Thoughts on Traveling to Japan?

We have a trip to Japan scheduled later this year. Folks who know us wonder what we are going to eat – rice, I say!

Japan
Japan National Tourism Organization: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

Anyway, I’ve found a few amazing ideas for kids to do in Japan: traveling on the bullet train is a MUST (click here for an article about the Shinkansen), and I think we need to take a trip up to see the Jigokudani Monkey Park (check out this article!).

Anyone have other thoughts of what we absolutely HAVE to do while we are in Japan? I would hate to come home and learn about other great opportunities.

Please send your suggestions in the comments or by email! Keep in mind I will have two small kids with me.

Zinnia and the Bees

I’m amazed to be sharing the second knitting hero* in one week! Zinnia and the Bees opens with Zinnia and her older brother yarn bombing the middle school mascot, Ronny the rattlesnake.ZinniaFor those unfamiliar with yarn bombing, it is street art for knitters—covering bike racks, parking meters, and other items in the public eye with knitting or crocheting. Check out some beautiful examples here.

Zinnia is a twelve year-old girl with what can only be described as a knitting compulsion. Her passion for knitting becomes compulsive (or more compulsive) when her brother Adam disappears, leaving her with their emotionally absent mother. Their mother, Dr. Flossdrop, communicates with Zinnia almost exclusively by leaving post-it notes on their door.

When Dr. Flossdrop refuses to talk to Zinnia about Adam leaving, Zinnia decides that she’ll have to search for him herself. She decides to begin the search at Adam’s favorite hangout—an ice cream parlor. And that’s where she runs into THE BEES.

I have to admit that bees are one of my irrational fears. Put me in a room with a bee, a wasp, anything with a stinger and a buzz, and the flying menace is the only thing I can concentrate on. It’s become a bit of a joke among those who know me well (or, frankly, those who know me at all but have been in the room with me during these unpleasant encounters).

So I was both fascinated and horrified by the description of the cloud of bees following Zinnia from the ice cream parlor. In that chapter, author Danielle Davis essentially described my nightmare come true. But when the bees catch up with Zinnia, unlike in my nightmares, the bees don’t sting her. Instead, 4,000 bees take up residence in Zinnia’s hair (I’m not sure that’s much better than being stung).

The buzzing and tingling feelings are ever-present reminders of the bees throughout the book. Zinnia hides her hair under a sweater hood so that no one will see the bees.

Zinnia needs to figure out how to get rid of the bees in her hair and how to find her brother. She feels completely lost and doesn’t know where to start. But then she meets Birch, who is visiting his uncle for the summer. Birch offers to help find a solution for the bees. Through her time with Birch, Zinnia learns about friendship and about herself.

This is a fantastic debut novel by Ms. Davis. She explores emotional themes of parental loss, family relationship struggles, former friendships, and personal growth with an excellent touch for the middle-grade reader. Zinnia and the Bees is a tough book to put down (another set of late nights . . .).

Zinnia and the Bees will be released on August 1, 2017. I received an advanced reader copy of the book so that I could provide an unbiased review.

Ms. Davis is online at www.danielledavisreadsandwrites.com. You can download a discussion guide (which includes Ms. Davis’s answers to questions, so it’s also like having a mini author interview) and facts about honeybees.

Have you read any great books lately?

 

*Wilf the Mighty Worrier loves to knit too!

Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle

The unique star of the Wilf the Mighty Worrier series by Georgia Pritchett is a sweet, endearing hero who will grab readers’ hearts and have them cheering until the very end.WilfBefore I go on, let me clarify one thing: I did not make a typo in the title of this post. Wilf is, indeed, a Mighty WORRIER. He worries about many things. He even carries a leaflet around called “How To Stop Worrying,” which he consults throughout the book. He also keeps extra copies handy so that he can pass the leaflet out when he learns of others’ fears.

When presented with a challenge, Wilf will consult the leaflet. Then he often has a great big old worry, and then he has a great big old think, and then he thinks so hard that his brain feels dizzy—then he’ll get an idea! This habit gets him out of many scrapes!

Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle opens with Wilf making a list of thing that he is afraid of. This list includes: scarecrows, poodles, being eaten by animals, beetles, snakes, and crocodiles. One might imagine that he’s unlikely to run into many of the things on his list at home. But then his mom tells him that they are going on vacation to Africa!

To make matters worse, they are going on vacation with the next-door neighbors—Alan and Pam. Alan is full of evil plans to destroy the world, and the trip to Africa doesn’t slow him down at all.

Wilf finds himself in the middle of Alan’s plans for destruction, and has to save the world. He must also face many of his fears and keep his baby sister safe.

Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle is aimed at early readers, and features the occasional fart or poop joke to generate laughter. My youngest laughed out loud for a long time at the mention of Alan’s great invention—the Premier Official Optimum Beast Understanding Machine, or “POOBUM.” Most of the book is accessible for young readers; however, it does have some invented words (like “exhaustipated”) that will be tough to figure out.

The illustrations in Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle bring additional humor to the book. There are pictures on nearly every page. In a few instances, they provide details not found in the printed story (such as the items on Wilf’s list of things that he is afraid of).

There are currently four books in the Wilf the Mighty Worrier series, with a fifth expected soon. Wilf has his own website: www.wilfthemightyworrier.com, where you can find “The Worrier Checklist: How to Stop Worrying.” The checklist is similar to the leaflet Wilf takes to Africa—some of the suggestions are the same. There is also a Wilf Quiz, an Extra Story, and many video clips.

Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle will be released tomorrow, July 11, 2017. I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Have you read any great books lately?

Ulaq and the Northern Lights

I have always been fascinated by the Northern Lights. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in the North – I used to stand outside at night wishing (or hoping) to see them. Or maybe it’s just because the Northern Lights are simply a very cool natural phenomenon!

Harriet Peck Taylor has created an extraordinary tale about the Northern Lights in Ulaq and the Northern Lights. A fantastic picture book for all ages!UlaqOne evening, a very curious fox named Ulaq sees “strange blue and green ribbons of light that swirled across the darkness.” He can’t rest without knowing what they are.

Ulaq begins running across the snowy tundra, asking all of the animals he meets to explain the lights. Without hesitation, each animal gives him a new (and different) explanation for what the lights are and what they mean.

To Seal, they are a sign that there will be plenty of fish to eat over the coming year. Wolf sees the flames of the campfires of distant hunters, while Polar Bear sees a sign from unborn children. Caribou explains that the lights are swaying ghosts and that it is dangerous to be out in the open because sometimes the ghosts actually come down from the sky.

The more animals Ulaq meets, the more explanations he hears. You’ll have to read the book to see what Ulaq finally figures out about the Northern Lights!

Ms. Taylor included an Author’s Note explaining that:

People living in northern regions often created their own legends to explain the mystery of the northern lights, which scientists call the aurora borealis. Some people thought the lights were ghosts, while others believed they saw flames in them, and still others thought they saw their ancestors, or foxes, fish, or other images. This story is based in part on several of those legends.

Ms. Taylor’s illustrations in Ulaq and the Northern Lights are beautiful. The various shades of blue in the sky, the sea, and the snow are vibrant. Each of the animals are outlined in white, which creates a striking contrast with the dark blue of the sky.

I love the first paragraph of the author bio found on the back flap of the book:

Harriet Peck Taylor was surprised by the aurora borealis late one night while camping on the shores of Lake Superior. She noticed a faint glow in the sky. Slowly it became brighter and began moving like a great curtain of green and white light. As curious and awed as Ulaq the fox, she knew then that the northern lights would form the basis of one of her stories.

Ms. Taylor is an artist known for her batik paintings and is author and illustrator of seven picture books for children. Visit her website, www.harrietpecktaylor.com, to see some of the beautiful, colorful, and inspiring art that she has created. Or you can look through the hundreds of pieces of artwork she has created over the years at https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/harriet-peck-taylor.html.

Have you read any great books lately?

Dinosaur Empire!

I’m still fairly new to graphic novels, but I couldn’t resist this first book in the Earth Before Us series by Abby Howard. Dinosaur Empire! takes fifth-grader Ronnie (and all of its readers) on a magical and informative journey through the Mesozoic Era.Dinosaur EmpireThe story begins as Ronnie is walking home after failing a quiz on dinosaurs. She is lamenting the fact that she has to retake the test the next day when she walks past retired paleontologist Miss Lernin’s house. Miss Lernin pops her head out of her recycling bin and offers to teach Ronnie about dinosaurs. All Ronnie has to do is climb into the recycling bin with her for an “immersive” lesson.

Because it’s a graphic novel, Ronnie jumps into the recycling bin without hesitation (yuck!). She discovers that the recycling bin is actually a Time Tunnel that will transport her and Miss Lernin back to dinosaur times. They travel using “Science Magic” (this magic also protects them from harm and lets them breathe underwater – I knew I should have studied science in university instead of music!).

And so begins their travels through the three main periods of the Mesozoic Era, with a few stops at Miss Lernin’s Learning Center along the way. They meet all of the dinosaurs I can name, and many, many I’ve never heard of!

Miss Lernin separates the dinosaurs they meet into sauropods and theropods, in addition to telling Ronnie their names. By the time Ronnie and Miss Lernin reach the “Early-ish, Almost Middle Cretaceous” Period, Ronnie is also pointing out which dinosaurs are sauropods and which are theropods.

I have to say, I LOVE Miss Lernin! If we all had the same passion for our chosen careers as she does, the world would be a happy and enthusiastic place. When she successfully teaches Ronnie the concept of phylogenetic trees, excitement screams from her fist-pump to her announcement that phylogenetic trees are awesome!

Miss Lernin doesn’t only show dinosaurs to Ronnie. At each stop in their journey, Miss Lernin also shows Ronnie the insects and mammals that exist at that time.

Ronnie’s reaction to insects is a lot like mine: When they hit the insects of the Late Jurassic period, Ronnie remarks, “Oh . . . sigh. Insects again.” Ever enthusiastic, Miss Lernin responds, “I think you mean ‘Hooray! Insects again!’ . . .” Just wonderful!

Every once in a while, the insects and mammals in Dinosaur Empire! jump in with a comment about what is happening. These little comments often made me laugh out loud as I was reading the book!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. We’ll be watching for the next book in the Earth Before Us series. What a great way to learn science! Dinosaur Empire! was a fabulous start to the series.

Abby Howard writes two online comics: Junior Scientist Power Hour and The Last Halloween. Monthly subscribers can follow her on Patreon.

Dinosaur Empire! will be released on August 1, 2017.

Have you read any great books lately?

Sharing the Love!

I was delighted to be one of the recipients of Todd Burleson’s $500 gifts this year! Warner Enhanced Elementary School is a community school located in the center of historic East Nashville. It is a wonderful asset to the area. It serves children Pre-K through 4th Grade and gives them a solid foundation for middle school.

With Todd’s gift, Warner’s Kindergarten classes were able to boost up their classroom libraries so that they will be full of new books when students return in August.

Thank-you, Todd!

Todd Burleson

Source: Sharing the Love!

The Librarian Giveaway

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It’s time for another giveaway! The Librarian, by Christy Sloat, was published on June 17, 2017, and it sounds amazing! the librarianHere’s the description of the story:

He’s from 1892 England, she’s in a small library in 2017. And that’s just the start of their troubles.

Emme never meant to stay in Maine. She’d come only to find a librarian for her Gram’s library, a custodian for the collection of mysterious books she’d promised to protect. On a dark, wintery night, alone in the library, she takes her first glance into one of the antique novels and finds herself transported to 1892 England staring into the eyes of handsome and dashing hero Jack Ridgewell. As each chapter passes she learns you can truly fall in love with a character in a book, that book boyfriends are real and Emme must choose between the real world, and his.

When the last page is read he’s gone and Emme feels the cold loneliness of lost love. Will she find Jack again, or will their love be forever lost? The answer lies within the pages…

About the Author

Christy-Sloat-201x300Christy Sloat is a SoCal born girl who resides in New Jersey currently with her husband, two daughters and Sophie her Chihuahua. Christy has embraced the love of reading and writing since her youth and was inspired by her grandmother’s loving support. Christy passes that love of reading, writing, and creativity to her daughters, family, and friends. When you do not find Christy within the pages of a book you can find her being mommy, wife, crafter, and dear friend. She loves adventurous journeys with her friends and can be known to get lost inside a bookstore. Be sure to venture into her Past Lives Series, The Visitor’s Series, and watch for many more exciting things to come.

Check out her blog or find her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

I spent the rest of the day filing paperwork for the funding process and preparing to open the library doors on Monday morning. I told Rose and Becca to spread the word. Tarryn had decided to move her smaller items in already, and she was asleep by nine the same night. It didn’t seem strange to me that I had a roommate; instead it made me feel comfortable. I never lived alone before, and I would feel lonely otherwise. Tarryn was quiet, but I knew in time she’d get used to me and I’d get used to her. We just needed to get to know each other first.

Once I was done with the paperwork, I filed the books that were left on the shelf from when Gram was still here. As I placed the classic books on the correct shelves, I felt a longing to finish reading my mysterious book in my nook.

So, instead of going to bed at a decent hour, I climbed into my cozy space and picked the book back up. I didn’t open it right away. Instead I inspected the outside for any sort of title. I found nothing of the sort. I flipped to the title page once more, trying to find my place, and that’s when I saw the word on the page. It was just a simple “The” typed out on the once blank title page. I ran my finger across it and realized it was printed in ink as if the press had done it. I was sure the night before it was blank, but then again, I was sure my dream about being with a man was real. So I wasn’t really a reliable source at the moment.

I found the spot where I ended with a dog-eared page. I absolutely hated doing this to the book and didn’t remember it at all. I usually had a nice bookmark, but this seemed to be the only thing to mark the page before I had fallen asleep. Running my fingers across the crease at the corner of the page, I settled back and started reading.

 

I woke up once again face down, this time I was in grass. I blinked my eyes and felt the blades of grass tickling my nose and lips. I pulled myself up and took a deep breath. I looked around and saw the fields upon which I had dreamt of the night before. I was back in England. I was dreaming the same dream. How odd.

There were times when I had thought I had the same dream over and over again, to only find out that it was my mind playing tricks on me. This was no mistake. I was, once again, in the same place.

“Emmeline, are you all right?” I looked up and blocked the sun from my eyes. The man from before was standing in front of me. “You … you disappeared. It happened so fast that I fear I cannot explain to you how it happened. Now you’re here once again.” He sounded really confused and, to put it lightly, so was I.

This dream felt way too real. It was exactly like before. So real and tangible that I couldn’t explain it even if I tried.

“I … I don’t know how I’m here again,” I mumbled.

He reached out to steady me as I swayed to the side. “You’ve been gone for days. I worried I was going mad, that your presence was one of my imaginings. I dared not to speak a word to anyone about it. I have to admit, Emmeline, I’ve been going slightly crazed since I saw you last.”

His hair was disheveled and he had grown a slight beard that only enhanced the sexiness of his strong jawline. His deep set blue-green eyes looked weary, and for that I felt awful.

My sudden disappearance had made him fall apart, that was apparent.

“I’ll tell you, I feel like I’m going crazy too. Trust me,” I admitted. “Can we sit somewhere? Out of the sun?”

“Of course.”

He held my arm and led me to a tree in the center of the field. Once underneath the large tree, I felt instantly better. I looked down at my clothes and saw that I was, once again, in my own clothes. This time a little better than before. I was wearing yoga pants and an old T-shirt.

“I can’t explain how or why I’m here. Hell, I don’t even know your name, but I’m here again and I’m beginning to think that this isn’t a dream. That I’m really here, with you,” I said as I touched his arm. “I’m not from … here.”

I didn’t know how to explain it to him, but I did the best any girl who was somehow traveling through time could. I didn’t have answers or explanations, but I had a gut feeling.

“I’m from a different time as you. As you can tell by my lovely clothing, I’m not from 1893.”

He placed his fingers on my lips, stopping me, while shaking his head.

“This isn’t right, Emmeline. Trickery at a time like this isn’t fair,” he said as he stood up fast. “I am leaving soon. I shall not have you doing this to me.”

My mouth fell open in shock and I stood. “Do something to you? Listen here, buddy, I didn’t ask for this. I sat down to read a book and then boom, I’m stuck in England with a stranger.”

I pointed at myself. “Look at me. Do I really look like I belong here?”

He looked at my clothing and up to my hair, and I could see his cheeks redden.

“You are dressed very indecent, I suppose. No woman I’ve ever met wears trousers. Nor do they wear clothing that fitting.”

I laughed. He thought this was indecent, he should see some of the dresses I had worn to parties. They were nothing like the dresses he was used to seeing on a woman. We absolutely didn’t dress ladylike anymore. My sexy little black dress that currently hung in my closet would definitely shock some of the people of this era for sure.

“I don’t know why I’m here. I’m absolutely not trying to, I don’t know, hurt you or anything. I don’t know how to go home.” I slumped back against the tree. “I wish that I could prove to you that I’m not lying to you, but I cannot. You’ll have to just believe me, I guess.” It was as simple as that. He could either believe this bat-shit crazy explanation or not. One way or another, I didn’t care. I just wanted to go home.

“I don’t know why, Emmeline, but I feel as if I should say that I do believe you.” He ran a hand through his thick hair, mussing it up. “I just don’t know how else to explain your abrupt presence. One minute you are here and the next you’re disappearing into thin air. I read many books on fiction, so I suppose it could be true.”

“Well, I may know someone who knows something. She works for the lucky bastard that owns that house,” I told him pointing to the house where Nancy was the last time I saw her. She was probably cooking something again for her master.

He smiled. “That house?”

“Yes. Her name is Nancy.”

“Ah. Nancy. And who is this Nancy woman you speak of?” He continued to smile as if this was a joke, but I ignored it.

“She’s a cook. I met her on my last visit here,” I explained. “She’s not the nicest person I’ve ever met, but I think she has some answers.”

 

“I must argue that Miss Nancy is more than a cook. She’s also the lady upon with which I trust my household while I’m gone. She’s more of an aunt than a housekeeper,” he said as he took my hand in his. “It’s very nice to finally introduce myself to you, Emmeline Bailey. I’m Jack Ridgewell or you may just call me the lucky bastard.”

Intrigued yet? You can get your own copy of The Librarian ebook by entering the giveaway here.

The Librarian is also available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Have you read any great books lately?

Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Cake Contest!

What do you do when your Granny is a witch and won’t stop using her magic? Sometimes you just have to follow her around and clean up her messes! Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Contest is a humorous collection of three stories about Pandora and her witchy Granny, Araminta Violet Crow.Hubble BubbleThe Great Granny Contest begins with a family trip to Creakington Hall, a “stately home” full of dungeons and treasures. Pandora, Granny, and Pandora’s parents visit Creakington Hall for an afternoon tour of the old house.

They haven’t even made it inside before Granny starts making magic. While they are waiting in line to buy tickets, Granny’s pet frog, Croak, jumps onto the head of the man in front of them! Granny waves her wand and Croak disappears (but leaves some froggy poop behind).

During the tour, Pandora’s parents read every information card. Granny is quickly bored, and begins making magic to keep herself interested. Soon, portraits are winking at guests, mannequins start a food fight, and a suit of armor is moving around the room. Pandora has to get everything back to normal, make sure people don’t suspect Granny of causing the trouble, and stop Granny from creating any more chaos!

The other two stories in the book are equally amusing. In one, Granny and Pandora compete in the Great Granny Cake Contest, and the rules expressly prohibit using magic. But Pandora quickly discovers (on live TV) that Granny is not much of a baker when she can’t use magic to help her! How will they make it through the contest?

In the last story, Granny helps Pandora and her school gardening club when the garden starts looking a little wilted. The garden doesn’t exactly look like it should when Granny is done with it!

The Great Granny Contest is a chapter book by the creators of the Hubble Bubble picture books: author Tracey Corderoy and illustrator Joe Berger. Ms. Corderoy and Mr. Berger have joined together to publish five chapter books and three picture books starring Pandora and Granny.

The Great Granny Contest is written in language that is easy for young readers to read. The stories are fun, the pacing is quick and keeps kids entertained, and the characters are lovable.

Tracey Corderoy can be found online at www.traceycorderoy.com. She is the author of a number of children’s books, including Little Penguin Lost, and the Shifty McGifty series. Joe Berger’s website is www.joeberger.co.uk. Check out all of the books and cartoons he has worked on!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Thank-you to Ms. Corderoy, Mr. Berger, and Candlewick Press for giving me this introduction to Pandora and Granny and the Hubble Bubble series!

Have you read any great books lately?

The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

When I started reading a book about a child culinary prodigy who wanted to open a restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know that I was about to receive life lessons for my own workaholic life!Chocolate Covered Pork ChopsRyan K. Sager’s The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops tells the tale of Zoey Kate, child chef extraordinaire. Twelve year-old Zoey Kate creates culinary masterpieces that you can’t get anywhere else, such as Lobster Eggs Benedict, Cinnamon Bacon Octopus Pho, and, of course, Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops.

Zoey’s greatest wish is to share her cooking with all seven billion people in the world. But she’ll settle for opening the greatest restaurant in San Francisco—for now.

Opening a restaurant is harder than Zoey expected. She has to convince a bank to loan her start-up money, find the perfect location, navigate the world of business ownership, and get her parents’ permission! To make matters even more challenging, Zoey is first threatened, then sabotaged, by one of the great chefs in the city.

Fortunately, Zoey has great friends who she can lean on, including Dallin Caraway. Dallin is the biggest kid on his football team, but his coach doesn’t let him play during games.

And here is where the life lessons come in. As Zoey builds Zoeylicious, her fabulous restaurant on wheels, she has to make choices between her friends and her career. Boy, that really hit home for me! I didn’t expect to learn anything from Zoey Kate (except maybe how to make some interesting food), but I recognized those difficult family/friends versus work conflicts in my own life. Just like Zoey, I wonder if I’ve always made the right choice . . .

The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops goes on sale tomorrow, so you can pick up a copy to see if anyone goes to Zoey’s trolley-restaurant, if the sabotage succeeds, and if Zoey chooses friendship over fame. I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Learn more about Ryan K. Sager at his website: www.ryanksager.com.

Mr. Sager admits on his website that he is not a good cook, and that he finds cooking overwhelming and scary. But he has included a recipe for Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops in the back of his book. Should you try it? Yes! A chef from New York City created the recipe just for this book! How cool is that???

Have you read any great books lately?