Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Interview with Jennifer Adams, author of the BabyLit Series

Want to learn more about the authors of the BabyLit series? I previously reviewed Jane Eyre and Alice in Wonderland, two board books for babies and interviewed Jennifer Adams. You can read the interview below:

What inspired you to write a series of board books based on adult classics such as Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and A Christmas Carol?

I wrote a book called Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen, which was a nonfiction gift book for adults that was a great collection of what other famous writers had to say about Austen. Then I wrote a book called Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent ABC Book for Grown-ups that was a fun take on Shakespearean characters and the plays. I was talking to my editor about what else we could do with Shakespeare and Austen for a modern audience, since they are so well loved and such perennial classics. The idea of BabyLit was born.

How do you and the artist (Alison Oliver) decide which elements of the books to include in the illustrations?

Alison is a dream illustrator to work with! She is very literate and reads all the originals carefully before we start. I make a lot of suggestions for illustrations, and she incorporates a lot of her own ideas too. For example, I suggested the little hidden bird that appears in each of the illustrations in Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre; she added all the adorable dialogue in the marriage proposal illustration in Little Miss Austen: Pride and Prejudice.

What have some of the reactions to the books been so far?

People have absolutely loved the books, which has been really gratifying. Parents Magazine named Little Master Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet one of the best children’s books of 2011, and they have nominated Little Master Dickens: A Christmas Carol as one of the best children’s books of 2012. Every once in a while you get a naysayer that says “Romeo and Juliet is not for babies! It’s a murder-suicide story!” or “The caterpillar in the Alice in Wonderland illustration is teal not blue! Oh no, you will scare your babies for life!” But I tend to get a huge kick out of those responses and they are about one in a thousand. The books have been overwhelmingly positively received.

Do you plan on writing more Baby Lit books in the future? Which books do you think you would tackle next?

Three books are slated for release next spring. Think of stormy weather on the moors, two sisters with very different temperaments, and a giant white whale. Can you guess what they are?

What is your favourite classic?

It’s always a toss up between Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird. Pride and Prejudice is so well-loved by me (and women everywhere) and I’ve read it more times than I can count. I think To Kill a Mockingbird is pretty much a perfect novel.

Thank you for sharing with us today!

About the author:

Jennifer Adams is the author of more than a dozen books, including all the books in the BabyLit series. She works as a senior editor at Quirk Books and lives in Philadelphia. Find out more at wordmusings.com. To see all the books in the BabyLit series, as well as tote bags, buttons, limited edition prints, and more, check out BabyLit.com.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Non-fiction Review: 52 Weeks of Non-Stop Bliss by Terri L. Cunkle

Publishing Info:

Title - 52 Weeks of Non-Stop Bliss
Author -  Terri L. Cunkle

Publisher - Outskirts Press
Date Published -  2011
# of pages - 106
Take some time out to truly enjoy your life This delightful book packs a year's worth of joy into 52 easy activities that you can do in about an hour or less each week. Written for those of us who are so busy, we forget to indulge in the simple joys of everyday life, 52 Weeks of Non-Stop Bliss reminds us how simple yet powerful the little things can be-things like listening to children's conversations, indulging in a special dessert, reaching out to long-lost friends, feeding birds in the backyard... The best things in life are affordable and easy, but they can be life-changing With 52 Weeks of Non-Stop Bliss, you can treat yourself to:
- 52 blissful activities
- 52 brainstorming journals
- 52 ways to be happy all year long.
Find everyday joy in the simple things in life and take the time to heal your soul.
This book is a really cute idea. Terri L. Cunkle writes about 52 different activities to make you happier - one for every week of the year. Though I found some of the ideas in this book inspired me to try new things in my life, I felt it could have been better overall if it had a little more depth to it. The book is actually more of an activity workbook with only one or two paragraphs to explain the activity and why the author thinks it will bring joy into your life. I also felt some of them were very unappealing and I would probably want to skip those weeks.
Here are some of the activities Terri L. Cunkle has suggested in her book:   

  • Week 6 - Feed the Birds
  • Week 11 - Thank Someone
  • Week 16 - Take a River Ride
  • Week 17 - Learn Something New
  • Week 33 - Be the Change in Your World
  • Week 42 - Go Through Your Photos
Overall, a lovely book. Get this if you want a little inspiration for weekly activities. If you looking more for motivation and the psychology behind happiness, I would recommend Bryan Cohen's book, The Post-College Guide to Happiness. Perhaps these two books could even compliment each other a little bit.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

You can purchase 52 Weeks of Non-Stop Bliss in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.com.
You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview + Giveaway with Terah Edun, Young adult fantasy author

Hello there! Today I have an interview with author Terah Edun. Welcome to the blog, Terah!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the book you’ve written?

Red Madrassa, YA epic fantasy, is my debut novel. The novel features five main characters, each with unique gifts tied to their talents. They enroll at the Madrassa, a magical academy for powerful young mages.

I’m a young American living abroad in East Africa. Most of my time and energy is spent saving the world. I’m kidding. But I do love my job. I’m a daydreamer who loves to read and at the moment I’m shaking my head at the crazy storm that has hit the Northeast, sending well wishes to all those affected and basking in the dry heat of my adoptive country.

What age bracket do you write for?

My book is intended for all ages but suitable for those 12 and older. There’s been a fascinating explosion of interest in the young adult market from individuals much older than the young teens who’d you think this market targets. I believe, because I’m one of them, adults at any age can enjoy a story written for young adults.

What kind of stories or topics to you like to write about in your book(s)?
What is the first line?

I love to write about teens finding their way against all odds and overcoming challenges.

First Line for Red Madrassa:
The sun was bright and the wind brisk as she walked along the beach, kicking up tufts of sand in her wake. She felt guilty – but not enough to turn back and apologize.

What was the hardest part about writing [your book]?

The hardest part was writing the Madrassa entrance exams. The characters have to go through several tests to achieve admission into the fabled school for mages.

It was incredibly difficult to get the scenes for each of their individual tests locked down. For instance, Sitara was dragged under water and she had to use her skills with Air to fight it. Describing a fight against living water is tricky – add in another element and it can get chaotic.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I’ve always enjoyed reading young adult fantasy – in particular the sub-genres of coming of age and epic. It just made sense in my mind to write what I loved to read.

Do you use visual aids while writing and/or brainstorming?

I love to watch Youtube clips from my favourite movies. The beautiful fantasy scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia, for example, inspire me to write and the soundtracks usually put me in my writing zone.

What is the editing process like for you?

I like to edit as I go. As I write a new chapter I’ll first re-read and edit the proceeding five chapters before it. With this method I can be sure I’ve read over each chapter multiple times. As I’m working I also hand off the manuscript to my best friend and beta reader for review. After the manuscript is completely drafted I send it to my Editor who goes through it with a chainsaw and then it goes to the Copyeditor.

What are some things that distract you while writing?

Friends! Friends who call, friends who text, friends who knock on my door and say let’s go out. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?

I never really saw the point. I love how a neatly made bed looks when I come back to my room, but I’m not a morning person. Taking the extra ten minutes to make it, yes TEN – there’s a bed net involved, would be a crucial drain out of my beauty rest.

What book are you reading right now?

Cinda Williams Chima’s The Crimson Crown – the last book in her Seven Realms series.

Do you ever spend the day in your pajamas?

All the time! It’s so loose and comfortable.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Yes! I’m doing a giveaway, (in addition to the eBook copy to you lovely readers), of a $60 Amazon Gift Card on my blog.

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Book Summary:

Allorna thought being a guardian trainee meant catching bad guys, occasional duty in the city docks and, if she was lucky, a posting with the imperial family. Instead, she was stuck on an assignment to petty larceny, caught breaking into prison and went on the run from her fellow guardians.

The only reason she went to the prison in the first place was for Maride – a young mage practitioner accused of murder. With Sidimo, a close friend and healer in tow, she now has to clear her name. Easier said than done when she and her friends accidentally enroll at the Madrassa, a legendary school of magic.

Alongside Vedaris, a sarcastic dragon and Sitara, a storm-caller, they work to get through the endless classes. The road they choose is not an easy one and each must come to decide whether the Madrassa is worth the work that is cut out for them.

Add it on Goodreads

Author Bio:

Terah Edun is a young adult fantasy writer born and raised in the Atlanta metropolitan area, who transplanted to the Northeast region for college, and now lives in South Sudan. She writes the stories that she always loved to read as a young girl.

Find her on her Website and Goodreads

Ebook Giveaway:

Enter the giveaway below!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Picture Book Review: Timmy Toucan Dropped 10 Guavas by Richard Garrett Dews

Timmy Toucan Dropped 10 Guavas

Words by Richard Garrett Dews
Illustrated by Toby Mike
Published by CreateSpace
Published 2012
32 Pages
Ages: Pre-K


What's more fun than toucan birds, guavas, and singing? Timmy Toucan Dropped 10 Guavas, a new pre-K and Kindergarten children's book from Richard Garrett Dews, helps young readers learn to count up to (and down from) 10. Kids pick up the catchy tune almost instantly, and the book's many happy lessons seem to happen without effort! Timmy Toucan, our jungle friend, and his pal Mike Monkey are frantically searching for 10 guavas that Timmy dropped. In addition to counting down Timmy's remaining guavas, readers count up the number of guavas found. Timmy and Mike, and the reader, search each illustration for one missing guava at a time. Ordinals are taught (1st, 2nd, etc), and so are directions (left, right, under, etc). Each illustration is a fun search for a missing guava! The sing-along song was created as a perfect compliment to the book, and sheet music is included on the book's last page. An MP3 instrumental version is available, from online music retailers, to lead and support young singers. It makes great background music (or a lullaby) when looped! Look for other books in this pre-K and Kindergarten series, from Richard Garrett Dews.

A line or two:

“Timmy Toucan dropped 10 guavas!
He drops so many things.
He has no hands to hold them.
A bird has only wings.”


Timmy Toucan is a great character for pre-schoolers! My daughter took to him immediately and even recognized Mike Monkey right away too. Now every time she sees a toucan she thinks it’s name is Timmy Toucan.

The book follows both Timmy and Mike as they try to find all the guavas they dropped in the forest. It’s a scavenger hunt, and a great way to get kids involved in the story. We had so much fun trying to find the hidden guavas in the picture. And talking about guavas – we learned about those too! I wasn’t sure what a guava was or how to explain it to a three year old so our curiousity took us to YouTube to learn all about them. While we were there we also looked for videos of toucans. It was just a great time, and I’m so glad we had this book to inspire us.

I loved the counting aspect. These books not only teach counting but also subtraction. For example, when we find one guava, then have nine still missing. This is even illustrated in a pyramid of guavas with the number highlighted for each one they find.

I can’t find any fault with this book and my daughter has already worn out her copy so much. It inspired a lot, and she learned a lot. Very highly recommend this series for young ones.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

You can purchase Timmy Toucan Dropped 10 Guavas in paperback from Amazon.com. There is also a colouring book version available.
You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Picture Book Review: Up A Tree With Chicken Soup! by Clayton J. Liotta

Up A Tree With Chicken Soup!

Words by Clayton J. Liotta
Illustrated by Clayton J. Liotta
Published by Liottastudios
Published in 2012
38 Pages
Ages ? (Young children)
"Up A Tree With Chicken Soup” is a charming story about the wonder of a child’s vivid imagination. Follow a young boy as he goes out in search of adventure, with Chicken Soup of course. Is it real or imaginary??? You be the judge... It is sure to bring out the child in us all...
A line or two: 

I reached the first branch and pulled myself up.
When I heard a small voice call out, "What's sup?"
I looked and there stood a very small mouse,
And he was standing right in front of a very small house.

My Thoughts:

After reading a loving Clayton J. Liotta's other book, I Thought I Saw a Dragon Late Last Night! I received a surprise package with three of his newest creations. Up A Tree With Chicken Soup! had the most intriguing title, and so, I picked it up first.

I love the art style in these books. You can tell they are all made by the same person and they are all formatted the same so they feel like a complete set. I know it's a little strange to be mentioning this, but so often that is not the case. Clayton has a very recognizable style though and easy to spot on the bookshelf so I know I'll be able to find another one quick and easy.

Up A Tree With Chicken Soup! is about a boy who goes climbing a tree to find some adventure. He sure does! There are all sorts of little animals there and they all at some point ask him for a little of his chicken soup in the thermos he brought along with him. At the end of the story he finally gets to sit down and have some himself but it's all gone. What do the animals do for him? They make him another batch of chicken soup so he can stay and sit a while longer! This story is so cute and fun to read. It really made me smile.

Another great addition to our growing children's book collection.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

You can purchase Up A Tree With Chicken Soup! in paperback from Amazon.com.
You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Picture Book Review: The Rainbow Stick Boy by Michael Santolini

The Rainbow Stick Boy

Words by Michael Santolini
Illustrated by Michael Santolini
Published by Michael Santolini
Published in 2012
18 Pages
Ages ? (Young children)

This is the story of Huey, a stick boy who is born a little different than everyone else in the town. He doesn't let his differences keep him down. Huey finds a friend who is also a little different and together they find the magic at the end of the rainbow, and discover that their differences are really only skin deep.

A line or two: 

Warmth came into the villagers' hearts and their colors were faded no longer. The rainbow reached down into Chromaville to bring back their happiness and vibrant colors.

My Thoughts:

This was certainly a well thought out book and had a wonderful message. Huey, a stick boy is the only of his kind - he's made up of all sorts of colours from the rainbow. It was clever how the artist illustrated this with little pieces of fibre. He brings all sorts of magic to the world, even though everyone thinks he is strange at first.

Unfortunately, I felt the book could have been a little more engaging. The writing feels a little stiff compared to other picture books I've read lately. I know the books my daughter loves best are those with words that flow right off the page. Either rhyming or sing-song-y. So I wish it were written just a little differently. I know this book is meant for kids a bit older but a book can always use that little magic to hold a child's attention.

Overall, a book with a good message and we can always use more of those!

A note: This is available on the Kindle but will probably be more appealing to those with a Kindle Fire. The colours were a bit hard to discern with a black and white ereader.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

You can purchase The Rainbow Stick Boy in paperback and kindle formats from Amazon.com.

You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Highlights from Waterloo Region: Spotlight on Picture Books

This feature was created in order to spotlight books which have been written by or set in the Waterloo Region of Ontario, Canada. You can click through to the archive if you would like to see a list of books local to the region.

Today's spotlight is on:

Bird Child
Author -  Nan Forler
Publisher - Tundra Books
Date published - 2009
# of pages - 32
Age - Children
Bullying and the ability to rise above it are at the heart of this strikingly beautiful picture book. All school-aged children have either bullied, been bullied, or witnessed bullying, and all too often, they feel powerless to stop what has been set in motion.

Such is not the case with Eliza. Her mother has given her “wings to fly” and the ability to see all the possibilities that lie before her. So, when bullies pick on the new student, Lainey, gradually robbing her of her smile and ability to paint beautiful pictures, Eliza wants to help, and she does, by finding a way to show Lainey all that she can be. Then in the schoolyard, Eliza stands up to the bullies. One by one, the other children add their voices, and soon the bullies have skulked away.

Lyrical and eloquent yet realistic and down to earth, Nan Forler’s text is complemented beautifully with Fran├žois Thisdale’s haunting images. This is a book for every child, every classroom, and every library.
Local connection: Local author
Find it on Goodreads 
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