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Monday, September 24, 2018

The Big Book Adventure Blog Tour (guest post & giveaway)

Welcome to Day #1 of the Big Book Adventure Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of The Big Book Adventure by Emily Ford and illustrated by Tim Warnes on September 4th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Emily and Tim, plus 5 chances to win a copy of The Big Book Adventure and a Canterbury Illustrated Classic edition of one of the classic tales featured in the book!

The Big Book Adventure - from concept to completion: 
Little Red Riding Hood spread
by Tim Warnes

The way I work on my rough layouts and sketches varies from project to project, but essentially the process is the same. The first step is for me to get to an idea that I’m happy to show the publisher. For the Little Red Riding Hood spread from The Big Book Adventure, I began with sketching out ideas of how I wanted the wolf to look, and the general feel for the spread - that of imminent danger and threat (without being so scary as to give a small kid nightmares!). At first I planned not to show the wolf, but concentrate on Piggy and Red Riding Hood - the wolf’s presence was suggested by warning posters. 

In the end I realised I was missing a trick by not illustrating the wolf himself. I’m so glad I came to that realisation, as he was great fun to draw! I collaged his teeth on from cut paper, too make sure they looked suitably crisp and sharp! 

One of the joys of working on this project was that I was allowed to work in different styles throughout, to help get across the premise that the two main characters, Foxy and Piggy, are diving into imaginary worlds via the books they read. I knew I wanted the art for the Red Riding Hood spread to be very graphic, pretty much black and grey scale, with a splash of red. I explored thorny backgrounds, and sketched an idea for a very graphic background made up from letterpress Ws. 

In the end I opted for making the trees more decorative with stripes, with the text reversed out on the black background.The fact that we see Piggy leading the escape by turning the page gives a sense of relief to the drama, and was intended as a visual aid to remind the reader that the adventure is happening in Piggy’s imagination, after reading the book. 

For me, the job of the picture book illustrator is to embellish the written story, to take the reader further into another world. So the wolf making an appearance again later in the book in an illustrated speech bubble (where he is seen in a mash up with the Mad Hatter). The wolf is holding a cup of tea - and one of Alice’s legs! It has also begun to snow. I’d like to think that this image will promote all sorts of discussion and storytelling between kids, parents and librarians: whatever has happened to Alice? Did the wolf gate crash the Mad Tea Party or was he invited? Is the Mad Hatter running to safety - or to get more sandwiches? Has the Dormouse fallen into a deep sleep because of the snow?!… 


Blog Tour Schedule:

September 24th – Word Spelunking
September 25th — Geek Reads Kids
September 26th — Christy's Cozy Corners
September 27th  — Books My Kids Read
September 28th — Chat with Vera

Journey back through childhood classics like Peter Pan, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and more in this adorable picture book about the joys of reading!

There is nothing like a book to take you to places you’ve never been. Best friends Foxy and Piggy can’t wait to tell each other about all of their adventures in reading! Flying over Neverland, swimming with a mermaid, joining in a mad tea party, soaring on a magic carpet—old classics come to life in the eyes of two little readers who can’t believe what they’ve seen. Journey back to old favorites and experience the magic all over again in this adorable picture book about the joys of reading!

About the Author: Emily Ford has only ever worked in the world of children's books, apart from a very early foray into shoe fitting and face painting (she does a great tiger). She'll write on anything she can find—from notebooks to used envelopes and the backs of old receipts. As a child her handwriting was neat but now it's almost illegible—only she can read it. Emily lives and works in London. 

About the Illustrator: Children’s author-illustrator Tim Warnes lives in a creative household in rural Dorset, England, with his wife, illustrator Jane Chapman, their two boys, and a big, black cat. With more than twenty years working as a children’s author-illustrator, his passion for inspiring creativity in kids and encouraging a love of reading is infectious. Despite being a grown-up, Tim will often read a picture book to himself at bedtime. He also enjoys playing the banjo and wearing fancy hats.

In The Big Book Adventure, readers join Foxy and Piggy as they tell each all about the books they’ve read that day and the characters and adventures they’ve encountered. 

Emily Ford’s The Big Book Adventure is a charming and engaging love letter to the power and joy of reading and stories. Through sweet, bubbling with excitement rhymes, Ford takes little readers on an unforgettable journey inside the pages of some of the most beloved stories (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and more). Tim Warnes’ clever and amusing illustrations wonderfully bring the story to life and will surprise and enchant little readers. 

A beautiful celebration of the joys of reading, The Big Book Adventure is a darling and irresistible book!

5/5 Cupcakes

  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of The Big Book Adventure and Alice in Wonderland (Canterbury Illustrated Classics edition), one of the fictional lands the characters visit!
  • US/Canada only
  • ends 10/1/18
  • Winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
  • Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, stolen, damaged prizes
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

Property of the Rebel Librarian 
By Allison Varnes 
September 18, 2018 
Random House BFYR 
Source: pub for review 

When twelve-year-old June Harper's parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval. 

But June can't give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn't have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It's a delicious secret . . . and one she can't keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library's popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle--a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it's powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read. 

Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn’t believe one person can effect change…and for all the kids who already know they can! 


When seventh-grader June Harper’s parents decide her latest reading material is too inappropriate for her, they cause a chain reaction of events, from the firing of June’s beloved librarian to the removal of almost all the books in the Dogwood Middle’s library, to the new strict rules regarding what students can and cannot read. Devastated by and fed up with the new rules, June soon starts an underground library at her school, using an empty locker to trade the bookish goods. If discovered, June could lose everything and she must decide if the movement she’s begun is worth the consequences. 

Oh y’all, I’m so conflicted when it comes to Allison Varnes’ middle-grade, Property of the Rebel Librarian. With a premise with so much potential and power I wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, I found it disappointing. 

I always like to start with the positives and Property of the Rebel Librarian certainly has those. The premise and message about censorship, the power and importance of books, and staying true to one’s self, are awesome, timely, relevant, and important and I applaud the author for tackling them. The heroine, June Harper, is, for the most part, an admirable, relatable, and likable main character who has some real character development and growth. 

My main issue with Property of the Rebel Librarian is how unbelievable the whole thing feels. June’s whole world feels so contrived and paper thin. First, the characters, which are lacking when it comes to diversity, feel like they were all written to fit come cliched stereotypical boxes: mean girl? Check. ultra hip girl in nineties band t-shirts? Check. swoon-worthy, dreamy, effortlessly cool boy who always knows what to say? Check. average, girl next door girl who has multiple boys fawning over her? Check. Young readers are going to see right through these characters and think middle-schoolers don’t sound, act, or think like this 

If this were set in some kind of Stepford Wives- Fahrenheit 451 dystopian then the extremes it goes to when it comes to the censorship, book banning, and jumping on the bandwagon would make sense, but it’s not and it doesn’t. The extremes that June’s parents, the principle, the PTSA, and school go to and the extreme lack of questioning by anyone are so extreme it’s actually ridiculous. And again, young readers, who are so smart, are going to realize this. 

And then there’s June’s parents and oh boy are they awful. Like, they come across as truly awful, lacking in any sense kind of people...and they are NOT supposed to be seen that way. I truly believe they’re meant to come across as loving parents who are trying to do what’s best for their daughter, but just make some mistakes. But y’all, they take June’s books and edit out any of the deemed “inappropriate” stuff ...they rewrote the ending of Old Yeller and edit Anne of Green Gables. Anne of freaking Green Gables?! They are so controlling of June and her older sister (who is in college) that they feel like they can tell their girls what they can and can’t study or major in. And June can’t read Harry Potter or watch the movies, but she can read The Crucible and watch Jaws? How does that make any sense?! June and her sister are absolutely terrified of making mistakes and disappointing their parents. This is NOT a healthy parent-child relationship, but it’s treated as if it is. 

Again, this premise and the book’s message or so great, but the execution and delivery are severely lacking. I don’t ever want to discourage a kid from reading a book and I think there are younger readers who will like Property of the Rebel Librarian, but overall, there are SO many other wonderful middle-grade books out there that I would put in their hands first.  

2/5 Cupcakes

Like librarian Ms. Bradshaw in Property of the Rebel Librarian, Allison Varnes has fought for her students. She taught English in special education for eight years and once had to convince administrators that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not an endorsement of witchcraft. She’s from a family of teachers and has a PhD in education from the University of Tennessee. And like heroine June, Allison is a former marching-band geek. When she’s not writing, she howls along to the Hamilton soundtrack with a trio of Chihuahuas named after Peanuts characters. Find her on Twitter at @allisonvarnes or on Facebook at 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Product Review: Photo Blanket from

From time to time, Word Spelunking is asked to write product reviews. Sometimes these are book related products, sometimes they are not. Today, I have a non-book related product review to share...

For this review, I received a photo blanket from, specifically a 50x60 sherpa throw. The sherpa throw photo blanket, which also comes in the 60x80 queen size, is described on as: 

  • Soft and snuggly sherpa arctic fleece. 
  • Your design in crisp detail on the front; cream-colored sherpa fleece on the back. 
  • Add as many or as few photos as you want - every photo blanket is your own! 
  • Printed in the USA 

My entire experience with, from using their custom design builder to their processing and shipping times, and receiving the final product was just wonderful and impressive. I started the process of ordering my sherpa throw by using the product builder, which is very easy to use and offers a huge selection of options to create the most unique and custom products. Unlike other sites, the product builder on allows you to add as many pictures as you want, which is really cool. The product builder allows you to make a custom collage template or start with one of their many attractive designer templates. These designer templates cover a wide range of celebrations and themes, from anniversaries, family, baby, holidays, and more.  

I chose to use the custom collage template. Uploading my chosen pictures was super simple. The product builder makes arranging, resizing, and fixing your photos uncomplicated and easy to do. And after arranging my photos, I had so much fun choosing the perfect background/border for my collage. There are a ton of great backgrounds to choose from, from solid colors, patterns, different themes, and more, and they’re organized in easy to navigate categories. You can also add text to your photo blanket, customize the borders of your photos, arrange your photos into shapes, and even add photo filters. Overall, the product builder offers an excellent variety of design options and is simple to use. 

I was super impressed with the quick processing and shipping times as I received my photo blanket less than a week after ordering it, which was an awesome surprise...and the final product is superb! The blanket itself is high quality, made from soft, dreamy sherpa, with a great shareable size, perfect for cuddling. And the picture quality is fantastic! My photos are crisp and bright, with no blurriness or distortion of any kind. The colors of my chosen background (tie dye) are even brighter and fun than I imagined.   

As you can see from the photos below, I chose to create my collage from photos featuring my niece and her daddy at her first Carolina Panthers football game and I absolutely love how cute, one-of-a-kind, and perfect it turned out...and clearly Little A loves it too and is super proud of her new blankie. 

You never know what you’re going to end up with when it comes to custom product sites, but has surpassed my expectations! From beginning to end, my experience customizing and creating my product couldn’t have been easier and the final product is wonderful. I know that Little A will enjoy and cherish her photo blanket for many years to come. 

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Disclaimer: I received the product above for free for review purposes. All reviews, opinions, and thoughts are my own.