Little Black Ant by Janet Halfmann, Illustrated by Kathleen Reitz

My review of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann has been in the works. . .um. . . since July 2010. I read the book with oldest daughter, in July and at that time I was pregnant with number 3. With his  arrival, taking care of a very active 2 year old and my oldest starting first grade, I had to drop something in my life. Rather than my children taking the brunt my blogging slowed to a stop.

But I am excited to jump back into blogging with Nonfiction Monday with my review of Little Black Ant, which interestingly enough we had a lot of black ants around our house last summer. Including a few of the winged variety. We loved the illustrations and it was fun to compare the illustrations of lavender and dandelions to the one’s in our backyard. My daughter and I were excited to learn that the winged ants we saw were most likely female ants on their way to start a colony. Reading about ants brought back some memories of my daughter’s failed attempt to keep ants in her jewelry box. Once again Janet Halfmann has proven herself as a wonderful nonfiction writer for kids, with detailed research, balanced with a knack for story telling. Little Black Ant has been added to our favorites list.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is part of the Soundprints Smithsonian’s Backyard Collection. An excellent series for learning about the natural world just out your back door.

Janet Halfmann’s Website

Kathleen Reitz’s Blog

*Review copy provided by Soundprints


Announcing the Winner of A True Princess by Diane Zahler!

Thank you to all who participated in our giveaway. We had a great turnout and lots of visitors who sat silently in the background without commenting.  I think my favorite comment was about the inner city kids reading Goldilocks. The different worlds we live in certainly influence the way we view the stories we read.

Our Winner is…

The winner of our hard bound copy of A True Princess (generously donated by Harper Collins) is Tara! Congratulations Tara! I will be in touch shortly through email to get your contact information.

Tara commented that her favorite fairytale is Cinderella, and that she thinks it would be hard to write no matter what!

Last of all, I want to extend a big thank you to author Diane Zahler- we look forward to reading many more delightful stories from her. Thank you!


Book Giveaway and Author Interview with Diane Zahler

Interview with Diane Zahler

Can you tell us a little about your new novel, A True Princess?

A True Princess is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Princess and the Pea,” and its dangerous elves were inspired by Goethe’s poem “The Erl-King.”  It’s the story of Lilia, a girl brought up by a shepherd and his family. She leaves the farm to travel north to find her family, and her two friends, Kai and Karina, make the trip with her. Their journey takes them through the dark and dangerous Bitra Forest, where they stumble into the kingdom of the evil Elf-King and his beautiful daughter. When Kai is taken prisoner by the elves, Lilia knows that she must find a way to save him. Her quest takes her to a castle in search of a magical jewel – but another search is taking place at the castle, a search for a true princess.

Were you a fan of fairy tales as a child?  What is your favorite?

File:Yellow Fairy Book 1894.jpg
The Yellow Fairy Book, 1st Edition 1894

I loved fairy tales and fantasy. I read all the Andrew Lang fairy tale collections — the Yellow Book of Fairy Tales, the Red Book, the Blue Book – if there had been a Puce or Vermillion Book, I’d have read those! “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” which inspired my first novel, The Thirteenth Princess, was always one of my favorite stories.

Have you learned anything about yourself through your characters?

When writing both The Thirteenth Princess and A True Princess, I reacquainted myself with the girl I had been when I first discovered fairy tales. That girl craved magic in her own life and found it in the books she read. I realized that the longing for magic has never really left me. Now, though, I can find magic not only in the books I read but in the books I write.

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing the book?  Was it difficult to re-imagine “The Princess and the Pea” to fit in with how you visualized the story?

A True Princess was the first book I’ve been able to write without having to stop to do other projects. I found the story flowed very easily – though that’s not to say it didn’t have to be revised. And re-revised! The story only uses “The Princess and the Pea” as a jumping-off point: it also includes Nordic myth, heroic falcons, fierce wolves, a dog who was based on my own dog, and a touch of romance. I’m a fan of heroines who take charge of their own destinies, and Lilia does just that. As the story begins, she doesn’t know who she is or where she is going, but as her quest progresses she discovers more than that: she learns the extent of her own strength.

Can you share a few details about your next project?

I’ve finished a third fairy-tale novel called Princess of the Wild Swans. It’s based on “The Wild Swans,” a story that both the Grimm Brothers and the Hans Christian Andersen treated. Watch for it in 2012! And I’m hard at work on a fourth novel, also based on a fairy tale.

Bookscoops Giveaway Details

The lucky winner will receive one hardcover copy of A True Princess, courtesy of Harper Collins. This giveaway ends on February 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm, mountain standard time and is only available to people living in the United States.

To enter the giveaway you may:

  1. Leave a comment about your favorite memory of reading fairytales for one entry.
  2. Write a blog post about our author interview and giveaway and tell us about it in a comment for one entry.
  3. Leave a comment about what you like most about our interview with Diane Zahler for one entry.
  4. Leave a comment on Holly’s review of A True Princess for one entry. Comments already posted will be automatically entered.
  5. Post about our author interview and giveaway on Facebook or Tweet about it, and tell us about it in a comment for one entry each.

I’m a Sucker for Scholastic!

My 2nd grader just struggled through the door calling my name. He’s unbelievably excited to share with me the jack pot he brought home from school. His Scholastic book order came today, and he was super happy to find out that Mom did not stop at ordering the Flat Stanley and Pokemon books he wanted. Can I just say I love Scholastic’s new online order system? I’m not so sure my pocket-book is loving it. I could hardly resist, though. So many good deals on great books! I must admit I was in the post-Christmas sales mode, and so thought that I would stock up for gifts and refill my random rubbermaid tote with great reads to give away. My kids went to a lot of book-exchanges and white elephant parties. Books are so fun and easy to give and I love that when I order online, the teacher gets extra books!

So, what did I get? Well, I’ve already read this one, but thought it would make a great givewaway:

My favorite line from this book is “When you love someone, you have to try things, even if they make no sense to anyone else.” I enjoyed this book about kids growing up on Alcatraz Island while their parents worked at the prison. How fun would that be to say that Al Capone did your laundry? It’s a very unique and fun story based in some well-researched facts. I can’t wait to give it away!

I also got Old Yeller for my husband. He talks about this book on a fairly regular basis whenever we bring up our favorite reads. Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller are probably his top reads from when he was a kid. It’s a late birthday present as it didn’t get here in time for our celebration.

Now, if only Scholastic sold fences. Then, I could actually pair the book with a real-life dog. We have been waiting to build a fence so that we can get a dog. One of our kids actually asked for a fence for Christmas so that we could get a dog. How sweet is that? We’ll get one eventually. Just not when it’s still in the teens outside!

Well, that’s all for now, I could go on and on about the books I bought, but maybe you’re on my give-away list and I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

What do you love about Scholastic books? Do you have good memories of getting book orders when you were young?