Branching Out: Middle Grade and Young Adult Reads

For a couple of years now, I've focused Pickle Corn Jam on picture books. Picture books are (primarily) what I write, and with a five year old, picture books are (primarily) what I read. I've even been toying with getting this shirt, because it's so, so true: picture books are my jam. And I'll never give 'em up.

But now that the little is getting not-so-little, and now that I've decided to revive some of my older manuscripts that (gasp!) aren't picture books, I've been doing a lot more reading of books for the middle grade and young adult set. And guys! There is some truly fantastic stuff out there.

I want to read it (all of it) and recommend it (most of it) and share it with you (as much as humanly possible). So, (cue trumpets!) Pickle Corn Jam is growing up! Branching out! Getting even bigger and better!

In true Pickle Corn Jam fashion, we'll be kicking it off with...a shrubbery a giveaway!

How do you win? Get entered by subscribing (subscriber LOVE = all subscribers get entered for every PCJ blog contest, ever) OR by leaving me a comment about a recently published middle grade or young adult novel (or picture book, because picture books, y'all) that is your current fave by WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2017! Simple, right?

What could you win? This is the BEST part. There are THREE prizes, perfectly themed for Halloween (fairies, Bigfoot, ghosts, oh my)! (plus a bonus prize that will be given away on Instagram...are you following me yet?)

THE PRIZES! 
(THREE winners will each receive ONE of the following) 
CONGRATULATIONS TRISTA, ELLEN AND LINDSEY! I'll contact each of you via email!

The Changelings 
by Christina Soontornvat

"Readers will enjoy the balance among action scenes, quieter periods of character interaction, and rich descriptions of Faerie...The concept of the Changelings-and why they're important to keeping Faerie and Earth connected-is explained in bits with an enticing air of mystery that will keep readers engaged, and an additional final surprise puts the remaining pieces in place." - School Library Journal
Age Range 10-14 years 
Uncertain Summer
by Jessica Lee Anderson

"For every kid who has ever dreamed of doing something big, who has mourned friendships past, who has known with all their heart that they can make a difference...Uncertain Summer is an absolute must!" P.J. Hoover, author, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life
Age Range 9-12 years 

A Properly Unhaunted Place
by William Alexander

"This novel explores the very idea of books, the purpose of libraries and the rather large theme of why the present must embrace a relationship with the past. It reminds us that if we are not brave enough to live alongside the haunting past, then we risk becoming nothing more than ghosts, haunting the earth but never inhabiting it." - New York Times (read full review, here)
Age Range 8-12 years 



Bonus Prize (ONLY ON INSTAGRAM!)

Book of Bones (10 Record-Breaking Animals)
by Gabrielle Balkan and Sam Brewster

Ten record-breaking animal bones are introduced through a series of superlatives set up as a guessing game with clues. Readers examine animals' skeletons and guess to whom they belong; the answers are revealed in vibrant, full-color scenic habitats, with easily understood - and humorous - explanations.
"Gives both casual browsers and budding naturalists plenty to gnaw on...A rib-tickling gallery." - Kirkus Reviews
Age Range 4-9 years (Pre-K to Grade 4)


(Entries must be received by 11:59 PM, Central Time, Wednesday, October 18, 2017)

HAPPY READING!

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Favorite New Reads for Summer!




If you're looking for a funny new read for your kiddos, these four choices deliver a little something for everyone!

Have you read these? Did you think they were hilarious, too? I'd love to hear in the comments!


Claymates
Dev Petty (Artist) and Lauren Eldridge (Illustrator)

What an original picture book! CLAYMATES is told completely though the dialogue of two balls of clay who become fast friends...and co-conspirators!

I couldn't stop giggling on my first read-through, and it has been requested REPEATEDLY since we brought it home. Ohhh, that hippo...


Pete with No Pants
Rowboat Watkins

Although this one could get a little tricky to read to a group of kids because of all of the different side voices, it is a very kid-centric story with heart.

All Pete wants to do is tell a knock-knock joke, wear no pants and be something other than an elephant. Sound like anyone you know (well, except maybe the elephant part...)? Fair warning: Your kids will be saying "night night nudey bird" for weeks.


Prince and Pirate
Charlotte Gunnufson (Author) and Mike Lowery (Illustrator)

In a battle for the space between corners, following the "doubly dreadful PLOP," will Prince ("Behold! I am the rightful heir to this splendiferous kingdom!") or Pirate ("Shiver me tailfin! I be just the pirate to command this grand sea!") prevail?

Gunnufson's spot on depiction of her character's voices (and Lowery's illustrations of the story's "twist") make this read aloud happy and jolly, indeed.


Sea Monkey & Bob
Aaron Reynolds (Author) and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Teaching your kids about buoyancy has never been so silly! When Sea Monkey is terrified he'll sink into the dark, deep sea (like tubas and dinosaurs), Bob becomes convinced that he'll float up to where there is air. Until the two come up with a plan to keep them both from sinking or floating, that is. A perfect addition to your library for some (sneaky) summer learning!

Happy reading!

Five Books You Might Have Missed (June 2017)

You probably aren't supposed to let months elapse in between blog posts, right?

Sometimes life just...gets in the way!

Instead of fighting it (as fighting with myself is most often completely unproductive), I've decided to embrace these little bits of "in-the-way" life, and devote a post to some books you might have missed when life was getting in the way!

 As for keeping up with the blog better...as my daughter is very fond of saying lately:
I can't promise that I won't do it again. But I'll try my very, very best not to do it again. 
-The Littlest Manes, 5 years old 

The Mischievians (2013)
William Joyce
"Strange smells. Disappearing remotes. That itch you just can’t reach. It’s not your fault! It’s the Mischievians, an ancient race of global mischief-makers who do all the things that embarrass you."

While the Q&A format, lengthier entries and vocabulary makes this book better for older picture book readers, it is super fun and helps keep the imaginative 'magic' of childhood alive.

Interstellar Cinderella (2015)
Deborah Underwood (Author) and Meg Hunt (Illustrator)

"With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the ball. But when the prince's ship has mechanical trouble, someone will have to zoom to the rescue!"

A refreshing fairy tale retelling, perfect for modern self-rescuing princesses (and princes).


Norton and Alpha (2017)
Kristyna Litten

"Norton the Robot is intrigued by his discovery of a lone flower one day and sets about trying to care for it, with amusing and ultimately poignant results."

A robot engineer and his (hand-built) pup discover that sometimes something's "use" isn't immediately apparent, but that doesn't make it any less important. Added bonus: a beautiful fold-out spread.


Lost. Found. (2015)
Marsha Diane Arnold (Author) and Matthew Cordell (Illustrator)

When a bear loses his scarf, it is found (and re-found) by a series of other woodland animals who each use it in a different way...until calamity ensues and friendship and patience win the day!

Such a sweet reminder of individuality AND the ties that bind us together. This nearly wordless book is great for picture book readers of all ages.


Perfect Square (2011)
Michael Hall

"A perfect square is transformed in this adventure story that will transport you far beyond the four equal sides of this square book."

A subtle and beautiful examination of creativity, imagination and transformation...and a fun way to spend an afternoon making your own art!



Happy reading!


The Well Read Crossword: FEATURED CREATURES

Are you ready for this week's crossword? FEATURED CREATURES is all about animals with recent picture book appearances! While the clues are fun facts about the various animals, you'll also find a corresponding picture book title to check out with your well-read reader!

And you could win! Keep reading below the puzzle for more info!



Wondering how to get entered to win?

This week's theme: FEATURED CREATURES! Provide the answer to just ONE clue in the comments section (by the following Monday at 11:59 PM, Central Time), and you'll earn an entry into the monthly giveaway for your choice of one of the featured books! Please don't enter with more than one answer, so others can play, too!

Don't know the answers? Don't like crossword puzzles? Try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Share a Well Read Crossword post on Facebook and/or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post): subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name/author of your favorite NEW(er) picture book (published on or after May 1, 2016)

(Well Read Crossword: FEATURED CREATURES
answers must be submitted by Monday, May 15 at 11:59 PM, Central Time)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes




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The Well Read Crossword: I DON'T THINK THEY EXIST**

(**Not to say that Well Read Crosswords don't exist. Because they do...now! 😀 )

Hey, hey, hey Pickle Corn Jam readers! Want to win some picture book loot? Maybe your choice of one of the featured books?!? Come play the WELL READ CROSSWORDIt's new! It's exciting! It could win you some goods! 



Wondering how to get entered to win?

This week's theme: I DON'T THINK THEY EXIST! Use the contact form in the sidebar to send me the answers (by the following Monday at 11:59 PM, Central Time), and you'll earn an entry into the monthly giveaway for your choice of one of the featured books! Please don't put the answers in the comments, so others can play, too!

Don't know the answers? Don't like crossword puzzles? Try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Share a Well Read Crossword post on Facebook and/or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post): subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name/author of your favorite NEW(er) picture book (published on or after May 1, 2016)
  • Bonus for this week: the first person to correctly identify the movie that this week's theme title comes from in the comments below will get an entry (or an extra entry)!

(Well Read Crossword: I Don't Think They Exist 
answers must be submitted by Monday, May 8 at 11:59 PM, Central Time)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes




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#ProjectReadathon Million Minutes Campaign


Want to rack up some book donations for kids...just by reading? 

Visit Readwell.PenguinRandomHouse.com April 17-23, 2017 and read free, timed excerpts from Penguin Random House books and authors to score book donations for children in the United States, Mexico and Canada! The books will be donated to Save the Children, to be distributed to children who have few, if any, books in their homes. 

And the best news? It doesn't even require much time! Read a 20-minute book excerpt to "earn" five book donations; read 120 minutes to "earn" a whopping 60 BOOKS! 

Check back here, after the campaign officially begins on Monday, for more information. I hope you'll join me in racking up minutes towards the MILLION MINUTE goal! 



For more Penguin Random House Children's New Release titles like these beauties, go here!

Hidden Talents

3 Word Challenge: Pink, Dance, Gymnastics
Challenge words selected by Jude (JUDE! I hope you see this - your email was returned!)


I'm not going to lie - this one was tough for me (which you'll see in my imperfect meter). BUT! I really, really wanted to incorporate some fun YouTube videos I found for Jude, who is a 2nd grade teacher! So...here goes (accompanying video links below)!

Video links: (ALLIGATOR ROARS AT TUBA PLAYER(DILLO JEAN(SLOTHS DO GYMNASTICS)

HIDDEN TALENTS

Though everybody listens
when alligator croons,
bring along a tuba
to really hear his tunes.

And if you’ve never seen
an armadillo dance,
without a doubt it’s time
to give those guys a chance!

I bet you never knew
that SLOTHS adore gymnastics
just like jungle monkeys
they really are fantastic!

When it comes to magic,  
octopus is tough to beat,
but when it comes to balance,
pink flamingo has the feet.

Everyone has talent –
sloth to alligator…
as long as you are you,
there’s really nothing greater.

The world is mystifying,
its beauty unexpected,
but that surprising splendor
keeps us all connected.



About 3 Word Challenges
I encourage every reader to submit three words to me which I will then craft into a poem, short story or story snippet. Please keep the words clean - this is a site about books and writing for kids, after all! Please also keep in mind that since the goal with these pieces is to connect the words in fresh and creative ways (quickly), I won't always meet your expectations completely. With only three words to go on, we might have a very different vision. I hope that you like what I write, but if you don't, feel free to contact me, or give it another go with three different words!

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Super Fun New Read-Alouds

Although every picture book is meant to be read aloud, some books beg to be read aloud - or at least their tiny human counterparts beg to read them aloud, again and again and again. But with these books, you won't mind (well...one of them you might. But that's not because it isn't fun, it's just...tricky!)

I AM NOT A CHAIR
Ross Burach

This one made me laugh out loud in the middle of the bookstore. A snort laugh, too. Maybe that's not a selling point for some people, but for me that is a BIG thumbs up. When Giraffe is repeatedly mistaken for a chair by all the jungle animals, he realizes he needs to speak up. But just when he is ready to stand up for himself, a lion decides Giraffe is a chair. How can Giraffe speak up for himself to a LION? 




A GREYHOUND, A GROUNDHOG
Emily Jenkins (Author) and Chris Appelhans (Illustrator)

When a greyhound and a groundhog become friends, they become a crazy whirling dervish of a tongue-twister: "A groundhog, a greyhound, a grey little round hound. A greyhound, a groundhog, a found little roundhog." This one is guaranteed to get the littles chuckling...just remember to laugh yourself as you read it!



WATERSONG
Tim McCanna (Author) and Richard Smythe (Illustrator)

I'm a fan of both Tim McCanna (BITTY BOT) and Richard Smythe (THE MESSY BOOK), so a McCanna-Smythe combo, of course, grabbed my attention. It did not disappoint. This is the story of a fox seeking shelter from a storm told only through onomatopoeia and (beautiful) illustration: "Drip drop / plip plop / pitter patter / pat." While it will probably be requested to be read multiple times by younger picture book readers because of the fun sounds and rhythm, older kiddos will still take delight with the words that they'll likely memorize to make themselves sound like a storm.


Just look at those book covers! How can they not make you happy?!

Don't forget to nominate your favorite teacher to give them a chance to win a set of Kelly Barnhill's THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON (perfect for 9-14 year olds) or a picture book pack featuring three picture books for kiddos ages 3-8! (THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED)

Happy reading!


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International Book Giving Day (with an AMAZING giveaway!)

February 14 isn't just Valentine's Day... it's International Book Giving Day!


And since there are few things that I love more than books, teachers and giving things away, I'm going to celebrate by giving away books to teachers! But I need YOUR help! 

I need you to NOMINATE a teacher below (yes, it can be yourself, but it could also be a teacher you love) who you think would love to win either:

THREE (3) COPIES of the absolutely BEAUTIFUL 2017 Newbery Medal Winner, 
THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill
or 
A PICTURE BOOK PRIZE PACK with a copy of each of: 
THE COOKIE FIASCO by Dan Santat, and 
ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

I will choose one winner for each of the prizes!

NOMINATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED BY FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2017
I will contact the nominator to obtain contact information for the nominee once winners are selected.
You can earn additional chances to win if you are a subscriber. If you are already a subscriber, great! Thank you! Just select the option in the Rafflecopter box after you make your nomination. 
If not, go ahead and sign up for an extra entry! 


THIS CONTEST IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING ENTRIES


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The Well Read Guess (guessing ends Feb. 13)

It's game time! New to the game? Don't know the quote? Keep scrolling down for rules and entry info. Ready to play? HERE WE GO! 

Quote #1: 
LOVE IS by Diane Adams and Claire Keane

"It's peaceful sleeping, no more peeping, tucked in tightly, head to toes."
Quote #2: 
MOSTLY MONSTERLY by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon

"...she liked to pick flowers. And pet kittens. And bake. For a monster, Bernadette was just a little too sweet."


New to the Well Read Guess? Start here: 
Each week I post quotes from 2 picture books - a new(er) picture book (from late 2016 to present) and an older/classic picture book.

Be the first to identify a quote (by the following Monday at noon, central time), and earn an entry into the WEEKLY monthly giveaway! Identify both the book and the author for a quote, and you'll get two entries. Identify both for both quotes, get four entries.

What could you win? A copy of the featured new picture book (quote #1's answer)!

Don't know the quote? 
No problem (but don't forget to check Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook for clues)...try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Be the first to identify the book and/or author
  • Share the Well Read Guess post on Facebook or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post). Subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name of your favorite NEW picture book (published on or after September 1, 2016).
AND, from now through March 3, 2017, the Well Read Guess will feature WEEKLY giveaways!


(Well Read Guesses end Monday, February 13 at noon, Central Time, or until all the quotes are identified, whichever happens first)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes


Congratulations to last week's winner: Brittney Boling! 

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The Well Read Guess (guessing ends Feb 6)

It's game time! New to the game? Don't know the quote? Keep scrolling down for rules and entry info. Ready to play? HERE WE GO! 

Quote #1: 
RADIANT CHILD: THE STORY OF YOUNG ARTIST JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT by Javaka Steptoe
"Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things."


Quote #2: MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney
"'That is all very well, little Alice,' said her grandfather, 'but there is a third thing you must do.'
'What is that?' asked Alice.
'You must do something to make the world more beautiful,' said her grandfather."


New to the Well Read Guess? Start here: 
Each week I post quotes from 2 picture books - a new(er) picture book (from late 2016 to present) and an older/classic picture book.

Be the first to identify a quote (by the following Monday at noon, central time), and earn an entry into the WEEKLY monthly giveaway! Identify both the book and the author for a quote, and you'll get two entries. Identify both for both quotes, get four entries.

What could you win? A copy of the featured new picture book (quote #1's answer)!

Don't know the quote? 
No problem (but don't forget to check Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook for clues)...try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Be the first to identify the book and/or author
  • Share the Well Read Guess post on Facebook or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post). Subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name of your favorite NEW picture book (published on or after September 1, 2016).
AND, from now through March 3, 2017, the Well Read Guess will feature WEEKLY giveaways!


(Well Read Guesses end Monday, February 6 at noon, Central Time or when all the quotes have been identified, whichever comes first)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes


Congratulations to last week's winner: Subscriber "ashlynsoma"! 
Thanks for playing! I hope you enjoy WE ARE GROWING by Laurie Keller!

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The Well Read Guess (giveaway ending Jan 30)

Eek! I'm late! I must have gotten out of habit for the Well Read Guess! But no worries - here it is!

What could you win? A copy of the featured new picture book (quote #1's answer)!

Ready to play? HERE WE GO! 

Quote #1: 
WE ARE GROWING 
by Laurie Keller

But growing is HARD WORK. In fact  PING! Hey, just grew!

Quote #2: 
LEO THE LATE BLOOMER 
by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego

"Patience," said Leo's mother. "A watched bloomer doesn't bloom."


New to the Well Read Guess? Start here: 

Similar to last year, I'll post quotes from 2 picture books - a new(er) picture book (from late 2016 to present) and an older/classic picture book - each week.

Be the first to identify a quote (by the following Monday at noon, central time), and earn an entry into the WEEKLY monthly giveaway! Identify both the book and the author for a quote, and you'll get two entries. Identify both for both quotes, get four entries.

Don't know the quote? No problem (but don't forget to check Twitter and/or Facebook for clues)...try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Be the first to identify the book and/or author
  • Share the Well Read Guess post on Facebook or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post). Subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name of your favorite NEW picture book (published on or after September 1, 2016).
AND, from now through March 3, 2017, the Well Read Guess will feature WEEKLY giveaways!





(Well Read Guesses end Monday, January 30, 2017 at noon, Central Time are closed! Check back next week for a new round!)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes


Congratulations to last week's winner: SUSIE SAWYER! Thanks for playing, Susie! I hope you enjoy THE MESSY BOOK by Maudie Powell-Tuck! 

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The Well Read Guess is BACK (and BETTER THAN EVER)!

Some of you may remember my weekly picture book contest from last year. When summer came around, I kind of...sort of...gave it up. But recently I got a couple of comments that I should start it back up, and I think that is a fantastic idea! 

But to bring it back, I think it needs to be even BETTER than before. So this time around, the prizes will be WEEKLY prizes. That's right y'all! WEEKLY giveaways. From now through March 3, 2017, the Well Read Guess will feature WEEKLY giveaways!

What will the giveaway be? A copy of the featured picture book!

Similar to last year, I'll post quotes from 2 picture books - a new(er) picture book (from late 2016 to present) and an older/classic picture book - each week. 

Be the first to identify a quote (by Friday at noon, central time), and earn an entry into the WEEKLY monthly giveaway! Identify both the book and the author for a quote, and you'll get two entries. Identify both for both quotes, get four entries.

Don't know the quote? 
No problem (but don't forget to check Twitter and/or Facebook for clues)...
Try one of these other ways to get entered each week!
  • Be the first to identify the book and/or author
  • Share the Well Read Guess post on Facebook or Twitter (be sure to tag me or I won't know!)
  • Sign up to follow me via email (on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post). Subscribers are automatically entered into EVERY contest!
  • Leave me a comment below with the name of your favorite NEW picture book (published on or after September 1, 2016).

Are you guys ready to start playing? HERE WE GO! 

Quote #1: THE MESSY BOOK by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Richard Smythe
"Eww. I'm wet. And now the mess is soggy. Please, please, PLEASE can we clean it up? Hello, penguin hat."

Quote #2: JUST A MESS by Mercer Meyer

"First, I put a few things in the closet. I put my clothes in the drawers. I straightened up my games." ..."Everything was just about perfect."

(Well Read Guesses end FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017 at NOON CENTRAL TIME are closed)
Rules Governing Sweepstakes

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