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Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day With Books From National Geographic

Today I have three wonderful books from National Geographic that you and your little readers can enjoy while you celebrate Earth Day!

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures (February 2017, ages 4-8, $15.99) by Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido, featuring photos by National Geographic Fellow and photographer Joel Sartore.   
Animal Ark pairs Alexander’s mix of playful and powerful poetry with more than 100 of Sartore’s most compelling images of the world’s species to create a photographic ark for children that highlights the importance of conservation and celebrates the beauty, diversity and fragility of the animal world.  Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations.

125 Pet Rescues, From Pound to Palace: Homeless Pets Made Happy (ages 8-12, $12.99) is a collection of laugh-out-loud and heartwarming stories of animals in need who went on to become pampered pets. Just like the pit bulls featured on pages 16 & 17, though, don’t judge this book by its cover. The 125 vignettes of pets that have been rescued provides eye-opening insight into the power of compassion and kindness and  the amazingly positive impact that rescuing a dog, cat, pig, horse or even a goat can have on the humans that open their hearts and their homes to them.  125 Pet Rescues has been created in cooperation with the Best Friends Animal Society whose mission is to bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets.  Featuring a forward by Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle and tips and advice from animal rescue experts, kids can learn how they can make a difference and become a rescue ambassador.  

Cat Tales:  True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties (all ages, $12.99) features cats from around the world, each one with an amazing story to tell about their compassion, ingenuity and bravery. “Ask an Expert” sections throughout the book offer insight into understanding the curious world of cat behavior, ways to keep your favorite feline happy both mentally and physically and even the trick to taking great cat photos (because the internet does not have nearly enough!:)). And are you curious as to why we love those cute cat videos?  Page 57 explains the science behind the obsession.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

One Good Thing About America Blog Tour (guest post & giveaways)

Welcome to Day #8 of the One Good Thing About America 
Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (3/14/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ruth and 10 chances to win a copy of One Good Thing About America, as well as a chance to win a Skype visit with Ruth in the Grand Prize Giveaway!

Crazy English
by Ruth Freeman

The other day I was apologizing to my students, once again, about Crazy English. Every now and then we will come across words that just don’t make sense. We were looking at multiplication arrays. First I was explaining the concept of “rows” when one student interrupted. “I thought that was a flower?” So, the conversation shifted to roses. Then we got back on track until, a few seconds later, when we got to “columns.” The students were labeling their arrays. I had written the word “column” for them on a whiteboard. They couldn’t believe there was an “n” at the end! “I know,” I said, “we don’t hear it, but it’s there.” I say that a lot. I love this diagram below of how English came to be. There are so many languages feeding into our modern English! I try to explain a bit of this to my students: how “ph” words come from Greek, so we can thank them for these two letters that really sound like “f.” And the crazy spelling of the number “eight.” Okay, I just looked it up. “Eight” comes from Old English and before that there is a Germanic origin. It’s related to Dutch and German words and they all come from an Indo-European root which is shared by the Latin and Greek words. Whew!  As I said, Crazy English!

In my story, Anaïs is dealing with many kinds of language problems. Like “tricky vowels,” she says, that are always “changing like snakes.” Or her neighbor, Mr. Potter, who greets her with a “Whadzup?” and laughs when she looks up to see what he’s talking about. Then there’s another student talking about the Poison Girls Club. Anaïs thinks he is crazy until she finds out it is the Boys and Girls Club. “I wish Americans are speaking English better!” she says. When I see spelling or pronunciations that are strange, I am grateful I don’t have to learn English! I can’t imagine being new and trying to spell “sugar” as Anaïs tries to do, or “juice.” How about three words with similar spellings but completely different pronunciations: “cough,” “bough,” and “rough.” Or, look at the “n-o-w” letters in: “what do I know now?” Not to mention the crazy silent “k.” And we haven’t even gotten to idioms yet! Anaïs runs into “cutting” in line, but wait till she has to figure out “get a kick out of,” “I’m all ears,” “going bananas,” “a gray area” or “you’re nuts!” There are so many more idioms, but I’m going to “call it a day” and say, “time’s up!”

    Stop by Middle Grade Mafioso tomorrow for the next stop on the tour!

    Blog Tour Schedule:
    April 10th – Geo Librarian April 11thLate Bloomer's Book Blog April 12th Mrs. Mommy BookNerd April 13thKristi's Book Nook April 14thLife Naturally April 17th – Books My Kids Read April 18th – Chat with Vera April 19th Word Spelunking April 20th – Middle Grade Mafioso April 21st – The Hiding Spot

    Follow Ruth: Website | Facebook Publisher: Holiday House
    ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures. It's hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you're in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn't know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anaïs misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac 'n' cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.
    About the Author: Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel..

    Win a copy of 
    One Good Thing About America!
    I have one (1) copy for one winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below and include an email address or twitter handle 
    (so I can contact you).
    -US only
    -ends 4/23 at 11:59 pm ET
    -winner will be contacted via email or twitter and must claim prize within 48 hours
    -Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

    • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of One Good Thing About America for their personal collection, as well as a 30 minute Skype visit with Ruth Freeman to the school of their choice and a signed copy for the school's library.
    • Enter via the rafflecopter below
    • US Only
    • Ends 4/23 at midnight ET
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    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    Great New Books from Nat Geo & Fun New Picture Books

    Hey cupcakes, today, I have three wonderful new books from National Geographic and three super fun picture books to share with y'all! These are all great new books to add to your and your little one's TBR piles...

    Does your young readers excitedly talk about all the things they want to be when they grow up?! These three fun, informative, and captivating new titles from National Geographic will help young readers explore the many fascinating careers and jobs they can one day embark on!

    100 Things to Be When You Grow Up (ages 8-12, $9.99) by Lisa M. Gerry -- From beekeeper to ice-cream taster, forensic psychologist to Hollywood animal trainer, conservation biologist to Chief Happiness Officer, this book features 100 of the coolest, wackiest and most amazing jobs out there (greeting card maker?? Yes, you can!).  Hands-on projects, advice from National Geographic explorers, interviews with experts, weird-but-true facts and tips for aligning your interests and personality to your job and more, this new book in the popular "100 Things" series is a great way to get kids thinking creatively about career paths.

    You Can be A Paleontologist!: Discovering Dinosaurs with Dr. Scott (ages 4-8, $16.99) by Dr. Scott D. Sampson — Dr. Scott Sampson, the expert host of Dinosaur Train on PBS Kids, author of How to Raise a Wild Child and real-life hill-hiking, dirt-digging fossil hunter takes young readers into the field to look for dinosaurs.  Along the way, kids will learn all about how to find and dig up fossils, how they are removed from the field and prepped in the lab and then how paleontologists put the fossils back together into the dinosaurs they know and love.  Lastly, Dr. Scott encourages kids to follow their dino passion and become a paleontologist themselves with tips, hints and advice from the heart.

    Ultimate Explorer Guide (ages 8-12, $14.99) by Nancy Honovich, foreword by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger — Through its storied history, National Geographic has inspired generations of explorers. Take a trip to their headquarters in Washington, DC and you will see photo after photo of amazing people exploring every corner of the world.  The Ultimate Explorer Guide features National Geographic Explorers of all kinds including paleontologists, biologists, photographers, artists, writers, activists and conservationists that is sure to get kids to explore, discover and create their own adventures.  In addition to fascinating first person stories and advice, the book also features “Help wanted” vignettes outlining career paths, hands-on activities and experiments; scientific explanations and fun facts and ideas for simple actions kids can do now.  Broken down by land, sea and air sections, readers will marvel at the feats of the world’s most famous explorers as they unearth ancient mummies and lost treasures, encounter wild animals and learn how to protect their habitats, and shoot for the stars with the latest technologies in space travel.

    Picture Books

    by Sam Usher
    Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press
    March 28th, 2017
    ISBN: 9780763692964
    Picture book, 40 pages
    Ages 3-7
    Sam and Granddad brave the rain and floods and have the best adventure ever!
    Sam wants to go out, but it's pouring rain, so Granddad says they need to stay inside until the rain stops. Sam drinks hot chocolate and reads his books and dreams of adventures while Granddad does some paperwork. When Granddad needs to mail his letter, it’s time to go out—despite the rain and floods—and Sam and Granddad have a magical adventure. The follow-up to the acclaimed Snow, this is the second title in a four-book series based on the weather from creator Sam Usher.

    A sweet and imagination filled tale, with engaging illustrations!

    By Anne Marie Pace
    Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
    April 4, 2017
    When the summer moon is full, a beach trip is an epic way to spend the night. With her signature poise, Vampirina and her clan gear up for a festive time at the beach. Keeping her ballet lessons in mind, Vampirina demi-pliés on a surfboard, leaps for a volleyball, and finishes each competition with style, even if she doesn't always come out on top. Readers will shout "Brava!" for this third gracefully ghoulish picture book by duo Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham.

    The charming ballerina vampire, Vampirina, is back and on a beach adventure! Vampirina at the Beach, with its irresistibly cute story, bright and exciting illustrations, and unforgettable characters, is the perfect mix of spooky-fun adorableness! My three old niece absolutely LOVES this book.

    By Jordan P Novak
    Bloomsbury USA Childrens
    April 11, 2017
    Mosquitoes can bite all kinds of people--ballerinas, chefs, babies, even you and me. But they can't bite . . . NINJAS! Mosquitoes might be quick, but ninjas are quicker. Mosquitoes might be sneaky, but ninjas are sneakier. And mosquitoes might be hungry, but ninjas are . . . hungrier!

    With tons of not-very-stealthy appeal, Jordan P. Novak's debut delivers buzzy, wacky, and hilarious story.

    This laugh-out-loud picture book will delight and entertain little readers with its quirky humor, cartoonish illustrations, endearing charm!

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    On Duck Pond Blog Tour (review, giveaway)

    Welcome to Day #1 of the On Duck Pond Blog Tour!

    To celebrate the release of On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (4/11/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane and Bob, plus 10 chances to win a set of On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond !

    Two Truths and a Lie  with Jane Yolen

    Two Truths and a Lie About Jane Yolen:
    1. I lost my fencing foil on a date in Grand Central Station. 
    2. I married the first man I ever dated. 
    3. I have been dogsledding in Alaska.
    Answer (highlight to reveal): #2 is the lie

    Two Truths and a Lie about On Bird Hill:
    1. Bird Hill is based on an old folk song I learned in Girl Scout Camp. 
    2. I wrote the book in thirty minutes. 
    3. I wrote the book because of a picture I saw.
    Answer (highlight to reveal): #2 is the lie

    Two Truths and a Lie about On Duck Pond:
    1. On Duck Pond is based on an old folk song I learned in junior high school. 
    2. Duck Pond happened when I was asked to write a sequel to On Bird Hill
    3. Writing the nature notes at the back of the book took much longer than writing the book.
    Answer (highlight to reveal): #1 is the lie

    Stop by Mrs. Mommy BookNerd tomorrow for Day #2 of the tour!

    Blog Tour Schedule:
    April 10th – Word Spelunking April 11th – Mrs. Mommy BookNerd April 12th Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust April 13th – Late Bloomer's Book Blog April 14th – Mundie Kids April 17th – Life Naturally April 18th – Chat with Vera April 19th – The Kids Did It April 20th –  Books My Kids Read April 21st – Marianna Frances

    From award-winning and NY Times bestselling children’s author of more than 350 books, Jane Yolen, and award-winning illustrator, Bob Marstall, On Duck Pond is the first sequel to the acclaimed On Bird Hill, which launched the children’s picture book series written for the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world authority on birds. 
    In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog, as they stopped, looked, and noticed things along their path—ultimately discovering the miracle of the birth of a baby bird. On Duck Pond continues the journey of the boy and dog story, this time in a new place—a serene pond, filled with birds, frogs, turtles and other creatures going about their quiet business. Their intrusion stirs the pond into a cacophony of activity, reaching climactic chaos, before slowly settling back to it’s quiet equilibrium. 
    This beautiful and enchanting sequel is sure to delight On Bird Hill fans and 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 Hatfield, MA. Visit her online at
    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

    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.

    *I received a copy for review purposes

    On Duck Pond is a charming and surprising picture book that celebrates nature and all its glory! Like On Bird Hill, in On Duck Pond, a boy and his dog stop to admire the wonders, miracles, and awesome sights of nature...this time, by a peaceful and lovely pond. But when a flock of ducks descend upon the pond, chattering and quacking, the peaceful pond and its inhabitants (frogs, tadpoles, heron, etc) find themselves quite rustled and put out!

    Yolen writes in sweet and simple, yet captivating, rhymes, that will delight little readers and spark their imaginations. With soft blues, greens, and yellows, the illustrations perfectly capture the gorgeous landscape the boy and his dog have found themselves in. Readers will love spotting all the different kinds of animals on each page, and a handy guide in the back of the book makes the search and find aspect even more fun!

    On Duck Pond is a beautiful celebration of a simple walk that takes a wonderfully surprising turn, and perfect for the little nature lovers in your life!

    One (1) winner will receive a set of both On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond -- a great Earth Day gift!
    US only
    ends 4/16
    winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
    Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes in the mail
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Wednesday, April 5, 2017

    Guest Post & Giveaway: Jennifer Trafton, author of Henry and the Chalk Dragon

    I'm thrilled to have Jennifer Trafton here today with a great guest post and giveaway! Jennifer is the author of the brand new middle-grade, Henry and the Chalk Dragon!

    Henry and the Chalk Dragon
    by Jennifer Trafton
    April 4, 2017
    Rabbit Room Press
    In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects--it runs away. Now Henry's art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it's causing trouble for him and his schoolmates Oscar and Jade. If they don't stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art--he's going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.

    Praise for Henry and the Chalk Dragon

    ★“A delicious face-off between forces of conformity and creativity run amok, spiced with offbeat names as well as insights expressed with eloquent simplicity.” —Booklist (starred review)

    ★“A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

    10 Rules of Chivalry for Writers
    by Jennifer Trafton

    In my new middle-grade novel Henry and the Chalk Dragon, the artistic main character, Henry, has a knightly costume he’s fashioned for himself—a milk carton for a helmet, an aluminum-foil-covered raincoat for a suit of armor, a feather duster for a sword. He is a knight errant, after all—that is, a knight on a quest—wandering through the hazardous halls of a dragon-haunted elementary school. And written on the inside lining of his raincoat, so he won’t forget, are his rules of chivalry—such as “Be brave,” “Fight for the right,” “Eat your spinach,” and “Don’t feed girls to dragons.” These rules not only guide him in his knight-errantry, they help him with his friendships and his art as well. “Is there a chivalry for drawing things?” he wonders.

    So I’ve been wondering, both as an author and as a creative writing teacher for kids: is there a chivalry for writing things? What are the ideal qualities of a writer errant (for writers are wanderers and adventurers in our imaginations, and we face many dragons of our own, real or not). Is there a code of chivalry that could guide us as wordsmiths (young or old) in our quests? Taking a cue from the vows of knighthood in the Middle Ages, here are a few “rules” I’ve come up with. If you like to write, heed them well! If not, perhaps you can sympathize with our clan’s unique perils.

    1. Tell the truth. Whether you’re writing about real-life people you know or four-headed aliens from the planet Zorkon, your job is the same: to reflect the nature of the world as you see it. That means writing honestly about the inner truths of relationships, emotions, and conflicts. And that means imagining how you would feel if you were a four-headed alien.

    2. Never trust an adverb. Don’t tell me the giant walked sadly (how boring!) Show me the glimmer of an ocean-sized tear in his eye as he trudges, hands thrust deep into his pockets, through a trampled castle. Paint a picture in my imagination.

    3. Give a voice to those who can’t tell their own stories. As a writer, you have the power to put readers inside the skin of a character totally different from themselves—show them the world through a different set of eyes—let them hear the hearts of people (or creatures) they might never pay attention to in the real world . . . like four-headed Zorkonians. Use that power wisely.

    4. Learn from the exploits of knights—ahem, I mean writers—who came before you, to find out how they did it. In other words, READ, READ, READ!

    5. Persevere to the end of the first draft. Young adult author Shannon Hale says that when she writes a first draft, she reminds herself that she’s simply shoveling sand into a sandbox so she can build castles out of it later. I love that! The first time you try to write something, it’s going to be bad. I mean it’s going to stink to high heaven, I promise. But if you persevere to the end of that terrible battle against the empty page, you’ll have the raw material out of which you can make something awesome.

    6. Do not fear rejection. Every writer faces it. Lots of it. Rejection is not the enemy: self-doubt is the enemy. The little voice inside you that says, “Your story stinks to high heaven; just quit now and bury your failure in a gallon of ice cream”—that’s the enemy. Rejection is a knight’s challenge, an opportunity to become stronger. Make the story better. Write a new one. Keep your sword swinging.

    7. Think not of thy reward, for it rarely cometh. Kids ask me all the time how much money I make writing books; I tell them, “About enough to fill up a beetle’s lower lip, but that’s not why I’m doing it.” If you’re writing because you think it will make you rich, stop now and hire bandits to raid the king’s treasury instead.

    8. Write for joy, not for glory. I secretly enjoy it when people praise my writing. But if I depend too much on that, I will become a ravenous, insatiable, approval-hunting, puffy-headed praise-glutton who instantly withers at the slightest criticism. Would you write even if there was no one around to praise you for it? Does it give you joy—deep down aaaaaaaah-I-just-squeezed-my-soul-into-a-story-and-it-felt-so-good joy? Then that, and that alone, is the reason for doing it.

    9. Guard the honor of your fellow writers. We writers errant are on this quest together, jousting with words, searching for plots, and beating villainous self-doubts into submission as best we can, each in our own unique way. It’s an exciting and a perilous journey. Let’s defend and encourage each other.

    10. Tie your shoelaces. It’s not enough to want to be a writer if you have nothing to write about. How do you get ideas? By putting on your shoes and going out into the world—watching, listening, meeting the four-headed aliens face to face, tromping though the trampled castles, riding the school bus, getting knocked down by foes, and rising up again. As Sir Henry Penwhistle learns in Henry and the Chalk Dragon, “It is a dangerous thing to open a door. But that, after all, is the only way to find an adventure.”

    Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit

    Win a copy of
    Henry And  The Chalk Dragon!
    I have one (1) copy for one winner.
    -US only
    -ends 4/14/17
    -winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
    -Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes
    Fill out Rafflecopter form to enter:

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