Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fairy Tale Twist: Prince of a Frog

Prince of a Frog
story and illustrations by Jackie Urbanovic
Orchard Books (Scholastic Inc.)
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545636520

Prince of a Frog takes the classic fairy tale and twists it in such a way that it will have kids giggling and their parents and grandparents amazed at the transformation from classic tale to new story.

Hopper is a gregarious frog who longs for fun and games, so much so, that he just doesn't fit in at the small pond. A wise old turtle advises him that he may not be a frog at all; perhaps he is a prince. Hopper isn't sure what that means but he knows he has to find a princess and kiss her. He looks high and low and nearly runs into trouble in the woods but is saved by a likeable, outgoing dog. The dog is kind and sweet and shows him that he truly is a prince and has been one all along.

Charming and sweet, Hopper and Princess are two cute characters bound to become favorites. Jackie Urbanovic hits all the right notes in this retelling of a well-known tale.

The illustrations capture the friendship and joy between the two main characters and the final page is sheer beauty!

Highly, highly recommended for any beginning reader and perfect for a friendship story.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Picture Book Pick: Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner
by Gareth Edwards
Illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees
Scholastic Press
2015 (Published in U.K. 2014)
32 pages

read an excerpt

Clever rhyming content is matched with winsome and whimsical illustrations and the outcome is amazing and entertaining. A boy tries to discover which animal would be the best one for comfort at bedtime. Fierce animals like sharks, tigers and bison all have drawbacks as bedtime pals. Some animals are too loud, or too pointy, or too growly. The boy finds out that his own teddy bear is the best animal to take to bed and that counting sheep will put him fast asleep.  You won't want to ask a dinosaur to dinner, "...because a T. rex is ferocious/and his manners are atrocious,/And you'll find that if he's able.../He will eat the kitchen table!"

Dinosaurs are always  winners with the younger set and this book is no exception. The smiling blue dinosaur on the cover is ready to sit down to dinner. He's got his bib on and holds a fork and knife. Never mind the mess he's made at his feet. The boy is waving to the dinosaur ignoring his own teddy bear who is reaching up to be held. No young reader is going to walk by this book without picking it up. The cover design alone will sell this title.

Highly, highly recommended for dinosaur lovers and anyone who likes a rhyming bedtime story.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dystopian Trilogy Pick: Undertow

Undertow (book 1)
by Michael Buckley
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
376 pages
ISBN: 9780544348257
Get Ready! Undertow will make a huge splash (yes, pun intended) in YA novels this year! Gripping, action packed, full of fierce, raw energy, violent clashes between humans and "monsters," one kick axe (again, spelling intended)  girl who is willing to do anything to save both species. You will have tons of nail biting moments when you will see the pages turning at record speed, and you will find yourself hurtled into a world gone terribly wrong.

Book Giveaway: Undertow (book 1)

                                                                    View the trailer
by Michael Buckley
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
376 pages
ISBN: 9780544348257

This is the BEST YA novel I've read so far this year. You gotta get your hands on a copy! Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. So highly recommended that I think this is the next Hollywood blockbuster! Dystopian fiction mixed with sci-fi and romance! Teen dialog is spot on. Michael Buckley, thank you for Lyric Walker, the coolest girl protagonist EVER!

I have FIVE FREE copies of Undertow up for grabs!!!! Post a comment to the blog and please include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is May 27 at NOON MST. I will notify winners on that day shortly after 12:00 MST. Winner will be chosen randomly  by Randomizer. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Don't miss out on your chance of winning the next big thing! Trust me, Undertow is awesome! Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Monday, May 18, 2015

Poetry Pick: Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation

Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation
Brett Fletcher Lauer & Lynn Melnick, editors
203 pages with About the Poet and Permissions pages
ISBN: 9780670014798

Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation is not your mama's book of poetry and it's for sure not your grandmother's poetry. This is the poetry of the street: raw, in-your-face, unapologetic and genre defying. Many of the poems throw genre and rules to the winds and take on a prose like look but sound like a defiant street prophet shouting angry verse to unwary pedestrians.

The language is raw and biting, the tone crude and unapologetic, the themes tough and urban. "Yellow Rubber Gloves" and "In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes" takes up the torch for minimum wage workers who are often ignored by the public performing their base jobs like mopping floors and washing dishes. "When at a Certain Party in NYC" comments that a mid-westerner would never fit in with all the "fancy" people who ooze NYC coolness. "There I Was Unrequited" ignites off the pages. The reader can feel the angst and tension in the poet's voice and the steamy rage oozes throughout the poem.

This anthology is for high school and college bound. The language is rough; the poems show a harsher reality than the poetry currently taught in schools. Some of the writing may have been torn from a diary or a scratch piece of paper. These are the thoughts that people cared about--cared enough to write them down for others to read. I would not recommend giving this collection to any person who is in a depressive state.

For a book that touts New Poets for the Next Generation, the cover has an archaic, old school typewriter--and not even an electric typewriter. This is the type of machine Clark Kent may have  used in the news room! I think the title of the book and the cover are at odds with each other. 

Recommended high school and above. Not for the faint  of heart.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Friday, May 15, 2015

Monsters Love Underpants!
by Claire Freedman
Illustrations Ben Cort
2015 (published in UK in 2014)
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481442527

Monstrously wonderful illustrations by Ben Cort bring each of  the wacky monsters alive. Each seems to have his own individual personality. Sure, monsters are hairy and scary, but what few of us  know is that monsters love to wear wacky boxers and briefs. They cavort happily through the woods and have a disco ball showing off their best undergarments. They love being ugly and scary, but they love underpants more than anything!

Much of the fun of this particular children's book is in the language. British writer Clair Freedman will teach American youngsters words like: twanging, dingy, armour (notice the spelling), pinched (meaning stolen), bloomers, wobbly, jive, and snazzy.

This witty, whimsical read is sure to be a new favorite. The children's pet cat appears at the beginning and ending, but  he adds greatly to the story.  He is visibly on edge and ready to spit and scratch and probably run away.

Recommended for early readers and anyone who loves crazy underpants.

FTC Required Disclosure: I received this book form the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Peek and Author Interview: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

From the publisher:

The Summer After You and Me
Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Sourcebooks Fire
May 2015 ● ISBN: 9781492619031
Tradepaper/$9.99 ● Ages 14+

Will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances? 
For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn’t just the perfect summer escape, it’s home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can’t help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.

Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy’s summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is the author of two YA  novels and is a freelance nonfiction writer. Her first paid writing gig was at The North Jersey Herald & News, where she wrote obituaries and began her lifelong love of news and coffee. She lives in New Jersey with her family.


I was able to ask Jennifer a few questions about her passions,  love, life and the pursuit of writing. Jennifer, an avid Hogwarts fan and ex-obituary writer,  answers my questions here:

(Me) I  read that you are a Hogwarts fan, so this is about your love:


 1.      If you arrived at Hogwarts, what house would the hat choose for you and why?

Okay, so for this question I took three online quizzes and three times, the answer was Hufflepuff. The reasons given were that I’m loyal, dependable, and hardworking. Coincidentally, I once had my handwriting analyzed and that same set of characteristics came up. So, Hufflepuff it is. Better that than Slytherin! My friends call me “safety pup” so I knew I wasn’t cut out for Gryffindor.


2. Since you have been an obituary writer, write a brief obituary for Dumbledore:


Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore died today at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was between 115 and 150 years old. Longtime Hogwarts headmaster and founder of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore never married or had children. He is preceded in death by his sister Ariana, survived by a brother, Aberforth, and devoted phoenix, Fawkes, and will live forever in the hearts and minds of the Hogwarts students and wizards who knew and loved him. Funeral to be held on the Hogwarts grounds beside Black Lake, where he will also be interred.


( Me again) these are not about Hogwarts:


2.      What 3 books are your favorite books of all time and why?


To Kill a Mockingbird. I re-read this book every few years and never get tired of it. Scout may be one of the most endearing characters in all of literature. From the opening line until the end, Scout speaks to me; telling an important story that is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1960. Yes, I’ve already preordered Go Set a Watchman.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I recently read a list of important “must reads” in YA literature that’s been kicking around social media lately and was shocked to find that this title was not on it. What? I consider Judy Blume’s books to be the cornerstone of YA fiction. Judy Blume was one of my earliest and most important influences. Her books were groundbreaking and anyone writing YA today owes her a debt of gratitude.


The Catcher in the Rye. I picked up this book for the first time in seventh grade. I’d finished a test early and my teacher told me to select a book off the classroom shelf and read quietly. No problem there. Not when I found this book to be absolutely mind blowing!! It was also un-put-down-able. I remember forgoing all homework that night until I finished it.





4. Is it more exciting to finish writing the last sentence of your book (s) or is it more exciting to see the first copy in print?


Even as I’m writing that last sentence, I know I headed back to the beginning to start a series of revisions. In fact, if it weren’t for print deadlines, I would never stop rewriting. So for me, it’s more exciting to see the first copy in print because it means the hard part is done.



5. What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self if you could?


Hang in there, it all gets better. Oh, and the “popular” kids? You won’t even remember their names in 20 years.


6. Hurricane Sandy influences your latest book Summer After You and Me, how did it change you personally?


It underscored what I already knew—nature is powerful and life is precious and we shouldn’t take one second for granted. It also renewed my faith in the inherent goodness in people. It was nice to see people coming together and showing their willingness to help people they didn’t even know in the aftermath of a devastating storm.



7. Describe your writing style:


This may be more my process than my style, but I’m definitely more of a pantser than a plotter (Google pantser).

Maybe it’s because I began my writing career as a journalist and thrive on deadline pressure, or maybe it’s because I never could figure out how to do a proper outline with Roman numerals, capital letters, and numbers, or maybe I’m just stubborn. At any rate, when I begin a novel, I have a vague idea of where I’d like the plot to go, but for the most part, I just see where my characters take me. I wish I could be a plotter. I want to be a plotter. I’m told by authors who have converted from being pantsers to plotters that plotting IS easier. But I don’t know, there’s something about sheer panic that helps the words spill out faster and gets that first draft (ugly as it may be) down on paper.


8. Finish the sentence: If I could write just one more book, I'd write.....


…something that would leave readers laughing.
(ME, Pamela) Thank you, Jennifer, we can hardly wait to read your new book! Congratulations!