Friday, August 18, 2017

Poetry Friday - Thoughts and Alligators

It’s Friday! And you know what that means: Poetry! Want to know more about Poetry Friday? Click this link right here. And be sure to check out A Journey Through the Pages to see this week’s round up of wonderful poetry related posts, blogs and goodness. 

I am giving away a signed copy of Rodzilla, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Dan Santat. Enter here!

Like so many others, I am speechless, baffled and horrified by all the hate in the world. I've tried to wrap my head around it and I just can't. Hatred is so insidious and vile and it has been left to fester for so long. How can I even begin to make a difference as an individual?

While pondering all this, something that my daughter said a few months back came to my mind. I wrote a longer post about the encounter, which you can read here, but what she told me just blew me away. She said "love is stronger than strong." And it is. How do we combat hate? By opening our hearts and showing more empathy and compassion. It certainly is a start.

Now on to something a little more lighthearted. For those wondering, my daughter's and my pedicures went fabulously. She, of course, got sparkly pink toes, while I'm now sporting dark purple on my digits. 

This week I drew some inspiration from a not-so-little reptile friend. As an aside: did you know that alligators are more closely related to birds than to other lizards? Crazy! 

Anyway,  there is a golf course near our house where I often see an alligator basking in the sun. He just plops himself down and relaxes. It got me to thinking about summer days and how animals spend their free time. So I came up with this little poem.


He lumbers
Over the weedy bank,
Dragging his scaly belly 
through cool mud.

Summer rays
Warm his armored back
While egrets and herons
Fish nearby.

One quick CHOMP!
Is all it would take. 
But even old gators
Need lazy days.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Thank You and Good Night - Picture Book Review

I am giving away a signed copy of Rodzilla, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Dan Santat. Enter here!

Buy Here
 Thank You and Good Night
by Patrick McDonnell
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2015)

At a Glance


  • Wonderful, sweet story
  • Beautiful watercolor illustrations
  • The ending just makes you smile
  • The prose, especially towards the end, is perfect. 


  • I can't think of a single one

You know that you've struck gold when you don't want to return a picture book to the library. I kept hold of this one until the last day, and it legitimately saddened me to drop it in the return chute. I now have it on order from Amazon. I do not buy very many books, but I cherish the ones that I do. For me, this is an instant classic.

Text and illustrations ©  Patrick McDonnell

The illustrations, done in pen and watercolor on handmade paper, are beautiful. I consistently enjoy McDonnell's style and this one doesn't disappoint. 

The story starts out cute enough and gets better as it goes along. Three little friends have a fun time during a sleepover. When it's time to lay down, they go over all the things they are thankful for during the day. The prose here is beautiful. The ending, which was a happy little twist, filled my heart with unexpected joy. I could read this one every night to my children.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/14/17

The weekly post where I recap all the KidLit books I’ve been reading. Occasionally, I’ll also review some adult fiction books as well.

Be sure to check out Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to see what other kidlit readers are reading. Because, you know, we can never have too many books in our TBR pile.

I am giving away a signed copy of Rodzilla, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Dan Santat. Enter here! (It is really quick to enter) 

Picture Books

School's First Day of School
Written by Adam Rex
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

My daughter goes back to school today, so I thought that this would be a good one to read. She picked it up and read it a few days ago, and then, when I grabbed it to read to her, she said "Ooo! This one is a really good one." It goes through all the 1st day jitters in a funny, creative way. Definitely worth checking this one out.

Not Quite Narwhal 
by Jessie Sima 

Very cute illustrations with a good message. I think a lot could be discussed with a child using this book. Not only does it deal with feeling different, but the nervousness that can come with talking about how you feel. Will your friends accept you anyway? Do you have to only be a part of one group or another? Can you only be friends with one type of person? Overall a really good book.

Dragons Love Tacos
Written by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

I've been wanting to check this one out for awhile. It's been on the NYT Bestseller list for like 180 weeks. It did not disappoint. The illustrations are fantastic and the text is snarky and funny. My daughter laughed out loud at the end. We will be reading this one again. 

by Patrick McDonnell

Jane Goodall was a huge hero of mine when I was a kid. I wanted to be just like her. I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot as a child. My daughter liked it. I always like to see books that show kids that they can do things now to make a difference. 

Families, Families, Families
by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang

This is a cute book that explores all the different options for families. My daughter's best friend is adopted, so she sometimes asks questions about how that works. I like the different animal pairings. For example, 2 sheep adopt two wolf pups. It is told with simple, straight forward language, and emphasizes that love is what makes a family. 

Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Cute, engaging illustrations. The story is fun too. It touches on trying to fit in, finding your place, and family dynamics. I liked the idea that there was one job that only little Spork could do. I also liked that Spork tried to change who he was, but ultimately it didn't help the situation, or himself. I think this could be a great talking point with kids.

Graphic Novels

Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson

Full disclosure: I used to play roller derby, so the sport will always have a place in my heart. That definitely played a part in how much I enjoyed this book. With that said, you do not need to know anything about roller derby to enjoy it. It is an all around great coming of age story. The main character is 12, on the cusp of junior high, and is dealing with all the emotions and friend drama that often times accompanies this stage in life. I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun, engaging story.

 Amulet: The Stonekeeper
by Kazu Kibuishi

Apparently, I have been living under a rock. I just heard of this graphic novel this past week. I have been craving a graphic novel series. There are many many stand alones, which is fine and great. But I've been wanting to find a series. And--ta-da!--I discovered Amulet. The illustration style took me a bit to get into, but I was hooked from the get-go with the story. I can't wait to check out the next one.


American Gods 
by Neil Gaiman

I started listening to this as an audiobook and then finished reading it after the TV series was done for the season. I was highly disappointed in the TV show. I know, given the reviews of the show, that I am in the minority. The book was fantastic. I could write a whole post on it, and perhaps I will. I loved the language, the characters, the land. It was just wonderful and thought provoking. I did not see the ending coming either, which is unusual for me. If you like Gaiman's style, pick it up. If you didn't like the show, try the book. If you liked the show, try the book too--it's better. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rodzilla - Book Giveaway + Author Interview

Update: Congrats to Jeff K. for winning this month's book! Watch out next month for another great book giveaway!

Buy Here
Written by Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Dan Santat

I am so super excited to kick off this month's book giveaway! It is the wonderful picture book, Rodzilla, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Dan Santat. I am fortunate enough to have met Rob Sanders at a few writing conferences here in Florida, so I couldn't wait to pick this one up. I actually did a quick review of it last month, which you can see here.

My whole family really enjoyed Sander's eye-witness account of the rampaging dinosaur toddler. We have a toddler of our own who is just starting to crawl and get into all sorts of mischief, so this was perfect.

Every time I have seen Rob in person, I am always so impressed by his willingness to help fellow writers on the journey. He really is just a great guy. I was able to ask him a few questions recently which he was kind enough to answer below for your reading pleasure.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post! The contest runs from Saturday, August 12th at midnight EST to Saturday August 19th at midnight.

An Interview with Rob Sanders

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I’m an elementary language arts teacher, so that takes a lot of my time. I also critique manuscripts, lead and participate in critique groups, and serve as the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Florida. I enjoy growing succulents, spending time at the beach with family, and helping to care for Angel—the world’s largest Yorkie.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to be everything I saw on TV. Now keep in mind, I was a child of the 60s and 70s so I wanted to be (in no particular order) a cowboy, an astronaut, Johnny Quest’s brother, or a singer and dancer (like on The Carol Burnett Show and other variety programs). I also loved art, and thought I might be an artist. By the time I was in high school, my interests had switched to music—especially opera and musical theater. Ultimately, in college (and through volunteer work I was doing), my interests changed again and I switched my major from music performance to elementary education. During graduate school I began writing religious education curriculum materials and within six years was working for that publishing company. Another switch!

What do you think makes a good story?

Stakes. Tension. Pay off. Something has to be at stake for the main character—a problem, a situation, something. Then the action (or tension) must rise to keep the reader turning the pages. And there must be a pay off—an emotional impact, a satisfying ending, and a reason to want to read the book again and again and again.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I had (and still have) tons of Little Golden Books that were read to me again and again when I was young. My favorite elementary teacher (and current Facebook friend), Mrs. Janet Henley, read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series to us, one chapter a day. She also took us on a field trip to Laura’s home in Mansfield, Missouri. Of course, I loved those books. Another favorite, which I still have, was a nonfiction book entitled Illustrated Minute Biographies: 150 Life-Stories of Famous People.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’m getting ready for a new school year to begin, so I’m reading lots of teacher-ly things. However, some of my favorite picture books that I will use to begin the school year (besides my books, of course), are: The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade (Roberts/Robinson), School’s First Day of School (Rex/Robinson), Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White (Sweet), The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Bryant/Sweet), I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (Levy/Baddeley), She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World (Clinton/Boiger).


Cowboy Christmas (Golden Books/Random House)
Outer Space Bedtime Race (Random House)
Ruby Rose—Off to School She Goes (HarperCollins)
Rodzilla (Margaret K. McElderry Books)


Ruby Rose—Big Bravos (HarperCollins, August 2017)
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (Random House, 2018)
Stonewall: The Uprising for Gay Rights (Random House, 2019)
Ball and Balloon (Simon & Shuster, 2019)


And find me on Facebook!

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Poetry Friday - Toes

It’s Friday! And you know what that means: Poetry! Want to know more about Poetry Friday? Click this link right here. And be sure to check out Reflections on the Teche to see this week’s round up of wonderful poetry related posts, blogs and goodness. 

Interested in doing a Zine Swap? Check out this post!

I cannot believe that the school year is upon us again. Back in June, it felt like each day was a slow easy summer day. And then July passed in a whirlwind. My daughter goes back to school on Monday. In preparation, I have been trying to get my hands on the poetry book,  A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

The book follows 6 young kids, ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade, as they traverse the first day of school. Each part of the day features a poem told from the perspective of each child. 

What I really like about the book is that it captures real emotions--the worries, hopes, and dreams of the kids--as they embark on a new school year. It is nice to have a change of pace from the silly, bouncy, funny children's poetry that I normally read. 

To prepare for my daughter entering the 2nd grade, we've decided to start a new Mommy-Daughter tradition. We're going to go to the salon and get pedicures before meeting her new teacher this evening. 

She is so excited that she's finally old enough to go and get her nails done. Unlike me, she is very much into pink, purples, princesses and hairstyles. She loves to feel pretty, so it should be a lot of fun for both of us.

With her going back to school, I've been pondering just how big she has grown. It is crazy and unreal and happening way too fast. So, with that in mind, I decided to feature my daughter's little toes in my poem this week. 


Tomorrow I am kicking off a giveaway of the picture book, Rodzilla, with an interview with the author, Rob Sanders. Check back tomorrow to enter to win!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Splatypus - Picture Book Review

I was actually lucky enough to win a copy of Splatypus during a giveaway over on Unleashing Readers. A huge thank you to Kellee and Ricki who run the amazing blog. While it was created as a resource for teachers, anyone looking for some good books to add to their to-be-read piles should check out their blog. 

Now on the the review!

Buy here
Written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 
Illustrated by  Jackie Urbanovic
(Two Lions 2017)

At a glance:


  • Fun, bouncy lines goes right along with the story
  • beautiful, texture-ful illustrations
  • great message about trying new things, making mistakes, and being different
  • The main character is a PLATYPUS (that's one of my favorite animals)

  • The rhyme scheme tripped me up a few times, but went more smoothly on a 2nd reading

I have a friend that likes to call me a platypus. She says I'm a little bit of this and that and I don't quite fit into any one mold. I like to try a little bit of everything in life. So I can relate to the platypus in this book. Platypus sees other animals having fun jumping, climbing, and running so he decides to give it a whirl. But he's not as good at the other animals. 
Illustrations © Jackie Urbanovic   Text © Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

The poetry has a rhythm that mimics the hopping and skipping done in the book, which I really enjoy. A few of the stanza's meter/rhyme threw me off, but on a second read, it went smoothly.  The illustrations are great and have a lot of texture. 

This would be a good book to read as a starting point to talk about being different and/or not being afraid to try new things. Most people aren't successful on their first try, and Splatypus demonstrates how you sometimes just have to make mistakes and then pick yourself back up and try something new.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

August Writing Goals

Whoa. So July went by super fast. I have been having so much fun posting book reviews and writing a bit of poetry, that I forgot to give an update on how my writing goals went for July. Overall, I am pretty happy. There's always room for improvement, but that is life. So, without further ado, here's the update!

July Goals Review:

  • Finish final draft of Madam Fang and submit it (Oops...yeah, I dropped the ball.)
  • Write 2 instagram poems (I have successfully posted poetry every week for the last 4 weeks!)
  • Run book giveaway (Heck yes! And there's another going live this Saturday)
  • Daydream more about potential story ideas (I was able to do some brainstorming, but not as much as I would have liked)

August Goals:

  • Finish final draft of Madam Fang and submit it for publication and Rising Kite contest
  • Continue weekly book reviews
  • Continue weekly poetry reviews
  • Start working on my Zine
  • Hold book giveaway
  • Read 3 books
  • Daydream a bit more about potential story ideas

          Poetry Friday - Thoughts and Alligators

          It’s Friday! And you know what that means: Poetry! Want to know more about Poetry Friday? Click this link right  here . And be sure to ...