Posted in Book Review

Dactyl Hill Squad

By Daniel Jose Older

Review copy provide by Scholastics

Imagine dinosaurs, orphans plus a civil war plus the 1860s plus bad guys on a T Rex. Sounds pretty mixed up and a terribly confusing story. But you would be wrong – it is great. Like great great. Like GREAT. Like can this be a movie great?

The main Magdalys, an orphan from Cuba (so yes, a black girl is the lead and everyone should be jealous of this girl). She communicate with dinosaurs which is rare. The people rely on dinosaurs for rides and work. Magdalys works with other orphans (also all black), some black actors and some other adults who nice to fight against the bad guys. Through the whole story is a civil war (pretty much the one we know but with dinosaurs), lots of crazy dinosaur scenes and strong kids standing up for what’s right.

So obviously I liked this book. A key reason is I could imagine my classmates as the lead characters. This is the kind of book I want to share with them. I wonder if they would like it as much as I did. I am going to ask one of my friends to read this and review it. Keep an eye out for a second review on here.

I would recommend this book to kids who like dinosaurs and mixed up adventures.

One note: the book uses words like colored because it was used during the 1860s. So readers should be prepared for words that are no longer okay to be in the book.

This book comes out in September so you should be able to preorder it.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

• Author website/social media: Twitter: @jtbigelow Instagram: @authorjamilah

• Tell me a little about yourself: I am an African American Muslim woman from Philadelphia, PA. I am married with two sons. I work for Mighty Writers, a nonprofit that provides free writing program for youth ages 2 to 18. I am also a new children’s book writer. I love children’s literature. My favorite types of kidlit to read are picture books and YA fiction.

• When you were my age, did you like to read? I’m not sure how old you are but I’m going to say yes because I can’t really think of a time in my life when i didn’t enjoy reading. I’ve always liked reading stories but as a little girl, I even liked reading newspapers even though I didn’t understand what I was reading. I liked trying to read difficult words and the feel of them on my lips.

1 What was your favorite story? I fell in love with a book when I was in 4th grade called The Shimmershine Queens by Camille Yarbrough. It’s not exactly well known but it was probably the first time I read a book about girls who had lives similar to mine and that made me feel good about myself.

2 How do you get your ideas? My kids give me lots of ideas and so do the kids I work with. Sometimes, I simply sit down and make myself start writing even if I don’t have an idea. Eventually, an idea will come.

3 What author do you really like right now? Right now, I love all things Jacqueline Woodson.

4 Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest? Look for Ashley Franklin in 2019. She has some pretty impressive work coming out including her debut picture book, Not Quite Snow White.

5 There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this? I think we need to keep talking about it. There are still so many unheard stories and so many people who are not represented in kidlit. The quality of kidlit has improved with addition of more diverse voices. Let’s add more.

6 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator? I would say read, read, read the types of books you like–the ones you wish you had authored. Then, imitate. Try to write your own version of that work. Try to recreate that art–again and again. Recreate and then put your own twist on it. Nothing will teach you more than imitating the artists who have already done it.

7 As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? A little bit on social media. I am new so I don’t have many readers yet, but it does feel worthwhile when someone tells me how much they love my work or how my work made an impact on them.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Zac Gorman


– When you were my age (9), did you like to read?

I did! Like a lot of kids in the 90’s, I remember reading a lot of Goosebumps starting maybe around first or second grade. Early on, I was mostly into fantasy and horror stuff, as well as comics. Lots and lots of comics! I loved superhero stuff, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side. It was also around that time that I first read The Hobbit which really started my love of reading longer books.

What was your favorite author or book?

The first adult novel I read when I was about your age was Jurassic Park and it was a revelatory experience. I loved the book (although, in retrospect, I think I like the movie more) but the thing it taught me was that I could read pretty much any book I wanted! I still loved kids books—and I still do!—but the realization that I could read essentially any book in the library really opened up the world of reading to me, so it was very special for that reason.

how do you get your story ideas?

Everything is a mash up of the stuff I love. Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain has a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in it, a lot of Terry Pratchett, and little bits from all the fantasy and comedy that I enjoy. I think that you learn about telling stories by absorbing stories, then you take what you’ve learned and mix it all up in the blender of your brain. You analyze it, think about it, sleep on it, and hopefully a delicious book smoothie comes out the other end.

is it hard to write a book?

Yes and no! I’d have to assume that it’s hard to write a good book, which is why I recommend that most people instead try to write something that they enjoy. Writing a “good” book is next to impossible but writing something you enjoy isn’t nearly as difficult! It does still take a while though.

what authors do you like right now? Any lesser known ones you can recommend?

He’s not unknown but I always wish I’d gotten into Terry Pratchett when I was younger. Currently, I’ve been reading a lot of China Miéville and Clive Barker. Barker’s known for his adult horror writing but he also wrote a very underrated YA series called The Books of Abarat that’s packed with a ton of cool, imaginative ideas.

what is the best part of being an author?

Spending your days writing, reading and researching and getting to call it work!

What do you use to complete your illustrations?

I draw almost entirely digitally, on either my Cintiq or iPad. I usually draw in Clip Studio or Procreate but occasionally I still use Photoshop too.

any advice for a kid who wants to be an author?

The obvious advice is to write a lot but I hate to be too obvious, so I’ll say that you also need to consume a lot of stories. And I don’t mean just reading either! Obviously, if you want to be a writer, you need to read a lot, but also you need to watch TV and movies, play video games, read comics. And when you do, don’t just consume these things passively, think about what they’re trying to say, about how they’re saying it. Think about what works when you watch or read something. Think about what you like about it and what you didn’t like and how you’d do things differently.

– If you could portal into any of your works, which would you portal into?

This is probably the most boring answer ever but I like where I am! I put too many monsters into my books and if I’m being honest, I’d much rather write about monsters from the safety of my comfy office than have to confront them in a dark alley.

Posted in Book Review

Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

By Zac Gorman

Illustrations by Sam Bosma

My parents got me a subscription to Owl Crate Jr. I get a box each month with a book and items that go along with the book. In May, the book was Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain. I was really excited to meet Zac Gorman at A2CAF! Come back tomorrow for his interview.

This book is about a girl named Thisby Thestoop and how she has to help princess Iphigenia get out of the dungeon after a part of the royal inspection of the dungeon goes horribly wrong.

I like this book because Thisby and Iphigenia become good friends and Thisby gets to visit the palace where Iphigenia lives. I like that they don’t describe the monsters or dungeon too much so you can imagine it yourself.

I recommend this book to kids who like to read adventure books. Also kids with very active imaginations.

I give this book 15 friendship stars. 👭👬⭐️🌟✨

Zac is working on book 2! And I am working on a Thisby costume!

Posted in Book Review

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

By Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun

This book is about a girl, and two boy. Their names are Oona Lee, ( girl) An Tzu and Jax Amboy. The kids are on an adventure to light the first beacon in the five worlds. The five worlds are Grimbo (E), Salassandra, Toki, Mon Domani, and Moon Yatta. But a few obstacles stand in their way: Oona Lee must light the beacon after that years chosen one does not get close to lighting the beacon but she is the clumsiest sand dancer at the academy! ( a sand dancer is a person who possesses a special sand that you do special things to activate it to do stuff like transform in to a giant person where the sand dancer is protected inside but controls how the sand moves)and a a war rages between Toki and Mon Domani. Then Toki does not want its beacon to be lit.

I like this book because it is fast paced and is suspenseful.

I recommend this book to kids love adventure books. I can’t wait to find the next book.