5.03.2016

Review: Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach


Title: Anything You Want
Author: Geoff Herbach
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1402291442
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast Geoff Herbach

Taco's mom always said, "Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better." That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco's dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie- even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.


Except all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can't wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be a dad and how to pass calculus. And then there's getting Maggie's parents to like him. Because it would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn't have to climb the side of the Corrigans' house to see her...

I am the author of the YA title, Stupid Fast (June 2011 from Sourcebooks Fire). I also wrote The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, a Novel from Three Rivers Press. When I'm not writing books, I'm writing for Radio Happy Hour or developing ridiculous musical bits.

When I'm not writing, I'm teaching writing at Minnesota State, Mankato, which means I write a lot of comments about writing on student writing. 

Writing a lot of writing and reading about writing and writing on reading.

Where do I even begin with this book? It was crazy, nonsensical, hilarious, and reminiscent of "that one guy" from high school. The cover is a bit misleading because you expect this book to be another young adult love story you can take to the beach and daydream about your literary boyfriend. But a dude named Taco, yes you read that right, who sneaks into your window at night, ends most of his sentences with "dingus," and really doesn't understand where babies come from probably isn't your ideal summer literary fling.

Anything You Want is about a guy named Taco who is a big hot mess and probably still has to wear velcro shoes. Only a Freshman in High School, Taco gets his girlfriend, Maggie, pregnant without having any thought of birth control or consequences (not for simply neglecting it...he seriously thought you had to be intentional about it). Maggie's parents are furious and forbid them from being together. While Taco is excited to have a family again, because his mother passed away and his father is never there, he struggles to grasp the reality of the situation. His older brother is left trying to convince him of how big the mess truly is.

For those who DNF this book, there were times it was a struggle. Mostly because I was torn between enjoying the positive stupidity of Taco and wanting to bang my head against a wall because, really, how can someone be that dumb? But then there was an aspect of this entire scenario that reached a little deeper, and made me sympathize with Taco's positivity. He didn't have parents around to educate him, and his alcoholic brother, the only other person he had, was an even bigger mess than he was. There was a hint of beauty woven into this reckless and silly story that made me want to finish it: the dynamic of coping with life.

I think Taco's character was taken just a little too far, and that is what annoyed so many readers of this book. It was really exhausting at times, when it could've been taken down a notch to make it more comical. I'm also confused about the part where Taco says he calculated when Maggie got pregnant and they were still virgins at the time, so their baby was some kind of miracle. Did he miscalculate? Was it even his baby? This part confused me.

More than halfway through, our story shifts and becomes much better. I expected more of Maggie, but she ended up being a minor character...another reason why the cover is misleading. I liked the ending, but I wish we could've gotten there a little differently. Taco is a bit of a trip and a handful to the point of being unable to relate to and an unrealistic character. You can only face-palm through a book so many times before your head and your hand begin to hurt. And all the lines that end with "dingus" just make you laugh because it stops making sense after a while!

For what this book is meant to be, it is light hearted and funny. It will drive you crazy in some of the best ways. It will also give you the insatiable urge to reach into the book and knock some sense into Taco. And in a strange way, it will also make you want tacos. Dingus.

4.19.2016

Review: Priscilla McDoodleNut Doodle McMae Asks, "Why?" by Janet Mary Sinke

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Title: Priscilla McDoodleNut Doodle McMae Asks, "Why?"
Author: Janet Mary Sinke
Illustrator: Craig Pennington
Publication Date: October 1st, 2007
Publisher: My Grandma and Me Publishers
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 48
ISBN: 0974273287
Source: The Library
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Janet Mary Sinke has written in wonderful storybook rhyme a delightful take rich in meaning and simple symbolism. Through the courage of one little girl, the inhabitants of one tiny moon are forever changed when Priscilla dares to ask why.


Embrace diversity. Celebrate difference.
Respect all people. Dare to ask, Why?

For each of us has the power to make a difference.


I am generally known by many as Grandma Janet Mary, author of the Grandma Janet Mary Series.  In eight years the company has sold over 50,000 books.  Several of my books have taken national awards.  I have spoken to thousands of school children.  My message is simple, “Make your memories today for in the end, it’s all we really have.”

Now, a new and different story emerges. It is titled: Priscilla McDoodleNutDoodleMcMae Asks “Why.”  It is a delightful story with a wonderful message and although I love my grandma and grandpa books, this story is, in many ways, is my best work.  (Go to the Priscilla web page and take a peek)

My goal now is to make the Priscilla story into an animated film.  I feel strongly about the message of this story and that message is this:  embrace diversity, celebrate difference, respect all people for we are, each of us blessed with our own individual gifts. These gifts when recognized can empower us to work  together to make the world a better place.

I have often been asked, "If you could give one piece of advice, what advice would you share."  

So here it is in a nut shell.

" Look for blessngs not only in brilliant rays of summer sun but also in clouds of storm.  Recognize your own individual worth, share your own unique gifts and put to use the power that lies within your own individual soul.  That way in your own moment of final surrender when the eyes are closing and the heart is stilled, your spirit will look back and say,' WHAT A GREAT LIFE!'"


Why in this book
are some pictures all gray? 
Why does Priscilla seem fearful today?
Why does she cover the hair on her head?
Why you may ask does King Norman love red?

And...

 Why does King Wynthor like hair that is blue?
Why does he think he’s much better than you?
Why should the fate of this one, tiny moon
Depend on Priscilla and one blue baboon?

Now enter the story.  The answers are there.
Just open your minds to all colors of hair.
Then learn in the end how one moon in the sky
Discovers the answer to one simple Why.

Have you heard of this book?! I love it! The last library I worked at had this book and I fell in love. I've been searching for a copy to add to my current library, but I believe it just went out of publishing.  This would be a great read for National Poetry Month or teaching diversity!

With the message of equality, Priscilla McDoodleNut Doodle McMae Asks, "Why?" takes place on a far away moon where there is a conflict between two Kings as to which hair color is acceptable. As a line is drawn in the sand, the people are divided between red and blue. However, Priscilla McDoodleNut Doodle McMae uncovers her head to reveal that she has purple hair, sending the two Kings into an uproar. But Priscilla's courage (thanks to a blue baboon) and open heart just might make a real difference.


The book is written in rhyme and at times a bit of a tongue twister. But it is a lot of fun to read, and children will enjoy the liveliness of the rhythm. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Craig Pennington brought the story to life with his flawless use of grayscale and pops of color. The contrast and the exaggerated character features really tied the silly, but powerful, lyrics into unity in such a way, that all the many elements of this story mixed together are what make it strong. 


I sincerely hope that this book goes back into print, because it is a great piece to have in any type of library. The message of acceptance and courage brings to light some very real and relevant issues the world faces today. One of the wonderful things is it isn't pushy or preachy or even condescending. It's pure, light hearted, and in a way, curious. It shows that opening a heart to accepting differences, even when those around you are not, and finding courage within yourself to stand for what you believe in can truly make the world a better place...and it only take one voice.


Love love love this book!

4.14.2016

Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Title: Crenshaw
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2015
Publisher: Feiwal & Friends
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 256
ISBN: 1250043239
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In her first novel since The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?


Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

Applegate was born in Michigan in 1956. Since then she has lived in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina, and after living in Pelago, Italy for a year, she has moved back to Southern California. She has an eleven year old son named Jake Mates, although she says the Animorph leader is not named after him. In 2003 she and her husband, Michael Grant, her co-author on many projects including Animorphs, adopted their daughter, Julia, in China.

Following the end of Animorphs, Applegate took three years off. She is back at work and has written a picture book called "The Buffalo Storm," a middle reader novel called "Home of the Brave," and an early chapters series "Roscoe Riley Rules" with Harper Collins. Her book "Home of the Brave" has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and is a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book.

Applegate is also the author of the 2013 Newbery Award Winner, "The One and Only Ivan."


Crenshaw was a story with more depth than I expected. This book deals with issues of homelessness and financial hardship from the perspective of a child. It's beautiful and heartbreaking.

Jackson likes facts. He loves science because he finds it tangible and exact. To him, everything has an explanation to some degree, regardless of how impossible it may seem. But then his imaginary friend from his childhood shows up, a very large cat named Crenshaw. Somehow, Jackson can't explain his reappearance.


Crenshaw reminded me very much of the Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. He's large, mischievous, and clearly up to something. But that's what makes this story about so much more than just poverty. It takes the struggle of losing one's innocence to life's troubles and turns it into dealing with those troubles in a childlike way. Although Jackson tried to reason through things at his young age, somehow the wonderment of his childhood was still planted somewhere in his imagination. Whether because it was his fear of his family having to live in their van again, or because Crenshaw was an actual creature that existed, it added a sweetness to the sadness of the story.


I loved how this was a gentle version of dealing with poverty. It gives an introduction to such topics for early readers without getting too heavy to the point of controversy. That doesn't mean it lacks in content, though. I especially enjoyed where Applegate integrated the library as a source of comfort.


The only thing I would complain about is that I actually expected more of Crenshaw. I was a little disappointed when I realized there was less of him than I was expecting. Perhaps if I read it again knowing what exactly the book is about that'll change, but I expected his part in the story to be a little bigger.


This is a wonderful book to add to your collection. I've already ordered it at work and even put together a book club kit for it. I look forward to seeing what my kids have to say about it! Highly recommended.


4.11.2016

Review & GIVEAWAY: Ninja & Bunny's Great Adventure by Kara S Tyler

Title: Ninja & Bunny's Great Adventure
Author: Kara S Tyler
Illustrator: Sarah Pacetti
Publication Date: December 15th, 2015
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Genre: Children's
Pages: 48
ISBN: 1622532856
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Publisher):
A children’s tale of imagination and play, of love and loyalty, and of courage and determination.

Marian loves playing make-believe, but what if her big sister Ruthie’s fairies have been real all along? What if Princess Isla is truly in trouble and needs their help?

Marian and Ruthie must visit Fairyland and transform into Ninja and Bunny! Will they be able to save the princess?

Find out in this tale of love, loyalty, and imagination.
A | Gr


Kara S Tyler is the real world name of author Pavarti K Tyler.  As Pav, her books have spanned genres and won many awards, however, they are geared toward an adult audience. Now that she’s writing children’s books, Kara has decided to use her real name.

The Adventures of Ninja and Bunny first came about because of a fabulous conversation overheard between Kara’s two children during a very long car ride.  The two young girls spent over two hours debating various aspects of Fae politics and social structure.  Without realizing it, the girls were building a world so real, Ray Bradbury would be proud.


Kara lives in Baltimore with her husband, two children and two terrible dogs.  She is a full-time author and mother.

What a fun little book! I always love a children's book that has fairies, secret worlds, and transforms the imagination into reality. Ninja & Bunny's Great Adventure is exactly that, a great adventure!

Marian is six years old and enjoys playing make-believe. One of her favorite toys is her Isla fairy doll. One day, her older sister, Ruthie, charges outside proclaiming that Isla needs help. Marian takes no time at all to jump into their chest of costumes and prepare to fight a mysterious intruder in Fairyland. However, Marian is unaware that Fairyland is a real place.

Ninja & Bunny's Great Adventure is a book that kids can love and relate to. It's every child's dream for their imagination to come to life. With elements such as fairies, a bunny, a ninja, and a forest, readers will surely be lured into Tyler's magical world. There is a lot of action and depth put in to such a short book, so it moves at a very fast and exciting pace. Educationally, there is a good balance of simple and more complex words to help the developing reader learn new terms without going too far over their head.

The illustrations are vivid and rich with movement. I read this on my kindle, so I would read a page, and then "flip" it to see the image for a given passage. There were moments I'd flip to the illustration and was wowed by the depth in the imagery. I was very impressed, and would love to see more! I also loved Bunny's costume...it's like Card Captor Sakura goes to Greece!

At first I wondered how on earth this story was going to fit into only 48 pages. The way it was written seemed like there should be more to the story. I loved the book regardless, but I think it would be even better as an early chapter book (think "Magic Attic Club" size or "Oliver and the Seawigs" with the illustrations). Since it was so short, the plot had to move quickly and I was left wanting more because it seemed to move too fast. However, being picture book sized makes me want to read it for storytime!

A fun book full of adventure and excitement, Ninja & Bunny's Great Adventure is sure to please the young reader.
About the Prizes
The Tour has some fantastic prizes! You can win a $20 Amazon Gift Card, a Fairyland book, Temporary Ninja Tattoos or a Stuffed Ninja Bunny.