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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home 
By Padma Venkatraman 
February 5, 2019 

When Viji and her sister, Rukku, whose developmental disability makes her overly trusting and vulnerable to the perils of the world, run away to live on their own, the situation could not be more grim. Life on the streets of the teeming city of Chennai is harsh for girls considered outcasts, but the sisters manage to find shelter on an abandoned bridge. There they befriend Muthi and Arul, two boys in a similar predicament, and the four children bond together and form a family of sorts. Viji starts working with the boys scavenging in trash heaps while Rukku makes bead necklaces, and they buy food with what little money they earn. They are often hungry and scared but they have each other--and Kutti, the best dog ever. When the kids are forced from their safe haven on the bridge, they take shelter in a graveyard. But it is now the rainy season and they are plagued by mosquitos, and Rukku and Muthu fall ill. As their symptoms worsen, Viji and Arul must decide whether to risk going for help--when most adults in their lives have proven themselves untrustworthy--or to continue holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom. 

Young sisters, Viji and Rukku (who has developmental disabilities), must flee their abusive situation and seek refuge on the streets of Chennai, yet life on the streets in a big city is not easy or safe, especially for two poor, outcast girls. Soon the girls build themselves a rubble home on top of a bridge and form a family with two orphan boys, Muthi and Arul. Viji even finds work among the trash heaps with the boys. But hunger, dangerous men, sickness, and fear soon find the four desperate for help and unsure of where to turn.  

Padma Venkatraman’s The Bridge Home is a poignant and powerful middle-grade novel that sheds a light on an often unseen and ignored slice of the world. With authenticity and care, Padma Venkatraman builds Viji and Rukku’s world through complex layers, and startling and unwavering honesty. Viji and Rukku’s situation mirrors that of many real-life children and the author does a great job of depicting their world as realistically as possible, never shying away from the ugliness, hardships, and pain, while never stripping her characters of the dignity and self-worth they possess and deserve. Viji’s first person voice and point of view will allow readers to feel intimately connected to these characters as they deeply feel their sorrows and happily celebrate their triumphs.  

Viji, RukkuMuthi, and Arul’s story isn’t always easy to read, but their story is even harder to put down. There are tears, and heartache, and pain in The Bridge Home, but there’s also beauty, and hope, and sweetness.  

4/5 Cupcakes

American author, Padma Venkatraman, has worked as chief scientist on oceanographic ships and spent time under the sea, directed a school, and lived in 5 countries. Her 3 novels, A TIME TO DANCE, ISLAND’S END and CLIMBING THE STAIRS, were released to multiple starred reviews (12 altogether), and won numerous honors and awards (e.g. ALA, IRA Notable; Booklist, Kirkus, NYPL, Yalsa BBYA; CCBC choice; IBBY outstanding, etc.). She provides keynote addresses and commencement speeches, travels to international author festivals, serves on panels, does author visits and conducts workshops. Visit her at and 

Monday, April 29, 2019

El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos by Derek Taylor Kent (picture book review, interview, giveaway)

El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos 
(a bilingual doggy tale) 
By Derek Taylor Kent 
Illustrations by Lynx Animation Studios 
April 30, 2019 
Whimsical World 

It's the action-packed and hilarious second adventure in the best-selling El Perro con Sombrero series! Written in both English and Spanish, the El Perro con Sombrero series has been one of the most popular bilingual picture books in the world since the first book's release in 2015. We are excited for Pepe to continue his adventures and to share our love of bilingual reading and education. In this story, Pepe discovers that his owner, little Lucia, forgot her homework assignment and races against the clock to bring it to her at school before the bell rings. However, a gang of mischievous ice cream-loving cats, who call themselves Los Gatos con Gelatos, have other plans for Pepe! 

¡Es la segunda aventura divertida y llena de acción en la exitosa serie El Perro con Sombrero! Escrita en inglés y en español, la serie El Perro con Sombrero ha sido uno de los libros de ilustraciones bilingües más populares del mundo desde el lanzamiento del primer libro en 2015. Estamos muy entusiasmados con Pepe por continuar sus aventuras y compartir nuestro amor por los bilingüesLectura y educación. En esta historia, Pepe descubre que su dueña, la pequeña Lucía, olvidó su tarea y corre contra el reloj para traerla a la escuela antes de que suene la campana. Sin embargo, una pandilla de traviesos gatos amantes de los helados que se llaman a  mismos Los Gatos con Gelatos tienen otros planes para Pepe. 

Pepe the dog is back in this second book in the bilingual El Perro con Sombrero series! In El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos, Pepe’s human, Lucia, forgets her homework at home and it’s up to Pepe to get it to her at school on time, but on the way, Pepe encounters several obstacles and a gang of not so friendly cats who try to get in his way. What will Pepe do? 

Derek Taylor Kent’s El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos is an action-packed, fun picture book full of age appropriate laughs, engaging illustrations, and a great message. Young readers will giggle at Pepe’s obstacle filled trek to Lucia’s school and love cheering him on, be captivated by the lively and silly illustrations, and connect with the book’s sweet and important message about kindness, thoughtfulness, and doing good deeds. The story is told in both English and Spanish, making it perfect for English to Spanish and Spanish to English learning readers. 

Q1. What three words best describe your book El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos?  
 Action-packed, hilarious, heartwarming  

 Q2. Grab a copy of El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos and answer the following: 
Favorite page? The climactic spread on pages 28-29 

Favorite illustration? In intro of Los Gatos con Gelatos on page 16 

Favorite setting? The soccer field on page 12.  

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:  
The words he'd been told his whole life echoed in his mind. Dogs can't climb trees. Pepe searched inside himself and came to a decision.  

 Q3. Tell us a bit about your doggy character, Pepe? What do you love about him?  
 I think Pepe exemplifies all of the best qualities of dogs. In the first book, his lucky sombrero got him off the streets and turned him into a movie star, but we was still sad because he didn't have a family. In the end, he has to make a decision between fame and family and follows his heart into the arms of little Lucia. In the second book, we see that he and Lucia have formed a loving bond and connection, so when he sees that she dropped an important homework assignment, there's no question in his mind that he will do whatever it takes to get it back to her. Pepe is loyal, playful, loving, and never gives up.  

 Q4. What do you hope readers learn and walk away with after reading El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos? 
 First and foremost, I want to give them a fun and entertaining story filled with positive messages and heart. One of the goals with the El Perro con Sombrero series is also to promote bilingual education, language arts, and to provide much needed books for dual immersion schools. Many families tell me that even though their children don't speak Spanish, they like having it read to them in Spanish and then they started naturally picking up the words and language! I like that the book can be used as a fun-filled tool for students studying either Spanish or English. We are planning to have at least six more El Perro con Sombrero books come out, so make sure to keep checking in and to follow us Your readers can also get signed and personalized books exclusively through 

Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it? 
 Well, the Spanish word for cupcake is magdalena, so how about: La Prima Magdalena! It would be cake on the outside and filled with three flavors of gelato inside, of course. The frosting would look like a sombrero! 

Derek Taylor Kent is an author, screenwriter, performer and director based in Los Angeles. Best known for his children's books, his best-selling, award-winning books are treasured in hundreds of thousands of homes across the world. He and his wife, author Sheri Fink (pictured above), are the founders of Whimsical World, an empowering children’s brand that publishes books and produces whimsical merchandise, inspiring entertainment, and magical experiences for children of all ages. 

His newest middle-grade novel (ages 7-12), PRINCIPAL MIKEY, was released May 2018 and became a #1 best-seller on Amazon. See cover to the left! It tells the story of a 10-year-old kid who becomes principal of his school, and things don't go anything close to expected.  

His newest picture book, DOGGY CLAUS/PERRO NOEL comes out November 13, 2018. Following in the footsteps his best-selling and tremendously popular bilingual picture book, EL PERRO CON SOMBRERO, Doggy Claus/Perro Noel tells the tale of Jingle (Santa's dog) who decides to take off on Santa's sleigh to deliver presents to all the dogs in the world, only to discover there's something dogs want even more than presents on Christmas.  

His first novel for an adult audience, KUBRICK'S GAME, was released through Evolved Publishing and quickly became an international bestseller and was one of the best-reviewed books of the year. It won the Reader's Favorite Award for Best Fiction Audiobook of 2017 (narrated by Jonathan Frakes and Yvette Nicole Brown) and won Best Film/TV book of the year from the National Independent Book Awards. 

His award-winning book series SCARY SCHOOL (written under pen-name Derek the Ghost) was published by HarperCollins and is one of the most popular book series for middle-readers ages 7 to 12. There are currently four books in this beloved series and remains a best-selling title.  

His latest picture book, COUNTING SEA LIFE WITH THE LITTLE SEAHORSE, was co-written with his wife, #1 best-selling author,Sheri Fink, and released in September 2017. It's a hilarious underwater adventure that teaches kids ages 0-5 about the incredible variety of life in the ocean by while searching for hidden numbers.  

His bi-lingual picture book EL PERRO CON SOMBRERO came out August 18, 2015 through Holt/Macmillan. It is the #1 best-selling bilingual picture book of the past several years and its popularity continues to grow. 

Other books include the award-winning educational picture book SIMON AND THE SOLAR SYSTEM and the magical adventure RUDY AND THE BEAST: MY HOMEWORK ATE MY DOG!, both available now. 

Derek's screenplays have been optioned by Liberty Films (Warcraft, Source Code), The Donner Company (Goonies, Superman), and Radar Pictures (The Arrival, Jumanji). He also specializes in writing narrative scripts for Virtual Reality content. His VR sci-fi script EXIT TO REALITY won best screenplay at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and was nominated for best screenplay at Hollyshorts Films Festival, Red Flight Film Festival, and Reel Writers Screenplay Competition. 

Win El Perro con Sombrero!
To celebrate the release of book two, Derek has generously offered up a copy of book one for one (1) winner.
-US only
-ends 5/5/19
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen, prizes

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