Today, I’m excited to partner with our friends at Lantana Publishing for another exciting picture book cover reveal. Lantana Publishing is an award-winning children’s book publisher and social enterprise with a mission to publish inclusive books by under-represented voices celebrating every kind of child and family. Check out the cover of one of their latest forthcoming releases Anita and the Dragons and read the brief synopsis below.
Publisher: Lantana Publishing On Sale Date: February 2021 (UK) April 2021 (US & Canada) available for pre-orders now! Written by Hannah Carmona illustrated by Anna Cunha Reading Level: 7 -9 years Grade Level: 2 – 4 Pages: 32
Anita watches the dragons high above her as she hops from one cement roof to another in her village in the Dominican Republic. But being the valiant princesa she is, she never lets them scare her. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?
About the Author
Hannah Carmonais a writer, actor, and director. Hannah’s previous titles include Dazzling Travis and Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me. Hannah is a mother of two, co-founder of Collective Art School of Tennessee, and a YouTuber. She lives in Tennessee.
About the Illustrator
Anna Cunha is an award-winning Brazilian artist who has illustrated more than 20 books. Her work has been shortlisted for the Jabuti Prize and received a Joao-de-Barro Prize honorable mention.
Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers? Feel free to share in the comments.
Title: The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola Published byVersify Pages: 272 Age Range: 8 – 12 years Grade Level: 3 – 7
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Versify in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Synopsis In this new Legendary Alston Boys adventure from Edgar-nominated author Lamar Giles, Otto and Sheed must embark on their most dangerous journey yet, bringing a fugitive to justice in a world that mirrors their own but has its own rules to play by.
Unlike the majority of Logan County’s residents, Missus Nedraw of the Rorrim Mirror Emporium remembers the time freeze from The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, and how Otto and Sheed took her mirrors without permission in order to fix their mess. Usually that’s an unforgivable offense, punishable by a million-year sentence. However, she’s willing to overlook the cousins’ misdeeds if they help her with a problem of her own. One of her worst prisoners has escaped, and only the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County can help bring the fugitive to justice.
Reflection The legendary Alston Boys of Logan County, Otto and Sheed, are back for another adventure in the follow-up to The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. Think The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Toolbooth, but with Black boys who happen to be cousins AND best friends.
Last time, Otto and Sheed accidentally managed to freeze time because they wanted the final day of summer to last longer. They ended up going on an action-packed journey to rescue their community, get things back to normal, and unfreeze time with the help of a few supportive friends. The cousins also learned some important truths about themselves along the way.
In The Last Mirror on the Left, the amateur sleuths pick back up where the first book ended. While I don’t think you necessarily need to read the first book before reading this one, I believe it definitely helps add a bit more depth and moments of reflection if you do. New readers to this series will have no problems following the story since the writing is so well done and seamless.
At the end of the first book, there is mention of Sheed possibly having health problems that may impact his future. Unfortunately, that possibility ends up becoming a reality in this book when Sheed becomes ill. Throughout the book, Otto is concerned about Sheed’s overall health which shows how close the bond is between the two cousins. Sheed’s illness doesn’t stop him and Otto from embarking on another new twist-turning journey.
Missus Nedraw of the Mirror Emporium reminds the boys about their adventure last summer and how they stole some of her mirrors without asking for permission. Oops! The boys then get caught in one mirror after another in a Warped dimensional prison world and are stuck there. To top it all off, Otto and Sheed are the only two who can help catch Miss Nedraw’s most dangerous prisoner, Nevan, who recently escaped. But first they’ll have to deal with a notorious group of spiders also known as the ArachnoBRObia. Spiders, and mirrors, and “butt shrubs”, oh my!
Overall, The Last Mirror on the Left is a funny, magical, and wild adventure that will have you laughing and cheering for the dynamic cousin duo, Otto and Sheed as they help bring a fugitive to justice. Author Lamar Giles is masterful at crafting fantasy stories and incorporating relatable themes that are relevant to current events. I also appreciate the illustrations Dapo Adeola included throughout to illustrate specific elements of the story which also helped to visualize what some of the fantasy characters looked like.
Will Otto and Sheed go on another fantastical journey? I certainly hope so! We’ll just have to eagerly wait and see…won’t we?
About the Author Lamar Gileswrites for teens and adults across multiple genres, with work appearing on numerous Best Of lists each and every year. He is the author of the acclaimed novels Fake ID, Endangered, Overturned, Spin, The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, Not So Pure and Simple, and The Last Mirror on the Left as well as numerous pieces of short fiction. He is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and resides in Virginia with his wife. Twitter: @LRGiles, Instagram: @LamarGiles
About the Illustrator London born and bred but of Nigerian heritage, Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He is the co-creator and illustrator of the upcoming picture book series Look Up (June 2019) and illustrator for the middle grade novel The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles (April 2019). When he’s not busy cooking up new characters and adventures, you can find him running illustration and character design workshops in and out of schools, to help highlight the possibilities of a career in illustration to inner-city children. Twitter: @DapsDraws Instagram: @DapsDraws
Where are all my electric slide fans? Whenever the Electric Slide comes on at a wedding, club or social event I have to get up and dance! Anyone else?
The origins of “The Electric Slide” began with the song “Electric Boogie.” “Electric Boogie” was written in 1976 by Neville “Bunny Wailer” Livingston for singer Marcia Griffiths. Choreographer Richard Silver created the original electric slide, a 22-step dance to go along with the song. Over the years, different versions of the dance have surfaced.
The remixed version of the song “The Electric Slide” from the year 1989, made the Electric Slide an international dance craze. This song has proven staying power and it remains the highest-selling single by a female Reggae singer of all time.
Publisher: Lee & Low On Sale Date: March 2, 2021 available for pre-orders now! Written by Kelly J. Baptist illustrated by Darnell Johnson Reading Level: 4 – 8 years Grade Level: 1 – 2 Pages: 40
Kai’s aunt is getting married, and everyone in the Donovan family is excited about the wedding … except Kai. The highlight of every Donovan occasion is dancing the electric slide–a groovy line dance with footwork that Kai can’t quite figure out. More than anything, he wants to prove that he can boogie with the rest of his family and earn a cool nickname from his granddad. Can Kai break through his nerves and break it down on the dance floor?
Told with humor and heart by author Kelly J. Baptist and lively illustrations from debut picture book artist Darnell Johnson, The Electric Slide and Kai is a funky celebration with all the right moves! Coming March 2, 2021
About the Author Kelly J. Baptist grew up in southwest Michigan, and after living in Alabama, Florida, and Minnesota, she is happy to be right back home in Berrien Springs! She works as a social emotional learning interventionist and is the author of the middle grade novel Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero. Kelly keeps busy with her five amazing children, who often play loud music that leads to epic family dance parties. You can visit her on Twitter @kellyiswrite and online at kellyiswrite.com.
About the Illustrator Darnell Johnson is a Miami native who discovered his passion for art while watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. Currently he resides in Alpharetta, Georgia, with his beautiful wife and newborn son. Darnell pulled inspiration from his childhood, family, and friends to draw life into the characters for The Electric Slide and Kai. He hopes the lines, colors, and shapes he makes sparks the imagination of young readers. You can visit him online at artofdarnelljohnson.com.
Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers? What are your feelings of the dance and its staying power after so many years? Sound off in the comments, or be social on social media! I’d love to hear from you!
Welcome to the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad: Absolute Hero by Valerie Tripp (author of the American Girl book series) on September 8th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive, original content from Valerie, plus 5 chances to win a SIGNED copy of Izzy Newton!
D.I.Y. STEM Experiments
By Valerie Tripp
The S.M.A.R.T. Squad girls, Izzy, Charlie, Allie, Gina, and Marie love to experiment. You probably do, too! So here are some D.I.Y. S.T.E.M. experiments you can try.
Marie’s “Do You Dare? Hair-dye Solution”
Want a winning streak in your hair? S.M.A.R.T. Squad’s chemist, Marie, has concocted the perfect solution. Use Kool Aid! Your new color won’t be permanent, and the dye will be easy to apply.
First, put on rubber gloves so that your fingers won’t be dyed and slip on an old tee shirt to protect your good clothes. It’s a good idea to have a small, clean paintbrush on hand to use, too.
1. Next, mix warm water, your favorite hair conditioner, and unsweetened Kool Aid in a disposable cup. Experiment with different colors (flavors) and amounts of Kool Aid until you’ve made the color of your choice.
2. Make a gooey paste.
3. Use the paintbrush to apply the paste all over your head if you want to dye all of your hair. Or paint the dye on in streaks to achieve the look that Marie is sporting.
4.Let dry, and let fly!
Here are two other ways to dye your hair temporarily, too:
Math-loving Allie’s nickname is “Allie Oops,” because sometimes her projects just don’t add up. Once she mistakenly dyed all her clothes blue. But maybe you’re dying to try dyeing. So here’s . . .
Allie’s “Do-or-Die Tee Tie-Dye (This time, on purpose!)”
It’s best to do this outside, wearing one old tee shirt while you’re tie-dying another tee shirt that is clean, white, and cotton. Wear rubber gloves if you don’t want to dye your hands.
1. Put your tee shirt in a large plastic bowl. Pour ½ cup white vinegar
and ½ cup of warm water on the shirt and let the shirt soak for half an hour or so.
2. Wring the tee shirt so it’s just damp, not soaking wet. Roll it into the shape of a tube and slip three or four rubber bands around it, spaced out. Or, if you prefer, tie knots in the tee shirt.
3. Put ½ cup cold water in an old squeeze bottle and drop in about eight drops of food coloring. Screw the cap back onto the bottle securely, and shake it to mix the water and dye together thoroughly.
4. Squirt the food coloring and water mixture onto your tee shirt. Do all sides.
5. Mix up other food coloring colors with water and squirt those colors onto your tee shirt in different areas for each color.
6. Put your tee shirt in a plastic bag, seal it up, and let it sit overnight.
7. The next day, be sure you’re wearing that old tee shirt again. Take the wet tee shirt out of the plastic bag, take off the rubber bands, and plunge the tee shirt into a bowl that has ½ cup water and ½ cup salt in it to set the dye. Then wring the shirt out.
8. Dump out the salt water, fill the bowl with clean, cold water, and rinse your tee shirt over and over again until the water is clear. Wring out the tee shirt one last time and hang it up to dry.
9. Wear your tie-dye shirt and look cool. Remember: The first three or four times you wash your shirt, wash it separately in cold water or you will end up with unintended dyed clothes—just like Allie did!
Naturalist Charlie eats all natural foods, naturally! Chomp on . . .
Charlie’s Chewy Chickpea Chow
1. Sprinkle as much feta cheese as you want over a big handful of raw spinach. Drain a can of chickpeas and toss them on the spinach, too.
2. In a separate small bowl, mix 3 teaspoons of honey with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice, and a small handful of raisins. Add a teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of salt, and ½ teaspoon chili flakes. Mix it all up really well.
3. Toss both parts of the salad together in a nice big bowl and chow down!
Here are more ideas for very varied vegetarian lunches:
When middle school mishaps happen, five friends form the S.M.A.R.T. Squad and use their collective skills and the power of science to bring order to their school.
Science reigns supreme with this squad of young brainiacs. Join Izzy Newton and her friends in the first adventure of this fun new middle-grade fiction series from National Geographic Kids.
A crowded new school and a crazy class schedule is enough to make Izzy feel dizzy. It may be the first day of middle school, but as long as her best friends Allie Einstein and Charlie Darwin are by her side, Izzy knows it’ll all be okay. However, first-day jitters take an icy turn when Izzy’s old pal Marie Curie comes back to town. Instead of a warm welcome, Marie gives her former pal the cold shoulder. The problems pile up when the school’s air-conditioning goes on the fritz and the temperature suddenly drops to near freezing. The adults don’t seem to have a clue how to thaw out the school. Cold temperatures and a frigid friendship? Izzy has had enough of feeling like an absolute zero. She rallies the girls to use their brainpower and science smarts to tackle the school’s chilly mystery … and hopefully to fix a certain frozen friendship along the way. Will the girls succeed and become the heroes of Atom Middle School?
About the Author: Part of the creative team behind the American Girl series, Valerie Tripp has written many of the American Girl books about Felicity, Josefina, Samantha, Kit, Molly, and Maryellen. She also wrote American Girl’s Welliewisher and Hopscotch Hill School books. Tripp has also written numerous levled readers, songs, stories, skills book pages, poems, and plays for educational publishers and is the editorial director of the Boys Camp series. She is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries.
One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad: Absolute Hero SIGNED by Valerie Tripp
Check out the other four stops for more chances to win
Today I’m excited to reveal the cover of a forthcoming 2021 picture book for one of my fellow bookish friends, Michelle Sterling. You may be familiar with Michelle’s popular Instagram accounts Avery & Augustine and Books for Diversity. Her book, When Lola Visits is tentatively scheduled to publish in the Spring of 2021.
Publisher: Harper Collins On Sale Date: May 18, 2021 available for pre-orders now! Written by Michelle Sterling illustrated by Aaron Asis Reading Level: 4 – 8 years Grade Level: Preschool – 3 Pages: 40
Synopsis For one young girl, summer is the season of no school, of days spent at the pool, of picking golden limes off the trees. But summer doesn’t start until her Lola—her grandmother from the Philippines—comes for her annual visit. Summer is special. For her Lola fills the house with the aroma of mango jam, funny stories of baking mishaps, and her quiet sweet singing in Tagalog. And in turn, her granddaughter brings Lola to the beach, to view fireworks at the park, and to catch fish at their lake. When Lola comes, the whole family gathers to cook and eat and share in their happiness of another season spent together. Yet as summer transitions to fall, her Lola must return home—but not without a surprise for her granddaughter to preserve their special summer a bit longer.
In an evocative tale brimming with the scents, tastes, and traditions that define summer for one young girl, debut author Michelle Sterling and illustrator Aaron Asis come together to celebrate the gentle bonds of familial love that span oceans and generations.
About the Author Michelle Sterling is a writer, photographer and speech-language pathologist. Her debut picture book When Lola Visits will be illustrated by Aaron Asis and publishes on May 18, 2021, from HarperCollins. You can find her sharing the latest children’s books at Avery & Augustine and Books for Diversity.
Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers? Feel free to share in the comments.
Disclaimer: We partnered with Hatch to share a few thoughts about the Hatch Restore and Hatch Rest and to showcase how we’ve incorporated these products into our bedtime routine. As always, any opinions expressed are my own.
Sleep. It is absolutely essential to our overall well being. There are so many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep like: memory retention, improved appetite, increased energy and mood regulation.
Reading also has amazing benefits for both your physical and mental health and those benefits can last a lifetime. The same is true for the topic of diversity. It can benefit and enrich our world by providing more colorful life experiences and enhance our social relationships and communities.
When people are well rested and well read they are more likely to have empathy and be open to embracing diversity and inclusion in order to build a balanced world for our future children. Yes, sleep, reading and diversity can go hand in hand if you allow it to.
Our nightly bedtime routine usually consists of the following
eat dinner together as a family
15 – 30 minute clean up time (wash dishes, clean the kitchen, put away toys, gather books for story time)
story time (15 – 20 minutes)
bedtime for the kids (their Hatch Rest alarm clock goes off at 8:30pm during the school week)
My Hatch Restore alarm goes off at 9:00pm to prepare my mind and body for sleep
We’ve enjoyed incorporating our Hatch Rest and Hatch Restore into our nightly routine. It has really helped us make sleep more of a priority in our household. Since you can personalize Hatch devices to fit the normal rhythm of your family that really makes it so easy and seamless to set them up on your own using their handy app.
When it comes to reading and diversity, these two topics have always been a priority for our family. When searching for books that serve as mirrors and windows for my children, I’m always mindful of exactly which books we choose to read. While we don’t discriminate when it comes to literature, I do make it a point to select diverse books that reflect my children and our family. Why? Because I know if I don’t expose my kids to these books, they might not see them otherwise.
I believe all children should be exposed to a wide range of people, experiences, abilities, races and cultures. As a parent, my goal is to present my children with a full spectrum of brown and Black characters in a variety of books. I want their experiences of story and representations of the world to include people of color, people they can imagine being like — people like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Misty Copeland, Michelle Obama, and Michael Jordan — or fictional characters with whom they can identify.
I also use bedtime stories to help my children grow and learn about other important topics such as race, LGBTQ+ rights, disabilities, and mental health.
If you’d like to make sleep, reading or diversity a priority in your home, here are a few tips:
Set a goal – Whenever something is important to me, I make it a goal. Make it a goal to get a certain number of hours of sleep each night (or week), read a certain number of books or incorporate diversity into your life in various ways if it’s important to you.
Establish a custom bedtime routine that matches the rhythm of your family’s schedule
Limit screen time and electronic devices before bed
Read a variety of diverse books that showcase people of all colors, religions, abilities and cultures
Use a sound machine like the Hatch Restore which also includes guided meditations to help encourage sleep before bedtime
Your turn: I would love to hear your favorite tips on how you make sleep, reading or diversity a priority in your life. Feel free to share in the comments.
Meet Hatch Rest
Rest is the magical all-in-one sleep must-have that parents are raving about. It can be controlled remotely from your phone and is completely customizable — making it a parent’s dream come true. Perfect for babies, toddlers, and big kids!
● Sound machine: Parents can choose from a range of sound options, from white noise to soft lullabies. Simply crank up the volume remotely when the dog barks or the neighbors throw a party. ● Night light: This feature provides soft and soothing for midnight feeding sessions, or parents can adjust to be bright and reassuring when the dark feels scary. Choose from a rainbow of colors to make it your own. ● Time-to-rise: Green means go! This feature enables parents to teach toddlers and preschoolers to stay in bed until it’s time to rise (and enjoy those extra minutes of sleep).
Rest means that parents are no longer the bedtime bad guy, and bedtime struggles and early wake ups are a thing of the past.
Designed for the Modern Nursery: Rest features a modern design with a night light, sound machine, and time-to-rise in one smart device.
Controllable Remotely from Your Phone: Turn Rest on and off and change the volume and brightness remotely from your smartphone so there’s no need to disrupt a sleeping baby. Or, set programs to run each day to help your child get on a healthy sleep schedule.
Personalized with Custom Colors and Sounds: Create the ideal sleep environment for your child’s unique sleep needs by choosing from a range of custom colors and sound choices. The night light feature, which stays cool to the touch, helps your child feel secure and has the option to stay on all night.
The device also comes equipped with a toddler lock so only you can make adjustments when it’s enabled.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Scholastic, Inc. in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Synopsis Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.
Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughs, through the hardship of adolescent struggles, and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.
Reflection “They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space…If that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.”
We all matter. Each person on Earth has something worth noticing and appreciating. This forthcoming October 2020 release written by Tami Charles and illustrated by Bryan Collier is a beautiful and affirming tribute to children.
Our kids deserve to be fully seen by their grown-ups’ accepting eyes. Their presence, thoughts, and words should also be acknowledged at all times. This book is filled with so much heart, hope and joy that can be used as a conversation starter to help kids understand how extraordinary they are and how much their lives matter.
Most people don’t realize how amazing they are, and our children are no exception. In fact, many of us often look for permission and acceptance from others to bring our full brilliance to the table.
I think after reading this book, many adults will want to pull their little readers close, look them in the eye and let them know how much they believe in them and their abilities.
When we believe in children, acknowledge them, validate their ideas and feelings, and encourage them to believe in themselves, we hand them the keys to their own power and brilliance. Wouldn’t you agree?
“I wrote All Because You Matter to provide parents with a starting point for conversations about the racial climate in our country today. These are issues that should be discussed in all families, of all backgrounds, if we are to raise empathetic future leaders.” —Tami Charles
“I tried to capture the musicality, rhythm, and bounce of the text as it takes readers on a journey that zooms through time and space shouting All Because You Matter. And I wanted to remind readers when they walk into a room, all those voices, faces and ancestors walk with them. You are not alone.” —Bryan Collier
About the Author Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Tami Charles writes books for children and young adults. Her middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, earned Top 10 spots on the Indies Introduce and Spring Kids’ Next lists, three starred reviews, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her recent titles include a humorous middle grade, Definitely Daphne, picture book, Freedom Soup, and YA novel, Becoming Beatriz. When Tami isn’t writing, she can be found presenting at schools both stateside and abroad.
About the Illustrator Bryan Collier is an American writer and illustrator known best for illustrating children’s books. He won both the Coretta Scott King Award, as illustrator, and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for UPTOWN, the first book he both wrote and illustrated. He has won six King Awards as illustrator and he is a four-time Caldecott honor recipient. For his lifetime contribution as a children’s illustrator, Collier is U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014.
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