Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

Author of children's books. Coming July 11, 2017, JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (FSG).

My Book Birthday

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I don’t talk much about my own writing here – as this is my reading blog, but I can’t let this milestone pass without a mention. Today is the release day of my debut chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi, with the first two books in the series: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This has been a long journey and I’m overjoyed that my books are now out in the world.

Another milestone is that we got a new puppy. Meet Kiku! She’s also happy to join in on the celebration!

For more info and how to purchase, please see my website. And to read some interviews and reviews, see my blog Notes from the Word Nest.  If you’d like a chance to win both books, make sure to stop by the Emu’s Debuts blog for my launch week posts Monday – Friday, July 10 – 14.

Thank you!

Second Quarter Reading List

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Half the year is up and here’s what I’ve read the second quarter of the year. I slowed down with my reading in the last month because we got a new puppy. Meet Kiku! She’s a rescue pup, part dachshund and part terrier and we love her!

 

STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN by Jennifer Torres

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon

CILLA LEE-JENKINS FUTURE AUTHOR

EXTRAORDINAIRE by Susan Tan

STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor

GENUINE FRAUD by E. Lockhart

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SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld (illus by Alex Puvilland)
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman (adult fic)
ALWAYS AND FOREVER LARA JEAN by Jenny Han
LOLA LEVINE MEETS JELLY AND BEAN by Monica Brown (illus. by Angela Dominguez)
GHOST by Jason Reynolds
ESCARGOT by Dashka Slater (illus by Sydney Hanson)
A LETTER TO MY TEACHER by Deborah Hopkinson (Illus by Nancy Carpenter)
THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER by Jenny Colgan (adult fic)
WE ARE OKAY by Nina LaCour
THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE by Stacey Lee
GEM & DIXIE by Sara Zarr
RAISIN, THE LITTLEST COW by Miriam Busch (illus by Larry Day)
BUNNY BUS by Ammi-Joan Paquette (illus by Lesley Breen Withrow)
PUDDLES!!! by Kevan Atteberry

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FINDING WONDERS by Jeannine Atkins
HELLO GOODBYE DOG by Maria Gianferrari (illus by Patrice Barton
ARMY BRATS by Daphne Benedis-Grab
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
LET’S PRETEND WE NEVER MET by Melissa Walker (ARC)
ONCE AND FOR ALL by Sarah Dessen (ARC)
ROYAL BASTARDS by Andrew Shvarts (ARC)
COMING UP FOR AIR by Miranda Kenneally (ARC)
THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING by J. Anderson Coats
A LIE FOR A LIE by Robin Merrow MacCready

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What have you been reading and loving so far this year?

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Monica Brown and Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean!

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I’m very pleased to shine the spotlight on author Monica Brown and her chapter book series Lola Levine! So far there are four books in the series starring vivacious and kind-hearted Lola. Lola Levine, Drama Queen is a Bluebonnet nominee in Texas. Awesome! Stay tuned below for a chance to win the most recent book in the series:

Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

(Little Brown/2017)

Lola Levine is excited! This summer break she is getting a kitten. Lola and her brother, Ben, prepare to welcome a new pet by reading books, designing a cat castle, and finally going to the animal shelter to pick out a kitty. But Lola’s happiness soon turns to distress when she realizes Ben might be allergic to Jelly, her kitten. Will Lola be able to keep her new pet?

Can you tell us a little about how you came up with Lola Levine and her stories? How did you develop Lola as a character?

Lola’s story is my own, and that of my cousins, siblings, and community.  I grew up in a large, loving diverse Latino/a community and I wanted to depict children like myself and my own that are bicultural, bilingual, biracial, and so much more. I am Peruvian, Jewish, and European and can trace my ancestry across the Américas, Africa, and Europe.  Lola Levine can’t be described in fractions and I don’t think any child should be. Our multicultural children are whole just as they are. My own daughters, Isabella and Juliana inspired Lola and other characters in the book, but she is a person of her own—funny, fierce, passionate, dramatic, loud, smart—a super soccer fanatic that has a beautiful, honest way with words. When I write I slip into what I call Lolaworld, and it is a loving, challenging, fun place to be.

In LOLA LEVINE MEETS JELLY AND BEAN, Lola is excited to adopt a kitten. What was your inspiration and spark for this story?

I love animals and at one point my house had two dogs, two Guinea Pigs, and two fish.  Our two dogs are still with us, Ollie and Finn.  As a child I always wanted a cat, but I, like my mother, was severely allergic to them, so I got a wonderful dog instead.  This book is about children and animals, but a lot more too. It’s about what we do when our wants conflict with what is right. Lola loves Jelly, but her brother is allergic.  She and Ben learn the hard way, that health, and taking care of our bodies, is always best.  It’s also about making mistakes, and how we grow from them in the context of family. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “bad” kids. Rather, children are inherently good, and like adults, make mistakes.

Lola’s favorite drink is chicha morada from Peru – made from purple corn, spices, and pineapple. It sounds delicious and I sure would love to try some! What is your favorite drink and why?

As a child, my most favorite, special drink was one that I could ONLY have when we were in Peru—Inca Kola!  It is a sweet, fizzy, neon yellow cola drink that tastes like bubble gum. It’s now available (if you are in the know) in the United States, wherever Peruvians are found:). I must confess that aside from water, my most favorite drink is one that is intimately tied to my writing life—coffee!! We have some amazing local roasters in this town, and I am, in fact, answering these questions in one of my favorite coffee shops!

Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the award-winning author of many multicultural books for children. Her books have received numerous honors and starred reviews. She wrote the Chistopher-Award winner Waiting for the Biblioburro, illustrated by John Parra, and the Marisol McDonald picture book series, which includes Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina; Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/y la fiesta sin igual, and Marisol McDonald and the Monster/y el monstruo all illustrated by Sara Palacios. Her most recent creation is the unique, fabulous Lola Levine, who stars in Monica’s first chapter book series, which includes Lola Levine is Not Mean!, Lola Levine, Drama Queen, and the forthcoming Lola Levine and the Ballet Scheme (Fall 2016) and Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean (Winter 2017). Her next picture book will be Frida and her Animalitos, from North South Press.

Monica Brown is also a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University where she teaches Chicano/a, U.S. Latino/a, and African American Literature.

For more about Monica and her books, check out her Lola Levine web site where you can download an educator’s guide, her author web site, and follow her on Facebook,

To win a copy of Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, May 6 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced on Wednesday, May 10. Be sure to include your email address.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations Colleen M. for winning a copy of Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean!

Happy reading!

 

 

 

First Quarter Reading List 2017

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I thought I’d keep a running list of the books I read quarterly, as well as posting a full list at the end of the year. Here are the books I’ve read and loved so far this first quarter of 2017. While I’ve read 30 books so far, I’m way behind on my reading. More great books keep popping up. If only I could read and do nothing else! 🙂 Would love to hear what books you’re reading and loving!

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All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective by Jason Gallaher (illus by Jess Pauwels) ARC

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Mama Loves You So by Terry Pierce (illus by Simone Shin) ARC

In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (adult fic)

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins ARC

Egg by Kevin Henkes

The Takedown by Corrie Wang ARC

My Busy Green Garden by Terry Pierce (illus by Carol Schwartz) ARC

Flying Lessons and Other Short Stories edited by Ellen Oh

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

March Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Hug It Out by Louise Thomas

Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Silvensky ARC

Are You an Echo? translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, Michiko Tsubori (illus by Toshikado Hajiri)

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LeReau (illus by Matt Myers)

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howard (illus by Rafael López)

The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau (illus by Jen Hill)

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham (adult humor)

Dark Horses by Cecily Von Ziegesar

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

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Welcome to the Spotlight Kara LaReau and The Bland Sisters!

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Ahoy there! Join me in shining the spotlight on children’s author Kara LaReau and her marvelous new middle grade series The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, starting with book 1, The Jolly Regina! She most recently won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor for her chapter book The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers and published by Candlewick Press. Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of The Jolly Regina!

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The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill (Abrams/2017)

Jaundice and Kale Bland are sisters who live in Dullsville darning socks, watching the grass grow, and eating cheese sandwiches. They enjoy these things quite a bit, despite not knowing where their parents had disappeared off to for years. But one day, they are kidnapped by a band of female pirates and forced on an adventure that leads them to search for their missing parents. Full of great wit and humor, this story will enchant readers. And they will fall in love with Jaundice and Kale. I can’t wait for the next book!

Spotlight on Kara:

A swashbuckling witty tale about two sisters who enjoy NOT having adventures, end up on a pirate ship. I love that the pirates are all women. What inspired this all-female cast of characters?

When I wrote the scene where Jaundice and Kale hear a knock at the door, I had to ask myself who the mystery visitor might be. I thought, “What would be the most surprising thing for these boring girls to encounter?” Of course, the answer was pirates. But there have been SO MANY stories about pirates already, and I didn’t want them to be run-of-the-mill. That desire to provide a fresh take on something conventional, combined with my indomitable feminist spirit, led me to the crew of The Jolly Regina.

The names of all the characters and places are such fun! What was your process for finding the right (and funny) names? Do you have a favorite?

I am a bit obsessed with names. I’ve been told my own name is hard to pronounce and hard to spell, so I’ve spent most of my life correcting people! It’s led me to focus on remembering how to pronounce and spell other people’s names, which has led me to focus on names in general. I love words that almost sound like names, and I am always noticing and tabulating interesting ones. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’re a big fan of names, you’re REALLY going to like the next Bland Sisters adventure!

The Bland Sisters do not like change or adventure. The pirates, obviously, do! Are you more like Jaundice and Kale, or like the pirates? And what would your favorite activity be if you lived in Dullsville or on a pirate ship?

I am a little bit of both. I love traveling and socializing and being out in the world, but I also love the comforts of home, so sometimes it takes effort to change out of my pajamas. I channel that homebody side of me when I write the Bland Sisters.

If I lived in Dullsville, I’d probably want to work at the grocery store; I’d love to know what other kinds of “sundries” they have in stock, and making deliveries might be interesting.

If I lived on a pirate ship, I’d like to sit in the crow’s nest. It would give me some alone-time, the view would be breathtaking, and I’d always be on the lookout for adventure!

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and NO SLURPING, NO BURPING! A Tale of Table Manners, illustrated by Lorelay Bové; a chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers; and a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill.  Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

For more about Kara and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, and follow her on Instagram.

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To win a signed copy of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, February 11 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Monday, February 13 (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Maria G. for winning a signed copy of The Unintentional Adventures of The Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina!

Yo ho ho! Happy reading!

 

Welcome to the Spotlight Andrea Wang and The Nian Monster!

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Happy Chinese New Year (on January 28, 2017)! Congratulations to Andrea Wang and her debut picture book! Stayed tuned below to win a signed copy.

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The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau (Albert Whitman & Co./2016)

Xingling is preparing to celebrate the New Year in Shanghai with her family, but the Nian Monster has other ideas. He threatens to eat Xingling and destroy her beloved city! Clever Xingling comes up with ways to thwart and trick the monster, first by offering him noodles for long life and then fish for good fortune. Bit by bit, Xingling stalls the Nian Monster until she sends him away spectacularly. This fun and adventurous story is also full of great information about customs and traditions of Chinese New Year, accompanied by bright gorgeous illustrations. THE NIAN MONSTER is a fabulous story about a brave and smart girl in modern Shanghai outwitting a monster.

Spotlight on Andrea:

How did the idea for this picture book come about? What were some of the challenges and the highlights of your journey to publication?

I stumbled upon the ancient folktale of the Nian monster when I was looking for information about Chinese New Year to tell my sons. I did more digging and found several videos on YouTube with different versions of the story. I was intrigued by the representation of the old year as a ferocious beast that ate everyone until it was scared away by three simple things – fire, noise, and the color red. I thought I’d try re-telling the old folktale in a modern setting.

One of the first highlights of this book’s journey was receiving a Letter of Commendation from the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant contest. It was a wonderful validation and encouraged me to keep querying. I also think it helped the manuscript make it to acquisition meetings at two different publishing houses, although it was ultimately passed on for different reasons. The third time was the charm, though! My editor at Albert Whitman found my manuscript in the slush pile and made an offer on it (definitely a highlight)! Since then, I would say that the biggest challenge was waiting for the book to be published, and the one of the biggest highlights was seeing the artwork. Illustrator Alina Chau did such a fantastic job making the story come alive, as well as adding layers to the story that gave it a depth and richness I could never have imagined.

Xingling is clever and brave. She not only faces the Nian monster, but she comes up with ways to trick him. Without giving away the whole story, how did you come up with ways Xingling could thwart the monster? Did you know how she would trick him from the beginning, or did you have to figure things out and/or discard ideas?

I had lots of ideas from the very beginning on how Xingling was going to trick Nian, but they were all bad! J At one point, there were laser guns involved… (See? I told you they were bad!) None of them felt right until I thought hard about what I loved about Chinese New Year and the Chinese culture. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from China and always tried to make Chinese New Year special, even though we lived in rural Ohio and didn’t have access to cultural events or ingredients. This was the in the 1970’s and you couldn’t just run out and go to the Asian grocery store, because they didn’t exist. I remember my mom making tofu in the basement! Anyway, once I connected to the foods of my childhood, the ways that Xingling tricks Nian fell into place almost immediately.

Food is a big part of this book, which is another reason I love this story. I love food! What is your favorite Chinese food item and why?

I love food, too, which makes this question impossible to answer! When I was around Xingling’s age, though, my favorite Chinese food was a steamed bun filled with sweet red bean paste. I know, it sounds kind of gross (Bean paste? What is that?) but it was a huge treat at the time because it took so long to make. My mom made the filling by cooking the beans, adding sugar and a dollop of lard, and blending it into a smooth, creamy “paste.” She made the dough for the buns, too, and showed me how to roll out circles of dough, fill them with the bean paste, and twist the top to seal them. Then the buns were placed on squares of waxed paper and steamed until done. I loved spending the time cooking with her as much as I loved the final product!

Andrea Wang grew up making dumplings and taking baths with orange peels to prepare for Chinese New Year. She loves to travel and try new foods and has tasted camel in Beijing, mantis shrimp in Hanoi, and emu in Perth. A longtime resident of Massachusetts, Andrea now lives in Colorado with her family and their dog, Mochi, named for the sticky rice dessert.

For more about Andrea and her books, check out her web site, friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and/or on Instagram.

To win a signed copy of The Nian Monster for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 28 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, January 31 (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Kathryn E. for winning a signed copy of THE NIAN MONSTER! Your prize will be on its way to you this week!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the Spotlight H.M Bouwman and A Crack in the Sea!

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Happy New Year! What a thrill to be able to start off 2017 with a shiny bright spotlight on an amazing middle grade novel, already garnering high praise. It’s also a Winter 2017 Kids’ Indie Next Pick! Stay tuned below to enter to win a copy of this amazing page-turner.

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A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman (Penguin Young Readers Group/2017)

In the Second World, Pip can speak to the fish, a gift the Raft King needs in order to get his people through the mysterious “door” in the ocean back to the First World. When the Raft King kidnaps Pip from the island to Raftworld, Pip’s protective sister Kinchen is determined to rescue him. Also intertwining with this story are the stories from the First World of Thanh and his family escaping to the seas in post-war Vietnam and from the past of Venus and Swimmer who escape a slave ship to come upon the crack in the sea into the Second World. A fascinating and gripping tale of friendship, love, adventure, and truth, sprinkled with a Kraken love story.

Spotlight on H.M. Bouwman:

Congratulations on A CRACK IN THE SEA! What an amazing tale – I don’t even know where to start with the questions, so I’ll start with my usual: What was the spark behind the idea for this book? And how did it grow into a full-fledged story?

For me the beginning of a story is always something small, a footprint on the ground or a broken twig, and it’s not until I follow the trail for a long, long time that it widens and I see what the story is really about. With this book there were two initial sparks: the image of a giant Raft big enough to hold a whole nation; and the story of the Zong slave ship, which I was researching for an early American literature class I was teaching. I wrote for quite a while—free-writing and individual scenes that popped into my head and images that stuck with me—until the story started to emerge. Even then I made a lot of wrong turns before I realized this was at heart a story about immigration and finding your home.

I’m fascinated by all of the characters in the story, from adventurous Caesar of Raftworld to brave Venus who escapes the slave ship and manages to save many others. But I have to say that Pip really caught my heart. I love that his sister wants to protect him, but that Pip figures out how to manage his disability AND his gift and grows from this discovery. Do you have a favorite character (I know it’s hard to choose from your babies)? How did you develop such distinct personalities and stories for each?

Ohhhhh, that’s kind of like asking which of my kids is my favorite. Or which of my cats. I love them all infinitely. However, there are days that I certainly feel more akin to one or the other of these characters. Kinchen feels injustice strongly; Caesar is determined to put her best face forward; Thanh feels like he does everything wrong; Pip feels like he doesn’t fit in; Venus, at points, just wants to be left alone; and so on. On different days I feel closer to one or the other of these characters. What I hope is that a reader might have some of those same moments of recognition and closeness.

Okay, I have to ask about the Kraken! How did they make their way into your story? I love them!

HAHA! The Kraken came into the story when I was drafting and ran out of options. I had a rough-ish outline, and it just…trailed off to nothing. Kinchen was standing on the beach, needing to chase after Raftworld and with no way to get there. I stared at the screen for a long time, typed “Add sea monsters?” into my not-really-an-outline and quit for the day. The next day: there the kraken were, waiting for me and waving from the bay.

I was teaching a creative writing class at the time, and when I showed my students what I was working on (we were talking about ways of drafting and outlining and prewriting), one of them noticed that note and started laughing. “Just add sea monsters!” became probably the most memorable advice I gave that semester. I won’t say it was the most helpful advice, but it was probably the most memorable.

About H.M. Bouwman:

H.M. Bouwman is the author of middle grade historical fantasy novels
The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap and A Crack in
the Sea, which publishes with Putnam/PRH on January 3. She lives with
her two kids in St. Paul, MN and teaches in the English department at
the University of St. Thomas.

For more  about H.M. Bouwman and her books, check out her web site and follow her on Twitter.

To win a signed copy of A Crack in the Sea for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 7 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, January 10 (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Cherilyn for winning a copy of A CRACK IN THE SEA!

Come back again for more interviews, buzz reviews, and drawings! Happy Reading!