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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Storytime: New and Notable Picture Books (5)

Storytime is a new(ish) feature at The Hiding Spot in which I share some of my favorite new, old, & overlooked picture books.
Not a parent, teacher, or librarian? Picture books make fantastic gifts, from baby showers to birthdays and holidays. As bookworms, we all know how important books are – be the one who hands that special kid in your life the book that will make them fall in love with the magic of reading!

New & Notable

The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House
Written by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by Scott Magoon

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
It's bedtime at the Nut house, but Wally and Hazel Nut just aren't ready to go to sleep! Instead, they ignore Mama and keep playing and singing their song: 'We're Nuts! We're Nuts! We're Nuts!' It's only after lots of warnings and Mama finally giving them THE LOOK that these two little Nuts settle down for bed. The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House is a funny read aloud from Peter the Cat creator Eric Litwin and illustrator Scott Magoon that is sure to have kids singing and laughing along.   
Miss Brooks' Story Nook (where stories are told and ogres are welcome)
Written by Barbara Bottner, Illustrated by Michael Emberley

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
I loved this fantastic read aloud in which the power of imagination and storytelling defeat a neighborhood bully. Missy is often late for her favorite part of the day - Miss Brooks' Story Nook - because of Billy, who picks on her as she makes her way to school. When a power outage prompts Miss Brooks to encourage the students to make up their own stories, Missy is skeptical... she likes to hear stories, not make them up! But, before she knows it, Missy is creating her very own story with a villain that she battles in real life: Billy. A great, creative conclusion to this inspiring story about the power of story make this book a must.

Hermelin the Detective Mouse
Written & Illustrated by Mini Grey

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
After making his home in the attic of an apartment building, Hermelin, a small mystery-solving mouse, notices the building notice board covered with notices of missing items. Hermelin sets out to help return lost items by writing notes to the various apartment tenants, helping to recover a missing bracelet, purse, teddy bear, and more. When the tenants throw a party in the mysterious Hermelin's honor, he's touched, until the attendees scatter in a panic at the sight of a mouse. When Hermelin discovers that mice are considered pests, he sadly decides to leave his home behind, until a young tenant befriends him.

Forget Me Not
Written by Nancy Van Laan, Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
Forget Me Not is a touching story about a young girl, Julia, and her feelings about her grandma's onset of dementia. To start, Julia recalls when her grandma began mixing up names and forgetting small details. As her grandma's dementia worsens, the situations Julia relates intensify as well. Her grandma forgets where she is while at the supermarket, she is found outside in the snow in only her nightgown, digging for forget-me-nots, and, eventually, can no longer remember her family. When Julia's family makes the difficult decision to move Grandma to a home, Julia mourns the change, but soon realizes that Grandma is happier in her new, safe environment. Julia misses the old grandma, when she was her old sweet self, but she still loves her and greets her with a big hug each time she visits Grandma... Even if Grandma can't remember, Julia will never forget.  
Shivery Shades of Halloween
Written by Mary Mckenna Siddals; Illustrated by Jeremy Pickering

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
This fantastic read aloud explores all the colors little readers will encounter in their Halloween adventures through bright, colorful illustrations and memorable rhyme. Shivery Shades of Halloween is a worthwhile addition to your library and great holiday fun!  


Love any of the books featured this week? Want to see a certain theme explore, author, or illustrator explored in an upcoming Story Time post? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

James Patterson's Homeroom Diaries + The Happiness Project Giveaway!

Let great reads make you smile! Enter for your chance to win a James Patterson collection including copies of Homeroom Diaries, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, and First Love.

The Hiding Spot has teamed up with Little, Brown to offer one lucky reader the James Patterson prize pack pictured below:

About Homeroom Diaries:

In James Patterson's first highly illustrated "diary fiction" story for teens, the mega-bestselling author's most endearing and original teen heroine ever proves that everyone can use a helping hand once in a while.

Margaret "Cuckoo" Clarke recently had a brief stay in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she's turning over a new leaf with her "Happiness Project". She's determined to beat down the bad vibes of the Haters, the Terror Teachers, and all of the trials and tribulations of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she works through her own moments of uncertainty through imaginary conversations with her favorite literary characters.

Cuckoo's also got a nearly impossible mission: she, along with her misfit band of self-deprecating friends (who call themselves "the Freakshow") decide to bridge the gap between warring cliques and "bring the Nations together". Not everyone is so willing to join hands and get along, but Cuckoo never stops smiling...until one of her closest friends, pushed to desperation by a Hater prank, decides that enough is enough.

Win It!

Interview with Dana Alison Levy, author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

Dana Alison Levy, author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, is here at The Hiding Spot today! Not only is the Fletcher family one of my favorite literary families, I'm quite sure they will quickly become one of your favorites too! Read on for to learn more about Dana, including a look at her writing process and her favorite word (well, words)!

About the Author

Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true—she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is her first published novel, but she has a trunk full of other attempts, which vary in degrees of awfulness.

With The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, you’ve successfully given young readers a literary example of a modern, loving family – a family that might not have been so easily accepted even a few short years ago. Can you speak a bit about the need for diverse literature that accurately portrays the modern child, parent, and family?

I don’t have an official reason for writing this book. The family Fletcher is not a mirror of my family, nor any one specific family I know. Rather, it was a desire to write the kind of book I loved reading as a kid, but that reflected our modern world a little more accurately. I started writing this book in 2011, and even in the few years since then the issue of gay marriage has exploded, becoming ever more common. The goal with this book was never to write an issue book that addressed the challenges and realities of being a biracial (tri-racial?!) family, or of having same-sex parents. Those books can and should be written, but the goal with this book was to write a story that was full of universal challenges: growing apart from an old friend, starting a new school, and figuring out what matters to you as you grow up. Hopefully it will allow kids with non-traditional families to find themselves in some silly, everyday stories, and will show kids with conventional families how many elements of our lives are all the same.

Your novel features four brothers with very different interests and personalities. Did these boys all have clear voices from the start or did you struggle with one or two?

You know, they were pretty clear from the start! I didn’t even necessarily WANT four boys; they just showed up. And they were pretty distinctly themselves from day one.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 

I am an outliner and a linear writer. I’m always amazing and impressed by my writer friends who say “Oh, I skipped the first 100 pages or so because I really want to write this scene.” Or, “I’m around halfway through this draft but I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next.” How scary! I write a chapter-by-chapter outline with a series of different pieces of information included (and a huge shout-out to Janice Hardy and her blog for writing advice. That was a great resource on how to draft). Then of course I change it as I go along if the characters demand it.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 

I have had a bunch of jobs, from the random (housecleaner in Paris, waitress in Santorini), to the corporate (corporate social responsibility writer for the Timberland Company, executive recruiter for nonprofits). I have always loved to write and always written, but being a writer never seemed like a reasonable option.

The work experience that most shaped my career was somewhat bizarre: I was laid off in the recession of 2009, and suddenly I had time on my hands, young children, and unemployment insurance while I was job-hunting in a terrible economy. I began to write fiction, and also started looking for ways to earn some faster money as a writer, which led me to the freelance work I still do today.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 

Oooooooh! That is a great question, but an almost impossible one to answer. How do I even narrow it down? I love the word shenanigans, of course, and use it as often as possible. But I also love the word crepuscular. And akimbo is a really great one. Gloaming...that’s another. Fetid is fabulous. Argh!! I give up!
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 

Books are now and have always been my escape from reality. I’m not a huge movie-goer, and I watch almost no television, but I read well over a hundred books a year. I reread books constantly, and my sister and I have our own category of books that we call “Cheerios books” because we would reread them again and again as children and teenagers, usually while nomming Cheerios right out of the box. Even now, at forty-one, I’ll pick up Little Women or Half Magic or other childhood favorites and escape right back into their pages.

What can readers look forward to next?

Well, I’m disgustingly thrilled to be writing the sequel to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. It is tentatively titled A Fletcher Family Summer, and it should come out in spring 2016. I’m also working on another middle grade novel (that’s actually about Anna Bean —- the girl on the farm that the Fletchers go visit —) and a contemporary young adult novel.