Sunday, June 12, 2016

Press Release - Building a Home Library List

Press Release:

Every two years, the ALA-Children’s Book Council (CBC) Joint Committee, with cooperation from ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee, partner to create free Building a Home Library lists to provide guidance to parents, grandparents, and others interested in assembling a high-quality library for their children at home.

These lists — organized by age groups from 0 to 14 — include tried-and-true classics, under-the-radar gems, multicultural books, and notable new reads.

Download the lists by age group here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The World of Septimus Heap

The World of Septimus Heap

My daughter is nine, and while she reads books on her own, I feel very fortunate that she still likes for me to read to her at night. We spent almost a year reading the Harry Potter series, had the Hogwarts-themed birthday party, watched the movies, went to Diagon Alley, listened to the audio books, etc. We suffered a bit from the “I finished reading Harry Potter, now what?” syndrome. We switched gears and read all of Kate DiCamillo’s books, which both of my kids loved but thought were sad. We read the Percy Jackson books, which inspired my daughter to ask for books on Greek Mythology. We started Michael Scott’s “Nicholas Flamel,” series, but it got a little too dark and a little frightening; so we’ve put that on hold for a while.

We love to read books in a series, and my daughter really wanted to read something with magic. I happened to discover the Septimus Heap books at a used book store. The premise seemed interesting and right up our alley, so I forked out $2.50 for a “well-read” copy of Magyk, the first book in the series. Fast forward a few months, and we’re on the sixth book. Spending that $2.50 was a risk worth taking.

WARNING: I have to give away the big reveal of the first book in order to really talk about the series, so if you don’t like spoilers, don’t read any further. Bookmark this page, and come back when you’ve read at least the first six books.

Premise in a nutshell

On a dark, winter’s night, The Longest Night, two babies are born: one a princess; and one the seventh son of the seventh son of a wizard family.  On that same night, the queen and her chief magical advisor, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, were assassinated. Marcia Overstrand, the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice flees with the newborn princess, determined to get her to safety keep her location, even her existence, a secret. At the same time, Sarah Heap, the matriarch of the Heap family is told her newborn, Septimus, had died. On his way home from celebrating the birth of his seventh son, Silas Heap stumbles upon the newborn princess in the forest and is asked by Marcia Overstrand, now the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, to keep her safe and her identity a secret.

Fast forward 10 years. The Castle is ruled by the Supreme Custodian, a tyrant who rules under martial law. The Young Army comprises young, abandoned boys, referred to only by numbers. They are trained in strict conditions and are asked to be suspicious of “Magyk.” They patrol the streets of the Castle, reporting suspicious activity to their leaders.

Jenna Heap awakens on her 10th birthday, on a seemingly normal day. She’s surrounded by her parents and six older brothers in a cluttered, well-loved, one-room apartment and begins to sit down for her birthday breakfast, when Marcia Overstrand interrupts the festivities, telling the Heaps that Jenna’s true identity and location have been discovered and an assassin is on the way to kill her. She must take Jenna with her and flee the Castle to keep her safe.  Surprise – you’re a princess, and this isn’t your true family! As Jenna leaves the Castle with Marcia, some of her family members, and a Young Army boy rescued from the snow, the adventures begin.  

The World

The Castle is the main location in this world. At first, I thought it was one building, the place where the queen lives, but it’s actually the name of an entire village, fortified with stone walls and a moat to keep out “the witches, wolverines, and warlocks.” The Wizard Tower, an impressive multi-story building, lit up in purple, and topped with a pyramid library is the hub of “Magyk.” This is where Marcia Overstrand lives along with “Ordinary Wizards.”

It’s the central point of trade, and as the population grew, buildings and houses were added higgedly-piggedly, including the Ramblings, a huge stone building that housed many of the villagers, including the Heaps. Ghosts roam all over the castle and can converse with humans, but they choose when to appear and when to stay invisible.

In addition to the Castle, there’s the Port, inhabited by the evil Port-Witch Coven; the Forest, inhabited by the Wendron Witch Coven and three of the seven Heap boys; the Badlands, inhabited by weird human-eating worms and also the area; the Marram Marshes, inhabited by the White Witch, Aunt Zelda Heap, and various swamp creatures including brownies and boggarts.

In this world, wizards are both male and female and are identified by bright green eyes that develop as a wizard gets older. As expected, there are wizards of different skill levels, and you have to train and practice to hone the craft.

Even if you have “Magyk,” you aren’t required to become a wizard. For example, Nicko, one of the Heap brothers loves boats and sailing and works at the Boatyard. The interesting thing is that even if you’re not magical, you can still do simple spells with charms. For example, Septimus gives Jenna a chocolate charm that she uses to turn ordinary things into chocolate, a charm that actually saves her life in the second book.  

Most witches live in their covens outside of the castle and cannot be trusted, especially the Port Witch Coven whose witches are pure evil and wouldn’t hesitate to feed humans to their various creatures.

Those both with and without Magyk live among one another. The non-magical folk are not like Muggles – they know that wizards and witches exist and for the most part live harmoniously even though they may be a little suspicious.

Favorite Characters

There are many well-rounded, well-developed characters, but these are some of our favorites.

Madam Marcia Overstrand
One of the most compelling characters is Marcia Overstrand, who has many Minerva McGonagall-like characteristics. She’s the ExtraOrdinary Wizard – the head wizard in charge of the Castle.  Septimus becomes her Apprentice and lives in the Wizard Tower with her. She’s a very strict and no-nonsense type of person, but she is a very caring person, and sometimes surprises Septimus with hugs when he doesn’t expect it. She wears pointed, purple python heels that are tailor-made for her makes the shoe maker keep a purple python in his backyard specifically for the purpose of supplying the shed skin required to make the shoes, much to the shoemaker’s chagrin.

Aunt Zelda
Another character we love is Aunt Zelda.  She Septimus’s great aunt and lives in the Marram Marshes. She’s a white witch who is in charge of protecting the Dragon Boat, a well-kept secret for hundreds of years. Imagine the large aunt who smothers you in her bosom, fusses over you, and cooks tons of food. That’s Aunt Zelda.  She wears a large patchwork dress that has no shape, and is often mistaken for a walking, patchwork tent. She also grows and cooks lots and lots of cabbage and makes weird dishes like cabbage and eel casserole. Septimus, who grew up in the Young Army and had very meager rations, seems to be the only person who likes her cooking, and she often packs him a cabbage sandwich to take with him.

Marcellus Pye
Marcellus is a 500-year-old alchemist who developed a formula for immortality, except he drank the elixir before it was completely developed and couldn’t stop the body from aging. Septimus helped him regain a youthful appearance, but he has short-term memory loss, speaks in an “old-fashioned” dialect and wears ridiculous-looking shoes that apparently were in fashion 500 years ago.

Loose Ends

We have not finished reading the series, so I hope some loose ends are tied up. First, there’s a Dragon Boat, half boat/half live dragon that is injured very badly in the second book. In the third book, Jenna goes back in time and asks the white witch of that time to give her a potion to save the boat. However, we’re almost finished with the sixth book, and there’s been no reference to what happened with the boat.

Also, in the fourth book, there is a weird reference to items that are in the future and it makes it seem like the series is set way in the future. For example, there’s an elevator that is from the “ancient times.” There’s also a submarine that the characters say looks like a vehicle that was sent to the moon in the old days. There’s even a disdain for physics and physicians. Marcellus Pye was the last alchemist, and magic instead of medicine is used to cure illnesses. There’s reference to a big disaster that forced the wizards to create ice tunnels underground so that the Castle could survive. Is this a dystopian novel? It’s a plot point that is very undeveloped, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

Similarities to Harry Potter

I would be remiss to leave out the similarities to Harry Potter. The main character, like Harry, does not know his true identity or his magical powers until he’s 10 years old. There’s plenty of “Darke” forces that the characters have to battle. You have the trio of friends who adventure together:   Septimus, Jenna, and Beetle. There’s even a character named Bertie Bott – a little bit of a shout-out to Harry Potter.  Similarities aside, the characters do have their own personalities and the story lines are different enough so you don’t feel like you’re reading HP Fan Fiction.  Also, this series is geared toward a younger audience, so it’s not as dark and intense as Harry Potter can get.

I would definitely recommend this series to kids who like Harry Potter. It’s geared to the 9-12 age group. We are thoroughly enjoying the series and will read the TodHunter Moon spinoff next.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Children Read to Shelter Cats

I came across this article about children in grades 1-8 reading to cats in their local animal shelter. This is such a great idea to help children practice their reading skills while keeping lonely cats company. Maybe it could also result in a few adoptions. :-)

Read the full article here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hollow City Trailer


Hollow City is the follow up to Ransom Rigg's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children a few months ago, and it was by far the most unique book I've read in a long time. It begins when Jacob, upset by his eccentric grandfather's death, finds a letter that takes him on a journey to the Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. All his life, Jacob's grandfather told him far-fetched stories about orphans with magical abilities, and right before his death, he spoke of a monster finding him. On the remote island, it seems that Jacob's grandfather's stories aren't as far-fetched as he thought. He meets these children from his grandfather's stories, and they've been waiting for his grandfather to return for a long time. The unique part of the book is that vintage photographs are seamlessly woven throughout the story. They help tell the story and give the book a deliciously creepy feel. 

I'm super excited for Hollow City to come out in January.

Here's a preview of the trailer.

The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Junie B. Jones, Reviewed by the Well-Read First Grader


Hi friends - I'm happy to bring to you the first review by my very own first grader. We've read a few Junie B. Jones books and were saddened to hear of author Barbara Park's passing on November 15th.  We write this review in her honor.

What is Junie B. Jones about?
It's about this girl that does naughty things like go crazy in the nurse's room. She also talks a lot.  One time she needed glasses and drew a screaming chicken instead of a clock. That was hilarious. Me and my mommy cracked up and laughed so hard we almost threw up.

Why do you like Junie B. Jones? 
Because it is funny. She is funny.

Why should kids read Junie B. Jones books? 
Because it is sometimes entertaining. It is easy to read, but your mom may need to help you with some words. Also, it's really funny.

Do you want to read more Junie B. Jones books? 
Yes. Definitely.

The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What We're Reading

Hi friends - long time, no talk. I'm finally back after the longest hiatus ever. The little baby who inspired me to start this blog is turning seven in the spring, and the little boy who rocked my world way back when is almost four - What the what? As you can imagine, life has been busy, but we continue to make time to read. I've been so pleased to find that the older they get, the more fun reading with them gets.

Here's what we've been reading.

Harry Potter Series 
My daughter and I started reading the Harry Potter series this summer, and she is so into it to the point that it's bordering on obsession. I'm perfectly fine with raising a fellow "Potter Head," but we had to have a talk about how it's not polite to call random people "Muggles" when we're out in public. I have to say that I started the series with a bit of hesitation. Not only was I a little wary of it being a little too dark for her, but I also had the secret fear that she wouldn't like it. Both fears were assuaged after reading the first book. We're halfway through book five, and I still worry about some of the things that are coming up, but I trust her when she says she can handle it and will stop reading if it gets to be too much.

The wonderful thing about this is that it's the first time I've read the series since becoming a parent and the first time I've read it with a child. I have such a deep respect for JK Rowling and the magical world she created. And Dumbledore's wisdom still moves me to tears.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume 
My daughter asked me what books I read when I was a kid, and I immediately thought of the Fudge series. I've actually been reading it with both kids. Fudge is a little bit younger than my son, and both kids crack up at his antics. My daughter is closer to Peter's age, and she gets a little worked up over some of the things that Fudge gets away with. We just finished the first book last night and will continue the series.

Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems 
And of course, we constantly go to "the coolest author in the world" - Mo Willems.   I don't care how many times we've read the Elephant and Piggie books, my kids always crack up when we read them. My daughter can read now, and I have to say, I got a little teary eyed when I saw her reading "We are in a Book" to her baby brother.

 In my next series of posts, I'm going to talk about what my daughter is reading on her own, and I may just get her to write a review or two.

The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bloggy Break Time

Hey y'all. It's been months since my last post - I've been taking a super long break because life has been so busy. However, I've been reading so many wonderful books, and I really need to blog about them. More soon...I promise. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The New York Times Bestselling Picture Books, 12-9-12 edition

Here are this week's bestselling children's picture books from The New York Times. Pete the Cat has three spots on the list! Why do I not know Pete the Cat?

  1. GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. 
  2. THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, by Clement C. Moore.
  3. PETE THE CAT SAVES CHRISTMAS, by Eric Litwin. Illustrated by James Dean.  
  4. LLAMA LLAMA TIME TO SHARE, by Anna Dewdney.
  5. PETE THE CAT AND HIS FOUR GROOVY BUTTONS, by Eric Litwin. Illustrated by James Dean.
  6. PRESS HERE, by HervĂ© Tullet.  
  7. PETE THE CAT: I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES, by Eric Litwin. Illustrated by James Dean.
  9. THIS IS NOT MY HAT, by Jon Klassen.  
  10. SAFARI, by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann.

The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Press Release: PBS Kids Announces Annual Writer's Contest (Grades K-3)

National Contest Open to Kids in Grades K-3; Panel of Acclaimed Honorary Judges to Review Top Twelve Entries             
ARLINGTON, VA, November 29, 2012 – Today, PBS KIDS announced its annual PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest, a national initiative designed to promote the advancement of children’s literacy skills through hands-on, active learning. The Contest, made possible in part by financial support from Easy Student Publishing and managed by member station WNED, partners with PBS stations nationwide and encourages children in grades K-3 to celebrate creativity by submitting their own original stories and illustrations.

“The PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest offers a fun and exciting opportunity for kids to express their creativity while gaining valuable literacy skills for success in school and life,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS. “Together with local stations, we hope this Contest will spark a passion in children and inspire them to explore a world of possibilities.”

How the Contest Works
PBS stations throughout the country will collaborate with schools, public libraries and other community-based organizations to present the Contest in local communities. Each station will select local winners and award prizes.

These local winners will then be entered into the national contest where a panel of esteemed judges will select the top 12 winners.  National winners will be announced during the summer of 2013 and the winning stories will be featured on

The national winners will receive prizes, including tablets, e-readers and MP3 players. Additionally, Highlights for Children has joined the Contest as a new promotional partner and all participants will have the option to receive a print or digital version of Highlights magazine.

PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest Honorary Judges
A panel of America's foremost children's authors, illustrators and content experts will serve as honorary judges for the PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest. The 2013 honorary judges include:  
  • Lisa Henson: As Chief Executive Officer of The Jim Henson Company, Henson serves as an executive producer of Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train, both currently airing daily on PBS KIDS, and Pajanimals, a musical puppet series airing daily on Sprout.
  • Jeff Kinney: As a New York Times bestselling author, online game developer and designer, Kinney has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. His seventh book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, is the biggest print book of 2012. His book series has over 83 million in print worldwide, translated into more than 40 languages. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995. Jeff lives in southern Massachusetts with his wife and their two sons.
  • Kate Klimo: As Vice President and Publisher of the Random House/Golden Books Group, she has been responsible for extending the Seuss brand into new formats including board and novelty books, and publishing non-fiction celebrations of Dr. Seuss's life and works. Klimo has nearly 30 years of experience at Random House; more than 15 of them spent working on All Things Seuss. She is also the production executive of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! Kate is the author of many books for young readers, including 12 titles in the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library series. She has also written for young adults (The Centauriad Series) and has a new series for children, Dog Diaries, launching in January 2013.
  • Jarrett Krosoczka: Two-time winner of the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year in the Children’s Choice Book Awards, author and illustrator for sixteen published books – ten picture books and six graphic novels. He has seen his work recommended by national publications like Newsweek, The New York Times and USA Today. His Punk Farm and Lunch Lady series are also in development to be feature films.
  • Susan Meddaugh: Author and illustrator of Martha Speaks, the best-selling book series, as well as a creative producer of the award-winning PBS KIDS series of the same name. Susan grew up in New Jersey, studied art and illustration, and now lives in Massachusetts with her family — including her dogs of course.
  • R.L. Stine: As one of the best-selling children's authors in history, he has sold over 450 million books that have been read all over the world including Goosebumps - one of the best-selling children’s series of all-time.  R.L. lives in New York City with his wife Jane and his dog Minnie.

Creative Writing Resources
The Contest is supported by a robust set of resources for children, parents and teachers.  Story ideas, activity sheets, along with the previous winning entries are available on the Contest website to inspire children during the brainstorming process. PBS LearningMedia is also offering a collection of online teacher resources for use in classrooms nationwide. 

PBS KIDS is a trusted guide nurturing young learners ages 2- 8. As America’s largest classroom, PBS inspires children to discover their full potential for success in school and in life and serves children wherever they live, learn, and play. More information on participating local stations, general entry rules and contest resources can be found on

PBS KIDS GO! offers early elementary children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online and community-based programs.  For more information on specific PBS KIDS GO! content supporting literacy, science, math and more, visit, join our community online on Twitter and Facebook, or visit

About WNED
Through WNED-TV, ThinkBright and Well/WORLD TV, WBFO-FM 88.7 and Classical 94.5 WNED, member-supported WNED Buffalo/Toronto provides high quality programming and services to local, regional and national audiences that enlighten, inspire, entertain and educate Western New York and Southern Ontario communities. Additional information about WNED can be found at

About Easy Student Publishing
Meet writing standards and motivate students using book-making tools and resources from Easy Student Publishing.  With Classbook and Storybook options, free programs, online or mail-in production and expert resources, we have publishing solutions designed for educators.  Enhance curriculum, support literacy and promote creativity.  Every student can be a published author!

About Highlights for Children, Inc. ( 
Devoted to "Fun with a Purpose," family media brand Highlights for Children, Inc. has helped children become their best selves for generations. Its flagship publication, Highlights magazine, the most recognizable and widely read children's magazine in the nation, has printed more than a billion copies. Other Highlights offerings include a version for younger children, High Five magazine; a new magazine for babies and their caregivers, Highlights Hello magazine; Highlights for Children book clubs; and mobile applications like My First Hidden Pictures. Highlights can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and at its blog for thoughtful parents, Highlights Aha. Corporate offices are in Columbus, Ohio, and editorial offices are in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Fun with a Purpose, Goofus and Gallant, and Hidden Pictures are trademarks of Highlights for Children, Inc.

Melissa Mills, PBS; 703.739.8134;
Caitlin Melnick, 360 Public Relations; 617.585.5775;

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blog Tour: Dragon and the Dangerous Princess

I hope everyone in the US had a great Thanksgiving. Today, I am sooo excited to take part in the "Dragon and Dangerous Princess" blog tour with authors Jim Averbeck and Dashka Slater My kidlets and I have been fans of theirs for a few years, and we read their books often. Check out my review of Jim's In a Blue Room and Dashka's The Sea Serpent and Me. Now, the two are back with two WONDERFUL picture books that would make perfect gifts for the little readers in your life!

First, Oh No, Little Dragon!  is both written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck. In the book, the super energetic Little Dragon is super mischievous and gets himself into funny antics that had my littles laughing out loud. Through a funny story and adorable illustrations,  Jim Averbeck successfully weaves in the overarching theme of a mother's love for her child.

Here's what Jim has to say about the book, reading with kids, and more:  

In 2008, you visited The Well-Read Child to talk about your first book, In a Blue Room. What have you been up to since then?
A lot! I was honored to illustrate a book for Linda Sue Park called A Long Walk to Water. It was a serial novel that appeared in newspapers.  Then I both wrote and illustrated Except If which came out last year. Then, of course, this year I finished Oh No, Little Dragon! 

Where did you get the idea for Oh No, Little Dragon?

It started with the name of the character. When I was traveling in China, my guide’s name was Xiao Long,  which he said meant “Little Dragon.”  I thought that sounded like a fun name for a character in a picture book and I spent the rest of the vacation thinking about it.  When I was taking a shower in the hotel, I swallowed some water and started coughing. That got me to thinking about what would happen if a dragon swallowed water. The story grew from there.

I have two rambunctious “little dragons” in my house. Is the Little Dragon character based on anyone in your life or maybe yourself when you were a kid?

I think I’d have to own the title “rambunctious child” much to my mother’s chagrin. One year I was so rambunctious that I broke my arm three times in the space of twelve months. The police actually had to investigate my home life, for fear that I was being abused. My poor mother, pinned under the unwavering gaze of the law! I’m sure when I told the police how I liked to play “tightrope walker” on the narrow pipe at the top of the swing set, or “paratrooper” from the top of the apple tree, they decided my mom was innocent.

What is your favorite mythical creature?

Besides dragons, I would have to say pegasuses. Or is that pegasi? Anyway- winged horses. They seem like the most useful of mythical creatures, good for traveling long distances, carrying heavy loads, easy to stable and feed.  But in honesty, I’d just as soon stick with my plain old, non-mythical pet dog Bella, who is licking my arm as I type this response.

You are an author AND an illustrator. What do you love most about writing and illustrating your own books?

The interplay of words and pictures. I love the ability to tell a large part of the story with the art. For example, the last image of Oh No, Little Dragon lets us know that Little Dragon has learned a thing or two from his adventure in the book, but it isn’t stated explicitly. It’s all in the visual. So, telling much of the story with the art let’s me concentrate on picking only the best words, since I will need so few of them.

What do you love most about writing for children?

I think I love the way it keeps me connected to my own inner child. It enables me to continue to view the world with a sense of wonder, and get paid for it!

Why do you think it’s important for adults to read with the children in their lives?

For most people, their world doesn’t extend too far past the place they were born. Reading is really the only way to open the world up for them, to expose them to different cultures and ideas. Children need to have reading modeled as an activity that’s good, worthwhile and enjoyable, so they can become readers for life.  The best way for that to happen is for the adults in their life to read to them or with them. An adult who reads to a child is giving them the world.

A lot of people ask for tips about turning reluctant readers into lifelong readers. Do you have any suggestions?

Start with their interests and work outward. So, for example, if your reluctant reader likes Spiderman movies, go out and buy him a trade paperback of a good Spiderman story arc. Or if he likes sports, get him a biography of a top player. Look for any inroad you can find. And even if one book doesn’t pique his interest, keep looking. Also- be sure to buy age appropriate books. If you buy books too advanced for your reluctant reader, he may lose interest.  Keep feeding that interest then branch out. So from Spiderman, introduce him to other great graphic novels, working up to ones with more depth. And then maybe to books that deal with similar subject matter- fantasy etc.  I think the important thing is to use their interests to guide what books to give them, rather than trying to use books to interest them in something they don’t care about.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing or illustrating?

I’m  a city boy. I’ve lived in metro areas since I was 18.  Recently my partner and I decided we needed to spend at least three nights each week enjoying the city of San Francisco. I like to find weird little performance venues for an evening of cheap, unusual entertainment. So I guess one answer is “nightlife.” I also like to run on the beach with my dog, work out, hang out with friends and explore the great restaurants here in the city.

What can we expect to see from you next?
My next book to be published will be The Market Bowl.  It’s an original folktale set in Cameroon, where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was recently informed that it is a Junior Library Guild Selection, which is great news. It’s the story of Yoyo, who loses the blessing on the bowl her family uses to collect money for the goods they sell at market. No blessing means no money, so she has to find a way to get that blessing restored.

I’ve also written a novel called A Hitch at the Fairmont which my agent is currently presenting to editors. Several are interested, so I expect it to sell soon.

Next, Dashka Slater's Dangerously Ever After
 features a really tough Princess named Amanita. Princess Amanita loves to do dangerous things, and when her neighbor Prince Florian gives her a bouquet of roses, she scoffs until she sees that they have thorns. She wants to grow rose seeds of her own, but instead of roses, she grows really loud, sneezing, sniffling noses that threaten the peace of the kingdom. So Amanita sets out on a dangerous adventure to get rid of the noses. I really love this story of an "unconventional" princess with a taste for adventure. 

Here's what Dashka Slater had to say about the book:

Where did you get the idea for Dangerously Ever After?
When my son was in first grade, he announced that he had a funny idea for a story about a queen who wanted to plant rose seeds and ended up planting nose seeds.  As soon as he described it to me, I could picture the hilarious possibilities that could ensue – Sneezing! Snoring! Snot! For days I pestered him to write the story himself, but he never did. Then I was forced to wrestle with the ethics of stealing story ideas from a small child, particularly my own. At last I sat down with him and suggested we write it together. He was mildly interested in the project, but eventually wandered off to build something with blocks, leaving me to finish it on my own.

Princess Amanita is a pretty tough little princess. Why do you think it’s important for children’s books to have strong female characters?

Children’s books are all about possibility – they allow children to try on different personalities and imagine themselves living through different scenarios. And while the words “role model” have been so overused as to have lost their meaning, I think it’s important for children of every variety to be able to see themselves as strong and capable and even a little dangerous – and that means that there have to be stories featuring strong, capable and dangerous girls. One of the surprising things I’ve discovered is that boys love Dangerously Ever After. I never set out to write a princess book for boys, and yet I keep getting letters from parents telling me that their sons can’t get enough of it. I love that because conventional wisdom has it that boys won’t read books about girls.

Are Princess Amanita and Prince Florian based on real people in your life?
My son had a friend in elementary school who was very much a dangerous princess. She dressed like a goth in kindergarten and was profoundly attracted to anything with a whiff or risk to it. I have a very vivid memory of standing mortified in the supermarket as she loudly announced that her favorite drink was Kahlua. “Kahlua!” she sang happily. “Kahlua! Kahlua!”  All eyes turned to me, the adult clearly responsible for turning this adorable child into a souse. I’m sure she’d never tasted Kahlua in her life, but she did know how to get a reaction. Princess Amanita definitely embodies some of her edgy persona. Prince Florian is a lot like my son, who is a pretty gentle soul.

Aside from Princess Amanita, do you have another favorite princess or fairytale?
I was raised on the Oz books which feature the wise Princess Ozma, the girlish princess who started out as a boy  (just in case you thought there were no transgender characters in classic children’s books). But probably my favorite princess tale is E. Nesbit’s Melisande, about the princess whose hair won’t stop growing. Melisande is a very sensible princess and the story not only features three white roses, but also a very nice prince named Florizel.

What did you think when you saw Valeria DoCampo’s illustrations?
I thought, “So that’s what nose flowers look like!” Valeria had found a way to make them look so perfectly botanical – like some kind of sub-tropical orchid, but perfectly recognizable as sneezing, snorting noses, too.

What do you love most about writing books for kids?
Children’s literature is pure storytelling. When you write for children, you write entirely for the purpose of creating a moving, exciting, rewarding experience for the reader. You’re not writing to impress anyone, or to give anyone something to discuss in their graduate seminar. You’re writing to have fun – and to create fun. What could be better?

Why do you think it’s important for adults to read with the children in their lives?
Reading a book together is  pretty much the coziest experience you can have with another human being. Not only are you snuggled up together in bed or on the couch, but your minds are snuggled up too – you’re sharing a whole world together. Those worlds will become touchstones and common references forever and ever. And when you share a book that you love, you’re letting someone else see a little bit of the inside of your head and heart. You’re saying, ‘This is  what moves me,’ or ‘This is what interests me,’ or ‘This is what I think is funny,’ or even, ‘This is how I wish I could be.’ And your child is saying the same to you.

Do you have any suggestions or tips for helping reluctant readers learn to like reading?

Read aloud! We get very hung up on independent reading, which means that we’re confusing the mechanics of reading (decoding, phonics, etc.) with the content of reading. Books that we have read to us often go much deeper than books we read ourselves and kids who are social by nature are more apt to enjoy a book that’s read together, even if they can read it perfectly well themselves. Find a book you think your kid will like and read it aloud together, or listen to a recording of it on your next long car ride or cross-country flight (the double headphone jack is key here).

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I spend so much time hunched over a computer that I try to spend the rest of my time outside and moving! I love taking long bike rides, swimming, kayaking and hiking and I also do yoga. I love urban walks too, particularly walking around Oakland’s Lake Merritt, where I almost always see something remarkable, whether it’s a cowboy wedding or an osprey with a fish in its mouth. I’m also a huge baseball fan and am always happy to watch a game, whether it’s my beloved Oakland A’s or my son’s tournament team.

What can we expect to see from you next?
I'm currently working on several new picture books as well as my first middle grade novel, called The Roving Trees Railway. Which one will be ready for publication first is anybody's guess!

Thank you so much Jim and Dashka for your very thoughtful answers. I wish you both the best of luck with these books and your future books. I am honored to participate in the tour.

Check out other stops on the tour:

  • Lori Calabrese
  • Read, Writ, Repeat 
  • Monkey Poop
  • Elizabeth O. Dulemba 
  • Charlotte's Library
  • Design of the Picture Book
  • Katie Davis
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    © Jill Tullo and The Well-Read Child, 2007-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jill Tullo and The Well-Read Child with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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    Friday, November 2, 2012

    The Graceling Series by Kristin Cashore

    After years of hearing so many good things about Kristin Cashore's Graceling books, I finally had the opportunity to read all three. In this post, I'll provide a synopsis of all three books and then tell you why I love them.

    The series is set in a land comprising seven kingdoms. In the first book, Graceling, we meet humans called Gracelings who have two different colored eyes and have a special power, or "grace." Some graces are more powerful than others. For example, some are excellent archers, fighters, or mind readers, which makes them very useful in the seven kingdoms.

    Eighteen-year-old Katsa lives in the Middluns. Her grace is killing, and her power hungry uncle, King Randa uses her as a puppet to hurt people who have wronged him in some way. Katsa's reputation as a killer instills fear among those who come across her, but Katsa is not proud of how her uncle uses her and secretly starts an organization designed to help people who have been wronged by King Randa and other rulers of the seven kingdoms.

    The organization leads secret missions, and it is during one of these missions that meets Po, a Graceling who is graced with combat skills. Together, they go on a dangerous mission that not only changes both of their lives but the lives of people in the seven kingdoms.

    Fire takes place about 50 years before the events of Graceling and is set in The Dells, a kingdom separate from and unknown to the seven kingdoms in Graceling. The Dells includes a host of new characters, including the title character, Fire, a beautiful "monster" who has the power to control the the thoughts of others. War is coming to The Dells, and Fire decides to leave a life of comfort and relative seclusion to help the young King Nash hold on to the throne. Along the way, Fire finds love, learns more about her past, and overcomes a host of life-changing challenges. Also, we learn the history of King Leck of Monsea, the evil king in Graceling.

    In Bitterblue, it has been eight years since the events in Graceling. Young Bitterblue is the Queen of Monsea and for the past eight years, has relied heavily on the guidance of her advisors - advisors who were influenced by her mind-controlling father, the late King Leck. Seeking freedom from the confines of the palace, Bitterblue begins sneaking out in the middle of the night. During these explorations of the city, Bitterblue meets people who will change her life and who help her change the city that has been under the control of her father for years. This book ties up a lot of loose ends from the previous two, resulting in a satisfying ending to the story of the seven kingdoms and The Dells.

    I really enjoyed all three books for many reasons, but these are the top three:

    1. Strong Female Characters - Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue are so different, but they are alike in two ways - they are strong and intelligent. They have diverse talents and each one faces and overcomes difficult obstacles.
    2. Powerful Writing - Kristin Cashore weaves together powerful stores full of detail and beautiful writing. Her descriptions of the world the people live in and the characters themselves are fascinating.
    3.  Compelling Stories - All three books are unique and include story lines that I could immediately fall into. Victorious, heart-wrenching, and fascinating are three words I'd use to describe all three stories. I highly recommend them. 

    The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Update: Summer Reading Challenge, Etc.

    Whew...what a crazy summer it's been!

    I had some security issues with the blog, but everything seems to be resolved now. Work has been super busy, but I'm happy to say that my littles and I surpassed our 300 book mark a couple of weeks ago. We've been averaging about five books a night, and some nights we've even read 10.

    My little boy's favorite book right now is The Monster at the End of This Book. He is completely obsessed. I have the app on my iPhone as well, which is really super cute if you're into book apps.

    My little girl is really into dinosaurs, so we've been hitting the library every weekend and reading all about dinosaurs. She can tell the difference between a carnivore and herbivore just by looking at a photo of the dinosaur, and I'm absolutely loving watching her reasoning skills grow.

    Kindergarten starts the day after Labor Day, so we've been in school shopping mode and practicing our routine. Her school seems to place a big emphasis on reading, and we were both excited to learn that she will be able to visit the school library every day if she wants to.

    I'm interested in hearing from parents about how you work in reading with your kids during the school year. Do you have a routine you stick to? Or any tips or tricks? I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about all day Kindergarten. I know she will be super tired and don't want to push her but also want to make sure we still read at home. Any suggestions will be appreciated!

     I have been doing quite a bit of reading myself and am working on some reviews. I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer!

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Technical Difficulties

    Hey ya'll. I'm having some technical difficulties and haven't been able to blog about the Quote of the Day or the Reading Challenge. I haven't forgotten those who've entered the contest. I'll get back to blogging as soon as I sort out these issues. Happy Reading!

     P.S. I'm finally getting around to reading Jack Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt, this year's Newbery Award Winner. Loving it so far!

    P.P.S. What are you reading?

    Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    KidLit Quote of the Day #2

    Thanks to all who have guessed at yesterday's quote. Today's quote comes from one of my favorite childhood books that I've read to my own children many times.

    He was a Real Rabbit at last, at home with the other rabbits. 

    If you have a guess, leave the title and author of the book in the comments section. Get an extra entry if you tweet your guess using my handle @wellreadchild or link to this post from your blog. Those who guess correctly by  Saturday 6/30/12 will receive a copy of Cy Montogomery's Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia. 

    Good luck, and have fun!

    Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter (Review and Giveaway)

    Thousands and thousands of years ago, a little boy named Kali was big enough to learn to hunt. After practicing shooting arrows, he sat down to rest and plucked his bow string. From that moment, he discovered a passion for music, and the music was so good that even the stars and mammoths came close to listen. Kali discovered a special talent within himself and used his strengths to become a healer instead of a hunter.

    Kali's Song is a beautiful book that celebrates art, finding your own passion, and using that passion to help others. Jeanette Winters' illustrations of cave paintings, mammoths, and Kali happily making music are rendered in acrylic paint, pen and ink, and handmade paper. Their simplicity and color add to the magic and message of the book. This is definitely one I recommend for personal and school libraries.

    Would you like your own copy? Go over to this post and guess which famous children's book the quote comes from. Even if someone has already correctly guessed, add your guess in the comments section by Friday 6/30 at midnight. I will randomly draw one winner to receive a copy of Kali's Song.


    The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    KidLit Quote of the Day Contest: Quote 1

    Tonight, we read 6 books, and as we were reading, I realized that there are some lines in books that just resonated with me, you know, the lines that make you smile and give you warm fuzzies. So, I thought we would have a bit of fun.

    Every night during our summer reading challenge, I'll post a quote from a book my kids and I read before bedtime. You guess the the book and author the quote came from, and you will be entered into a drawing to win a picture book for your family or classroom. The book will come from my personal collection. Sounds like fun, right?

     I'll make the first one a little easy for you.

     "...They roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws 'till Max said, 'Be STILL!'" 

    Those who guess the title and author right will be entered into the drawing to receive a copy of Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter. Submit your guess by Friday 6/30 at midnight.

    At the end of the week, I will do a random drawing from those who guess correctly from each post. I'll announce the winners and will send winners their books.

    For extra entries:
    • Mention the giveaway on Twitter using my handle @wellreadchild
    • Link to the daily contest from your blog and add your link in the comments section. 

    That's it! Be sure to check in tomorrow night for tomorrow's quote.

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    Summer Reading Challenge: Week 2

    We've been trapped inside due to a 100+ degree weather here in the DC area, so our evenings this week have been filled with reading. Instead of linking to every book we've read, I'm adding them to the widget in the right column of the blog and just highlighting some of the week's favorites in the posts.

     My little boy is COMPLETELY obsessed with The Monster at the End of this Book. I bought the iPhone app a while back, so he alternates back and forth between the book and the app. I love the interaction he has with the book as I race to read the words before he turns the page.

    I also picked up some books at Kohl's last weekend. Their Kohl's Cares Program offers books and stuffed animals at affordable prices. All of the proceeds go to help community initiatives. Kohl's isn't paying me to say this, but I really like the program and how I can pick up a book for $2.50 or $5.00 and sometimes pay $5.00 for a matching stuffed animal. This time, I bought two copies of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  for baby-shower gifts as well as The Very Busy Spider for my kids. I think we've read The Very Busy Spider about 20 times already.

    In total, we've read 30 books this week, bringing our total to 70! 230 to go! Our local library has a summer reading program for kids of all ages, where the kids can track their books online and come to the library for prizes when they read a certain number of books. I signed both kids up for that, and we're going in for our first prize this weekend.

    As for me, I am reading the most beautifully-written book I've read in quite a while - The Snow Child: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey. This is a retelling of a Russian fairytale. I'm a sucker for retellings of fairy and folk tales, so that was enough to lure me in. But oh my, is it a beautiful, beautiful story of a lonely couple in the 1920's Alaskan wilderness who build a child out of snow. I'm not finished and am purposefully not reading any reviews until I finish, but I am loving it so far.

    How is your summer reading going? Anything you or your children absolutely love?


    The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Summer Reading Challenge: Week one recap

    It's officially been a week since we started the challenge. I feel like I need some sort of book ticker that can count the books read. Hmmmm...

    Anyway, this weekend, we were recovering from various illnesses and had a lot of time to read. I don't have my lists of the books we read handy, so I'll post them in a different post.

    I do know that since the last update earlier this week, we've read 25 books, bringing our grand total to 40. 260 to go!

    I've also finished two "grown-up" books and have started three more.

    We've had so much fun reading. My daughter has decided that she doesn't want to read the same book twice, so she's set on reading every book in the house. It's pretty cool to see her examining book covers and asking me to read the titles, trying to figure out which one she wants us to read together. And it's always interesting to see if the cover and title of the book meet her expectations. I'm in the process of writing some blog posts about titles didn't quite meet them.

    Okay, so this week I want to continue reading about five picture books a night with the daughter, have a short individual reading session with my son every night and read something for myself every night.

    What are your reading goals for
    the week? How many books are you reading this summer?

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Summer Reading Challenge - Days 1-4

    I'm so excited that some of you have joined the summer reading challenge! Our challenge thus far started on Friday.

    My goals include:

    • Read 300 picture books or easy readers with my 5-year-old by September 4th 
    • Read with my 2-year-old every night 
    • Read something for myself every night. This is a tough one because I'm pooped by the time I get the kids to bed, but I've neglected my personal reading for a while. 

    So, here's how it's gone so far:
    Since Friday, my daughter and I have read 15 books. We normally average about five books a night, but we had a super busy weekend and didn't read as much on Saturday and Sunday.
    1. The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool
    2. Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex by Lisa McClatchy
    3. Potty Poo-Poo Wee-Wee! by Colin McNaughton
    4. Machines Go To Work by William Low 
    5. Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
    6. Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems
    7. I Am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems 
    8. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressedby Mo Willems (We are fans of Mo) 
    9. Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problemby Chris Monroe
    10. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
    11. The Cajun Cornbread Boy by Diane de las Casas
    12. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    13. What Dat? The Great Big Ugly Doll Book of Things to Look at, Search for, Point to, and Wonder About by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim
    14. Scholastic Discover More: See Me Grow by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris
    15. Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasonsby Il Sung Na 
    285 to go!

    My son and I have also read every night. He normally listens while I read with my daughter, but I'm making sure to give him his own special reading time as well. Here are some of his favorites:

    1. Where Are Baby's Easter Eggs? by Karen Katz
    2. Baby Lamb Finds a Friend by Laura Gates Galvin
    3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    It is so fun to watch him grow and learn to love books. He actually loves to read to my daughter and has many of the words memorized. So adorable.

    As for me, I'm reading the following books:
    1. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. 
    2. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy 
    So, that's today's update. What have you been reading? Feel free to leave your links in Mister Linky or comment below!

    Summer Reading Challenge

    The product links in this post are affiliate links. With every purchase you make through clicking on these links, you are helping support The Well-Read Child.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Summer Reading Challenge: Quest to 300

    My little chica will be starting Kindergarten in September. We attended the Kindergarten Open House at her school a couple of weeks ago where they passed out a list of reading recommendations for the summer. I'm still a little in shock how quickly the little baby in my arms grew into a sassy and spirited five year who walked into the school like she owned the place.  When I told her she had to read five books by the end of summer, she scoffed and said we would read 300.

    I'm always up for a challenge, so this past Friday, we started our quest to read 300 books together by September 3. We're talking about picture books and easy readers here because she's five, and we haven't been very successful with chapter books thus far.

    I'm using this blog to keep track of the challenge. If you'd like to join in, please feel free to leave a comment. I'll attempt to post daily.

    Happy reading!