Once Upon a Story
March 30, 2016

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley_cover (2)Twenty Yawns

by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Published by: Two Lions

Release date: April 2016

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

As her mom reads a bedtime story, Lucy drifts off. But later, she awakens in a dark, still room, and everything looks mysterious. How will she ever get back to sleep?

About The Author:Jane Smiley photo

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2006 she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. This is her first picture book. She lives in Northern California.

laurencastillo_headshot (2)About the Illustrator:

Lauren Castillo is the illustrator of many books, including The Reader by Amy Hest. She has also written and illustrated several books, including Caldecott Honor book Nana in the City and The Troublemaker. She lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit www.laurencastillo.com.
Twitter: @studiocastillo.

My thoughts:

In our house, any book can be a bedtime book. Sometimes that means pulling out (or faking) that extra ounce of energy at bedtime to read that wild and silly book just one. more. time.
But then there are other days when the kiddo picks a book that’s just perfect for quieting down, settling in, and getting sleepy. TWENTY YAWNS is that kind of book.
The story opens with a day at a beach, and immediately we’re diving headfirst into happy memories, both Lucy’s and ours. Swinging in the waves with dad, walks along the water, rolling down the dunes. Then, as the sun sets and Lucy and her parents leave the water behind, the yawns begin. First mom, then Lucy, then Dad. The sun sets lower (Lauren Castillo’s spread of the sunset is ah-mazing), and the yawns continue. Into bed, story read…but then suddenly, shadows are creeping across the floor and poor Lucy, sleepy just moments before, is wide awake.
In a movement as effortless as a yawn itself, author Jane Smiley moves the reader from happy and content to nervous and cautious. Lucy knows exactly what she needs, but to get it she has to cross a darkened house, a house in which she’s the only one awake. Do you remember that feeling as a kid? How strange it seems, as if the whole world is asleep? How you tiptoe carefully, but as quickly as possible? The feeling is spot-on here. And when her mission is accomplished, and Lucy crawls back in to bed, there’s more yawns as we slip back into a mode of sleepy calm.
There’s so much to love here. The language and illustrations evoke such wonderful emotions, and the (you guessed it!) twenty yawns interspersed throughout create not only a feeling of sleepiness, but a fun little-hide-and-seek for the reader. Not every yawn is obvious!
This has already become a regular in our bedtime rotation.
Follow the tour!
Check out the activity kit!
Watch the book trailer!


One lucky winner will receive an adorable door hanger (one side for quiet time, one side for play) along with a copy of TWENTY YAWNS. (U.S. only. Giveaway closes at midnight on April 6th)


March 4, 2016

Good Morning Yoga-UPDATED cover hi-resGood Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story

by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder

Published by: Sounds True

Release date: March 2016

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 36

From the publisher:

This “wake up” story is so much more than a story. It’s a practice for kids and parents to greet the morning with joy and embark on their daily adventures with intention and confidence. Turn the page and reach up to the sky, press your feet into the earth, and get ready for a great day!

About The Author:Mariam Gates

Mariam Gates holds a master’s in education from Harvard University and has more than twenty years’ experience working with children. Her renowned Kid Power Yoga program combines her love of yoga with teaching to help children access their inner gifts. She is the author of Good Night Yoga (Sounds True, April 2015), and lives in Santa Cruz, CA, with her husband, yoga teacher Rolf Gates, and their two children. For more information, visit mariamgates.com.
Twitter:  @gatesmariam
Instagram: mariam.gates


My thoughts:
We are a yoga family. I started taking a class a year ago, and love it. My almost-7yo asked to learn some of the positions. And my preschooler’s teachers use it to center the kids throughout the day. So Good Morning Yoga is the perfect addition to our family library. The text is both lyrical and directional, each page guiding the child through a new pose and breathing technique. A summary of poses is included in the final pages, as well as directions for visualization. And y’all…these illustrations could not be any cuter. Bright colors, diverse, smiling faces. You can’t help but smile.
I invited Mariam to write a guest post here on the blog. Make sure you keep scrolling after her post for a giveaway!  And if all that’s not enough, you can watch the book trailer, listen to Miriam read from the book, and download this fun storytime kit.
But first, here’s author Miriam Gates with…

5 Ways Yoga is Like Reading


My favorite pastimes have always been yoga and reading. Check out how these two popular pursuits have more in common than you’d think.


  1. Shhhh…. Both yoga and reading are done quietly. What is happening inside is what matters most. And with each activity, the quieter you are, the easier it is to do.


  1. Develop those muscles! Yoga and reading are different kind of exercises, but both are strengthening and lead to a healthier you. Yoga is an obvious physical workout; creating increased flexibility and a stronger body. Reading develops those mental muscles and just like any other part of the body, it requires regular activity to keep it working at its best.


  1. Relaxation in Action: Everyone knows that yoga is a great way to slow down and de-stress. The wonderful thing about reading is that no matter what else is happening in your daily life, losing yourself in a great story is a wonderful way to find some inner tranquility and often much needed perspective.


  1. Imagination Central: Where else can you feel what it is like in your body to fly, or move like a snake in the grass? Where else can you imagine you are weightless in space or as large as a giant? Yoga poses, like reading, allow you to take your imagination on an incredible ride.


  1. Fun To Do Together! Doing yoga with your kids is a great way to spend time with each other and explore something new while learning to feel calm and awake mentally and physically. Reading together, it goes without saying, is one of the most wonderful activities you can do with your children because there too, you get to experience new worlds side by side.


One lucky winner will receive both books by Mariam Gates–GOOD MORNING YOGA and GOOD NIGHT YOGA, along with a full-color poster! (U.S. only. Giveaway closes at midnight on March 12th)


February 19, 2016

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!)

by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

Published by: Penguin Random House

Release date: February 2016

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth? 

My thoughts:
I’ve been blogging for a while now. My oldest was a year old when I started. She’ll be 7 in a few weeks. In that time, I’ve met many people, read many books, and shared those books with others who will hopefully love them as much as I do.
But it’s extra-special when I get to share a book I’ve watched grow from the very very early stages.
Julie and I “met” through our shared agent (I think? Maybe before?) three years ago. I very clearly remember the day this book deal was announced. And then illustrator Tim Miller began releasing glimpses of early sketches. And then the cover reveal. And the first advanced copies came out. And then the reviews began rolling in. STARRED reviews. Lots of ’em. And the excitement kept building and building and y’all…
Finally, two weeks ago, the copy arrived in my hands.  Then it left my hands.
Those starred reviews don’t lie. Poor Snappsy is just your typical nice-guy alligator,  trying to get on with his day. A normal, errand-running, non-remarkable day. Groceries, lunch, a good book. A little party planning. Things would be fine, except for the unseen pesky narrator who keeps a running commentary on Snappsy’s activities, first accusing him of stalking innocent shoppers and fuzzy bunnies, then following him home, then accusing him of being boring. It’s like the younger sibling that follows you around the house. “Whatcha doin? Whatcha doin’? WHATCHA DOIN’?” It’s no wonder that Snappsy snaps (HA! See what I did there?) But this is not your ordinary narrator and, as the reader will soon find out, not so easily scared off.
The story has a surprise twist ending, but other surprises abound throughout the  illustrations. Read it once, then go back and read it more slowly, spending time on each of the full-page spreads. It’s a little like one of those hidden picture games. Tim has included little details, jokes, and added moments in some of the most unexpected places. We’ve read it cover to cover multiple times and are still discovering new details on every read. And, as I’ve taught my kids, always, always remember to look under the dust jacket.
Congratulations, Julie, Tim, and Snappsy. Y’all sure know how to throw a party.
June 8, 2015

Disappearance of Emily H blog tour banner 

The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Release date: May 2015

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 256

From the publisher:

A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?

About the Author:Barrie Summy photo

Barrie Summy is the author of the I So Don’t Do mystery series starring thirteen-year-old detective Sherry Holmes Baldwin, and the recently released The Disappearance of Emily H. Barrie lives in Southern California with her husband, their four children, two dogs, a veiled chameleon, and a fish. There was once a dwarf hamster, but let’s not go there.
Visit her online at her website or Facebook page.
My thoughts:
Okay, I admit I’m a sucker for a good magical realism. Stories that are firmly grounded in reality, but have just a twist of the fantastical. Just enough that I can *almost* believe that that magic might actually exist outside my front door.  So The Disappearance of Emily H. caught my interest right away. I loved the premise. A normal eighth-grader, Raine, with one very unordinary skill: the ability to see memories in the form of sparkles. Once Raine holds one of these sparkles in her hand, the memory appears as a vision, transporting Raine right into the moment. Don’t you love the idea that memories are all around us, sparkling on fenceposts, backpacks, and lockers, just waiting for us to grab them?
The book opens with Raine standing in front of her new school…again. Raine has had a lot of new schools. Five, to be exact. Three of them being middle schools. Raine’s mother attracts bad relationships like a magnet. And when the relationship falls apart, her mom packs up the house and moves on for a “fresh start”, dragging Raine with her.
Yielding Middle School is just like all the others. There’s the cliques, the pretty girls, the cute guys, the bullies. Raine quickly makes friends with another new girl, the previously homeschooled Shirlee, and finds a place on the cross-country team. Sure, there’s mean girl Jennifer and her posse. But for once, Raine’s mom seems to be focused on really starting over, without a new guy. She’s even planting flowers in their little house with the pink shutters. Things might actually work out this time.  Raine might actually get to have a normal year.
Until Raine catches a memory that gives her a glimpse into what happened to Emily Huvar, a Yielding Middle School student who disappeared a few months ago. When Raine learns that she’s living in Emily’s old house, she becomes determined to solve the mystery. But the more she digs, the more she realizes she may be in over her head. Then a chance encounter leads Raine to discover that …the answer to what happened to Emily Huvar is closer than she imagined…and a thousand times more dangerous.
I’m showing my age here, but remember The Face on the Milk Carton? This had the same twist-and-turns, confused reality, building-to-a-dramatic-climax feel for me, but with the added benefit of a little sparkly magic. The characters are oh-so-real, the emotions high (as they often are for middle schoolers), and the conclusion one that the reader doesn’t quite see coming. We feel for the missing Emily, but we also feel for Raine as she struggles not only with the mystery that has, quite literally, fallen into her fingertips, but also with her mother, the mean girls, and even the cute boy, elements all middle-aged readers can relate to.
Intrigued? I’ve got you covered!

The Disappearance of Emily H.Giveaway!

One sparkly winner will receive a copy of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY H by Barrie Summy (U.S. addresses; allow 4-6 weeks for delivery). Enter below by 11:59pm on June 22.




Follow along on the blog tour!

Thursday, June 4
Ms. Yingling Reads
Fri, June 5
Mon, June 8
Once Upon a Story
Tues, June 9
Read Now, Sleep Later
Wed, June 10
Thurs, June 11
Unleashing Readers
Fri, June 12
Small Review




May 20, 2015

Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man by Julie Mata

Published by: Disney-Hyperion

Release date: May 2015

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 288

From the publisher:

After her huge success with her first feature-length movie, seventh-grader Kate Walden is eager to start on her next film, a sci-fi romance called Bride of Slug Man. When a new kid comes to town from New York City, Kate thinks she might have a new found film buddy-someone to share her interest with. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty cute. But it turns out that Tristan is making his own movie, and now the classmates Kate thought were eager to join her cast and crew are divided. With rumors spreading in school and between sets, Kate finds herself juggling more than just call times and rewrites. And judging from the whispers Kate hears about Tristan Kingsley, she suspects that he isn’t interested in having a fellow film-buff friend; he just wants to prove himself as the best filmmaker in school by winning the Big Picture Film Festival. Kate vows to enter too, and tries to focus on just making the best movie she can. But between the cutthroat popularity contest, a bully situation that goes from bad to worse, and several on-set mishaps, Kate is going to need all the movie magic she can get to make sure Bride of Slug Man hits the big screen.


About the Author:Julie Mata_credit Tony Mata (2)

Julie Mata grew up outside Chicago and currently lives in Wisconsin, where she owns a video production business with her husband.. She loves movies and once wrote and directed her own short film. She also loves traveling, gardening, and reading a really good book. Her first book was Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens. For more information, including a downloadable curriculum guide and a filmmaking tip of the month, visit her website: juliemata.com.
Twitter: @juliehmata
My thoughts:
Yes, this is a story for film enthusiasts. Like Mata’s first novel, Night of the Zombie Chickens, the plot revolves around Kate and her new film project. This time, it’s not her mother’s evil chickens who are the focus of her camera, but a goopy, slimy creature, inspired by her younger brother’s homework assignment. And yet,this story is really about middle grade relationships…and the rollercoaster of emotions that come with them. There’s the rivalry between Kate and the new kid, Tristan, who himself is a kid film producer. And from New York City, no less! There’s Kate’s internal struggle regarding her bullied friend Doris. Kate knows that what is happening to Doris is wrong, but standing up for her friend isn’t always easy. And there’s mean kid Paul Corbett, who has resurrected Kate’s nickname from last year…Crapkate. All that, and Kate still needs to finish her movie in time for entry in the Big Picture Film Festival.

Seventh-grade is no big deal, right? Set against the film-making backdrop, this is a story that takes the reader behind the scenes of the film industry. Or at least, behind the scenes of Kate Walden’s film industry. But it’s also an inside look at what it means to survive middle school, something every reader can relate to.

Here’s author Julie Mata to tell you more about her book in her own words.

Movie Magic in Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man

 By Julie Mata

 In the movie Super 8, there’s a moment when a band of kids is shooting a movie scene at a train depot late at night. Suddenly, a real train hurtles out of the darkness toward them. The director, a kid named Charles, shouts “Production Value!” and feverishly tries to film while the train is passing by. This scene makes me laugh because it’s so true. Directors will do almost anything to add extra sizzle—also known as production value—to their movies.


In Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man, twelve-year-old Kate is dying to make a science fiction movie but her best friend longs to star in a romance. In Kate’s mind, flying saucers and aliens add sizzle. Romance does not. Throughout the story, she bounces between wanting to keep her friends happy and trying to make the epic sci-fi flick of her dreams.


One of the great parts of writing about a character who makes movies is that I get to research all kinds of fun filmmaking facts. To get ideas for a flying saucer, I laughed through the epically bungling movie Plan Nine from Outer Space, which won director Ed Wood the dubious title of Worst Ever Movie Director. Ed didn’t have a budget for fancy special effects so he tied fishing line to a toy UFO and dangled it in front of the camera. In an homage to Wood, and because it’s exactly what a twelve-year-old would do (sorry, Ed), Kate gets her UFO shots the same way.


Kate even uses a technique called forced perspective to make her flying saucer look life size. It’s all about putting small objects close to the camera lens to make them look huge, and placing people far off in the distance to make them look small. Kate feels pretty pro when she learns that Steven Spielberg used the same technique in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to make a model ship tanker look real. (And I felt pretty pro writing about it.)


Of course, some of the lessons Kate learns can’t be found in a moviemaking how-to manual. She learns the hard way that you don’t have to be a big-time Hollywood director to end up with a big-time Hollywood ego. She also struggles with bullies, friendship dramas, and wardrobe malfunctions while trying to finish her movie.


Writing about Kate has allowed me to combine two of my passions—moviemaking and writing. I’m no Spielberg but I did write and direct a short film once called Bus Driver. You can check it out on YouTube but be warned, it doesn’t have cool flying saucers or alien creatures from Mars. I guess I was out-sizzled by my own MC.


More good stuff:

PicMonkey CollageGiveaway!

One lucky winner will receive both books featuring Kate Walden – KATE WALDEN DIRECTS: NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIE CHICKENS and KATE WALDEN DIRECTS: BRIDE OF SLUG MAN. (U.S. addresses; allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.) Enter below by 11:59pm on Wednesday, June 3rd.

Follow along on the blog tour!

Monday, May 18
Wed. May 20
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, May 21
Read Now, Sleep Later
Fri, May 22
Curling Up with a Good Book
Tues, May 27
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Wed, May 28
BookHounds YA
Thurs, May 29
The Brain Lair
Fri, May 30
Kid Lit Frenzy
Monday, May 18
Wed. May 20
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, May 21
Read Now, Sleep Later


May 4, 2015

Twice in the past week, on two separate occasions, with completely different groups of people, I have overheard a mother talking about how her daughter had wanted a doll (one was an American Girl, the other non-specified) for her birthday. Both these mothers had daughters somewhere in the 4-7 range. Both mothers were discussing how they had bought their daughter something else because they didn’t want to get them hooked on that “girly stuff.”

“Girly stuff.”

Like how to gently hold and take care of a baby? Like how to put on clothes and do buttons and zippers and comb hair? That “girly stuff”?

This song keeps bouncing around in my head:

But now nobody can have a doll–boys or girls.

I’ve been running into several similar posts in the children’s lit blogosphere. Posts about quality books for girls, books that empower them, make them strong, teach them to be leaders.

I’m all for that. And I’d encourage you to  check out this wonderful post by author Kirby Larson about why she will no longer write about “strong girls.” It’s perfect.

But you wanna hear my dirty little secret?  Here’s the book my 6yo daughter is currently reading to herself:

It’s PINK.


It’s about FAIRIES.

This is not female empowerment. This is not STEM-based. This is not about girls overcoming hurdles.

It’s about a pink, sparkly, fairy. And it gets worse. There’s more. A whole series, in fact.

Yep. She’s read more of them.

You know why?

Let me back up to an important sentence:

Here’s the book my 6yo daughter is currently reading to herself

My kindergartener, my new reader, loves these chapter books, and she loves that she can read them all by herself. She looks for the fairies that have the same names as her friends, and those are the ones she picks. Is it the most effective way of selecting a book. Eh. Maybe not. Depends who you ask. But it’s her way, and she’s so pleased when she brings another one home.

Why on earth would I want to shatter that excitement because it’s a sparkly, pink, fairy book?

Can we stop the shaming? Can we stop keeping a child from enjoying a book because we think it’s fluffy and insubstantial? Can we stop categorizing “boy books” and “girl books” and just let them read whatever it is they want?

Are there books I want her to read, characters I want her to meet, favorites I want her to enjoy? Of course there are. And we read those, too, as read alouds. More than once, she’s had me read something to her and then asked for another book in the series, or by that same author. It’s my way of booktalking to my independent reader.

You know what else has happened? I’ve read aloud (or tried to) a book that I think is great…and she’s completely bored by it. While that sometimes bruises my ego, it’s also fine, and I get over it, because she’s an independent reader. An independent reader who likes fairies, princesses, robots, toast-loving pigs, and non-fiction about any kind of wildlife.

I may be biased, but I think she’s doing just fine.

So let’s let them be independent. Let’s let them read whatever they want, without our adult judgement getting in their way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush off my Babysitter’s Club collection.

I know she’s going to love them.

April 21, 2015

The Tiny Travler series by Misti Kenison

Published by: Sky Pony Presss

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 0-4


From the publisher:

Each book in Misti Kenison’s new Tiny Traveler board book series is sure to give your child the travel bug early by transporting little ones to exotic and fantastic places while teaching basic concepts—such as shapes. Now you and your little one can explore the world together from your living room.

Egypt: A Book of Shapes

If you’re going to learn about shapes, why not do it in the exciting land of Egypt? Egypt’s Great Sphinx, pyramids, and camels all come to life in this new board book by graphic designer Misti Kenison. Toddlers will learn basic shapes such as triangles, hexagons, and circles with bright, geometric spreads while getting a flavor for Egypt’s rich and fascinating culture.


France: A Book of Colors

The Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge, the Eiffel Tower–there is so much to do and see in the colorful city of Paris. From graphic designer Misti Kenison comes an adventurous new board book for your toddler. The culture and monuments of France are rendered into bold, graphic illustrations accompanied by vocabulary to teach toddlers basic colors. 

My thoughts:

We were fortunate enough to receive both Tiny Traveler books. To be honest, I wish we’d had these a couple of years ago, they’re such a fun little series. The text is simple, typically 3-5 words on a page, with each page following the same sentence structure. The illustrations are bright, simple, and aesthetically pleasing for even the youngest lapsitters. These are the kind of books you read to your infant from the very beginning.
But as we all know, those infants grow quickly, so what happens then?
My youngest reader turned three in December. We are smack dab in the middle of the preschool “academic” stage. That time where all of a sudden, those tiny people are learning letters, and numbers, and colors, and shapes. Which means even though we were not able to enjoy these books in his infancy, we’re getting a lot of use out of them now, as interactive texts. Whereas I once would have read them straight through, now he’s filling in the blanks for me:
The dancer’s dress is _______ (red).
The beard is a ________ (rectangle).
Each color or shape is illustrated in the most obvious way possible. We can read the word/point to the word, point to the correlating part of the illustration, and cheer his success.
(Seriously. Cheering. My kid is his own best cheerleader. “Yay! You got it!”)
And in the process, even though his world is currently pretty small, he’s getting to experience a bigger global view, and asking questions that will (hopefully) lead to further curiosity as he gets older. In fact, my kindergartener also likes these books, for their pictures of places she’s heard of but not (yet) seen.
Books both my 3yo and my 6yo want to read?
That’s a win for me.
March 9, 2015

(Just a reminder: You can always click on the image for more information about the book, including a summary.)

Okay. It’s because I said ‘spring’ wasn’t it? I dared get excited, dared utter the word.

Which is why last week brought our biggest snow of the season.

Of course.

So I’m just going to not say anything and move right on to the books this week.

For me:

The Girl on The Train

Paula Hawkins

I have been waiting for what seems like forever for my hold on this book to become available at our public library. I rarely read adult books, but the synopsis for this one fascinated me, and the buzz was above-and-beyond positive.

Well worth the wait.

Intense, emotional, fast-paced. I’m totally hooked, just as everybody said I would be.

For the kids:

Melvin Might?

by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, David Gordon

Yup. Still reading about diggers. Always, always, the diggers.

 Tap the Magic Tree

by Christie Matheson

Such a beautifully illustrated book about seasons, but with the interactive element that reminds me (and my delighted 3yo) of Tullet’s Press Here.


by Tomie DePaola

I’ll read anything he touches. Period.

Happy Monday!

What are YOU reading this week?

March 4, 2015

Jack At The Helm (The Berenson Schemes #3)  by Lisa Doan, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic

Published by: Lerner

Release date: April 2015

Ages: 9-12

Pages: 152

From the publisher:

Jack’s parents have bought a farmhouse in Nepal. It’ll be the site of a new religion―their latest get-rich-quick scheme. Sure, the Berensons don’t know quite how to get to the place. But once they arrive, their plan is sure to work. When the Berenson family’s travels leave Jack lost in the wilderness of Nepal, a patched-up old raft is the only way to track down his mom and dad. At least this time, Jack has company. He’s riding with Harry from Connecticut, a traveling dude who has been trying to find himself―and who also wound up stranded. As Jack and Harry ride down a winding river, they’ll have to watch out for rocks, rapids, and even crocodiles!


About the Author:Lisa Doan

Lisa Doan is the author of The Berenson Schemes series – Jack the Castaway, Jack and the Wild Life and Jack at the Helm. She received a master’s degree in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her extensive travel in Africa and Asia and eight years spent living in the Caribbean were the basis for the series’ international settings. She has hatched her share of harebrained schemes, including backpacking alone from Morocco to Kenya, hitchhiking across the Sahara with Nigerian car dealers, sauntering off on an ill-advised, one-person walking safari, and opening a restaurant with no actual restaurant experience. Her occupations have included master scuba diving instructor, New York City headhunter, owner-chef of a “sort of Chinese-like” restaurant, television show set medic, and deputy prothonotary of a county court. Visit the author and download free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guides at lisadoan.org.
My thoughts:
Upon reading Jack at the Helm (and the first two books in the Berenson Schemes series) what struck my most was Jack’s unique voice. Poor Jack is a child burdened with well-meaning, but rather eccentric parents who just can’t seem to keep track of him. In this latest book, he finds himself wandering Nepal, but Jack’s no stranger to having to survive on his own. I invited Jack (and author Lisa Doan) to the blog to share a few survival tips:

Jack Berenson’s Top Tips on Surviving a Foreign Family Trip

So . . . Mom and Dad got you a passport and are taking you overseas. Here are a few guidelines for the  wanting-to-live young traveler.

Job one: Never take your eyes off your parents! It’s a little known fact that adults like to wander  off—mine have escaped me three times already. Don’t let yours get away.

 While you continue to stare at your parents, don’t pitch a tent at a random camping spot. If nobody else is camping there, then either everybody knows it’s a bad idea or everybody is dead. Don’t be that kid  that got carried off by wild dogs or dragged into the water by a crocodile.

While you keep watching your parents, stuff your pockets with a compass, Swiss army knife, antibiotics, water purification tablets, Neosporin, bandages, trail mix, an SAS Survival Handbook, rope, a tarp, rain gear, a map and flares. I’m not saying you’ll need them, but. . . .

 You blinked and your parents have disappeared. You’re in a foreign wilderness and will have to dig deep and use MacGyver-like focus to survive the night. (Bonus tip: don’t use the antibiotics you stuffed in your pocket to treat your runny nose—you’re just crying, not sick.)

 By some miracle, you’re still alive at dawn. Do you wait for your parents to rescue you? Be honest with yourself: Do you have enough food to last through their long, badly planned and poorly executed rescue operation? My own personal experience is, don’t wait.

You decide you’d better try to save yourself. Depending on where you are, you may face: avalanches,  tsunamis, wild animal attacks, heat stroke, malaria, snake bites, mud slides, volcano eruptions,  earthquakes, hurricanes, frostbite, dengue fever, ant swarms, bee swarms, locust swarms and the  occasional military coup. Prepare for the worst and know that being a good person won’t save  you—you’re going to need a lot of quick thinking and a lot of luck.

  Let me know if you make it back!


ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive ALL THREE BOOKS in the Berenson Schemes series: Jack the Castaway, Jack and the Wildlife, and Jack at the Helm.  (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Wednesday, March 18th.







Good luck!

Follow Jack on the rest of his tour:

Mon, Mar 2
Just a Little Creativity
Tues, Mar 3
The OWL for YA
Wed, Mar 4
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, Mar 5
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Mar 6
Children’s Book Review
Mon, Mar 9
The Compulsive Reader
Tues, Mar 10
Books Unbound
Wed, Mar 11
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Mar 12
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Fri, Mar 13
The Hiding Spot


March 2, 2015

(Just a reminder: You can always click on the image for more information about the book, including a summary.)

Happy Monday!

Y’all. It’s MARCH.


And though you wouldn’t know it by the snow that’s in my front yard, or the nice sheen of ice on top of it from the entire day of sleet and freezing rain we had yesterday…spring is coming.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

We actually didn’t get to the library last week, because I spent most of the week recovering from the holiday and 3 snow days we had the preceding week. So we’ve been reading from our own plentiful shelves, as well as books we checked out the week before.

A few new books for me, though.

For me:

Going Over

Beth Kephart

Another YA this week. I’m fond of Kephart’s lyrical prose, and this book, which tells the story of two young love interests, divided by the Berlin wall, caught my interest from the very first page.  I will say, though, that after reading All the Bright Places last week, and Going Over this week, I’ll be ready for something a little lighter next. Those teenage years are painful. And exhausting.

Jack at the Helm

by Lisa Doan, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic

More coming on Wednesday, but I really enjoyed this third book in a new-to-me adventure series. Quick read, lots of action, lots of laughs.


That’s everything new!

Short and sweet, which is how I hope you day goes, friends.

Happy Monday!

What are YOU reading this week?

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