Sky Jumpers Blog Tour - Review and Giveaway

by Peggy Eddleman
Random House Publishers
September 24, 2013
Audience: 4th to 8th Grade
Fiction * Dystopian/Postapocalyptic * Adventure

Description of the book from the publisher's page:
What happens when you can't do the one thing that matters most? Twelve-year-old Hope Toriella lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb's Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention. When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. With a two-day deadline to finish making this year's batch and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from the disease that's run rampant since the bombs, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Hope and her friends—Aaron and Brock—might be the only ones who can escape to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb's Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. Inventing won't help her make it through alive, but with Aaron and Brock's help, the daring and recklessness that usually gets her into trouble might just save them all.  

My thoughts on the book:
Recently, I asked a group of 9 to 11 year olds what they liked to read.  Nearly everyone in the group indicated books with action, and adventure.  Another thing that I have noticed is that Middle Grade readers are just as interested as teens in reading Dystopian or Post-apocalyptic novels, yet there are very few of these for this age group.

Debut author, Peggy Eddleman has created a post-apocalyptic novel about a community of people living in a world with the after effects of World War III and the "green bomb".  One of the results of the "green bomb" is something called "Bomb's Breath".  I am not certain that I can describe Bomb's Breath but the air quality of Bomb's Breath results in immediate death if someone were to breath it in. 

Eddleman concentrates on building her world and developing her characters in the initial part of the book.  One of the things that is a very high value to this community is the ability to invent or create.  Since WWIII happened, all the inventions especially technology and those items that required electricity have been lost.  In an effort to regain items, there are contests recognizing the best inventors.  Holly, the main character, does not have skills in inventing, but her friend Aaren is actually quite talented in this area.  What Holly is able to do is revealed throughout the story, as it is her skills that turn out to be quite important in saving the community.

It is always difficult to know how much to share and how much to allow readers to discover.  Eddleman has created a story and characters that will appeal especially to readers in the 4th and 5th grades.  I can see children wanting to be like Hope and wanting to save the day.  However, maybe a more important message is learning to appreciate what skills and talents you do have.  Additionally, I appreciated not only the main characters but the supporting community of characters.  There are few books that show a community of adults being caring and supportive.  Readers will enjoy when Holly, Aaren, and Brock set out on an adventure to help save their community.  And, though the book is the first in a series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

To share SKY JUMPERS with your own children or students start looking for it at your local public library or at you closest independent bookstore on September 24, 2013. 

For more information about author, Peggy Eddleman:

SKY JUMPERS Blog Tour Stops

September 11th: Taffy’s Candy
September 12th: Smack Dab in the Middle
September 13th:
Once Upon a Story
September 14th:
Inky Elbows
September 15th:
Society of Young Inklings
September 16th:
Me, My Shelf & I
September 17th:
Kayla’s Reads and Reviews
September 18th:
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
September 19th:
Kid Lit Frenzy
September 19th:
Word Spelunking
September 21st:
The Mod Podge Bookshelf
September 22nd:
The Write Soil
September 23rd:
The Hiding Spot
September 23rd: Literary Rambles
September 23rd:
Nerdy Book Club
September 24th: OneFourKidLit

Thanks to Random House, readers will have a chance to win a copy of SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman. Please complete the Rafflecopter form below. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address and be 13 or older. a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Great Trouble Review & Blog Tour

Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Publisher: Knopf (September 10, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Grades 5th to 8th
Keywords: Historical Fiction, Europe, 1800's, Epidemics

Description of the book:
Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a "mudlark," he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He's being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he's got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren't so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it's clear that the deadly cholera—the "blue death"—has come to Broad Street. Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it's up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow's theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out. Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson's The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. Backmatter includes an author's note, time line, and further reading suggestions.

My thoughts:
When I read a book, I have a checklist in my head to determine if I liked it and why.  The checklist for Deborah Hopkinson's newest book The Great Trouble would look a little like this:

      Historical Fiction that makes you want to know more about the subject.  -  check
      Description of the setting that makes you actually feel like you experienced it.  - check
      Characters that your care about and would want to know (or not).  -  check
      Mystery and intrigue.  - check
      Book that sucks you in and you can't put down.  -  check

Yes, this book has it all.  As a 5th grader, I would have been thoroughly fascinated with Eel (the main character), the setting of London in 1854, and what was happening at the time to the individuals of this city as a result of the Cholera epidemic.  I guess the adult me is still intrigued by the same things.  Since no one seems to have created a machine which would allow me to travel through time, I will have to travel to different time periods through books.   And when you think about it, travel through books has its advantages. 

In The Great Trouble, Hopkinson from the beginning paints a very real picture of life for the poor and working class of Victorian London.  It is really not a great place to be in some ways.  Most of the time there is not enough food or clean water.  The sewage and waste disposal system was - well non-existant, and it really was a smelly place.  Aside from making me appreciate modern bathrooms, plumbing, and sewers,  I was really thankful for my life versus the life of many people during that time period. 

Hopkinson then introduces readers to the very real concern of cholera and disease during that time period.   She also has created memorable fictional characters such as Eel, his best friend Florrie, Thumbless Jake, and Fisheye Bill Tyler, and paired them with the very real Dr. John Snow, Jane Weatherburn (Dr. Snow's housekeeper), and Rev. Henry Whitehead.   There are characters that you love, and ones that you will emotionally feel for, and ones that you just plain won't like.  It is the emotional connection to the characters that also fuels the readers interest in these individuals, and in their plight.

By adding in the race to discover what causes cholera as well as what is causing the spread of cholera, readers have a gripping story that will keep them reading.  At the end of the book, readers can learn more about the actual historical figures in the book by reading the author's note.  There is also a timeline, and additional resources to investigate.

Look for The Great Trouble at your local public library or pick up a copy at your community bookstore.  When possible, please consider an independent bookstore.   

Check out this Meet the Author video by AdLit:

Find out more information about author, Deborah Hopkinson visit her website:

Consider pairing the picture book A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (see my review here)  with The Great TroubleA Boy Called Dickens is set in a London, though a bit earlier than 1854, and the illustrations provide students with a visual and a sense of place for that time period.  Adult readers looking for more information about the Cholera Epidemic and Dr. John Snow might want to check out The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. 

If you are interested in the Teacher's Guide, click here.

To visit all of the stops for The Great Trouble Blog Tour, see the schedule below:
September 10 – Sharp Read
September 11 – Librarian in Cute Shoes  
September 12Random Acts of Reading  
September 13Styling Librarian  
September 14Kidlit Frenzy  
September 15Busy Librarian  
September 16{Eat the Book} 
September 17Nerdy Book Club

National Screen Free Week - Almost Here!

National Screen Free Week (April 29 - May 5, 2013) is almost here and Random House Unplugs is celebrating big time.  Check out this cool video featuring Dan Yaccarino, Tad Hills, Bob Staake, and Chris Raschka.

Also, check out the following resources:

Screen Free Week on Facebook

Press Release for National Screen Free Week on School Library Journal

PW shares "Random House Unplugs" Supports Screen Free Week

Huffington Post Unplug for National Screen Free Week

So, how will you unplug?

Picture Book Review - Bluebird

Author/Illustrator: Bob Staake
Publisher: Random House (April 9, 2013)
Source: Purchased Copy
Audience: Ages 4 to 10
Wordless * Friendship * Bullying

Description from the publisher:
In his most beautiful and moving work to date, Bob Staake explores the universal themes of loneliness, bullying, and the importance of friendship. In this emotional picture book, readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old.

Bob Staake has been working on this book for 10 years, and he believes it is the story he was born to write. 

My thoughts on this book:
Each year, I look for what I can say is the best of the best in picture books.  Some years, the Caldecott Committee and I are in sync on the choices of outstanding picture books and other years we diverge and travel down different paths.  We are about one-third of the way through 2013 and I have already looked at a few hundred picture books.  Some are beautifully illustrated but lack the strength of a powerful story.  Other books have amazing text, but fail to wow readers with their pictures.  A few have text and illustrations that compliment and enhance one another.  Yet, for me, the leader of the pack is a book that tells a powerful story without a single word.

Bluebird by Bob Staake is one of the most powerful picture books that I have seen in a long time.  I first saw this book as an F & G (folded and gathered) and knew that I had to have it.  I have looked at it multiple times since and with each reading I see a new element that I missed in a previous read through.

I lack the words or the technical understanding to express what Staake communicates through a limited, but intentional color palette.  How do I convey the subtle but important details revealed in each frame? Staake is brilliant in his artistic layout and storytelling that for the observant reader the lack of words is never an issue.

Staake's story of a lonely boy, a small bluebird, a special friendship, and how the choices of various individuals can have significant impacts on the lives of others is a story that won't be quickly forgotten.  I, seriously, hope that this year's Caldecott committee will agree with me that Bluebird deserves to be recognized with a shiny medal.  If not, I am going to make my own shiny medal for this powerful story that will move every reader young and old.
Check out the official book trailer:

Interview with Bob Staake on Random Acts of Reading, click here

More information about Bob Staake: website | twitter | facebook |

Bluebird by Bob Staake

One of my favorite new books is Bluebird by Bob Staake.  I fell in love with it when I saw the F & G back in November.  Sometimes I worry that a book like Bluebird by Bob Staake will get overlooked.  Will readers catch the depth of this wordless picture book?  The message is powerful.   Look for a copy at your local independent bookstore and consider sharing it with a child.

Check out the official book trailer for Bluebird below: