn, complicated characters. Plus it gives me a chance to subtly impart some important lessons along the way.

Thinking back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?

Writing is just like playing an instrument. The more you do it, the better you get. I think the most important thing was gaining a better understanding of pacing and to be able wordsmith sentences down to their bare bones. As Polonius famously said in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” 

Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising? 
And will you describe your method for each?

They each have their rewards, although revisions are more challenging. Writing the original draft is a joy because of the Zen experience of total immersion. The times when unexpected surprises tend to pop from my brain. And I love the mental stimulation of figuring out the puzzle of a story. How it all fits together with the goal of not losing any pieces! The revision phase appeals to the detailed, dare I say, nitpicky side of me, but I find it challenging to step back, critically analyze it, and second-guess how other people might see it.

When I begin the initial writing process, I spend a long time just thinking about the story, without writing much down. Then I write pages of notes about my story and my characters. Before I write a word of the book, I want to know my characters as if they’re real people. Then I create an outline, imagining the story as if it is unfolding like a movie. I use my outline as a guide to write the book and while I’m not 100% faithful to it, I really don’t stray far. And the revision? I read it all the way through. I double-check the flow and make sure something crucial happens in each scene. I read it aloud. And I pass it along to friends I trust to give me good honest feedback. After that I dig in, move things around, make sure I’m not repeating the same words, and reduce, reduce, reduce. 

 What were some of your favorite children’s books or authors when you were growing up? Do you feel they influence your writing in any way?

I was a big fan of Roald Dahl, a series by Noel Streatfield called The Shoes books, anything Nancy Drew, and Harriet the Spy (who in retrospect was more snoop than spy). It’s those indomitable, plucky characters – kids who took on adult-sized problems with aplomb – that spoke to me and influenced me the most. 

Will you share a sneak peek of what’s up next for you? 

I’m working on Madison’s story for the final book of this trilogy, Hello There, I’m Coming Home. I also have a little more work to do on a MG mystery called Superhero & the Comeback Queen, inspired by my childhood love of Harriet the Spy, although my main characters, Albert Einstein Goldstine and Dot Baker, are real spies, rather than snoops like Harriet. ☺ 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I always love to share one of my mantras with kids during author visits (which I love to do as much as I love to write). Keep on reading, keep on writing, and when you hear that voice in your head that says, “I can’t do that!” turn it into “I can’t do that YET!” 

Praise for Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?

“A riptide of a magical adventure! Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? pulled me in and took me on a delightfully engaging ride with some well-crafted characters. Kids'll adore this book!”—Alan Katz, award-winning author of Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs, Where Did They Hide My Presents?, and The Day the Mustache Took Over

“A magical book that has so many wonderful elements. I really thought the book was well written, well plotted and so original. There are important lessons in this book that are great for younger readers to learn. Plus, there is magic around us all the time, we just need to take time to notice it.”—Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Balzer + Bray Children's Book Review: Otter Loves Easter (Sam Garton)

Otter Loves Easter
Author: Sam Garton
Published Date: January 24th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Otter—the irrepressible picture book character, sure to be adored by fans of Llama Llama—celebrates Easter with a little too much chocolate and a lot of creativity in this paper-over-board book.
This year the Easter Bunny brought Otter lots of chocolate eggs—her favorite! Otter Keeper said she had to share them with her friends, but sharing is very hard . . . and eating chocolate is very easy. Otter didn’t want Teddy, Giraffe, and Pig to be sad, though. Someone had to save Easter—and she knew just the right Otter for the job!
With Otter's winning voice and Sam Garton's classic yet fresh artwork, Otter Loves Easter! is sure to be another holiday favorite.

I’m Sam, I’m 30 and I live in Wokingham! I have a degree in illustration and I spend most of my time drawing Otters whilst generally making a mess and thinking about why I still haven’t bought a kitten. I like putting inappropriate sweets in the freezer (Jelly tots) and my favourite film is Homeward bound. I wish I looked cool wearing headbands but I don’t. Oh and I’m rubbish at looking after house plants.

"The Easter Bunny had brought me lots of chocolate eggs. 
I love the Easter Bunny!"

Otter Loves Easter is a children's book filled with bright, beautiful illustrations and tells the story of Otter and his friends as they celebrate Easter.

The illustrations throughout the book are bright and engaging and children will love the simplicity of the characters such as Otter and Giraffe. Giraffe is probably my most favorite character throughout the story. He is so bright and colorful and is Otter's best bud.

I love how the story incorporates numbers which helps to teach younger children how to count and use numbers. The story also teaches the importance of sharing with others which in turn teaches respect, friendship, and caring for others.

"My friends were so happy to have eggs of their own,
and we all agreed that sharing is very important."

Otter makes a wrong choice in the story and once he learns from his mistake then he realizes that sharing his Easter presents with his friends makes him so much happier than playing with them alone. Otter even has fun helping his friends find all of the hidden Easter eggs! Otter learns that sharing anything is better with friends!

Giraffe getting gold stars for good behaviour

**The quotes from this book have been taken from an Advanced Reading Copy and are subject to change when the final book is printed. Please refer to the final, finished copy for exact quotes!**

**I want to say Thank You to Balzer + Bray for the opportunity to review this book!!**

Katherine Tegen Books Children's Book Review: How To Be A Bigger Bunny (Wendall & Florence Minor)

How To Be A Bigger Bunny
Authors:Wendall & Florence Minor
Published Date: January 24th 2017 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

When Tickles the bunny’s family goes on an adventure without her, Tickles reads her book, How to Be a Bigger Bunny, and then winds up on an adventure of her own. When she finds her furry family in trouble, she must become a bigger bunny and save the day.

Wendell Minor is nationally known for the artwork he has created for over fifty award-winning children’s books. His many collaborators include Jean Craighead George, Robert Burleigh, Buzz Aldrin, Tony Johnston, Mary Higgins Clark, and last but not least, his wife Florence. In 2009 Wendell and Florence’s If You Were a Penguin, was chosen by Pennsylvania for their “One Book, Every Young Child” 2009 early literacy program, and they enjoyed the month they spent speaking to children in Pennsylvania’s libraries, schools, Head Start facilities, and Museums.
Wendell is also the cover artist and designer of over two thousand books for authors Pat Conroy, David McCullough, Fannie Flagg, and Nathaniel Philbrick among many others. His portrait of “Truman” for the cover of David McCullough’s book is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
Following a productive and fulfilling career as a documentary film editor for ABC News in New York, Florence was happy to find a second, and equally fulfilling career in publishing after she and Wendell moved to Connecticut. Her first project was co-editing a twenty-five year retrospective of Wendell’s book cover art, Wendell Minor: Art for the Written Word while also handling the business aspects of the minorart studio. In keeping with her lifelong love of reading and writing, and her interest in editing, the timing was perfect to begin collaborating with Wendell, to creating books that entertain, teach, and inspire children.
In 2013 Wendell and Florence were given the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters, and in April of 2015 they will be honorees at The Associates of the Boston Public Library’s 27th annual Literary Lights Dinner, which recognizes outstanding writers from the Northeast for their inspiring work.
Among the awards Wendell’s books have garnered are: Cook Prize honoring the best science, technology, engineering and math picture book for children aged eight to ten, Notable Children’s Trade Books in Social Studies, ALA Booklist Children’s Choices, International Reading Association Teacher’s Choices, Parents Choice Foundation “Silver Honor,” Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children, the John Burroughs List of Nature Books For Young Readers, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year and Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year.
Wendell’s paintings has been exhibited widely throughout the country in various venues. An exhibition of 25 years of his children’s book art, “Wendell Minor’s America” was on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum from November 2013 through May 2014. The exhibit, which is traveling, will open at Aurora University’s Schingoethe Museum on October 2nd, 2015. A book featuring the art was published in conjunction with the exhibit, and is available through the Norman Rockwell Museum:,4050.htmlIn 1988 Wendell was chosen as one of a six member team commissioned by NASA to document the shuttle Discovery’s return to flight. He has created paintings for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum and the U.S. Postal Service.
As President of the Society of Illustrators from 1989-1991, Wendell considers one of his most important contributions the organization of an international exhibition, and the subsequent publication of the book of the same name, entitled Art for Survival: The Illustrator and the Environment. He is Trustee Emeritus of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is a member of the Low Illustration Committee at the New Britain Museum of American Art, and served on the Advisory Council for the Connecticut Center for the Book. Wendell received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Aurora University in Illinois in 2004, and one from the University of Connecticut in 2010.
Wendell lectures at schools and universities across the country, frequently on environmental themes, and his books which have been featured on the PBS-TV program “The Reading Rainbow” are used in classrooms throughout the country.
In addition to illustrating and writing his own picture books for children Wendell continues to create paintings for book covers.

"Beloved author and illustrator team Wendell and Florence Minor show how even the smallest bunny can do BIG things!"

How To Be A Bigger Bunny is an adorable children's book with simple and yet beautiful illustrations that will keep a child interested as you read them the story of Tickles the bunny and how he saves the day! 

Tickles is the smallest bunny in her family and sometimes gets left out.....but Tickles is a smart, sweet bunny and instead of letting it bother her she goes and picks up her favorite book, How To Be A Bigger Bunny, and settles down to read her book.

"How To Be A Bigger Bunny was filled with adventure stories that Tickles loved to read."

Tickles is such a strong, brave little bunny and I love how this book teaches children that no matter your size as long as you never give up and you believe in yourself then you can do anything you want!

How To Be A Bigger Bunny tells the story of Tickles and how her family finally realizes how important she is and gives her the recognition and respect she deserves.

**The quotes from this book have been taken from an Advanced Reading Copy and are subject to change when the final book is printed. Please refer to the final, finished copy for exact quotes!**

**I want to say Thank You to Katherine Tegen Books for the opportunity to review this book!!**

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Disney-Hyperion Children's Book Review: Vampirina At The Beach (Anne Marie Pace)

Vampirina At The Beach
Author: Anne Marie Pace
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Publish Date: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

When the summer moon is full, a beach trip is an epic way to spend the night. With her signature poise, Vampirina and her clan gear up for a festive time at the beach. Keeping her ballet lessons in mind, Vampirina demi-plié's on a surfboard, leaps for a volleyball, and finishes each competition with style, even if she doesn't always come out on top. Readers will shout "Brava!" for this third gracefully ghoulish picture book by duo Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham. 

Anne Marie Pace is a picture book author. She is the author of the VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by Disney-Hyperion starting in 2012, which is in production as a Disney Junior animated series to debut in 2017; and PIGLOO (Henry Holt, illustrated by Lorna Hussey, October, 2016). Her upcoming books include GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, illustrated by Christopher Denise, December, 2017), and BIG-EYED BUG (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, 2018), as well as the new VAMPIRINA AT THE BEACH, coming in April 2017. Past books include NEVER EVER TALK TO STRANGERS and A TEACHER FOR BEAR, both published by Scholastic Book Clubs. She lives with her family in Virginia.

LeUyen Pham is the illustrator of many books for children, including God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Princess in Black series and Aunt Mary’s Rose by Douglas Wood. LeUyen Pham lives in California.

Vampirina On The Beach is full of fun, vivid, and colorful illustrations. Vampirina uses her adventures to teach her friends right and wrong. I enjoyed reading how Vampirina and her friends all work together and show each other kindness.

I loved how she takes every opportunity to teach her friends how to do different things safely and the correct way, such as snorkeling, surfing, playing volleyball and even building a sandcastle.

"It doesn't matter if it's Swan Lake on a stage,
or the twist in the sand,
dancing with friends is fun that never stops.
Whether or not you come out on top,
finishing with grace is what makes you a real winner."

Kids will enjoy following the adventures of Vampirina and all her not-so-scary friends as they enjoy a day or "night" on the beach! Vampirina is so fun to be around and makes every experience a truly great adventure! Her and all her friends show kids how to enjoy every moment and how to live life to the fullest! 

Fans of Vampirina and her friends will be so excited to hear that Vampirina is in production as a Disney Junior animated series and will debut in 2017!

I highly recommend this fun and engaging book to anyone who has young kids because not only are the adventures fun and entertaining but they also teach kids life lessons such as how to play safely and how to follow and abide by the rules. Also, kids will enjoy reading the stories and then being able to watch the stories come to life on the new show on Disney Junior. 

**The quotes from this book have been taken from an Advanced Reading Copy and are subject to change when the final book is printed. Please refer to the final, finished copy for exact quotes!**

**I want to say Thank You to Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to review this book!!**