Thursday, October 20, 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Wishing World by Todd Fahnestock


In the Wishing World, dreams are real. You can transform into your own hero, find wild and whimsical friends, and wield power as great as your imagination. But Lorelei doesn't know about any of that. All she knows is that a monster took her family.

It happened during a camping trip one year ago. Hiding inside the tent, she saw shadows, tentacles and a strange creature. By the time she got up the courage to crawl outside, the monster--and Lorelei's mom, dad, and brother--were gone.

Lorelei is determined to find her family. When she accidentally breaks into the Wishing World, she discovers a way. It's a land more wonderful than she could have imagined, a land of talking griffons, water princesses, and cities made of sand, where Lorelei is a Doolivanti--a wish-maker--who can write her dreams into existence.

There's only one problem: the monster is a Doolivanti, too. What he wishes also comes true, and he's determined to shove Lorelei out, keep her family, and make the whole Wishing World his. To save them, Lorelei must find the courage to face him, or her next wish may be her last.


TODD FAHNESTOCK won the New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age Award for one of his short stories, and is the author of the YA bestseller Fairmist as well as The Wishing World. Stories are his passion, but Todd's greatest accomplishment is his quirky, fun-loving family. The Wishing World began as a series of bedtime stories for his children.

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Fantasy fiction is unique in that it opens the door to other worlds and other possibilities.  The ideas expressed in such stories are only limited by one's imagination.  And children have an ability to use their imaginations in such creative ways.  The basis for this book revolves around that idea.  The Wishing World that Lorelei enters seeking her missing family revolves around the dreams of children.  When Lorelei realizes that her parents are imprisoned by the Ink King within the boundaries of this magical world, she's willing to do anything to get them back.  

WIth the assistance of Gruffy, a griffin, Pip, a talking toucan, and Squeak, a wise mouse, Lorelei sets out to get her family back.  But there is more to this land than she knows and if she's not careful, her newly discovered power as a Doolivanti could harm this strange new world.  But Lorelei can't bare thinking of leaving without her family no matter the cost.  The creatures she meets along the way touch her life in unexpected ways as she touches theirs.  But dangers both before and behind threaten everything Lorelei is hoping to accomplish.  The unusual nature of the story and the fantasy world make this a rather compelling read.  The fact that the book is just over 200 pages is a nice bonus for those readers who aren't ready for the  often too long fantasy tomes available.  There is also some humor in some of the things that strong-willed Lorelei says and in the fact that she can't understand what Squeak, the smart mouse says.  

In addition to the creative nature of this story, I admired the fact that some rather important themes are imbedded in the story without being intrusive.  Once she starts to realize the power she holds, Lorelei is left having to make some really hard decisions, decisions that she really struggles with making.  The power of imagination to create or destroy also becomes clear as Lorelei faces off with the Ink King and the world he has built.  The Wishing World makes for an entertaining and thoughtful read with moments of laughter, tears, and hope aplenty.

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Extreme Wildfire by Mark Thiessen


In one moment, there’s a simple spark, and then roaring flames surge 200 feet into the air, devouring forests. Trees, from root to canopy, are burned to the ground. Airtankers and helicopters hover above, executing an air attack. Brave firefighters, equipped with flame resistant suits, leap from helicopters onto the treetops and descend to the blazing forest floor.

In this book, young readers will learn about the ecological impacts of wildfires, the ins and outs of fire science including tactics for prevention and containment, cutting-edge technology used to track wildfires and predict fire behavior, and about the impressive skill, survival tactics, and bravery required to control a wildfire. Also included are expert tips, fun facts, and breathtaking photos taken by the author.


Fire, a topic both fascinating and terrifying, takes center stage in this new book by National Geographic Kids along with the men and women who fight it. Thiessen tells stories about his own experiences getting firefighter certified and some of the fires he's witnessed.  I think that personal touch makes this book all the more compelling.  The variety of stunning photographs doesn't hurt the pull of the book either.  In addition to the stories about real fires, Thiessen also presents information about training, the different types of firefighters, strategies for fighting fires, as well as the basics of wildfires (such as that they require three things to occur: heat, fuel, and oxygen).  Other topics addressed include: fighting fires from the ground, fighting fires from the air, and the ecology of wildfires (why they aren't always bad, and how nature recovers).  The last section of the book talks about how we have to live with wildfires and what we can to do to avoid them when possible. This is a great resource for those interested in firefighting and a fascinating account of a natural phenomenon.

SERIES THURSDAY: Long Road to Freedom/Race to the South Pole by Kate Messner


Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training. In this adventure, he goes to a Maryland plantation during the days of American slavery, where he meets a young girl named Sarah. When she learns that the owner has plans to sell her little brother, Jesse, to a plantation in the Deep South, it means they could be separated forever. Sarah takes their future into her own hands and decides there's only one way to run -- north.


Ranger is such an appealing hero, especially since he doesn't know he is one.  As a dog, all he knows is that when his time traveling first aid kit hums, its time to go help someone.  Messner has created an appealing historical fiction series that draws kids in with it's time traveling dog as the main character.  Students at my school really like this series.  This series along with Lauren Tarshis's I Survived series are encouraging students to read historical fiction who would otherwise never pick it up because history is 'boring'.  But in this volume of the series, history is definitely not boring as Ranger sets off to help a young slave girl and her brother escape servitude.  There is plenty of excitement as Sarah and her brother try to work their way north to Philadelphia only to discover that Pennsylvania may not be far enough.  Along the way Ranger helps them avoid wolves and slave catchers.  The book contains plenty of excitement and tension while still conveying the drive for freedom that lead so many to accept the risks involved.  The book is child appropriate while still showing the value of freedom.  As always, Messner includes end notes that explain where she got her facts and which parts of the story are real.  I love reading these notes and hearing about the research that Messner does to make her stories feel so real.  A great series for young dog or history lovers that I hope will continue for a while.


Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship. They're racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time... and a struggle to stay alive.


Once again, Ranger sets off through time to help a young person in trouble.  He arrives in time to save Jack Nin from drowning.  As Ranger travels with Jack and the rest of Captain Scott's crew, he has not idea that he will see and experience things that few ever do, penguins, killer whales, nasty blizzards, and deep crevasses.  But through it all Ranger travels by Jack's side wondering when he'll get to go home.  I enjoyed traveling with Ranger and Jack as Jack learns for the first time just what being an adventurer means.  For a long time he thinks that fame and fortune is what it's all about, but slowly he learns that maybe adventure isn't quite as much fun as he has always thought.  Messner has done a great job of using details from accounts taken from some of those who actually traveled with Scott to create a believable story with lots of exciting details.  Another fun read in an appealing series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

BOARD BOOK REVIEWS: My First Book of Animal Hugs and Kisses/My First Book of Animal Opposites


Charming photos of wildlife combined with adorable comments offer a heartwarming look at creatures from around the world. Any toddler will love this vibrant book—as will adults sharing it with little ones.


There are several things that I look for when I review board books.  Bright colorful illustrations are a must for a board book. There needs to be things to attract young eyes.  This book definitely has that quality with gorgeous photographs of animals 'hugging' and 'kissing'.  The variety in the size of the picture provides a nice contrast for young eyes.  Board books don't necessarily need text but when they have text it needs to be short enough not to bog down the reading.  The youngest listeners need practice listening and interacting over books so they should provide a fun experience without being overly long.  This book provides simple text that combines beautifully with the photographs.  For example, the book starts with, "Some animals KISS to say "Hello!" followed by a picture of prairie dogs 'kissing' and the statement "Prairie dogs kiss".   The gorgeous photographs combined with the straight-forward text make for a fun reading experience for reader and child.  There may even be some giggles along the way as the child sees the different animals interact with each other.


This photo-illustrated gem teaches the youngest of children about opposites using examples from the animal kingdom. Families who love nature and the world’s wild places will enjoy sharing these animal opposites.


Books about opposites are a common thing for young readers.  What makes this one stand out are the gorgeous photographs.  Comparisons in terms of size, softness, habitats, transportation and other animal related opposites make this book not only a fun way to learn opposites but a fun way to learn about animals.  Lions, egrets, puffins, cheetah, tortoise, hippo, and crocodile all make an appearance along with a few other animals.  This book makes for a fun shared reading experience.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MMGM: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer


The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.


Schrefer has crafted a story that is both eye-opening and touching.  A story that seems historical but is very much contemporary.  Through the eyes of one young girl, the reader gets a glimpse into the deep-seeded challenges of a conflict-riddled third-world country.  Sophie has come to stay at her mother's wild animal preserve in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Being biracial complicates things a bit (Congolese mother, white American father) as she's seen as foreign both in America and in the Congo, but she's learned to deal with that.  What she doesn't expect to happen on this visit is falling in love with an injured baby bonobo that she can't help but buy from a local bush-meat trader.  This spontaneous act sets off a series of events that leaves Sophie feeling guilty and conflicted.   And things take a turn for the worse when just after her mother sets off to release some bonobos into the wild, the Congo once again erupts into devastating violence.  As Sophie struggles to keep herself and her bonobo, Otto, alive, she's forced to face the consequences of her own actions as well as the horrible results of war.  

Despite the devastation that Sophie sees both inside and outside of the bonobo sanctuary, Sophie remains determined to survive, but at what cost.  Is it possible to survive a war without being corrupted by it?  Several close calls (including a near rape) leave Sophie desperately hoping to find her mother in all the chaos.  The book does contain numerous references to violence including burned villages, dead bodies, and vague references to rape.  I found the relationship between Sophie and Otto to be very compelling as I read quickly to find out what would happen to them.  Schrefer has created a remarkable story of survival and hope in a world gone to pieces.

Friday, October 14, 2016

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Sword in the Stacks by Jen Swann Downey


Now official apprentices of the Lybrariad, Dorris and Marcus have joined Ebba in the immense time-folding labyrinth known as Petrarch's Library for the Summer Quarter.

Dorrie is eager to do well at her practicums, and prove her worth as an apprentice, but before she can choose between "Spears, Axes, and Cats: Throwing Objects with Precision and Flair” and "First and Last Aid: When No One Else Is Coming", mistakes made by Dorrie in the past cause trouble for the lybrarians.

The Foundation, once nearly destroyed by the Lybrariad, now has the means to rise from its ashes, and disappear reading and writing from the world. To make sure it succeeds, the Foundation sets in motion a dark plan to increase the power of a cruel figure from the fifteenth century.

To stop the Foundation, Dorrie, Marcus and Ebba will have to burglarize Aristotle, gather information among the suffragists and anti-suffragists of 1912 London, and risk their lives to wrest a powerful weapon out of the Foundation's hands - all while upholding the Lybrariad's first principle of protecting all writing, appreciated or despised. If they fail, reading and writing will only be the first things to disappear.


Dorrie and Marcus are delighted to be back in Petrarch's Library, as welcome apprentices this time.  But things aren't going as well for the Lyrariad as they would have hoped, and Dorrie feels partially responsible, since she and Marcus lost the page from the History of Histories that may lead the Foundation to change the past in seriously dangerous ways.  But in-between worrying about the Foundation's activities, Dorrie and her friends focus on learning from their classes.  Dorrie and her friends also discover a new ghost library where they work on helping Marcus and Dorrie fix past mistakes and make plans for stopping the Foundation's latest plot.  The thing that I like about this series is the way that historical characters and events are blended into the story.  For example, for one class, Dorrie and Ebba are assigned to help protect the efforts of an anti-suffrage group who they heartily disagree with when they would much rather help the suffragist they befriend along the way.  Can they find a way to do both?  I also love the idea of Lyrarians out in the world protecting free speech/intellectual freedom.  This is a fun series for children who love unusual libraries.  This is along the same lines as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, except with more serious themes and sword play.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Science of Fun Stuff To Go!


Become an expert on your favorite sports, treats, magic tricks, and more in this fact-tastic boxed set of six nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read books that are part of a series about the science of fun stuff!

Full of engaging science and quirky facts, this incredible Science of Fun Stuff collection will teach Level 3 readers everything they want to know about the behind-the-scenes physics, chemistry, and technology of baseball, amusement parks, magic, snow, candy, and airplanes! A special section at the back of each book includes Common Core–vetted extras on subjects like history, social studies, geography, and math, and there’s even fun quizzes so readers can test themselves to see what they’ve learned! Learning science has never been so much fun!

Included in this Science of Fun Stuff boxed set are The Innings and Outs of BaseballThe Thrills and Chills of Amusement ParksPulling Back the Curtain on Magic!The Cool Story Behind SnowThe Sugary Secrets Behind Candy; and How Airplanes Get from Here…to There!


The books in this series take readers behind the scenes of some really cool topics to explain the science that allows those things to exist.  This fabulous new series is both visually and textually appealing.  The cartoon illustrations add humor to the explanatory text.  The scientific terms for things are used, but most of them are explained as simply as it can be.  I learned quite a bit from these books and I've studied some of this material before.  A great series for children who are budding young scientists.

The Thrills and Chills of Amusement Parks takes the reader inside the science behind the creation of not only the rides such as roller coasters and bumper cars, but also takes a look at some of the treats and games as well.  Newton's three laws of motion are introduced and demonstrated as well as the concept of gravity and centripetal force.  The end of the book provides additional fun details about the history of amusement parks in America, the locations of some of the best known amusement parks and facts and figures about some of the most extreme rides.  This is a fascinating look at the science behind all the fun people have at amusement parks.

The Innings and Outs of Baseball focuses on the science of America's pastime.   The book looks at the science behind hitting, pitching with explanations of several different types of pitches and how they are possible), the stadium experience, and baseball experiments.  I didn't realize that certain pitches come about because of the way the pitcher holds the ball.  Some of the experiments performed over the years related to baseball are also fascinating.  Additional information includes a brief baseball timeline, women in baseball, and the anatomy of the human arm.  A brief quiz allows the reader to see how much they remember from the book.

Pulling Back the Curtain on Magic! I loved this one because like many people I'm fascinated by magic tricks.  This book shines a light on some of the major concepts behind magic (misdirection, illusion, distraction) as well details about how certain tricks work and why they do.  References to certain characteristics of the human brain were interesting as were the details about how magicians take advantage of them.  I think my favorite part of this book was the explanation for how you can get a straw to penetrate an apple.  It's science, not magic!  A great book for budding young magicians.

The Cool Story Behind Snow explores the water cycle and how precipitation forms along with the differences between rain, snow, sleet, and hail.  Additional information is provided on how a snow storm develops including details about blizzards and ice storms.  Weather balloons, weather prediction and weather records are included at the back. The illustrations add plenty of humor to this title making for both an entertaining and informative read.  

The Sugary Secrets Behind Candy taught me a lot about the processes involved in making sugar and chocolate.  I had no idea there was so much going on behind the scenes in candy production.  And the information about taste buds and how certain flavors are created was down right delicious.  I loved reading about the different kinds of candy found around the world as well as the candy history section and the Hershey timeline.  Lots of sweetness can be found in this book.

How Airplanes Get from There!  Flight is something that seems to fascinate both young and old.  In this book young readers can learn about the Wright Brothers as well as the basic principles behind how and why an airplane flies.  Instructions for building a paper airplane combine with suggestions for where flight might go next and amusing illustrations make for an appealing read for airplane aficionados.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Groovy Joe/Little Elliot, Big Fun


Groovy Joe was living the dream.
He had a spoon and tub of doggy ice cream.
And he started to sing:
Love my doggy ice cream! Love my doggy ice cream!

Eric Litwin, author of the bestselling and beloved Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, and bestselling artist Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, have created a captivating new canine character who will groove his way into readers' hearts and have them grooving and giggling all the while. In his debut adventure, Groovy Joe faces three roaring dinosaurs hungry for his doggy ice cream! Oh no! But Joe knows just what to do and soon enough he has them all sharing while moving and singing along.

Signature rhyme, repetition, and musical writing style, combined with wild and witty illustrations come together to create an unforgettable new character who embodies positivity, creativity, and kindness. Groovy Joe is here, ready to get groovy! Download your FREE Groovy Joe songs, written and performed by Eric Litwin, at


Groovy Joe is an adorable new picture book character who likes to sing and is happy with his guitar and hid doggy ice cream.  The addition of dinosaurs guarantees that this book will be popular with the preschool crowd, especially since there is a Groovy Dance song to go with the book as well.  This would be a fun book to use in a story time.  The children could join in on the chants and even dance along with the song to get some of the wiggles out.  The underlying theme of sharing and finding common ground over a bowl of ice cream doesn't hurt the story either.    Hopefully there will be more Groovy Joe in the future.


In this third story of Little Elliot and Mouse, the friends head off in search of adventure . . . and lots of fun!

Little Elliot, the polka-dotted elephant, and his friend Mouse go to the amusement park to see the sights and ride the rides—water chutes, roller coasters, carousels, and more. But Elliot isn't having much fun—the rides are too wet, too fast, too dizzy, and just plain too scary—until Mouse figures out a way to help him overcome his fears. Together, Mouse and Little Elliot can do anything!


I'm delighted to see another book about Little Elliot and his friend Mouse.  I've adored this series since the first book came out.  It's impossible not to cheer for Little Elliot.  In this book, Little Elliot goes with his friend Mouse to an amusement park.  But Little Elliot doesn't like the fast rides as he doesn't want to get dizzy, the roller coaster is out because it's too fast, and he wants to avoid the water.  When he gets frightened by a clown and runs off, Mouse tracks him down and they enjoy a treat and the beach for a while. Finally, Mouse takes Little Elliot to the Ferris wheel where he encourages Little Elliot to enjoy the view.  The four page spread is gorgeous as the two friends enjoy an amazing sunset.  I love the friendship between the two main characters and the gentle exploration of fear and finding enjoyment despite them.  The illustrations are as gorgeous as the previous two books.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MMGM: Guys Read Terrifying Tales


Be afraid, be very afraid of Terrifying Tales, the sixth volume in the Guys Read Library of Great Reading.

Eleven masters of suspense—Kelly Barnhill, Michael Buckley, Adam Gidwitz, Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, Claire Legrand, Nikki Loftin, Daniel José Older, Dav Pilkey, R.L. Stine, and Rita Williams-Garcia—have come together to bring you a bone-chilling collection of original ghost stories with illustrations by Gris Grimly, perfect for sharing around the campfire, reading under the covers with a flashlight, and scaring your friends’ pants off.

Compiled and edited by kid-lit madman Jon Scieszka, Guys Read: Terrifying Tales is a creepy-fun read (if you’re brave enough, that is). 


This book reminds me why I'm not the biggest fan of horror stories, especially ones that don't have happy endings.  With scary stories, I guess you can't always have a happy ending, but I prefer those kind.  The stories in this book vary a great deal.  Several of these stories have an actual solid ending with a resolution. Several of the stories though end at the climax leaving the reader to make assumptions about exactly what happened to the main character.  Although admittedly it's not hard to guess what happened, it's just not specifically said.  The title of this collection "terrifying tales" is appropriate and makes the book seriously creepy.  This is a book for only the toughest scary story readers (ten is the very youngest age I'd give this too and only if they are prepared to put it down if it turns out to be too much for them).  

The stories do reflect a wide variety of different styles which is to be expected with a variety of different authors.  I can certainly admire the creativity exercised in the variety of different types of creep exhibited here.  A couple of the stories are quite bloody involving murder.  Several of the stories involve creepy spirits or monsters.  I think my favorite story was the "Don't Eat the Baby" by Kelly Barnhill where a young boy who wanted a brother then has to defend his baby sister against said brother.  I think the story that creeped me out the most was "Coconut Heads" where the main characters mother behaves very strangely.  There is something very creepy about a mother who clearly isn't quite herself. I felt like jumping in that story and telling the main character to run.  And the Mandigore story left me with mixed feelings, admiration for the courage of Clark, the main character, sacrificing himself for his friend Nina, and annoyance that the bad stuff happened at the hands of librarian at a library.  Once again I found myself wanting to leap into the story and tell Clark and Nina not to eat the cookies that Mr. Dunn offered them.  Sigh.  I think I get into stories too much sometimes.  In any case, the stories are well-written and definitely qualify as scary, but the collection isn't going to fit all readers, just the ones with strong stomachs and an ability to accept endings that aren't really endings, stories that just stop.
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