Archive for March, 2011

March 29, 2011

You just won a sarcastic dog!

A really awesome, funny, and talented sarcastic dog.  And you will get to find out if he can EVER learn to like cats!  The winners are:

Stephanie McCarthy (comment #8)


Lynne Marie (comment #2)

Winners generated at

Thank you everyone for playing!  And thank you Scholastic for sponsoring this giveaway!  We will have more giveaways coming up, including one for a children’s painting app for your phone.

Winners, I will contact you via email and ask for your mailing address.  If for some reason I don’t hear back, I’ll choose another winner.

March 20, 2011

A Road-Tripping Giveaway


In the cat versus dog debate, I’m with the cats.  I know a few people who can enjoy both species, but let’s be honest, most of us are cat-people or dog-people, and not often the two shall meet within the same person.  I realize that as a cat person, I am always a few short steps away from being a crazy cat lady, a term that applies just as well to men as it does to women (I have several male friends who are “crazy cat ladies” and yes, you know who you are).  But if cat people are a few steps away from hoarding twenty felines in their homes, dog people are a few steps away from pouring Perrier in the water bowl and carrying their furry friend around in a designer handbag.  Cats would never stand for a designer handbag, and that’s why I like them better.

Ike LaRue, on the other hand, would, I have a feeling, LOVE a designer handbag.  In this cute story, he would, if he could, specifically choose a designer handbag that was not in the vicinity of his neighbor’s cats and preferably somewhere on a cruise ship that would itself be in the vicinity of Mexico.

I will admit to never having read an Ike LaRue adventure before this one.  I’d heard of them certainly, but until recently, our paths had never crossed.  I’m lucky, however, that they recently did.

Title: LaRue Across America
Author/Illustrator: Mark Teague
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 4 – 8

Summary and Review:

Ike LaRue is a sarcastic dog.  A sarcastic, clever, well-spoken, and whiny (but hilarious!) dog who doesn’t much like cats.  Specifically, he doesn’t like the two cats he is now stuck with on a cross-country road trip.  And as he writes letters to his neighbor, the hospitalized owner of the cats, he tells her in no uncertain terms why he thinks everyone would be better off if the cats just went home (and he went on a cruise).

When Ike’s neighbor falls sick and Ike’s owner, Mrs. LaRue, agrees to care for the cats, Ike’s vacation is—according to him, at least—completely ruined.  The cruise ship doesn’t take cats, so they plan a cross-country drive instead.  And while the rest of the inhabitants seem to be enjoying the views and the adventures, Ike writes postcards home to the cats’ owner, stretching the truth and feigning to care about the happiness of others while he tries to get permission to send the cats home.  He’s even willing to put them in a box and mail them.  I love the language of the book–the dog has great vocabulary and grammar!  A notch up from your average picture book and I like the chance to introduce my son to great writing.  And the pictures are gorgeously fun.

Each page of this beautifully illustrated book shows a different destination on the trip.  One thing I appreciate is that the trip doesn’t take them to stereotypical tourist places of the Mount Rushmore type.  Instead, they visit Bumbletub, Ohio, and Pea Gravel, South Dakota, amongst other locales.  I love that the endpapers are illustrated maps of the United States.  My son really enjoys checking the map with every turn of the page and asking where they are now.  This is a great way to reinforce some basic geography and learn a little about the 50 states as they read.  I do wish there were a few more details about the places they visit…you do learn about the Empire State Building and the Great Lakes, for example, but in other places the story sometimes has nothing to do with the geography of the area and I think that’s a lost opportunity.  (That’s the teacher in me, I suppose.)

This is a picture book geared towards older kids.  My son is three and at this point the humor and sarcasm go over his head.  However, he still enjoys the book, requests to read it, and loves the maps, and will only enjoy it more as he gets older.

If you like this book, I would definitely check out the other LaRue books, in which he writes letters to try to come home early from obedience school, gets framed for a cat-napping, and even runs for mayor!

You can see a trailer of this book at:

Follow-up with the kids:

Definitely take advantage of the map in the book.  With each page, look at the postcard and where it’s addressed from. (This would be a great time to show kids how a letter should be addressed, with the date, location, salutation, etc.  It may be the digital age, but can we pass these habits along to at least one more generation?)  Then find the location on the map.  You might also want to take this a step further, and for each location he visits you can research on the internet or an atlas to find out one or two more things about those places.

For older kids who are into story-telling, I think this would be a great voice to copy.  Have the kids write their own postcards from Ike LaRue (or their own sarcastic pet) and see if they can mimic the hyperbole, the stretching of the truth, and the insinuation of dangerously dire circumstances.


And now for the giveway!  I have TWO COPIES of LaRue Across America to give away, and I’m excited about that.  I will choose a winner at random and your copy will be sent to you straight from Scholastic.  This giveaway is sponsored by Scholastic and is open to any addresses in the United States.

You may enter once for each of the following things.  For each entry, please post a separate comment below.  CONTEST CLOSES ON MONDAY, MARCH 28 AT MIDNIGHT CENTRAL TIME. Winner will be announced on the 29th.  Good luck!

One entry for:

  • tell me your favorite picture book

One extra entry each for:

  • subscribing to this blog — Link at top right
  • following my twitter feed — Link at top right
  • tweeting about the contest with a link to this blog
  • posting a link to the contest on your own blog
  • RATE my blog on Top Mommy Blogs (the scale is in cupcakes, 10 means you like it a lot, 1 means you are just suffering through for the contest :); comments optional) — Link at right

Good luck!

(Note: My copy of LaRue Across America was provided free by Scholastic. This review contains my own thoughts and opinions about the story.)

March 18, 2011

A giveaway for dogs, cats, and everyone who likes to travel

Come back tomorrow for a review of LaRue Across America and details on how to win your own free copy!

March 14, 2011

Eating your way through high school

In a world of flashing television screens and internet news that comes before the actual event is finished, the subtle is often overlooked.  Which is why SCBWI’s Sid Fleischman Humor Award is so refreshing.  SCBWI is a horrid acronym that stands for the “Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators”.  The Sid Fleishman Humor Award honors the author of the same name, known for books that were both humorous and poignant.  My latest read was the 2010 winner, and I definitely understand why.  It’s not funny-ha-ha, or LOL funny, but it’s definitely a funny book.  A really well-written funny book with a strong, character with a great humorous tone and a good message for its readers.  So thank you SCBWI for honoring this book so that we would all know about it, and thank you Allen Zadoff, for writing it in the first place.

Title: Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
Author: Allen Zadoff
Genre: Fiction
Age: Middle School and High School (book takes place in a High School)

Summary and Review:

Andy is an overweight–read really overweight–sophomore who doesn’t see a lot of upsides to his life.  His dad ignores him while his mom, a caterer who tries to get him to eat less (while getting his skinny sister to eat more), overprotects him.  His best friend is his model UN partner and he is picked on, shoved, or overlooked by most of the rest of the school.  Until he is not.

One day he does the impossible–makes friends with the star football player and, on what seems like a whim, tries out for the football team.  He starts living the high school equivalent of the high life–with parties, girls, and football player friends.  But just when you are about to put the book down because it all seems so unreasonable, the dreams begin to unravel.  There’s his mom, who never signed the permission slip for him to play and yanks him off the team when she finds out.  There’s the girl he loves but might be dating someone else.  And there’s the football players he thought were his friends.  But are they?

The book is at once sweet, funny, and a rich portrayal of high school.  At its heart, it’s a book about being true to who you really are.

Follow-up with the kids:

This book strings you along for quite some time in the fantasy-like atmosphere of the popular realm.  I think it would be great to talk to your kids when they are still being strung along, talk about the changes that Andy makes when he joins the football team and why they’ve been good or bad for him.  And then find out if they still feel that way in the end.  My guess is that a lot of teens and preteens who read this book won’t necessarily love the ending.  They might not understand the decisions that Andy makes.  Having that conversation with them would be an important step in understanding who your child is, where they fit into the crazy social strata of high school, and what hopes and dreams they might be harboring–dreams that might show them more heartbreak than happiness if they were to really come true.  Andy is a great character who gives us a fun ride through his high school days.  He’s a fun guy to spend time with, an as a result, so is this book.

March 12, 2011

It takes a village to deliver a child…

Blogging about villages, childbirth, and the future of the world at Nashville Parent.  Come visit me over there!  In other news, there are a few giveaways coming up, so look out for those!