Monday, December 23, 2013

Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier

Mother/Son team Ying Chang and Vinson Compestine created a wonderful middle-grade, historical fiction novel: Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier.

Thirteen-year-old Ming lives in the small village of Red Star in Maoist China in the 1970s. His father, an archaeologist, is convinced that Emperor Qin’s tomb (and his Terra-Cotta army) is in the area.  But if Ming’s father doesn’t prove it soon, the town’s Political Officer will condemn him to the brutal labor camps. When a terra-cotta soldier is found, and begins speaking, Ming learns about Emperor Qin, the history of the terra-cotta army, and what life was like for the soldier.  As the two become friends, Ming experiences adventure like he'd never expected!  Will they be able to save Ming's father, and outwit the Political Officer?

This was an amazing weave of history and fiction.  Ying and Vinson created a fantastical adventure that will appeal to boys (and girls).  It's almost...Indiana Jones meets Aladdin (and the Goonies).  Caves, treasures, booby traps ("that's what I said!  booty traps!")  And throw in an ancient Chinese golem (or terra-cotta soldier).

The book is filled with Chinese history from both Ming and Shi (the soldier).  There are illustrations and pictures throughout with captions describing life in Maoist and Qin Dynasty China.  The setting descriptions are very detailed, making the reader feel as if he/she is actually there.  

The book also includes a glossary (with both Chinese characters and romanization for pronunciation), a brief history of both the Qin Dynasty and Maoist China, and a Q&A session with the authors.  Oh!  And there's a stir-fry recipe at the end!

I would highly recommend this for collections.  I believe it fits with common core standards...and is just an entertaining, educational, interesting book.  Great for bringing in young, male readers.

Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier is published by Amulet Books (a division of Abrams).  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 01.07.2014

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Dirt Diary {Blog Tour} Plus! Interview with Author Anna Staniszewski!

"Oh. My. Goldfish."  I loved Anna Staniszewski's The Dirt Diary!

Rachel Lee is in the 8th grade.  Her parents have just split up, and she's still recovering from a fake boyfriend incident the year before (Junior High kids can be so mean!)  She doesn't think her life can get much worse...but then she has to help out with her mom's new business: a house cleaning service!  One that caters to the families of the popular kids in her school.  She discovers, though, that finding her classmates "dirty laundry" (see what I did there?) can be used to her advantage.  What will Rachel do with this information?

When I started The Dirt Diary, I was expecting the typical Mean Girl vs. Outcast story (or maybe even something along the lines of Seven Deadlies).  Burn Book gets found and spread all over the school, outcast girl becomes super-popular, ends up with football star.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Sure, there are some similarities, but the conflict doesn't go so horribly awry you feel sick/uncomfortable (which has happened with the last few Mean Girl/Outcast/Bully books I've read lately).  It was nice in the way Napoleon Dynamite is nice [confession: memorized movie].  There are popular kids, not popular kids, and some conflicts- but none (okay, maybe most) of the characters were completely evil.  It was very similar to my junior high experience.  

First- I loved Rachel Lee.  She captured me with her blurting of "Holy fish tacos" (something I'm pretty sure I've actually said).  She continued to endear me with her fun little quips, and then when she turned to baking to ease her troubled soul? I gave her a mental hug.  Food IS a language all in itself!

Second- I loved Rachel's friends.  Marisol and Andrew are...well, if I could've put Andie and Ducky together in Pretty in Pink, that's how I picture Marisol and Andrew.  And who wouldn't love that?

Third- Red Sox.

This was a super-fun read that would be great for middle grades! And apparently nearly 30-somethings, as I raved about this book to everyone I saw for two days after I finished it.  I'm really excited to see how the rest of the series goes!

Sidenote: I read this while also watching the K-Drama Heirs.  One of the characters is Yoo Rachel (but pronounced Rye-el).  So, in my head that's what I called our Dirt Diary Rachel, unless it was explicitly pronounced otherwise ("Ray-CHUL!")


And now!  I had the privilege of interviewing Anna as part of The Dirt Diary Blog Tour! (HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and Anna, for this opportunity!) 

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at

Hi Anna! Greetings from the frigid Midwest :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions!

1. Of all the characters in The Dirt Diary, which one do you connect with most? And, if it’s different, which one are you most like?
Rachel, the main character, and I definitely have a lot in common personality-wise. Her extreme shyness, neurotic insecurities, and funny sayings were inspired by my own quirks from when I was in middle school. Luckily, I’ve gotten a little more outgoing and a little less insecure since then!

2. Were any of Rachel’s situations based on your own experiences?
Although I haven’t been in Rachel’s specific situation (cleaning houses with her mom, going through a parental divorce, etc.) I can relate to the treatment Rachel experiences at the hands of the popular kids. When I was younger, the popular kids didn’t go out of their way to make my life miserable, but they usually treated me like I was completely invisible which made me feel like dirt.

3. Did you know from the beginning the direction you wanted her parents’ situation to take? Or did that develop with the story?
I had a pretty good idea early on of how I wanted Rachel’s parents’ story to end up. My goal was to make the outcome hopeful but realistic. I spent a lot of time trying to get Rachel to a point where she’d be okay, no matter how her parents’ relationship ended up.

4. Did you have any teachers who encouraged you the way Ms. Kennedy encourages Rachel?
I was lucky enough to have lots of great teachers when I was growing up, particularly a couple of English teachers in high school who really believed in my writing. I don’t know if I would be an author now if they hadn’t encouraged me as much as they did.

5. What would YOU have made for the bake sale?
I love eating pastries, but I’m not that great at making them. I do have one dessert that’s always a hit: a chocolate chip cookie cake with cream cheese filling.

6. As a children’s librarian, I have to ask: what was your favorite book growing up?                 
I had so many that I can’t narrow it down to just one! Among my favorites were Anne of Green Gables, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret Garden, and A Wrinkle in Time.

7. Were any characters based off people you know in real life? Marisol and Andrew would definitely be characters from my life.
I usually weave in characteristics from real people into my characters, but I don’t think there was one person who inspired any of the characters. It’s more fun, somehow, to invent characters from scratch and then sprinkle in traits from real-life people.

Thank you again for chatting! I look forward to reading more of your work! Enjoy the holidays in New England! (I was just that way for Thanksgiving).

Thank you so much for having me!


The Dirt Diary is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 01.07.2014

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm back!

Sorry for the break!  November was an exciting, busy month!

1. It was my birthday- my husband took me to the Brookfield Zoo and Mitsuwa Marketplace.  I stocked up on deliciously adorable baked goodies...and got to see animals.  A seal decided it would be hilarious to pop up out of nowhere and spit at me.  I screamed.

2. The hubby and I went to New England for Thanksgiving!  I hadn't had a Thanksgiving with my parents since 2004, so it was great to celebrate with them and also show my Wisconsin-born-and-raised husband some REAL mountains!  My parents live right between the White Mountains and Green Mountains.  Also, we had scallops.  GOOD ones.  Wrapped in bacon.

3. While out there for Thanksgiving, my sister and I surprised the parents with a special dinner out for their 30th Anniversary.

4. I discovered the band Clazziquai.  I don't even know how to describe them.  Korean-Canadian Acid Jazz?

Google Images/Dark Horse Comics
5. I did some reading.  Nothing new, though.  Serena by Ron Rash (made into a movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper!), The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi...and a good portion of Junji Ito's horror manga.

Google Images/Dark Horse Comics
Google Images/Dark Horse comics

Can we just discuss how dementedly awesome Junji Ito is!?!  Every. Single. Volume.  I would just be reading next to the husband saying "This is so messed up!  Like...really effed up! Holy crap! Look at this!" [and I would then shove some expertly penned illustration of effed-uppedness into his face; and he won't even watch horror movies, so you can imagine how well that went over.]

And now...NOW...I am ready for some reviewing.  And there are some fun things planned for this blog!  Stay tuned for some special guests and special features!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Cute Girl Network

I loved this!  It was like Zits for the post-college crowd.  Absolutely get your hands on a copy of The Cute Girl Network by Greg Means, MK Reed, and Joe Flood.

Skater girl Jane is new in town.  When she falls (literally) for kind, funny, absent-minded Jack, her roommates call the underground network of girls in the area: The Cute Girl Network.  Jack's dating history is a bit, um, colorful, and they want to make sure she doesn't make the same mistakes other girls did with dating him.  Will Jane be scared off by Jack's dating history, or will Jack win her over?

Oh goodness, I loved this.  I connected so much with the characters (I'm assuming this is because I'm not too far gone from that period in my life).  The Cute Girl Network was fresh and funny.  Great for twenty-somethings.

There's a Twilight parody book group, with Jane and her roommates.  O...M...G...I laughed so hard.  Then went back and read it again.  The characters are developed well-I loved Jane's roommate Wendy (who's making a documentary about girls and how they interact while playing).  The dialogue between Jack and his roommates, and Jane and hers, is so familiar.  As in, I have had those conversations and behaved that way with friends.

The artwork is black and white, somewhat reminiscent of Craig Thompson.  The details in the larger scenes were astounding.  I kept going back to just stare.  There's a vending machine graveyard, and all I could think was "I want to go to there."  

I may categorize it as a YA book, but it will definitely resonate with those in their 20s and 30s. It's a great story, with captivating artwork.   It makes you question: at what point do you stop listening to others, and start listening to yourself?

The Cute Girl Network is published by :01 First Second (a division of Macmillan).  Review copy graciously provided by the publisher.
Release Date: 11.12.2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Naturals


I've seen enough SVU and other crime shows that I thought I had this one figured out...I did not.  Which is great!

Jennifer Lynn Barnes' The Naturals is the first in a new series. Seventeen-year-old Cassie is good at reading the tiniest of details, and figuring out a person's story to a T.  So far, though, she's used it to guess customer orders at the local diner.  When the FBI comes to recruit her, she is brought into a world of killers, cold cases...and other teens with similar gifts.  A serial killer is striking, though, and a bit too close to home for Cassie.  Will she be able to use her gift to save herself and others?

The Naturals was gritty and suspenseful, while still Teen-ish?  It's told primarily in first person, with Cassie as our narrator; occasionally, though, it switches to a disturbing second person POV.  From the first second-person narrative, I was hooked (and creeped out).

To be honest, I thought Cassie and the others would have supernatural, X-men-esque abilities.  The fact that it was all profiling, etc, makes it so much cooler! 

The characters are likable--interestingly enough, Cassie wasn't at the top of my character favorites.  For some reason I really liked Lia, the resident liar.  I liked interactions the teens had with each other, and wondered about each past.   Actually, as sick as I am of series (for the time being anyway) I am looking forward to this branching into stories of each kid: Lia, Sloane, Michael, more of Dean...

There's a love triangle, but it's not the most compelling.  I almost wish it had been left out completely and maybe developed throughout the series.  Cassie also says she "should have" done well, a lot of things.  I got to where I highlighted every time she said she "should have [done this]" or "should have [done that]."  Those minor things aside, though, I enjoyed the book.

This would be great for anyone who likes shows like Cold Case, The Mentalist, Profiler and any of the Law & Orders.  Highly recommended for teens who like crime shows.

The Naturals is published by Disney-Hyperion.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 11.05.2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Am Pusheen The Cat

Oh my...what adorable cattishness is this!?!  (and this is coming from a non-cat lady Librarian)

Before reviewing this book, the one and only time I had seen Pusheen was this meme that Dramafever shared back in April (which is absolutely what I do when I watch K-dramas) and didn't know the cat had a name: 

Although, looking at the color differences now, is it a Pusheen friend?

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton, is a cute, funny collection of kitty comics.

I really wasn't sure what to expect, but this had me snorting, snickering, and chortling.  There's a section on Pusheen's No-Shave November Styling Suggestions...I died.  I mean, there's one called the "butt-stache."  Apparently my 10-year old self came out while reading this, because there were tears.

There are 5 sections that allow you to get to know Pusheen, her friend/sibling Stormy, how to be a cat, etc.  There's a collection of kitty horror stories, as well as some baking instructions.  The book also includes handy tips on everything from uses for marshmallows to tech support.

The style kind of reminded me of the Scaredy Squirrel series, including his Guide to Christmas and Guide to Halloween.  However, I think Pusheen is MUCH cuter, and funnier.

Anyone who has, or has had (like yours truly), a cat will really appreciate the situations Pusheen gets in.  If you've read and enjoyed The Oatmeal's "My Dog, the Paradox", I think you'll like this.

Also, I really want this Ramyun-eating Pusheen T-shirt from HeyChickadee:

I Am Pusheen the Cat is published by Touchstone (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.29.2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


So....I grew up on Christian YAish fiction.  The Christy Miller series, the Elizabeth Gail Dobbs series...super girly, wholesome and admittedly, I still re-read them from time to time.  However...alien shisa & zombie-like victims were never a part of that.

And that is why I think Sanctuary by Pauline Creeden is awesome.  It's totally not what you'd expect from "religious" fiction!

Alien spaceships have been hovering for months, dimming the sun, and poisoning the water supply.  People are dying left and right, no one is safe.  After killing 1/3 of the population with the water contamination, alien beasts that look like shisa are sent out to attack people.  They don't kill them, but the victims wish they did.  Jennie, home from college, tries to find the strength to protect her brother.  The journey to safety is a hard one, full of colorful characters and horrible situations.  Will she find (dun dun dun) sanctuary?

I really enjoyed this.  Like I said before, it's not your typical, preachy religious fiction.  Faith absolutely comes into play, but it isn't shoved down your throat.

The story is action-packed, and told from three different perspectives: Jennie, our main protagonist; Hugh, a science teacher from her old high school, aka "Hot Mr. Harris;" and Brad, Hugh's playboy younger brother, who's kind of a douche canoe.  Other characters that come into play are Jennie's 5-year old brother Mickey, and Pastor & Mrs. Crawford- who take everyone in.

I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it...Walking Dead meets X-Files meets Left Behind? Coincidentally, I finished this just before my hubby and I watched This is the End.  It made for some interesting dreams last night...

All in all, great YA religious horror fiction (I still love that "religious" or "Christian" and "horror" are in the same description).  

Sanctuary is published by All Night Reads.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.10.2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weird! Dare! Tough! [Bullying Series]

The Weird Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, is a trilogy about bullying that would be appropriate for elementary ages (but also adults working with children).

In Weird! Luisa is the kid being bullied (she speaks Spanish and wears polka dots!)  Dare! is from the perspective of Jayla, a bystander, and former victim of bullying, watching Luisa's struggles.  Tough! is about Sam, the bully.  The colors in the illustrations pop, and add to the story.  It's interesting to note things that carry over from one book to the next.

This trilogy of bullying and conflict resolution from different perspectives would be a great addition to any home and library.  Each book is great as a stand-alone, but the three together are powerful.

Each book comes with a series of thought-provoking questions, a letter from the main character explaining how they felt and why they took the actions they did.  There's a teacher's guide (well, Leader guide), an Activity Corner, and information for both adults and kids on approaching the issue of bullying.  I think some good discussions would come from sharing this with your children or students.

Note: Also meets Common Core standards.

The Weird Series is published by Free Spirit Publishing.  Digital ARCs provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 09.01.2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013


What if the only clue to who you were was the title of your iPod playlist?

One day, 17-year old Sia wakes up on a park bench, in her running gear, with no idea who she is. After a week navigating the rough streets, and being taken in by homeless Carol, she is reunited with her family.  Remembering nothing, she finds she was the school's Queen Mean Girl.  Horrified by who she was, she seeks to rectify past hurts and mend family dysfunctions.  Most people like the new Sia, but what will happen when her memory returns?

Sia, written by Josh Grayson, has a great message, and the characters reminded me a lot of The O.C. TV show.  However, after the first third-ish, I was kind of put off by how easily everything changed for Sia--just because she was nice now.  There's a situation with her alcoholic mother, and after one conversation she lets down her guard...after fighting up to that point of the book.  Another thing that had me throwing my hands up, yelling "Why!?! Why are you telling everyone that!?!" was her telling anyone who would listen her family's impending financial situation.  Though, I guess if I was so into it I yelled at a character, that speaks to some good writing :)

Those minor details aside, I loved the premise. I also loved Carol, the homeless lady who befriends Sia, and I appreciated their relationship.  It's a good lesson for kids to learn- that you never know a) what others have been through, and b) who's going to make a difference in your life.

While I think there are other books on the "bad girl gone good" front that some teens would like more, this one would be appropriate for those in more conservative households.  No sex, no profanity (that I can recall...maybe some minor stuff)- nothing terribly offensive, and I find that wholly refreshing.  Ah...just saw the screenplay will be submitted to Disney and ABC Family next year.  Actually, I think it would be perfect in that context!

It's an enjoyable read, and if you're not frustrated by the minor things I mentioned, go for it!  It's absolutely appropriate for younger tween/teen girls.  It's also intriguing as far as getting me to Google "fugue amnesia."

Sia is self-published by Josh Grayson.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 11.20.2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Who would you blame if your books started disappearing?

The Snatchabook is a picture book written by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty.  Eliza Brown lives in Burrow Down, where animals enjoy their nightly bedtime stories.  But! The stories are disappearing!  Eliza stays up late to see what's going on, and meets the book thief- the little Snatchabook, who is only stealing them because he has no one to read him a bedtime story.  Eliza helps him see the error of his ways, and the Snatchabook rights his wrongs (and even makes some friends).

This is a brilliantly written and illustrated bedtime story!  I dare you to read this and not start reading it out loud (I read it with the cadence I do with "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening").  I liked how Eliza helped the Snatchabook, and kind of took him under her wing.  Something kids can definitely learn from.

The illustrations are adorable.  I may get a little freaked out if I ever meet a Snatchabook the first time, but it's still cute.  I loved the setting illustrations- the lines of the grass and burrow and trees; the midnight blues, moonlit hues, and yellow glow of reading lights.  And the animals are just so cute!

This is definitely a book that should be part of your bedtime story repertoire.

The Snatchabook is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Published: 10.01.2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Seven Deadlies

What...did I just read?

Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie is a novel compiling seven stories on the seven deadly sins.  Perry, the brainy, down-to-earth, daughter of a nurse, tells us the misadventures of the students she tutors in her ritzy, Beverly Vista high school.

I had such high hopes, and yet I'm so disappointed.  This had all the makings of a dark, Dahl-esque cautionary tale, but the writing was so convoluted.  And the ending?  Huh?

I wanted to like this so much, and there were a few of the tales that were better than others (I really liked "Gluttony" & "Greed").  I also liked the style of the novel- dividing the chapters as letters written to a board.  However, the narration left a lot to be desired; our narrator, Perry, goes off on tangents that leave us confused.

I am a fan of hyperbole & allegory, and when used well it can make a great point.  However, this was so ridiculous at times, I felt the point was lost.  It's really sad, because I enjoyed Levangie's novel The Starter Wife.  It looks like Seven Deadlies is going to be made into a TV series- as unimpressed as I was with the book, I do think it will translate well to television.  Maybe it will cause us to care about the characters more.

I'm still torn on what I thought...I did find it entertaining...but again, the narration (to me) just took away from everything else.

If you're going to go for a book on being a good human being- stick with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It wasn't bad...but there are better.

Seven Deadlies is published by Penguin USA.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.17.2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

{Blog Tour--Fairy Tale Comics} Interview with Gigi D.G.

You KNOW how much I love graphic novels, especially ones from :01 First Second.  I recently reviewed their most recent anthology, Fairy Tale Comics- a collection of 17 fairy tales by 17 different cartoonists.  I'm thrilled to be part of the Fairy Tale Comics blog tour- please, PLEASE follow the entire thing here.  Many great blogs are interviewing these talented illustrators.

I fell in love with the style of the "Little Red Riding Hood" re-telling, and jumped at the chance to interview artist Gigi D.G.  Huge thanks to Gina Gagliano and :01 First Second for setting this whole thing up.

Now, without further ado, my Q&A with Gigi:

First off, did you always know you would to be a cartoonist? I ask because, despite my love of reading and daydreaming, the thought of being a librarian didn’t occur to me until after 3 different majors and a stint in musical theatre in California :)

It can definitely take a while to find yourself! For a while in high school, I considered studying French or Japanese and pursuing a career in translating. I was pretty serious about it, too! But art has always been my first love, so I think becoming a cartoonist was inevitable.

Are there any cartoonists/artists that have influenced you?

Erté and Tadahiro Uesugi are two of my favorite illustrators, and the work of Mary Blair was a huge influence during my art school days. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the art direction of video games like Kirby's Adventure and Paper Mario.

What tools do you use?  And what is your preferred medium?

I like watercolors and gouache from time to time, but my preferred medium is digital. I usually work in Photoshop.

How often do you draw?

As a children’s librarian, I have to ask: were there any picture books that inspired you, or that you kept coming back to, when you were younger?
I remember really enjoying Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk and The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. And, while I didn't grow up with it, I adore the work of Mo Willems.

Do you read a lot of comics?

Admittedly not as many as I should, but Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma is one of my all-time favorites.

What does your illustrating process look like?

Messy! My sketches are usually very loose, and I like to lay down huge blobs of color as quickly as possible, then slowly chisel away at them until the final product reveals itself.

Where is your drawing space?  What does it look like?  (asks the girl with wind-up sushi, Adventure Time miniatures, and Korean wedding dolls on her desk)

At the time of writing, I've just moved into a new apartment, so my work station is still a little barren. But there isthe giant, stuffed Donkey (from Shrek) that my friend sent me as a joke a few years ago. He's there.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I like baking. Actually, I just baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies to celebrate the move.

What was your reaction when approached to contribute to Fairy Tale Comics?

Surprise! I was incredibly honored to be asked to participate in a project with so many amazing illustrators, some whose work I've known and loved for years, and I honestly felt a little out of my league. Even now, it's surreal (in a great way!) to see my name in the table of contents.

When did you decide to do the character twist with the lumberjack, and what influenced that twist?
I like ladies taking active roles in old-fashioned fairy tales, so I figured there was no reason not to have a female lumberjack. I was discouraged from making any radical changes to the original Red Riding Hood story, so I was worried that the change might be overstepping my boundaries, but the folks at First Second were very receptive.

What is your favorite fairy tale/folktale?

I loved Sleeping Beauty as a kid, and it still has a place in my heart.

I checked out Cucumber Quest (and I love it!)- what was your inspiration for the story and characters?

Thank you! Cucumber Quest was largely inspired by the video games I grew up with, both in storytelling and visuals. Though it pokes fun at a few "hero's journey" conventions, I don't consider it a parody--at its heart, Cucumber Quest is a very genuine, very silly adventure story that kids and adults can enjoy.

What advice would you give to new artists out there?

Keep drawing what makes you happy! It can be easy to forget what drew you to art in the first place, especially if you pursue it as a career. Always work hard and keep learning, but don't forget to have fun with it, too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!  I look forward to seeing more of your work!

Thank you for the interview!

Fairy Tale Comics was published a mere week ago- that means you can go get it now!  Also, you should check out Gigi's webcomic Cucumber Quest.  You can also follow her on Twitter Tumblr.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jack Strong Takes a Stand

"Couch potatoes unite!"

A lot of kids have participated in extracurricular activities, both in and outside of school.  But what happens when those activities become too much?

In Jack Strong Takes a Stand, by Tommy Greenwald (of the Charlie Joe Jackson series), we see what happens when activities run (and ruin) a kid's life.  Jack is a middle-school kid who is involved with tennis, baseball, cello, karate, and Chinese language all his school work!  His parents just want him to be "well-rounded" for college, but Jack just wants to be a normal kid- video games and all.  After missing a crucial social event, and not being able to take a breath from yet another activity, Jack decides he's had enough.  He decides he will not leave his couch (besides bathroom and the occasional food breaks).  As Jack sits, the community watches him take a stand.

This was a fun, funny read.  It was mostly light-hearted, but made a good point.  I reviewed Jason Odell Williams' book Personal Statement earlier.  This was similar- kind of like Personal Statement for Jr. High...but Jack is a bit of the antithesis of most of the characters in the other book.  The illustrations also add to the story- I loved the diagrams of the couch and Nana's Tongue Sandwich (it's not as dirty as it sounds).

Jack's narration is great- something I think many middle-grade boys will relate to (especially if they like a girl who's "so pretty it makes [their] eyebrows hurt."  I read bits and pieces out loud to co-workers, because it was making me chuckle.

This book takes a good look at family: parents doing what they think is best for their kids; talking things out; reaching compromises; and pulling together in scary/tough times.  As Jack's father puts it "never say anything bad about your family.  We stick together through thick and thin."  I like that it shows the family with flaws.  The parents aren't perfect, Jack isn't perfect, but they love each other and worked together as a family.

Jack Strong made me grateful for parents who didn't make me do activities I didn't want to do...except basketball.  I'm not athletic, and I was made to play basketball through Jr. High.  That took some arguing, but I got to quit.  

It's interesting to see how competitive things have gotten in children's futures: that your preschool determines your college/university; that over-involvement in every activity known to man will give you an edge.  While yes, it will give you an edge, is it worth it to not let kids be kids?

I'd recommend this to both kids and parents.  It's an easy read, and the character is likable enough that I think reluctant readers would enjoy it (and the Charlie Joe Jackson series).  It does a good job of showing both sides of the situation, and does so in a funny way.

Jack Strong Takes a Stand is published by Roaring Brook Press (a division of Macmillan).  ARC generously provided by the publisher.
Release Date: 09.24.2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

1st Anniversary: Paper

One year ago today...the morning was rainy, but turned into a bright, sunny sky by 2:30 PM.  My closest friends sleevelessly braved the autumn chill on Lake Michigan, my now-husband battled a bout of the flu, and my father walked me down a stone path in a memorial flower garden.

Corey Beth Photography
Corey Beth Photography
One year ago today, I danced on the beach; I danced with my husband; I danced with my father...I even polka'd.  I gained a second sister, and a second family.

Corey Beth Photography
Corey Beth Photography
Corey Beth Photography
Corey Beth Photography

It's been a year full of awesome: a honeymoon to Napa, a road trip to Niagara Falls, visits with friends & family.

It's been a year full of not-so-awesome: Flu, Bronchitis...a big ol' Lab who decided to get into lemon cookies and spent his birthday throwing up in the bathroom...

I can't wait for many more years of awesome, and knowing that I've got a rock through the not-so-awesome.

The First Anniversary tradition is Paper.  After hearing me talk for years about writing a book, my husband got me a beautiful, personalized notebook--now I better start formulating thoughts!

I Love You, Mister!!!

Hello Kitty: Fashion Music Wonderland

I was late to the Hello Kitty party.  Like...just within the past year.  And while I own some HK apparel, it is all pajamas and workout gear so I don't feel quite so weird about being near-30 and sporting the awesomely cute little cartoon.  I also get to play it off a bit with my friend's daughters who LOVE that adorable feline.

That being said, I would totally go to the Hello Kitty cafe in Seoul.  I wouldn't even try to come up with an excuse.

Now, this summer at ALA Annual, I went to the Viz Media Book Buzz and was really impressed with what they are doing with their children's publishing.  One of the things is a new series of Hello Kitty: Here We Go graphic novels!  I got to meet Jacob Chabot, one of the illustrators, and Traci N. Todd (editor) and got an autographed poster...which is now hanging in my office.  I'm a children's librarian.  I can play that one off ;-)

Viz sent me a review copy of a Hello Kitty graphic novel (I don't think it's from the Here We Go series, though) and, as is expected, it's ridiculously cute.

Hello Kitty: Fashion Music Wonderland is created by Jacob Chabot, Victoria Maderna and Ian McGinty.  It's wordless and contains three short stories about, um, Wonderland! The first story takes place at a fashion show, and explains how Hello Kitty gets her adorable pink-pigtailed wig.  The second is a story of HK's rise to fame- from karaoke to famous star, and her relationship with Dear Daniel.  The final is a HK take on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Bright, cute, and uber-girly, Fashion Music Wonderland makes me want to get my hands on all forthcoming GNs in this series...and all things pink.  The stories are great for young ones, promoting kindness, helping, and friendship.  "Wonderland" has an especially friendly twist ending.

I liked how the pigtail wig gives Hello Kitty a Jem-like alter-ego.  This is particularly true in "High Note," the second story about music.  However, the wig also helps her in the other two stories.

The details throughout the book are great, but I especially liked a two-page spread in "Wonderland" where HK is helping Dear Daniel find some items.  It promotes interaction with the reader, and something new always catches your eye.

The book also includes paper doll cut-outs and love note templates.  I, of course, couldn't bring myself to cut them out (*cringe*)- but, maybe the reader could get two copies of the book? (I'm sure Viz would be okay with that).  

All in all, an adorable, wordless graphic novel.  I look forward to telling many little girls I know about it...and seeing Hello Kitty's other adventures in Hello Kitty: Here We Go!

Hello Kitty: Fashion Music Wonderland is published by Viz Media.  Review copy graciously provided by the publisher.
Release Date: 11.05.2013 (the day before my birthday!)