Author and Illustrator, Patricia Keeler Takes On the Sky Pony Q & A

We’re excited for Spring weather and gearing up for the release of some amazing Spring books! To celebrate our excitement, we’re going to be featuring a month of Patricia Keeler! Stay tuned for some giveaways at the end!


 

Lizzie and Lou Seal is a beach mystery for the youngest kids. Lizzie races with her blow-up toy, Lou Seal, out of her beach trailer, across the boardwalk and down to the ocean. But Lou Seal is loosing her puff! A sharp-eyed reader will discover why! When will Lizzie notice? And can Lizzie fix Lou Seal?

Lizzie and Lou Seal will be on sale on April 4, 2017.

Questions for Patricia Keeler, Author and Illustrator of Lizzie and Lou Seal

 

Q:  Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write and illustrate in?

I do picture books because the creation of new story ideas often makes me laugh. It’s just fun to write and draw stories that have blow-up seals for pets, bicycle wheels made of flowers, and rabbits in harlequin pants who carry umbrellas. Getting a story published is a wonderful way to share the joy!

 

Q:  Is it difficult to balance being both an author and illustrator?

Being an author/illustrator is a demanding job, so luckily I’m very good at keeping things under control.

Q:  What are you reading right now?

I’m loving the rhyming story of Leonard’s Beard by Nancy Cote and the button hoarding raccoon in Dewey Bob by J. Byron Schachner. And I want to be as adventurous as the Cinderella character who accidently leaves her pogo stick behind (that the prince finds) in the LOL book The Daring Prince Dashing written by Marilou T. Reeder and illustrated by Karl West.

 

Q:  What is your favorite place to create books?

I do my best work in my studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the middle of the night, in my pajamas. With jelly doughnuts.

 

Q:  If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

When researching a picture book about African dance and culture, I came across an opaki. With the ears of a chihauhua, the body of a horse, and the legs of a zebra, this charming animal is actually in the camel family. An opaki can be found in the wild in the forests of the Congo.

It might be a squeeze to have an opaki in my tiny apartment, but there’s a story in the zeitgeist yet to be created about a magical African opaki!

Q:  What’s your favorite GIF?

Lizzie and Lou Seal wait, waiting for their new book!

 

Q:  Milk, dark or white chocolate?

Oh, no! Must I pick one? I love each one of their unique attributes!

 

Q:  What did you want to grow up to be when you were Lizzie’s age?

My favorite book was the strange and wonderful Three Little Horses by Piet Worm. The main character, Peter, dressed up the three horses and took them to meet the queen. I wanted to grow up to ride horses or meet the queen, or both.


Let us know what was your favorite book as a child!

Leave the title and tell us why you loved it in the comment section below.

One entry will be chosen to receive Lizzie’s Favorite Flip Flop earrings!

And that’s not all!

Everyone leaving a comment in the month of March will have a chance to

win the grand prize of a manuscript critique

by Kylie Brien, Assistant Editor at Sky Pony Press!

Next Week:  The Making of Lizzie and Lou Seal

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Your Black Friday Book Shopping Guide

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Need some help? We’ve got you covered for the book lovers in your life! Check out our suggestions below!


Best book for werewolf fans: Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn

Summary: Sam and his family are the only werehyenas in their town, and he’s often told that he’s inferior to all the other kids of shifters. But as tensions rise between shifters and humans, it becomes clear that Sam is the only one who can stop a war that’s on the brink of erupting.

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Best books for fans of Once Upon A Time: Roses: The Tales Trilogy, Book 1 and Feathers: The Tales Trilogy, Book 2 by Rose Mannering

Roses Summary: Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, and she is tauntingly named Beauty by those who torment her. After fleeing town in the wake of a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics, she is captured by State officials who threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago. She manages to escape them during a blizzard by running into a deep, enchanted forest, where she meets a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life. But can Beauty accept Beast?

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Feathers Summary: Outcast from birth for his ability to turn into a swan, Ode was forced to discover how to control his remarkable gift entirely on his own. But even with his gift, he cannot save his family from the oncoming war. The Magical Cleansing is spreading across the realm, and strangers arrive from foreign lands bringing with them bloodshed and fear. With the help of his gift, Ode flees to a distant island where answers, Magic, and a girl with golden hair await him.
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Best book for Shakespeare lovers and theater kids: The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Summary: Cass is so excited for her leading role in The Taming of the Shrew at the summer apprentice program of a Shakespeare theater company. But her co-lead in the play, Drew, is a total troll—and Cass’s bunkmate has a huge crush on him. So Cass decides to “tame” Drew and give him a personality makeover. What could possibly go wrong?

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Best book for anyone who feels like an outsider: A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

Summary: Ryder has limited vision and a prosthetic eye. His wit and popular made him popular at the school for the blind, but this year for eighth grade he’s going to the mainstream middle school—and fitting in is not as easy as he thought it would be. Can Ryder find his way to a new—and possibly even better— “normal”?

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Best book for someone who needs more time in her day: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

In an alternate Victorian London where clock towers control the flow of time and a broken clock can stop time completely, a young clock mechanic races to save his father who is trapped in a Stopped town, and to prevent attacks that could cripple all of England.

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Best books for young readers who wish they had a robot to do their chores: Project Droid #1: Science No Fair! and Project Droid #2: Soccer Shocker! by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser, illustrated by Mike Moran

Logan’s always wanted a kid brother, but when his inventor mom builds him a robot cousin, he realizes he’s gotten a lot more than he bargained for. Java is very literal-minded, and keeping his true identity a secret is going to be loads of trouble.

Science No Fair 9781510710184Soccer Shocker 9781510710191

Best book for a fan of science fiction: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

For fans of The Girl of Fire and Thorns comes a story of betrayal, love, and loss—all on a technologically advanced alien planet where monarchy reigns, but lies rule.

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Best book for the dancer: Spin the Sky by Jill Mackenzie

Summary: Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. When a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. This could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to get her and Rose out of Summerland. But will the competition prove too steep? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

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Best book for the video game addict: It’s a tie! Invasion of the Overworld by Mark Cheverton or Catching the Jigglypuff Thief by Alex Polan
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Best book for the teen who’s always prepared: Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
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Best book for the varsity star: Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall

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Books We’re Thankful For

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Sky Pony team members are big fans of books. We love to read and we each have a memorable book in our lives that inspired us. Check out the books we’re thankful for below!


Alison Weiss, Editor

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

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I’m thankful for Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl. If I had to point to one book that jumpstarted me into a career as a children’s book editor, it has to be this one. When I was in college, I had time between classes, but not necessarily enough that it made sense for me to go back to the dorms. I spent a lot of time at the bookstore. (I’d expect that’s true of a lot of people in publishing!) But though I would browse the literature section—I spent a lot of time catching up on my classics, too—one day freshman year, I found myself wandering into the very bright and inviting children’s section. At first, I just took in the books I had read as a kid, the new books from authors who I had loved at ten and eleven and twelve. And then I saw the Goose Girl cover. I loved that cover. I spent weeks going back to the children’s section and that beautiful illustration would inevitably catch my eye. And then, one day, I bought it. And I read it. And then I ran to the bookstore and bought every other book they had by Shannon Hale. And then I started buying other middle grade and YA, too. And signing up for courses like Children’s Fantasy—where I revisited old friends like Michael Bond’s Paddington and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and made new friends like Alan Garner’s Owl Service and Frances Hardinge’s Fly by Night. And I started writing papers in my English literature classes on topics like the loss of innocence through the window of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and representations of American children in Paris in literature. And then, one day, I was looking for something to do for a summer and read a testimonial for someone who had an internship at Delacorte Books for Young Readers, and I applied, and got a job, and the rest is history. I still pick up every Shannon Hale book I can get. But Goose Girl will probably forever be my favorite.

Becky Herrick, Editor

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

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I’m thankful for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I had an old used copy with a weird and ominous cover that my science fiction-loving dad had bought from a library sale and given to me. Because it looked so weird, it took me a while to actually want to read it for the first time, but one rainy day I was finally bored enough to try it. It was like nothing I’d read before, and the afternoon fell away as I got lost in the strange, faraway worlds and transformative experiences of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. After that, A Wrinkle in Time became my go-to book for when I was having a bad day—when I was sick in bed or just really upset. Even now I still have my battered copy on my bookshelf, and I return to it when I want to escape.

Cheryl Lew, Publicist

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

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This may be a bit cliché, but the book that I am most thankful for is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. While I had read books for school before (and picture books and chapter books when I was younger to improve my reading skills), Harry Potter was the first series that I read purely for enjoyment. I was definitely more of a Saturday morning cartoon kind of kid (which unfortunately—fortunately?—is still true, even in my old age).

But the second I picked up this first Harry Potter book, I knew it was unlike anything I had ever read before. Rowling’s incredible world building, the relatable characters, and the fact that I was the exact same age as Harry and the gang when the first book came out made it very easy to picture what my life would be like had I grown up in this world. Aging with the characters I loved over the course of 9 years made this series a huge part of my childhood, and one of my favorite series of all time. Every few years or so, I’ll re-read the series in its entirety, and while still incredibly enjoyable, I’ll always be jealous of my 10 to nearly 20-year-old selves for being able to read these books and discover this world for the very first time.

 

Kat Enright, Editorial Assistant

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

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So I’m going to pull the biggest cliché of girls my age and cite the Harry Potter series as the single most influential book series of my childhood. I was in elementary school when the books were first published in the US, and though I had always been a voracious reader Harry Potter captivated me in a way no other book did, and it’s stuck with me because I was lucky enough to grow up with Harry and his friends. As I’ve grown older and the world has changed around me, I’ve found that these books are even more relevant. Against a backdrop of whimsy and wonder, J.K. Rowling told a tale of finding an inclusive community, of fighting for the good in the world, and learning that part of growing up is learning to choose between what is right and what is easy.

And this Thanksgiving, more than any before, I am thankful that I grew up knowing what power hope and love held.

via GIPHY

 

Kylie Brien, Assistant Editor

Margaret Peterson Haddix

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I’m thankful for Margaret Peterson Haddix and all of the amazing books she’s written. I remember sitting in a circle and reading Among the Hidden with my sixth grade class . . . sneakily reading ahead because I was so captivated by the story. Of course, at eleven, I didn’t understand the complexities of the world that the characters lived in. I was compelled to keep turning the pages because of her fleshed out characters and gripping storyline that ultimately came down to life and death. I read every book available in the Shadow Children series and then started working on all of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s other books. I moved on to Running Out of Time, Just Ella, Escape From Memory, and Turnabout. I fell in love with all of her books and they helped shape me as a reader, a writer, and editor, and even as a person.

via GIPHY

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Behind the scenes of Leonard’s Beard with Nancy Cote

We’re so excited to welcome author and illustrator Nancy Cote to talk about her new book, Leonard’s Beard, and the real-life inspiration for the character of Leonard.


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As a creator of children’s books, I find inspiration everywhere, especially through the people and places that I am most familiar with.

My newest book, Leonard’s Beard, is a perfect example of how a writer taps into their familiar surroundings, and with an open mind, lots of imagination and a heightened sense of exaggeration, a story with universal appeal emerges.

The idea for my newest book, Leonard’s Beard, began on a windy day in the fall. Leaves were falling from the trees in my yard, and I jokingly remarked that there was no need to rake them, since they would all end up in my neighbor’s yard at the bottom of the hill. Suddenly, I envisioned my neighbor Leonard, who wore a large unruly beard, standing in his yard with leaves and debris trapped in his beard. My imagination took hold as I visualized not only leaves, but objects of all kinds, landing in that big red beard.

The story written in rhyme, blew into my thoughts as organically as the wind blew into my studio on that fall afternoon, and I was hooked.

My neighbor Leonard was a professional writer. He worked in a little studio behind his house, which was located at the bottom of a steep hill along the Taunton River in Somerset, MA. He was a free thinker and gentle soul who lived by his own standards.

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Because he looked a bit eccentric, he was somewhat misunderstood, and other than his family, Leonard never appeared to have many friends. We both enjoyed talking and sharing our appreciation for nature and animals and he was fascinated by my work in children’s books.

I had the opportunity to tell Leonard about the story I had in mind featuring him, and he was humbly honored. He invited me to visit his studio, which overhung the river, and gave me permission to take photos. It was during that visit that the story came together for me, but before I had finished the manuscript, Leonard unfortunately passed away during open heart surgery. From that moment on, I was determined that this story would be the best I could write and be published as a tribute not only to Leonard, but to freelancers and those of us, who sometimes find ourselves isolated due to life’s distractions.

In the story, Leonard is a happy and successful writer who is passionate about everything in life. He begins to isolate himself so that he can write more, but instead, he discovers that he no longer has anything to write about.

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As he becomes distressed over his situation, he doesn’t notice a storm that is brewing. When the wind blows down his door, it carries with it an array of outrageous objects from a can of peas to a wonderful cello which all land in Leonard’s beard.

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As he untangles the mess, the preposterous objects he removes all serve to help him to rediscover what’s really important.

Although the story was inspired by my neighbor, it is a story about the dangers that accomplishment and complacency can have on the creative process.
Simply put, we all need to find something to be passionate about, and never allow ourselves to lose perspective.

Writing and illustrating children’s books is a perfect outlet to deliver profound concepts in a simple way through joyful language and pictures.now-he-makes-time

It doesn’t have to take a wind storm to remind you to be yourself, but sometimes it helps!

 


Leonard’s Beard by Nancy Cote

Leonard is a writer with many stories to tell. In his house on a hill, with his dogs and his frog, he writes stories of adventures and excitement. He is so consumed with his stories, though, that he loses touch with all of his friends and feels very lonely.

Each day Leonard’s beard grows longer and longer, and more wild and untamed, as he fills up pages and pages of stories. His life becomes dull and much less exciting as he focuses too much on his writing. Leonard is so busy that he doesn’t notice a storm is brewing until the wind shakes the windows, the roof, and the floor and a strong gust knocks off his door. Once the storm passes, Leonard discovers just how out of control his beard has gotten. He finds strange things that have gotten stuck in there, including a mouse, a bird, and some apples. As Leonard removes the items from his beard, he comes to realize that being consumed with writing adventures has prevented him from having his own.

Leonard’s Beard is a story about discovering what is important in life. The rhyming text is perfect for reading aloud, and the illustrations of all of the silly things that wind up in Leonard’s beard will have little ones giggling on each reread!


About Nancy Cotenancy-cote-headshot

Nancy Cote is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who finds joy in the smallest things. She is the author and illustrator for numerous picture books, including Watch the Cookie!, Watch the Birdie!, and Puddle Jumpers (all published with Sky Pony Press). Nancy lives along a river in the historic village of Somerset, Massachusetts.

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Character Quiz: Are you more of a Henry or a Dolf?

In Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov, we meet two best friends, Henry Hunter and Adolphus Pringle (Dolf for short). The pair are complete opposites but together, they make an excellent team as they traipse off on supernatural adventures. Take our quiz to find out if you’re more of a Henry or a Dolf!


Are you more of a Henry or a Dolf?

  1. If you were stuck on a deserted island would you . . .
    a. Explore the island and discover what interesting artifacts or island secrets you can uncover.
    b. Hang out on the beach and work on your tan.
  2. What’s your style like?
    a. Dapper and always put together.
    b. Casual and often in t-shirts.
  3. In the face of danger you . . .
    a. Investigate and learn about the danger. Everything is a learning opportunity.
    b. RUN!
  4. During the school day, we’d find you . . .
    a. Not in class but off jet setting and trying to uncover priceless artifacts or supernatural truths.
    b. Asleep at your desk.
  5. Ghosts are . . .
    a. Real. I’ve seen one.
    b. Eh, I’m skeptical

 

If you answered mostly A’s . . . 

You’re more of a Henry. You’re always ready for adventure and looking for the next opportunity to learn. You have a wild imagination and believe that anything is possible. You are good at motivating your friends and helping them see their inner strengths.

If you answered mostly B’s . . .

You’re more of a Dolf. You’re a little more on the laid-back side but willing to have an adventure as long as there will be snacks there. You can take the lead but it takes dire situations for you to realize your inner strength and that you have the power to save the day.

Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov by John Matthews

henry-hunter-9781510710382Adolphus Pringle lived a relatively normal life before he met Henry Hunter, but being the best friend of a twelve-year-old millionaire genius certainly makes life interesting. He has accompanied Henry on adventures all over the world and encountered dozens of supernatural creatures. Henry has a penchant for paranormal mysteries, and he never fails to drag his trusty sidekick, Dolf, into adventures to track down the truth in these mystical legends.

Henry announces one morning that he and Dolf are going to go in search of a creature more terrifying than Dracula himself: the Beast of Snagov. The pair of supernatural investigators travel from where Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby to Transylvania. Along the way they come across some strange things such as Dracula’s daughter, Bella, and an organization called the Order of the Dragon that wants to sacrifice Henry Hunter to the Beast of Snagov. When Henry is taken, it’s up to Dolf and Bella to team up and rescue him!

Will Henry survive this supernatural adventure? Get ready to discover the world of the supernatural through the eyes of our spooked narrator as he tags along on the first adventure in the Henry Hunter series!


Which character are you? Share below!

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Author Mark Eastburn Takes on the Sky Pony Press Q&A

Sky Pony author, Mark Eastburn takes on the Sky Pony Q&A and talks about his debut novel, Earning My Spots. Check it out!


Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I teach science to kids in the middle grades, so writing a book with characters who change into animals was a natural springboard to literature. I’ve always been fascinated by other living things, as well as world cultures, and Earning My Spots gave me the opportunity to learn more about both. The original inspiration for this story came through watching how my dog moved, and wondering how that might feel, but I didn’t want to write a typical werewolf (or weredog) story. The history of Africa is something that I’ve studied in my spare time, with a focus on the Jewish people of Ethiopia, and as it turns out, they are sometimes considered bouda, or “hyena people” in that part of the world. It was believed that they held special powers because of their abilities to make iron tools, and that they could transform into hyenas. Of course, a lot of this mythology is based on anti-Jewish bias, which unfortunately exists all over the world, but I decided to turn that superstition into a positive by showing hyenas to be the proud, intelligent, and brave hunters that they really are. In Africa, spotted hyenas and lions are in constant competition, and in some areas, lions scavenge far more than hyenas do. Hyena society is also dominated by females, who are larger and stronger than their male counterparts. I thought that would be an interesting contrast with most other predators—especially lions and wolves.

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Our Newfoundland dog has been my family’s faithful companion for the past six years, and he keeps my feet warm while I write!

 

Q: What are you reading right now?

At the moment, I am reading Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, since I’m convinced that kids these days really need to reconnect with nature. As a teacher, I know that there is a lot of enthusiasm for learning about the Earth’s fellow creatures, and I am trying to find more opportunities to make that possible. I’m also reading lots and lots of research papers on jumping spiders, ants, and acacia plants, since I’ve been doing research on the world’s only known vegetarian spider for my master’s degree.

Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

I’d be Nate Twitchell from The Enormous Egg, or Louis from The Mysterious Tadpole. They’ve been favorites of mine for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always hoped to make surprising discoveries like they did.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write?

I write in the room with my tortoises, who are named Leo and Josephine. They have deformed shells because they didn’t get proper care with a previous owner, but I’m trying to ensure that they get the best treatment possible. I also share the room with Green Fruit Loop, a little lizard that one of my students discovered in salad greens last year. That story made international news, and there is a whole list of articles about her on my website.

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Leo and Josephine are still kind of shy, unless I’m bringing them food.

 

Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

My favorite movie of all time would have to be Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, although I’m also a huge fan of the Star Wars movies and the original Jurassic Park . . . even though it had a lot of incorrect information about dinosaurs. For example, T. rex probably had some of the best eyes in the animal kingdom, and it wouldn’t have shaken the ground when it moved.

Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

Given my previous answers on favorite books, I guess it’d be cool to have a pet Triceratops or Loch Ness monster, but I’ve already got lots of animals in my home. I’ve been thinking long and hard about getting a group of spiny tailed monitor lizards, because they look so cool, although I doubt that I have space with all of my other reptiles, including ten turtles, seven snakes, and my wall lizards from a small island off the coast of Italy. They’re actually bright blue!

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As soon as I learned about these blue wall lizards, I couldn’t help but buy a few. Last summer they laid eggs, so I might be getting more!

 

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Dark chocolate, because it’s supposed to be healthier than the rest. It also needs to be sourced from Central America, since I used to walk through chocolate farms while I was living and working in Panama. I’m always looking for ways to help those farmers out, since their plantations can help protect the rainforest and the beautiful frogs that live on the tree trunks and forest floor.

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Poison dart frogs love to hop around under chocolate plants!

 

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving, because it’s the time when people get together and nobody has to worry about gifts. It’s all about sharing time, and not material things. I also love the food!

Q: What’s your favorite emoji? OR What’s your favorite GIF?

Anything with a jumping spider in it, like this one:

via GIPHY

 

Or this one:

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I also really like pufferfish:

via GIPHY

Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Sam’s age?

I wanted to be an exotic pet veterinarian, and work with reptiles. The part about working with reptiles came through, although I never found the time to go to veterinary school. Maybe I will someday!


Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn

earning-my-spots-9781510707788Sam and his family are the only werehyenas in their town, and they do their best to keep up their cover in front of the humans while the other more aggressive shifters mock the werehyena family for being weak and passive. But Sam sees no other life for himself, as he believes what he is told: he is inferior to the other shifters.

One night, a pack of shifters raids Sam’s house and takes his family, leaving him all alone. With the help of some new friends, Sam sets off on a journey from Vermont to South America to rescue his family. Along the way, he meets various shifters who aid him on his quest. He even meets a tribe of werehyenas in Louisiana who teach him how powerful his kind actually is and how far his ancestry goes back. From them, Sam learns he has a great destiny to fulfill.

As Sam draws closer to finding his family, he begins to understand how different the world of shifters is that exists outside of his small hometown. Shifters are tired of humans destroying their homes, and they want not only revenge but also to force humans into submission. It becomes clear that Sam is the only one who can stop a war that’s on the brink of erupting.

Fans of the Spirit Animals and Warriors series will enjoy accompanying Sam on his quest as he discovers not only that his destiny and inner strength are greater than he thought, but also that being a werehyena is not as laughable as he assumed.

 

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Fandom Fashion: Spin the Sky

Check out this outfit inspired by the cover of Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie!


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Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

spin-the-sky-9781510706866Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

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Spin the Sky author, Jill MacKenzie takes on the Sky Pony Q&A

Spin the Sky hits shelves in less than a week! We’re celebrating this week by sharing teaser quotes and images on our social media (do you follow and like us everywhere?). Author, Jill MacKenzie took on the Sky Pony Express Q&A so you lovely readers can get to know her a little better before you meet her protagonist, Magnolia Woodsen! Check it out below!


Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

To me, writing YA literature was always a no-brainer. Those years between thirteen and nineteen have always been the ones I’ve gravitated towards, the ones that I reflect on now most often. It’s not so much that my own high school years were amazing (trust me, they weren’t) but more a case of knowing that those years shaped who I am as a person today. And when I say shaped who I am, in no way do I mean that my teenage years defined who I am—quite the opposite, actually. I’m a very different person now than I was as a teenager. I’d like to think that I’m a nicer one. I know that I’m a quieter one, a more introspective one. But my teenage years are when I started my journey of self-discovery and that was pretty huge for me. That’s when I really started to feel different and knew that others weren’t really seeing the world the way I was. Back then, I always felt uneasy in my own skin and moved through life carefully, like if I said one wrong thing my whole world would explode. I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that it’s okay to be different. I guess that’s why I write YA. So that when I write teenage characters now, I make sure each and every one of them know it’s definitely okay—preferable actually—to be different.

Q: What are you reading right now?

I’m reading a few books right now and choose which one to read each night based on my mood or what kind of day I’ve had. These include: Eileen Cook’s With Malice, A.S. King’s Still Life with Tornado, and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I’ve also got Jaye Robin Brown’s Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit and (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki loaded up on my Kindle. So I’ve got a lot going on, reading-wise! But that’s a good place for me to be in. My best place, actually.

Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Right off the top of my head, I’d say Amber Appleton from Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like a Rockstar. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character with the kind of strength that parallel’s Amber’s and I envy that because I’m naturally a pretty fearful person. I fell in love with Amber pretty instantly. As I did with Kidd from Matt de la Pena’s I Will Save You, though I think it was a different kind of love with Kidd. I’d like to be Amber. But if I’m Amber, I want to meet up, one day, with Kidd.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write?

Sadly, my favorite place to write isn’t the place I write in on a daily basis. Usually, I write at home in my office (pajama clad, of course) with my little Siamese, Gloria, curled up on my lap. I love her. She’s snuggly. Plus she enforces that I sit in my chair for a minimum of three hours a day, as per her nap schedule. Here is a picture of me (or, at least, my lap) on usual, Monday-Friday days.

jill-cat

But that’s not necessarily my favorite place to write. Last year, I went on a writing retreat to Tennessee. The cabin/mansion I was staying in (packed with about thirty other writers) was nestled in the Blue Mountains and it was pretty huge for me because, although I grew up surrounded by mountains, my South Florida home has no mountains to be seen. This is a picture my retreat roommate took of me writing in Tennessee. I think it’s my favorite place in the world to create characters. I don’t know if I’ve ever written prettier sentences than I did while I was here.

jill-writing-spot

Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Easy! Field of Dreams. I am a girl who doesn’t like sports. Probably because I don’t understand them at all—like, I don’t know the rules to any sport at all. So, a movie about baseball has to be pretty awesome to make me love it the way I do. Field of Dreams is definitely that, plus the miraculous W.P. Kinsella wrote it. I’ve always loved his work.

My other favorite movie—though not a classic—is called Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. Everything about this movie speaks to me. I’ve seen it over ten times when most people haven’t even heard of it. I definitely recommend it.

Lastly, I really love the movie rendition of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes. I think I’m sort of alone in my bursting-heart-bubbles feeling on this film, but it doesn’t happen often (for me at least) where a movie casts characters so right, so completely authentic and true to its book counterpart. Tiger Eyes did that for me, absolutely.

Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

A miniature donkey, hands down. Have you seen those things? Serious cuteness overload. Like a tiny horse, but with a feistier personality. Like a large goat but without the weird eyes. Omg, I’m dying here.

donkey

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Milk! I eat chocolate every single day of my life without exception. But I’m a purist about it. It pretty much has to be Godiva, Cadbury’s or Hershey’s (if I’m feeling a little desperate) or I won’t eat it at all.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Promise you won’t laugh? It’s Valentine’s Day. I know what people say about it being a Hallmark holiday or whatever but I just love it. I love the little candies, I love the exchange of school Valentines, I love the colors red and pink and I love the red and pink together. It’s just a sweet little day without too much build up and if that’s what it takes for everyone to be a little nicer to each other, so be it.

Q: What’s your favorite emoji? OR What’s your favorite GIF?

My favorite emoji is this one here:

eye-roll

Giant eye roll. I often use it in text when I know I’ve just said something eye-roll worthy. I just put it out there so that the person on the other end doesn’t have to.

Favorite gif? Easy one, too! Someone sent this to me with the caption that said, “my current process” in regards to crafting a story. I was like, “oh my god IT’S MY CURRENT PROCESS TOO.” Ack.

via GIPHY

Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Magnolia’s age?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But for a time (a long time, actually) I was told that the chances of actually being a writer were probably pretty small. I also wanted to be a Social Worker for at-risk youth so I tried my hand at that for a year as well. It was so incredibly hard and I didn’t make it at that kind of job very long. But when I was Magnolia’s age, I was very much a wanderer. All I wanted to do back then was travel the world and read books and do a little work along the way to support this travel-plus-books habit. That’s about as far as my ambitions went back then!


Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

spin-the-sky-9781510706866Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

bio-picJill Mackenzie, a Vancouver native, is an ex-ballerina and contemporary dancer. Now working toward her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Jill chassés between roles as part-time student, full-time mom, and always-writer. Though Jill no longer studies dance, she still tries to dance herself clean whenever she can. Currently she lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she spends her free time beach-bound with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

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#teasertuesday

Today’s #teasertuesday post comes from Sarah S. Reida’s Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production out September 20th!


Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production

Monsterville 9781510707337

“We climbed down from the deer stand, and as I dropped onto the loose dirt, I heard a tree splinter and crash.

‘What was that?’ Adam asked sharply.

I pressed myself against the tree. ‘It’s the—’ Could a swamp monster knock down trees?

Another tree cracked and fell, closer now. Birds squawked and flew up and into the sky. Twigs snapped, branches broke, bushes shook, but I couldn’t see a thing. Adam and I stayed planted at the base of the tree, craning our heads. I imagined what this would look like from an arc shot—the camera swiv­eling around us as we cowered, waiting for whatever came next.

There was a brown flash about thirty feet away. ‘Th-th-there,’ I stuttered, pointing.

‘Quick!’ Adam barked, grabbing my arm so hard it hurt. ‘Back up to the deer stand! Flat on the floor!’

We raced up the ladder, hitting the floor of the plat­form and pressing ourselves against the wood. I willed myself to stop shaking. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Kittens. Chocolate. Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

Loud footsteps boomed below us. They were far away at first, but getting closer, closer . . . I squeezed my eyes shut, breathing in the earthy smell of the deer stand.

The footsteps stopped right below us. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter, counting in my head. One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi.

I was up to fifty-seven Mississippis before I realized that not just the footsteps had gone quiet. Everything had. No more birds chirping, no woodpeckers peck­ing, no small animals rustling in the bushes.

I counted to one hundred and opened my eyes. A huge, furry brown thing was six inches away, staring at me. It had a wide, flat nose and sunken eyes. They reminded me a lot of the swamp creature’s—brown and liquid.

‘Adam,’ I tried to say, but nothing came out. I tried to lift my hand to poke him, but I couldn’t move. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Adam was motion­less beside me, his arms over his head like we were hiding under our desks for an earthquake drill.

‘Adam,’ I mouthed again, this time managing a squeak. He lowered his arms and peeked at the mon­ster. His face drained of color.

The monster leaned closer. Its breath smelled like hot, fifty-year-old garbage. The muscles in its massive neck tensed as it opened its mouth.

‘Moooooooooooo!'”

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Five Things Needed in Every Backpack

Deirdre Sullivan, author of Ming Goes to School shares her thoughts on the back-to-school season and a list of the top five things kids must have in their backpack for school!


Going back to school means different things for different families. I am a stay at home mom of four girls, so this time of year can pack in lots of emotions.  Marking the passage of time is always gut wrenching for me.  How is it possible they grow up so fast? And saying good-bye to the unscheduled lazy days of summer is never easy, but looking forward to the new school year can be full of excitement.

What has been successful for me over the last ten years is starting the school bedtime and wake-up routine a few weeks before the first day of school.  Getting the kids on school time seems to alleviate a lot of stress for them and they are well rested for the first day. We spend a good deal of time talking about the start of school and what my kids are looking forward to and what they are less excited about. This dialog uncovers fears or concerns they have and we address them far in advance of the first day.

The five things all kids must have in their backpacks is

  1. A Ming Goes to School picture book
  2. A little note of encouragement from me or their dad
  3. A lunchbox that they have helped pack to make sure it’s stuff they are guaranteed to eat and no one will be hungry
  4. School supplies
  5. Extra set of clothes, especially socks for their cubbies

As much as I cherish the summer days of sun-kissed cheeks and sprinkled ice cream cones, the first day of school has become one of my personal favorites. I’ve survived another summer, and I soak up every bit of silence in the house just before the school bell rings.

Here’s a picture of Deirdre at Ming’s age!

IMG_2237


Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Löfdahl

Ming Goes to School_coverMing goes to school, where she learns to say hello and good-bye. She meets new friends and introduces them to old friends (including her favorite teddy). She builds sandcastles and makes snow angels; she traces, glitters, and glues. She is so fearless that when held at sword point, she even walks the plank! And when she’s playing in the mud, she reaches out and touches the worms with her bare hands. But despite those brave deeds, she isn’t quite ready for the big red slide—not yet.

This is a very sweet story with soft, evocative watercolor illustrations that will help kids to grow comfortable with the idea of starting preschool. Ming is curious and playful and ready for adventure, but even she gets scared of new things sometimes. Kids will relate to her desires and fears and will be excited to see Ming at the top of the slide by the story’s end.

A quiet and reassuring picture book for preschoolers (3-5), this is a wonderful going-to-school story that can be read both at home and in the classroom or childcare center. The illustrations provide a lot of diversity of characters, making this feel like any classroom in any school in the country.

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