Monday, January 30, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Welcome to Monday!  Unfortunately I do not have a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review for you today.  I've decided to cut back on my reviews. With keeping up with my family, day job and writing, I'm not getting as much time to read.  So, rather than stress myself out trying to get everything done, I've decided to make a few sacrifices.  One is that I will be posting a MMGM review on just the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month.  Occasionally I may be able to review more often, but that's the plan for now.

I do want to thank everyone who stops by and also the fellow bloggers who shared my blog over the last few weeks (especially Natalie and Barbara!).  I reached my goal of reaching 50 followers by the end of January!  I also set it up so that you can receive my blog via email as well.  Just type your email in the box to the right and make sure to watch for a confirmation email.

So, with that news comes the exciting news of my first giveaway.  It will be in February as part of a MMGM review, so don't forget to stop by.  You won't want to miss it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday! I hope this post will be a help to those who love picture books and want to share them with their own children or those they teach.

Written by: Kelly DiPucchio  Illustrated by: Bob Shea

Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2011
Fiction for ages 4-8

Themes: pets, humor, friendship

Opening and brief synopsis:
To any outsider, Gilbert had everything a goldfish could ever want.
The one thing Gilbert wants the most in the entire world is a pet. A variety of pets arrive at his house, but none stay for long. Then Gilbert gets quite a surprise. Is it the perfect pet or something else….? (The ending is surprise, and I don’t want to give anything away. Kids will love it!)

Why I like this book:
Kelly is one of my favorite authors, I love the rhythm of her books, whether they are in rhyme or prose. Gilbert is written in prose and includes fun verbs and bits of repetition. The surprise at the end of the book is wonderful and may not be caught by very young readers, as it is in the illustrations not the words. Kids will love the suspenseful page turns and conclusion.


Perfect Picture Book Friday is a wonderful idea started by Susanna Leonard Hill.  For other “Just Right” books, visit her blog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Critique

Today for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, I don't have a published book to review, as I've been spending my reading time critiquing a critique partner's middle grade novel.  Obviously I'm not going to share any of it except to say that it is a great story and someday you should all have the chance to read it when it's published!

This experience has led me to wonder, for the writers out there, do you find it easy or hard to critique a manuscript for middle grade, or even young adult?  This was my first critique of a full middle grade manuscript. I've read plenty of picture books, short stories and shorter works, but never a full manuscript. I found that for me, when reading an entire ms, it is much easier to read and jot thoughts down as I'm reading and then make comments at the end.  When I tried to critique and catch everything, it took much too long (I think she wondered if I would ever finish reading the ms:) ) and I wasn't able to focus as well on the big picture and themes as they ran through the book. About 3/4 of the way through, I switched methods and was able to really focus and enjoy the story more.  Granted if a writer wants a more detailed critique, then I would be more than happy to oblige, but I also need to realize that it may take me longer than usual.

The other thought that has occurred to me lately is how much I have been missing when I wasn't reading middle grade books.  When I was young I loved to read, but the time just wasn't there as I got older and went to college, got married and had kids, etc.  But when I decided I wanted to be a writer and follow the advice of reading in your genre, I fell in love with middle grade all over again.  I rarely read adult literature, and I have found I don't miss it that much.  Yes, I will read new Debbie Macomber books, women's fiction or the occasional classic, but middle grade is just as satisfying a read and most of what is in my to-read list.

So what do you guys think?  Any critiquing comments or middle grade love to share?  Comment away!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Big Bug Surprise

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday! I hope you enjoy today's book choice as much as I did.  I have to admit it wouldn't be one I would normally pick, but I saw a recommendation on another blog and thought I would check it out.  I'm glad I did!
Written and Illustrated by: Julia Gran

Scholastic Press 2007
Fiction for ages 4 and up

Themes: patience, insects

Opening and brief synopsis:
Prunella was busy as a bee getting ready for school.
She had an important decision to make.
Which of her favorite bugs should
she bring for show-and-tell?
Prunella loves insects and likes to share her insect knowledge with everyone. No one really listens until she saves the day.

Why I like this book:
Prunella is a very unique character; she definitely stands out!  She stays calm under pressure and rescues her class, showing the importance of her insect knowledge. I love the way the insect vocabulary and information is woven into the story.

Big Bug Facts page in the back of the book, Bug Facts Insect Field Guide

Perfect Picture Book Friday is a wonderful idea started by Susanna Leonard Hill.  For other “Just Right” books, visit her blog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Turtle in Paradise

Happy Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!  Today I'm featuring TURTLE IN PARADISE  by Jennifer L. Holm.

by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House Children's Books 2010 (Hopefully I will try and remember to put the publishing info from now on. :) )

Here is the blurb from the back cover of the book. 

Folks have always told me that I look like Mama.

Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person's eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes and all she sees are kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.

I love this quote from the book. It sums up the characters of Mama and Turtle exactly.

TURTLE IN PARADISE takes place in Key West, Florida in 1935. Turtle is sent to live with her mother’s sister, so her mother can keep her housekeeping job (the lady who hired her doesn’t like kids). Once in Key West, Turtle meets her boy cousins; Beans, Kermit and Buddy. She starts to learn the ropes of living in Key West with her cousins and the other boys of the Diaper Gang and in the process, learns a lot about herself and those in her life she can really count on.

I loved this book and enjoyed learning about life in Key West. Holm was inspired to write the book based on stories of her great-grandmother who immigrated to Key West from the Bahamas in the late 1800s. The author’s note at the end contains factual information and pictures, as well as other resources for more in depth information about the time period.

I also loved the nicknames given to all the characters. It was interesting to find out the nicknames were a common tradition in Key West.

Without giving anything away, the ending was completely not what I expected, but also completely satisfying. This is my new favorite historical fiction middle grade book and I recommend it to everyone.

For more MMGM love, check out Shannon Messenger's blog and my favorite MMGM links to the right.  Oh, and stay tuned for an exciting giveaway in February.  For more info check out this post.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Substitute Groundhog

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday! Since Groundhog Day is only a few weeks away, I thought I would share this fun book about the holiday.

Written by: Pat Miller  Illustrated by: Kathi Ember

Albert Whitman & Company 2006
Fiction for ages 4 to 8

Themes: helping others, sickness, holidays, animals

Opening and brief synopsis:
The day before Groundhog Day, Groundhog woke up sick. His muscles ached and his throat hurt.

Groundhog goes to see Dr. Owl and is told to stay in bed for two days, but that means missing Groundhog Day. Rather than disappoint his friends, Groundhog decides to find a substitute groundhog to look for his shadow.

Why I like this book:
It was fun to see the different animals audition to be a substitute groundhog. Finding the perfect animal just in time allowed Groundhog to get the rest he needed. The illustrations made me feel warm and cozy while reading the book with my son.

The author’s website,, has many resources including a teacher’s guide and a readers’ theater script.

Perfect Picture Book Friday is a wonderful idea started by Susanna Leonard Hill.  For other “Just Right” books, visit her blog.

If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out my post from Wednesday about a surprise I have planned!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thank You and Future Happenings

         A Big Thank You!
Since I began blogging last fall, I've met so many new wonderful friends who all love books as much as I do. As I near the 50 follower mark, I wanted to say a special thank you to all of you for reading and commenting here. It is so fun to read your comments and thoughts!  Personally, I've set a goal to reach 50 followers by the end of January. If you love my blog, and would like to help me reach that goal, please share with your other "booky" friends.  I would love to have them as new friends as well.  And to thank you, I have planned a huge surprise for you all with my very first giveaway in February.  So, stay tuned and happy reading (and writing - for all you fellow writers out there!)!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Year the Swallows Came Early

by: Kathryn Fitzmaurice

First up for my first Marvelous Middle Grade Monday of 2012 is The YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY. First from the back cover:

"Expect the unexpected."

That's what Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson's horoscope says the morning everything begins to change. Suddenly, her father is in jail, her plans to attend culinary school when she grows up fall apart, and it feels like maybe nothing will ever be right again. But the swallows that return to her coastal town every year bring a message of hope with them that even Groovy can't ignore. Can she forgive the failings of someone she loves in order to bring her family back together again?

The underlying message in this book is what made it stand out for me. Both Groovy and Frankie (her best friend) learned the value of accepting people for who they are, no matter how they may appear at first glance. Along with this was the overriding theme of forgiveness, both for Groovy and many others in the book. Frankie was a prime example of the physical pain of not forgiving, while Groovy showed the physical and emotional side.

I loved seeing the positive changes in Groovy from the beginning to the end of the book. Interspersing Groovy's love of food and cooking was a great addition to the plot. I also loved reading about the swallows. It was cool how their arrival added to the main plot of the story.

I definitely recommend this book and am very excited for Kathryn's next book coming out in 2012 - A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT. If you would like to read an interview with Kathryn, check out Pam Torres' blog post from October. I was lucky enough to win the autographed copy Pam gave away.  Thanks again Pam and Kathryn!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Mr. Duck Means Business

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday! Today, I’m kicking off my inaugural post for this wonderful idea. I hope that my posts will be a help to those who love picture books and want to share them with their own children or those they teach.

Written by: Tammi Sauer  Illustrated by: Jeff Mack

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) 2011
Fiction for ages 4-8

Themes: friendship, sharing, compromise

Opening and brief synopsis:
Mr. Duck lived by himself at the pond.
Each day he followed a tight schedule.

Mr. Duck loves his schedule. He gets up at the same time every day, stretches his wings, fluffs his feather and glides across his pond. But one day his schedule is disrupted. How will Mr. Duck deal with the other farm animals invading his space?

Why I like this book:
Tammi writes in a very succinct and simple manner, making it easy for kids to understand. I loved all the action verbs used when describing Mr. Duck, and the illustrations fit so well with the story. The ending was great!


Perfect Picture Book Friday is a wonderful idea started by Susanna Leonard Hill.  For other “Just Right” books, visit her blog. Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Preview

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is good to be back on the blog.  I've been busy spending time with my family, reading and writing.  Now I'm ready to share books with you all again.  I don't have a review for today, but I did want to share the upcoming books I will be spotlighting.

My first three reviews will be:
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Hill Hawk Hattie by Clara Gillow Clark

And other books on my pile to share with you include:
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (I realize this book sits on the border between Middle Grade and YA, but I won a signed copy from a blog I follow, so wanted to share with you all.)

I'm so excited to share these books and many more with you! For more MMGM blogs, visit Shannon Messenger's blog and also check out my MMGM list to the right.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and a New Challenge!

Happy New Year!  Blessings to you all in 2012!

Today begins one of my writing challenges for the upcoming year - 12 x 12 in 2012.  Check out the cool badge for the challenge.
designed by  Linda Silvestri
I'm excited to reach all my writing goals in 2012.  If you're a writer, I wish you the best with your goals as well!