Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reaching Readers: Through FREE BOOKS!

Summer is quickly coming to a close (What?! I know!)... And if your kids are anything like mine they're scrambling to finish up their summer reading goals, pledges, and contests.

Our favorite so far? This one:

No crazy goals. No crazy timelines. And, oh, did I mention? FREE BOOKS! That's some serious incentive!

Here are the deets:

1. Fill out the nifty Summer Reading Journal: You can pick one up at your local Barnes & Noble or print it right up from here: Summer Reading Journal

2. Hand it in at your local B & N.

3. Pick a FREE book from the list on the form (some seriously GREAT books here!).

Once completed, they'll even offer to announce the child's name over the loud speaker in congratulations. My girls declined (probably because they knew their parents would whoop and holler and completely embarrass them), but how cool!

Another super fun thing they're doing is having kids vote for their favorite heroes and places. Ballots and boxes can be found in store or you can print up a ballot here: Summer Reading Voting Ballot 
Each week's results are posted on the B & N website. Here are the leader's for this week: 

Kids have until September 6th, 2016 to turn in their reading journals and claim their free book. However, closing ceremonies for the Summer Reading Triathlon will be held on August 27th with the announcement of which heroes and places took home the gold, silver, and bronze metals.

So, get reading!!! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

The JumbiesThe Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Corinne La Mer is not superstitious. She is not afraid of the forest or the mean boys at the well. She is certainly not afraid of the jumbies. Corinne knows jumbies aren't evil spirits. They are stories made up by parents to keep their children in line.

But when a beautiful stranger bewitches her father, Corinne feels danger in the air. As the jumbie Severine plots to take over the island, Corinne must summon an ancient magic and all of her courage to stop it.

Baptiste's The Jumbies gripped me from the first page. I loved Corinne's tenacity, even if I'm sure I would have turned around at the forest's edge. The story paints an evocative world, full of diverse and interesting characters. Did I mention that there's also a witch? She is as unsettling as you'd want a witch to be.

This bold story of love, family, and friendship is woven on a backdrop of Caribbean folklore. It couldn't have been any better. Even if I wouldn't have followed Corinne into the forest.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 22, 2016

Words to Celebrate Abby Cooper's Sticks & Stones

Want to see what JOYFUL looks like? 

Here is a picture of our very own Abby Cooper taken just after she saw her middle grade debut Sticks & Stones on a bookshelf for the first time. 

In Sticks & Stones, the main character Elyse has a rare condition that causes the words others call her to appear on her arms and legs. Since she was a baby, most of the words have been pleasant. But Elyse is in middle school now and the words are not always kind. Sticks & Stones is an INSPIRING story about the way words shape us and our understanding of our place in the world.

So to celebrate Abby's debut, I asked what word others would use to describe her book. Here are their responses:

Jen Malone: This book shows that words have power, and none more so than the words we tell ourselves.

Brooks Benjamin: Abby's book does such a good job showing that everyone deals with hurtful words and than when that happens, there are people out there who can lift you up with the right ones.

Ronni Arno: Words convey feelings and thoughts that can change lives. It's important that we remember that and use our words wisely.

Chris Brandon Whitaker: I love stories that embrace our differences, whether they be about social, mental, or health matters.

Gail Nall: Goshdarnit, there are some really funny moments in this book!

Stefanie Wass: I could not stop reading this book!

Ella Schwartz: This book is truly such an original concept. A premise unlike anything I've read recently.

Melanie Conklin: Kids really need to hear that they don't need to be so hard on themselves. Elyse's story will inspire them to have empathy for themselves.

Laurie Litwin: I read this book in a sitting.

Jo Marie Bankston: We need stories like Sticks & Stones to remind us that words are powerful. They can inflict intense pain. Or they can help a person grow, learn, and love.

Becky Appleby: You can't help but to fall in love with Elyse and root for her to fully accept herself.

Rhonda Battenfelder: Elyse's strength and bravery are inspiring. 

As Abby celebrates her book launch, I hope that she feels all of our warm words surrounding her.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

K10: Insurgent

The Kidliterati Ten is an interview series with young readers. We ask them about a favorite book and hope you enjoy the answers.

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
My name is Marco and I turned thirteen yesterday. My favorite flavor of ice cream? It's probably strawberry.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?
I read INSURGENT by Veronica Roth. I chose it because I felt it would be a really good book and would have a lot more details than the movie. It's so good, I read two hundred pages in one day and didn't even realize it!

Can you describe this book in one word?

What was your favorite part of this story?
I liked the ending when she figured out why she was inside the fence.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?
I'd probably stick with my brother and wouldn't leave him. I didn't like how Tris kept turning her back on Four so many times and he kept coming back. If someone did that to me, I'd be like, "Are you kidding me?"

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?
It's a book that makes you want to read all day. It puts you in a different landscape and it feels like you actually see the characters and imagine it happening to you. It's really cool. And you get to imagine Chicago ruined. 

What do you think about the book's cover?
I think it's maybe about a corrupted environment with all the roots and branches of the tree falling apart. The corrupted tree, the corrupted factions, and the corrupted government - it all goes together.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?
Yes! I'm reading ALLEGIANT soon.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?
The HUNGER GAMES, definitely. It's also about a girl who is different. Katniss doesn't have a special power, but a special ability to shoot with a bow and arrow and she can't be controlled by the government. And there's a guy in that story too. Four and Peeta have a similar concept. And they are both against the government like Tris and Katniss. 

If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?
So many of your ideas are funny and cool. How did you come up with a ruined Chicago?

I was able to find an interview on the blog, POPSUGAR where Veronica Roth discusses how she decided to set the book in Chicago. In the interview, she says:  

I wrote a rough draft and I felt like it needed a more grounded sense of place, and I looked at the city I had described, which is all these trains constantly moving, and this lake marsh, and these rivers. And I realized that it was Chicago already, and it was just because that's the city I've known and loved the longest. 

Thank you, Marco!

by Veronica Roth 

One choice can transform you - or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves - and herself - while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable - and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: THE BFF BUCKET LIST by Dee Romito

The BFF Bucket ListThe BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rhonda's Bucket List:
1. Write my first-ever blog post for the Kidliterati  
2. Gush about a book I love
3. Share (embarrassing) pictures of myself

The last day of eighth grade with my BFF.
Check out my super cool shoulder pads and vest.
By the end of the first chapter, I knew I was an Ella and my BFF from eighth grade was definitely a Skyler. And just like Ella and Skyler, we were once faced with the super-scary summer between middle school and high school. When life moves in fast-forward and slow-motion simultaneously and you're desperate to keep the comfortable things the same while exploring new adventures. Dee Romito beautifully captures the essence of these relationships for middle schoolers in The BFF Bucket List.

Ella and Skyler are amazing friends, but they are slowly drifting apart. Hoping to save their friendship, Ella creates The BFF Bucket List. Skyler loves the idea and the girls set out on their super awesome summer adventure. It doesn't take long for new friends and the possibility of being separated in ninth grade to add obstacle-course-level challenges to an already rocky road for the besties.

Flash forward twenty-six years. 
I love that this book was written in dual points-of-view which allows the reader to develop relationships with Ella and Skyler. I immediately connected with both of the main characters and I saw so much of my middle-school-transitioning-to-high-school experience in their story. The BFF Bucket List touched my heart. It unlocked memories from my childhood as I followed Ella and Skyler on their journey. My BFF from elementary school will always be an important person to me. I wouldn't be who I am today without her and the amazing journey we shared together. Dee's book is a true gift.

I highly recommend The BFF Bucket List to middle-grade readers and anyone who is young at heart. As a teacher, I'm excited to use this book as a discussion tool with my students. It's a great way to explore evolving relationships and to help children understand a friend's point-of-view. Plus, you can create your own bucket list on Dee's website. I made one with my family at the beginning of the summer and we are having a blast checking items off of our list!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Author Spotlight on Stefan Bolz

The spotlight series brings to light authors’ approaches to writing for young readers and the secrets to their success. For this edition, Stefan Bolz will tell us his secrets to self-publishing, an option that’s increasingly common for both traditionally and independently published writers. Bolz is the author of a children’s book, a middle grade fantasy, several young adult novels, including the 2014 LYRA contest winner The Fourth Sage, and multiple short stories, in addition to regular posts on his blog.

Welcome, Stefan! It’s great to speak with such an enterprising author about the craft of writing for young adult readers.
SB: Thanks for having me, Chris.
You didn’t go the usual route of finding an agent or a small publisher for your middle grade fantasy The Three Feathers. How did you come to the decision to self-publish?
SB: I sent my first book out to several agents and publishers and got rejections from each one. However, a local 4th grade teacher read the manuscript for The Three Feathers to her class, and the kids loved it. So I decided to publish it myself. There is a lot of freedom in self-publishing. I can be as creative as I want to be, while keeping full control over every aspect of the process. On the flip side, self-publishing requires a lot of knowledge, and the learning curve was and still is tremendous.

You’ve self-published most of your books on Beacon Books, except for The White Dragon 01: Genesis, which was originally released by Wonderment Media. How did working with them change your role with the book?
SB: Wonderment Media was the publisher for a project called 'Apocalypse Weird,' a world not unlike the Marvel Universe. They eventually ran out of money, but it was an awesome experience. They took care of editing, cover design, formatting, etc., and all the authors for the project collaborated on marketing.  Since the publisher closed their doors, I have gotten the rights to the books back and self-published book one and now book two.

It’s recommended for independently published authors to hire a freelance editor to get the manuscript up to publishing standards. Who did you work with, and what was the collaboration like?  
SB: I have worked with two editors in the past, and I learned a tremendous amount from each one. I worked with David Antrobus on Dark World and The Fourth Sage, and he is excellent. The same goes for Ellen Campbell, the head editor for the Apocalypse Weird books, and I have worked with her on the second White Dragon book as well. I have also worked with Crystal Watanabe on a few short stories. Editing is essential for self-publishing authors. The better the book looks and feels, the better it reads, the more people are going to buy it.

Distribution is a challenge for self-published authors. In addition to Beacon Books, you also publish your novels using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). What has been your greatest challenge and success with distribution?
SB: It's hard to publish, period. Whether you self-publish or you're with a major publisher, it's not easy to find your audience. KDP gives me a lot of freedom. I can set my own price, or I can give away free copies once in a while. But the best way to sell more books is to write more books. There's no better way to get the word out than to have a nice catalog of books under your belt. The more books you have, the more reviews you have for them, the more your books come up in searches by readers.

In the last decade there has been a paradigm shift in how books are marketed. Which social media tools have you used to let others know about your latest work?
SB: I have a lot of friends on Facebook who share in my writing journey and who are kind enough to help out once in a while. I also help out fellow indie authors and in turn they help me with my own books. The other major part is a mailing list where readers can sign up and follow me on my Amazon author page. That way, whenever a new title comes out, they get an email. One other aspect is doing author days at schools. I've done many of them, especially for The Three Feathers, and it's a lot of fun to read in front of classrooms and interact directly with my readers.

As a sneak preview for our readers, please tell us about any upcoming projects.
SB: I'm working on The White Dragon 03: Alchemy and hoping to have that published by the end of the year. I'm also trying to make one of my short stories, The Traveler, into a movie. The screenplay is done, and we are now searching for producers. Finally, my short story The Night of the Hunted will be published in July as part of an anthology called The Shapeshifter Chronicles by Samuel Peralta.

Thanks for such an interesting interview, Stefan. We’ll keep an eye out for your upcoming stories and wish you well on the film project, too. They all sound very intriguing. All the best, Chris Brandon Whitaker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Congrats Abby!

Abby Cooper's middle grade debut
Sticks & Stones
hits bookshelves today!

What if words really can hurt you?

A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just "cute" and "adorable," but as she's gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like "loser" and "pathetic" appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like "interesting," which she's not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she's starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying "I know who you are, and I know what you're dealing with. I want to help." As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

Get your copy today:

Enjoy your big day, Abby. 
We can't wait for readers
to meet Elyse!


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