Return to the Secret Garden

by Holly Webb

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Return to the Secret Garden for me wasn’t quite as magical as the classic but then it’s so hard to beat or be up there with a classic as big as The Secret Garden. I feel this book was written for a younger reader/listener than the classic was intended for. Overall the book was good and had the charm of The Secret Garden,  if you or your child has never read the classic than this has every bit of the charm, emotions and magic. If you have read the classic to your child before they might not feel the same magic but would still enjoy the book. This was a great try at updating a classic, but sometimes classics just shouldn’t be messed with. As a stand alone and no comparison to the classic is holds its own and is quite good. However with the title I don’t think most will not be able to compare it to the probably one of the top 5 children’s classics of all time (at least for me it is). This book did make me want to reread the classic and all of Frances Hodgson Burnett other classics. For me I say read the classic to your child and then read this one let them experience both worlds. A great gift bundle would be the classic The Secret Garden, the movie and Return to Secret Garden.  This is a great way to start introducing even little bookworms to the classics.
9781492639091-pr

summary: Return to the magic of Burnett’s classic tale with a brand-new character as she discovers a very secret garden.

It’s 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage “home,” but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she’s ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever.

But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house—a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

Book Excerpt: 

One

The children marched down the street in a long line of twos, and only one of them looked back. The others didn’t turn because they didn’t need to. There was nothing to look back for. Everything they owned was with them—-a few clothes, a battered, shapeless stuffed toyhere and there. Each of them carried a paper bag and a gas mask, and that was all they had.

Emmie trailed, peering over her shoulder, so that Arthur, behind her, gave her a shove to tell her to keep up. She kicked him swiftly and walked backward instead, still trying to see.

But Lucy wasn’t there. It was stupid to expect that she would be anyway, Emmie thought. Lucy hardly ever came out onto the street. She was shy, and she hated loud noises. Emmie still stared though, hoping to see the small, black cat peering after her around the corner of the tall house. Lucy had probably fled out into the backyard, Emmie decided miserably. She kicked Arthur again because he was smirking at her—-and because she felt like it.

“Emmeline Hatton!”

Emmie whipped around with a sigh. Of course Miss Dearlove hadn’t seen Arthur giving her a push. She never did see. “Me, miss?” she asked innocently, trying to look as though she didn’t know what was the matter.

The matron glared at her. “No, the other Emmeline Hatton. Of course you! You bad–tempered little girl, how dare you kick Arthur like that?”

“He pushed me…” Emmie started to say, but Miss Dearlove didn’t bother to listen. She grabbed Emmie by the arm and hauled her up to the front of the line. She was a tiny lady, not actually much bigger than Emmie, but Emmie didn’t dare pull away. She had known Miss Dearlove forever. The matron was like a busy little clockwork train, wound up into a clicking fuss of pure crossness. It was best not to get in her way—-but somehow Emmie always did.

“You can walk here with Miss Rose and the babies since you can’t be trusted to behave like a ten–year–old. Why is it always you? And after your ridiculous behavior this morning as well. As if we haven’t got enough to worry about.” She glanced down at her watch. “Miss Rose, we need to hurry. The station’s bound to be busy, and there isn’t that much time to spare.” She scuttled down to the end of the line again with one last growled “Behave!” to Emmie.

Miss Rose was usually less bad–tempered than the matron, but even she eyed Emmie and sighed. “Today of all days, Emmie? I would have thought you’d have more sense.”

“He shoved me,” Emmie muttered. She knew that wasn’t quite true, but she wasn’t letting them have the last word. “It isn’t fair. Why do I always get into trouble?” She walked down the street next to Miss Rose, seething and muttering to herself. If she huffed and growled, she wouldn’t cry, and she wasn’t going to give Arthur Banks the satisfaction of that, however much Miss Rose frowned.

They had been told the day before that they were leaving. Miss Dearlove had stood up at the end of breakfast and explained that since war was expected to be declared within a few days, the Craven Home for Orphaned Children would be evacuated “somewhere safe.”

No one knew what evacuation meant, except that it was vaguely connected with the rows of brown boxes on the shelves in the schoolroom, which contained the gas masks. Once a week for the last few months, they had pulled the masks on and sat staring at each other, snout–nosed and goggle–eyed. After the first few tries, Arthur had figured out how to make a rude noise, a sort of farting snort around the rubber facepiece. He did it every time now, and they all laughed. Even Miss Dearlove didn’t sound that cross when she told him off.

But Emmie had dreamed of those huge, round eyes almost every night since. The glass lenses of the masks leaned over her, stooping down close and staring. The gas masks were supposed to help them breathe, Miss Dearlove said, but when Emmie thought of her mask, sealed away in its flimsy cardboard box, she found her breath catching in her throat. Where was this gas going to come from anyway? No one had said. Arthur and his friend Joey said it would be dropped by planes, but all the gas that Emmie knew about came in pipes to the kitchen for the stoves. She didn’t see how it could be carried in a plane. If only someone would explain, she thought bitterly, kicking at a crack in the pavement as they marched on. Where were they going—-and why? What was happening? No one told them anything. They didn’t need to know. They just got packed up like their clothes and sent away…

“Look.” The little girl Emmie had been shoved next to tugged at her sleeve.

“What?” Emmie muttered, not looking.

“Over there.” Ruby pointed across the road. “See, Emmie, there! Do you think they’re being evacuated too?”

Emmie turned and saw that they were passing a school, where a long column of children was lining up on the playground. They were carrying an assortment of battered cases and brown paper bags, and there were labels tied onto their coats.

“I suppose so.”

“Just like us…” Ruby said thoughtfully. “I didn’t know everybody was.”

“We have to get out of the cities—-in case of planes flying over,” Emmie said vaguely. “All the children do.” That was what the boys had thought anyway. They had been lurking around the matron’s sitting room, listening to the news broadcasts, so Emmie supposed it was possible they were right. The children on the playground did look a lot like them, except that there were mothers huddling around them and even a few fathers. They were pushing packets of sandwiches into children’s pockets, hugging them, and running along beside them as the line of children started to snake out onto the street. The children marched away, following two older boys who had a banner with the school’s name stitched onto it. Almost like a procession, Emmie thought.

Some of the schoolchildren were crying, Emmie noticed. A lot of the smaller ones were clinging to their mothers, pale faced and bewildered. They didn’t seem to know what was happening either. But some of the others looked happy, swinging their cases as if they were off on holiday. Perhaps they were—-they might end up at the seaside.

Emmie blinked thoughtfully. She was almost sure she’d never been out of London. Until now, she hadn’t really thought about where they were going. She’d been too worried about what they were leaving behind. Maybe those two boys in the line with grins all over their faces were right. It was an adventure…

But almost all the mothers were brushing tears away quickly with the sides of their hands so as not to be seen. Emmie shivered. She supposed the children from the Home were lucky—-all the adults they knew were coming with them. It didn’t make her feel lucky though. She tried to remember the softness of Lucy’s head bumping against her fingers, the warmth of her breath as the little cat nuzzled against her. But all she could hear was Ruby, grumbling because she was tired and her shoes were too tight.

They hadn’t gone all that far, but the streets were so much busier than the quiet area around the Craven Home. Even Emmie felt tired, with so many people pressing around her and the constant roar of cars and carts and buses along the bustling street. On any other day, it would have been fun to stand on one of those islands in the road and watch and wonder where all these people were streaming off to. Today, Emmie wished she was back sitting in the window of her dormitory, peering out at the street to see the grocer’s van and a car every so often. She’d wished for something to happen, something exciting, and now it had.

“We’re almost there, Ruby,” Miss Rose said soothingly. “The station’s just along the road there. Do you see? The clock tower and the name underneath: King’s Cross.”

The station was huge, with two great, curving arched windows across the front, like tunnel mouths.

“London and North Eastern Railway? Are we going northeast then, miss?” Emmie demanded sharply, looking at the rest of the white letters along the roof. But Miss Rose ignored her, starting to hurry the line of children across the road. A policeman waved them over, holding up a line of buses and smiling down at little Ruby clutching her faded bear.

There were other lines of children converging on the station now. Hundreds of them, marching along like little ants. More and more poured out of buses, labeled, carrying parcels and bags and battered cases. Emmie had never seen so many people her own age before. How many were going out of London?

Miss Rose slowed as she walked them past the scattering of shops around the front of the great building and glanced around anxiously for Miss Dearlove.

“What is it?” Emmie asked. Miss Rose looked so suddenly uncertain. All the staff at the Home had been brisk and decided about the move, brushing away questions and urging the children to complete their meager packing. Now for the first time, Emmie wondered if they were as confused and worried as the children. Mrs. Evans, the cook, was clutching her big, black handbag against her front like a shield.

“Nothing, Emmie!” Miss Rose replied sharply. She was glancing back and forth between the sandbags built up around the doorway and a flight of steps down—-still with a sign to the Underground but blocked off with a great pile of bits of broken stone. She glanced down at Emmie with a bright smile that showed her teeth. “I just wasn’t quite sure which door we were to take, that’s all. We must expect everything to look a little different in wartime, mustn’t we?” she added in a comforting, singsong voice as though Emmie had been the scared one.

Miss Rose didn’t allow herself to be daunted by the huge space inside the station or the milling crowd of children. She straightened her shoulders and hurried them in, then started counting everybody again in case one of the twenty orphans had disappeared on the way. Emmie didn’t think any of them would have dared. Not with those planes coming—-and the gas. She had thought about running away before—-on days when nothing happened and no one spoke to her. But that had been before she found Lucy.

Miss Dearlove marched over to a man in a station uniform. He frowned down at his list and eventually pointed across to one of the farthest platforms. Then he checked his watch and pointed again, flapping his hands.

The matron came trotting back to them and caught Emmie’s hand, pulling at her sharply. “We haven’t much time. Come along, all of you. No dawdling. There are only so many extra trains for the evacuated schools,” she added to Miss Rose. “The timetable is all upset. If we miss this one, we’ll have to wait hours.” She glanced irritably down at Emmie as she spoke, as if it were her fault that they were late.

The train was already steaming as the children hurtled onto the platform and a porter flung the doors open for them, bundling them in as Miss Rose and Miss Dearlove and Mrs. Evans wrestled with bags and food baskets.

Emmie collapsed onto a padded seat, clutching her brown paper bag of clothes and staring out the window. She could see another train at the next platform with a girl gazing back at her. She smiled faintly, recognizing the strange girl’s expression of fear and excitement. There was even something of her own sickening loneliness. Perhaps that girl had never been out of London either. Perhaps she’d never been on a train. But maybe, just perhaps, the train was taking her toward something new and different. Things might be better—-even though she’d had to leave so much behind.

The girl waved at her, and Emmie lifted her hand slowly as their train shuddered and creaked and began to pull out of the station, out of London, heading for somewhere else.

***

Emmie leaned back against the scratchy velour of the seat. She was facing the window, but she was hardly looking at the green banks next to the tracks that the train was racing through. She wondered where that other girl’s train had been going. She had looked nice—-no, not nice. Nice was what Miss Dearlove and Miss Rose were always encouraging them to be. Play nicely. Now, that isn’t nice. Is it, Emmie? Nice little girls don’t behave like that.

The only other girl Emmie’s age at the Craven Home had left when they were both about five. Louisa had been very nice indeed, and that was why she had been adopted. It had been made quite clear to Emmie that if only she had been more like Louisa, she might have been adopted too. But she was much too old for that now. And she didn’t care anyway.

Emmie ran her hand over the arm of the seat, and tears stung the corners of her eyes. The dark, dusty stuff reminded her of Lucy’s fur.

Whenever one of the younger, sweeter, nicer children was taken away to have a proper home, or when Miss Dearlove snapped at her for being ungrateful, or the boys teased her for being skinny and pale and ugly, Emmie would simply shrug and stare. Miss Dearlove called her insolent, and Arthur had smacked her ears for giving him that look.

She’d stare until Miss Dearlove flounced away or the boys grew bored. And then she’d sneak upstairs to the little window on the landing outside the girls’ dormitory. There was a large cupboard half in front of it, full of musty blankets and spare clothes, and a skinny, ugly, little person could squeeze behind the cupboard and open the window—-and climb out onto the rusted iron fire escape without anyone knowing where she had gone.

The first few times Emmie had been out there in the days just after she’d found the window, she sat there alone, gazing out across the roofs below. She loved the view—-watching the clouds streaked with red as the sun went down. Even on the days when London was choked in fog, she had imagined the sky and the rooftops beneath the layers of gray. If she leaned against the railings, she could just see a slice of the road and watch for passersby and wonder where they were going—-and where she would go one day. She’d even taken a few steps down the fragile, old metal staircase. But then common sense had sent her slinking back again. She had nowhere to go. She couldn’t leave.

Emmie had been out on the fire escape on a February afternoon when she first saw her. It had been almost dark and icy cold, especially because Emmie wasn’t wearing a coat. She couldn’t sneak her coat upstairs, not without someone stopping to ask her why. But being cold was worth it—-for time alone to think and watch the sky.

She had felt as though she were all alone in the city. A purplish light had soaked through the sky, and wisps of cloud floated by, looking almost close enough to touch. Emmie leaned against the metal railings, feeling the hard cold of the iron bite into her cheek and knowing she should go in before they missed her.

Something had made her stay. Afterward, she thought she’d known something was going to happen. There was the faintest creaking on the metal steps, and a darker patch of shadow slunk onto the tiny landing where Emmie was curled.

“A cat!” she whispered. The cat was tiny—-hardly more than a kitten—-and shy. It hesitated at the edge of the landing, watching her suspiciously. She caught a gleam of light reflected in its eyes. Why had it come all the way up here?

Emmie moved her hand cautiously toward her pocket, trying not to move suddenly and scare the cat away. She had hidden a sandwich in her handkerchief—-fish paste. She hated it, but they were supposed to finish everything that was on their plates. Usually she dropped the scraps off the fire escape, but she’d forgotten. She held back a laugh. Perhaps this cat had eaten her leftovers before. Perhaps that was why it had come.

She opened her handkerchief and wrinkled her nose at the smell. But there was a scuffling in the darkness—-the cat had moved. It could smell the fish paste too. Someone turned on the light inside, and both Emmie and the cat froze. But no one saw the open window. There was a quick patter of footsteps up the stairs, and one of the little girls disappeared into the dormitory.

With the light on, Emmie could see the cat—-tiny and skinny, like her. It was hunched at the corner of the metal floor, eyes fixed on the wrapped sandwich, but too scared to come closer.

Slowly, Emmie put the handkerchief down between them and unfolded it properly to let the little thing have a glimpse of the food. Then she wriggled farther back against the wall of the house.

“You may as well eat it,” she whispered. “I won’t. You can have it.” She watched the cat curiously. It was nothing like the cats she had seen in the schoolroom books. They were plump and cushiony, with long, white whiskers. This creature looked half-starved, and it couldn’t resist the sandwich for long. It darted forward and began to tear at the bread, glancing over at Emmie every so often to check that she wasn’t moving.

When the sandwich was gone, the cat sniffed at the handkerchief and even licked it, as if the flavor of the fish paste had soaked into the cotton.

Then it turned and whisked away, skinny tail held low, and Emmie leaned over to watch it scurry down the steps.

The next night, she had only bread and butter, but the cat didn’t seem to mind. It ate the whole slice, and then when Emmie held out her fingers, it sniffed them curiously before it darted away.

Emmie kept taking her scraps out to the fire escape, and the cat kept turning up. As soon as she climbed out of the window, a small, dark shape would appear, faster and faster each time. There were days she couldn’t get out, of course—-days when Miss Dearlove decided on a “brisk walk” or the inspectors came. But it only took seconds for Emmie to slip behind the cupboard and open the window a crack and drop her scraps out onto the fire escape.

It was an odd feeling, waiting and hoping for a glimpse of black fur. It wasn’t even as if the cat stayed for long, not for those first few days anyway. She—-Emmie was only guessing it was a she, but “it” all the time sounded mean—-would eat whatever Emmie had brought, and then when she was sure all the food was gone, she would hurry back to whatever she had been doing. Sniffing around the trash bins, probably,Emmie thought.

It seemed strange to mind so much, to sit in lessons and hope the cat would turn up, but Emmie found that she thought about the cat more than she thought of anything else. She had never had a pet or known any sort of animal. The Craven Home only had the occasional mouse, and then only in the kitchens, where the children weren’t really supposed to go. There wasn’t any chance of taming a mouse with crumbs, even if Emmie had wanted to. Knowing that the cat came to see her, or her sandwiches, tugged at something inside Emmie. The cat wanted her, even if it was only for food. It needed her—-and she needed it too.

In the third week, the cat climbed into Emmie’s lap when she wasn’t fast enough unwrapping another fish–paste sandwich, and Emmie named her Lucy.

“Emmie! Emmie!” Someone pulled at her hand, and Emmie realized Ruby was talking to her.

“Don’t you want a sandwich?” Ruby pushed one into her hand, and Emmie stared down at it, trying not to gag. It was fish paste.

“No!” she said sharply, and shoved it back at Ruby. Then she caught Miss Rose’s eye and added, “No, thank you. I’m not hungry.”

“There’s plain bread and butter, Emmie.” Miss Rose passed her another paper packet. She went on gently. “You need to eat something. It’ll be hours more yet. It’s a long way.”

Emmie nodded. She was too miserable even to ask again where they were going, in case she started to cry.

“Missing that scrawny cat?” Joey leaned over, speaking through a mouthful of sandwich, and Emmie pressed herself back against the seat disgustedly. If only they hadn’t all seen. She had kept Lucy a secret for weeks, but the little cat grew tamer and a tiny bit plumper, and she was clever enough to figure out that Emmie—-and more food—-were inside the house.

Miss Dearlove shooed her out, but Miss Rose seemed to like cats. When she saw Lucy sitting on a windowsill or sneaking along the passage by the schoolroom, she smiled faintly and looked the other way instead of chasing the little cat outside again. And the cook liked her—-Lucy had the sense to catch a mouse and drop it in front of Mrs. Evans’s feet. After that, Emmie would occasionally see a saucer of milk in the yard at the bottom of the fire escape—-a saucer where there had once been milk anyway.

How could they have made her leave Lucy behind if what everyone said was true and London was going to be flattened by bombs? And the gas. Emmie had heard Miss Rose and the cook saying that all the mailboxes were being painted with special gas–detecting paint, so they’d glow yellow instead of red if there was gas floating in the streets. It sounded as though it was going to happen any day now. What would happen to Lucy if that was real?

Emmie shivered and closed her eyes for a second. She could see Lucy lying on the little iron landing of the fire escape, basking in the sun. The little cat liked to stretch out on her side, showing off her rusty reddish black underneath. Sometimes she even lay on her back with her paws in the air. She’d wave them, as if she was inviting Emmie to rub the fluff of her belly. And then if Emmie dared, half the time Lucy would pounce on her and bat at her wrist. But Emmie didn’t mind the scratches.

The other children had petted Lucy and even fed her scraps, but she seemed to remember that Emmie had been her first protector, and she always came back to the fire escape.

Emmie had found a basket the night before while they were packing. It was in that same cupboard of odds and ends that stood in front of their window. There must have been a cat once before—-or perhaps it was meant for picnics in the park, although Emmie wasn’t sure anyone at the Home had ever done something so lovely. She hadn’t asked Miss Dearlove or Miss Rose if they could take the cat. She hadn’t even thought about it. It had been so clear to her that Lucy could not be left behind. She’d simply been grateful that she wouldn’t have to carry Lucy in her arms or tie a string around her neck. She didn’t think the cat would like being on a train.

But before breakfast wasn’t Lucy’s time to appear slinking through the kitchen or creeping up to the top of the iron staircase. Emmie had hurried through the press of twenty excited, bewildered children, dropping paper bags and gas masks and winter coats that smelled of mothballs—-because even though it was a sweltering September day, who knew how long they’d be away for? Miss Dearlove raced around, spooning porridge into the little ones, sewing buttons back on, and in between, dashing back into the kitchen to screech at Mrs. Evans about twenty sandwiches.

In the passage outside the kitchen, she came on Emmie with a fingerful of beef dripping, trying to persuade Lucy into the lidded basket. The little cat had her front paws in, and Emmie was wondering if she should just take a chance and shove the rest of her in too.

“Emmie! For pity’s sake, why haven’t you got your coat on? We’re about to leave! What’s in that basket? You’ve not put your clothes in there, have you? You should have them in a parcel, like the others.”

Emmie glanced around at her, and Miss Dearlove sucked in her cheeks.

Lucy saw that Emmie was distracted and took her chance to launch out of the basket.

“No!” Emmie squeaked. “Oh, miss, catch her!” And she flung herself full length, grabbing the thin, black cat, who to Miss Dearlove looked just as scruffy and ugly as the little girl. Emmie was sallow skinned and thinner than ever, since she’d been hiding away half her food to feed the cat. Emmie’s hair had wisped its way out of her thin braids already, and her arms were all scratched.

“That disgusting stray! I might have known…” Then the matron stopped and stared at the basket. “Emmie Hatton, did you think you were taking that creature with you?”

Emmie crawled clumsily onto her knees and stood up slowly, gripping the squirming cat in her arms. She stood there, wincing as Lucy flailed her claws and pulled several more threads out of her cardigan. The cat didn’t care that she was being saved. She was hungry, and she had not liked the basket at all.

“We have to,” Emmie whispered, her greenish eyes widening as she stared back at Miss Dearlove. It wasn’t one of her purposeful stares—-she wasn’t trying to make Miss Dearlove angry. This was a round–eyed look of panic and disbelief. They couldn’t leave the cat behind. It would be too cruel. “The bombs…” she faltered.

“We are not taking a cat, certainly not a dirty stray like that. Why, even proper pets are…” Miss Dearlove trailed off, shaking her head. “Get going, Emmie. We’ve a train to catch that’s taking us halfway across the country! You’re making us late. Now come along.” Miss Dearlove went to seize Lucy from Emmie’s arms, but Emmie screamed and darted back, and Lucy hissed, not even sure who to be angry with. She fought and bit and scratched, and at last Emmie let go of her with a despairing cry as the cat streaked away through the kitchen and the scullery and out.

“At last! Now get out to the hallway and find your coat. We should have left by now. Mrs. Evans, are you ready? The children are lining up,” Miss Dearlove added to the cook, who was standing in the kitchen doorway watching.

But Emmie crouched to pick up the basket, gazing into it as if she almost couldn’t believe it was empty.

“Put that down!” snapped Miss Dearlove, taking the handle.

Emmie jerked away, snatching it back. “No! I have to go and get her. We have to bring her with us!”

The matron grabbed the basket, and with her other hand, she slapped Emmie across the cheek. Emmie dropped the cat basket and leaned against the wall, tears seeping from the corners of her eyes. She wasn’t crying because Miss Dearlove had hit her, even though it hurt, but because she’d realized that it was true. They meant it. They really were leaving Lucy behind.

“I couldn’t help it,” she heard Miss Dearlove murmur to the cook. “Dratted child, she does it on purpose. Bring her, will you, Mrs. Evans? I need to go and lock up.”

Emmie felt Mrs. Evans’s arm slide around her shoulders, and the cook’s dry fingers stroked her scarlet cheek. She could hear the old woman tutting gently, but her voice seemed to come from a long way away.

“Come along, sweetheart. You come on now. Don’t you worry about that little cat. She’ll be next door, stealing a kipper for her breakfast, I expect. Time we were on our way.”

About the Author:

Holly Webb worked as an editor at Scholastic Books in the UK before she became a full-time writer. She is the author of the popular Rose series. Holly lives in Reading, England, with her family.

Follow Holly Webb: TwitterFacebookWebpage

Thank you Sourcebook Jabberwocky for sending me a copy of Return to the Secret Garden. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

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Love and Chicken Nuggets

Series: Pippa Morgan’s Diary
Author: Annie Kelsey

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Love and Chicken Nuggets by Annie Kelsey

summary: Meet Pippa Morgan, a small girl with a BIG imagination.

Pippa’s class has just been given a project all about “love”—gross! Luckily, there are lots of things she loves—like chicken nuggets and TV detectives, and her best friend forever, Catie Brown. But now that her mom is single, Pippa wonders whether she needs a little more love in her life. She comes up with a way to handle two problems at once…by making her mom the subject of her school project! Will Pippa be able to find her mom a husband? And can she get Catie to taste chicken nuggets for the first time ever? You’ll have to read her super-secret diary to find out!

ALSO BY ANNIE KELSEY: Pippa Morgan’s Diary

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Pippa Morgan's Diary by Annie Kelsey

summary: Sometimes a little white lie can land you in a whole lot of trouble…

Pippa’s new BFF Catie Brown is perfect. So perfect, that Pippa tells her a teeny tiny lie—that she once auditioned for Voice Factor—to impress her. And it works.  It works so well, in fact, that Catie enters Pippa into the school talent show.

 The only problem? Pippa can’t sing. Not at all.  In fact, her singing is so bad it scares the neighbors. But if she doesn’t participate in the talent show, Catie will know she lied. But if she does participate, the whole school will find out what a horrible singer she is…including Catie! It’s up to Pippa to put an end to this pesky problem!

Black Cat & White Cat {spotlight post}

by: Claire Garralon

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Black Cat & White Cat by Claire Garralon

 

Black Cat & White Cat is an appealing black-and-white board book about friendship from French author Claire Garralon.

Black Cat and White Cat want to be friends, but in a world of black and white, someone is always hard to see! Can they find a way to play together without someone disappearing? In the face of adversity, friendship prevails, and Black Cat and White Cat set off to find a place where they can play happily together.

 The high-contrast words and shapes are perfect for the youngest eyes, and the fun story will keep children engaged.

Black Cat White Cat back cover

I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur

By Heath McKenzie

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I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur by Heath McKenzie

 

I Wanna Be A  Great Big Dinosaur is such an adorable picture book. What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs, hey even adults love them. This picture book revolves around a kid who wants to be a dinosaur and just his luck there is a T-Rex willing to help teach him the ropes. This book would be wonderful for read aloud. I know so many picture books are read for bedtime but  I think this one is too much fun for kids and they would want to act out the dinosaur lessons. I would gift this book to any kid whether they are a  boy or a girl. This picture book would make a great new mom baby shower gift to a kid’s birthday gift. This would be absolutely perfect for a classroom dinosaur unit.  Add I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur to your kids summer reading list and have a blast!

summary: Want to find out what it takes to be a Great Big Dinosaur?  This book is for you!

More than anything in the world, one little boy wants to be a great big dinosaur. And he’s in luck! A great big T. Rex shows up to teach him how to stomp and roar just like a dinosaur. But dinosaurs aren’t so great at soccer or video games… Maybe being a little boy isn’t all bad?

 A story about being whoever (or whatever) you want!

thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and Heath McKenzie for allowing us to read and review I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free picture book. Also I am not an affiliate to any of the Buy Now links so I receive no money if you click and buy. Just wanted to make buying this adorable picture book easier.

Bailey

The Puppy Pals series

by Susan Hughes

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Bailey Puppy Pals series by Susan Hughes

 

This series is perfect for every dog or pet loving reader, or listener. The book is simple enough to build reading confidence in the beginning reader. It would also be a good read aloud and hold the listeners attention. The book is really good and enjoyable. I think it would be a great addition to elementary aged kids summer reading list and will appeal to both boys and girls.

 

 

summary: Meet Bailey, a playful yellow lab puppy!

It’s a new school year and things haven’t been great for Kat so far. She’s being teased, and her best friend Maya is in a different class. But things start to look up when her Aunt Jenn opens a kennel and dog-grooming salon, and the girls are allowed to help out with a puppy named Bailey! But is the responsibility of watching someone else’s pup too much for Kat and Maya to handle?

Excerpt from Bailey:  Puppies were running across the grass. Dozens of puppies.

Some were black, some were brown, some were white with black spots. Some puppies were red and shaggy, some were gray with white muzzles. All the puppies had smiling faces and wagging tails.

Kat was sitting on her front steps. Her eyes were closed. She was having her favorite puppy daydream. And it always ended the same…

The puppies jump around, begging for her attention. Her mother and father smile at her.

“Of course you can have a puppy, Katherine,” her mom says.

Her dad sweeps out his arm. “Pick any one you want!”

Kat smiles too. She looks at all the puppies, and she tries to choose. The little toffee-colored Irish terrier that jumps into her lap? The shy gray schnauzer looking at her, his head cocked to one side? The black pug so tiny that—

Aidan’s running shoe nudged her leg, and Kat opened her eyes. As usual, her brother was listening to music. He pulled out one of his earbuds. “Come on, Kat,” he said. “Let’s go! We’re going to be late for school.”

Kat sighed. The daydream was over. She sent a mental message to the puppies: I’ll come back and visit soon!

She ran to catch up with Aidan. The sun was shining. A squirrel chattered at her from the branch of a chestnut tree.

“Do you think Mom and Dad will ever let me get a dog?” Kat asked her brother as they walked.

Aidan shrugged. “You’ve asked them a million times. They always say no.’”

“That’s because they travel so much for work. But I don’t!” Kat protested. “And I’d be the one looking after the dog.”

Aidan bounced his basketball as he walked. “I don’t know, Kat. I think you should forget about it for now.”

Kat sighed. She knew he would say that. He didn’t care if they got a dog or not. Her parents both liked dogs, but she was only the only one who was truly dog crazy.

Kat and Aidan reached school just as the bell rang.

“Later, alligator,” Aidan said to Kat. He hurried over to the seventh and eighth grade entrance.

“See you soon, baboon!” Kat called after him.

She rushed across the playground. But she didn’t get in her lineup. Instead, Kat went over to the other fourth grade line.

“Maya!” she called. Her best friend hung back as her class made its way into the school.

“There you are, Kat-Nip! Late again!” Maya said with a grin.

Kat made a funny face back at her. Maya had called her “Kat-Nip” for as long as she could remember. “You love dogs but your name is Kat? How goofy!” she’d say. Maya often teased her, and Kat teased her back.

It was all in fun, since they had been best friends forever. Even though they lived on opposite sides of town, they had known each other since nursery school. They played soccer on the same team. They took swimming lessons together. Most of all, they talked about dogs together. Maya was probably the only person in the world who loved dogs as much as Kat.

Until this year, Maya and Kat had always been in the same class. But a few children had moved away over the summer. So Maya was put in the third-fourth grade split class, and Kat was put in the fourth-fifth grade split class.

The girls didn’t like it. Not one bit.

School had started last week. The first few days had been tough. Kat hoped it would be better this week, but it didn’t seem likely.

“Joke of the day: what does a mother dog call her pups when they come in from playing in the snow?” Kat asked.

Maya thought for a moment. “I don’t know. What?”

“I’ll tell you at recess!” Kat said, waggling her fingertips at her friend. She turned to run toward her lineup.

“Hey, not fair! Tell me now!” called Maya. “That’s torture!”

“Nope! Oh, and I have some really awesome news to tell you,” Kat called over her shoulder. “Puppy news!” she added, taunting her friend.

“Seriously? And you won’t tell me what it is until recess? You are horrible!” Maya put on her grumpy look, but she couldn’t hold it for long. Kat started to laugh, and Maya did too.

“See you!” Kat teased. She ran to the back of her own line which had just disappeared into the school.

Coming Soon: Riley

Release Date: August 2, 2016

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Riley Puppy Pals series by Susan Hughes

summary:  Best friends Kat and Maya love helping out at Tails Up! Groomers. The best part is helping to exercise the adorable puppies that stay there. When a sweet golden retriever puppy named Riley is boarded at the groomer, Kat and Maya couldn’t be more excited! Riley is super-sweet and friendly.

 But when a new girl named Grace shows up in Kat’s class, she finds herself wishing Grace was as easy to get along with as Riley. Kat is disappointed to find herself paired up with Grace, who can’t seem to get that mean look off of her face! But is Grace unkind, or is she just lonely? Maybe Riley can help her figure it out!

About the Author:

Visit the authors website

Susan Hughes

Susan Hughes is a writer and editor, and has been writing children’s books and articles for nearly twenty years. She has received numerous nominations for Canadian children’s writing awards. She lives with her family in Toronto. 

 

 

thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for allowing us to read and review Bailey. All thoughts and opinons are our own and not influenced by the free book.

Ava and Taco Cat

by Carol Weston

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Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston

Excerpt from Ava and Taco Cat:

December 28

Dear Brand New Diary,

I’m really worried. At dinner tonight, Mom said that right before closing, a man came into the clinic with an injured cat. He’d found him shivering in a tree! The cat was scrawny and scared and his neck had a gash and his left ear was bitten up. The man got the cat down and took him to the nearest vet—which was Dr. Gross’s.

“Poor cat!” I said.

“Is he going to be okay?” Pip asked.

“I don’t know,” Mom said. “Dr. Gross stitched him up and gave him antibiotics. If he makes it through the night, we’ll call the shelter in the morning.”

If!?” I said.

Mom nodded. “I think a coyote got to him.”

“What’s his name?” Pip asked.

“No idea. But he’s neutered, so he’s not feral.” Pip and I know that “feral” means wild, and “neutered” means he can’t make baby cats. But does Mom know that stories about hurt cats and dogs make me sad?

“What does he look like?” I asked.

“He’s honey-colored,” Mom said. “But his right leg and paw are white, and he has a white zigzag above his nose.”

“Awww,” I said, trying to picture the cat’s sweet little zigzag.

“No chip or collar or anything?” Dad said.

“No identification at all,” Mom said.

Soon Mom and Dad and Pip were talking about other things, including dinner, which was stuffed eggplant—blecch! (Dad just started a terrible tradition of “Meatless Mondays.” At least tonight he also made plain bowtie noodles for me.)

Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely that cat probably felt all by himself in a cage at Dr. Gross’s. I wished we could go check on him. But no way would Mom agree to go back to work after she’d already come home and put on her slippers.

I was trying to imagine what it must have been like for the skinny cat when the coyote started attacking him. He must have known it was life or death. He probably thought he was a goner for sure! It was lucky he was able to scamper up that tree, but then he must have been too afraid to come back down. And maybe too weak? I bet he was starving as well as stuck and petrified! Poor little thing!

Suddenly my nose and eyes started tingling. I blurted, “May I be excused?” but it was too late! Teardrops fell right onto my bowtie noodles.

“Are you crying?” Pip asked, surprised.

“Oh Ava,” Mom met my eyes. “I’m sorry I brought it up.”

Dad gave my hand a squeeze, and I ran upstairs and splashed water on my face. I don’t know why I was getting so upset about a lost honey-colored cat. But I was. I am.

It’s just so sad to think of him all alone in a cage instead of a home.

Ava, Upset

Summary: Ava desperately wants a pet for her eleventh birthday—but gets way more than she bargained for when she adopts T-A-C-O-C-A-T.

When Ava Wren hears about an injured yellow tabby with mismatched ears, she becomes obsessed and wants to rescue him. She even picks out a perfect palindromic name: T-A-C-O-C-A-T. But when Taco joins the family, he doesn’t snuggle or purr—all he does is hide. Worse, Ava’s best friend starts hanging out with Zara, a new girl in fifth grade. Ava feels alone and writes an acclaimed story, “The Cat Who Wouldn’t Purr.” What begins as exciting news turns into a disaster. How can Ava make things right? And what about sweet, scared little Taco?

The New York Times called AVA AND PIP “a love letter to language. ” With this second diary, Girls’ Life advice columnist Carol Weston hits another home run

Also by Carol Weston:

Ava and Pip : 

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

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Meet outgoing Ava Wren, a fun fifth grader who tries not to lose patience with her shy big sister. When Pip’s 13th birthday party turns into a disaster, Ava gets a story idea for a library contest.

But uh-oh, Ava should never have written “Sting of the Queen Bee.” Can Ava and her new friend help Pip come out of her shell? And can Ava get out of the mess she has made?

Ava XOX: 

Ava XOX by Carol Weston

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Love is in the air—and Ava thinks she’s allergic

 Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and Ava couldn’t care less. That is, until a new girl, Kelli, asks out Ava’s friend Chuck…and he says yes! What?!? Ava is NOT okay with this. But since when does she think about boys? For the first time ever, words fail Ava. She isn’t sure what she’s feeling (Like? Love? Friendship? Frustration?), or what “going out” even means. After all, fifth graders aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves, are they?

 To top it off, Pip’s friend Tanya is being bullied for her size. Ava wants to help—but, uh oh, it’s not as easy as she imagines.

Carol Weston

About the Author:

Carol Weston has been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994. She is the author of fourteen books including the two Ava Wren titles, The Diary of Melanie Martin (Knopf), three other Melanie diaries, and Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (Harper Perennial, Fourth Edition). She lives in New York City. 

Connect with the author: Website FacebookTwitter Youtube

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Charmed: Fairy Tale Reform School

by Jen Calonita

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Charmed Fairy Tale Reform School by Jen Calonita

Charmed is book 2 in the Fairy Tale Reform School series. This series is simply adorable and magical. Perfect for read alouds or as silent reading. The author does an amazing job at reminding the reader what happened in book 1 in case they don’t remember or haven’t read Flunked. However I say spend the weekend or a week and read Flunked than Charmed. It will be a fun weekend or week of reading. This series is one I hope continues on for many more books. Perfect for all the fairy tale loving kids who have  outgrown the picture books and ready for a more involved storyline. Great book series for get for home, classroom teachers, school librarians or as a gift.

summary: It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.

 Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

Charmed book excerpt:

The Magic Mirror’s voice crackles throughout the school, “Let the first annual Fairy Tale Reform School WAND WHAT YOU WANT hour begin!”

            I hear students cheer and wands begin popping up in kids’ hands as we walk through the halls. POP! My wand arrives in my hand; long, dark-gray and nicked like its seen a few battles. What to try first… I’m just about test the wand out, when I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I dive out of the way just as a classmate casts a spell on the girl next to me, turning her into an ice sculpture.

            POP! POP! POP! Kids begin casting all around me. The crowded hallways is suddenly full of talking woodland creatures, toads, fireworks, and a pretty impressive cloud raining licorice. Kids are cheering, fighting, and the sound of all those wands working is enough to give me a headache.

            SLURP!

            The chaotic hallway disappears and a new empty hall arrives in its place. The magic hallways are always changing for security reasons, but I happen to know this hall leads to the school courtyard. More students appear and new spells begin zapping around me. I run out into the quiet school courtyard to test out my wand in peace. The warm sun is shining bright high above the castle walls, making me wistful for adventure. I can never sit still for long.

            “We hope you enjoy your wand experience, but remember, all wands disappear at the hour mark so choose your magic wisely,” I hear Miri continue. I’m relieved to find no mirror in the courtyard, which means she can’t see what I’m up to. That magic mirror is forever tattling on students for bad behavior. “Flying is not advised.”

            “Not advised, but she didn’t say it was against the rules,” I say to myself. I flick the wand over my stuffy, uncomfortable pale blue uniform and turn it into a comfy peasant shirt and pants. I get rid of my ugly school shoes and swap them out for my beloved high-lace up boots. Now that I’m comfortable, I get to the task at hand. I’m sure an actual spell would work better, but since I don’t know one, I just imagine myself flying and bam! I’m slowly floating up, up, up in the air. Score!

            A Pegasus flies by pulling a coach with four students in it.

            “HI GILLY!” they shout and wave.

            When you save your school from a wicked fairy, people tend to remember your name. Even if you don’t remember theirs.

            “Hi!” I say, lying back like I’m floating on a cloud. Wow, this is relaxing. I stretch my arms wide and — oops!

            My wand falls from my grasp. Uh oh. I begin to plummet, spinning, faster and faster with no sign of stopping. Before I can even think of a way to break my fall, WHOOSH! I feel my body hit a blanket, bounce up, then land again on a magic carpet being steered by my friend Jax.

            “Ten minutes into WAND WHAT YOU WANT and you’ve already had a near death experience?” Jax says, a glint in his violet eyes. His curly blond hair looks white in the bright sunlight. “You’re getting sloppy.”

            “I’m not getting sloppy!” I’m seriously offended by that statement. “How’d you even know where to find me?”

            “I thought to myself, ‘What would Gilly do with wand access for an hour?’ and I knew right away you’d try to sneak home for a bit,” Jax says.

            My usual partner in crime steers our magic carpet over the castle walls and across the vast school grounds. Below I can see students fanned out on castle rooftops, in the garden mazes, near the lake, all casting away with various results. Jax flies the carpet faster, the wind whipping our hair and making it hard to see. I push the hair away from my eyes and strain to see home. There, beyond the gleaming pillars of Royal Court, where the princesses who rule our kingdom live, is my small village of Enchantasia. Somewhere down there, my family is working, playing and hopefully missing me as much as I miss them. The carpet is nearing the Hollow Woods which separates us and the village–CRACKLE! Our magic carpet is stopped by an invisible wall that keeps us from escaping school grounds. Clever of Flora to put the barricade up during wand training. Oh well. Leaving was a long-shot, but maybe I could wave my wand and at least see what my family was up to. “My wand! I realize. “I need to go get it.”

Also by Jen Calonita

Flunked Fairy Tale Reform School (book 1)

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Flunked Fairy Tale Reform School by Jen Calonita

summary: Would you send a villain to do a hero’s job?

 Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).

 Until she gets caught.

Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?

About the Author:  

Jen Calonita

Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and other books like Sleepaway Girls and Summer State of Mind, but Fairy Tale Reform School is her first middle-grade series. She rules Long Island, New York, with her husband Mike, princes Tyler and Dylan, and Chihuahua Captain Jack Sparrow, but the only castle she’d ever want to live in is Cinderella’s at Disney World. She’d love for you to visit her at Jen Calonita and keep the fairy-tale fun going at Happily Ever After Scrolls

 Social Networking Links:  Author Website – Book Website – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram

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thank you so much Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for allowing me to read Charmed Fairy Tale Reform School. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.