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Friday, March 24, 2017

6th MMGM: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress (review, guest post, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 24 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Adrienne Kress and her book, The Door In The Alley!

The Door in the Alley
(The Explorers #1)
By Adrienne Kress
April 25, 2017
Delacorte BFYR
Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, "The Explorers: The Door in the Alley" is the first book in a new series for fans of "The Name of This Book Is a Secret" and "The Mysterious Benedict Society. "Knock once if you can find it but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It s not the one you re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)

This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

"The Explorers: The Door in the Alley" is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone."

Sebastian, a studious; no nonsense; all logic kind of boy, and Evie, an orphan who doesn’t mind a bit of nonsense and illogical adventure, are about to have their worlds collide. And it all starts with a pig in a teeny hat, a door in an alley, and a secret society full of explorers. The middle is full of nasty thugs, puzzles to solve, and adventure to be had. While the ending is all startling revelations, mysteries solved, and cliffhangers to dangle’s safe to say that Sebastian and Evie’s lives will never, ever, no-way, no-how, cannot be the same!

Adrienne Kress’ The Door In The Alley is a delightful and rollicking romp of a story! Sparkling with adventure, mystery, humor, likable characters, and zany fun, I found myself smiling the whole way through this middle-grade.

The Door In The Alley is, giggle-snort inducing, actually lol’ing kind of funny. With a charmingly cheeky and whimsically wacky voice and witty footnotes, this story is seriously amusing, entertaining, and clever.  The mysterious society Sebastian finds himself employed at (via punishment) is a wondrous, topsy-turvy place, full of the unexpected, incredible bits and bobbles, and sometimes the downright weird and creepy...and young readers will love every nook and cranny of the wack-a-doodle place!

Kress takes Sebastian, Evie, and readers on a thrilling and unforgettable adventure, full of melted men, crabby TAs, giant snakes, helpful llamas, plane crashes, and yes, animals in teeny hats! Sebastian, Evie, and the grown-up explorers we meet, are likable, engaging characters that make wonderful adventure companions for readers.

The Door In The Alley has so much fun, laughs, and imagination bubbling out of it, making it such an irresistible and impossible to put down read!

by Adrienne Kress

There are many interesting, odd, brave, and sometimes dangerous, characters in The Explorers: The Door in the Alley. But none has found its way to such instant fame as quickly as the pig in the teeny hat:

(Illustration by Matt Rockefeller)

And why shouldn’t he be so popular? A well-dressed animal is always held in high regard. At least, I know I always consider animals in outfits to have a real sense of pride in their own grooming habits. This is why I have compiled a list of what I consider to be some of the better-dressed animals from classic children’s novels. I have decided to entitle this list:  


1. The White Rabbit – Alice in Wonderland (by Lewis Carroll)
Being an animal has many benefits – the ability to fly, run very fast, be generally adorable and fuzzy. But there is at least one drawback: no pockets.  So what is a rabbit supposed to do when he must keep track of the time but has no pocket in which to place his pocket watch? I suppose, yes, a wristwatch could be a solution, but why sacrifice style when there’s a far better fix: get yourself a distinguished-looking waistcoat.

(Illustration by Sir John Tenniel)

2. Puss – Puss in Boots (by Charles Perrault)
Sometimes as an animal you decide you prefer to walk on two legs instead of the usual four that you have. Then you get a new owner and want to test him to see how much he likes and respects you. So you ask for a pair of boots. And your owner is kind enough to provide an elegant pair. Not only do you now look rather dashing, but you also know you have his full respect. And you end up helping him win the hand of the princess. Because that’s what loyal pets do. Especially loyal pets in quality footwear.

(Illustration by G.P. Jacomb Hood)

3. Mr. Toad – The Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame)
Clothing can definitely make you look stylish, but it can also just be a practical necessity. Especially when you have no fur to shield yourself from the elements as you drive your car at extremely fast speeds around the countryside. For such a thing you’ll need a good large overcoat and a pair of goggles, of course, as well as gaiters, gloves and cap to complete the look. And if you are as well off as Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, such items will be of the finest quality.

(Illustration by Ernest H. Shepard)

4. Piglet – Winnie the Pooh (by A.A. Milne)
Sometimes one needs to hunt for Woozles. Obviously. But sometimes the weather quite simply will not co-operate with one’s plans. So, while Woozle hunting is obviously a far more comfortable thing to do in the warmer months, when Woozle tracks appear in the snow, what is a little pig to do? Well, he must dress himself for the weather so that he is appropriately attired for the chase. And what better way to stay warm and cozy while tracking Woozles than wearing a nice scarf, as demonstrated in this case by the ever practical Piglet? (Interestingly, this particular pig chose not to wear a hat, despite the cold, thus demonstrating that not all pigs think alike.)

(Illustration by Ernest H. Shepard)

5. Stuart – Stuart Little (by E.B. White)

It’s a very special thing to be adopted by a loving family.  And even if you happen to be a mouse and they happen to be human, that doesn’t mean you can’t have things in common, for example: a fondness for dressing well.  It’s always wonderful to have elegant role models. But to have them living under the very same roof with you is the height of convenience. So follow their example.  Get yourself a suit, a hat and a cane and look stylish.

(Illustration by Garth Williams)

6. Nana — Peter Pan (by J.M. Barrie)
Like humans, animals have a variety of jobs they can perform. There are carrier pigeons, there are workhorses and there are mice who run through mazes for example. And as a true professional one must dress to suit one’s job. So of course when one is a nursemaid to the three rambunctious children of the Darling household, one must make sure to command due respect by wearing an iconic nurse’s cap. Now not only do the children know who’s boss, so too does the rest of the neighborhood when Nana takes the children for their daily walks.

(Illustration by Trina Schart Hyman)

Adrienne Kress is a Toronto-born actor and author who loves to play make-believe. She also loves hot chocolate. And cheese. Not necessarily together.
She is the author of the award winning and internationally published children’s novels Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate (Scholastic). Published around the world, Alex won the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award in the UK and was shortlisted for the Red Cedar. The sequel, Timothy, was shortlisted for the Audie, Red Cedar and Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards, and was optioned for film.  She has also published two YA novels:  Outcast (Diversion Books), her quirky paranormal romance, and the Steampunk adventure The Friday Society (Penguin), released to a starred review from Quill and Quire and shortlisted for The Quill Awards.
2016 saw the release of Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X., an exciting collaboration with NY Times bestselling author Frank Beddor (set in the same world as his Looking Glass Wars YA books). And this April she releases the first book in her new Middle Grade series: The Explorers: The Door In The Alley (Delacorte, Random House).

Win an ARC of The Door in the Alley!
Random House has generously offered one (1) ARC for one winner.
-ends 4/5/17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

6th MMGM: Matylda, Bright & Tender Blog Tour (review, interview)

Welcome to Day 23 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring the Matylda, Bright & Tender Blog Tour, from author Holly M. McGhee and Candlewick Press!

Matylda, Bright & Tender
By Holly M. McGhee
March 14, 2017
Candlewick Press
Source: from pub for review
In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.

Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / Indiebound

Fourth graders, Sussy and Guy, are the very best of friends. They share everything together and love each other very much. When the two BFFs decide they need something of their own to love and nurture, they get a leopard gecko named Matylda. Even though Guy seems a bit better at handling and feeding Matylda, Sussy is determined to love her just as much. And when a tragic accident shakes Sussy’s world topsy-turvy, both Sussy and Matylda discover things about love, loss, and friendship that they never knew.

Ok, y’all, you better have the tissues handy when reading this book because it’s a heartbreaking, sniffle-inducing, tearjerker for sure! Holly M. McGhee’s Matylda, Bright & Tender is aptly named, for it is both tender and bright, heart-wrenching and heartwarming, poignant and full of hope.

Told through Sussy’s POV, Matylda, Bright & Tender unfolds through an earnest, vulnerable, and sweetly charming voice. Young readers will fall in love with Sussy, Guy, their parents, and Matylda, and will love experiencing and exploring their world so full of laughs, love, and heart. Sussy and Guy’s genuine, love-filled friendship is so endearing and lovable and I just wanted to wrap them both in a gigantic hug.

It’s not a spoiler to say that the story takes a tragic turn and one character’s death leaves the other characters in a world of grief and greyness. Holly M. McGhee beautifully and achingly explores the pains and startling revelations that come with grief and loss, and does so in ways that are appropriate and accessible to her intended audience.

Sussy, Guy, and Matylda’s story is the kind that sits in your heart for a long time and, while it brings the tears, and also brings so much light, hope, and happiness. Readers, young and old alike, will love and be moved by Matylda, Bright & Tender.

Q1. What three words best describe your book, Matylda, Bright & Tender?
Love. Geckos. Hope.

Q2. Grab a copy of Matylda, Bright & Tender and answer the following:
Favorite chapter? Chapter 32, I think, because that’s when Sussy is finally in the light again and she is buoyant / hopeful / the future is hers—no ceilings!

Favorite page? Page 195 maybe, when Sussy understands that Guy’s death can be folded into who she is / she doesn’t have to fight it anymore.

Favorite setting? I am very fond of the herp department in Total Pets, the pet store in the neighborhood. And the goldfish section too.

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: 193 “You’re not scared anymore, are you?” She’d been that dull color for a few days, so I knew this might be coming . . . but her timing, it couldn’t be a coincidence. “You want to start over, too?” I rolled her skin, fresh, between my fingers.

Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
That’s an impossible question, especially as I read so much as an agent. But Stanley Yelnats from Holes comes to mind immediately, as well as Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. For favorite novel, I might have to say The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, although I can barely stand the thought of reading it again because I am always worried it will end differently and they won’t survive. (I’ve read it to each of my children and we are always on the edge of our seats with worry.)

Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
What better way to learn about the challenges of life than between the covers of a book? What better to show our children they can get through anything?

Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Matylda, Bright & Tender, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Have you ever had those chocolates that are infused with spices? My cupcake would be very, very dark chocolate with turmeric icing—I would call it The Warrior; it would bring strength and daring to those who eat it.

Holly M. McGhee, who formerly wrote under the name Hallie Durand, is the author of three picture books, including Mitchell’s License and Mitchell Goes Bowling, both illustrated by Tony Fucile, and a chapter-book series. She lives with her family, her antisocial dog, and her two leopard geckos (Speedy and Midnight) in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

6th MMGM: Mayday by Karen Harrington (guest post, giveaway)

Welcome to Day 22 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Karen Harrington her book, Mayday!

By Karen Harrington
May 24, 2016
Little Brown BFYR
MAYDAY features, Wayne Kovok, who  lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.

Wayne has always used his love of facts to communicate ("Did you know more people die each year from shaking a vending machine than from shark attacks?"). Without his voice, how will he wow the prettiest girl in school? How will he stand up to his drill-sergeant grandfather? And how will he share his hopes with his deadbeat dad? It's not until Wayne loses his voice completely that he realizes how much he doesn't say.
MAYDAY was selected as a Best Children’s Book of 2016 by Smithsonian’s AIR & SPACE MAGAZINE and was a 2016 Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book.

by Karen Harrington

Because MAYDAY is a book featuring a fact-loving seventh grader, I thought I’d share five behind the scenes facts about the book.
1. The main character, Wayne Kovok, actually first appears in another middle-grade book , COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS.  He was that guy at the lunch table who served as a little comic relief for the other friends at his lunch table. But there was something so intriguing about him that I wanted to learn more about his life. Turns out, his comedy and recitation of facts served to hide a pretty anxious, confused young dreamer.
2. The original working title was WAYNE KOVOK FLIES AGAIN
3. I wrote the final sentence of the book early in the drafting process and it remained until the end. I’d challenged myself to follow author John Irving’s process of waiting to begin writing until you know the final line. He said everything that comes before that line must naturally precede it.
4. There are more than 70 confirmed facts throughout the book. I’ve always collected facts!
5. I included the last name of my favorite middle-grade author on page four of MAYDAY. It’s a hat-tip to author Gary Schmidt!

Karen Harrington is an author and former speechwriter. Her books include SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY (2013), COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS (2014) and MAYDAY (2016) all from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Her books have appeared on nine state reading lists.
Sure Signs of Crazy was also a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year, a 2014 Notable Children’s Book selection from the Children’s Literature Assembly and a 2014 Bank Street Children’s Book Committee Best Book of the Year.
Karen lives in Dallas, TX with her family, where she enjoys reading, writing, cooking and long walks with her rescue dog, Sam.  Website * Twitter * Facebook

Win 1 of 3 signed copies of MAYDAY!
Karen has generously offered three (3) copies for three winners.
-ends 4/5/17
-three winners will each get one signed book
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Celebrate Easter With Put Me In The Story (review, giveaway)

Looking for non-candy treats and gifts to give your little ones this Easter?! Put Me In The Story has some cute and fun items perfect for your Easter baskets...

All Personalized Easter Books & Gifts from Put Me In The Story

$34.99 hardcover
$44.99 gift set

The perfect Easter treat to add to your little “honey bunny’s” basket! I Love You Honey Bunny by Sandra Magsamen is a fun and heartfelt story to remind your little one just how much you love and cherish them. Cuddle up close and enjoy something sweet together!

Celebrate your child by letting them know how they fill the world with love! Personalize this book with your honey bunny’s name, photo, and sweet message on the dedication page. You will also have the option to customize the pronoun in this book to become “I” or “We” Love You, Honey Bunny. A darling tale with a loving message that will stay with your little one forever!

$14.99 paperback, $24.99 hardcover
$35.99 gift set

Help your little one grow in faith with a personalized edition of My First Book of Prayers. This collection of blessings features simple, illustrated rhymes about the everyday moments that make life so special. Teach your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew to greet the new day, offer thanks for friends, and settle down to sleep with a grateful heart. Your little blessing will build trust in God as they learn to approach God with each new day:

The sunlight shines across my bed.
It wakes me up. It warms my head.
It makes my world a lot more fun.
Thank you, God, for your bright sun!

Create the perfect  gift for those special milestones such as baptism and communion with My First Book of Prayers. Personalize this book with your child's photo and name, and a dedication message to create an extra special keepsake.

$19.99 paperback, $34.99 hardcover
$44.99 gift set

This Easter, take your little one on an “eggs-traordinary” egg-hiding adventure around the world!

As fun and festive as an egg hunt, An Easter Surprise gives your child the chance to plan his or her very own Easter mission! Soaring as high as the moon in a hot air balloon, delivering eggs all over town, and stashing tasty treats all down the streets, your little one will be thrilled at the surprise twist in this Easter adventure!

Make Easter morning extra magical! Personalize this exciting Easter storybook with your child’s name and hometown, along with a special message and photo on the dedication page. A sweet Easter surprise your little one will cherish long after the holiday is over!


"God loved us so much he wanted us to always be with him too. That’s why God knew he’d need to give us Easter.”  This personalized edition of God Gave Us Easter will take your child on an adventure through the Arctic to learn how Easter came to be.

In this story, your child will become the main character, a curious polar bear cub, while Papa Bear explains that Easter is more than egg hunts and bunnies, and even better than Christmas! Personalize either the boy or girl version of God Gave Us Easter with a child’s name, photo, and a special dedication message.

Perfect for snuggling up in springtime, God Gave Us Easter will gently guide young minds and explain all the questions surrounding this very special day of the year.


Create an adorable keepsake with your favorite Mother Goose nursery rhymes with gorgeous, original illustrations…personalized just for baby! Make this collection of classic nursery rhymes your very own with a special dedication page: include a baby photo, write a sweet message, and record a celebration date (e.g. baby’s birthday). This collection of nursery rhymes includes favorites such as Itsy Bitsy Spider, Humpty Dumpty, Rock-a-bye-Baby, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star…and more!


Looking for a new way to get inspired? Boost your creativity with a personalized Keep Calm and Color On coloring book! Enjoy over 60 beautifully designed patterns and discover inspiring quotes throughout. From cool little kids to artsy adults, everyone deserves a few mindful moments for themselves. Keep your creations bound in the book or decorate your space with your colorful masterpieces. The creative possibilities are endless with this hands-on way to have fun and keep calm.

Personalize this intricately designed, completely calming coloring book with a name and dedication message for the creative person in your life, or gift yourself a much-needed getaway.


Breathe… and take a moment to make something beautiful! This wonderfully drawn, stress relieving Keep Calm and Color On coloring book is perfect for all ages. Plus, it’s packed with over 60 full-page patterns and calming quotes. Fill in the beautifully crafted designs and carve out a special place to relax. Escape for a few minutes or a few hours as you color your way to calm.

Personalize this coloring book with a name and dedication message… then enjoy the fun of just relaxing.

$19.99 paperback, $34.99 hardcover

Play a game of hide-and-seek with the Baby Looney Tunes! In Find Me If You Can: Baby Looney Tunes, your child stars alongside some of their favorite cartoon characters. This interactive book asks your little one to find their smiling face in playful pastel scenes featuring Bugs, Tweety, Taz, and the rest of the Looney Tunes crew. With options for 1, 2, or 3 faces to find as well as simple, rhyming text, your child will come back to this one-of-a-kind, personalized adventure again and again!


Tote around toys in this personalized toy caddy!

Help your little one stay organized with our versatile personalized toy caddy. Great for holding toys, books, or school & art supplies, this caddy is perfect for toting items from room to room. Personalize the front to encourage your little one to put away her favorite toys, books, and games. The special bunny graphic is an applied, permanent decal.


Comes in blue or pink!

Your child will be proud to use their own personalized Easter Basket!
We embroider any name in coordinating thread to make this Easter Basket extra special. The name appears on the ear. A keepsake that can be used for many Easters to come.


Little ones will love filling their own personalized Easter Basket with sweet treats!

We embroider any name in coordinating orange thread to make this adorable personalized Easter Basket extra special. A keepsake that can be used for many Easters to come. Great for boys and girls.


Little ones will love filling their own personalized Easter Basket with sweet treats!

We embroider any name in coordinating white thread to make this egg-shaped Easter Basket extra special. A keepsake that can be used for many Easters to come. Great for boys and girls.


This Burrow Bunny Rabbit Plush is the perfect reading buddy for your little one! With floppy ears and soft fur, this cute critter will find a place in your child's heart. Sit him up in the playroom or tuck him under the covers to make your child want to "hop" right into bed at night. His sweet face and big feet are sure to make Burrow Bunny & a favorite at storytime.


This cute personalized bib will steal the show!

Decorated with an adorable bunny eyeing their breakfast, this personalized bib is perfect for Easter – but can also be enjoyed throughout the year. Enter the name of your choice and it will be added in blue or pink letters above the bunny's plaid ears.


This sweet personalized wall art is the perfect addition to her bedroom.

Our exclusive design features the verse "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep." We make it extra special by adding any name at the top.


The adorable lamb blanket can be used as a toy or a blanket!

Features a lamb head on one end and feet on the other for lots of play. Ivory satin underside makes it comfortable for peaceful sleeping. Includes a stitched nose, eyes and mouth. We embroider a name and date in coordinating brown thread.

About Put Me In The Story:
Put Me In The Story takes bestselling books and beloved characters and creates personalized books complete with the child’s name, photo, and a message from the gift giver! Reading becomes more fun and engaging for kids when the book stars them!

Put Me In The Story was kind enough to send me a personalized I Love You Honey Bunny and Plush Gift set, which includes the book and bunny plush, for my niece.

This gift set is just too adorable for words! With simple, yet sweet, heartwarming, and captivating text, I Love You Honey Bunny celebrates all the reasons your little one is special and so loved. The gorgeous pastel colors and charming, endearing illustrations will delight little readers. Of course, your child will be overjoyed to see their picture featured throughout the book.

And the cuddly plush bunny is so so so soft, lovable, and of excellent quality. I know my niece (and your little ones) will just love snuggling up with their bunny and reading I Love You Honey Bunny!

Put Me In The Story was also awesome enough to send a personalized Loppy Bunny Easter Basket (in pink) for my niece and it is unbelievably cute! It's the perfect size for Easter treats, toys, and eggs, it's really sturdy, and the embroidered name on the ear adds the perfect personalized touch.

I cannot wait to see my niece's face on Easter when she receives the gift set and basket full of goodies. I know she's going to love it all!

Disclaimer: I received the products above, for free, from Put Me In The Story for review purposes. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

One winner will receive a personalized “An Easter Surprise + Plush Gift Set
from Put Me In The Story
ends 3/30/2017 at 11:59 pm

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms & Conditions
No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
Open to legal residents of USA who are 18 years or older. Giveaway begins 2/27/2017 at 12:00am EST and ends at 3/30/2017 at 11:59pm EST (“Promotion Period”). Enter the Giveaway during the Promotion Period online by submitting the entry form. The entry form can be found on the following website at Winner will be selected by and be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. One (1) winner will receive one (1) personalized gift set "An Easter Surprise and Plush Gift Set" (approximate retail value or "ARV": $44.99). By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Put Me In The Story. Put Me In The Story does not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of this giveaway. (Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) are in no way associated with this giveaway.