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Thursday, August 22, 2019

8th Blogiversary Giveaway!

Word Spelunking turns 
8 years old today!

Y'all, this blogiversary sneaked up on me like a ninja. Seriously, I didn't even realize today was my blogiversary until I was scrolling through my memories posts on Facebook. But holy cupcakes, I can't believe I've been running this little blog for 8 whole years. So much has changed in 8 years and so many awesome things have happened for me because of Word Spelunking. 

I want to thank everyone who has made the last 8 years so much fun. To every author, publisher, publicist, assistant, PR manager, etc, a giant thank you for continuing to send books and products for review, offer giveaways, invite me to blog tours, and more! And to every reader who has stopped by, entered giveaways, left comments, and interacted with me on social media, I send to you a bunch of hugs!! I look forward to joining all of you for more bookish fun in the coming years.

Now to celebrate...

One winner will get a $10 gift card of their choice!

-open to anyone who can receive a gift card via email
-will end 10/23/19
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-all entry requirements will be checked and any cheaters will be disqualified

Fill out Rafflecopter form to enter please:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Jumbie God's Revenge Blog Tour (excerpt)

The Jumbie God’s Revenge 
(The Jumbies #3) 
By Tracey Baptiste 
September 3, 2019 
Algonquin Young Readers 

In book three of the popular Jumbies series, Corinne must use her emerging supernatural powers to battle the angry god who would destroy her Caribbean island home. 

When an out-of-season hurricane sweeps through Corinne’s seaside village, Corinne knows it’s not a typical storm. At first Corinne believes Mama D’Leau—the powerful and cruel jumbie who rules the ocean—has caused the hurricane. Then a second, even more ferocious storm wrecks the island, sending villagers fleeing their houses for shelter in the mountains, and Corinne discovers the storms weren’t caused by a jumbie, but by the angry god Huracan. 

Now Corinne, with the help of her friends and even some of her enemies, must race against time to find out what has angered Huracan and try to fix it before her island home is destroyed forever. 

Excerpt from The Jumbie's God Revenge

1 The Horizon 

Corinne La Mer leapt from one tall coconut tree to another. Nothing but air surrounded her and there was only the sand and a few sharp rocks below. She landed on the rough trunk of the tree, slapping it hard with her palms and then wrapping her legs around it. She slipped and felt a rush of panic rise to her throat until she got the soles of her feet flat against the bark to grip her in place. Corinne looked down at the beach. Mrs. Duval, in a bright purple headwrap and a loose white blouse and colorful skirt, shaded her eyes as she peered into the tree. “Don’t injure yourself before you get my coconuts, please,” she teased Corinne. 

Next to Mrs. Duval was Corinne’s friend Malik. He shaded his face with a small hand, watching Corinne as she moved. His older brother, Bouki, wasn’t looking her way at all. He was focused on the road, hoping for one last customer before they called it a morning. Corinne caught her breath and returned to her task. It was dizzyingly high at the top of the coconut trees. Even in the shade of their large fan-like leaves, and with the sea breeze blowing to shore, the heat had her drenched in sweat. She panted as she reached up for a thick, yellow coconut. She twisted and twisted it until the tough stem snapped and then looked down to see where Malik was waiting to catch it, but the coconut slipped from her sweat-slick palm. “Watch out!” she cried. Malik stepped nimbly out of the way, but Bouki, busily counting Mrs. Duval’s coins, didn’t hear her warning. The coconut grazed the side of his arm and dropped near his foot. “You nearly killed me!” he yelled. “I said ‘watch out.’” Corinne carefully climbed back down the sloping trunk. She had skinned the insides of her thighs climbing down before and had learned to use the soles of her feet to keep her body away from the bark. When she was close enough to the bottom, she pushed off the tree and landed near Bouki, who had lopped off the top of the coconut with a machete and passed it to Mrs. Duval. 

Mrs. Duval shook the coconut and screwed up her face. “All these coconuts dry, dry these days. I thought it was rainy season already.” She peered up into the tree again. “Aren’t there any more up there?” Bouki patted the trunk. “We only have what nature gives us,” he said. “And whatever else you can grab,” Mrs. Duval added. Bouki put on a fake look of offense as he pocketed her money, but it was not news to anyone that Bouki and Malik used to be thieves. “They’re reformed,” Corinne said. “Hmm. Reformed,” Mrs. Duval repeated, looking at the boys out of the corner of her eye. She sniffed the opening of the coconut and first sipped, then tipped it back and drank long. When she finally came up for air, there was a look of satisfaction on her face, but only for a moment. “You should go back to selling oranges,” Mrs. Duval said to Corinne. “Nothing on the island compares to your oranges.” Corinne blushed, but her gaze flitted over the waves, and the compliment faded quickly. “I can’t only sell oranges, Mrs. Duval,” she said. “It’s not good business.” “Ah, of course,” Mrs. Duval said, smiling. She turned to the beach, where a band of children played on the sand. She waved at them to catch their attention, and then pointed with the whole length of her arm to a pink house. They all went running. 

Corinne waved at Laurent, the oldest of the bunch, who played cricket with her when he wasn’t doing chores or watching his younger siblings. “I can send him along later,” Mrs. Duval said. “If you want to play.” Corinne shook her head. “Maybe another time.” “You know,” Mrs. Duval said, leaning in close. “You can’t watch the waves forever.” When Corinne didn’t answer, Mrs. Duval picked up all her coconuts by the stems and walked behind her children to their house. The sea was bright blue and the sun reflected off the choppy waves in dazzling silver and gold. In the line of fishing boats near the horizon, Corinne could just make out her papa’s, even though it was impossible to see its bright yellow color. She had memorized the shape of it, so she could always pick out her papa on the waves. “He’s safe, you know,” Bouki said. “For now,” Corinne replied. “You worry too much.” Corinne turned from the sea to look at her friend. There had been a time when she didn’t worry. That was before her orange trees bore their first fruit, when she and her papa had their routine. He would wake her up in the morning and tell her to be careful on land, and she would tell him to mind that the sea didn’t swallow him up, and they would both promise to be safe. But then Severine came. She was beautiful at first, dreadful at their last encounter, and with her came all of the jumbies. “You don’t worry enough,” Corinne told Bouki. She clutched the stone pendant of the necklace that hung near her heart, and rubbed its cracked surface with her thumb. Corinne hadn’t believed in jumbies before Severine followed her out of the forest. She thought they were only stories that grown-ups told to scare the children on the island, stories about things that came out at night so little ones would stay in their beds. But then she encountered creatures with backward feet, women who shed their skin, and men covered in spiky fur with teeth as sharp as daggers. There was a jumbie who cared for the woods, and one who lived beneath the waves who would turn anyone into stone at a glance and who ruled the mermaids in the sea. Corinne had seen them all. But worse than that, she had witnessed their power, and she understood just how easy it was to succumb to any one of them. She had nearly lost her papa to Severine, and Bouki to Mama D’Leau. It was enough to make anyone worry. Months ago, when Corinne had dragged Severine into the sea and left her there, she had been sure that it was only a matter of time before the sea spat Severine back out. “The sea doesn’t keep anything, Corinne,” her papa had told her. So today, and every day, she stayed near the shore watching the waves and waiting. 

Corinne nicked the skin of her thumb on a sharp edge of her stone necklace. The stone had been her mama’s, and after Corinne had broken it, her papa had wrapped it in leather to hold it together again. In the months since, Corinne had rubbed some of the cracks smooth, but the stone did not soothe her like it used to. “What is it we are looking for?” an old woman asked. She had appeared out of nowhere and stood next to them in the shade of the coconut tree. “Witch!” Bouki said. The witch picked up her walking stick and brought it down with force on Bouki’s right foot. The sparse few strands of her short white hair shook with her jab. Bouki doubled over to nurse his foot and looked daggers at the white witch, but he knew enough not to say anything else. “Good morning, neighbor,” Corinne said. The witch knocked her walking stick on the trunk of the tree and squinted up at the fruit. “Any more good ones left?” she asked. “All green,” Corinne said. The witch nodded. “I don’t mind the young ones.” Malik scrambled up the tree. The witch leaned against the trunk, letting her stick rest against its curve. She rubbed her left arm slowly. Everything about the white witch looked like it was near expiration: the sun-bleached pattern on her dress, the threadbare wrap that tied her head, the few drooping twists of short white hair that refused to be contained in her headwrap. Even the skin of her body sagged loose around her bones as if it might detach and crumple around her at any moment. No one knew how old the white witch was. Even the oldest people in the villages remembered her as ancient when they were young. Corinne watched the witch massage her damaged arm. It was even more shriveled and grayer than the rest of her, as if the life had been leached out of it. But at the end of her arm, her hand seemed more vibrant. Her fingers curled and stretched in short, jerking movements. “Your hand is getting stronger,” Corinne said. “There’s only two ways for a thing to go,” the witch said. “Better, or worse.” She stretched and bent her fingers as she looked out to sea. “What you looking out at the sea for? You already know what is under the water.” Before Corinne could find an answer, Malik jumped to the ground holding a coconut with just the barest hint of yellow on the husk. He macheted the top off before presenting it to the witch. The witch’s tongue jumped out in anticipation, flicking over her thin, dry lips. She took the husk in her good hand and drank deeply. Some of the water dribbled out the sides of her mouth, past a patch of gray chin-stubble, and down the dark, wrinkled folds of her throat, which made jerking movements like fresh fish bundled in a net. 

She downed the entire contents in one go. Then she handed the coconut back to Malik. He moved to cut it open, but she shook her head. “There’s nothing there,” she said. She seemed to be discussing the sea, not the lack of jelly in the coconut. Without another word, the witch shuffled off, kicking up pale sand. “Didn’t I say that, brother?” Bouki asked. “Didn’t I tell her that nothing was going to happen?” “Is that what I said?” the witch called over her shoulder. She maneuvered back around to face them. “Dunce. Who ever said nothing is going to happen?” She lifted her cane with some difficulty and gestured around her. Her loose dress rippled in the wind. “Something is always happening.” She moved her mouth in a way that made Corinne think she was rearranging her teeth before she continued. “Boy, nothing is as dull as you.” “You think something else is going to happen,” Corinne said. The witch shot her the same look of disdain she had turned on Bouki. “Something is happening right now,” she said. “And a moment after that something will happen again.” She cut her eyes at Bouki again. “Maybe you are spending too much time with this one. You were smarter when you were coming to the market alone. You will miss things if you keep wasting time standing guard at the sea. You think this is the only piece of shore? The only spread of water?” She stretched her ruined fingers again and muttered, “Only two ways for things to go, better or worse. And there’s nothing you can do about it.” They watched the witch as she bent the corner around a grove of coconut trees. It was only after she was out of sight that Bouki shouted, “She didn’t pay!” 

credit: Latifah Abdur Photography
Tracey Baptiste lived in Trinidad until she was fifteen; she grew up on jumbie stories and fairy tales. She is a former teacher who works as a writer and editor. Visit her online at and on Twitter: @TraceyBaptiste. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Great Back To School Books!

Today I have a list of some great back to school books...

From National Geographic 

National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas, 4th ed (ages 7-10, published simultaneously in paperback and hardcover) - It’s a BIG world out there and this OVERSIZED, kid-friendly, and completely redesigned and updated edition of the Beginner’s World Atlas introduces kids to the people, places, animals and environments of our planet. Nat Geo has combined their world-famous map-making skills and color photography with input from specialists in early elementary education to create an atlas custom designed for kids ages 7-10.  Large physical maps make it easy to find each continent's mountains, rivers, grasslands, wetlands and other features while up-to-date political maps name the countries and cities that make up the continents. Key points reflecting the latest information about the land, climate, animals, languages, products and more are highlighted in the accompanying text. It's the perfect reference for kids to learn about lands close to home or oceans away--ideal for classroom use, homework help, and armchair exploration. 
National Geographic Kids Student World Atlas, 5th ed (middle school/high school, published simultaneously in paperback and hardcover) - Winner of the Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, the Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and the Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Award, the new fifth edition of National Geographic's award-winning atlas is the definitive atlas for middle and high-school students to explore and use in the classroom, college prep, and at home. Dynamic, user-friendly content includes photos, facts, charts, online resources, graphics, and full-color political, physical, and thematic maps on important topics. Completely updated maps and statistics from the cartographic experts at National Geographic ensure that kids have all the latest information as they learn more about current events and become global citizens. 
Brain Games: Mighty Book of Mind Benders (ages 8-12, paperback) - Summer is almost done, time turn the brain back ON! Chock-full of puzzles, optical illusions, cranial challenges, and information on the latest research in neuroscience, this awesome activity book helps kids flex their "thinking muscles” in a fun and engaging way.  Crosswords, word searches, cryptograms, tough logic puzzles, memory tests, wacky riddles, and exercises to try with a friend will bring out the genius within.   Write-in pages include puzzles and games, time trials test skills in each chapter and short explanations of the neuroscience at work are also included within the 160 page book.  
Explorer Academy Codebreaking Activity Adventure - (ages 8-12, paperback) -  In the first activity book based on the Explorer Academy, kids test their knowledge of ancient codes and ciphers in a series of puzzles designed to challenge the cryptography-obsessed. When kids successfully navigate the codes, they are rewarded with a first-class tour of the Academy. “Hubbard’s Hints” are provided as well as an answer key and a Certificate of Completion.     
1,000 Facts About Ancient Egypt (ages 8-12, hardcover) -  Kids everywhere are fascinated by the wonders of ancient Egypt, and this reference book is packed with not only 1,000 fascinating facts but hundreds of photos as well. From the Great Pyramid and the Valley of the Kings to the Nile River and the amazing female rulers of that time (not just Cleopatra!), kids can dive deep into Egyptoplogy and learn about ancient hieroglyphs and their meanings, find out what was in King Tut's tomb, discover sacred facts about their religion and rituals, get insights about the science of mummification and even touch upon the unexpected — like Ancient Egypt’s impact on pop culture, how cosmetics were used and 25 facts about their system of crime and punishment! 

This back to school season, National Geographic offers up five engaging, entertaining, and educational books for readers of all ages: two captivating world atlases (for both younger and older readers), two invigorating books full of brain games, codebreaking fun, and more, and an awesomely absorbing book about ancient Egypt. All five books will encourage creativity, challenge young minds, and offer hours of great reading! 

Picture Books 

The Seekers 
By Hari & Deepti 
August 6, 2019 
Knopf BFYR 

A small band of brave adventurers journey to save their village in this stunning debut picture book from papercut artists Hari & Deepti. Perfect for fans of Aaron Becker's Journey. 

Mio and Nao live in the valley of Krum, above a great river that provides everything they need to survive. As children, their grandfather told tales of the Silver Fox and Fire Wolf, tales everyone else believed were only legends--everyone, that is, but Mio. 

When the life-giving river that flows through their village is mysteriously threatened, Mio and Nao set out beyond their valley to find out what has gone wrong. The farther they get from home, they find lifeless trees and skies filled with smoke. The other villagers grow weary of their mission until they are confronted with their childhood legends come to vivid life and have to risk everything to save their home. 

Depicted through intricate cut-paper art, this memorable tale will remind readers of the importance of home while still striving to discover the world around you. 

Hari & Deepti’s The Seekers is a mesmerizing and deeply felt picture book, full of adventure, heart, and a timely message. Readers will fall in love with the wonderfully woven tale and the dazzling cut-paper illustrations, full of the most stunning colors and scenes. 

By Meg McKinlay 
Illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom 
August 13, 2019 
Candlewick Press 

A delightfully duckish tale of farmyard disaster. 

It’s a quiet day on the farm until Duck arrives. When he starts calling out “DUCK!”, the other animals think he’s just being rude. “You can’t just run around yelling out your name!” they grumble. 

But what if that’s not what Duck means at all? Perhaps ignoring him could have unexpected consequences … 

This hilarious picture book begs reading aloud and active participation. 

Meg McKinlay’s Duck! is laugh-out-loud laugh hoot of a picture book about the importance of listening to even the littlest voices! Clever, sweetly amusing, and delightfully entertaining, little readers will get a kick out of the funny tale and enjoy the engaging and quirky illustrations. 

Looking for Yesterday 
By Alison Jay 
August 20, 2019 
Candlewick Press 

How can tomorrow ever be as good as yesterday? Boy doesn't think it can be and puts all his scientific knowledge to use, trying to work out how to go faster than the speed of light and make time go backwards. His grandad discovers him exploring the garden looking for wormholes, a possible shortcut back to yesterday - and reassures him that tomorrow will hold great experiences, which will become new treasured memories. 

Alison Jay’s Looking for Yesterday is a gorgeously heartwarming picture book, with a deeply felt message. With sweet storytelling, fun text placement, and illustrations so full of whimsy; details; and a beautiful classic vibe, little readers will be absolutely captivated by this book. 

Paper Son 
The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist 
By Julie Leung 
Illustrated by Chris Sasaki 
September 24, 2019 
Penguin RandomHouse 

An inspiring picture-book biography of animator Tyrus Wong, the Chinese American immigrant responsible for bringing Disney's Bambi to life.  

Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing--which he loved to do--but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime--and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi. 

Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki perfectly capture the beautiful life and work of a painter who came to this country with dreams and talent--and who changed the world of animation forever. 

Paper Son is a beautifully crafted own voices picture book about an extraordinary artist. Through smart, well researched and well-presented text and stunning, stylized illustrations, the author and illustrator bring the life and work of Tyrus Wong to life wonderfully. This lovely picture book will inspire and encourage thoughtful discussions. 

**I received copies of the titles above for review/feature purposes. All thoughts, opinions, and reviews are my own.