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?

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?

Zack and the Turkey Attack

My mum used to have these vicious geese at her farm. If you got too close to them, they would spread their wings out as wide as they would go, and run at you, hissing like snakes. It was terrifying.

Although I’ve never been chased by a turkey, I imagine the experience is very similar.

Zack and the Turkey Attack

Every time Zack goes to his grandparents’ farm, the big tom turkey attacks him. It charges at him, and if it catches him, it pecks him—and even sometimes makes him bleed!

Zack needs to come up with a solution to his turkey problem. He tries sneaking past the turkey, he tries following closely on his dad’s heels, and he tries squirting the turkey with water from a spray bottle.

In addition to his turkey concerns, Zack begins to work with his grandparents’ next-door neighbor, Josie, to solve another problem. Josie has discovered that there is a burglar in the neighborhood. Zack and Josie set out to catch the nighttime thief.

This is a chapter book for readers who have become a little more confident in their abilities. There are illustrations, but not on every page, so kids need to work a little harder to complete this book.

The action is fast-paced and exciting, and will keep readers engaged from start to finish. Kids will be surprised at the ending!

Author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written many books and series. She has a great website where she interacts with her readers—www.phyllisnaylor.com. Ms. Naylor operates three blogs (each with a different series focus) offering kids the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Ms. Naylor responds to all of the questions and electronic letters from readers on the blogs. As the parent of someone who is starstruck by his favorite authors, I know how valuable this correspondence is to young readers.

Check out Zack and the Turkey Attack, Ms. Naylor’s Shiloh series, or any of the many other books that Ms. Naylor has to offer! I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

Beatrice has always been just a little unusual. She sees the world with a different perspective—literally.

Beatrice Zinker

Beatrice does her best thinking upside down. Whether she is hanging from a tree limb, standing on her head, or swinging off the top bunk of her bed, Beatrice is happiest when her head is where her feet should be.

At the end of Second Grade, her teacher awarded her the “Best Upside Down Thinker” award.

But things have changed in Third Grade. Her teacher does “not tolerate upside down antics” in the classroom. And Beatrice’s best friend wants to play with a new student instead of be a ninja-outfit-clad spy with Beatrice!

This is a delightful chapter book that will charm readers from the first moment they meet Beatrice. Kids will root for Beatrice as she adjusts to life in a classroom with an unsympathetic teacher. They will cheer her on as she fights to win back her best friend.

The pictures on every page add to the story and give a little more insight into Beatrice’s character. In many pictures, Beatrice is hanging upside down in a tree. When she is not (or when the focus of the pictures is not on Beatrice), something in the picture often adds a little humor or a detail not found in the text.

Shelley Johannes is author and illustrator of Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker. On her website, www.shelleyjohannes.com, Ms. Johannes tells the story of the “evolution of Beatrice Zinker” in a fabulous biographical slideshow that includes many of her early sketches of Beatrice.

I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I am looking forward to Beatrice Zinker’s next adventure!

Have you read any great books lately?

Puppy Rescue Riddle

Animal Planet has entered the world of chapter books with an adorable series called Animal Planet Adventures. Each book focuses on a different kind of animal (so far, dolphins, farm animals, puppies, and zoo animals).

puppy rescue riddle

The third book in the series is Puppy Rescue Riddle. One Saturday, Elliot Flynn goes to a dog shelter with his older brother and two neighbor girls. The girls are excited to be there, but Elliot is afraid of dogs and doesn’t even want to pet puppies.

Driving home from the shelter, they get caught in a rainstorm that has washed out the road. Worried about the dogs’ safety, they return to the shelter and take all of the dogs and puppies with them to higher ground. But they lose a puppy in the process. Can they find her again, or will she be lost in the storm?

There are two parts to this book. There is the story of Elliot and the dogs. The writing is aimed at early readers, and it is illustrated with color pictures. The action is exciting, there are fun riddles to answer, and puppies are always a hit in stories for kids!

There are also fact pages about pets sprinkled every few pages throughout the book. These pages are full-color pictures, and they teach kids about topics such as owning pets, puppy behavior, vets, and animal shelters. The facts are fun to learn and easy to remember, so kids come away with greater knowledge on the subject and can parrot the facts back at a later time.

Catherine Nichols is one of two authors creating the Animal Planet Adventures series. Ms. Nichols wrote both Puppy Rescue Riddle and book one of the series: Dolphin Rescue. She is the author of more than 60 children’s books. Her website is www.catherinenichols.com and her blog is The Cath in the Hat.

I received an advance reader copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review. The kids and I will be checking out the other books in the series to see what facts we can learn while reading a cute story!

Have you read any great books lately?

Unicorn Princesses: Sunbeam’s Shine

If you’re writing a chapter book for girls, you really can’t go wrong adding in a unicorn or two. There’s just something magical about unicorns.Unicorn PrincessesEmily Bliss’s new chapter book series, Unicorn Princesses, captures that magic for young readers to enjoy. The Unicorn Princesses series tells of the Rainbow Realm, which is ruled by seven unicorns. They need help from a human girl who believes in unicorns.

Book 1, Sunbeam’s Shine, opens with a wizard-lizard casting spells—poorly. With a slip of the tongue, he causes a jewel that hangs around the neck of one of the Unicorn Princesses (Sunbeam) to disappear. That jewel is the source of Sunbeam’s magic, and now she can’t make the sun rise over the Rainbow Realm. Only a human girl who believes in unicorns can reverse the spell.

Sunbeam travels to the human world and finds Cressida Jenkins, who can only be described as obsessed with unicorns. She agrees to travel to the Rainbow Realm to help find Sunbeam’s jewel and return Sunbeam’s magic to her.

This book was a lot of fun to read. My little one did not want to put it down, and we read it any time we had a spare minute until Sunbeam’s jewel was found. The unicorns and magic were both definite selling points, but the pacing and action were also perfect for my little chapter book reader.

My only warning with this book is that when Sunbeam finds Cressida, they have a long discussion about needing a human girl “who believes in unicorns” and how hard it was to find one. Cressida mentions that her mother keeps telling her that unicorns are imaginary, but that she believes anyway. If you are not ready to plant that seed of doubt about the existence of unicorns, magic, and other whimsical matters in your little one’s mind, you may want to wait a bit on this one.

According to Ms. Bliss’s page at Bloomsbury Publishing, there are already six books planned for the Unicorn Princesses series. The first two were released earlier this month, two more will be released in December, and then another two in April 2018. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. We’ll be on the lookout for the next ones!

Have you read any great books lately?

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A hotel is often said to be a “home away from home.” This is how the animals of Fernwood Forest see Heartwood Hotel. In A True Home, Kallie George brings this adorable new chapter book series to life and introduces us to Mona the mouse.Heartwood HotelFlooding drives Mona the mouse out of her newest home. With her suitcase in hand, she heads out into the storm. Fate sweeps her to the door of the Heartwood Hotel.

Mona discovers a ballroom full of animals—rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, hedgehogs, birds, a lizard, and even a badger. They are dressed up, dancing, eating, and laughing. These are the guests (and some staff) of the Heartwood Hotel. A bird band is providing entertainment, and there is a table stacked with food.

Gilles the front-desk lizard intercepts Mona and regretfully informs her that the hotel is fully booked due to the Acorn Festival. But Mr. Heartwood, the owner, takes pity on Mona. He offers her a temporary position for the night as a maid and a place to sleep in the staff quarters.

The next day, Mr. Heartwood offers to extend Mona’s single-night job through the fall festivals. Mona is grateful for the hospitality and pledges to “give her all” to the hotel.

Although Mona works hard, she can’t win the friendship of the other maid, Tilly the squirrel. Mona also attracts trouble over and over again—with skunk guests, with Tilly, and even when a bug tries to stay at the hotel!

Mona is sure to become a much-beloved character in many young readers’ homes. Her hard work on behalf of the hotel, her penchant for mishap when she is trying to help others, and her creative solutions to problems will make her a favorite among little ones. Those young readers will be spellbound by Mona’s tale, as they worry with her about where she will go after the fall festival season is over.

Kallie George is the author of a number of children’s books, including both picture books and chapter books. Her picture books include The Melancholic Mermaid and Duck, Duck, Dinosaur. In addition to the Heartwood Hotel chapter book series, Ms. George is the author of The Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. Her website is www.kalliegeorge.com.

Heartwood Hotel also has its own website, where you can check on the availability of rooms, apply for a job, learn more about the rooms and staff of the Heartwood Hotel, and take quizzes. The Magical Animal Adoption Agency’s website tells about animals available for adoption, assists people in making adoptions, provides “tips and alerts” and “pet care” information (“Owning a unicorn is a big—and wonderful!—responsibility…”), and offers a downloadable “Magical Egg Handbook.” Lots of fun!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and am looking forward to the next books in this series! Book 2, The Greatest Gift, was released July 11, 2017, and Book 3, Better Together, is planned for February 6, 2018.

Have you read any great books lately?