Tag Archives: series

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!

 

 

 

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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!