I’m My Own Dog Blog Tour: Five Questions with David Ezra Stein

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: August 5, 2014

Recommended Grades: Pre-K-3

My eight year old, Chloe, and I were very excited to receive I’m My Own Dog, the new book from David Ezra Stein (Caldecott Honor Winner for Interrupting Chicken). As dog owners we were doubly excited!

9780763661397 I’m My Own Dog is an adorable book about a dog whom no one owns.  He is his own dog, he fetches his own slippers and gives himself a good scratch, he certainly doesnt need an owner.  Until one day he lets someone scratch that one spot in the middle of his back. . .

As the last stop on his blog tour, David Ezra Stein stopped by Literacy Toolbox to answer “Five Questions with. . . “ After reading I’m My Own Dog, Chloe wrote the questions, and was so excited to receive answers back from David.  Here is her interview below:

What encouraged/inspired you to write and illustrate I’m My Own Dog?

Hi Dawn! Hi Chloe! I guess I was interested in exploring how we as people like to be alone and in control of our lives, but we also need someone special, like a friend, to make life worth living. The dog is a perfect character to do this with, since dogs almost always have a person around. But not this dog! Not at first, anyway.

How long did it take you to write and illustrate I’m My Own Dog?

10 minutes to do the original drawing that it was based on, of a dog walking himself. Then a year passed. Then about 20 minutes to jot down the voice of the dog when I started to hear it in my head. Then about 2 years passed. Then two or three months to work out the whole story and the rough picture ideas. Then two months to figure out what the dog would look like, and what technique to use for the final art. Then about a month and a half to do the final art. I would add all that up, but my paws don’t have enough fingers.


What gave you the idea to write a book from a dog’s point of view?

As I mentioned, a dog is the perfect character to use when writing a story about independence and friendship. But really, I wrote it that way because it was the dog’s voice that began telling me the story.

At what age did you begin writing and illustrating?

I’ve been making up stories since before I could write. I used to tell them to my sister and also record them in a tape recorder. I don’t know when I started drawing, probably age 2 or earlier.

Who were your favorite authors and illustrators when you were growing up?  How did they inspire you?

Some of my favorite authors: Dr. Seuss, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Sesame Street writers, Madeleine L’Engle, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Adams. Some of my favorite artists (Many are also favorite writers): Herge (Tintin), Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Persian-miniature painters, Charles Schultz (Peanuts), Robert McCloskey, Richard Scarry, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Ernest Shephard (Winnie the Pooh).

Thank you so much David for stopping by Literacy Toolbox!  And thank you to Candlewick Press for this opportunity!

Find David Ezra Stein around the web:DavidEzraStein_Color

Website: http://www.davidezra.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Ezra-Stein/247841714647


Please check out the other blogs that were part of this blog tour and see what David had to share with them:

  1. 11/3/2014 Smart Books for Smart Kids
  2. 11/4/2014 Read Now, Sleep Later
  3. 11/5/2014 Cracking the Cover
  4. 11/6/2014 Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
  5. 11/7/2014 The Fourth Musketeer
  6. 11/8/2014 Picture Book Palooza
  7. 11/9/2014 Randomly Reading
  8. 11/10/2014 Children’s Corner
  9. 11/11/2014 Flowering Minds
  10. 11/12/2014 Teach Mentor Texts
  11. 11/13/2014 KidLit Frenzy


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

©2014 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Giveaway! Guinea Dog 3 by Patrick Jennings

Ages 8-12

Publication Date: August 5, 2014

“Youngsters will eagerly jump in for another fast, fun read.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Another cute and laugh-out-loud entry in the series.”—School Library Journal

My 8 year old is a fan of the Guinea Dog series, so we said we would love to be part of the giveaway of the newest in the series: Guinea Dog 3!  Scroll down and complete the Rafflecopter to enter the Giveaway!!   

An award-winning, hilariously funny middle-grade series about guinea pigs who act like other pets will move its author, Patrick Jennings, into the ranks of much-loved writers, such as Louis Sachar and Andrew Clements.

When Rufus, Murphy, Lurena, and their pets go camping, they meet Pedro, a shy boy who seems afraid of just about everything–especially the water. One thing leads to another and the kids go into a nearby town to buy him a pet to cheer him up–a guinea pig, naturally. Yet what they bring home may look like a guinea pig, but it can swim–like an otter!

Guinea Dog has appeared not only on many state lists, but on county and school district lists as well. Here are just some of its appearances: Hawaii NeNe Award Nominee, Washington State Sasquatch Award Nominee, Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Honor, Florida Sunshine State Master List, Kansas Winner of the William Allen White Award, Colorado Children’s Book Award Nominee, New Hampshire Great Stone Face Award Master List, and Texas’s Cy-Fair Horned Toad Tales List.

Thank you to Egmont Publishers for the give away!

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©2014 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Blog Tour: Minion by John David Anderson


I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for Minion, the companion book to Sidekicked, both by John David Anderson.  I had the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for Sidekicked last year and it was so much fun. Today, I have a feature post about Minion and a signed book giveaway!  Make sure to sign up for the giveaway at the end of this post! 

MINION by John David Anderson

Published by Walden Pond Press

June 24, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0062133113


John David Anderson returns to the world of superheroes he created in Sidekicked with an entirely new cast of characters in Minion, a funny and emotional companion to his first breakout tween novel—perfect for superhero fans who also love the work of bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Louis Sachar, and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Michael Morn might be a villain, but he’s really not a bad guy. When you live in New Liberty, known across the country as the City without a Super, there are only two kinds of people, after all: those who turn to crime and those who suffer. Michael and his adoptive father spend their days building boxes—special devices with mysterious abilities—which they sell to the mob at a price. They provide for each other, they look out for each other, and they’d never betray each other.

But then a Super comes to town, and Michael’s world is thrown into disarray. The Comet could destroy everything Michael and his dad have built, the safe and secure life they’ve made for themselves. And now Michael and his father face a choice: to hold tight to their life or to let it unravel.


John David Anderson writes novels for young people and then, occasionally, gets them published. Besides Minion, he is the author of Sidekicked, and Standard Hero Behavior. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He enjoys hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, making board games, chocolate, not putting away his laundry, watching movies, and chocolate. Those aren’t his real teeth.

To find out more: www.johndavidanderson.org

Literacy Toolbox is the last stop on the blog tour this year.  Check out the other blogs who were part of the tour here:

June 23 Maria’s Melange

June 24 The Library Fanatic

June 25 The Next Best Book

June 26 Jean Book Nerd

June 27 Book Egg

June 28 Word Spelunking Book Blog

June 30 Ms. Yingling Reads

July 1     The Book Monsters

July 2     The Book Monsters

July 3     Read Now, Sleep Later

July 6 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

July 7 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

July 8 Candace’s Book Blog

July 9 Middle Grade Mafioso

July10 Librarian’s Quest

July 11 Unleashing Readers

July 12 Trisha Perry

July 14 This Kid Reviews Books

July 16 Charlotte’s Library

Thank you to Walden Pond Press for coordinating this blog tour and giveaway! Find Walden Pond Press on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest!

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©2014 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Review: The Zoo is Closed Today! by Evelyn Beilenson

Publisher: Peter Pauper Press

Publication Date: June 5, 2014

Recommended Grades: Pre-K-2

Sue and John walk to the Kalama Zoo, but when they arrive, they are in for a big surprise. The zoo is closed until further notice. But, why?

Evelyn Beilenson takes readers on a super cute and fun rhyming walk through the closed zoo as we learn that all of the animals are sick. After my eight year old read The Zoo is Closed Today! she declared that she really liked, “the personification of each animal.” Edward the Elephant has a cold, Freddy the Fox has sunburn, and poor Zeke the Zebra came down with the flu. As Pete the zookeeper introduces Sue and John to each animal and their illness, children learn compassion and friendship through an entertaining story. Anne Kennedy’s illustrations are bright and lively and are sure to bring joy to readers on their walk through the zoo.


Did you know that July 20th-July 26th is National Zookeeper Week? Read The Zoo is Closed Today! and then visit your local zoo to honor the zookeepers!  Here are Ten Fun Facts About Zoos and Zookeepers to share with your child!

Zoo - Fun Facts copy

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

©2014 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Peter Panda Melts Down by Artie Bennett

Publisher: Blue Apple

Publication Date: February 11, 2014

Recommended Grades: Pre-K-2

Peter Panda is a typical three year old. He goes about his day with Mama Panda, but there are many instances throughout the day that cause melt-downs. What happens at the end of the day when Mama has had it?

This is the third book by Artie Bennett and a little different from his first two, The Butt Book and Poopendous! Peter Panda Melts Down is the story of three year old Peter and his inevitable melt downs during the day. Mothers of toddlers will relate! Written in rhyme, Peter Panda Melts Down is similar to Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney in both content and style. My children have loved both of Mr. Bennett’s first books and Peter Panda isn’t any different. This is a fun read aloud at the end of a long day with a toddler.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

©2014 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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The Little Woman Wanted Noise by Val Teal

Publisher: The New York Review Children’s Collection

Publication Date: Re-Release September 24, 2013

Recommended Grades: Pre-K-2

The big city brings about plenty of noise and the little woman loves it!  However, when she is left a farm in the country by her cousin who has moved to Australia, the little woman has no peace of mind because it is just too quiet.  So she begins to fill her farm with many noisy farm animals.  However, even this doesn’t make the woman happy.  It isn’t until a trip into the city, where she happens to find that one special thing, that makes her farm feel like home.

The Little Woman Wanted Noise will make a great read-aloud for primary age children, who will love the animal sounds in the book.  Illustrated by Robert Lawson, the award winning illustrator of The Story of Ferdinand and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the illustrations are especially charming and provide details children will enjoy pointing out.  The story lends itself nicely to a discussion of story elements, in particular helping children determine the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  This story has withstood the test of time and children today will enjoy it just as much as children in the 1940’s, when it was first published.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

©2013 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Sidekicked Blog Tour, Author Guest Post, and Giveaway

Sidekicked - Blog Tour Banner

Several weeks ago I reviewed the book Sidekicked by John David Anderson.  Today, as part of his blog tour, John David Anderson stopped by Literacy Toolbox to share his hilarious thoughts on his writing process. Check out the Walden Pond Press Blog for other stops on the tour and be sure to sign up for the giveaway at the end of this post.  

On the Complex Interrelationship Between Organic Literary Composition, Cinnamon Flavored Candies, and Hairballs OR How I Write 

Writing is a process.

My summer reading, Sidekicked by John David Anderson

My summer reading, Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Personally I would like it better if it weren’t as involved. If it were sudden, like an explosion. Or something regurgitative: Wake up. Make some awful hairball-chucking sound, hack hack hack hu-RURRRK! And voila: freshly vomited novel. I would get a lot more done. Like cleaning up the real hairballs left by my real, non-novel-writing cat.

But writing’s not that simple. It’s more like constructing a roller coaster that you are never going to ride because by the time you are done planning, zoning, building, testing, demolishing, rebuilding, testing again, painting, licensing, and promoting the darn thing, you are sick of looking at it. You just hope other people go along for the ride. And that it doesn’t make them throw up either.

Of course every writer’s metaphor is different, as is their process. So here, starting from birth and condensed into about a thousand words, is mine.

Step 1: Get born. This is the grossest part, so we will skip the details.

Step 2: Spend formative years (say, the first thirty) reading thousands of books by authors infinitely more-talented than yourself. This will grant you the crucial realization that you will probably never be in Norton’s Anthology of Awesome Writerly Types and provide you with the proper perspective: A daily affirmation that you write, not to become rich and famous, but to afford replacement socks and entertain your six fans.

Step 3: Spend some additional time (say, five or six hours) reading books by people markedly less-talented than you. This will provide you with the prerequisite ego boost that will keep you going. (The caffeine will do the rest.)

Step 4: Experiment. Not with, like, dead bodies and stuff (though that would be cool), but with your chosen craft. Try poetry. Realize you suck at poetry. Try short stories. Realize that they don’t call three hundred page short stories “short stories”. Try contemporary adult literary fiction. Realize that’s too much to say at dinner parties (“I write mostly contemporary adult literary fiction, or CALF. What do you do?”). Instead decide to write kid’s books because they are a lot more fun and easier to say. Also while you are experimenting, try to find your voice. Mine is “Smart-alecky with just a hint of didacticism.”

Step 5: Spend precisely thirty seconds drawing free hand. This will be enough to convince you that you cannot do picture books. Go back to your three hundred page short stories.

Step 6: You are finally ready to begin writing (for real this time, not the stuff you were doing in Step 3. Step 3 is a phase. It’s like puberty, but with fewer zits), but you need an idea. Unfortunately you finished Step 1 already, so you know that every good idea has already been taken. You also realize that every good idea was then taken again. And again. And again. Repurposed and retrofitted, altered to tap into zeitgeists and marketing segments. Once you come to grips with the fact that there really only are a dozen good stories out there, you only need to figure out how you will give them your own spin. Choose “smart-alecky with a pinch of contemporary relevance.”

Step 7: Seek inspiration from the world around you. Realize that you will spend most of your life doing this. Use it to your advantage. When your wife catches you watching TV, browsing websites, reading comics, inspecting the fuzz between your toes, or sleeping in the middle of the backyard you were supposed to mow, tell her you are “seeking inspiration”. It will work the first two times.

Step 8: Gather fuel. To be perfectly honest (and PG 13) for many of our greatest authors this comes in the form of copious amounts of alcohol if not heavier substances. However, there are alternatives. I prefer Diet Coke, pretzel rods, and atomic fireballs, and yes, I have consumed all three simultaneously without my head exploding.

Step 9: Fire up the old desktop (nicknamed “Dinosaur”), open Word, and appreciate the blankness for a moment. A blank piece of paper or a white screen is almost religious in its implications. A holy sacrament. Just think of the possibilities! It could be anything! A sprawling historical romance! A sprawling postmodern revisionist fairy tale! A sprawling political satire told from the point of view of ink pens in the magical realist tradition! A book about cats!

Step 10: This weighty epiphany in hand, write your first sentence, completely ruining the moment. You know almost nothing about cats.

Step 11: Pause after a couple of pages or so and think back to all the things you learned about writing in high school, namely the need for a plan or an outline. Consider the merits of having your plot mapped out, your characters sharply defined, your Fireballs pre-unwrapped for ease of mouth-pop-in-ability. Ruminate on how beautiful it would be to have the slightest freaking clue where this project of yours is headed. Then shrug your shoulders and continue to type with wild abandon and almost no sense of direction. For yours is an organic art. Growing rampant like the weeds in your unmowed yard.

Step 12: Get another Diet Coke. Briefly wonder how much phosphoric acid is good for a person. 

Step 13: Argh! Pothole! Can’t think of a name for this new character. Call her “blah blah” and move on. You’ll think of something later.

Step 14: Roadblock! Can’t find the words to describe this town your protagonist stumbled upon. Write: “the village was blah blah blah” and move on.

Step 15: Forcefield! At a total loss for what Chapter Four should even be about. Write “blah…blah blah…blah blah blah blah.” The ellipses will let you know that there are actually several pages missing here. But that’s all right, because you are smokin’. No sense stopping now for something as minor as a chapter.

Step 16: Drink water because it’s better for you. Chase it with another Diet Coke. Think you should maybe build something cool out of Diet Coke cans, like a pyramid, or a bigger pyramid.

Step 17: Find the zone. Watch your own fingers tap dance on the keyboard as though they were independent organism with tiny little brains of their own, just clacking away. Whistle at yourself appreciatively as the word count in the bottom left of the screen shoots up, like so many quarters spilling out of a slot machine. You’ve written 3,000 words today!

Step 18: Take a moment to bask smugly in your productivity. Wipe your brow even though you work in a climate controlled environment and have been sitting in the same place for four hours and don’t actually have a drop of sweat on you. Think of how wonderful it is to be a writer. To have the privilege of just sitting here making stuff up for other people to read.

Step 19: Notice the word “blah” on your screen: the color of a minor character’s eyes that you think you might have mentioned before but need to double check. Now curious, do a Find and Replace on the word “Blah.” Realize that half of your 3,000 words are actually “blah”. No worries. It will give you something to do tomorrow.

Step 20: Recycle Diet Coke cans. Now you’ve saved the world as well. What a day. But it’s not over yet. There is still plenty of time to engage in a little number 7. Grab a book from number 2 and head out to the backyard. You still have thirty minutes before you have to pick up the kids from school and the muses of the hammock are calling to you.

About the Author

John David Anderson is the author of Sidekicked and Standard Hero Behavior. He is drinking Diet Coke even as he writes this and really likes to blah blah blah. You can find out more about him at www.johndavidanderson.org or on Facebook at JohnDavidAndersonAuthor.Dave Anderson - Photo2 - Resize


Walden Pond Press is offering a SIGNED, HARDCOVER GIVEAWAY of Sidekicked to one lucky Literacy Toolbox reader!  All you have to do is comment below – please tell me why you think you would like the book for a child in your life, or how you might use John David Anderson’s guest post on his writing process in your classroom.  The contest period will run from July 16th until 11:59 p.m EST on July 23rd.  US residents only, please.  The giveaway recipient will be chosen randomly using random.org and contacted by email within 48 hours of the end of the contest. 

Walden Pond Press is also running a Facebook giveaway until the end of the month called The Sidekicked Summer of Superheroes Sweepstakes. Giveaways include an e-reader of the winner’s choice, a selection of superhero-themed e-books and signed copies of Sidekicked.


Thank you to Walden Pond Press for coordinating this blog tour and giveaway! Find Walden Pond Press on Twitter and Facebook!

Disclosure: All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Publication Date: June 25, 2013

Recommended Grades: 4-8

“Andrew Bean might be part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds.”

Possessed with super senses, Andrew is able to hone his super power during H.E.R.O. meetings in a secret location in his middle school. His superhero mentor, a former legend, spends more time sitting in bars than fighting crime. And then a super-villain long thought dead returns to the city. Middle school is already hard; it’s only harder with superpowers!

A fast paced, fun read, boys and girls looking for an adventure to read this summer, should look no further! Sidekicked has it all: twists and turns, mystery and intrigue

I’m excited to be a part of John David Anderson’s blog tour!  Come back to  Literacy Toolbox on July 16th and learn all about his writing process!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

©2013 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Open This Book by Jesse Klausmeier

A fun book by debut author, Jesse Klausmeier, that celebrates the power of books and friendship. 

What will you find when you (read) Open This Little Book?  One surprise after another.  An entertaining and interactive read, children will want to open the book again and again.  Read more about Jesse Klausmeier at the Watch. Connect. Read. blog where Mr. Schu expertly interviewed her.  Jesse began work on this book when she was five years old!  Don’t believe me?  Read the interview!  And check out the book trailer, because my review can not do it justice.  You really must see it for yourself.  This is a special book that children really should have the opportunity to experience themselves!

©2013 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Share a Story, Shape a Future: Literacy the First Five Years Day Five

Logo Created by Elizabeth Dulemba

This week we celebrate Share a Story, Shape a FutureThe theme this year is, “Literacy: The First Five Years.”  As part of Day 5, “Look Mom, I Can Read”, I share the following post: 

Text Features with Kindergartners

Last year, I plugged into kindergarten classes once a week and provided literacy enrichment.  As part of a unit on nonfiction, students learned about different text features and then borrowed from author’s craft to write their own.  Afterwards, I placed each student’s text features into a booklet for students to take home.

We began by looking at several different text features.  I read aloud a nonfiction book or periodical to students, and thought aloud about the text features I came upon.  We created a list of text features that we might find in other nonfiction books.   I also provided students with this text feature graphic so they could keep track of the types of text features they found as we read a new book or periodical each week.  (They completed a new graphic for each new book).

Over the course of the month, we looked at three different (more engaging) text features: labels, diagrams, and different fonts.  After I read aloud a book and thought aloud about the types of text features I found, we would focus on one feature.  Students then had the opportunity to borrow from authors and write an example of their own label, diagram, or different types of fonts.

The Common Core is knocking at the door and nonfiction is an integral component.  Teaching nonfiction to our students in school or even at home can be fun and engaging.  Kindergarten students are naturally curious.  Let’s feed that curiosity by immersing students in nonfiction as they begin their school careers.  A mini-unit on text features is a fun way to begin a child’s journey into nonfiction.

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