Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

Spy Mice Blog Hop & Giveaway with Heather Vogel Frederick

Books for boys…I’m not ashamed to admit as a children’s librarian it’s probably my Achilles heel…somehow very early in my career I became a certifiable princess expert within the library scene. I was always sought out when the need for girly books was crucial especially when the treasured few princess books were checked out or falling to pieces from so much child love. And while I never minded because I got to do Daddy Daughter Tea Parties and wear a ball gown skirt and tiara for programs….this became much more complicated when I was blessed with my beautiful BOY. That’s right…the Mom who knew it all for girls was blessed with the bouncing baby boy! What’s a librarian and a Mom to do? Call in the expert…a favorite children’s book author who just happens to have raised two boys. Did I mention she also happens to be fabulous at writing for girls as well? All right it must be said…she’s just plain fabulous.

Who is she you ask? Well…I always had my go-to books for boys that I trusted every time and the Spy Mice series by Heather Vogel Frederick was always one of those that I went to for reader’s advisory for boys. Spies…mice..adventure…intrigue…what’s not to like? So how wonderful is it that they are now all new in paperback with covers meant to make them irresistible to even the most persnickety of young readers both boy and girl. Lucky for me author Heather Vogel Frederick decided to drop by and answer questions about her favorite mice and their risky adventures. Not only that Stiletto Storytime and The Styling Librarian get to give three lucky readers entire newly released sets of the series. Now that’s something to celebrate! It’s a series I will no doubt be stocking for my boy for on down the reading road. So read on and learn more about this great series and remember to enter to win on the form below by simply sharing your favorite fictional spy.

SPY MICE Q&A

 Author Heather Vogel Frederick

 Q:  What’s the best part about the relaunch of your SPY MICE books?

 A:  Knowing that new readers will have a chance to discover them!  These books are dear to my heart, and I had a blast writing them.

 Q:  What do you think of the new look?

 A:  Fabulous!  I couldn’t be happier.

 Q:  Can you tell us how the books came about?

 A:  Sure.  Not that long ago, in a galaxy not that far away, I had a bright idea. I’d write a story that would pay homage to my misspent youth, or at least the part of it misspent in the living room watching television. I grew up during the heyday of spy-fi TV, addicted to such shows as Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and The Avengers.  My 12-year-old self loved them all.  I loved the glamour, the gadgets, the whole cool factor of espionage, at least as Hollywood portrayed it.

 Grown-up me knew exactly where to set the story. The seed for that idea had been planted when I’d filed away a newspaper clipping about the building of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., along with a scribbled reminder.  (Note to self: Great setting for a story, à la E. L. Konigsburg’sFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”)

 I noodled around with the concept for a while, came up with a great main character (an aspiring fifth grade spy whose James Bond moves were seriously lacking), but something was missing.  And so I set the story aside and waited for that je ne sais quoi.  And waited.  I’ve learned to trust my muse—she often makes me wait, but she always comes through.  One day, the words “spy mice” drifted into thought, and I was off and running.

 Q:  Do you have a favorite character?

 A:  Mouse or human?

 Q:  Let’s start with mouse.

 A:  Well, the evil rat mastermind Roquefort Dupont is really fun to write, and I have a soft spot for Bunsen (Burner, a shy lab mouse).  I love it when he blushes—which he does often, because he has a crush on secret agent mouse Glory Goldenleaf.

 Q:  And the humans?

 A:  There’s a lot of me in fifth grader Oz Levinson, alas.  When I was his age, we both shared the same awkwardness, the same Walter Mitty-esque delusions of grandeur, complete with deflating reality checks. And we were both bullied.

 Q:  Really?

 A:  Yep.  I was plump, shy, and wore glasses, the trifecta of bully bait back then, at least in my particular corner of suburbia.  Nowadays, schools talk much more openly about bullying, and really make an effort to both prevent the problem, and give kids the tools to deal with it more effectively when it does crop up.  Back then, it was just something to be endured.

 Q:  Would fifth-grade you have appreciated a mouse ally?

 A:  Are you kidding me?  I would have been ecstatic.

 Q:  Who’s your favorite fictional spy?

 A:  Oz may dream of being James Bond, but when I was his age I dreamed of being Emma Peel from The Avengers.  No one wears a black leather catsuit like Emma does.

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Filed under Author Interviews & Posts, Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Heather Vogel Frederick, Middle Grade, New Books

Reading Challenge: My Life in Newbery

Children’s literature is really important to me not only as a children’s librarian but also as a reader and a parent. There is something about the books that we read as children that shape the readers we become later in life. They can often sometimes even depict or affect whether we will become readers at all. The John Newbery medal is an award given by the American Library Association to an author for their contribution to American literature for children. The award has been given since 1922. It is named for John Newbery, an 18th century English publisher of juvenile books.

 I recently saw a friend and former library colleague at Learning to Play the Bassoon create a sort of reading challenge by looking up the Newbery winners at certain points in her life and I wanted to take it and make it my own by doing something similar. Below I have created a list of books that have won the Newbery Medal during my lifetime. I thought it would be fun to read each of these books this year. I really don’t read as much children’s literature as I should anymore now that I am at home with Little Man and this seems like a fun way to incorporate some into my current reading.

I would love for others to undertake this challenge with me or even just commit to reading one Newbery winner this year such as the book that won for the year you were born. You can easily look the winning and honor books for each year here. Just for the fun of it….I would love for everyone to share what book won the year you were born and whether or not you have read it?

My Life in Newbery

The year I was born: 1981

Newbery Medal Winner: Jacob Have I Loved  by Katherine Paterson

The year I started kindergarten: 1986

Newbery Medal Winner: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

The year I turned 10: 1991

Newbery Medal Winner: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The year I started high school: 1996

Newbery Medal Winner: The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

The year I graduated from high school: 2000

Newbery Medal Winner: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The year I graduated from college: 2005

Newbery Medal Winner: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

The year I received my Master’s Degree: 2006

Newbery Medal Winner: Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins

The year Little Man was born: 2009

Newbery Medal Winner: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This year’s Winner for 2012

Newbery Medal Winner: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

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Filed under Award Winners, Children's Literature, Classic Literature, Middle Grade, Reading Challenge

Blog Tour: “A Wrinkle in Time” 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time Stiletto Storytime is pleased to be a part of the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs Celebration. As part of the second week of celebrating we are blogging about “sharing” this great book.

Personally the first time I read A Wrinkle in Time I didn’t get it. I was in middle school and I quickly went through the book and simply didn’t “get it”. Then the second time I read it, once again in middle school…I kind of got it. I got that it was special. As Meg says ” I got it. For just a moment I got it! I can’t possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!” And so began my cycle of re-reading this destined classic. A cycle that has continued from young adulthood into graduate school and beyond into my library career.

How could this book not be destined to be a classic although in many ways it was lucky in finding it’s way to print at all. The classic good vs. evil, dark vs. light, right vs. wrong…but for children. That was the key. For the first time someone was entrusting children with saving the world, with joining the ranks of Jesus, Gandhi and so many of the other fighters. Someone was given children worth not only in constructing a story of this magnitude where they were the heroes but in also creating a story that might be hard to “get” but believing that those children out there devouring each page would persevere even if it did take a few times.

That to me is what makes A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L’Engle special and the reason why it must continue to be shared. And what better way to share than with this dazzling new 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition which can rival it’s contemporary companions in shelf presence while providing a little something new for everyone to learn about their treasured favorite or new discovery, whichever may be the case. If you have not read this book I do hope you will let me share it with you now. Enjoy & Happy Reading!

About the 50th Anniversary edition:

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition features:

•       Frontispiece photo*†

•       Photo scrapbook with approximately 10 photos*†

•       Manuscript pages*†

•       Letter from 1963 Caldecott winner, Ezra Jack Keats*†

•       New introduction by Katherine Paterson, US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature  †

•       New afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Voiklis including six never-before-seen photos †

•       Murry-O’Keefe family tree with new artwork †

•       Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech

( * Unique to this edition    )         (   † Never previously published)

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Filed under Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Contests, Events, Middle Grade

Review & Giveaway for Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea? (Book 7)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_tgofztGxcvg/TKCptNsTFCI/AAAAAAAAAEk/yu5b-j32lj4/s1600/book7.jpg“It’s the Science Fair, and the second grade is all over it! Some kids are making man-eating robots. Some kids are holding their breath for a very, very long time. Some kids are doing interesting things with vacuum cleaners. The theme, obviously, is global warming. But what should Ivy and Bean do? Something involving explosions? Or ropes? Something with ice cubes? Or maybe . . . maybe something different.”

Let me start off by saying I am a big fan of the Ivy and Bean series. There is a truthfulness to the writing that I think really captures kids and the way they think. This is a series written for kids to relate to…not books written because parents want kids to relate to it. It’s quirky and full of random little bits of humor along with the essential ingredient: a good story. If you have children or work with them you know they can be fascinated and delighted by extremely small and often random things. (Example: The importance of who will sit on the state of Colorado on a rug shaped like the United States.) I really enjoy it when you can find an author who gets that and can work that childhood mentality into their books in a way that’s not fake or trying too hard. Book 7 Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea is no different than the first six volumes in the series. It’s clever, funny and extremely kid friendly….meaning kids “get it” and will enjoy reading it. Annie Barrows writing paired with Sophie Blackall’s expressive illustrations will have not just the kids but parents giggling as well. It’s a great choice for read-a-loud too since the humor really comes out on multiple occasions. So join Ivy and Bean as they tackle a new problem: global warming. That’s right Ivy and Bean are going green!

Want a sneak peek at Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea ? How about a copy for that special little scientist in your life? The always generous Chronicle Books will give one lucky reader of Stiletto Storytime their own copy.  Simply comment below with your email address. US and Canada addresses only please. Giveaway ends midnight December 9th, 2010.


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Filed under Blog Tour, Children's Literature, Girly Books, New Books

Review: A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker

A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker: Book Cover “Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States. As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta. When his parents were kids, they too embarked on an excursion into the unknown. Their encounters with the wilderness beyond their backyard have shaped the future for Joseph and Delta. A Place for Delta is about one family’s journey—a passage born in the Appalachian Mountains and leading to the Arctic seas.” -Synopsis from Publisher
The Old House at Paradise Delta Eating Whale

A Place for Delta is a very simplistic story really. One you might overlook on the shelf at the bookstore in passing… but don’t because it is destined to become a classic. It is a book that returns us to a time when children’s books were really about something and made you feel things as a child and question the world around you. So simplistic in its plot and wording it still manages to become a work of literary art. A young boy on a journey far from home to help save something so precious and yet something we so often forget to treasure- the natural world that surrounds us. A story of the appreciation for the wild no matter the location and the fight to save its creatures. Friendship, love, bravery and even some sneaky detective work make for an exciting read with an essential message woven within. A Place for Delta is a a must read for children interested in the environment, animals and the preservation efforts of both.  Walker has found the perfect balance of traditional storytelling and modern elements to keep kids and adults reading until the last page. The illustrator Richard Walker has also contributed the perfect art for the writing which plays out in simplistic and beautifully rendered sketches throughout the book.
While generally my reviews tend to be more abstract, A Place for Delta connected with me as a reader on a very personal level which prompted a more personal review. For example an advantage I had when reading this work particularly was that I am a Southerner who has lived in Alaska. My parents called Fairbanks home for two years and so I know the landscape and culture that Walker portrayed and I must say she was spot on as she was with her descriptions of the southern wilderness as well.  This authenticity only makes the book more real and meaningful for readers.
Personally as a young child I felt drawn to books like My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I think I was drawn to that wilderness element, where you connected with the wild on a level where civilization got left behind. It was a kind of paradise to me. I immediately felt that same kinship when I began reading A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker. It is that simplistic view of nature as what guides us that seems to draw me into these types of books. While A Place for Delta s not a true survivalist story like the ones I have mentioned, in a way it is. It is the fight for survival not for humans but for the wild and the animals who live there. I was very impressed with this book and would recommend it  to boys and girls alike. I think it will resonate for many ages as well even as a read-a loud or book club pick. The book also comes with additional notes in the back such as a glossary, sources and other fun informational links to facts about locations and animals present in the book. Parents will also be happy to find a higher level reading book that is both education and a good clean read. No worries about content or language. The books is said to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the next book. A Place for Delta has also become the recipient of the 2010 international book award winner for best children’s fiction. Quite an accomplishment for a book published by a small press that is committed to bringing out books with a strong focus on the natural world and the people and wildlife living within it. Way to go Whale Tale Press!
*And if you don’t want to take my (adult) word for it check out this review at ten year old Melina’s Reading Vacation Book Blog*

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Filed under Award Winners, Children's Literature, Children's Picture Books, New Books

Heart of A Child Challenge

Well I am little late on this one but I will have to join. I just can’t let a chance to go back and read my favorite books from childhood  slip past! The challenge is to read 3 to 6 books between February 1, 2008 and July 14, 2008, choosing from books and authors that you discovered, loved, or adored as a child. Anything and everything that you read through the age of 18 would qualify.
For more details visit Becky’s Book Reviews.
I am so excited. There are just too many to choose from. So far my list will have to include:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Chimney Witches by Victoria Whitehead
What would you read? If you can do the challenge…go for it! If not what would you choose to re-read if given the time? I want some time to think of my other four books…my head is simply swimming with possibilities.

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Filed under Challenges, Children's Literature