Megabat

Take a story about a bat. Add in pictures of the adorable bat with chubby cheeks and bright eyes. Make the bat talk in silly almost-English. And voila! You have a book that both my six-year-old girl and eleven-year-old boy demand to hear at every spare moment!

Megabat

Daniel just moved into a home that he hates. He is far from his friends, and his room is in the attic. The first night in the new home, he slips on a mysterious puddle at the top of the stairs in his room. Then he is woken up by a strange voice calling for “buttermelons.” He is sure the house is haunted.

The next day, Daniel discovers the source of the water and the voice. It is a small, furry, brown bat, who is crying because he’s lost and far from home. The bat comes out of hiding when Daniel takes a jelly roll up to his attic room—the bat exclaims, “yours gots red smoosh-fruit!” He eats the jelly, burps loudly, then excuses himself: “Scu-zzi.”

The bat is a fruit bat—which Daniel learns are sometimes known as megabats, and dubs the bat with the new name. Megabat comes from the land of “Papaya Premium” and desperately wants to return. So Daniel teams up with the girl next door to send Megabat back to his home.

My kids loved every minute of this book! They often repeated Megabat’s words, which they considered hilarious. My son tried to anticipate Daniel’s next steps throughout the book, and was pleased if he was right.

The characters were perfect for young readers to embrace. Daniel partners with his next-door neighbor, Talia, to find ways to send Megabat home. Daniel and Talia make a great team and work well together as they search for solutions. Talia has a brother, Jamie, who is unlikable right to the end. Daniel and Talia have to avoid Jamie as they help Megabat.

Author Anna Humphrey is also the author of the Clara Humble series, as well as other books for middle grade and young adult readers. You can find more about her at her website. Megabat is a great early middle grade or long chapter book!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee—GIVEAWAY!

F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C… fantastic. The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee is fantastic.

Spelling Bee

There were no spelling bees in my school or in my area growing up. I never stood on a stage in front of an audience and had my mind go blank when asked to spell a word. But I was (and am) a brilliant speller, like India Wimple. I feel like I missed out on an opportunity to show off (or stare blankly into the microphone).

Fortunately for India Wimple, Australia holds the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee. Unfortunately for India Wimple, she has extreme S-T-A-G-E  F-R-I-G-H-T!

India knows she would never do well at the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee. She watches it on TV every time it takes place, and can spell every word that is asked. But she freezes when she’s in front of a crowd.

India’s family believes India would win the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee. They are sure she can overcome her fears. So they recruit members of their small town of Yungabilla to help India in creative ways.

These plans work! India’s P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E help her advance through the early rounds of the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee. Before she knows it, the Wimple family is piling into their van and traveling to Sydney for the finals.

In Sydney, India must battle her stage fright; face a bossy, spoiled competitor; conquer her shyness and be open to friendship; and set aside her worries about family troubles.

This is an E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T book for young readers—either to read aloud or for children to read to themselves. Kids will find it hard to put this book down. They will cheer for India, worry about India’s brother, and root for the spoiled competitor’s defeat.

I highly recommend this book, and am excited to be able to offer a copy to one lucky W-I-N-N-E-R! Click here to enter to win a copy of The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee.

Author Deborah Abela has written a number of children’s books. You can find them all at her website: www.deborahabela.com. She also offers Teacher’s Resources for many of her books, including The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee. I love Deb’s biography on her website—she sounds absolutely D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L:

Deb was born very short and had funny ears, but that didn’t stop her being a very smily baby. When she grew up, she was still short, a bit clumsy and not very brave, which may explain why she writes books about spies, ghosts, soccer legends and children living in a flooded city, battling sea monsters and sneaker waves.

Deb’s family never had a lot of money, but every week her mum would buy a Little Golden Book at the supermarket for 40 cents, until slowly Deb had her own library of books. Some of her favourite books at school were The Lorax and Professor Branestawm.

Deb was always an adventurous kid and lived in her head a lot. It was there she went on brave adventures as she swung from the swings in the park pretending she was dangling from planes. She once even jumped off the garage roof thinking if she ran fast enough she could make it all the way to the pool. It wasn’t a happy ending.

She loved school, especially English and drama. She was in the debating team, on various sports teams where she tried her hardest not to get trampled and even became school captain. After becoming a teacher, Deb went to Africa in search of adventure and found herself caught in a desert sandstorm, harassed by monkeys and thrown in jail … twice!

After three years she came home, went back to uni to study Communications and became the writer/producer of a national kids’ TV show called Cheez TV, where she wrote about everything from llamas to bunny jumping and how astronauts go to the toilet in outer space. Hmm …

Enjoy The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee! Many thanks to Ms. Abela and Jabberwocky for providing a copy of the book for my review, as well as for providing a book for the G-I-V-E-A-W-A-Y. CLICK HERE to enter!

Have you read any great books lately?

Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters

I’ve discovered an amazing new chapter book character: Squishy Taylor. Yep, her name really is Squishy, and she’ll capture your heart!

Squishy Taylor

Squishy got her name when she was very little and would squeeze between her parents when they hugged. She would wriggle in and yell, “Squish me! Squish me!” She has been “Squishy” ever since.

Squishy’s parents are divorced now. Her dad has remarried and has a new baby. When her Mom moves to Geneva, Squishy moves in with her Dad and her “bonus” family. (Stepfamilies get a “bad rap” in fairy tales, so Squishy’s Dad has decided her new family is a “bonus family.”) But her new family doesn’t feel much like a bonus to Squishy.

Squishy’s two new stepsisters don’t talk to her. In fact, the three are engaged in a step-sibling war. The stepsisters shoot glares at Squishy. Squishy responds by sabotaging one of the girls’ backpacks.

When she heads out on an errand for her Dad, Squishy discovers a runaway hiding in her apartment building’s garage. The runaway, who calls himself John Smith, is living in a storage closet. Squishy decides to take care of John.

Squishy thinks she is stealthy when she sneaks food down to John, but she is quickly caught by one of the stepsisters. As the two girls work together to look after John, Squishy discovers that her stepsisters aren’t as bad as they seem.

The story of Squishy and John Smith is a lot of fun. Even more enjoyable is watching the relationship grow between Squishy and her bonus sisters. Before her Dad and “bonus” mother know it, Squishy and her bonus sisters are working as a team to get revenge on one of their neighbors.

I can’t believe I haven’t met Squishy Taylor before—she has been around long enough to have eight books AND her own website! That’s right, Squishy is online at www.squishytaylor.com! On the website, you can find information about all of her books, participate in the Squishy Taylor Competition, and find teaching guides for two of Squishy’s books (including Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters).

I am looking forward to seeing what other adventures Squishy and her bonus sisters have already had, and those that are still unwritten! Many thanks to Ms. Wild and Capstone for giving me an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I’m so glad they introduced me to this wonderful young girl!

Have you read any great books lately?

Too Much Space!

If you’ve never met Beep and Bob before, you’re in for a real treat when you read Jonathan Roth’s Too Much Space!

Beep and Bob

Bob is a new student at Astro Elementary, which is a school in orbit around “one of the outer planets.” Beep is an alien who was separated from his 600 siblings while playing hide and seek. The two friends came together when Bob found Beep knocking on the space station’s airlock door. Bob let Beep in, and now Beep thinks that Bob is his mother!

Too Much Space! is told through Bob’s “Splog entries” (Space Blog entries that Bob is required to write for class). Bob is struggling with his new school—not because of the work or trouble meeting new friends, but because he is terrified of space.

This is a problem. Not only does Bob live on a space station and attend a school that is orbiting a planet, but his class regularly takes field trips into space on the space bus. Each time the class travels to new destinations, the students are required to pull on their space suits and float into space to explore.

These trips into space provide plenty of entertainment and humor for readers. On a class trip to Pluto, Bob discovers that one of his classmates, Lani, keeps three spiders as pets. Lani brings her pet spiders on the class trips as experiments. Unfortunately, Bob is afraid of spiders too. He faints when he sees Lani’s pets. A class bully discovers Bob’s arachnophobia and uses it to torment him in a most unusual way!

Too Much Space! was loads of fun to read. My six-year-old and I laughed at Bob’s antics as he searched for ways to avoid going into space. We were on the edge of our seats at times. My daughter covered her face and wailed “I have to know what happens next” each time we hit a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter and had to stop for the night.

This is a definite “must read” for any young chapter book reader! As a bonus, the last two pages of Too Much Space! have fascinating facts about Pluto.

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. But we’re headed to the store for more adventures of Beep and Bob!

Have you read any great books lately?

Gracie La Roo

If your beginning reader has been looking for a chapter book starring a synchronized swimmer, you have finally found it! Gracie La Roo is here to make your day!

Gracie

Marsha Qualey’s newest book is a collection of four short stories starring The Marvelous, Amazing, Pig-Tastic Gracie La Roo. Gracie is the youngest pig to join a world-renowned synchronized swimming team.

This book begins with a story about Gracie La Roo doing what she does best—swimming with her team, the Water Sprites. But Gracie is having trouble completing one of their routines and is worried about participating in the upcoming World Championship competition. Even worse, her swim bag disappears, along with a notebook where she has written down the Water Sprites’ secret swim routine. Gracie has to solve both of her problems before the performance!

In the other three tales, the problem-solving, swimming piggy is invited to perform in a movie, hired to perform (with the Water Sprites) on a cruise ship, and asked to give a speech to students at her old school. Each time, Gracie faces a problem to solve.

Gracie La Roo is a character that young readers will love. She is a cute, friendly pig (who can resist a cute pig???) who struggles with fears and doubts just like the rest of us. She entertains readers by creatively finding solutions to her problems in ways that kids will enjoy.

All of the Gracie stories are told in simple text with full-color illustrations on every page. Each story is divided into four chapters, appealing perfectly to the beginning reader’s desire to read a “chapter book.”

Gracie La Roo is Ms. Qualey’s first foray into early readers. Ms. Qualey has published nine young adult novels and one adult contemporary fiction novel.

I am grateful to Ms. Qualey and Capstone for providing an advance reader copy of Gracie La Roo in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Royal Rabbits of London

Thank goodness for the Royal Rabbits of London! For centuries, they have worked tirelessly to protect the British Royal Family from evil plots. They work in the shadows and underground and are never seen by humans. But their impact on the welfare and reputation of the Royal Family is immeasurable.

Royal Rabbits

At the start of the Royal Rabbits in London, we meet a young country rabbit named Shylo. Shylo is a scrawny little rabbit who is mocked and picked on by his siblings. He worries that he is a disappointment to his mother. Against the rules, Shylo has started to visit an old recluse rabbit named Horatio to hear stories of long ago.

One day, Shylo is heading to Horatio’s den when one of his brothers chases him through the woods. Shylo escapes by hiding in a hollow tree. While he is hiding, he overhears a dastardly plot planned by three strangely-dressed rats. If the rats succeed, their plan will undoubtedly destroy the reputation of the Queen of England.

Shylo doesn’t know what to do, so he races to Horatio with the news. Horatio explains that these rats are the “Ratzi” (as in, the paparrazi). He says that Shylo must travel to London to warn the Royal Rabbits of London of the plot. Shylo gathers up his courage and sets out on the long and dangerous journey to London.

In this exciting adventure introducing the Royal Rabbits of London, Shylo learns more about himself, gains self-confidence, and grows up as he braves the trek to London and confronts the Ratzis. This is a fabulous book celebrating the hidden talents and skills of a character who is not the biggest, fastest, or strongest. It will resonate with younger middle grade students who are searching to find their own place in the world.

Written by best-selling author-duo Santa Monefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, this book provides a unique look into Buckingham Palace and the Royal Family. The protective bunnies living under the castle are fascinating and are bound to have many exciting adventures. I hope we see more stories of Shylo and the Royal Rabbits of London. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

THE 3RD ANNUAL VALENTINY WRITING CONTEST!!!

I’m going to try something completely different today…  Author Susanna Leonard Hill is organizing a “Valentiny Writing Contest.” The challenge? Write a Valentine’s story appropriate for children, maximum 214 words, in which someone is hopeful.

So… here’s a little piece of my writing out for all to see. (GULP!)

The Happy Little Paper

(207 words)

Light shines into the drawer where I live with the other unused paper. A chubby little hand slides inside.

“Pick me! Pick me!” We all cheer.

The hand grabs me and I fly up, up, up out of the drawer. I flutter a corner of my page to wave goodbye to my friends.

I wonder what I will become?

Will I be a grocery list, reminding Dad to bring milk home from the store?

Will I be a paper airplane, feeling the wind on my wings as I fly through the air?

Will I be a beautiful picture, hanging on the fridge for everyone to admire?

Gosh! I hope I won’t be one of those crumpled up papers sitting on the table by the markers!

The hand sets me on a table with markers and crayons laying all around.

This is it! I can’t wait!

The hand picks up a crayon and starts to draw.

Hey! That tickles!

I hear the child singing softly as the hand draws a big shape in my middle and little doodles around my edges. The big shape has bumps on top and a point at the bottom.

Oh! I’m the best surprise of all:

“Happy Valentine’s Day Mom, Dad, and Alex”

IMG_4237

 

Nothing gives me more peace than photographing nature.

I’m so excited to have a guest joining our blog today! The following is a post from author & nature photographer Lieve Snellings, the creator of a series about Margot the groundhog. Thanks to our groundhogs here in America, we know we’re in for another six weeks of winter. But perhaps this post about the beauty and inspiration of nature will help make that time pass quickly!

Margot

About 10 years ago I was introduced to this heavenly pleasure of nature photography. I was so charmed seeing all these pretty animals and birds in our Quebec garden. I had seen cats washing themselves, but here I also saw birds, squirrels, groundhogs… doing the same. Observing them was so much fun.

I don’t know if these lovely creatures have emotions like humans have, though I could hear them talk. And Margot the woodchuck started to tell me I had to publish their story, to show small and big kids that all creatures in nature are living beings and that they love to live too.  Of course Margot wanted to play the first violin in the orchestra, but that was OK. She loved to share the attention with her family and friends.

It was Margot, who told me about Eufrazie the hairdresser and how she create a special hairstyle for every critter, also birds, when some festivity is coming up. It was exciting to see all those birds with this special haircut. I had to photograph them and share this with you all.

Squirrel 2

Maybe you are interested in how to photograph birds too. I’m glad to offer you these 14 easy tips:

  1. If you want to start photographing birds, you do not have to go far. It is best to start in your garden or street or a park or field in your area.
  2. It is important to get to know the behavior of the birds you want to photograph. Around what time of the day do they show up? On which branch do they usually sit? Do they show up alone or in the company of others?
  3. Use a tripod.
  4. Hide yourself, make use of a shelter, something you’ll not too visible. An old paravan, with opening to pierce the lens of your camera through can also be a handy thing to hide.
  5. Don’t make sudden movements.
  6. Birds adhere to the same habits, they regularly return to the same place. Choose a spot, prepare your camera and wait until the bird returns to that spot.
  7. Set your camera to a fast shutter speed (S in high number) and the aperture or diaphragm as large as possible (F in small number) – this is to allow as much light as possible to come in and to make the shutter speed as short as possible.
  8. Take your photos in the larger format (highest megapixels) because otherwise you lose a lot of quality when you make a cut-out afterwards.
  9. Make sure you are dressed warm enough because you may have to sit still for a while.
  10. Pay attention to the foreground and background.
  11. Birds like to fly against the wind direction to keep more control. So when you choose to photograph birds in flight, draw with your camera in the flight direction.
  12. Experiment with different points of view.
  13. Photographing birds is in fact, like top sport. Patience, exercise and perseverance are important.
  14. It is pleasant to have a bird encyclopedia or a bird app on your smartphone or tablet, so you can look up which birds you just saw and to learn more about them.

I wish you can enjoy as much as I did and do.

Bird

…if you want to learn more about my work.

Thanks for sharing these fantastic tips, Lieve!

The Legend of Jack Riddle

What if? What if fairy tales were true stories? What if they were about children cursed by an evil witch who liked to cast a spell over one kid every generation to teach others a lesson? What if you found out you were her next target?

Jack Riddle

With these questions begin The Legend of Jack Riddle. Over his objection, Jack is sent to visit Aunt Gretel, a relative no one in his family remembered they had until she called and invited Jack to visit. He follows Aunt Gretel into the woods at night, talks his way past a goblin into a magical part of the forest, and sees her with a group of witches. After that, he can’t get home fast enough. Back to the land of cell service and wifi. Back to the land where everything makes sense.

But the things he brings home with him from Aunt Gretel’s house scare him. He soon finds himself talking with the bumbling old history teacher at his school, Professor Footnote. Professor Footnote explains the truth about fairy tales and that Jack is Gretel’s next target.

Jack is thrown into an adventure that he didn’t ask for and doesn’t want any part of. His smartphone is no use, his friends can’t help, and his parents are acting strange. He has to rely on the help of the muddled Professor and an unusually friendly cat as he embarks on a quest to save himself and generations of children to follow.

Some books are fun to read but you can easily put them aside. Other books call to you even when you are busy doing something else. The Legend of Jack Riddle falls into the latter category. Any time we had a spare moment, Alex was beside me, asking: “Riddle?” He didn’t care if we only had time for a page or two, he just wanted to see what would happen next. (And I have to admit, I was tempted a few times to read ahead after his bedtime…)

This is author H. Easson’s first novel. And what a way to start! She’d better have many more where this one came from, because she’s got two big fans in our house!

I’m grateful to Ms. Easson and Capstone for giving me the opportunity to read this book. I received an advance reader copy of The Legend of Jack Riddle in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

Ellie, Engineer

I approached this book with mixed feelings, but was quickly enchanted by this fun-loving kid who loves to invent and build.

Ellie Engineer

In the opening pages of this chapter book, we meet Ellie and her best friend, Kit. They are deeply absorbed in building a large water balloon launcher out of broomsticks, exercise bands, and Ellie’s dad’s funnel (let’s hope the holes Ellie drills in the funnel don’t prevent him from changing his oil!).

While the invention itself is cool, I adored the reason WHY Ellie needed to build a giant water balloon launcher. The neighborhood boys are playing soccer a few backyards over, but when Ellie asked to join, they told her that only boys were allowed to play. So Ellie created the Water Empress to shoot water balloons across a few backyards at them.

Hey boys! Girls just wanna have fun, too!

Ellie runs into a problem when she discovers that the birthday present she is making for Kit doesn’t work. She only has a few days to come up with a new invention and build it without Kit noticing! After deciding on the perfect present, she researches designs and then gets to work.

The boys-versus-girls opening sequence remains a theme throughout the book; however, Ellie befriends one of the soccer-playing boys and agrees to let him join her in the research and development phases of her work. Trouble starts when Ellie’s need to keep the present a secret from Kit makes Kit start feeling left out!

I was delighted to discover that Ellie isn’t just a one-sided character (which was the root of my apprehension as I began the book). She isn’t simply a tool to create a STEM book, but a girl with wide-ranging interests and personality traits.

As I read Ellie, Engineer to my six-year-old daughter, Ellie reminded me of my daughter. My daughter asked Santa for a pink toolbox she saw at Lowe’s one day last fall, and she kept talking about that toolbox until it arrived Christmas morning. She has used the pink hammer to decorate her room, the screwdrivers to replace batteries in her toys, and has worn the tool apron around the house.

Tool kit

Like my daughter almost any day of the week, when we first meet Ellie, she is wearing a fluffy skirt. And, like my daughter, that skirt doesn’t stop Ellie from any of her activities—whether working with her hammer and cordless drill or doing cartwheels and rolling down hills.

I highly recommend Ellie, Engineer for your boys and girls. It is fun to read, and informative (we even get a lesson on flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers). I am grateful to have received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Jackson Pearce is the author of middle grade books such as Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures and The Doublecross and Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy and the young adult Retold Fairytale series. Check out her books at www.jackson-pearce.com!

Have you read any great books lately?