Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Review: Milo’s Moonlight Mission by Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova

Milo’s Moonlight Mission

Written by Kathleen M. Blasi

Illustrated by Petronela Dostalova

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Thank you, Yeehoo Press, Kathleen M. Blasi, Petronela Dostalova, and Kathy Temean for sending me a copy of this fun, adorable picture book! I won a copy from Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. Two of my grands are really into outer space right now, so this book is perfect! My youngest grand just came home from her first day of kinder, and the coloring page? It was all about outer space.

Book Jacket Flap: “Outer space is there for exploring, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command . . .”

From the front cover, to the jacket flap, the inside pages, the illustrations, and the lovely story, there is nothing I don’t love about Milo and his urgent desire to head to outer space! I love that this story is based on an actual scientific event – the Leonid Meteor Storm – that occurs every November.

What I love about this book:

~ the enchanting story

~ the large, lovely, colorful, illustrations

~ the idea of Mom being Second-in-Command

~ The way Milo helps out so his dream becomes reality

~ the fun facts I learned about observing celestial events and the Leonid Meteor Storm (incidentally, and now I can’t remember who, but after I had read Milo’s Moonlight Mission, I was reading about a historical person, and his name was Leonid! I imagine his parents were interested in meteor storms just like Milo!)

~ the overall “package” of a captivating picture book, ready for repeated read-alouds

Milo’s Moonlight Mission is the perfect book for your budding astronomer or astronaut.

Amazon Blurb:

The most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the ideal moment–with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!


When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this important mission with him?


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Book Review: Squish, Squash, Squished by Rebecca Kraft Rector and Dana Wulfekotte

Squish, Squash, Squished

Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021

As the oldest child in a family of 4 children and 2 parents, I can relate to being squished in the car. And squabbling and fighting about it, especially over who gets a window seat. (This was before the time of cell phones, electronic games, and movie viewing options many children have now. Back in the dark ages. We had a car. A station wagon car. With fold up bench seats in the way back, but that was usually full with the family dog and picnic lunch stuff.)

I digress.

I won a copy of Squish, Squash, Squished from Rebecca Kraft Rector through Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. You can view the original post to learn more about Rebecca and Dana here. THANK YOU, Rebecca and Kathy!

Squish, Squash, Squished is such a delight to read! I loved the problem (squished in the back seat), the characters (adorable cuties with their no-nonsense mom who takes extreme-but fun-measures to stop the bickering), and the imaginative cast of characters who hop in for a ride. The words are just perfect with plenty of language and word-play, and the illustrations are the icing on the cake.

I suggest this book for anyone who has bickering children in the backseat, anyone who has children (or is a child), those who love fun word-play and stories, and creative minds who believe animals can do the things they do in this book.

Why I Love This Book:

~ told in the style of It Could Always Be Worse, the escalating drama is wonderful

~ I love the word-play and sing-song silliness

~ fun cast of characters, a mix of people and animals (love it)

~ adorable setting and the perfect illustrations to make this picture book of the magical sort

~ while not preaching about keeping it quiet in the backseat, readers will get the hint that it could always be worse . . .

Living in an RV, I sometimes drift into the theme of being squish, squash, squished, but I better hush-mush or my hubby might invite in some passers-by…


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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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My Monsterpiece by Amalia Hoffman, Book Birthday and Interview

My Monsterpiece

Written and Illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Yeehoo Press (March 2, 2021)

Amazon Blurb:

Ever tried to make the meanest, wildest, scariest monster? What if even a green tongue, pointy horns, creepy sharp teeth, and claws won’t frighten anyone away?

Join the frustrated artist on a hilariously hair-raising adventure where the scary and not scary mingle and lead to the discovery that overcoming fear and prejudice can bring about a wonderful FRIENDSHIP.

I’m pleased to introduce Amalia Hoffman, author and illustrator of the upcoming book My Monsterpiece (Yeehoo Press, 2021). I met Amalia when I won a copy of her book All Colors from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/book-giveaway-all-colors-by-amalia-hoffman/

Welcome, Amalia! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book.

What was your inspiration for My Monsterpiece?

My inspiration for My Monsterpiece was the many years I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scraps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies.

I was inspired to create a book that will be funny and entertaining but will have a non-preachy message that when we free ourselves from bias and stereotyping, our word is more colorful and we can befriend each other even if we don’t look or behave in the same way.

-I loved that your inspiration came from the children!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created My Monsterpiece?

My Monsterpiece involved a monstrous journey of over 2 years, from the time I started exploring the idea and “playing with it” in my mind to the time it actually sold to Yeehoo Press. I spent months just making a whole menagerie of monsters. I worked with crayons, color pencils, chalk, poster paints, and finger paints. It was important to me that the monsters will be fresh and not over-done.

I had the story idea lined up but I went through dozens of revisions with agent Anna Olswanger. I shared my drafts with my critique group as well and kept tweaking the story.

After the book sold to Yeehoo Press, I had many conversations with my brilliant editor, Brian Saliba. We brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, I went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When we felt that the story was tight and solid, I created a dummy—based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text. Since Yeehoo Press publishes simultaneously in English and Simplified Chinese, my dummy had to fit within the format and dimensions for both versions.

Once we were happy with the black and white sketches and pagination, I worked with the art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu, on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, I came up with concept designs for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. We decided to make the jacket slightly different than the cover underneath, which is something that I really love about the book design. Also, the front endpapers are different than the endpapers on the end of the book. I believe that the endpapers are just as important as the interior pages in a picture book and I was delighted that the Yeehoo’s creative team agreed with me. We also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.

-It’s incredibly captivating to see how much work goes into a book when you are both author and illustrator. And the number of revisions. Wow!

What plans do you have to celebrate the release of My Monsterpiece?

I usually like to celebrate my book releases with author’s presentations. I already created a monster headpiece that I tend to wear when I present the story. It looks like a tiara with a monster head on it. I am planning very exciting Zoom and in-person presentations. My publisher, Yeehoo Press is putting together a book trailer.

I also plan to offer book giveaways and the publisher will have many freebies for costumers and for large orders.

-Great news! Hope all goes well!

I see your publisher is Yeehoo Press. What can you tell us about Yeehoo Press?

Yeehoo Press is an independent publisher who publishes in English and Simplified Chinese. Headquartered in LA, it’s part of Shanghai Yihe Industrial Co., Ltd, founded on August 2007. The company publishes over 200 titles per year with annual output value of $15 million. 

-That’s pretty amazing!

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

Apparently, I was a very temperamental child. When I got angry with my mom and dad, I used to punish them by tearing the greeting cards I created for their birthdays and anniversaries.  Years later, when I visited my parents who lived in Jerusalem, I found an envelope with all the bits of torn art that my father saved. When I created My Monsterpiece, I showed the kid’s frustration by creating one spread that feature the kid’s torn monsters.

I remember that when I was about 8, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, just like the kid in my book, mine didn’t scare anyone and I didn’t win.

-Fascinating fun facts!

Thank you so much, Amalia, for sharing with us. Best wishes and congratulations on the upcoming release of My Monsterpiece!

To learn more about Amalia, her art, and her books, you can visit her at:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com/

https://amaliahoffman.wordpress.com/


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Book Review: Way Past Worried by Hallee Adelman

Way Past Worried

Written by Hallee Adelman

Illustrated by Sandra de la Prada

Albert Whitman & Co., 2020

I first heard about Way Past Worried when I read a post by Kathy Temean on her Writing and Illustrating blog. (By the way, this is a great place to read about new books, agents, editors, publishers, and so on.) Here is the link to Kathy’s original post about Way Past Worried: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/book-giveaway-way-past-worried-by-hallee-adelman/

Thank you so much, Kathy for featuring this great book! Thank you, Hallee, for the swag bag of fun gifts and a copy of Way Past Worried! It’s already a hit with the two young readers next door (my grands).

Brock is beyond worried about going to his friend Juan’s superhero party. He has so many questions and concerns about who will play with him (or not play with him), what if his costume is not good enough, who will he visit, and what if someone laughs at him. Brock’s worries build and build, making him feel way past worried.

This well-written book gives simple strategies for dealing with worry as the young characters attend a party. If you have a child (or even an middle grade or early teen) who deals with social anxiety, reading this book will help readers talk their way through possible strategies.

What I Loved About This Book:

~ So cute! The characters, setting, story, all of it.

~ Excellent premise! Who has not struggled with anxiety at one time or another? I imagine there will be many more instances of social anxiety once COVID is contained (or managed) and people of all ages are allowed to return to in-person social activities.

~ Great story! As I said before, I think this is well written and it’s very easy to read aloud. My granddaughter was enthralled from beginning to end. That’s her, wearing the mask sent by Hallee and holding my copy of Way Past Worried (which will probably end up at her house).

~ Perfect illustrations! Child-friendly and fun. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations as we read the story together.

Read more about Hallee Adelman at: https://halleeadelman.com/

See more of Sandra de la Prada’s illustrations at: https://www.sandradelaprada.com/

Amazon Blurb:

Brock is worried. Way past worried, with his heart thumping and his mind racing. Today is his friend Juan’s superhero party and he’s going all by himself. What if nobody plays with him? What if everyone laughs at him? Brock doesn’t feel like a superhero, but… what if he can save the day and find a way past worried all by himself? This engaging story speaks to kids’ emerging emotional intelligence skills and helps them learn to manage worry.


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Book Review: The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho

The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

Written by Tina Cho

Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Kokila, An Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC; August 2020

I was super excited to win a copy of The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow, from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating website. You can read more from Kathy and check out her post at https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/book-giveaway-the-ocean-calls-by-tina-cho/ . Thank you, Kathy and Tina!

The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story is the fascinating story of women divers who use the skills passed down from generation to generation to dive and gather the fruits of the sea. Living on Jeju Island in South Korea, the mostly mature and elderly women dive into waters off the island, up to 30 meters deep. They do not use breathing equipment and can hold their breath up to two minutes! I am amazed!

The story focuses on Dayeon, a young girl, and her grandmother, one of the diving mermaids. Grandma is trying to encourage Dayeon and teach her the skills necessary to become a Haenyeo Mermaid. I love the way the young girl struggles with the fear of jumping into the wild ocean, even as she dreams of being able to do what she sees her grandmother doing.

This engaging story is delicious! I loved learning more about a new subject, one I had never heard about before. What an encouraging picture book, one that invites readers to explore a new world with their eyes, ears, and hearts!

Why I Love This Book:

~ The story is wonderful

~ The fascination I felt as I read about Haeynyeo Mermaids

~ The underwater world of women divers

~ The illustrations bursting with color and extra details

~ The setting on and off an island of South Korea

~ The history and the traditions of generations of courageous women

~ Fabulous backmatter

Amazon Blurb:

A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world.

Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

Tina Cho’s The Ocean Calls, with luminous illustrations by muralist Jess X. Snow, is a classic in the making.


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Book Report: How Long Is Forever? by Kelly Carey, Illustrated by Qing Zhuang

 

How Long Is Forever?

Written by Kelly Carey

Illustrated by Qing Zhuang

Charlesbridge, 2020

 

Who loves blueberries, farms, kitties, and grandparents? I do! Thank you, Kathy Temean, for hosting Kelly Carey and Qing Zhuang. Thank you, Kelly Carey, and Qing Zhuang, for sending me a copy of this lovely picture book! I was thrilled to read it and I can recommend How Long Is Forever? to young readers (and their grandparents) everywhere. Happy reading!

And while you’re at it, let’s have blueberry pie.

 

News from Charlesbridge

Waiting for pie takes a long time, but not forever.

Mason is waiting for Nana’s blueberry pie and complains that it’s taking forever. So Grandpa challenges him to figure out how long forever really is. Is it as long as Grandpa has had his tractor? No. As long as it took Nana to grow the roses to the top of the chimney? Not even close. After a trip around the farm to figure out the answer, Nana’s pie is ready.

 

What I LOVE About This Book:

~ Nana! I am a Nana, so I love that the grandmother is named Nana

~ Blueberry pie!

~ The kitty included on almost every spread (I love kitties)

~ The concept of forever and how it is explored through the eyes of a young child

~ The lovely story

~ Wonderful, colorful illustrations

~ Farm and farm house!

 

Amazon Blurb:

Mason is waiting for Nana’s blueberry pie and complains that it’s taking forever. So Grandpa challenges him to figure out how long forever really is. Is it as long as Grandpa has had his tractor? No. As long as it took Nana to grow the roses to the top of the chimney? Not even close. After a trip around the farm to figure out the answer, Nana’s pie is ready. And Mason’s finally got the answer: forever is how long he’ll love Nana’s pie and how long he’ll love Nana and Grandpa, too.

 

 

 


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Book Report: Winter Cats by Janet Lawler

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Winter Cats

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Ela Smietanka

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

 

I won a copy of Winter Cats by Janet Lawler from Writing and Illustrating, a blog by Kathy Temean, Janet Lawler, and Albert Whitman & Company. Thank you! I adore cats (and have one who believes she is queen of both indoor and outdoor realms).

There are so many new and wonderful books being released. I enjoy reading about them on a variety of blogs. Sometimes the blogs have giveaways. If one takes the time to read and comment about the new books, authors, or illustrators, your name is put into a hat.  On good days, your name is pulled out. And TA-DA, a shiny new book appears in your mailbox! I love shiny new books in my mailbox.

I encourage you to support authors and illustrators by learning about their work and searching for their books at bookstores and libraries, two of my most favorite places to visit.

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Why I love this book:

~ Cats! I love cats. I’ve nearly always had a cat or two in my life. Right now I have a cat who adores her daddy (not me). But that’s a different story.

~ Winter! Winter is a favorite season for me. The snow, the holidays, the expectant hope of new life in spring.

~ The story is told in rhyme. This is a lots of fun to read aloud to young readers.

~ The winter activities are the same ones we enjoy, but in Winter Cats, the cats enjoy them. Too adorable!

~ Indoor versus outdoor cats. I love both. This is a good problem for a main character to have. When our cats were forced to be indoor cats for a short time, there was no joy in our lives. They were monsters! I am glad Willy was able to sneak out and enjoy the outside.

~ I appreciate the nature activities and the characters getting outside. Nature is a very important theme to me.

~ Friendship is a main theme for Winter Cats. Willy makes new friends while he is outside. He invites them home to visit. These friends are responsible and clean up their mess. What great guests!

~ The colorful winter blue illustrations are perfect.

Amazon Blurb:

Willy’s an indoor cat who dreams of becoming an outdoor cat, but his parents tell him that indoor cats and outdoor cats are different. When he sees the outdoor cats having tons of wintery fun, he decides to sneak out and join in! Willy and his new outdoor friends soon learn that labels are meaningless in the face of friendship.

So if you love picture books, winter, cats, or rhyming, be sure to check out Winter Cats.

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