Monday, June 27, 2016

Hard-boiled Kid Detectives

I love me some Sam Spade and Mike Hammer. The lingo of the P.I. is so hypnotic, the opening narration of a dame sweeping into the smoke-filled office, slapping down a fat wad of cash as she demands that her husband be followed, that lousy two-timing no-goodnik.

Okay, that's pretty outdated, but talk about "voice"! You get drawn right into the sights, smells, and sounds of the action, listening the to P.I. process all the details.

Now, put a kid into that role, and that's a recipe for dynamite. Here are two books featuring an incredibly memorable kid P.I:


One of my favorite humorous middle-grade books of all time. Fletcher Moon, nicknamed "Half-Moon" due to his height, runs a one-man detective agency. He's a hard-core, old-school tec that will solve your problem, whatever it is ... at the right price.

The book starts with that same Sam Spade rhythm -- hearing it come out of a kid's head had me in stitches. And then when he describes the three types of playground fights, I was on the ground laughing. My favorite is the "Hold Me Back," where two kids yell "hold me back!" (so their friends hold them back, and thus they don't have to fight). Although, the "Windmill" is pretty funny too, two kids wildly circling their arms as they close the gap ...

Along with an engaging mystery where Fletcher has to team up with one of his enemies, the HALF-MOON INVESTIGATIONS is a winner.


I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at opening pages. This is Howard narrating as his mom walks into his room:

"She didn't knock, just barged right through the door like she owned the place. She did own it, but that was beside the point. I told her to scram; a man's room is his castle.

"Some mornings I should just keep my mouth shut."

And later we find out that the trenchcoat he wears to make himself look like a P.I. ... is really an old brown bathrobe. There are so many hilarious moments like that. Kept me turning the pages.

Well, that's all for me, toots. Whoops! I mean, good readers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Spotlight on WHO WINS?

WHO WINS? by Clay Swartz, illustrated by Tom Booth

THIS BOOK!!! I was super lucky to receive an advanced copy from Workman Publishing and, I'm telling you, it has brought us hours of fun, laughs, crazy scenarios, and learning. My girls and I have discovered some of history's baddest, coolest, craziest, most interesting and influential personalities, many of whom we'd not heard of. Mostly, anything that has us pitting Pablo Picasso with Joan of Arc in a babysitting battle is solid gold! The book is gorgeous... spiral bound, lovely illustrations, and made in the quality we've come to find with Workman Publishing.

It's a sort of flip-book, so you can randomly pick the battle and opponents or intentionally choose who you'd like to see go head-to-head. Author Clay Swartz provides a short bio along with a few quirky facts about each individual. Key attributes one might need to win the specific battles are also provided. For instance, say the battle is a karaoke sing off. To do well, a contestant would ideally want to be brave, have a bit of charisma, and a certain level of intelligence. Keeping that in mind, at the bottom of the page, the reader will find each historical figure's personal attributes are rated on a scale of 1-10. So, really, you've got everything you could possibly need to responsibly choose a winner. But, of course, much debate is sparked=super FUN!

About the book...

Let’s say Charles Dickens challenges Mother Teresa to a lightsaber duel—they’re both equally fit, so will his superior artistry overcome her advantage in bravery and leadership? Or who wins karaoke—Nelson Mandela or Jane Austen? They certainly both have a way with words, but Mandela’s over-the-top courage might take the day.

Mixing and matching 100 historical figures in 50 competitive categories, from Ping-Pong to climbing Mount Everest, Who Wins? turns history into a compelling game, which means kids learn while having fun in the process. Each of the famous people is given a short bio and ranked in six categories—bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness.
And because there are no right answers, the reader decides, and in the very act of deciding and justifying the answer, real learning has taken place.

WHO WINS? will be available July 12th, 2016 and is up and ready for pre-order from all of the usual bookish places. Definitely check it out!

Be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win your own copy of WHO WINS? (US only)!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: THE YEAR WE FELL APART by Emily Martin


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

There’s nothing I love more than books that involve flawed characters making epic mistakes. And this is one of those books. Harper makes some big mistakes, but she’s portrayed realistically. I yelled, cheered, and cried as she progressed through the book. Nothing is easy in this book. But that’s real life. 

Martin has created a story that really shows how hard it can be being a teen. A story about mistakes, rumors, first love, friendship, family, and forgiveness. It’s beautifully written in a way that makes it virtually impossible to put down. The perfect summer book.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cover Reveal: FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

I'm so excited to help reveal the cover to Ellie Terry's debut middle grade novel-in-verse, FORGET ME NOT!

Waaay back in 2014, I was a mentor for PitchWars (which, if you're not familiar with it, is a contest in which agented and published authors mentor writers who are seeking an agent). I got lots and lots of entries in my inbox, but among the ones that really stood out was a beautiful novel-in-verse from a writer named Ellie Terry. I adored the writing, but ultimately chose a different author to mentor for that contest. Luckily, another mentor (the fantastic Joy McCullough-Carranza) snatched Ellie's work up, and she got into the contest anyway.

As I've found with contests like this, you develop a sense of attachment to and pride in the writers you meet through the process. So when Ellie signed with an agent and then landed a book deal, I was so excited for her! And now, she's here on Kidliterati to share the beautiful cover for her book, FORGET ME NOT.

So, enough from me. Here's what you've really been waiting for . . . the cover!!

And here are Ellie's thoughts on her cover . . .

You know how some authors just KNOW exactly what they want their covers to look like from the moment they first put pen to paper? Yeah, that wasn't me. But that was okay, because my book's designer, Anna Booth, didn't need any input from me to create a beautiful cover for FORGET ME NOT! The day I received the first email with a black and white cover sketch, I was equal parts terrified and excited to open the attachment. When I did, I was . . . really surprised. Don't get me wrong. I liked it. I liked it VERY much! It was just so different than anything I had thought of (and for the record, way more gorgeous, than anything I had ever thought of). But when the full color version came in, I fell head-over-heels in love. I loved the colors. I loved the flowers and the rocks. And I felt as though I had somehow hit the book cover jackpot!

About the book:

FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Ages 10-13

Astronomy-loving Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school realize she's different. Only Calli’s neighbor, who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is—an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public? As Calli navigates middle school, she must also face her mother's new relationship and the fact that they might be moving—again—just as she starts to make friends and finally accept her differences.

About the author:

Ellie Terry writes about things that hurt her heart. She is a poet, writer, and reader who is also diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. She enjoys picking flowers and baking brownies, and has a slight obsession with the moon.

Her debut novel, FORGET ME NOT, will be published March 14, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. You can visit her website, say hi to her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

And don't forget to add FORGET ME NOT to your Goodreads' to-read list

For more fun, check out Ellie's journey from Pitch Wars to published author here, and see her original Pitch Wars entry here!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll BonesDoll Bones by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zach, Alice and Poppy enjoy making up adventure packed and daring stories while they play with their dolls, action figures and cardboard props. It's something they really love to do, something that's a fundamental part of their lives and who they are. Then, Zach's action figures go missing and he decides to stop playing all of a sudden with no explanation. Consequently their lives and friendship dramatically change for the better or worse.

I loved the writing in this book. It put me through a very strong range of emotions, from pure anger (and eye-rolling) to awkward laughter. At times I disliked the book so much because of situations younger me could identify with. Although to be honest, I had to make myself stop and reflect on why I was feeling that way to finally come to said conclusion.

Of all the characters, I disliked Poppy the most because I used to have a friend like her.
I found the fact that the story remained with one foot in contemporary and the other in magical realism/mystery utterly confusing and seriously annoying. And yet I still couldn't help but like it and I guess that says a lot.

This is a emotionally packed coming of age story about what growing up means to three kids who have been friends since a very young age. It is definitely NOT a creepy/scary book. If you know of a kid transitioning from childhood into teen-hood I highly recommend this as a very discreet birthday present (both boy and girl).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

K10: Hour of the Bees

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 Morgan. I’m 13, and vanilla bean ice cream is my favorite.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?

I read HOUR OF THE BEES because my mom read it first and recommended it. 

Can you describe this book in one word?


What was your favorite part of this story?

My favorite part of the book was Grandpa Serge’s stories. You didn’t quite know if they were true or if he made them up, and I really wanted to find out.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?

I would have talked to my parents about it instead of hijacking the car without a license and driving to the nursing home!

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?

I would say that it is very interesting, very unique, and I didn’t want to put it down.

What do you think about the book's cover?

I think the book is more exciting than the cover.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?

Yes, because I’d like to see what happens to Carol and her family after their experiences with each other. They went through a lot and it would be interesting to see how it changed them as a family.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?

RULES FOR STEALING STARS because the main character is dealing with a sick family member and ends up somewhere magical.

If you could ask the author one question about this book what would it be?

How did you come up with the stories Grandpa Serge told?

We asked Lindsay that question, and here's what she told us!

The stories that Grandpa Serge tells Carol were my favorite parts to write in HOUR OF THE BEES! I loved them for three reasons. First, when I was making up the stories, I knew I could be as weird as I wanted, and I really let my imagination stretch far. A magic healing tree, an oasis in the desert, bees who steal a lake.. All of it, weird and fun! 

Second, my own grandpa and father were great lovers of stories, especially myths and tales for children. Writing Serge's stories felt like writing a tribute to them. 

And third, stories are magical. They allow us to believe the impossible, make crazy things seem real, make our hearts thump and our brains spark. HOUR OF THE BEES is a book about stories, real stories and made-up stories. They're all important. 

Thank you, Morgan and Lindsay!

by Lindsay Eagar

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

DOODLE ADVENTURES by Mike Lowery: Review/Interview/Giveaway!

Happy summertime, Kidliterati friends!!! Have I got a treat for you...
What an enormous pleasure it's been to get to Doodle and Adventure along with the often sassy though ever-helpful Carl the Duck in Mike Lowery's first edition of Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs  (NOW available from Workman Publishing!)

This book is especially great because the reader not only gets to doodle in a book (come on, like we all don't secretly LOVE and encourage it!), they also become a secret agent and solve a crazy mystery! 

Mike's illustrations are eye-catching. He's got a style all his own and the minute you see the cover, like me, you'll most likely be able to pull several other books off your shelves with his illustrations gracing the pages. 

My daughters (ages 11 and 10) and I thoroughly enjoyed our journey from accidental rookie to full fledged secret agent! Check out the FUN!

And, as if all of that wasn't enough, we also got to interview creator of Carl the Duck and author of Doodle Adventures, Mike Lowery!


1. What books and art inspired you to be an illustrator and author? 

That's easy!  When I first started reading a LOT, I fell in love with a book called BFG by Roald Dahl (who I called RoNald Dahl back then!).  After BFG, I read Matilda and then The Witches and was hooked.  Now that I'm all grown up I STILL love his books and I've read almost everything he's ever written, I think.  I also loved the illustrations that were done by Quentin Blake.  

2. Did anything specific help you come up with the idea for Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slug!?

I basically just combined my love for comics and my love for drawing.  And I like drawing weird and funny stuff so why not draw a book about a duck that goes into space looking for Slimy Space Slugs!?

3. Did you base any characters in the book on actual people you know in real life?

There's a grumpy duck named Carl who is sort of based on a fake version of me (maybe!).


1. How did you come up with this story? 

Well, I started with the title: The Search for the Slimy Space Slug...I just made it sound funny.  And then I made a list of reasons for WHY we would be looking for space slugs.  I can't tell you why we are looking for them!  You have to read it!  Sorry!

2. Who's your favorite character in the book?

Definitely the grumpy duck named Carl.  He's always in a bad mood, so he's fun to draw.

3. If you were a secret agent, what would your secret agent name be?

The Devious Doodler (but that's only if I was an EVIL secret agent).


1. How do enjoy filling your time when not writing/drawing?

I really like to travel with my wife and daughter.  And I play music.

2. Do you have any other projects in the works?

Yes!  I'm drawing a book all about super weird facts and I'm making another activity calendar for kids.

3. When did you begin illustrating and writing professionally? What was your first project?

My first kids book was called Gingerbread Man:  Loose in the School

4. At what age did you discover your love/talent for drawing?

I was so young, I don't even remember.  I've always loved drawing.

5. When beginning a new project, what comes first, the story or the illustrations? 

That's a great question!  It really depends on the project.  For this book I started with a rough idea of the chain of events in the book and then I sat down and made drawings at the same time that I was coming up with the text.  

6. We've thoroughly enjoyed doodling and adventuring through this book with Carl the Duck! Thank you so much for giving us a window into your process and inspiration. One last super important question from all three of us: What's your all time favorite food?

Awesome!  I'm glad you liked the book.  Now the important part:  my favorite food.  This is really hard because I love lots of different kinds of food.  Maybe I'd say a POTATO.  I know, I know...that sounds so boring, but you can do lots of stuff with a potato.  You can mash it, cut it up and fry it, or cover it with cheese.  Or maybe my favorite food is TACOS.  Wait, no.  Calzone.  Curry!  Hot and sour soup!  Oh, man there's too much too choose from!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

Mike Lowery is an artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with a beautiful German lady named Katrin and his incredibly genius daughter, Allister. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to children’s books to gallery walls all over the world, and he is a Professor of Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. He lives in an atomic ranch house, surrounded by trees where he likes to draw little animals in party hats and other silly stuff. For LOTS more check out his WEBSITE and INSTAGRAM. Be sure to keep an eye out for book 2 of DOODLE ADVENTURES: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate, releasing September 6, 2016!
jacket image for Doodle Adventures: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate!
*All Artwork: © Mike Lowery*


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