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Friday, April 21, 2017

One Good Thing About America with Ruth Freeman [Blog Tour]

Welcome to Day #10 of the One Good Thing About America Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (3/14/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ruth and 10 chances to win a copy of One Good Thing About America, as well as a chance to win a Skype visit with Ruth in the Grand Prize Giveaway!

Books for Further Reading about Immigrants and Newcomers by Ruth Freeman
I would love to share with you some wonderful books about what it means to be new in America. This is in no way a complete list, and they are not in any particular order. They are books I have come across and that are favorites of mine.
For a much longer list of titles (arranged by topic and country), visit the I’m Your Neighbor website at:
My Two Blankets by Irene Kobald and Freya Blackwood
What I especially like about this sweet story is the way the illustrator has drawn how the newcomer first hears English. There are streams of symbols and shapes coming out of people’s mouths, not sounds. A new friend teaches her words and she begins to feel at home. At the end she comes to know that no matter where she is she will always be herself. I love this book!
Joseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish, art by Ken Daley
A boy who comes to America from a refugee camp desperately wants a bike, and the girl in his neighborhood has one. Her name is Whoosh because she goes by so fast. Will the boy find a way to befriend her and get a ride on the bike? The big, bold illustrations help tell this wonderful story.
I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
Three new students from three different countries are at a new school. With simple language (good for ELL students!), we follow them as they find friends and ways to shine in their new school.
My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
A boy is determined to keep his African name but students at his new American school can’t pronounce it. He finds a clever way to help them learn his name.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
A beautiful and poignant story, told in English and Arabic, of one family’s journey to escape the war in their country. While the country is not named, the amazing illustrations are by a Syrian sculptor. Each picture is a collage of polished stones bringing to life the people and burdens they carry on their backs as they walk to a new life. The sadness of saying goodbye, the bombs and lives lost at sea are balanced carefully and sensitively with the hopes and dreams for peace in their new home.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna
This story, with its stunning illustrations, begins with a family building sandcastles on a beach. But the waves turn black. War is coming. Soon, on a page almost completely black, “the war took my father.” The mother and two children escape and begin their journey to “a country far away with high mountains.” By car, van, delivery truck, bicycle and finally on foot, leaving more and more of their possessions behind, they arrive at a border and are turned away. There is a narrow escape and a sea to cross. The story ends while they continue to travel on to “a home where we can be safe and begin our story again.” A powerful story.
I Am America by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
We love having this nonfiction book in our ELL room at school because the photographs are so much fun to look at and the text is simple enough for our students to read. At the same time, it is thought provoking for our older students. What does it mean to be “rhythm,” “big, baggy jeans,” or  “candy cane sticks?”
For older readers, here are a few middle-grade novels:
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen
I read this book several years ago with a diverse class of middle-schoolers. It is truly a wonderful story of a bunch of neighbors coming to know each other around a community garden. There is something for everyone here because each chapter is told from a different point of view: young, old, immigrant, black, white.
The Good Braider by Terry Farish
 A beautiful story told in free verse of a Sudanese girl learning to make a new life in Maine. She navigates the snow, high school, a culture where girls can go out with boys, while balancing the wishes of her more traditional mother. A story that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.
Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming
Lowji is a great kid, funny, upbeat and determined to make his way in America, even if it is summer and he can’t find any kids to play with. He makes things happen! And he somehow finds a way to get what he wants, like a dog. Along the way, he meets an assortment of characters in his town and causes lots of commotion. A fun book!
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
It is 1975 and 10-year-old Ha has to flee Vietnam with her family. Told in verse, the story follows Ha for a year as she and her family escape from Saigon and board a ship that takes them to America. Then they have to adjust to their new home in Alabama. A Newbery Honor Book and a winner of the National Book Award.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
In this touching book, Kek comes from Africa where he lived with his family but only he and his mother have survived. Now she's missing, and Kek has been sent to a new home in Minnesota where he sees snow for the first time. Slowly he makes friends with a girl in foster care and an old woman who takes him on to help with the cow that reminds him home. Very moving.

Today is the last day of the tour! Stop by the other blogs below for more chances to win!
Blog Tour Schedule:
April 10th – Geo Librarian April 11thLate Bloomer's Book Blog April 12th Mrs. Mommy BookNerd April 13thKristi's Book Nook April 14thLife Naturally April 17th – Books My Kids Read April 18th – Chat with Vera April 19th Word Spelunking April 20th – Middle Grade Mafioso April 21st – The Hiding Spot
Follow Ruth: Website | Facebook Publisher: Holiday House
ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures. It's hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you're in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn't know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anaïs misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac 'n' cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.
About the Author: Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel.

  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of One Good Thing About America for their personal collection, as well as a 30 minute Skype visit with Ruth Freeman to the school of their choice and a signed copy for the school's library.
  • Enter via the rafflecopter below
  • US Only
  • Ends 4/23 at midnight ET
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brightly's 50 Best Books Series + Giveaway

If you're a parent or educator and you've yet to utilize the fabulous website Brightly, I urge you to do so!

Brightly has an excellent series titled 50 Best Books. The newest installment features 50 Best Books for 11- and 12-Year Olds

In honor of Brightly's mission to help grow lifelong readers, and to celebrate the latest addition to the series, Brightly is giving away a customized collection of 50 of the best books for the kids in your life! 

To enter for your chance to win, visit the website here!

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Interview with Sophy Henn, author of Pass It On

Sophy Henn is here at The Hiding Spot to share her newest picture book, Pass It On, which is a joyous celebration of positive thinking and sharing!

I was immediately charmed by the positivity and joy found within the pages of Pass It On. Can you share a bit about your inspiration for this story? 
Thank you so much! I am delighted you enjoyed Pass It On

This book has a rather special spot in my heart. I wanted to create a happy, positive and, most importantly, empowering book for everyone from the very youngest book lover upwards! 

The world can feel huge, incredibly busy and a bit frightening sometimes, especially when you are little. So it's hard to imagine how you can make a difference or have an impact and that can feel a bit frustrating and scary too. The core message of Pass It On is that you can change the world one smile at a time. Look for the good stuff, there’s more than you imagine and when you find it, the simple act of sharing it with someone else means you have made the world a little bit brighter! If everyone did that imagine the positive impact! It’s not a new message, but sometimes in the hurly burly of the topsy turvy world we live in even the most obvious messages can get lost. I wanted to lay the idea out in the clearest way I could, with the most accessible ideas within it with the aim of inspiring everyone to spread a little happy! And I think we all need a little extra happy at the moment. 
Please tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you begin with an outline; a bit of text; a character? 
Oh I wish I had a process! I love those articles about writers who have a certain breakfast before completing three chapters before lunch, and I long for a magic, word inducing breakfast! Personally, I have found ideas can come from all directions, Where Bear? came from an absent minded doodle of Bear, Pom Pom arrived in cartoon form from a real life incident (HARRUMPH!) and Pass It On really just came from wanting to write a happy book. But where ever the idea comes from, once it arrives the discipline starts! I will then write the story, break that down into spreads then sketch out each spread. That sounds straightforward though in reality it can be anything but! Some stories flow out, some have to be encouraged and others feel like almost impossible puzzles. But it’s a puzzle I love to crack and I can’t believe I get to do it for an actual job! 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Share a notable book, author, or illustrator that has provided you with a hiding spot. 
Oh so many! Can I have one of each please? If so, I would say Tove Jansson's The Summer Book is a book I often retreat to. The clarity and seeming simplicity of her writing combined with the story of a grandmother and her granddaughter spending a summer on their island is just magical. An author I go to for complete escape is Nancy Mitford. Her books were written in the 1940s/50s and therefore bear no marks of the world about us, combined with the characters being assembled from the upper classes/aristocracy of the time means it is utterly otherworldly for me. But the themes of love, loss and belonging make those books beloved classics, a status helped immensely by her genius wit and wicked humour! 
What can your readers look forward to next? 
The next picture book I have coming out in the US is called Edie and it is about a little girl who is ever so helpful. We all know a little girl like Edie, full of beans, extremely busy and very keen to 'help' everyone. She might not always get it right, but you can’t fault her positivity!

More About the Book
Here's a fun idea: When you laugh or smile--pass it on! A story about giving, sharing, and joy.

"When you see something terrific, smile a smile and pass it on! If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on. Should you spot a thing of wonder, jump for joy and pass it on!"

So begins Sophy Henn's ode to the excitement of sharing happiness with others. With a refrain that begs to be uttered before every turn of the page, children will eagerly read alongside their parents as they discover how wonderful--and fun!--it is to share the good things in life. After all, if you spread happiness to others, even on a gray, rainy day, when you least expect it, like a bolt out of the blue, a smile or a chuckle might be passed right back to you! This heartwarming, upbeat book is the perfect way to bring a warm ray of sunshine into every reader's life.

  Buy a copy of Pass It On using the links below:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cover Reveal Roundup - Middle Grade (92)

Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes


Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero
In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina's courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter--that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

Gertie Milk & the Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy
Gertie Milk is about a girl who discovers she is the next Keeper of Lost Things and, with the help of a time machine disguised as a vintage sports car, races through time from a 1920s flapper party to a hidden mountain village in 770 B.C. China to return lost objects to famous historical figures.

The Night Garden by Polly Horvath
It is World War II, and Franny and her parents, Sina and Old Tom, enjoy a quiet life on a farm on Vancouver Island. Franny writes, Sina sculpts, and Old Tom tends to their many gardens--including the ancient, mysterious night garden. Their peaceful life is interrupted when their neighbor, Crying Alice, begs Sina to watch her children while she goes to visit her husband at the military base because she suspects he's up to no good. Soon after the children move in, letters arrive from their father that suggest he's about to do something to change their lives; and appearances from a stubborn young cook, UFOs, hermits, and ghosts only make life stranger. Can the forbidden night garden that supposedly grants everyone one wish help them all out of trouble? And if so, at what cost?

Marabel and the Book of Fate by Tracy Barrett
In Magikos, life is dictated by the Book of Fate, which predicts everything. Well, everything important, at least, like the birth of a royal Chosen One who will save the land. And, sure enough, Prince Marco is born on the appointed hour...and is soon followed by a twin sister, who did not merit a mention in the Book of Fate. Now thirteen, Prince Marco is hailed as the land's salvation, while it's clear to all that Princess Marabel is nobody special. If she tried to perform any great feats of bravery, she would most likely fall flat on her face. She won't be beloved by the people, travelling musicians won't regale crowds with the Ballad of Marabel the Great, and she certainly won't be able to unite a fractured kingdom.

But when Marco is kidnapped by an evil queen, Marabel is the first to run to the rescue. Outside of the castle walls for the first time, accompanied only by her best friend and one very smug unicorn, Marabel must forge her own path on a daring mission that sees the crew of rescuers facing off against fairies, trolls, giants, and even a dragon. Marabel will have to find a way to surmount all the obstacles in her path and defy the Book of Fate, or risk losing her brother--and her kingdom--forever.
Monster, Human, Other by Laurel Gale

For readers of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener comes a perfectly peculiar tale that shows the scariest monsters are often the ones we create for ourselves.


Isaac Read doesn't feel like a monster. He's just like every other kid on his block--as long as he tapes down his tail, that is!


Wren wishes her adopted family would stop teasing her about her lousy sense of smell and poor sense of direction. It's not her fault she doesn't have their sensitive snouts and keen eyesight.


The overcrowded voracans hate getting walked all over--literally. They live underground.

Broken promises and new alliances spell trouble for Wren and Isaac as the voracans try to claw their way to the top--and bring some unlikely suspects with them!
Penelope March is Melting by Jeffrey Michael Ruby

This is the story of a twelve-year-old girl who lives in a miraculous town on an iceberg.
The iceberg is melting.
And she's the only one who can stop it.

The town of Glacier Cove sits on top of an iceberg. Nothing bad ever happens there. Until now. And it's up to Penelope March to stop it.

Mmm-hmm, that Penelope--the bookworm who lives in the ramshackle house with her brother, Miles. The girl with the mom who--poof!--disappeared. The one everyone ignores . . . except strange Coral Wanamaker, a tiny thing with raven-black hair and a black coat.

When Penelope meets someone who seems to know secrets not only about Glacier Cove but about Penelope herself, she and Miles are pulled into an ancient mystery. Together, they'll face the coldest, cruelest enemy ever known. Looks like the girl who only reads about adventures is going to start living one.

Monsterland by James Crowley

In a middle grade adventure full of humor, heart and cinematic storytelling, a boy takes off on a once-in-a-lifetime journey through a mysterious land, with the help of some monster friends

It’s Halloween, and everyone in Charlie’s small town is excited for this year’s festivities. Charlie’s grandfather, Old Joe, is famous for his holiday haunts, and his pumpkin patch is the center of the town’s zealous celebrations. But for Charlie, Halloween’s just one more reminder that his cousin Billy isn’t around anymore. Charlie plans to keep to himself this year, hanging out in the haunted barn with his trusty dog Ringo.

But when Charlie runs into some neighborhood bullies who are after his candy, he heads off into the woods to escape. He quickly gets lost, but spots a kid who he thinks is Billy. As Charlie chases after him deeper and deeper into the woods, he finds himself entering Monsterland—a mysterious place where werewolves live amongst trolls and goblins. Here he meets the Prime Minister, a vampire who tells Charlie he may be able to see his cousin again in this strange new land. Accompanied by a hulking monster chaperone, Charlie’s determined to find out just what happened to his cousin, and sets off to explore the secrets hiding in this uncharted territory.

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

With a charming voice, winning characters, and a perfectly-woven plot, Kat Yeh delivers a powerful story of friendship and finding a path towards embracing yourself.

Everything in Bea's world has changed. She's starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don't deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.

But then something incredible happens--someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words--and herself--have found a new way to belong.

Moon Princess by Barbara Laban

Sienna is unhappy. Her mother has disappeared and she feels alone in Shanghai. Her only friend is Rufus--a sarcastic invisible dog with a VERY clear idea of how things should be done.

When their mean housekeeper starts acting suspiciously, Sienna decides to investigate. She follows a trail of clues that leads her to a new friend, Feng, who also has an invisible animal friend and has lost a family member. Together they embark on a hunt through China that leads them to new friends, even more invisible animals, and a mysterious moonlit temple where Sienna's mother and Feng's brother were last seen.

Are the disappearances linked to a priceless statue of the famous moon princess? And can they discover the dangerous truth?

Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. The hospital social worker warns her the transition back may be tricky, but Norah isn’t worried. Compared with battling cancer, how tricky can seventh grade be?

Very. Everyone is either treating Norah like she will break at any second, or acting weird about all the attention she’s getting. Her best friend, Harper, does her best to be there for Norah, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls, leaving Norah feeling a little unsteady. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?

When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of drawing and Greek mythology. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story. But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? And then, once you find the words, how do you move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?
The Quest to the Uncharted Lands by Jaleigh Johnson

From the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Mark of the Dragonfly comes another magical and thrilling story that takes readers on an exciting new adventure.

Stella Glass dreams of exploring worlds beyond her home of Solace, but when her famous parents are sent on a historic mission to the Uncharted Lands, it's simply too dangerous for her to join them. By order of the king, she is left behind.

Missing out on the excitement is one thing, but Stella is devastated at the thought of her parents flying into the unknown. So she takes matters into her own hands. Instead of staying with family as planned, she steals away and--right before takeoff--sneaks aboard the airship.

But Stella isn't the only stowaway.

In the cargo bay is a boy who is also desperate to get to the Uncharted Lands. And someone else who's determined to keep the ship from making it there at all. . . .

Once You Know This by Emily Blejwas
A girl wishes for a better life for her, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.
The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell

For fans of "The One and Only Ivan" and "Hoot, " this is the uplifting story of a girl who discovers a family of panthers that were thought to be extinct, and her journey to save the species.

Eleven-year-old Kiri has a secret: wild things call to her. More than anyone else, she’s always had a special connection to animals.

But when Kiri has an encounter with the last known Florida panther, her life is quickly turned on end.

Caught between her conservationist father, who wants to send the panther to a zoo, and the village poachers, who want to sell it to feed their families, Kiri must embark on a journey that will take her deep into the wilderness.

There has to be some way to save the panther, and for her da and the villagers to understand each other. If Kiri can’t figure out what it is, she’ll lose far more than the panthers she’ll lose the only home she’s ever known, and the only family she has left.

Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!