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Author Interview: Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion by James Pray (Sterling Children’s Books)

Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion

by James Pray

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020

I first heard about Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion on Kathy Temean’s blog Writing and Illustrating. Thanks to that post, I won a copy of this romping good story by James Pray. You can read Kathy’s author post at: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/12/17/book-giveaway-jonesy-flux-and-the-gray-legion-by-james-pray/

Once I received my copy in the mail, I couldn’t put it down. Until I was finished. I loved Jonesy and the many adventures and disasters she encountered in this fast-paced sci-fi tale. I thought it would be fun to reach out to James and invite him to stop by for a visit. Thank you, James!

Welcome, James! Tell us a little about yourself. Hi! I’m a writer and engineer from Michigan. I like long walks on the beach and filling my pockets with fossils along the way, but mostly I write a lot. Outside of that and my day job, most of my time concerns the corgi and pair of high-octane children that have been systematically destroying our house for the last few years.

Oh dear, the dreaded disasters of helpful children and cute dogs! Well done for being able to squeeze in time for writing!

What was your inspiration for Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? It’s hard to narrow this down too much. There’s a real sense, for me, that I “had” Jonesy’s story long before I knew about it. Her character came from a one- or two-page sketch about her and some other kids marooned on a space station that I shelved sometime in grad school. Her world came somewhat from that of my very earliest shots at writing a novel in middle school. The concept of Fluxing was what ended up gelling it all together. That’s one item whose inspiration I can point to; although I think I made it mine in the end, I’d be a big fat liarface to deny Fluxing’s roots in a trio of anime series I followed at one point and another. I figure they won’t mean much to most people and the remainder won’t have too tough a time figuring it out, so I’ll leave guessing which as an exercise for the reader (with the hint that one is French). Either way, it all snapped together out of nowhere-or-everywhere at a time when I was really longing to write something fun, colorful, and preferably well-stocked with spaceships. It’s probably no coincidence that this happened when my wife was pregnant with our first child — I think there was a huge element of me just needing to process Kids and Parenting and Identity and Growing Up as I put it all together.

Hahaha. Liarface. In picture book writing, we call those influential books “mentor texts.” ;0 I can hear your writing voice even in these answers, which is a huge part of why I loved reading Jonesy Flux.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book? Writing it was a whirlwind. I’ve never taken anything from idea to completed draft as quickly as I did with Jonesy’s story — something like ten weeks! Even if Fluxing was what kicked off the story, Jonesy’s character stole the show for me immediately. Maybe it was because I was a little tired of all the Middle-Grade protagonists who get praised for their virtue and heroism but can’t give an adult a straight answer until the closing scene, but I had a ton of fun exploring the story from the perspective of a “pure-hearted” character who gets in trouble mostly from sticking to her convictions and having high expectations for the hapless adults who cross her path with Grown-Up notions of Compromise and Shades Of Gray. The rest of it was the usual-ish process of editing, waiting a couple of years while my agent moved countries, getting ambushed with a sale to a super-awesome editor, frantically editing some more with the blinds drawn against the lockdownpocalypse, and so on.

That’s amazing! This story was meant to be.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday (release) of Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? I had plans to celebrate my debut publication day with my last two cans of Vault Soda, but those expired in 2012, so . . . I left them in the fridge. (I made those plans a long time ago. I’m still on the fence about trying one anyway.) We had dinner and cake at my mom’s house instead. It was nice!

Maybe go back to your mom’s for dinner instead (avoid Vault Soda . . . ). But, if you like to live on the edge, please do let us know how it goes and if you get food poisoning.

What’s your next writing project? Will we see Jonesy again? In no particular order, “Yes!” and “Another Jonesy story!” Assuming all goes to plan, her full journey will take a more-than-trilogy sort of series to complete, partly because I am nothing if not overambitious, but mainly because I want to see her shake things up at the grandest possible scale before she boosts off into the stars for the last time.

Yay! Keep me (I mean us) in the loop. I love long drawn out epic tales that are not over too soon and explore all of what can and usually does happen for both good and evil.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share? Oh noes, an open-ended question? Well, I’m (on absolutely no schedule at all) posting bonus content for Jonesy at my website (jamespray.com), including something like 40 pages’ worth of glossary to fill out the backdrop. And I’ll mention that Twitter (@jamespray) is a great place to chat with me for those who might care to, even if it’s really not a great place in pretty much any other respect. Otherwise, I hope everybody has a good day, and maybe takes the chance to help somebody else have a good day. Like, maybe share a video of cute cats instead of that one article that makes you feel like the world is sliding facefirst into an incinerator? Or something. Oh, and a big, big thanks to Angie for helping get the word out about Jonesy!

You are most welcome! Friends, there is indeed a HUGE glossary at https://www.jamespray.com/bonus plus plenty of other fun information. Perhaps if I had realized this, I could have referred to it as I read Jonesy Flux. My engineering/spaceship/technology lingo is a bit behind the times. But NOW I know. Heh-heh.

Thank you, James, for stopping by today! Best wishes as you write future editions about the adventures of Jonesy Flux!


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Haiku from Two #Haikufromtwo

(OOPS! In my picture, I have the hash tag incorrect! Sorry! Should read #Haikufromtwo!)

look! by Angie Quantrell, photo by Angie Quantrell

How fun! I love writing haiku, though I usually pair it with one of my photos. I had so much fun writing the first #Haikufromtwo, I had to do it again! Thanks, Amanda (https://www.instagram.com/amandadavis_art/)!

ridiculous + flower

first word: ridiculous

Taken from Potato Pants! by Laurie Keller (Henry Holt and Company, 2018)

second word: flower

Taken from Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion by James Pray (Sterling Children’s Books, 2020)


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Meet the Authors: The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

Compiled by Bernice Seward

Seward Media, 2020

Hello, friends! I would like to introduce you to a fun new book of fairy tales. But these fairy tales are not what you would think. They have been torn-up, re-imagined, and fractured from the original stories we’ve heard all our lives. How exciting to read these “new” fairy tales in this delightful compilation of 5. One of my critique group partners, Beverly Warren, wrote one of the torn-up tales in The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales. Congratulations to all of the talented authors and illustrators.

Scroll down to meet the authors and read their individual answers to the questions I asked. Enjoy!

MEET THE AUTHORS

Bernice Seward compiled this collection of fairy tales. She wrote The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe

How do you know each other and how did this book come together?

Loreley: Most of us only know each other virtually as we live in different cities. We are members of SCBWI Inland Northwest and had all expressed an interest in creating an online critique group before COVID even began. Here we are! Bernice suggested we try a collaboration as we were all struggling with the COVID slump last summer.

Beverly: I met both Bernice and Michele at the SCBWI conference in September 2019. Apparently Loreley and Jess were there as well. We had the opportunity to sign up to join a critique group. Later we were contacted by the coordinator and put in a group of nine, I believe, which was then split in two. Personally, I had been thinking that I would like to write a fractured fairy tale and purchased Jane Yolen’s book on the subject. About two weeks later Bernice suggested that we do this project. 

Michele: I’m the odd author out here  The other four were members of an established critique group before this project came about. I am in a different critique group with Bernice and she invited me to join in on the collaboration. I know Bernice because I took a community education class on writing children’s picture books from her about 3 years ago. I happened to meet Beverly at the SCBWI Fall 2019 conference. She and I are in an online critique group. We are all members of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (I have been asked to join with their critique group and I couldn’t be happier!) Bernice came up with the collaboration idea after listening to an SCBWI interview at the Summer Spectacular (over Zoom of course.) 

Michele Rietz wrote Hector and the Three Granny Goats

What was your inspiration for your torn-up tale?

Loreley: Several years ago, I had traveled to Europe to live, work, and heal my wounds from my divorce. I was only gone just over three years, but when I returned to The States, I felt like Rip Van Winkle who had fallen asleep and woken up in the future. There were (at that time) Blackberries, Bluetooths, and Blogs! I didn’t know what these things were. HDTVs were in everyone’s living room. The Bon Marche was gone! It was all very disorienting. So this experience inspired my story “Rita Van Winkle”. 

Beverly: Beauty and the Beast has been one of my favorite fairy tales for years. I loved the idea that a beasty person can be transformed through the love of another and that within an unattractive personality there are traits that can be found to love if one has the eyes to see. Also, years ago I was interested in learning about herbs, common herbs that can be used for various purposes including healing. 

Jessie: Recently I read Invisible Women Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez and Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. The concepts in these two books as well as ideas about the invisible biases we absorb from society were whirling around in my head when Bernice invited me to collaborate on this project. As I contemplated fairy tales, I thought of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and wondered, what if it was a girl, and what if she was telling the truth? Tara and the Wolf was born of that simple thought experiment.

Michele: As a child, I loved the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  I think it was the rhythmic “Trip, trap” that I liked the most.  (Definitely not the gruesome ending.  LOL!).  I started my version with three nanny goats, but they evolved into three granny goats.  I am a grandma of 10 myself, so I can totally get behind that change!  🙂  I also wanted a gentler troll in my story, and since dads often get a bad rap in media and society these days, I wanted him to be a strong (as in involved in his kids’ lives) father figure.  Each of the grannies represents something I myself am known to do.  I am ALWAYS happy to have an excuse to make cookies, I grow a garden every year and I love to do yoga and recently became a teacher at the studio I’ve attended for several years.

Bernice: The idea of designing a shoe house drew me to The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. And the fact that the original story included a giant clinched it. Then, as I was brainstorming for my torn-up tale, I thought it’d be fun to create a sort of “origin story” for a certain legendary cloud-dwelling giant.

Loreley Smith wrote Rita Van Winkle

Tell me about the illustrations.

Loreley: I am not an illustrator, so when Bernice suggested we each create our own illustrations, I was very apprehensive. I’ve become inspired to work with collage art more and improve my skills 🙂 

Beverly: Art has always come naturally to me. I’ve created a few collage pieces before, but mostly I work in other mediums.

Jessie: I come from a family of artistic people and assumed from the time I was a child that fine art was not one of my talents. It was something other people in my family were good at. I have tried to express creativity with sewing, baking and most often with writing. As I experimented with paint, shape and collage, I realized that the only thing stopping me from developing an illustrative talent was lack of belief in myself. It was incredibly empowering to make a physical picture from something that existed before only in my mind. While my illustration skills are still very rudimentary, the use of collage simplifies the process, allowing simple shapes to convey the image and the textures created by painted papers to elevate them and give further interest.

Michele: First of all, I have NEVER considered myself an artist, so this was a HUGE stretch for me. Bernice has taught me a lot over the years, so I felt I owed her a good effort. Learning to draw simple outlines (just google something like “Easy Goat Drawing”) was the start. She had me over to paint some papers for the collage illustrations and from there I took it one illustration at a time. Bernice also provided us with how-to videos she created. Those were very helpful and easy to follow. I am thrilled with how my illustrations turned out and I now consider myself a “Collage artist”.

My inspiration for my troll came from a wooden sculpture in Breckenridge, Colorado. My college freshman roommates and I get together every two years or so and on our last reunion, I talked them into finding it. It was amazing.

Jessie Quist wrote Tara and the Wolf

What surprises did you discover in the process of creating this book?

Loreley: I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the process of creating the illustrations. While it was a bit nerve racking, I found myself getting lost in the process. 

Beverly: We created the book quickly so the process was intensive, but it was enjoyable for us to do this project together. Also, I discovered as I did some research on the history of Beauty and the Beast that there lived a true Beauty who married a Beast in the 16th Century, in France. The beast was a man who had a condition called Hypertrichosis (werewolf syndrome). His body was covered with long dark hair all over. It is rare and is due to an abnormal 8th chromosome. The man was the property of the king of France. When the king died the Queen decided he should marry. She interviewed many young women and chose one with great beauty. The girl didn’t know about her groom’s appearance until their wedding day. Imagine her shock, but she grew to love him because of his winning personality. Together they had seven children.

Michele: I don’t think it was a surprise as much as confirmation of the importance of critique groups. We each read each other’s stories many times to help work out rough spots, kinks, etc. When I was being resistant to changing something in my story, one of the group called me to help me realize I really needed to “kill my darling”. My story is stronger for it and I’m glad she took initiative to do that. My illustrations coming together were definitely a surprise for me. (See question 3. 🙂 I also discovered that I like writing fractured fairy tales. I had dabbled in that genre a bit, but diving in and completing one was really fun.

Bernice: As a picture book writer (who strives to tell stories in 550 words or less), the thought of writing thousands of words is daunting for me. I was surprised that my first draft of The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe topped 1900 words. This gives me hope that fleshing out stories for chapter books will be a smoother transition than I’ve been anticipating.

Beverly Love Warren wrote Beau and the Belle Rose

What plans do you have for the future? Are there any other book projects in the making?

Loreley: I’m currently working on a picture book where my protagonist learns the importance of “leaving only footprints and taking only photos” when exploring nature. 

Beverly: We are continuing to meet as a group. We’ve only discussed briefly doing another project in the future and no plans have been formed yet. Currently I am illustrating a picture book for Clear Fork/Spork Publishing which should come out in the fall. Also, I’m revising a picture book and writing a middle grade novel. 

Jessie: I have two board books in the works as well as an illustration project commissioned by a friend. We haven’t formalized any plans for another joint publication, but I hope we will be creating more torn up tales together in the future.

Michele: Personally, I have a pet project in the works which involves using my grandchildren’s names in the illustrations. I have an illustrator working on it and we hope to be finished in the next month or so. I will self-publish that book. I also have countless manuscripts in various stages of completion. For the group, there really isn’t anything in the near future, but I have expressed a hope we’ll do another collaboration with this group. They are a wonderfully generous and creative group, and I have learned so much from them. We do plan to meet in person once the pandemic is past. We don’t know what that will look like, but we have all expressed a desire to do that.

Bernice: Currently, I’m working on a picture book about a bear who loses his hair after trying shampoo from a traveling salesman (fox).

Thank you, ladies, for sharing more about your lives and your process for writing The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales.

You can read more about the authors and this fun fairy tale book at:

http://www.berniceseward.com/books/the-girl-who-lived-in-a-shoe-and-other-torn-up-tales/


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Book Report: The Science of Defying Gravity by L.G. Reed

The Science of Defying Gravity

Written by L.G. Reed

Illustrated by Basia Tran

Keyes Canyon Press, 2020

Does your child have a science fair coming up? Or perhaps your middle grade student loves things that fly. This book is for both of you!

Cassie is not interested in science class, and therefore, her grades suffer. But she REALLY wants to go to Space Camp. After her family experiences financial difficulties, Cassie has to take Space Camp attendance into her own hands and figure out how to be able to attend. Setting the goal to make it to camp is just the right fuel to blast her rocket into space.

Thank you, KidLit411 www.kidlit411.com and L. G. Reed for sending me a copy of The Science of Defying Gravity! This chapter book is a very engaging read, and I couldn’t stop-just one more chapter, oops, two more chapters . . . and suddenly I was done reading it.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ Cassie and her best friend Wylie are great characters; flawed yet lovable

~ Excellent premise of a student having no interest in science class transforming into a driven young tween who worked her tail off to implement a stellar science fair project and presentation

~ Family issues were on target and added to the build-up towards the story climax

~ Cassie continued marching forward despite hitting numerous obstacles

~ Cassie and her feelings of being overlooked by her parents, which led to her striving to gain their attention

~ Cassie’s best friend, Wylie, is on the spectrum; this adds an extra layer of interest and learning about others who may be differently abled

~ Budding romance, just barely, but adorable

~ Science-I learned quite a bit about science fairs, gravity, what makes things fly, how to plan a winning science fair project, how they are organized, and even specifics about scientists in the real world

~ Cassie is a strong female main character, and will surely inspire other young girls to follow their interests in STEM fields

~ Helpful backmatter

~ The usefulness of this book to help students prepare for an actual science fair (lots of examples)

Amazon Blurb:

“Useful, entertaining, and encouraging; will inspire confidence and an appreciation of science.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.” — Booklife Reviews

In this mashup of STEM education and fiction, 11 yr old Cassie films her life. She loves movies and dreams of becoming a movie director in SPACE. *Her plans to go to Space Camp are derailed when her dad loses his job and she must win a SCIENCE FAIR to earn a scholarship to attend. Spunk, a caring teacher, an engineering mentor and her friends keep her dream on track.* Contained within THE SCIENCE OF DEFYING GRAVITY is an actual science fair project, including tables and charts for kids to see. The project covers the four forces of flight—lift, thrust, gravity and drag—which are embedded in the fictional story but are factually accurate.


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Book Review: Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison #BookBirthday

Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes

Written by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison

Illustrated by Marco Primo

Mascot Books; October 6, 2020

Happy book birthday to Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison! Coming out on October 6, this interesting travel and coloring book is filled with fun tales, adventures, and coloring pages.

I was sent a copy of this book by Mascot Books in exchange for a review. Thank you, Mascot Books and Sam, Angus, and Marco, for the many adventures! Read more about Mascot Books at http://mascotbooks.com.

Why I Like This Book:

~ This chapter book is written by a boy who has been lucky enough to grow up in Paris and Washington D.C.! How cool is that?

~ Sharing his own experiences, Sam tells of travel adventures he has enjoyed with his father.

~ I love how Sam tells of friends he met along the way. Making friends as one travels is definitely a perk of being an adventurer.

~ Sam gives interesting factoids about the different locations he has visited.

~ How many locations are included? 16 chapters, though at least one features more than one place. I wish my passport had that many stamps!

~ Coloring pages! And extra blank spaces for readers to draw their own pictures.

~ Great voice! I enjoyed getting to meet Sam through his travels and stories.

~ Well written, engaging, and a page turner. Each chapter is not too long, which kept me reading on to see what came next.

~ The title is perfect! When I first searched for this book on Amazon, I put in Backpacks and Baguettes. And what showed up? Backpacks and baguettes. I didn’t know you could order baguettes on Amazon.

~ Great read!

Check out Sam’s adventures at @samrmorrison on Instagram. He wants to hear about your adventures!

Amazon Blurb:

You’re only a child once. Capturing the world through young eyes is difficult. Backpacks and Baguettes attempts to better understand what children think, see, feel, and smell when they are traveling. Everything is new, and everyone is a possible friend.

Your guide is Sam, a half-American/half British boy who so far in his young life has been lucky to grow up in Paris and Washington, D.C.. Sam loves soccer and food and is curious about how people in other countries lead their lives. He thinks graffiti and street art are better than postcards to truly understand a place. He’s even included some authentic global graffiti in the book for you to color. He’s also left space on the back of each image for you to draw your own graffiti or take notes.

Backpacks & Baguettes is a reminder of what it was like to be in the world before the pandemic hit – the sound of mopeds in Rome, the smell of chicken turning on a spit at a French market, a water fight in Bangkok, mushroom hunting in the hills of Tuscany, the feel of fog on your face in San Francisco bay–human contact.

Sam’s stories are ultimately about asking questions until you’re exhausted. They’re about not caring what people think. They’re about smiling and laughing until it hurts and playing until you scrape your knees. They’re about letting your imagination run wild. They’re about realizing in one breath that children are different, but ultimately the same all around the world. They’re about being a kid once.


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Book Report: THE BOY WHO GREW DRAGONS by Andy Shepherd #BeeAReader

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons

Written by Andy Shepherd

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Yellow Jacket, An Imprint of Little Bee Books; 2020

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Thank you, Yellow Jacket Books, for this review Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Boy Who Grew Dragons. I’m happy to announce that I totally enjoyed reading this middle grade novel.

Honestly, I can’t say enough about this fun read. Dragons with explosive poop, an unsuspecting boy and his friends, an interesting gardening experience, trouble with neighbors, and adventures galore provided a very entertaining read of The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Dragons! Tiny dragons who bond with humans, drop explosive poop, and get into trouble. Books with imagination always catch my attention.

~ A mysterious tree in the garden grows funny (weird) fruit. Dragon fruit tree? Is there not a real life fruit called dragon fruit? Does that fruit also grow dragons? I digress.

~ Tomas is a believable, interesting main character. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the not-so-nice neighbor.

~ The cover and internal illustrations are fantastic and perfectly compliment the story. Yes, this middle grade novel is illustrated with funny, clever, and enticing artwork.

~ Great writing and engaging story

 

I think young readers will devour The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

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Yellow Jacket Blurb:

This hilarious middle-grade novel with illustrations throughout sees Tomas discover that he can grow dragons in his own garden!

When Tomas discovers a strange old tree at the bottom of his grandfather’s garden, he doesn’t think much of it. But he takes the funny fruit from the tree back into the house and gets the shock of his life when a tiny dragon hatches! The tree is a dragon fruit tree, and Tomas now has his very own dragon, Flicker!

While Tomas finds out that life with Flicker is fun, he also finds that it is very…unpredictable. Yes, dragons are wonderful, but they also set fire to your toothbrush and leave your underwear hanging from the TV antenna. Tomas has to learn how to look after Flicker—and quickly! And then something extraordinary happens: More dragon fruits appear on the tree! Now it’s official, Tomas is growing dragons.

 

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Book Report: Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Three Things I Know Are True

Written by Betty Culley

HarperTeen, 2020

 

Two best friends. A single shot. A family broken.

These words on the book jacket perfectly set the scene for Three Things I Know Are True.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut YA novel by Betty Culley. Thank you, KidLit411  and Betty Culley, for sending me a copy!

***Spoiler Alert

Three Things I Know Are True is the tale of (as mentioned above), friends, a loaded gun, and two families broken. The story, written with brilliant and spare words, packs this emotionally charged tale about dealing the the aftermath of an accidental shooting. Liv, the younger sister of the victim, tells the story through her viewpoint. I absolutely love how she processes and reacts to the situation. Raw, honest, painful, witty, flawed. All of the good things. And I say two families are broken, because Liv’s family and the family who owned the weapon are both torn apart by a tragic event.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Raw, honest, emotional (you will be amazed, cry, admire, and appreciate the reality of living with tragedy)

~ Brilliant writing (the book looks huge, but it’s not; I stayed up well past my bedtime to read it)

~ I CARED about the characters in the book and what happened next

~ The pain and conflict in the book are phenomenal; it’s full of emotional landmines!

~ I love the Three Things I know Are True game

~ Hope and acceptance in difficult circumstances

~ Friendship and romance

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Amazon Blurb:

Fans of Jandy Nelson and Marieke Nijkamp will love this deeply moving novel in verse about the aftermath of a gun accident.

Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

This powerful novel is a stunning exploration of tragedy, grief, compassion, and forgiveness.


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Book Report: JELLY by Jo Cotterill #BookBirthday

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Jelly

Written by Jo Cotterill

Yellow Jacket (an imprint of Little Bee Books); January 7, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

I LOVE Jelly! This is a great story about a large girl who figures out how to cope with rude comments about her size. Humor and excellent impressions of others keeps everyone laughing, but deep in her heart, she hides her true feelings. This is also a coming of age story. I loved the writing, the setting, the poetry (!!!), and the music. Not everyone has to fit in the same package or do the same things to belong. Honesty with family and friends is worth the risk. I love the way school, friendship, and home life is all tied up in one exciting bunch. Excellent read!

Thank you, Yellow Jacket, for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Jelly to review.

As an adult who struggled with being the chubby kid at school, Jelly resonated with both my younger and more mature self.

 

Why I LOVE This Book:

~ The personality of Jelly is fantastic. This is someone I would love to meet in real life. Her story rings true.

~ The struggle with being overweight and how Jelly is treated by others is sadly life-like. Bullies are everywhere and Jelly learns how to deal with mean comments by reacting with humor. But beneath it all, she is hurt and is hiding her true self.

~ The courage and honesty of Jelly as she changes how she interacts with others and shares her real feelings is refreshing.

~ I love that Jelly writes in her journal to process life. I love the way she expresses herself through poetry.

~ Fantastic friendship, family, and school dynamics

~ The story!

~ I really enjoyed Jelly. Readers will see themselves in the many characters and hopefully learn to treat others kindly, no matter what size.

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

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Amazon Blurb:

Twelve-year-old Jelly hides her true self behind her humor and keeps her true thoughts and feelings locked away in a notebook. Can she find the courage to share who she really is?

Angelica (Jelly for short) is the queen of comedy at school. She has a personality as big as she is, and everyone loves her impressions. But Jelly isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. No one knows her deepest thoughts and feelings. She keeps those hidden away in a secret notebook.

Then her mom’s new boyfriend, Lennon, arrives. He’s kind and perceptive, and he is the first person to realize that Jelly is playing a part. Jelly shares her poetry with him and he convinces her to perform one of her poems as a song at the school talent show. Can Jelly risk letting people see the real her? What if it all goes wrong?

  • Age Range: 10 – 14 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 9

 


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Book Report: The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia

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The Memory Keeper

Written by Jennifer Camiccia

Aladdin, An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; 2019

 

I received a copy of The Memory Keeper through Natalie Aguirre’s blog Literary Rambles. Thank you, Natalie and Jennifer!

I enjoyed reading The Memory Keeper. The cover is very attractive and captured my attention while also giving me a place of setting. The characters are really fun and engaging. I learned SOOOO much about brains in this book. Do not be turned off by that statement. This is a far cry from medical descriptions of brain information. Jennifer expertly wove brain facts into the story. Each chapter begins with a new bit of information relevant to that chapter, and then off we go!

The story of Lulu, a young girl with HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) and her grandmother, who might be beginning to suffer from dementia OR memory-related stress incidents, is a great read.

Why I Loved This Book:

~ The characters are fantastic.

~ I learned so much about brain science (in a fun, non-textbook sort of way).

~ Mystery, danger, intrigue!

~ I liked the friendship factor.

~ Dysfunctional family. Who doesn’t have one of those?

~ I enjoyed the history and inter-generational relationships.

~ The problem-solving and hidden secrets really upped the story intrigue.

~ Excellent writing and story telling.

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Amazon Blurb:

Fish in a Tree meets The Thing About Jellyfish in this heartfelt middle grade debut about long-buried secrets, the power of memory, and the bond between a girl and her gram.

All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.

At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.

With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.

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I hope you enjoy The Memory Keeper. Great read!

 

 

 


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Book Report: Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze by Jamie McHone

Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze

Written by Jamie McHone

Illustrated by Walter Policelli

Mascot Books, November 5, 2019

 

Happy Book Birthday! Today is a special day for both Jamie and Walter as Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze is released to the world. Book birthdays are super important to book authors and illustrators. Cue the music, balloons, and confetti!

Chris Baker at Mascot Books sent me a review copy of Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze. I am happy to spread the word about this new release.

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Book Blurb:

Durban is a bird with giant sneakers and wings so small he can’t fly. He’s tired of being made fun of by all the other flying birds, so he sets off on a journey to find out who he really is. Along the way, he meets Maudry, a smart and sassy female bird, and Wainwright, a grumpy worm with a short temper. Together, the unusual trio goes through thick and thin to discover what it really means to be yourself.

This zany tale of Durban Frankenshooze and his friends will help children begin dialogues about diversity, acceptance, and appreciation of differences, all while building vital language skills.

Southwest Virginia native Jamie McHone is delighted to share her very first children’s book with young readers everywhere! Although McHone enjoys animals, she does not have birds in her home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Instead, she has Rottweilers!

To set up an interview, reading, signing, or for information regarding Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze, please contact Chris Baker at chris@mascotbooks.com.

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What I liked about this book:

~ The names are super creative and fit each character and the problems faced by the characters. Clever and fun!

~ The issue of feeling unlovable due to personal characteristics-be it tiny wings, huge feet, needing glasses, or having thick eyebrows-is universal to humans of any age. Young readers will discover how Durban, Maudry, and Wainwright form a unique friendship and head out to explore the world and solve their “challenges.” (Really, they have fun together and learn to enjoy life in spite of their perceived physical shortcomings.)

~The vocabulary is wide and varied. Readers will be exposed to different words, idioms, and sayings. Stopping to discuss new ideas and vocabulary will enrich the story and reading time.

~While the story is told in a longer format and might not work for a read-it-all-in-one-session, it would be easy to break the story into sections for multiple readings. Older readers will enjoy reading this as a chapter book.

~I love the friends aspect of this book. Despite their differences, all 3 main characters find commonalities and learn to enjoy time spent together. They also make new friends as they travel on their adventures.

 

For a fun read, check out Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze.

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