Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake - A Sneak Peek, Review and Giveaway

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake (Eleanor #3)
by Julie Sternberg; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Amulet Books, March 18, 2014

Disclaimer: Book and Artwork was provided as part of Sneak Peek Book Promotion. Book opinions are all my own.

Description from GoodReads:

I did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than
carrot juice on a cupcake
or a wasp on my pillow
or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.

In the third installment from the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!

From overcoming stage fright to having a secret crush, young readers will relate to Eleanor as she navigates the bittersweet waters of growing up.

My thoughts on this book:
Note: Though there are no spoilers for Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake, there are references to things that happened in the first two books. 

Since I first read, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, I have been a fan of Julie Sternberg's books.  She has a very simple but spot on way of capturing important childhood experiences.  In the first book, we meet Eleanor as she is adjusting to her babysitter moving away, and beginning third grade.  Eleanor is now in fourth grade.  She has adjusted to a new babysitter, survived summer camp, and now must face some new childhood challenges.  

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake will resonate with readers who have ever had to tackle new challenges.  Eleanor finds herself in the starring role in a school play where she even needs to perform a solo.  Sternberg provides readers with someone they can truly relate to and a means of exploring the feelings that accompany facing something that seems really scary.
copyright © 2014 by Matthew Cordell

However, the book does not just focus on the issues of performing in a play, and stage fright.  There is also the issue of friendship and what happens when someone moves into school or into a class mid-year.  Eleanor and Pearl are best friends, who spend a few afternoons a week together.  When Ainsley moves to their school from Orlando, Pearl is assigned to be her buddy.  Sternberg helps readers understand changes in friendships, the importance of treating one another kindly, and maintaining someone's trust in ways that children will understand. 

copyright © 2014 by Matthew Cordell

Though I loved Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, I think Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake may have come close to being my new favorite.  Maybe I need to learn a little something from Eleanor, Pearl, and Ainsley about favorites.  If you are looking for a fun classroom read aloud for second or third grade, I would highly suggest giving this one a read through.  Additionally, this series is one of my "go to" referrals for teachers looking for chapter books for young readers moving beyond early readers and first chapter books.   

About the author:
Julie Sternberg received her MFA in writing for children from the New School. She is the author of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

About the illustrator: Matthew Cordell is the illustrator of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Bat and Rat, and Trouble Gum. He lives outside Chicago.

Complete the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win a copy of all three Eleanor books - Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Like Bug Juice on a Burger, and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake. Open to those 13 years and older with US mailing addresses.

   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Danny's Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment

Author/Illustrator: David A. Adler
Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky (September 3, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Second to Fourth Graders
Fiction * Friendship * Eccentricity

Description from GoodReads:
Danny Cohen's new friend is 100% weird.

New to Danny's fourth grade class, Calvin Waffle has a knack for following his classmates around to collect data for his science experiments. He carries jelly beans everywhere, and claims his father is a spy. Danny isn't quite sure just what to make of this quirky newcomer until Calvin reluctantly agrees to help the baseball team. His ability to correctly predict each pitch before it's thrown leads his team to victory and makes him a hero to his new friends.

David Adler, author of the popular Cam Jansen mystery series, creates another memorable character for his readers to befriend. Sure to be a publishing event.

My thoughts on this book:
Calvin Waffle is a bit strange.  He is interested in experiments, such as the one where he watches Danny Cohen for a week and writes down his observations.  Yet, that is only his baseline data.  Calvin must watch Danny for another week but this time he gives Danny jellybeans to put in his pockets. And though Calvin has some odd habits, Danny seems to accept them.  When Danny is paired up with Annie for a school report, that leaves Douglas to have to partner with Calvin. Will Calvin's strange ways hinder Douglas from getting a good grade? Does Calvin really have a father who is a spy or is that just a cover-up for his father leaving Calvin and his mother?

In some ways, this book is just as odd as Calvin.  I don't remember the last time where I read a story and the main characters actually brought homework to a party?!  However, Adler makes it work. He has created characters that readers will like.  There is humor but not so over the top that it becomes too much. And rather than teasing or bullying because someone is different, Danny's Doodles celebrates Calvin, who despite his strange behaviors and comments, actually has something very valuable to add.  I also loved that Danny's mother is an engineer and Calvin's mother has a similar eccentric streak as her son.

Danny's Doodles is a story that second and third graders will enjoy and look forward to reading.  Look for a copy in your local public library or independent bookstore.

For more about author/illustrator, David A. Adler, check out his website. To download an educator's guide for Danny's Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment, click here.

Book Review: The Year of Billy Miller

Author: Kevin Henkes
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (September 17, 2013)
Independent Reading: Second and Third Grade
Read Aloud: First to Third Grade
Source: Purchased Copy
Fiction * Family * Humor * School

Description from GoodReads:
Award-winning, nationally bestselling author Kevin Henkes introduces second-grader Billy Miller in this fast-paced and funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school. The Year of Billy Miller includes black-and-white art by Kevin Henkes and is perfect for fans of the Ramona books, Frindle, by Andrew Clements, and the Clementine series.

When Billy Miller has a mishap at the statue of the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big lump on his head. What a way to start second grade, with a lump on your head! As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad. Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers a short, satisfying, laugh-out-loud-funny school and family story that features a diorama homework assignment, a school poetry slam, cancelled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. Illustrated throughout with black-and-white art by the author, this is a perfect short novel for the early elementary grades.

My thoughts on this book:
Every once in awhile you need to pick up a book that makes you feel good. I figured that I had read enough Kevin Henkes' books to safely know that this would be one with great characters, a fun story, and maybe even something a bit special.  The Year of Billy Miller was exactly what I was looking for and I am glad I picked it up to read.

What is different about The Year of Billy Miller is rather than be a story that fixates on Billy's issues at school with one classmate or how he struggles with homework or paying attention, readers get insights into the life of this second grader through his relationship with his teacher, father, sister, and mother.  Some readers may believe that there were lost opportunities.  However, I felt as if, Henkes was really doing a character sketch of this very energetic young boy.  He is a typical second grader.  He accidentally misunderstands when a classmate says that her nickname is "Emster" instead hears it as "hamster".  While playing around with two red markers, Billy is worried that maybe his new teacher thinks he is making fun of her and the red chopsticks she uses in her hair.  And when he should be working on his poetry, Billy gets distracted with a water fight, and building a volcano, and even covering his little sister in mud.  As I read through the story, I kept saying "Yes, he is a 2nd grade boy."
There are several things that I love about this book.  Henkes use of language is superb which makes this an ideal read aloud.  Readers will also identify with Billy, his younger sister Sal, and even his father. And where most books feature mom prominently and dad takes a more backseat role, this book is reverse. Dad is an artist who stays at home to work and take care of the kids.  It is his father that cooks during the week and makes fabulous cookies.  Mom, on the other hand, works as at teacher in a high school. And though it is the relationship that Billy has with his dad that you see the most, there are a few scenes with his mom towards the end of the book, which are very touching.

So, what do you do with a book that is clearly written for a particular age group but is also 240 pages?  First, there is a lot of white space and has large type.  It would be a perfect independent read for mid-year second to third grade.  It will also provide kids with that "thicker" book they want to carry around. Second, even more so, it would make a lovely read aloud.  I look forward to sharing this one with students.

Meet Kevin Henkes video by HarperCollins:

Look for The Year of Billy Miller at your public library or independent bookstore.

Book Review - Otis Dooda

Author: Ellen Potter
Ilustrator: David Heatley
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (June 4, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Grades 2nd to 4th
Fiction * Humor * Making New Friends

Description from GoodReads:

Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that’s his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He’s heard it all before. He’s been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That’s right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We’ll wait.

All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

My thoughts on this book:
Ellen Potter has ventured into new waters with her latest book, OTIS DOODA.  Her book is more along the lines of what I have come to expect from David Lubar (Weenies Series) or Dan Gutman (My Weird School Daze).  In an effort to create a story for her 8 year old son and his friends, Potter brings us OTIS DOODA, STRANGE BUT TRUE.  

In the beginning, Otis acknowledges the humor behind his last name.  The Dooda family (mom, dad, older brother - Gunther, and Otis) have moved from Hog's Head to the big city.  Their new apartment building comes equipment with a doorman, a potted plant guy, and a whole cast of quirky characters.  After unknowingly insulting the Potted Play Guy, Otis is saddled with a curse about "breaking all of his bones by the next full moon".  Welcome to New York City.

Of course the story doesn't end there.  Otis meets and makes friends with Perry Hooper, Ben and Cat.  Perry's father works as entertainment for children's birthday parties.  The Hoopers, also, have a minature horse named Peaches who they try to disguise as a large dog.  Between the Hoopers, Otis' older brother Gunther, and the Potted Plant Guy, there is never a dull moment.  Each funny encounter, mishap, and antic is certain to make every 7 to 9 year old laugh out loud. 

Accompanying Potter's humorous text is David Heatley's illustrations.  Heatley captures the characters and spirit of the story so perfectly.  

If you know any 7 to 9 year olds, then I suggest picking up a copy of OTIS DOODA to share.

Check out the official book trailer here:

Stop by tomorrow for two special blog posts.  Illustrator, David Heatley will share about how he created not only the illustrations for Otis Dooda but a soundtrack too.   Also, Ellen and her son, Ian, share some favorite books.