Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Accidental Apprentice

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Author Amanda Foody has successfully ventured from the YA books to middle grade fantasy with The Accidental Apprentice (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021). I’m excited to see there’s already a sequel planned in the Wilderlore series for next year.

Orphan Barclay Thorne is happy to be an apprentice to the village mushroom farmer. But when he is scared off the path into the Woods he meets a Lore Keeper looking for the same mushroom he needs. The girl is trying to bond with a Beast but it goes horribly wrong and Barclay is bonded with a Lufthund. Driven away from home, Barclay’s goal is to break the bond so he can return home. To do so he must journey to the city of the Lore Keepers who think these monsters are their friends and pets. But does he really fit with his rule-laden village?

Read about Amanda and her other books here. Enjoy several interviews with her about this book here and here.

The cover illustration is by Petur Antonsson–see more of his art here.

Posted in Inspiration, Market Prep, PB, So Many Good Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Keeping Up with Picture Books

It could become a full-time job keeping up with all the new picture books coming out. And especially with libraries and many bookstores still being closed, it’s harder to do than ever. This is where I’m grateful for a number of blogs that help me stay in tune.

One site I’ve not shared before is Picture Book Builders. Formed by a group of well-published authors or author/illustrators, their goal is to explore“how one element of a picture book’s story or art manages to grab us or wow us or strike an emotional chord.” They take turns blogging about picture books. It may be an interview with a new author or illustrator about a book, or a recommendation of a new picture book, or maybe even a giveaway. The blog started in 2014, but I only discovered it last year. I subscribe—there are about 8 posts a month—so the info comes right into my inbox. A recent book from this site that I want to read is FIVE MINUTES (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is) (Putnam, 2019) written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

I think I’ve talked about Susannah Hill Leonard’s blog before. I’m interested in her “Tuesday debuts” and “Perfect Picture Book Friday” posts. For the latter, anyone can add picture books they are reviewing or recommending, too. Susannah’s shared books on Fridays aren’t always the newest books, so there’s a nice mix of old and new. One of her recent posts is a book I’d already discovered, but love so much I’M A HARE, SO THERE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021) by Julie Rowan-Zoch. Susannah posts about 3 times a week. Again, I subscribe.

And if you’re familiar with Storystorm, you probably already know about Tara Lazar’s Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). It’s not just a January idea month blog. Posts are often written by other authors sharing their inspiration for a book, a cover reveal, success stories, etc. Here’s a book birthday post I recently enjoyed: BIRDS OF A FEATHER! (Philomel Books, 2021) by Sita Singh and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Except in January when posts are daily, posts vary but usually there are several per week. Again, I subscribe to get them in my inbox.

And the final blog I depend on is Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating. Among her variety of posts there are always book giveaways—they aren’t always picture books, but I love the interviews and insights into these books. One that caught my attention recently was LITTLE EWE: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, 2021) by Laura Sassi illustrated by Tommy Doyle. Posts are daily! And, yes, I subscribe.

Do I look at these posts every day? No. Instead I take a few hours a few times a month and look at a batch of posts. Sometimes that means I miss out on giveaways from all of these sites, but since my main purpose is to get my eyes on picture books, that’s okay, too.

Do I like every book they share? Of course not. Books are very subjective. But I definitely find books I want to read. My library doesn’t always have them, but that doesn’t stop me from requesting they order the picture books!

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

The Star Festival

Perfect Picture Book Friday

In The Star Festival (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021) by Moni Ritchie Hadley and illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa, I loved learning about this Japanese festival of Tanabata Matsuri through the eyes of little Keiko. The parallels between the folktale of Orihime and Hikoboshi (lovers separated by the Emperor of Heaven) and Keiko and Obaasan (her grandmother) are fun. The twist on who gets lost was great. I like how the traditions of the festival are shown through the actions of the story. I love the bright illustrations, too.

This is the author’s debut picture book. The book is being launched virtually at Once Upon a Time bookstore on April 3rd. Read about Moni here. You can see some pictures that inspired the book on this page.

You can see the illustrator’s other books here and look at more samples of Mizuho’s artwork here.

Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Beyond the Bright Sea

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

So glad I didn’t miss Beyond the Bright Sea (Dutton Children’s Books, 2017) by Lauren Wolk. This award winning book was fascinating.

Twelve-year-old Crow lives on a small island in Massachusetts with Osh, the man who found her floating in a boat when she was a newborn baby. Crow is curious about her past. Where did she come from? What did her parents name her? Who had decided to give her to the tide? And why? And why are the other islanders besides Miss Maggie afraid of her? As she says, “I had a nagging need to know what I didn’t know.” Adventure with Crow and find out the answers when she learns them.

You can see the awards this book won here where you can also read about the author’s other books and their awards. Here’s an interview with her that talks about Beyond the Bright Sea. Laura is a Newbery honor winner for her debut bookWolf Hollow. Read more about Laura here and check out her art here. She’s also a poet.

Posted in So Many Good Books, YA Novels

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Labeled women’s fiction but with a fourteen-year-old character, I believe The Girl with the Louding Voice (Dutton, 2020) by Abi Daré will be a good read for teens, too. It’s such a moving story of hardship and perseverance. And a reminder of the importance of education that we so often take for granted.

In a small village in Nigeria, Adunni just wants to go to school like Papa promised her mother when she was dying. But her father needs money and sells her to an old man who already has two wives. Not only does she have to deal with being forced to have sex (not described graphically), but also with the resentment of one of the other wives. When Adunni is put in an even more terrible situation, she runs away. Only to be sold again–this time as a housemaid in an abusive rich lady’s home in far away Lagos. But Adunni is willing to risk working and speaking up for a chance at a better life no matter how hard things are.

I love the voice of the character–it’s clear from her words that English is a second language–but more than that Adunni’s determination and sense of right and wrong comes through. She is a so admirable. It’s satisfying to see her learning, too.

This great book became a New York Times Bestseller. I wish everyone would read it.

Amazingly, this is Abi Daré’s debut novel. You can read about her here.