Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times: Alternate-worlds with a Steampunk Twist

“Every theory of the course of events in nature is necessarily based on some process of simplification of the phenomena and is to some extent therefore a fairy tale .” – Sir Napier Shaw, Manual of Meterology, in The Storm in the Barn by Matt PhelanFlights

“So full of verve and imagination that the sinister steampunk world practically pops off the page. The prose sparkles, the inventions astonish, and the characters are ones you’ll root for from the moment you meet them. Loved it, beginning to end.”
– Stefan Bachman, author of The Peculiar

Fantasy books continue to be immensely popular with intermediate and advanced readers. In Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times,  a boy discovers a mysterious mechanical world he may never escape in this steampunk fantasy that’s “a thrill a minute,” set in nineteenth-century England.

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack. His only hope of escape lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes—or it did, before it was broken—before it was killed. But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Fans of books like Splendors and Glooms and Doll Bones will find Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times irresistible!

According to Booklist:

Feeling bored and unloved in his stuffy, late-nineteenth-century London home, Jack follows an enigmatic magician through a portal into an alternate world. There he explores the eerily familiar, yet frighteningly different city of Londinium, where brass grills embedded in the inhabitants’ nostrils enable them to breathe heavily polluted air. After being ensnared by the malevolent magician and adopted by the unstable Lady, who rules the land, Jack escapes and works with his few friends to free an ancient creature that can set things right in this damaged world. Clockwork creatures, metal fairies, and industrial pollution give the fantasy a steampunk twist. Like the story’s setting, its tone is bleak—uncommonly so for a novel apparently aimed at middle-graders. The dramatic plot twists, more than involvement with the mostly adult characters, will draw readers to finish the story, as will the vividly described settings and smooth pacing. The black-and-white illustrations were not available for comment, though the jacket art is intriguing. An unusual take on the alternate-worlds theme.

The plot is riveting in this exhilarating new book. Its solid characters entice readers to car about them against the backdrop of an intriguing new world.This powerful novel is redolent with the legacy of folklore and ancient tales.

Experience the hilarious animal antics of an English county show Farmer David: The Dunst

dunsterCherry Blossom Farm is snuggled in the hills near to the beautiful English village of Dunster in Somerset. Each year Farmer David and his wife Kaci enter both produce and farm animals in the prestigious Dunster Show, a huge summertime event that everyone enjoys! The hilarious antics of animals thrill the crowds of visitors and have them rolling and reeling with laughter.

Stuart Crane’s newly released juvenile fiction book is a wildly entertaining trip to an English county show. Farmer David: The Dunster Show —combines the unpredictable antics of farm animals with the stunning illustrations of leading London artist Zach McLoughlin in a book suitable for a wide age range.

Trouble erupts in the Best Ram in Show competition when a huge, curly horned ram breaks away from his handler and charges wildly at the revelers in the Beer Tent. And why won’t Dougal the Rooster participate in the Crowing Cup competition?

Cherry Blossom Farm’s prize-winning Henry-a-Bull becomes a hero in his competition, while Daisy, the ‘Jersey Gem,’ competes in the Best Milk Cow event. Sheepdog trials (and tribulations) bring screams of laughter as collies attempt to drive sheep into a pen-or a river! There are incredible happenings in the Show Jumping competition for the celebrated Dunster Hunt Cup, the crowds are stunned and amazed as horses and riders bravely attempt to jump the massive Red Brick Wall; the final outcome will leave everyone astounded!

Happy and wholesome, Farmer David features a cast of animal characters performing at an English county show, making this book appealing to middle-school and young adult audiences and anyone who loves animals; it also makes a perfect bedtime story for younger children.

“Wally and Barnstormer were giving a wonderful display of Formula One horse jumping rarely ever recorded at an equestrian event. It was with everyone holding their breath that Barnstormer, now galloping at full chat, came to the wall. Barnstormer’s heroic vault into the air, in true British Airways fashion, astounded everyone attending the event. He hit the middle of the wall with such force that red bricks were shot all over the arena, the crowd and the surrounding countryside! Yes—Wally’s reputation as being the fastest and daftest show jumper in the West was maintained.”

Stuart Crane’s book also includes a fascinating how-to chapter on growing giant marrows—it’s remarkable what effect a mixture of sugar, treacle, and strawberry jam has when fed to these vegetables through a woolly rope!—and eight lighthearted comprehension tests based on each chapter.

Readers of all ages can share in the fun and laughter of this wildly entertaining visit to the Dunster Show.

About the book:
Farmer David: The Dunster Show by Stuart Crane
ISBN: 9781478748335
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: April 2015
Pages: 91
S.R.P.: $26.95

About the author:
Stuart Crane was born in Nottingham, England, and now lives in San Diego, California. Married with two sons, he is a group financial director. His hobbies and interests include writing, travel, sailing, current affairs, and red wine.

Illustrators Introduce a New Generation to Margaret Wise Brown

Good Night MoonHarperCollins Children’s Books announced the acquisition of New York Times bestselling and award-winning illustrators Anna Dewdney, Loren Long, Jerry Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, and Christian Robinson to illustrate several works from Margaret Wise Brown, the beloved storyteller who brought us Goodnight Moon. Starting in 2016, readers are invited to explore the world of Margaret Wise Brown with two reillustrated books and one never-before-published book. These newly illustrated stories will introduce a new generation of readers to Brown’s beloved picture books.

The program will start with The Dead Bird, reillustrated by the critically acclaimed, award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson, and will continue with Christmas in the Barn, reillustrated by Anna Dewdney, and the never-before-publishedNorth, South, East, West, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. Additional titles with illustrations by Loren Long and Jerry Pinkney are slated for fall 2017 and winter, 2018 respectively.

“We are honored to have such distinguished illustrators imagine the words of Margaret Wise Brown from their unique perspectives,” says Kate Jackson, SVP and Editor-in-Chief. “We’re thrilled to offer a whole new generation of readers the same excitement many of us felt when we first discovered a Margaret Wise Brown story.”

Cherished for her unique ability to convey a child’s experience and perspective of the world, Margaret Wise Brown transformed the landscape of children’s literature with such beloved classics as Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Nibble Nibble, My World, Where Have You Been?,and Sneakers, the Seaside Cat.

Anna Dewdney is the author/illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Llama Llama series, among others. All her books focus on the emotional experiences of the small child in a big person’s world. Ms. Dewdney is thrilled and honored to be illustrating the work of Margaret Wise Brown, whom she has always felt was a kindred spirit. Visit her at

Loren Long is the New York Times bestselling author/illustrator of such titles as Otis, Otis and the Tornado, Otis and the Puppy, Drummer Boy, Toy Boat by Randall de Sève, and Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. He’s also had the opportunity to modernize the classic The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and had the distinct honor of illustrating Of Thee I Sing by President Barack Obama. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Loren lives in Ohio with his wife, Tracy, and their two sons. Visit him at

Jerry Pinkney is one of the most heralded children’s book illustrators of all time. He has the rare distinction of being the recipient of five Caldecott Honors and the winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse. He has won the Coretta Scott King Award five times and the Coretta Scott King Honor four times, and he has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He was also the first children’s book illustrator elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives with his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Visit him at

Greg Pizzoli is the author and illustrator of several picture books, including The Watermelon Seed, which received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. His other picture book titles include Number One Sam, Templeton Gets His Wish, and Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection. He lives with his wife in Philadelphia. Visit him at

Christian Robinson has worked with Pixar Animation Studios and the Sesame Street Workshop and has illustrated a number of award-winning picture books, including Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, which won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, a Robert F. Sibert Honor, and aBoston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor; and Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, which was named a Best Book of 2014 by The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, and Amazon. His latest book, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, is a New York Times bestseller. Visit him

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE C of I, Caldwell School District team up to provide summer math/science institute

The seventh-grade students waited with anxious anticipation. What would the lab results show for the objects they had Math&Scienceswabbed? They definitely didn’t expect the toilet to have less bacteria than their own mouths.

Since 2009, The College of Idaho and the Caldwell School District have worked in conjunction to offer the week-long Math and Science Summer Institute (MASSI) for seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students. The institute, which operates this year from June 1-5, promotes taking math and science classes in high school and pursuing a STEM career.

PHOTO Attribution
By Hz.tiang (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Kids are really interested in math and science in elementary school, and then something happens in middle school,” said Dr. Robin Cruz, chair of the C of I mathematics and physical sciences department. “The aim of the program was for kids who had a high potential of going on to college, but also a high risk of not graduating high school.”

Last year, 40 boys and 40 girls from Syringa and Jefferson middle schools were chosen to take part in the program. The seventh graders became “disease detectives.” They designed their own survey and ventured around campus, interviewing College of Idaho staff and faculty members about their fictitious diseases. The students then used that information to calculate the most likely cause of the fictitious disease.

The eighth graders did a computer science project, working on circuits and computer coding in order to build their own computer. At the end of the week, both groups presented what they learned.

“It is a phenomenal experience to see a shy kid transform over the week, and by the end, give a PowerPoint presentation on a complicated subject,” Cruz said.

In addition to generating interest in math and science, the program gives middle-school-aged-kids the chance to step onto a college campus and see that it’s not a “scary place,” but something to strive for, said College of Idaho biology professor Dr. Ann Koga.

The kids get to interact with college students, especially on Ask the Teacher’s Assistant Day, where the kids ask questions ranging from how to afford college to what it is like to live in the dorms. The eighth graders also stay one night in a residence hall.

“It is fun to show [the students] something new, get them interested in (science and math), and also give them a taste of what college is like,” College of Idaho senior Juan Cervantes said. “I think the earlier you can get that thought of college into their heads, the better.”

The institute came about as part of a grant proposal that Cruz and Koga wrote. The grant money wasn’t awarded, but the principal at Syringa saw the institute’s potential and said, “let’s do it anyway,” Cruz said.

After the program started, it was funded through grants. But for the last two years, the grants have run dry and the Caldwell School District has footed the bill. Last year, Cruz wasn’t sure the program would happen at all, but the money came together.

“It’s really a collaborative effort with the school district,” she said.

While watching her own children and their friends go through the Caldwell School District, Koga realized that any type of encouragement for students would be helpful.

“The Caldwell School District does everything it can to reach all the kids, but the need is great in Caldwell,” Koga said.

And contact with an adult who cares can make a difference to a kid in pursuing higher education, Cruz said. With that in mind, The College of Idaho and the Caldwell School District hope to continue impacting children’s lives for years to come.

Bedtime for Chickies: Perfect for bedtime or story time!

Cheep cheep cheep! What does it take to get little Chickies to sleep? Meet the Chickies in their very first padded board book! With engaging rhymes, endearing illustrations, and a soft padded cover, these books are perfect for babies and toddlers to enjoy. Young readers will love to fall asleep along with Bedtime for Chickies board book  by Author, Illustrator Janee Trasler.

Bed Time

Cheep, cheep, cheep!

What does it take to get the chickies to sleep?

Fall asleep with the chickies in this hilarious bedtime book!

Amazon Review:

Bedtime for Chickies is a rollicking fun read aloud that is perfect for young toddlers and preschoolers. It’s a solid board book with padded covers, filled with charming animals all trying to get some sleep. Everyone’s ready for bed except three little chickies who just aren’t quite there yet. They still need a drink, a story, and of course a visit to the potty.

The repeating refrain is catchy and will soon have young listeners chanting along. The shows all the animals sleeping peacefully, which send just the right message for bedtime. The nice read aloud flow invites audience participation, and even though the book is a little on the small side for group sharing, the bright, simple illustrations ensure that all young story time listeners will be able to see what’s going on.

Bedtime for Chickies is a great choice for toddler story time or for any young one struggling to get into a bedtime routine. These chickies are sure to make going to bed a lot more fun for everyone!

Into the Woods intertwines Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests

“That joyous rarity, a work of sophisticated artistic ambition and deep political purpose that affords nonstop pleasure.”–William A. Henry III, Time

intothewoods_bannerInto the Woods is a musical that includes lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986, and premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987.

This picture book-adaptation of the Broadway musical brings together many favorite characters in one tale, including the childless baker and his wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack with his beanstalk. Talbott’s adaptation retains the flavor of Sondheim’s lyrics, and those who know the score will find themselves singing along. All ages. – Publishers Weekly

Bernadette Peters’s performance as the Witch and Joanna Gleason’s portrayal of the Baker’s Wife brought acclaim to the production during its original Broadway run. Into the Woods won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason), in a year dominated by The Phantom of the Opera. The musical has been produced many times, with a 1988 US national tour, a 1990 West End production, a 1997 tenth anniversary concert, a 2002 Broadway revival, a 2010 London revival and in 2012 as part of New York City’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park series.

The musical intertwines mainly the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel”, and “Cinderella”, as well as several others. The musical is tied together by an original story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family, their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter and other titles to peek at

Sin Eater's daughter From: Behold the Pretty Books! / January & February Book Haul.


Have you seen the Little Black Classics, published to celebrate 80 years of Penguin Books? I bought two: The Old Nurse’s Story (#39) by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Yellow Wall-Paper (#42) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I’m sure I’ll be buying many more!

I actually meant to include this in my previous Behold! post but I completely forgot: I borrowed Friends With Boys from Debbie in January. We exchanged graphic novels and I loaned her Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. Faith Erin Hicks will be illustrating Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming graphic novel, so I’m quite looking forward to this! I am signed up toCaboodle, the rewards programme from National Book Tokens. I got to pick a free book and chose another classic I’ve not yet read: Oliver Twist. One for the 2015 Classics Challenge perhaps?

I attended the Scholastic Bloggers’ Brunch in January and got to hear about their wonderful upcoming books. They were kind enough to treat us to brunch, lovely authors and publishers as well as a few goodies. Seven Days, The Sin Eater’s Daughter (written by my awesome buddy Mel) and An Island of Our Own are three completely different but wonderful-sounding books.

Read the full blog entry here.


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