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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Bird Hill Blog Tour {guest post & giveaway}


Welcome to Day #8 of the On Bird Hill Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (5/10/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane, Bob, and Brian Sockin (CEO and Publisher of Cornell Lab Publishing Group), plus 10 chances to win a copy of On Bird Hill and a window bird feeder!

The Illustration Process by Bob Marstall
Doodle to Cover Process Sequence
This is the unfinished doodle that Jane made me make a print of before she left my studio on January 5th, 2012 (see first blog). The print was, no doubt, lying on her passenger-side car seat as she drove home humming the tune from “The Green Grass Grows all Around” and writing the story in her mind. I can’t remember if we discussed where the egg-like shape was going, but her first draft – received two hours later – included a hen, an egg and a chick.
After Jane sent me the first draft, I finished the drawing under the gentle influence of her story.
Later I made a few modifications, primarily the furrows that break through the curved line to the left of the egg.
I added color to the drawing using Photoshop CS5. From the start, this vignette was thought of as the cover image. Hans Teensma designed the cover and found the perfect typefaces.
Pages 6-7 Process Sequence
This is my very first thumbnail (7/8” x 2”) for OBH, pages 06-07, done immediately after reading Jane’s draft for the first time. The concept of a child with a dog started here (the text doesn’t mention a dog), but the pair ended up in a very different landscape.
Soon after I completed the thumbnails, I began drawing what turned out to be first-round sketches, half-sized, starting with the thumbnail but soon re-imagining the entire scene.
Because several years passed between the thumbnails and 1st-round sketches and when Jane and I actually got contracts, I felt the need to re-think everything. I drew a full-sized 2nd-round of sketches. At 9”x22”, I could really get in there and wander around, discovering a new land. 
This is the full-size pencil finish for pages 06-07, the one where I really started to understand and visualize the look and feel of Bird Hill. As with all my pencil finishes, I used a mechanical pencil with HB leads and worked on my favorite watercolor paper, Arches 300lb hot press (it has a luscious texture).
This is an early color draft, one of many. I added all the color for the entire book in Photoshop, which may sound easier to some than watercolors or oils, but which probably takes the same amount of time and work as either. For the next book in this series, “On Duck Pond”, I’ve already decided to use watercolors first, then scan and tweak the colors in Photoshop, if needed.
The finished color spread. If I had known how hard it would be to add color in Photoshop to things like the dozens of slender frond leaves, I definitely would have used watercolors first! 
Pages 24-25 Process Sequence
Thumbnail (7/8”x2”) for the p 24-25 spread. This is one thumbnail where the essential idea – foreground egg, nest, limb and stretching chick – changed almost not at all, from the first few lines all the way through to the color finish. The background went through a number of changes but ended up disappearing entirely in the final art. 
Fyi: Thumbnails are the critical first step in developing a visual idea into a finished image. I try to complete each thumbnail very quickly, sometimes in under a minute. The idea is to just get the idea out there quickly – boom! – before the brain starts analyzing it. The best ones usually happen this way. But, if it doesn’t work – hey, it’s easy to quickly do another one with a completely different concept. 
This is one of many versions with the same foreground but wildly different backgrounds (the canyon started out as a path that became a river, then deepened).
Back in 2012, I needed to complete one spread as a sample, and I finally decided on a background.
I added color with Photoshop CS5 and then finally had a sample that, along with the cover, captured the “look and feel” of the book and was used to show to prospective publishers. 
So, suddenly it’s June, 2015 and Jane and I have contracts – and it’s time to re-visit my ideas and drawings from 2012. I read and re-read the now-much-revised story and realized that the nest, egg and chick were resting on a “twig”, not the limb that was “Straight and strong and long and slim” on which I had based the earlier sketches. In re-imagining the twig, I came up with the curvy, spiky, berry-bearing appendages (I was determined to avoid naturalistic leaves). I really liked them and they became a key part of the book (two reviewers referred to them as “Suessian”) – but they were difficult to draw and ultimately color, and in the end there were a lot more of them than I had ever imagined.
At this point I opted for simplicity, feeling that a background, while interesting, distracted from the landscape inside the egg and the exuberant chick.
FYI: The egg is empty because I had drawn it several times and everyone already knew what would be inside. Deadlines do that to a person. 
The pencil finish. At the last moment, I decided that the sticks in the nest were too realistic – what tree did they come from? – and I went with grass-like leaves that echoed the frond-like trees elsewhere.
The color finish for pages 24-25.
*****


Stop by Cracking the Cover tomorrow for Day #9 of the tour! Check out the other blogs below for more chances to win!


Blog Tour Schedule:
June 20th – The O.W.L.
June 21st — The Book Monsters
June 23rd  — MamaPapaBarn
June 24th — Rockin' Book Reviews June 27th — Kristi's Book Nook
June 28th — Books My Kids Read
June 29th — Word Spelunking
June 30th — Cracking the Cover
July 1st — Can You Read Me a Story?


Loosely based on the old cumulative nursery rhyme/song “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” a nursery rhyme first published as a song in 1912. But in this version, it’s a boy and his dog who find the bird in a nest on a hill in a strange valley. Following in the footsteps of Jane’s highly acclaimed Owl Moon, winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award, On Bird Hill is a beautiful picture book with an enchanting story, fancifully illustrated by renowned artist Bob Marstall. On Bird Hill is sure to attract interest from millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.
About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world. Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Easthampton, MA. Visit her online at janeyolen.com.
About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at bobmarstall.com.

About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. birds.cornell.edu


GIVEAWAY
One (1) winner will receive a copy of On Bird Hill and a Window Bird Feeder ($28.99) to get up close and personal with the birds in your backyard! Great for blends, peanuts and safflower, this durable feeder attaches right to your window pane with suction cups, allowing you to see every bird detail. It's easy to fill and easy to clean.
  • US only
  • ends July 8
  • winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hour
  • Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prize

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: Mr. Jones & Me by Lindsay Marie Miller





Mr. Jones & Me
Book 2 of 2 in Jones Series
Author: Lindsay Marie Miller
Genre: New Adult Romantic Thriller
Release Date: June 20, 2016

Three years have passed since Finley O’Connell found love and heartbreak in the form of alluring, yet secretive psychology professor, Cabel Jones. Now a twenty-two-year-old graduate student, Finley hardly has time to fulfill her role as Cabel’s young new wife.

But when a voluptuous blonde bombshell from Cabel’s past arrives to fill a teaching position on campus, Finley feels immediately threatened. Jane Adams wants Cabel Jones back and will stop at nothing to rekindle romance with her former flame. Jealous and betrayed, Finley falls into a perilous trap that may cost Cabel his life.



Me & Mr. Jones (Book 1) is also on sale for .99 cents exclusively on Amazon!



Excerpt
In that moment, I knew that he had me fooled. I would buy into this façade of a reality where it didn’t matter if Monty thought we were dead when we were actually alive. I had faith in a fairytale that we could live in a conspicuous location inconspicuously. It was all a fantasy, but I wanted so much to believe that we were safe, that no one would ever find us here, that Cabel and I had escaped unseen.
But maybe I wasn’t a complete fool. Maybe it was denial not naiveté. Maybe it was hope in the pipe dream that our life could return to the way it once was. Either way, I succumbed to the fake world Cabel had created. And I let myself believe that none of it was too good to be true.
Cabel’s fingers tangled through my hair, as his other hand slipped beneath my shirt and trailed the length of my naked back. Clinging to him, I clasped my hands together behind his neck and whimpered when he tugged at my bottom lip. Cabel groaned at the sound that left my parted lips and pushed me up against the wall.
My hands searched his torso, rubbing and caressing his skin. His chest. His abs. His ribs. When Cabel folded his hands through mine and then ripped the shirt over the top of my head, I couldn’t believe that he was mine. How had I gotten so lucky?
Cabel placed his hands at my waist and hauled me into the bedroom, where we collapsed on the mattress together. He stretched out beside me and cradled my face in his hands, similar to the first time we had made love. I felt his lips against my neck, as his fingers traveled along the sides of my arms and then my neck and then my spine.
Right before that pivotal moment, that felt so much like freezing fire and burning ice, he left the softest kiss on my lips, and I knew he would be gentle. His frosty blue eyes gazed into mine, loving, caring, trusting. Since the day I met Cabel Jones, he had taken every part of me, but none that I hadn’t already been willing to give. As he braided his fingers through mine and pushed the back of my hands into the mattress, I knew that I had made my choice.
If he was going to burn, then I would burn with him.


LINDSAY MARIE MILLER was born and raised in Tallahassee, FL, where she graduated from high school as Valedictorian. Afterwards, Lindsay attended Florida State University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with an English Literature major, Psychology minor, and Specialized Studies in Markets and Institutions.

Lindsay is the author of the Mr. Jones & Me, S.I.N.G.L.E., Jungle EyesMe & Mr. Jones, and Emerald Green. An incurable romantic at heart, she enjoys writing about strong heroines and the honorable gentleman who claim their hearts, often utilizing elements of suspense, adventure, or even comedy. While the context of her writing is diverse, one factor always remains at the center of every novel: Love.  

In her free time, Lindsay enjoys singing, playing the piano and guitar, and writing songs. The author resides in her hometown of Tallahassee, FL, where she is currently working on her next novel.


Win an ebook copy of Mr. Jones & Me!
Lindsay is generously offering 1 ebook to 1 winner.
-open to everyone
-ends 6/30
Fill out Raffleopter to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
GIVEAWAY POLICIES
Unless otherwise stated, the policies and rules for each giveaway are as follows:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. who are 13 years old or older as of date of entry.
To enter, fill out the appropriate Rafflecopter form associated with each giveaway.
The start and end dates for each giveaway will be clearly stated and followed.
The specified amount of winners shall be selected in a random drawing.
Winners will be notified by email and must claim their prize within 48 hours. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours, then a new winner will be chosen.
Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail. Once a prize is dropped off at the post office, it is no longer my responsibility and I will not compensate in anyway for prizes not delivered because of the USPS.
If a third-party (author, publisher, etc) is shipping a prize, once I provide the winner(s)' mailing information to them, the prize is no longer my responsibility. I will forward your mailing info to the proper people within 48 hours after getting it from you. If you have not received your prize from an author or publisher within 8 weeks, it is your responsibility to contact them further.
By participating in any giveaway, you agree to adhere to these rules. Any breaking of these rules by entrants will disqualify them from the giveaway and their entries will be deleted.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Read Me Like A Book Blog Tour {review}


I'm thrilled to have the Read Me Like A Book Blog Tour stopping by today...


Read Me Like A Book
Liz Kessler
June 14, 2016
Candlewick Press
In her first novel for young adults, New York Times best-selling author Liz Kessler tells a story about finding a kindred spirit and becoming your true self.

Ashleigh Walker is a mediocre student with an assortment of friends, a sort-of boyfriend, and no plans for the future. Then a straight-from-college English teacher, Miss Murray, takes over Ash’s class and changes everything. Miss Murray smiles a lot. She shares poetry with curse words in it. She’s, well, cool. And she seems to really care about her students. About Ashleigh. For the first time, Ash feels an urge to try harder. To give something — someone — her best. Before she knows it, Ashleigh is in love. Intense, heart-racing, all-consuming first love. It’s strong enough to distract her from worrying about bad grades and her parents’ marriage troubles. But what will happen if Miss Murray finds out Ashleigh is in love with her?


Praise for Read Me Like A Book

Booklist
It’s refreshing to see depicted a student whose road ahead is so fuzzy...what makes this book compelling is its rich characterizations, particularly Ash’s parents, who grapple with their own attempts at finding love again. Far from just a story about a teen crushing on her teacher, this is about a teen discovering her sexuality and her own strength in the process.

Publisher’s Weekly
...the idea that you have to know who you are in order to figure out where you want to go is a powerful one for readers examining their own identities.

Kirkus (starred review)
Taking risks both large and small—and growing from them—is a recurring theme of this story, from Ash's shoplifting on a dare with a rebellious friend to coming out to her parents on her 18th birthday. The English setting (including frequent pub visits and colorful slang) adds a rich dimension, as do the well-rounded characters whose flaws make them all the more sympathetic. With an absorbing plot and believable dialogue, this novel demonstrates respect for teens' fears and desires, ending on a hopeful note that steers clear of unconvincing platitudes.


Ash enters her last year of high school with a sort-of-boyfriend, no real plan for the future, a life-long best friend, and family drama. As the school year progresses, Ash’s parents’ marriage implodes, her feelings for her boyfriend get fuzzy, and even her BFF abandons her. But, Ash finds one bright, shining light in her young, new English teacher, Miss Murray. Miss Murray makes Ash want to try harder, do better, be better. Soon, she finds herself drawn to Miss Murray, falling hopelessly in love with her teacher, and questioning everything Ash ever thought about herself and love.

Now, more than ever, books like Liz Kessler’s Read Me Like A Book, books that shine a light on LGBT experiences, issues, and characters, are so very important, and Read Me Like A Book is a great coming-of-age and coming out story that so many young readers will relate to.

Told through Ash’s unapologetically honest, observant, and witty perspective, Read Me Like A Book has a great, engaging voice that creates a very intimate and personable experience between Ash, the story, and the reader. The more I read, the more it felt like Ash was an old pal and we were sitting in come coffee shop somewhere as she told me all about her unforgettable last year of high school. I love that Ash isn’t dazzlingly remarkable, she doesn’t get the best grades, isn’t overly popular, or isn’t some mesmerizing beauty; instead she’s refreshingly relatable and average. Yet her story, her experiences are still worthwhile and unique and special.

Read Me Like A Book explores many different emotions- from first love to guilt, grief, despair, hope, and more- and does so with a great deal of depth and heart. Readers of all ages, but young readers especially, will connect with Ash, relate to her troubles, and feel her story deeply.

My final thoughts: With poignant and important themes, relatable characters, and complex and palpable emotions, Read Me Like A Book is a great coming-of-age and coming out story in the world of LGBT fiction.

MY RATING
4/5 Cupcakes


Liz Kessler is the author of the best-selling Emily Windsnap series, the Philippa Fisher series, and the middle-grade novels North of Nowhere, A Year Without Autumn, and Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? She lives in Cornwall, England.



Official Blog Tour Stops:
6/29 Forever YA


Friday, June 17, 2016

Celebrating Lisa Graff {review and giveaway}


I'm thrilled to help celebrate the wonderful Lisa Graff today by reviewing her newest middle-grade book and by giving away a bundle of her paperbacks...


A Clatter of Jars
(A Tangle of Knots Companion)
by Lisa Graff
May 24, 2016
Philomel
In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, it's summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don't know is that they've been gathered for a reason--one that the camp's director wants to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper's head and placed into another. And no one knows why.


Praise for Lisa Graff’s novels

A Clatter of Jars:

“Graff is a master of the magical realism genre, and this offering is worthy of a spot in any middle grade collection.”—School Library Journal

“Graff’s vivid character development and world building makes for tight plotting and nicely negotiable complexity. A great fit for fans of Louis Sachar’s Holes.”—Booklist

“Graff’s prose and plot construction is as pleasing as ever, and A Clatter of Jars will appeal to a wide range of readers.”—Bookpage

A Tangle of Knots

“Lisa Graff has created a beautiful world of deliciously interconnected stories that draw you in.”—Abby West, Entertainment Weekly, A-

* “Subtle and intricate, rich with humor and insight, this quietly magical adventure delights.”—Kirkus Reviews *STARRED REVIEW*

* “Combining the literary sensibility of E. B. White with the insouciance of Louis Sachar, Graff has written a tangle that should satisfy readers for years to come.”—Booklist *STARRED REVIEW*

Lost in the Sun

* “Graff writes with stunning insight [and] consistently demonstrates why character-driven novels can live from generation to generation.”—Kirkus Reviews *STARRED REVIEW*

* “Graff creates layered, vulnerable characters that are worth getting to know.”—Booklist *STARRED REVIEW*

* “[A]n ambitious and gracefully executed story.”—Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW*

* “Weighty matters deftly handled with humor and grace will give this book wide appeal.”—School Library Journal *STARRED REVIEW*

* “Characterization is thoughtful.”—BCCB *STARRED REVIEW*

“This is a novel that speaks powerfully, honestly, almost shockingly about our human pain and our human redemption. This book will change you.”—Gary Schmidt, author of The Wednesday Wars

“Lisa Graff crafts a compelling story about a boy touched with tragedy and the world of people he cares about. And like all the best stories, it ends at a new beginning.”—Richard Peck, author of A Year Down Yonder


A Tangle of Knots made me a definite Lisa Graff fan and I was super excited to read its companion, A Clatter of Jars...and thankfully, this companion does not disappoint!

With her signature sparkling storytelling, laugh-out-loud humor, and ability to craft unforgettable characters, Lisa Graff  returns to the twisty and thrilling world of Talents in A Clatter of Jars. Bursting with magic, mayhem, and marvelous Talents, A Clatter of Jars is fun from beginning to the end. The summer camp setting is perfect for summertime reading and young readers will love escaping into this summery, parent-free world for a few hours.

Graff’s world of quirky, amazing, and sometimes simply bizarre Talents is a unique and delightful one! In A Clatter of Jars, we are introduced to some even more wacky, unbelievable, surprisingly useful, and awesomely strange Talents. Young readers’ imaginations will be inspired by this world’s creativity and innovativeness.

There’s a fun, eclectic group of characters in A Clatter of Jars, both young and old, and I had a blast getting to know their secrets, rooting for their epic triumphs, and laughing at their epic fails. The characters in A Clatter of Jars must deal with some crazy Talent swapping and, of course, the results are seriously funny!

My final thoughts: A Clatter of Jars is full of humor and heart, engaging storytelling, fantastical elements, and great characters, and sends young readers a wonderful message about loving themselves and finding the true magic within.

MY RATING
4/5 Cupcakes


Lisa Graff (www.lisagraff.com) is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of the National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots, as well asLost in the Sun, Absolutely Almost, Double Dog Dare, Umbrella Summer, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower,The Thing About Georgie and Sophie Simon Solves Them All. Originally from California, she lived for many years in New York City and now makes her home just outside of Philadelphia. @lisagraff



Win a bundle of four Lisa Graff paperbacks!
Thanks to the awesome folks at Penguin, one winner will get paperback copies of Lost in the SunA Tangle of KnotsAbsolutely Almost, and Double Dog Dare.
-US only
-ends 6/24/16
-one winner will get all four paperbacks
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes
-please read full rules below
Fill out Rafflecopter to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
GIVEAWAY POLICIES
Unless otherwise stated, the policies and rules for each giveaway are as follows:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. who are 13 years old or older as of date of entry.
To enter, fill out the appropriate Rafflecopter form associated with each giveaway.
The start and end dates for each giveaway will be clearly stated and followed.
The specified amount of winners shall be selected in a random drawing.
Winners will be notified by email and must claim their prize within 48 hours. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours, then a new winner will be chosen.
Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail. Once a prize is dropped off at the post office, it is no longer my responsibility and I will not compensate in anyway for prizes not delivered because of the USPS.
If a third-party (author, publisher, etc) is shipping a prize, once I provide the winner(s)' mailing information to them, the prize is no longer my responsibility. I will forward your mailing info to the proper people within 48 hours after getting it from you. If you have not received your prize from an author or publisher within 8 weeks, it is your responsibility to contact them further.
By participating in any giveaway, you agree to adhere to these rules. Any breaking of these rules by entrants will disqualify them from the giveaway and their entries will be deleted.