Book Giveaway for Purple Day: The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors By Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tony Persiani

Woohoo!!!  The Bookscoop’s sisters managed to pull off two Doublescoops in one month. Our review of The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand- New Colors by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani is part of our Purple Day challenge to raise public awareness about epilepsy and seizures. One in ten people will have a seizure in their life-time and one in a hundred will have epilepsy. We want people who have epilepsy to not feel so alone and this happens to be a favorite book of Cari’s daughter. If you comment on this post and/or participate in our Purple Day Challenge we will enter your name in a drawing for The Day-Glo Brothers. Please see our Purple Day post for eligibility requirements.

Cari: I love biographies like The Day-Glo Brothers – nonfiction picture books that tell a compelling human story, which doesn’t typically make the history books.

Holly: When I picked it up, the librarian was just putting it on the request shelf for us. She turned around and said, “That book has great pictures!” and I agree. The colors are very illuminating. Tony Persiani does an excellent job.

Cari: The pictures really, really add to what you’re reading. Which is what a picture book is supposed to do, but not all of them actually do. It helps that you are talking about colors that you can only see in the dark with certain lights. So the illustrations are black and white in the beginning with a few select colors. It helps you realize what the world is like before those eye popping colors. I liked the story too, did you?

Holly: Yes. I liked that the Switzer brothers had goals early in life, but their lives didn’t necessarily turn out how they planned them.

Cari: That’s a lot how life is. They weren’t always interested in the same things, either- Joe was an entertainer and Bob wanted to go to medical school.

Holly: And Bob had an accident that resulted in a head injury that left him with seizures & double vision so he wasn’t able to go to medical school anymore. The two brothers experiment while he’s trying to recover in the basement.

Cari: Yes, light would bother him. They started working together out of boredom. I’m very interested in these two because of my daughter’s seizures. I was curious to know how he dealt with seizures the rest of his life or if the seizures eventually stopped. During Bob and Joe’s era people with epilepsy did not talk about it. In fact a neurologist today has been doing research on Franklin Delono Roosevelt and there is a lot of evidence to suggest he had epilepsy. I wondered if he couldn’t complete medical school because of prejudice about seizures.

Holly: Medical school is very intense. Without specific allowances for a disability, it may be impossible to complete medical school due to lack of sleep, which I hear contributes to seizure activity.

Cari: Yes, we have to be very careful to make sure our daughter gets adequate rest. We’ve also had to put in place protocol with the school for the special allowances this sometimes requires. Like for instance, the recent time change that throws our sleep/wake cycle off triggered a seizure in my daughter last year. So this year, we took extra precautions and had to take her to school late a few times.

Holly: I’m glad that you take such good care of her! I liked that this is the author’s first book  and that he was inspired to write it when he heard the Day Glo brothers’ amazing story.

Cari: Despite Bob having a what sounds like seizure disorder, I can’t say that he did have epilepsy although to be diagnosed you have seizures that do not have an underlying problem that can be corrected. Bob still did a lot of great stuff & both brothers had a lot of fun. If you suffer a traumatic head injury you have a 50% chance of developing epilepsy and it can develop years later. It’s so important to protect your head and that is why helmets are critical in prevention of post-traumatic epilepsy

Holly: The book makes it clear at the end that even though they didn’t become what they thought they would as kids, they still achieved their goals and I think that’s a great example.

Cari: Their paints were used in WWII to help pilots land and also to avoid problems with friendly fire. Their paints made it easier to identify the enemy from an ally.

Holly: Yeah, I wonder if there were spies trying to figure out how they made those glowing colors- or was that world wide knowledge by then?

Cair: Who knows?

Holly: So, how did you find out about the book?

Cari: It was a Cybils book we read in my book club. It was one of the ones I liked the most. My daughter also enjoyed reading it. I think she liked knowing that there were lots of cool things you could still do even if you have seizures.

Holly: I remember when ‘neon’ colors were all the rage.

Cari: I do too. Now we know who to thank. Some of them are coming back.

Holly: Yes, I’ve noticed. I’m wishing I’d kept my neon Golden Gate Bridge t-shirt and maybe my neon green striped t-shirt. But, I don’t need the neon spandex. I think we’ll pass on those.

Cari:  You know I bet those brothers didn’t think that they would actually work together. You know a magician and a medical doctor don’t seem like they would go well together.

Holly: I beg to differ. Isn’t that what we expect from medical professionals? Magic?

Cari: Hah! That’s true.

Holly: I think the book is fascinating for kids – even if they can’t read it on their own, the pictures will appeal to them.

In lieu of a trip down memory lane, we thought we’d share some insight into our real personalities…

Cari: Growing up I was more of the idea person and tended to be in trouble more than Holly.

Holly: So far this isn’t any different than our stories.

Cari: How are you different from how we represent you in the stories?

Holly: I don’t let people walk all over me- you especially. I actually do have a back bone and opinions about things. I do tend to work in the background, so that much is true. How about you?

Cari: Well, I was not really a devious child. Yes, I did get in more trouble than Holly and have an overactive imagination. But, I wasn’t generally mean. I think I still come up with lots of good ideas for stuff.

Holly: Yes. You do. Like creating a book blog.

Cari: Thanks!

Holly: As always, I thought you were crazy when you brought up the idea, but did anyone ever tell you that you are convincing?

Cari: I’m known for my powers of persuasion. Speaking of which, isn’t it time we shared that one story?

Holly: Not unless you want to share the other one.

Cari: Blackmail. Did anyone ever tell you that you were good at blackmail?

Holly: Nope! It goes both ways, though. If you want to share my story, I’ll share yours.

Cari: You know, I think some stories are better left untold.

Holly: Now you’re talking!

Cari: You’re not so bad with those persuasion powers yourself. Maybe you should thank me.

Holly: For what?

Cari: For teaching you all my skills, of course!

Holly: I think we’re off track here. Aren’t we supposed to be telling them what we’re really like? I think we’re back to our paper personalities now.

Cari: Oh, yes. I guess it’s time to put out the lights on this doublescoop.

Holly: I think it might glo in the dark.

Cari: Yes, there is still a light on.

Holly: It’s your computer screen. Push the little circle button and it will turn off.

Cari: I’m not stupid.

Holly: I never said you were.



Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we bring to you a new Double Scoop! A wonderful book written by an Irish author about an Irish kid in, you guessed it, Ireland!

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer, is a kid-detective book that we are sure we would have loved when we were young. Actually, we love it now too, so hopefully that means we’re still young! Just in case the author’s name is ringing a bell, we will save you a trip to yahoo or google’s search engine and just tell you: Yes, this is by the same author as all the Artemis Fowl books.

Holly: My favorite part of Half Moon is that Fletcher was a real detective – he passed an online course for people over 18. So he was officially qualified even though nobody would believe him.

Cari: I thought you picked the book because Fletcher was short and you wanted a chance to poke at my shortness. Fletcher Moon is called Half Moon because he’s short. I do think the book is a good transition for kids who have outgrown Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew – it’s more complicated than the formulaic plots of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Holly: Honestly, I only picked the book for other reasons. First off I picked it because it’s set in Ireland, and we are Irish. Secondly, we love good detective stories and last of all, because it refers to Irish Dancing which we both did for many years.

Cari: Are you sure it’s not because I’m short?

Holly: No Cari, that thought didn’t even enter my head. Thinking of thoughts I never had, I don’t remember any parts in the book that I didn’t like.

Cari: I’ve read the Artemis Fowl books. Half Moon is similar to Artemis in that he is very bright and can get around adults when he wants information. Like hacking computers, getting information. Although Artemis is a juvenile genius delinquent (boy that’s a mouthful) with a lot of money in a fantasy setting. I thought Half Moon was a little bit more believable.

Holly: I appreciated the glimpse into the criminal world. Particularly interesting was the network of connections. I liked the example of the one ‘good’ kid, Red Sharkey, in the crime family trying to break the mold and be different. He wanted to be a model citizen, but because of his family people didn’t want to let him.

Cari: Yeah, definitely.

Holly: He tended to get in trouble when he was trying to help out.

Cari: I did not like the head mistress of the school and how she kept a list of good kids and bad kids with pictures. The good kids were angels and the bad kids devils.

Holly: I thought a lot about how often we take people and label them and sometimes it’s really difficult to let them escape that label.

Cari: Let’s talk about the girls’ gang, Le Fountanin. Basically, pink-loving or obsessed 10-year-old girls with a leader who is so ‘brilliant’ she is almost crazy. She appears to be all fufu and fluff on the outside, but she’s really made of ruthless steel. Whereas the Sharkey crime family is the opposite. On the outside they appear like steel, but they can really be generous when you know them.

Holly: Let’s talk about crime in Ireland. How much of it is related to the whole protestants vs. catholics ages old disputes?

Cari: I think this book is set in Ireland vs. Northern Ireland because the terrorist group IRA is in Northern, which is part of the United Kingdom. When I talk to people from there they talk about shopping. Just to go grocery shopping there are metal detectors. I’m not sure how much is Ireland and how much Northern Ireland spills over.

Holly: I’m just wondering if the level of violence and crime the girls were willing to go to was influenced by the community.

Cari: Or it could just be the author trying to break stereotypes. Criminals are often not the worst bad guys sometimes the worst criminals are people you wouldn’t think of. The Sharkey family did crime, but they weren’t cruel generally. Whereas this April girl is Miss Junior Criminal Mastermind in the making.

Holly: What do you think about they way Half-moon is attacked?

Cari: I thought it was scary and I think he was being stupid.  But, he is 12-years-old and they don’t always make the best choices. I think a lot of kids like Half-Moon might try it.

Holly: I thought it was extreme battery for a middle grade, in fantasy it wouldn’t phase you, but it kind of threw me off here.

Cari: It did put him in the hospital. On the other hand, I think there are teens that see that level of violence all the time. you can turn on the news and see violence all over the world.

Holly: One of the main points of the book seems to be that life isn’t always black and white. Half Moon likes that in detective ‘training’ all the rules are listed and it benefits you to follow the rules. Real life is a little different.

Cari: Half Moon has to cross a lot of lines to get at the truth. Half-Moon by the book wants to follow the detecting manual, and go to the police, but he suddenly finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit.  Out of necessity, he starts to change and becomes good friends with another kid that is from a crime family.

Holly: Isn’t there a saying: necessity is the mother of invention? In this case, I think necessity was the seed of friendship.

Cari: We need to be careful how we judge and stereotype people even as adults.

A fun fact about the Irish Bookscoops sisters, Cari and Holly:

Every St. Patrick’s Day from about age 9 and 10, we spent the entire day dancing, often until way past bed-time, all around the Treasure Valley as part of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance. We each have 9+ years of Irish Step Dancing under our belts. We’d like to pay tribute to our wonderful teacher, Bella Yerina of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance in Thousand Oaks, California, who flew up to the Boise, Idaho area about once a month to teach us. We also would like to pay tribute to Terry Jung (check out the 3rd picture on this site to see her perpetual trophy!), who supervised our weekly practices, managed all of our public performances, and also taught us many dance steps.

*If you click on the link above to check out the Irish Dance site, please note that we were a part of the school back in simpler days, before River Dance took the world by storm. The costumes we wore were the white ones with green and gold embroidery, and we didn’t use curly wigs back then- we did things the hard way sleeping in curlers all night and loading on lots of hair spray!

**The BBC did a series of thirteen episodes called Half Moon Investigations on the BBC in 2009. It would be fun to check these episodes out!

The Twelve Days of Christmas Books

For Christmas this year, we thought we would revisit our post from last year’s virtual advent tour. It’s kind of like getting your decorations out year after year, dusting them off and using them again. These books are treasures that bring joy and happiness to us each Christmas season, we hope you will enjoy them as well!


We are thrilled to participate in the Virtual Advent Tour hosted by Marg from Reading Adventures and Kailana from the Written World. We loved participating last year with our Caroling for Christmas post. This year we are combining our feature from last year with the 12 days of Christmas Reads with the Virtual Advent Tour  and making this our Doublescoop feature for December. Caroling for Christmas was a family tradition growing up as well as doing the 12 Days of Christmas. Sometimes we participated in giving gifts as part of the 12 days of Christmas, but what we remember the most was our Great Grandma Whitman, the same one who arranged for all the children at a family reunion to spend time at the local library. For all her great grandchildren, starting on their first Christmas she would give a 12 days of Christmas Ornament, beginning with a partridge in a pear tree and concluding with 12 Drummers Drumming for our 12th Christmas. Miraculously, Cari actually had a few of the ornaments survive her childhood. Holly had more, but it looks like they might not all survive her boys.

So without further delay here are our 12 days of Christmas  Reads for 2009 in honor of Great Grandma Whitman, who loved literacy, The Twelve Days of Christmas and her family. Holly’s are the one’s in green and Cari’s are in red.

Cari's First 12 Days of Christmas Ornament

On the First Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

Grandma Dowdel is back in a new and fun addition that rounds out Peck’s  two ‘Grandma Dowdel’ books A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. Which are two of our favorite reads of the year, and A Season of Giving was the icing on the cake. A few tantalizing tidbits about Grandma Dowdel’s life after the grandkids are grown and a story of love and hope for a poor minister’s family who happen to be her new neighbors. Grandma Dowdel helps out with her unique flair for stating the obvious and performing the devious. I enjoyed this glimpse of Grandma Dowdel’s lifelong pursuit of dishing out much needed anonymous ‘help’.



On the Second Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

A Special Place for Santa: A Legend for Our Time by Jeanne Pieper

If you’re looking for a way to combine Santa with Christian beliefs this is the book you want to read. I initially heard this book when I attended the Children’s Literature Book Club last year and was fascinated with the story behind Santa or more specifically St. Nicholas the patron saint of Russia and children.  This wonderfully crafted story  chronicles the history of a man who was born in Turkey who would later become St. Nicholas. Known for his kind deeds and rescuing children. I used this book this year as part of my church’s Christmas party and while not everything in the book matches with our faith tradition it does a beautiful job focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. I highly recommend the book to anyone with a wish.

 On the Third Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me. . .

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by John Rox, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

A cute pajama clad girl, with hippos in her eyes, gallavants through this charming Christmas tale. If you’ve ever wanted something unusual and hoped and prayed or wished on Christmas stars to try to move the mysterious Santa to deliver the undeliverable, this is the book for you. I grew up claiming this song as my favorite Christmas carol, and have been extremely happy with the results of rendering it in print with adorable illustrations! I recommended it last year in our Giving Books for Christmas post, but it is my family’s absolute favorite to read so I couldn’t pass up promoting it once again.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Deck the Halls with Holly Angel with Ruth J. Morehead’s Holly Babes

I couldn’t resist buying this board book because of the adorable angels, reference to Holly (my favorite and only sister), and of course the song. I love music themed Christmas books and after our Caroling for Christmas advent post last year, I have kept my eye open for books like this. Basically it’s the whole song with angels illustrated doing all sorts of adorable angel things such as cutting out Christmas stars, putting up lights and of course, caroling. A great way to introduce a fun Christmas Carol to your toddler.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Truce by Jim Murphy

Shh! Don’t tell! This book is a surprise for my WWI & II history buff husband and his three little protégés (my army-guy loving boys). Published October 2009, I knew it would be something he hasn’t seen before. During WWI, an amazing Christmas miracle occurred when both sides, often in direct defiance of orders, declared a truce in honor of Christmas. My favorite quote in the book?  

“What would happen, I wonder, if the Armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and said some other method must be found of settling the dispute?” –Winston Churchill. Truly a thought, and book, worthy of ‘five golden rings’!


On the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen and Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read this book. Elijah’s angel is based on a true story about an unlikely friendship between Michael (9) and Elijah the son of former slaves in his eighties. You would think the unlikely part of their friendship is the age difference, but that’s not all that separates these two friends – Michael is a Jewish boy and Elijah is a Christian. Elijah is a barber and carves wood figures and stories from the bible and Michael attends Hebrew School. I really enjoyed reading how these two friends were able to respect and share in each other’s faith traditions by giving each other a gift. Elijah gave an angel and Michael gave a menorah, which they both displayed in their respective homes. The illustrations add a lot to this book as they really remind me of wood carvings. I recommend this book for anyone looking for books that cross faith traditions in a wonderful way.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

The Berenstain Bear’s Christmas Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Papa Bear’s knack for making things as difficult as possible lends charm to this endearing, timeless Christmas tale about what really matters at Christmas time. Now, if I could just convince my husband to let the Bear’s House decorations rub off on him a little bit. Of course, he would be sure to point out that they live in a tree and we don’t, therefore the justification for their decorating outside. I guess when you grow up in California, you don’t use electricity for such superfluous things as outside house decorations. And Papa Bear would probably generously point out that Christmas isn’t about decorations, it’s a time to think about others. Point well taken.


On the Eighth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

What is Christmas by Michelle Medlock Adams and Illustrated by Amy Wummer


 A lovely little rhyming board book that explains in simple terms the reason for celebrating Christmas – the birth of Christ. It begins by asking questions such as “Is it about the Christmas tree, with all the twinkling lights?” or my favorite “Is it about the mistle-toe, where Mom and Daddy Kiss?”. Towards the end of the book it explains about the birth of Jesus and that while those other things around Christmas time are nice, the best thing about Christmas is Jesus Christ. So if you’re looking for a way to explain the meaning behind Christmas to young children I recommend this book.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

The Backyardigans Jingle Bell Christmas

This is a recent family acquisition that gets lots of love and attention from our young ones. Alternate lyrics to the most sung-by-children-carol, make this book a catchy, sing-songy read. All the characters are heading to a gift exchange and lift-the-flap windows allow you to peak inside the wrapping paper to see what they are giving. The flaps also offer peaks at many other ‘hidden’ Christmas things. Perfect for occupying those little fingers that can hardly wait to open presents.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my True love Read to me . . .

The Night Before Christmas: A Soft to Touch Story

I truly was on the lookout for Christmas books with songs as part of the theme Caroling for Christmas and this adorable book uses the famous song “The Night Before Christmas.” This was one of the first Christmas songs I remember learning as a child and the song has a special place in my memory. It was this poem, later turned into a song that gives us the current round jolly version of Santa that I love so much. My daughters really liked this version as it is a Soft to Touch book meaning  there are soft pieces of fabric to touch on each page.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider, illustrated by Elizabeth J. Miles

I love the illustrations in this thought-provoking story about a tree called Small Pine who is trying to grow up to be the perfect Christmas tree. He doesn’t have the heart to turn away any of the many animals in need of shelter, food, etc.  Consequently, Small Pine almost gets chopped down and thrown away because of his uneven, scruffy branches that displease the Queen. Before it’s too late, though, the Queen notices the evidence all around Small Pine and decides he is the most worthy tree to represent Christmas in her kingdom.


On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

O Holy Night Christmas with the Boys Choir of Harlem pictures by Faith Ringgold


My favorite part besides the illustrations is the accompanying CD of the Harlem’s Boys Choir. My family and I enjoyed listening to their music and each song is also looking at Faith Ringgold’s beautiful illustrations in the book. While listening to the CD and looking at the illustrations I thought that they reminded me a little bit of appliques you might see on a quilt. Come to find out Ms. Ringgold is known internationally for her painted story quilts. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that the pictures depicted the nativity story with Africans as opposed to European looking people. I really liked that and would recommend this book not only for the excellent music, but for it’s multi-cultural value as well.

Please take the time to visit the other people who are participating today – Cat @ Beyond Books, Amy @ My Friend Amy, Cheryl @ The Book Connection and Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies.

What is Christmas? by Michelle Medlock Adams, Illustrated by Amy Wummer

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

After taking a hiatus for a bit, our Double Scoops are back!!!! And we have several more in the works and can’t wait to get them up. So without further delay we bring you . . .

Many of our readers are on Summer vacation right now, and we here at Bookscoops think that A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee is the perfect  book to inspire you to enjoy one of summer’s many adventures- camping! Okay, so we sympathize with those of you who may not completely enjoy this form of vacationing, but it is one of America’s favorite past times, as it is the primary way our great nation was populated- you know those pioneers, who decided to walk all day and camp every night all summer long, until they found a new home to put down their roots? Just be glad that’s not the kind of camping we do today.

Holly: We found this adorable book a few years ago at our local school book fair. The illustrations just sucked us in. Especially since Mr. Magee is the spitting image of my father-in-law, who just so happens to have done a lot of camping in his days.

Cari: The illustrations are very detailed, I really like them.

Holly: There is actually another book starring Mr. Magee called Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee. It looks just as fun and full of magnificent gouache (sounds like squash) illustrations.

Cari: As I read this book I kept thinking that this is a style of art I wouldn’t mind in my own home.

Holly: You want your walls to be illustrated? That might be fun to feel like you were living in a book. . .

Cari: Yes, I would love for my walls to be illustrated! I actually looked on Chris Van Dusen’s website and he has prints for sale. It’s really great children’s art and I think it would be fun to have in a family room or in my dream home with a fabulous library.

Holly: Hmmm . . . or, if you can’t afford the actual prints, maybe you could buy an extra copy of the book to frame your favorite scenes. Am I going to get in trouble for this suggestion? I know people like big, beautiful art on their walls, but sometimes a big frame with a fun mat and a couple of coordinating scenes, is actually more attainable than an expensive print. I think that art in children’s literature is vastly underappreciated as well as underused. How often do you go to the library and see wonderful artwork framed on the walls in the children’s section of the library? You are lucky to have a mural, but for the most part, no art. I think we should start a movement to change this.

Cari: That is an interesting idea.

Holly: Yes, for many years illustrating children’s books has been overlooked as a quality art form. I think the emphasis has been on the author and the illustrator hasoften been an afterthought.

Cari: Don’t forget that there is the Caldecott award.

Holly: Yes, but that is for art in literature circles. I’m talking about art in art circles. I think illustrators deserve more credit- it takes a lot of hard work and talent to bring to life a picture book.

Cari: I think you’re right. I’ll have to give it some more thought. This art is very different from Mo Willems which is very minimalist in its nature. Van Dusen actually chooses to work in gouache so that he can be very detailed in his work. But, back to the story, are you and your family big campers?

Holly: We are not, but I am sure my husband would like us to become big campers. We occasionally go camping, and actually the first family reunion of my husband’s family (just think of me as Mr Magee’s new daughter-in-law) we ever had was a huge camping trip to the Redwoods of California. We had a lot of fun.

Cari: I first thought that this was an old book- you know the old library binding style threw me off and then with the camper actually looking like it came from the 50s, not to mention Mr. Magee and his converse shoes. . .

Holly: That’s what I like about it, because it seemed like it’s set in a simpler happy-go-lucky time.

Cari: I also like the rhyming in it. It introduces new vocabulary like ‘brook’ and trailer ‘hitch’- a great way to teach kids the definitions of words.  To write a whole book in rhyme is a lot of work. It reminded me of Doctor Seuss. Except that people might really consider putting Van Dusen’s illustrations on the wall. I probably wouldn’t with Dr. Seuss.

Holly: Yes, I remember when we reviewed Hiccupotomas and talked to Aaron Zenz- the rhyming text seems to be very difficult to pull off successfully. I really enjoyed the fun rhythm in this book. It almost seems like a talented song writer could put it to lyrics and we could all sing the story around a camp fire.

Cari: It’s a good lesson in why you don’t leave out food for bears. We have had family members encounter bears while camping and the root of it is food that is not properly stored. Bear encounters have been increasing, but I do like how the bear in the book rescues them because he thinks their hitch is a marshmallow.

Holly: Although that’s what got them into trouble in the first place- who would have thought that a nearsighted bear with a penchant for marshmallows could cause such trouble?

Cari: Yes. Reading it aloud is so much fun.

Holly: This book has a dream like quality and those of our readers who actually don’t like camping will be inwardly pleased at the conclusion of the book.

And now for our Trip Down Memory Lane:

As the oldest two in a family of nine children, we have many experiences camping. One summer we actually drove in a big 12 seater Red Ford Club Wagon through as many states as feasible, stopping at KOA camp grounds each night on our way to a family reunion in Missouri. KOA, for those of you who may not know is an international group of full-service campgrounds and an affordable way to vacation. Our first stop was in Wyoming, where our tent was blown over in the middle of the night by a really bad windstorm sweeping across the plains. Legend has it that it was actually a twister that went unreported.

The worst part of our trip was that we camped in Missouri when it looked like a thunder storm was coming. Our tent was an old fashioned canvas monster, and we only had a tarp big enough to cover one side. Our Dad, anticipating the direction of the rain, covered the most important side and we all went to sleep. Unfortunately, the storm circled around and poured on us from the other direction and we woke up to six inches of water in our tent. Our parents were on an air mattress and remained relatively dry along with the baby in the play pen. One brother slept through the whole thing in his wet sleeping bag. But, the rest of us were soaked from head to toe and decided to sleep in the van.

We spent most of the next day drying our sleeping bags out in the camp laundry facilities. All of us kids were thrilled that the KOA supervisor provided us with complimentary donuts in the morning (kids can be so easy to please). But from then on, if there was a cloud in the sky, we skipped the KOA and went straight for the Motel 6 where we jumped all over the beds and fought over the cable television instead of experiencing the great outdoors.

Top 10 Lessons we Learned Camping from Idaho to Missouri:

10. Have everyone sleep on air mattresses not just mom & dad. So if it does flood, everybody has a raft!

9. Check to make sure your tarp covers your tent BEFORE leaving on a camping trip.

8. You can not bring enough mosquite repellent for the mosquitos in Missouri.

7. Rain storms in the mid-west are NOT like rain storms in Western Idaho.

6. 50 States license bingo will only entertain your kids for so long. Bribing your children to be quiet by offering to pay them a penny per windmill they see might empty you of gas money, but at least they will be quiet for a while.

5. Hotels are never TOO expensive when faced with a ‘tornado’.

4.  Sleeping bags work surprisingly well as sponges.

3. Warn your kids about the dangers of Lyme disease from ticks and then shout hysterically every time you see a bug.

2. Never let your kids have a water drinking contest en route to your camping destination or you may never get there.

1. Don’t send the 10 year old to get milk at the KOA grocery, because he will come back with goat’s milk.

What are your favorite camping stories or books about camping?

We’re Buying Books for the Holidays!

We are Buying Books for the Holidays because literacy is something we love and love to promote. Books also happen to be one of our favorite gifts to give and to get because there are so many great ones to choose from! As some of you are very aware, the publishing industry has felt the squeeze of our diminished economy. So, this year even more than last year, your support of books and the book industry as a whole is valuable. We have already filled our checked off Christmas lists with some great books, and asked for a few we really want for ourselves! We still need to make a few more purchases in that arena before we’re through and we hope that all of you are doing the same.

We have some great recommendations here at Bookscoops from books we’ve reviewed this last year that you can check out in our archives to take some of the guesswork out of buying books for those you love. Some of our favorites and most highly recommended books would be our Doublescoops. If you’re looking for some holiday themed books we have our Twelve Days of Christmas Reads from last year when we both reviewed 12 books each. Of course, we can’t cover everything, but we have great links to other reviewer websites, such as Pam at Mother Reader who has 105 Ways to Give a Book and we can’t forget the Buy Books for the Holidays challenge with some great lists and posts featuring independent book sellers for your holiday shopping. Hopefully, with all our help, you’ll be able to find just the right gifts for your loved ones.

Just in case you are an aspiring author, here is a great opportunity over at Writer Unboxed. If you buy books for the holidays you can enter a contest for a chance to win a review of a query letter or the first 5 pages of your manuscript. Generously donated by author Anna Elliott (Twilight of Avalon). Simply email the title of the book and who you bought it for to anna at annaelliottbooks dot com to enter.

If you have a recommendation for a holiday book or a post on your own blog about buying books for the holidays please put the title and or link in the comments.

Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Illustrated by Rosana Faria, Translated by Elisa Amado

Holly: The Black Book of Colors is amazing. I just keep thinking about how amazing it is. Combining English and Braille, does that qualify as bi-lingual? I’m not sure of the right term to use.

Cari: I loved how the author attempted to describe colors without being able to see, I loved it! The words are delicious.

Holly: Hmmm, I would venture to say that yellow tastes like lemon, not mustard, but it could taste like mustard, or lemon or banana. Which I guess are all delicious in their proper setting.

Cari: I really liked that it made you think differently and appreciate maybe what the world is like for someone who can’t see. I thought the author did an excellent job, and I want it in Spanish since it was orginally written in Spanish.

Holly: Really? It was done in Spanish first?

Cari; Yep, some of the other reviews said that the braille isn’t what a blind person really would read, it needs to be more raised. But it makes you think how important tactile books are for children who are blind because that is how they see the world.

Holly: I had my kids read the book with their eyes closed. (Of course, mine were open, so I could read). They wanted to peek so they could see, their favorite was the rain pouring down – they thought that felt like rain.

Cari: We should clarify that all of the pictures are black, they are not in color, The text is grey.

Holly: The most controversial ‘picture’ for us was the one that was hair and my littlest one adamantly insisted  that doesn’t feel like mommy’s hair.

Cari: I loved that part, I thought it felt like hair.

Holly: I thought it felt like hair too, or at least how hair would ‘feel’ like illustrated on paper.

Cari: I wonder what things felt like for Great Grandma B when she went blind?

Holly: She must have been able to tell quite a bit by the limited colors she could see and what she could feel . . .

Cari: . . .because we each got a quilt made especially for us as her great grandchildren.

Holly: Yep. I still have mine. . . but I won’t rub that little fact in or anything.

Cari: Go right ahead. It’s not like we’ve never brought up this subject before.

And now . . . for a trip down memory lane:

One of our favorite shows to watch growing up was Little House on the Prairie. We loved it so much that we actually played Little House on frequent occasions. A monumental day was when Mary Ingalls was actually declared blind. That changed everything. How would we pretend to be Mary if she couldn’t see? Shortly after this episode, we were hanging out with some friends when we decided to play Little House. Cari got to be the fun-loving rambunctious Laura while Holly (enraptured with the beautiful Melissa Sue Anderson) was thrilled to play Mary.

Cari: You can be Mary, Holly, but it has to be Mary before she was blind, you can’t pretend you can’t see, we all know you can see.

Holly: Oh yeah? I can be blind like Mary, I’ll just keep my eyes closed!

Cari: I’ll make a bet with you. If you can keep your eyes closed the whole time, I’ll let you . . .

Holly: What?

Cari: Um, I’m not sure. I guess I’ll let you be in charge next time.

Holly: Okay! Hey guys, do you want to come over to our house? We could all put on pioneer dresses and play Little House on the Prairie

Cari: Yeah, let’s go. I’ll race you there on my bike.

Friend #1: How are we gonna get there if Holly has to have her eyes closed?

Friend #2: Yeah, you can’t ride a bike with your eyes closed!

Holly: You wanna bet? I betcha I can ride my bike all the way to my house without peaking. Not even once.

Cari: All right! The last one there’s the rotten egg!

Holly: That’s not fair! I didn’t say I’d get there fast! Wait for me!!!

Friend # 1: Woah, Cari, look! I think Holly really has her eyes closed.

Friend # 2: Are you really closing your eyes?

Holly: Don’t my eyes look closed? I promise I”m not peeking. (okay, so honesty didn’t always work in my favor when it came to bets with Cari) Keep talking so I can follow your voices.

Cari: Woah! I think she’s really doing it! She must have learned how to tell where she’s going from that one pillowcase game we play. I didn’t know she’d gotten so good.

Holly: See, I told you I could do it. Now, I get to be in charge! Laura, you’re the younger sister so you have to do what I say. Now, go take care of Carrie!

Cari: No, Mary. I’m too busy playing with my friends right now. We’re going to go fishing by the creek! Too bad you’re blind Mary, or maybe you could come with us. See you later!

Holly: Hey! Wait! I’ll be the Mary before she goes blind! I wanna go fishing too. Wait up!

Magnus at the Fire by Jennifer Armstrong, Illustrated by Owen Smith

magnus at the fire

Our Double Scoop for the month of October is Magnus at the Fire. Please note that the picture of the cover is not indicative of the high quality pictures in the book, we just couldn’t seem to find a very in-focus picture to post.

Cari: What did you like about this book?

Holly: The illustrations were my favorite part, they are so vivid and they have a classy, timeless look to them.

Cari: I liked the illustrations a lot too, if I collected story book art – I would want a print from this book. In addition to the illustrations, I liked the story.

Holly: Definitely. I liked the story because it’s not a common one to hear about. When you have a child who likes firetrucks you get stories about firetrucks and firemen and this story goes back before the days of the fire truck.

Cari: I love that this is based in historical fact, but it’s not a non-fiction picture book.

Holly: So does that make it a historical fiction picture book or something?

Cari: I think there is a term for it, but I’m not sure. Do you want to summarize the story a bit?

Holly: After working for several years, the fire station gets a new engine, a motorized version, and Magnus is thereby retired. They put the horses out to pasture with nothing to do. The pasture is next to the firehouse, and Magnus didn’t understand what was going on. The next time there is a fire Magnus jumps the fence and beats the motorized fire truck there and saves the day.

Cari: We should probably clarify that he is a firefighting horse meaning he pulls the steam engine that pumps the water to fight fires. I was trying to figure out what breed he was, because I don’t remember what kind he was.

Holly: I think he was a draft horse. The book says . . . “a mighty gray stallion” . . . at least in the pictures these guys are really big.

Cari: I think you’re right, they may be Percherons, a type of draft horse – they are beautiful animals. Fire fighting horses were trained so that when a fire bell rang, a harness would come down and their stall door would open and then they were ready to  pull the steam engine that would pump water to fight fires, which could weigh several thousand pounds. I guess Magnus had been trained really well because he didn’t bolt when he smelled the smoke.

Holly: What attracted us to the book in the first place was the picture of the stallion on the front. When we discovered it was about fire, I thought it would be a nice way to introduce the topic of fire safety without making it scary.

Cari: Makes sense. Isn’t October Fire Safety Month?

Holly: It sure is! We encourage all our readers to take some time to check their smoke detectors, talk to your children about fire safety and have a family evacuation plan. My 6 year old gives me a fire safety tip he’s learned at school almost every night as he heads to bed. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your kids what they learned in school about fire safety.

Now for Our Trip Down Memory Lane – Fire Drill

So a lot of our family vacations had a few common themes besides being crammed in a van for hours on end – our mom would usually have a stash of candy in her purse. The trick was to get front seat privileges (like volunteer to swap seats with Dad so he can take a nap or volunteer to take care of the baby to get free access). Of course this worked best while Mom was driving, but you did have to time it right to make sure your hand didn’t happen to be in there at the same time as hers.

We often spent time at our grandparent’s farm in Rupert, Idaho on the Snake River. At the time of this story Cari is 15 and Holly 14. Our dad happened to have taken the two oldest boys to Scout Camp. What does a mother, with 6 remaining kids and no husband do? She packs up the family van, along with the dog, invites the neighbor boy, because there just don’t seem to be enough people already, and we set out to spend a few days at a partially complete farm home in Rupert, Idaho. At this point, Cari would rather have spent time at home with friends, but being as they were busy on vacation she didn’t put up too much of a fuss.

Fire Safety Tip #1: The partially completed home was that way because it burned down in a fire a few years previously- due to a problem with the chimney, while there were renters living there. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but please consider this a reminder to get your chimneys cleaned out!!!

After a few days basically camping in a wood shell structure, we are about to head home.

Fire Safety Tip #2: The neighbor boy burned his foot by walking through hot coals without shoes on. Always wear your shoes around fires, and watch for hot coals. Don’t walk through extinguished fire pits, they might still be hot!

Cari: Ooh, I get to sit in the front of the van, I am the oldest (but my real reason is Mom has a stash of M&Ms in her purse and it’s not like she can supervise terribly well while driving if you know what I mean. . .)

Holly: I’ll sit next to the baby (and the M&Ms)!

Cari: I cannot wait to get home to take a real shower, Rupert is a lot better than it used to be at least we have flushable toilets, but seriously people stink!

15 minutes Later

Holly: A few M&Ms later. . . Mom what’s that white stuff coming out the back of the van?

Mom: Oh, um, I think we need to stop.

Cari: That looks like smoke, is that smoke?

Mom pulls to the side of the road, clouds of white stuff coming out from under the hood.

Holly: Is the van on fire?

Mom: I have no idea just get out of the van, EVERYBODY OUT!!!!

Cari: Everybody! Away! From! The! van!

(Imagine a circus act here, where people continually exit the vehicle and you can’t possibly figure out how they all fit in there in the first place)

Meanwhile a semi-truck driver pulls up behind us, a skinny guy with a mustache, hops down from his cab and hauls over to us as fast as his legs will carry him. Our rescuer has arrived wielding a bright red fire extinguisher.

Fire Safety Tip#3 It’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your home, boat and your car isn’t a bad place either, just make sure you know how to use it and maintain it.

Semi driver: Is it on fire? Is it on fire?

Everybody dazed and unsure- lots of shrugging shoulders.

Mom: We don’t know . . .

Cari:  Hey, does anyone hear sirens? Oh my goodness, look! There’s a red pick-up on the frontage road. Great this is so embarrassing not to mention we really stink.

Holly: I see a green fire engine!

Brother #3 – Wow that is so cool a fire truck, Mom is that a fire engine?

Semi-truck driver tries to lift up the hood, burns his hand, so grabs a rag and then opens the hood ready to take on any flames. . . There’s no fire! It’s only steam! You blew a hose lady!

Fire Safety Tip#4 Use something to protect your hands when touching hot surfaces, there’s a reason fire fighters wear gloves.

Everyone: Phew! We’re not about to be blown to kingdom come.

Farmer from the pick-up leans over the fence:  Are you guys alright? Is there a fire?

Mom: No, just a lot of steam, thank goodness!

Farmer: Good, I was working in my fields and I saw some smoke. I’m a volunteer fire-fighter so I radioed for the fire engine and thought I’d meet it here. Glad no one is hurt!

One of our brothers worked as volunteer firefighter in New York - Apparently this experience had a positive effect.

Woor wrooo – wroo – wrooo Arrives the fire truck

Cari: Great here come more people, are you kidding me? this will be a great story to NOT tell people.

Farmer: Well, I’ll call you a tow truck, you just be careful now.

Mom: Everybody back in the van, and be sure to put on your seat belts just in case someone hits us or something..

Meanwhile – sitting in the van for about an hour, in the heat of summer with our seat belts on- just in case. A few more M&Ms later . . .

Holly: The tow truck’s here! Finally!

Cari: Yes, we can’t seem to have a family vacation without one. (Some of our earliest memories on vacation happen to be in tow trucks, not sure exactly how many times).

Tow Truck Driver: Okay so let me get this straight: You have 7 kids and a dog? Hmmm, well it’s not exactly safe to have you travel in the van while I’m towing you, company regulations you know.

Mom: Well, we’ll manage somehow. I think we could all fit in the tow truck, except the dog.

(If you thought we looked like a clown circus act coming out of the van, you should have seen us load up in the tow truck)

Cari: Are you kidding me?

Holly: Well, we are related to Grandpa B- the ultimate in packing lots of things in small places.

Cari: (Rolling eyes) I guess since I am the shortest big person here you’re gonna make me sit next to the driver.

Mom: Yes! Now get in the truck. With all the gears you are the best person, you have the shortest legs you know, but you’ll only have to hold the youngest on your lap. Holly you get the neighbor boy and brother #3, I’ll take brothers 4&5.

Holly: (rolling eyes- there’s nothing comfortable about having your younger brother’s friend, who has a ‘secret’ crush on you, sit on your lap).  Fine, I’ll do anything to get out of this terrible heat.

Cari: Well, at least you don’t have to worry about being jammed by gears (and you’re closer to the M&Ms, darn it! I can’t reach those M&MS.)

We arrived at Twin Falls, Idaho and found out that our van would take a lot more work to repair then we had time for. We decided to rent a mini van to go home in. Only one problem. All the rental agencies were maxed out. Not even a car to rent. Why? Because of all the wild fires in Sun Valley, Idaho- Home of the rich and famous.

Fire Safety Tip #4: Don’t try to rent a car when there are wild fires where rich people live- you won’t have enough money, and the cars will be already taken anyway).

Twin Falls is the nearest airport to Sun Valley, so of course there was nothing available at any rental agency within any reasonable distance whatsoever. Luckily, the really nice tow truck guy convinced a dealership to let us rent a mini-van to go home in. After hauling around a circus in his tow truck, he was overcome with gratitude for the free entertainment. Right!?!

Note: We do not promote driving with kids on your lap as a safe alternative to a seat belts/car seats. We realize that any number of things could have happened to us resulting in injury and our grateful that none of us received any lasting affects beyond wanting to take candy and a cell phone on every road trip.

Jennifer Armstrong’s Website

What are some of you favorite road trip stories or books about fire?

Announcing the Winner of the Hiccupotamus Giveaway!

hiccupotomasA great big thanks to all who entered and made comments on our interview with Aaron Zenz and/or our Double Scoop for the Hiccupotamus! We enjoyed learning about your favorite hippo and hiccup memories. Now, without further ado, we announce our winner: Kelly Ann T.

Congratulations! This is an excellent book and we hope you enjoy!

The contest has officially ended. We will keep the comments open so feel free to continue to make comments, but you won’t be eligible to enter the giveaway.

Author Interview with Aaron Zenz and a Signed Book Giveaway!

Holly and Cari are tickled pink to introduce to you Aaron Zenz, author and illustrator of book The Hiccupotamus. Our Double Scoop review of Hiccupotamus is here. Aaron has illustrated several books including Beware the Tickle Monster, Nascar 123 and an Early Reader series with Howie the Dog. He and his three oldest kids also do a weekly post at Bookie Woogie where they discuss books and then share their fan art. Bookie Woogie also happens to be one of our ‘favoritest’ blogs so without further ado here is the fun, the zany, and really cool guy . . . the Hiccupotamus . . .  um we mean Aaron Zenz.

aaronzenz_headAaron please tell us a little about yourself so our readers can get to know you?

Hello, readers.  How are you?  I’m just fine, thank-you.  My name is Aaron Zenz, and I am many things.  Husband to Amity.  Father of 5.  Lover of fruit.  My working life has included stints as a graphic designer, computer game designer, toy designer, graphic recorder, elementary & high school art teacher, college instructor, and lawn mower.  But you are probably most interested in my role as Author/Illustrator.  I’ve had the pleasure of working on 10 children’s picture books.  For nine of those books I illustrated other folks’ wonderful ideas, and for one I was author and illustrator.  That book, “The Hiccupotamus,” was both my first book AND my most recent… that is, it was picked up by a new publisher for re-release this month, and we’re celebrating that here at “Book Scoops” today – hooray!

Glad you could be here today at Bookscoops – where did you get your idea for The Hiccupotamus?

It all started out with an actual case of the hiccups.  I was at my parents’ house — home from college over a weekend — and had the hiccups.  I am known for random punning; the word “hiccupotamus” popped into my mind, and I was trying to think of a riddle in which to use it as a punchline.  But instead of a riddle, a poem just fell out of my mouth: “There was a hiccupotamus who hiccupped quite a-lot-amus, and every time he got’emus he’d fall upon his bottomus.”  After my first reaction (which was “where did that come from?”) my second thought was, “that sounds like a children’s book.” So I jotted it down into a sketchbook.  I didn’t think about it again until a year or so later when I was taking a college class for teachers about using children’s books in the classroom.  At the end of the term the professor had everyone take a shot at writing their own story.  I thought back to that snippet and figured I had a good start, so I pounded out additional verses over the weekend.  And thus my first draft was born.  Over the next 8 years I tinkered with the rhyme, trying to get it right.  Very little of that initial draft remains in the finished version — except for that first verse which is virtually untouched.

Who knew the hiccups could be so inspirational – annoying sure, but inspirational not as much. We’ve really enjoyed how well the text and illustrations work together in your book.  Do you have a preference for writing or illustrating?

It’s hard for me to distinguish the writing from the illustrating.  When I’m crafting my own ideas, everything comes at once.  Characters and their worlds float around in my head, and I simply have to get them down onto paper – sometimes that requires words, sometimes it requires pictures.  For me, the two actions feel very similar.  The part of the whole process I most enjoy is the conceptualizing.  When it eventually comes to solidifying actual words or forming the final art, then it feels like work.  I love the dreaming, the plotting, the hatching, the designing.

Aaron's Workplace - Where books are born!
Aaron's Workplace - Where books are born!

We love learning how artists put their work together and what a fun work room! What audience do you enjoy writing for most?

I really enjoy working for kids.  And working with kids.  My tastes have never evolved with age.  I still love Sesame Street.  I still collect toys.  My parents joke during the holidays because they can shop for me and my children in the same aisles.

Draft Spread

The Hiccupotamus uses rhyming and not in a way one might expect, can you tell us a little about your experience in writing a rhyming text?

Rhyming in general isn’t much trouble — but for this PARTICULAR book, it was a hideous battle. As I said earlier, it took eight years to get this rhyme to work.  The first verse came so naturally.  Effortlessly.  Almost accidentally.  Deceptively easy.  But in reality, it was a very difficult scheme, and nearly impossible to find other words that would fit the pattern.  The first line of each verse had to end with a word whose emphasis fell on the third to last syllable (hip-po-POT-a-mus) and there aren’t that many in the English language.  I went through a dictionary and got them all to fit on one sheet.  Then that magic syllable had to have three rhyming words.  So even if I found a good start, like, e-lec-TRIC-i-ty, what’s going to rhyme?  “Bliss”… uh, “swiss”… um, “abyss”???   And if I did manage to find three, they all had to make sense in a storyline together.  Swiss abyss?  I think not.  Folks will have to check out the final story to judge whether I managed to pull it off…

Wow what a lot of work! Can you tell us about your path to publication?

Over the eight years of working on the story, I showed that college mock-up to lots of different people.  Years later, a couple of those people happened to be starting their own publishing company.  They remembered my draft and contacted me to see if I would “let” them publish it as their first book.  I had to think about that for all of two seconds and said yes!  So unfortunately I don’t have woeful tales about shopping it around for years and years — rather I had a publisher come looking for me.  The book came out in 2005, however the company didn’t last long at all.  Years later, a fellow from Marshal Cavendish who loved the book was trying to get a hold of that first publisher to obtain rights to release it as a board book or a paperback.  The original publisher was gone of course, but he finally tracked me down, and I let him know there was actually still real interest in the initial hardcover version.  So here we are in 2009 with a wonderful re-release!

That’s a story you don’t hear every day. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors/illustrators?

Another Spread

Wait for publishers to come to you.  Noooooooooo… of course not.  But there is something to say for being well-connected.  I myself am not “WELL” connected, but of the opportunities I have had, many have come about because of the few personal ties I do have.  So take lots of jobs.  Do good work.  Leave good impressions.  A low-paying, non-glamorous assignment may not have much reward in itself, but when done wholeheartedly it may kick-off something spectacular later on down life’s road.

Definitely seems like your hard work is paying off with the re-release of Hiccupotamus. We both want to check out Beware the Tickle Monster as well. It seems like most of us have people that inspire us, are there any authors or illustrators that you look to for inspiration?

Oh lands.  Oh mercy.  I could go on all day.  I’m inspired by so many talented folks.  N. C. Wyeth, Winsor McCay, Glen Keane… those are some big ones.  As far as children’s book authors and illustrators who do consistently good work, I look forward to every new release from David Wiesner, Eric Rohmann, Adam Rex, Peter McCarty, and P. J. Lynch to name a few…

Final Spread

We know from following your blog, Bookie Woogie that your kids are waaaaayyyy into books do you have any advice to parents about building a life-long  love of literacy?

Love books yourself.  Model it.  Have books around — in every room of the house.  Make trips to the library into “an event.”  Go for a walk and start in such a place so the library can be the big surprise destination.  Read to your kids daily.  Talk books.  Draw books.  Eat books.  Wear books.  In our house we went to the extreme of throwing out the television.  Set it right out there on the curb and watched the garbage man haul it away.  Best thing we ever did.

Wear books! Hah, not sure we have heard of that one before, but we like the basic premise about surrounding kids with books and opportunities to go the library. We heard a rumor that your family has quite the book collection as in 3,000 books. Obviously you have a passion for books, where did your passion come from?

A portion of the 3,000 books

That 3,000 consists of just the children’s books by the way.  We have countless books beyond that as well.  A friend of mine and I have talked about this often: one of the saddest things ever is a house without books.  There are people you’ll visit, and when you look around there’s not a single book in sight.  Our house is far from sad!  Full of stories.  Reading a book is a peek into another person’s head, into their heart.  Books are rich, diverse experiences — slices of people’s lives tucked between pages.  Through books you connect in intimate ways with people you’ll never meet otherwise.  And books are long-lasting.  If you watch an hour of television, after that hour the program is over with nothing to show for it.  If you spend 20 bucks on food, you eat it and it’s gone.  But a book is a physical treasure — you can hold in your hand.  You can turn to it repeatedly.  It’s something that can follow your travels for the rest of your life… both on your shelves and in your personal make-up.  Not many things in life can do all that.  Books are pretty wonderful.  It’s an honor to have had my hand in making some.

If we could only make sure all children had books in their homes, we wonder what this world would be like? Happier that’s for sure. Speaking of children, as you know at Bookscoops we like to talk about our childhood memories with the books we review for our Double Scoop feature so we wondered what is your favorite childhood memory involving reading?

I really only have one specific memory of reading:  I vividly recall the first time I realized you didn’t have to speak out loud while reading — that people could read in their heads.  That was quite a revelation. The rest of my memories are vague in detail but strong in emotion. I remember a sense of magic while reading the Chronicles of Narnia.  And I’m not referring to the magic contained in the storylines.  But rather the giddy awe of falling into the story.  It was thrilling.  It was a very particular emotion, one I don’t think we have a word for, but an emotion that I remember perfectly.  The characters and worlds seemed so alive.  I think it’s one of the few times I really felt transported to another place through the pages of a book.  And being the Chronicles of Narnia, that’s rather fitting. The Phantom Tollbooth was the first book that I just couldn’t put down.  I read it all in one sitting and was shocked at myself afterward.  I also adored The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Time Machine.  But it was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles that had the strongest hold on my imagination.  I lived in those books.  They had a huge effect on my lifelong tastes and tendencies, and they shaped my writing style as well.

It’s been marvelous fun as an adult to now knock these off one by one, reading them all over again with my own kids.

What fun memories. We are both big fans of the Chronicles of Narnia as well. Thank you, Aaron, for spending time with us today. It’s been fun and we’ve enjoyed getting to know the creative personality behind The Hiccupotamus.

To see other stops on the blog tour visit Bookie Woogie for full details and another fantastic giveaway done by Aaron (no really it’s good as in 10 books good and the blog is excellent too so please go visit).

Bookscoops Giveaway Details

The lucky winner will receive, not one, but two signed copies of Hiccupotamus, one for you and one for a friend. This giveaway ends on September 19, 2009 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 regarding hippos or hiccups 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 Aaron Zenz for one entry
  4. Leave a comment about your favorite rhyming book on our Doublescoop of the Hiccupotamus for one entry
  5. If we made you laugh at any point during out interview or Doublescoop tell us for another entry.

*****Please note that all pictures in this post are used with permission and are copyrighted in other words you can’t usethem without Aaron’s permission.*******