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Friday, July 21, 2017

Picture Book Reviews + win Found Dogs by Erica Sirotich (giveaway)


I have three wonderful picture books from Penguin Random House to share with y'all today! Plus, there's a giveaway...


Here Comes Teacher Cat
By Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
August 8, 2017
Dial Books

It's back to school for the New York Times bestselling Cat when he steps in as a substitute teacher.

Cat is not pleased to be tapped as substitute teacher. Not only is it cutting into his naptime, but a roomful of kittens is a little, well, scary. At school, he's faced with six adorable kittens and follows the lesson plan of music, building, and painting--only in pure, mischief-making Cat style. By the end, Cat has learned a thing or two about inspiring others by being himself. But even more heart-melting and humorous is what the kittens have learned from Cat.


Deborah Underwood returns to her adorable and hilarious picture book series about Cat, with Here Comes Teacher Cat. Cat finds himself playing the role of substitute teacher for a classroom full of kittens...and really, he'd rather be napping. But soon Cat finds that even though being a teacher is hard work, it's also kind of fun!

With her signature sparse, yet pitch-perfect text, Underwood will charm and entertain little readers with silly, giggle-inducing humor and antics. Readers will love joining Cat and his kitty students as they play music, build, and create unforgettable art. And Rueda's engaging illustrations, with their soft and whimsical palette, and lively depictions, make for the perfect companion to Underwood's text.



Lexie the Word Wrangler
By Rebecca Van Slyke
Illustrated by Jessie Hartland
April 4, 2017
Nancy Paulsen Books

Lexie is the best wrangler west of the Mississippi, word wrangler, that is. She watches over baby letters while they grow into words and ties shorter words together into longer ones; she herds words into sentences, hitches sentences together, and pens them all in to tell a story. But lately, something seems off at the ranch. First the "d" goes missing from her "bandana," leaving her with a "banana" to tie around her neck, and soon afterward every "S-T-A-R" in the sky turns into "R-A-T-S." There's no doubt about it there's a word rustler causing this ruckus, and Lexie plans to track him down.


In Rebecca Van Slyke's Lexie the Word Wrangler, cowgirl Lexie is the best word wrangler around, but when someone starts messing with her words, she must make sure justice is done!

Lexie the Word Wrangler is a clever and witty tale that encourages little readers to explore the world of letters, words, and reading. With endearing, fun cowgirl and cowboy "talk", a creative and imaginative plot, a precocious and lovable heroine, and Hartland's childlike and sweet illustrations, Lexie the Word Wrangler is sure to entertain and educate eager little readers!

Found Dogs
By Erica Sirotich
July 18, 2017
Dial

For fans of Sandra Boynton’s Doggies and a perfect fit for every preschooler’s library, this adorable rhyming and counting book tallies up all the dogs at the shelter, and then counts backward as the pups are adopted.

Babies and toddlers will delight in counting up each wriggly, wraggly rescue pup and then counting back down as each doggie is adopted. A bright, bouncy rhyme, jubilant art, and scads of adorable dogs will have wee ones giggling for more.



These patient pound dogs.
Now they’re family!
Found dogs.



Erica Sirotich's Found Dogs is a joyful, brightly illustrated picture book that celebrates doggies of all kinds and encourages little ones to practice their counting. Readers will count from one to ten, as each adorable pupper is accounted for, then will count down from ten to one, as each of those eager puppers is adopted and becomes found dogs.

Sirotich's rhyming text flows in a wonderfully whimsical and charming way that will delight little readers (and grown-ups!) and have them smiling big. Little ones will love counting each and every cute, sweet doggie and rejoice when each dog finds his forever family. Sirotich pairs her text with colorful, happy, and captivating illustrations. Joyful, bright, and irresistible Found Dogs is sure to be a favorite of little readers!



Win a copy of Found Dogs!
Thanks to the generous folks at Penguin Random House, I have one copy of this fun picture book for one winner.
-US only
-ends 7/28/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-word spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Queen Is Coming To Tea Blog Tour (review & giveaway)




The Queen Is Coming To Tea
by Linda Ravin Lodding
illustrated by Constanze von Kitzing
February 7, 2017
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
ISBN: 9781492607571; $16.99; Hardcover
Source: from pub for review
Can Ellie and her furry friends get everything ready in time for tea with the Queen?

One day there was a knock at Ellie’s door. There stood the Queen’s Footman.

“A message from Her Royal Highness.” He offered Ellie a note on a silver tray.
May I please come for tea?
Sincerely yours,
The Queen Herself
When Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea, she snaps to attention! With her best friend, Langley the Elephant, Ellie travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?







The Queen is Coming To Tea, by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Constanze von Kitzing, is a deliciously charming and delightful picture book! When Ellie finds out that the Queen is coming for tea, she and her animal pals travel across the globe in search of the perfect tea, snacks, clothes, and more for a tea party fit for, well, a queen.

With an exciting story (travel adventures and tea with THE Queen?!) and Lodding's sweet, endearing, and fanciful text, little readers will be enchanted by Ellie's whirlwind country hopping trip and will love meeting all the fun new friends Ellie picks up along the way. von Kitzing's whimsical illustrations, with their soft colors; humorous scenes; and lively action, will captivate readers, and perfectly bring the story to life.

The Queen is Coming To Tea is sure to be a hit with all the little princesses and princes in your life and will surely inspire many tea parties!

MY RATING
5/5 Cupcakes



And here's a tea recipe for your own tea parties!

Peach Mango White Iced Tea Recipe

Ingredients:
4 Cups Water
3 White Tea Bags
1 Peach
½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to Taste

Instructions:
Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir
Chill and serve


About the Author and Illustrator
LINDA LODDING is originally from New York, but has spent the past fifteen years in Austria, the Netherlands, and now lives in Sigtuna, Sweden. Visit her at www.lindalodding.com.

After finishing her studies, CONSTANZE VON KITZING worked in the cover department at Der Spiegel. She now works as a freelance illustrator, teaches, and runs an art shop in Cologne, Germany, where she lives with her family.



Two winners will win a copy of The Queen Is Coming To Tea and a ceramic tea set!
(this is a blog tour wide giveaway and not run by word spelunking)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gabby Duran Blog Tour (series review)


I'm thrilled to have the Gabby Duran Blog Tour stopping by today, with my review of this middle-grade series from Disney-Hyperion...



By Elise Allen and Daryle Conners
May 12, 2015
Disney-Hyperion
The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N.) has a new member. After months of investigation, Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, has proven herself to be a babysitter extraordinaire. Her celebrity clients fly her around the country to care for their rambunctious little humans. Our spy, Associate 4118-23432B, otherwise known as Edwina, believes Gabby can be trusted with the truth: aliens are living among humans on Earth. And here at A.L.I.E.N we believe that even extraterrestrials need a babysitter now and then. No one was up to the task…until now. After accepting the top-secret position, Edwina has paired our new associate up with her first charge, a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It's a school day on Planet Earth, Gabby's audition for the solo part in the band is tonight, and this tiny alien is a bit more than meets the eye. Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?



By Elise Allen and Daryle Conners
February 2, 2016
Disney-Hyperion
Upon successfully completing her first mission, we have assigned Gabby a more . . . puzzling charge. The relationship between trolls and humans has always been rife with tension, and the troll family Gabby is assigned to is especially prickly. But Gabby is not fazed. Our footage shows Associate 4118-25125A playing, laughing, and snacking with Trymmy, the little troll boy, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Our liason, Edwina, informed Gabby that trolls love nothing more than a riddle-and stealing items from unsuspecting humans to add to their trove-but Gabby's certain that all this young troll wants is to have fun. However, it might not be as simple as she thinks. After all, there's a reason this particular alien offspring has been labeled "Unsittable."


By Elise Allen and Daryle Conners
July 11, 2017
Disney-Hyperion
Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, Sitter to the Unsittables, has now been entrusted with the care of one of our most volatile charges. His name is One and he's a member of the Tridecalleon species. While One and his parents present the appearance of a normal, human family, they have some intriguing qualities that make caring for their young a unique challenge. And while, under normal circumstances, inviting outsiders to aid an agent with an Unsittable job would be strictly forbidden, we have decided to forgive Gabby calling in her friends Satchel and Zee in this case. After all, a babysitter only has so many hands. (Unless, of course, he or she is a Flarknartian.)
Making this highly unstable situation an even greater challenge? Gabby has also been assigned to protect a very dangerous object--one that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could cause the destruction of Earth itself. It remains to be seen whether Gabby and her friends are able to handle the demands of eleven . . . wait, twelve . . . no, thirteen babies, while ensuring the safety of the world at the same time. All we can do is wait, and hope, and trust. And ready our escape pods.



Praise for Gabby Duran and the Unsittables

"Positively intergalactic."
-Kirkus Reviews

"Goofy inventions, wild plot, and peppy dialogue...[A] briskly plotted crowd-pleaser."
-Booklist

"The humorous details and quick plot make this a fun book for reluctant and avid readers alike."
-School Library Journal

Praise for Gabby Duran: Troll Control

"There are plenty of cool ideas to borrow here about the perfect babysitting backpack that will save all sorts of situations."
-The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Remind[s] preteen readers that it's cool for girls to be passionate about STEM." -Kirkus Reviews



Twelve year old Gabby Duran is a babysitter extraordinare! In fact, she’s such a fantastic babysitter that celebrities fly her all over the world to watch their kiddos...and her babysitting skills have been noticed by A.L.I.E.N. (The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings), who recruit Gabby to watch alien children, who have been deemed “unsittable”, because of their otherworldly appearances and abilities. Gabby, whose own little sister was deemed unsittable, eagerly agrees to work with A.L.I.E.N. and her liaison Edwina, and she and her two best friends (Zee and Satchel) quickly find themselves in out-of-this-world, outrageous, and sometimes downright perilous situations with her alien charges. But at the end of the day, Gabby knows that aliens or not, her charges are special and deserve to be treated just like any other fun-loving kids!

The Gabby Duran series, which currently includes Gabby Duran and the Unsittables, Troll Control, and Multiple Mayhem, is a fast-paced, fun series, full of quirky characters, wildly adventurous situations, cool technology, laugh-out-loud humor and dialogue, and charming storytelling.

Authors, Elise Allen and Daryle Conners take babysitting to a whole new intergalactic level and definitely bring the laughs, excitement, and heart! With a wonderfully imaginative plot (alien babysitting?!), irresistibly likable and engaging characters (humans and aliens alike), awesomely twisty and turny situations, and elements of STEM learning, these books will captivate, entertain, and inspire young readers.

I has such a blast reading this series, getting to know Gabby, Zee, Satchel, the alien kids, Edwina, and even snooty Madison, and joining them for three unforgettable and zany adventures!

MY RATING
(for series as a whole)
4/5 Cupcakes



About Elise Allen
Emmy-nominated writer and New York Times best-selling author Elise Allen made a name for herself with her acclaimed young adult novel Populazzi (Harcourt), and the Jim Henson's Enchanted Sisters chapter books (Bloomsbury).  She also co-wrote Hilary Duff's best-selling Elixir series (Simon and Schuster), and Bella Thorne's series, Autumn Falls (Random House).  In television, she has written for talent ranging from Madeline Kahn to Kermit the Frog, and is currently writing for the new Disney Junior show The Lion Guard.  Her dog may or may not secretly be from another planet. You can find her online at www.eliseallen.com and on Twitter @EliseLAllen
About Daryle Conners
Daryle Conners is an award-winning writer, filmmaker and video game designer. She writes joke and riddle books and has designed many game titles for the PC and iPhone/iPad including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scene It? Harry Potter, Hot Wheels Slot Car Racers, and Scene It? Twilight Saga.  Her non-fiction books include Lunchtime LOLZ, Nintendo DS Hot Tips, ROFLs, Video Game Secrets and Monster High Jokes. Daryle lives in Seattle, where she still babysits from time to time. You can follow her on Twitter @Darylec.




Disclaimer: I received copies of the books above from the publisher for review purposes. All thoughts, opinions, and reviews are my own.





Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Heartwood Hotel Blog Tour (guest post & giveaway)





HEARTWOOD HOTEL, A TRUE HOME
(Book 1)
by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
July 3, 2017
176 pages
Disney-Hyperion
Hardcover, paperback, eBook
When Mona the Mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes they'll let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest, where animals come from far and wide for safety, luxury, and comfort. But the Heartwood Hotel is not all acorn souffl and soft moss-lined beds. Danger lurks, and as it approaches, Mona finds that this hotel is more than a warm place to spend the night. It might also be a home.
This delightfully enticing start of a new chapter book series tells a tale of friendship, courage, and community, with exquisite black-and-white illustrations throughout..
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iBooks | TBD






Praise for the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series
"This gentle tale of magic and self-reliance will entertain confident new independent readers. Clover's sweet story is a good next step for lovers of the Magic Tree House."
-Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will be envious of the world of magic that Clover becomes ensconced in and eager to read future installments."
-Publishers Weekly
"A charming story, delicately written, with a winning heroine. . . and a conclusion that will satisfy young readers."
-Booklist Online
"Graduates of sparkly chapter-book series will be right at home and looking for the next installment posthaste."
-Kirkus Reviews
"The gentle but intrepid Clover continues to charm."
-Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books




Top Five Tips for Writing
I love writing, especially children’s books, like Heartwood Hotel. Here are some writing tips that I’ve used over the years. These are tips that work for me—but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that writing is a really personal, individual process, and the most important thing is to find your own way and tips that make your voice and story shine.
1. Love your idea
Choose a topic, a genre, a character that you really want to write about. If you don’t love your idea, if you’re not connected to it, then your writing won’t shine. Don’t get caught up in trying to write something because you think it might get published or sell. Write something because you want to write it, because you HAVE to write it. That will bring the greatest satisfaction—and the best story. And when you have a strong story, publishing will often follow.
2. Plot out an idea
I like to plot. Some of my friends who are writers are not plotters—and that works for them. But I need to have a plan so that I can abandon the plan (makes sense, right?). There are a few good outcomes from outlining a story including you can more effectively use foreshadowing since you know the ending; you can identify the character’s arc; and you can make sure your pacing flows. I like having a road map, my plot, and I often take months coming up with one and tweaking it—sometimes as long as the writing process itself. I often share these plots with my friends and editors as well, to garner their feedback.
3. Share your stories
Find a friend (or two or three) who you can share your stories with and receive feedback. I have a fantastic writing group, as well as a dear editor friend who reviews all my work before I even send it to my agent. Plus a few other friends who are amazing writers who I share my stories with, too! That’s a lot of editors—and that’s BEFORE I show my stories to my official editor at the publishing house! Each of these friends gives me valuable advice and helps strengthen my stories. It’s often impossible to see the weaknesses in your own work—you’re too close to it.
But be careful when choosing a good critique partner. Sometimes friends are too nice and only say good things—to me, I’d rather have honest hard feedback. I want my story to be the best it can be, and the only way to get there is to edit it. I know my first drafts aren’t the best, after all. Which brings me to…
4. Write rough, then edit
It’s okay if your first drafts aren’t very good. If they are scrawled out in a notebook, or riddled with spelling mistakes. At least, that’s the way mine are. Sometimes I just need to get that draft down on paper, I need to capture the voice and get the flow of it. You can always edit it later. And do edit it. Once you have a structure and story you are pleased with, polish it as much as it takes to make every line sing.
5. Read a lot  
Reading truly is one of the best ways to become a stronger writer. Read anything and everything. I have a great variation of books I read—from picture books to chick lit. I definitely try to keep my eye out for good new chapter books too, since I write in that genre. I find, however, that reading other early chapter books tends to be less escapism for me and more work, since I usually read not only to enjoy the story, but to examine how the author did what she or he did. What writing techniques did she or he use? How did she or she so effectively create the story? This critical eye helps me apply the same critical eye on my work.
I wish you the best in your own writing journey and hope some of these tips are helpful for you. Writing is one of the most wonderful ways to spend your time and use your imagination… have fun!

Happy writing!
Kallie


About Kallie:
KALLIE GEORGE is the author of the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. She works as an author and speaker in Vancouver, Canada, and has a master’s in children’s literature from the University of British Columbia. She also leads workshops for aspiring writers. Kallie happened across the Heartwood Hotel on a hike with her husband. Visit her online at kalliegeorge.com.


About Stephanie:

STEPHANIE GRAEGIN received her BFA in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She later attended Pratt Institute, obtaining a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking. Stephanie now lives in Brooklyn. Visit her online at graegin.com or on Twitter @Steph_Graegin.


3 winners will receive a finished copy of HEARTWOOD HOTEL
-US Only
-this is a tour wide giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule:

Week One:
6/26/2017- YA Book NerdAuthor Post
6/27/2017- Seraphina ReadsReview
6/28/2017- Just CommonlyReview
6/29/2017- BookHounds YAAuthor Post
6/30/2017- Once Upon a Twilight- Review

Week Two:
7/3/2017- Mundie KidsReview
7/4/2017- Word SpelunkingAuthor Post
7/5/2017- Mommy RamblingsReview
7/6/2017- Batch of BooksReview

7/7/2017- Between the Cracks of Here and ThereAuthor Post