Book Review | ‘Tank’s Forever Home’ by Carol Kim

Tank bull mastiff sleeps with teddy bear on blue couch

Tank’s Forever Home by Carol Kim, Illustrated by Courtney Godbey
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Length: 48 pages
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Release Date: September 1, 2020


Synopsis

Tank is a bullmastiff named for his great size. At least, that was the name Shawn and Kat gave the gentle giant after they found him behind the bookstore. The kids convince their parents to let them foster the stray while animal rescue looks for his owner. Meanwhile, Shawn and Kat try to figure out how such a loving dog could come to be lost. What will happen to Tank if Shawn and Kat can’t help him find his forever home? Doggie Daycare is open for business. Join siblings Shawn (9) and Kat (7) Choi as they start their own pet-sitting service out of their San Francisco home. Every dog they meet has its own special personality sending them on fun (and furry) adventures all over the city!


My Thoughts

*I received ‘Tank’s Forever Home’ through NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, in exchange for an honest review*

I really needed this adorable book in my life!

Tank’s Forever Home follows siblings Kat and Shawn find a loving home for a bull mastiff. They help out in a Doggy Daycare center in their community, and it takes little time in discovering a safe place for Tank to spend while waiting for a loving owner to enter his life.

This book gave me warm, fuzzy feelings from beginning to end! This story teaches the value of community helpers doing good for animal safety. It also has rich images, providing children with accurate visual cues to accompany the text. This tale also has Reading Comprehension questions at the back, providing more learning opportunities for young children at home.

Whether you are reading Tanks’s Forever Home with your children for enjoyment, or using it as a Community Helpers activity, this book is very valuable for children of all ages!


Do you think you’ll put Tank’s Forever Home in your TBR? Feel free to share in the comments!



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‘Rewritten’ Blog Tour | Author Interview

‘Rewritten’ by Tara Gilboy
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Length: 200 pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Release Date: April 7, 2020

Hi everyone! Today I’m here to talk about ‘Rewritten’ by Tara Gilboy. It is under the Middle Grade genre, focusing on Gracie navigating through life after the adventures from the first book, ‘Unwritten’.

A few months ago, I reviewed ‘Rewritten’ on NetGalley, and I enjoyed it! You can read my review of ‘Rewritten’ here!

I had the privilege to speak to Tara about her process in creating ‘Rewritten’, as well as some handy advice for writers beginning their own creative journeys. I hope you enjoy!

Cathleen: Thank you for speaking with me! How are you holding up during this pandemic?
These are such crazy times!

Tara Gilboy: Thank you so much for having me! I am holding up pretty well. I think writers are
better suited than most for social distancing because we already spent so much time
alone, reading and writing, even before the pandemic. I’ve actually been busier than
ever the past few months: I also teach creative writing for San Diego Community
College District, and it’s been a lot of work converting my classes to an online
format. But I’ve also been careful to make time for myself: I’ve done a lot of hiking,
learned some new songs on the piano, finally perfected a homemade tartar sauce
recipe, and played waaayyy too much online Scrabble.

C: How did you get your start in writing?

TG: I’ve always wanted to be an author; ever since I learned to read, I’ve written stories.
The trouble was that I’d never met an author and had no idea how to go about
actually making this a career, so I lost sight of this goal a bit in high school. When I
returned to college in my twenties, I signed up for a creative writing class and was
immediately hooked once again. After college, I went on to complete a Master of
Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, wrote a novel that never sold, took more
workshops, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, attended
conferences, joined writing groups, and most of all, wrote, wrote, wrote. It was
about ten years from the time I took that college creative writing class that I sold my
first novel, and along the way there were many, many failures and rejected
manuscripts.

C: In ‘Rewritten’, Gracie takes charge of her own story after facing extreme
odds. What inspired you to create a story that follows a book character’s
growth?


TG: The Unwritten series didn’t start out with the idea to follow a book character,
actually. I only knew that my character was on the run from something, and I wasn’t
quite sure what. As I was writing early scenes, I was also doing a lot of jogging in the
woods near my dad’s cottage in northern Wisconsin, and I remember looking at the
trees as I ran and thinking that the forest looked like a fairy tale. Then I thought:
“what if my character was from a fairy tale?” I’ve always loved reading books with
fairy tale themes, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale
Dark and Grimm, so the idea immediately appealed to me. I didn’t quite realize then
how complicated and difficult this would be to pull off, which is likely a good thing,
because it might have scared me away from the project!

C: During ‘Rewritten’, I was fascinated with the Vademecum’s ability to
record one’s actions as they were occurring, like a ‘real-time’ diary!


TG: Thank you! As I was writing Rewritten, I was thinking a lot about what some of the
biggest struggles are for children Gracie’s age. Privacy is always a huge issue for
teens and preteens, and I thought: “what if someone had absolutely no privacy at
all? What if their worst enemy had a direct line to all their thoughts and actions?”
This might be one of the most terrible things that could happen to a teen, worse than
someone reading your most private diary. One of my creative writing teachers
always stressed: “dream up the worst thing that can happen to your character, and
then make that happen,” so I did. Poor Gracie!

C: I love that Gracie’s actions and choices are conveyed in a manner that
children can immediately relate to! Have you always felt that calling to
communicate with children?


TG: You know, it’s interesting, but when I’m writing, I’m not actually thinking about the
fact that I’m writing for children. I’m simply trying to really inhabit the mind of my
child protagonist and imagine how she would feel and react to the things that are
happening to her. If I’m being true to my character’s point of view, then I think I
naturally write and make choices that will be relatable for kids that age.
Occasionally, I will have to stop and remind myself that my story is geared for
children (for example, I struggled a bit in Rewritten with navigating the climax scene
in a way that wouldn’t be too frightening for readers), but for the most part, I just
try to write honestly and authentically and be true to my child characters.

‘Rewritten’ Book Trailer (via North Star Editions Youtube page)

C: What led to the decision to write for the middle grade genre?

TG: Middle grade books are my favorite books to read – middle grade is all about good
storytelling. They are the books that inspired me to love reading in the first place,
and so they have always had a special place in my heart. When I first started writing,
when I was in second and third grade, I started out writing middle grade, mostly
because that’s what I read. But then I grew up and went to college, and I developed
this idea of what it meant to be “Writer” with a capital “W” that involved lots of
black turtlenecks, exposition-heavy stories full of metaphors and symbols, and
words like “myriad” and “plethora.” I think I was in love with this “idea” of being a
writer, but at the same time, I had lost my sense of what I loved about writing in the
first place, which is that I love story. It was only when I took a class on writing
children’s books in graduate school that I reminded myself how much I loved
writing middle grade: the wonder, the sense of magic and adventure, the sense that
anything is possible in these books as long as you are telling a good story. I fell in
love with middle grade all over again and never looked back.

C: I love that there is a strong theme of mother/daughter bonds in
‘Rewritten’. Do you think you will continue on that familial thread in future
writings?


TG: I have a feeling that I won’t be able to avoid it, even if I try. I didn’t set out to write
about mother/daughter bonds, but it’s a theme that pops up again and again in my
work. I’ve had conversations about this with my writing group, as they often
experience the same thing. I think as women, the mother/daughter relationship is
one of the most complicated relationships we will ever have, and so it’s one that is
endlessly fascinating and provides rich material to mine.

C: I took some time to view your website. I love that your gift for the
written word began at a very young age!


TG: Thank you! Yes, I’ve always been happiest when surrounded by books. My mom
used to have to force me to go outside and play with the neighbor kids; otherwise I’d
have spent all my time reading. It wasn’t until I went to graduate school that I met
people who read and made up stories as much as I did. It was a relief to finally meet
other people just like me!

C: Who are your favorite middle grade authors, and why?

TG: Ooo, this is a tough question! I love Kate Di Camillo: I think her books are full of
wonder and magic and endearing characters, and I love how different all of her
stories are from one another. I also love Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me is one
of my favorite middle grades of all time), and some newer authors who have really
blown me away are Lisa Schmid, Ann Braden, Leslie Youngblood, and Amy
Makechnie. I think they do an amazing job of getting into the middle grade mindset,
as well as not being afraid to navigate difficult topics in a way that is appropriate for
readers this age.

C: What do you feel is your biggest challenge and achievement as an
author?


TG: My biggest achievement so far was publishing Unwritten and then Rewritten.
Publishing a book was something I’ve wanted ever since I was seven or eight years
old, and so it was a pretty amazing moment the first time I got to walk into a book
store and see my book on the shelves. I remember being on vacation in New York
City and going into a Barnes and Noble and getting kind of teary when I saw my
book was there. But I also know that I hope to have many more writing
achievements, so I have to keep working at writing every day. Right now my biggest
challenge is finding the time to write amidst my work both teaching and managing
the business side of writing.

C: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

TG: One of my creative writing teachers once said something to me that’s always stuck
with me. She said (and I’m paraphrasing): “I’ve taught a lot of amazing writers over
the years, but in the end, it wasn’t the most talented ones that made it. It was the
ones who worked the hardest, revised the most, and didn’t give up.”
I return to her words again and again. There’s not much I can control about the
publishing industry, but I can control how hard I work and how much I revise. So my
advice is: don’t give up if you don’t succeed right away. Writing is hard! Keep
writing, keep taking classes and joining writer’s groups, and most of all… revise! My
books go through over 20 drafts before I send them out (and that’s a low estimate –
I actually lost count at 20). Don’t put pressure on yourself to write great early drafts.
I’ve seen a lot of writers give up because of that.

C: What projects are you working on next?

TG: Lately I’ve been starting and stopping a lot of projects, but I am working on a spooky
mermaid story that I am really having a great time writing….

C: Thank you for your time!
TG: Thank you so much for having me!

Come check out Tara’s website for more information on ‘Rewritten’!


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April 2020 Reading Wrap Up

You know, I thought that April would slow to a crawl since all we could really do (at least here in New Jersey) was to sit home. But surprisingly it flew right on by! And I actually read quite a bit this month!

During April, I read eight books:
–5 digital books
–3 physical books

Genres read:
–4 Contemporary
–3 Fantasy
–1 book of poetry
–1 Historical Fiction

Physical Books

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary (5 Stars)
Purchased through Book of the Month

Silent Shadows (Harbored Secrets #3) by Natalie Waters
Contemporary/Romantic Suspense (4 Stars)
Received complimentary copy from Revell Reads

The Riot Grrrl Thing by Sara Larsen
Poetry (5 Stars)
Purchased at Labyrinth Books; Princeton, NJ

Digital Books

Lobizona by Romina Garber
YA Urban Fantasy/Contemporary (5 Stars)
Acquired through NetGalley

Story Magic by Laurel Gale
Middle Grade Fantasy (4 Stars)
Acquired through NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press

Magic by Mike Russell
Fantasy (4 Stars)
Acquired from the Publisher (Strange Books)

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Historical Fiction (5 Stars)
Acquired through Libby App

Formula For a Perfect Life by Christy Hayes
Contemporary (4 Stars)
Acquired complimentary copy from Prism Book Tours

I also began reading Sorcery of Thorns this week, but I will share more about this story in another post. I love the story so far!

What books did you read during April? Feel free to comment below!



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‘Story Magic’ by Laurel Gale/Mini Review

Story Magic by Laurel Gale
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Acquired through NetGalley
Release Date: August 4, 2020

My Thoughts

**I received ‘Story Magic’ through NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, in exchange for an honest review**

‘Story Magic’ is a tale that proposes what could happen when superstition takes the place of reason. Story Magic is not permitted for women to use, but that doesn’t stop 12 year old Kaya in using it to search for her brother. Along the way she confronts scenes of cruelty and compassion as she learns the deeper meaning of where Story Magic originated.

I found this book to be quite entertaining. The book was written in Kaya’s perspective, and she’s exposed to many revelations on her quest. For someone whose entire life consisted of her older brother and his input, this introduction to the outside world can be quite surprising!

‘Story Magic’ kept me reading from beginning to end. It was a fun fantasy tale!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

A feminist-tinged middle grade fantasy about finding your voice and the magical power that exist in storytelling.

Girls are forbidden to practice story magic. Only bad things happen when they do. Everyone knows this, but that doesn’t stop twelve-year-old Kaya A’Dor from learning the basics from her older brother Hob. The trick is to sense a listener, one of the magical beings that inhabit the world, and tell it a story. If the listener is pleased and likes the story, it will allow the storyteller to work magic.

Although Kaya knows the risks, she attempts a little story magic to impress Hob. When Hob is taken prisoner in Prima, the faraway capital city, Kaya is convinced it’s her fault, either because someone discovered what she was doing or because the bad luck has found her.

Desperate to save her brother, Kaya will do anything to make it to Prima, including story magic. With each story she tells her ability to wield story magic grows and she soon begins to wonder if her brother’s imprisonment was really her fault or something else entirely. Each story brings her one step closer to finding Hob and leaving everything she’s ever known behind.

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