Alycat and the Sleepover Saturday Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Alycat and the Saturday Sleepover

Written by Alysson Foti Bourque

Illustrated by Chiara Civati

Ages 4+ | 32 Pages

Publisher: Pelican Publishing | ISBN-13: 9781455627233

Publisher’s Book Summary: Alycat hosts a big sleepover, complete with games, s’mores, and ghost stories. A surprise guest adds suspense!

People are talking . . .

The Alycat Series features Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day, Alycat and the Monday Blues, Alycat and the Friendship Friday, Alycat and the Tournament Tuesday, Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday, and Alycat and the Sleepover Saturday.

The books in this series have won more than 17 awards, including the NYC Big Book Award, the Mom’s Choice Awards, and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards; have been featured in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly; and have appeared in the Oscars celebrity swag bag and the Grammy Awards gift bag. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, featured Bourque and her life-size mascot, Alycat, on her popular YouTube channel Little Red News.

Available for purchase on AmazonBookshop, and Barnes and Noble.

Award-winning author Alysson Foti Bourque is a certified elementary education teacher and attorney who practiced law for six years before turning to writing full time. Her books featuring Alycat have been recipients of the NYC Big Book Award, the Mom’s Choice Awards, and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards; have been featured in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly; and have appeared in the Oscars celebrity swag bag and the Grammy Awards gift bag.

Find Alyson and Alycat online at


Life Is What It's Called - How is Alycat and the Saturday Sleepover similar to the other books in this series? And how is it different?

Alysson Foti Bourque -Alycat and the Sleepover Saturday is like the other books in the series as it helps readers navigate friendships and inspire creativity using imagination. This book is a little different from the others as it incorporates other animals like dogs and mice!

Life Is What It's Called - What will readers learn from Alycat and the Saturday Sleepover?

Alysson Foti Bourque -After reading this Alycat story, readers will learn that things aren’t always as scary as they may seem. Sometimes our imagination just runs wild. There are also subtle lessons on speculation and gossip that in the story that teach kids to not always believe what they hear or what they think they heard.

Life Is What It's Called - Why is the message in this story important?

Alysson Foti Bourque - So many things that kids read and hear today may or may not be true. It is important for kids to learn that they should do their own research on things they hear and question whether or not they may be true.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you think readers will like most about this book?

Alysson Foti Bourque - I think readers will like the fact that there are dogs in the book! They’ve been asking! How many published books are in this series?

There are 6 in the series.

Life Is What It's Called - Are you like any of the characters?

Alysson Foti Bourque - I would say I am most like Alycat. My imagination can run wild and I love my friends very much.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you want readers to know about you as an author?

Alysson Foti Bourque -Being an author is the greatest job in the world! You get to meet so many smiling faces along the journey.

Life Is What It's Called - What authors influence your writing style?

Alysson Foti Bourque - Rosemary Wells, Mac Barnett, and Jennifer Niven.

Life Is What It's Called - What are you working on next?

Alysson Foti Bourque - Book #7 and possibly more Alycat adventures!


Enter for a chance to win a copy of Alycat and the Saturday Sleepover, autographed by Alysson Foti Bourque.

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A copy of Alycat and the Saturday Sleepover, signed by Alysson Foti Bourque

Alycat and the Sleepover Saturday: Book Giveaway 

This post is in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Alysson Foti Bourque.

Candy Shop War: Carnival Quest Book Review and Author Interview

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


The long-awaited finale of the best-selling series! The Blue Falcons is a secret kid’s club that fights against a family of villainous magicians. Using an impressive arsenal of magical candy, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon defeated Belinda White, a sinister candy shop owner who almost seized control of their town, and her brother, Jonas White, a maniacal arcade operator who tried to turn the planet into his personal puppet.

Now, the Blue Falcons believe they must battle the third sibling—Camilla, who has brought the Dreams and Screams International Carnival to their town of Colson, California.

Rumors are spreading about the new carnival. Those who visit feel compelled to return. Some who enter the labyrinthine Fun House disappear for days. And the Big Top is said to bewitch audience members.

The Blue Falcons think they know who is responsible and are ready to fight, but the carnival blocks any outside magic. Without their favorite enchanted treats, how can the kids save their town?

When weird dreams start to plague everyone who has visited the carnival, the worlds of magic and reality collide. With the help of a new magical enforcer, the Blue Falcons will need to learn to use the magic of the carnival against itself, including a host of new magical carnival candies, and tap into the power of their own dreams to battle their greatest adversary yet.


BRANDON MULL is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Fablehaven, Beyonders, and Five Kingdoms series. A kinetic thinker, Brandon enjoys bouncy balls, squeezable stress toys, and popping bubble wrap. He lives in a happy little valley in Utah with his wife, Erlyn, their eleven children, and a dog named Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Brandon loves meeting his readers and hearing about their experiences with his books.

Other Books by Brandon Mull: 

  • The Candy Shop War 
  • The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe
Fablehaven Series 
  •  Fablehaven 
  •  Rise of the Evening Star 
  •  Grip of the Shadow Plague 
  •  Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary 
  •  Keys to the Demon Prison 
Dragonwatch Series 
  •  Dragonwatch 
  •  Wrath of the Dragon King 
  •  Master of the Phantom Isle 
  •  Champion of the Titan Games 
  •  Return of the Dragon Slayers 
Five Kingdoms Series 
  • Sky Raiders 
  • Rogue Knight 
  • Crystal Keepers 
  • Death Weavers 
  • Time Jumpers 
Beyonders Series 
  •  A World Without Heroes 
  •  Seeds of Rebellion 
  •  Chasing the Prophecy


Life Is What It's Called - What do you think readers will like most about this next edition of The Candy Shop War? 

Brandon Mull - In the Carnival Quest, the characters must explore a magical carnival that comes to town. I expect readers will enjoy the danger, magic, and layered secrets of the carnival. I think they will find the story going in exciting and unexpected directions. 

Life Is What It's Called - How many books do you envision for this series? 

Brandon Mull - This should be the third and final Candy Shop War book. 

Life Is What It's Called - How is this book similar or different to your other books? 

Brandon Mull - This book follows the same main characters as the other Candy Shop War books. All of my books are fantasies with young main characters, in the same category as Harry Potter. The Candy Shop War books have a lot of strange, unexpected magic in an otherwise typical suburban environment. 

Life Is What It's Called - What was your favorite scene to write for this book? 

Brandon Mull - There is an evil clown named Growler. I especially liked scenes with him. 

Life Is What It's Called - What will kids learn from reading this series? 

Brandon Mull - Kids who read the series will explore how dreams and reality sometimes overlap. 

Life Is What It's Called - What makes this series stand apart from other books in the market? 

Brandon Mull - This series stands apart because it blends quirky fantasy elements in a normal suburban environment while maintaining a kid-friendly style. I don't know of any other series that blends such varied and complex magic in a normal suburban neighborhood.

I listened to the first book of the Candy Shop War series on audiobook right before reading this book. I felt like with this book there was more themes that you could pull out from the book, which could be symbolic of the characters' growth from the adventures that they've had throughout the series. My kids loved this book and both my 7-year-old and 9-year-old read it before I could read it to review it. My 9-year-old can be a "selective" reader, so it was very telling when he picked it up right away and wanted to read it. My kids' loved the characters and the story.  After reading it, my 9-year-old asked when the next one was coming out and I had to tell him it was the last book of the series, and he was disappointed. I liked that my kids were drawn to into the story and loved it so much. I think my 9-year-old may have read it several times and it's a series you would want to own, so that kids could reread it over and over again. They liked the action and how the story developed. It was a very kid friendly story. I loved the carnival aspect to this book and there's different levels of discussion that kids could have in a classroom setting with this book from friendships, dreams versus reality, who's in charge of your dreams, when does too much of one thing becomes too much, trusting your instincts versus imagination, and etc. There is a wide range of characters and experiences shown from the book and I think it had a little bit of everything a kid could want in a story from amusement park rides, a mystery, adventure, scary clowns (just kidding on that one), magical candy, talking animals, and kids saving the world. The only part of the book that I didn't quite like was that one of the characters didn't seem to learn the lesson from the first book of this series, which seemed like a major theme throughout the book. I also felt like this was a good wrap up to the series and touched on some points made from the first and second books. Overall, I think it hits the mark as an excellent read. To learn more, click here.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book, however, this is my honest opinion. This post is in cooperation with Shadow Mountain Publishing. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.

A Waltz with Traitors Blog Review, Giveaway and Author Interview

Monday, March 13, 2023


Czech soldier Filip Sedlák never wanted to fight for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So at the first opportunity, he defected to the Russians. Now he and others like him have formed the Czechoslovak Legion. Their goal: leave the chaos of Russia, sail to France, and help the Allies defeat the Central Powers, thereby toppling a hated empire and winning an independent Czechoslovakia.

With the fall of the tsar, Nadia Linskaya’s life is in ruins. Her family is dead, her lands are confiscated, and her aristocratic world is gone forever. But Nadia is determined to elude the Bolshevik agent who destroyed her family and find a way to survive in this changed world.

When Nadia takes refuge with the Czechoslovak Legion, the last thing she expects is an ally. But when Filip proposes a sham marriage to ensure her safe passage across Siberia, she takes it. Neither Filip nor Nadia expect real love, not when the legion has to take over the longest railroad in the world—and then hold it against Bolshevik counterattacks, partisan sabotage, allied intrigue, and a set of brutal Siberian winters. At risk is the future of Czechoslovakia, the fate of Russia—and their hearts.


A. L. Sowards is the author of multiple historical fiction novels, with settings spanning the globe from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. Her stories have earned a Whitney Award, several Whitney Finalists positions, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal. She enjoys hiking and swimming, usually manages to keep up with the laundry, and loves it when someone else cooks dinner. She lives in Alaska with her husband, three children, and an ever-growing library. For more information, please visit her website,


Life is What It's Called - Why did you decide to write about this time period?

A.L. Sowards - The story of the Czechoslovak Legion is one I’ve wanted to tell for years. I first heard about a group of Czech and Slovak POWs who took over the Trans-Siberian Railroad while researching another WWI book. My first thought was how on earth did a ragtag group of war prisoners manage to take over the longest railway in the world? My second thought was that I wanted to write their story.

Life is What It's Called - In your research, what information did you find to be most surprising?

A.L. Sowards - I’m amazed by how often the legion was able to defeat numerically superior forces. They were the underdogs almost every single time, and yet they were able to protect themselves and clear a passage out of Russia.

Life is What It's Called - What books did you rely on for your research?

A.L. Sowards - For those wanting good one-volume accounts of the legion, I’d recommend The Lost Legion: A Czechoslovakian Epic by Gustav Becvar, The Army Without a Country by Edwin P. Hoyt, or Dreams of Great Small Nation by Kevin McNamara.

If you want the full list of books I used for research, here it is (not counting internet searches): Trailing the Bolsheviki by Carl Ackerman; The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown by Hugh Agnew; Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum; The March of the Seventy Thousand by Henry Baerlein; The Lost Legion: A Czechoslovakian Epic by Gustav Becvar; The Czechoslovak Legion in Russia, 1914-1920 by John F.N. Bradley; The Czech Legion 1914-20 by David Bullock; The Struggle for a Democracy in Siberia : 1917 – 1920 by Paul Dotsenko; A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes; The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming; The Fate of Admiral Kolchak by Peter Fleming; America’s Siberian Adventures 1918-1920 by William Graves; Britmis by Phelps Hodges; Captured by Ferdinand Hustzi Horvath; The Army Without a Country by Edwin P. Hoyt; White Road: A Russian Odyssey, 1919-1923 by Olga Ilyin; The First World War: The War to End all Wars by Geoffrey Jukes and Hew Strachan; The Austro-Hungarian Forces in WWI 1914–1916 by Peter Jung and Darko Pavlovic; Ukraine: Enchantment of the World by Deborah Kent; The Russian Civil War: White Armies by Mikhail Khvostov and Andrei Karachtchouk; The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police: The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution by George Leggett; The White Generals by Richard Luckett; The Russian Revolution: A New History by Sean McMeekin; Dreams of Great Small Nation by Kevin McNamara; The Czech and Slovak Legion in Siberia, 1917-1922 by Joan McGuire Mohr; From Moscow to Vladivostok by Alexander C. Niven; Beasts, Men and Gods by Ferdinand Ossendowski; Stalin and His Hangmen by Donald Rayfield; Russia: Enchantment of the World by Stillman D. Rogers; Vladiovostok under Red and White Rule by Canfield F. Smith; Former People by Douglas Smith; Russia’s Sisters of Mercy in the Great War by Laurie Stoff; The Russian Revolution: The Fall of the Tsars and the Rise of Communism edited by Russell Trenton; The United States, Revolutionary Russia, and the Rise of Czechoslovakia by Betty Miller Unterberger; Once a Grand Duchess: Xenia, Sister of Nicholas II by John Van der Kiste; Russia Nel Yomtov; Cossack Girl by Marina Yurlova; Ukraine by Pavel Zemliansky

Life Is What It's Called - How is this book similar to the other historical fictions that you have written and how was it different?

A.L. Sowards - A Waltz with Traitors is similar to my other books in that it includes lots of history, a fast-paced plot, and a wholesome romantic subplot. As with Before the Fortress Falls, I set out hoping to tell a story about a historical event. The time period overlaps a little with the time period for The Spider and the Sparrow. This one is a little different in that it covers so much ground, almost 6,000 miles from Piryatin, Ukraine to Vladivostok, Russia. It’s also my first book to have a married couple as the romantic leads, though neither of them plan on the marriage being permanent, at least not at first.

Life Is What It's Called -Why do you think it's important to portray different periods in history from different angles?

A.L. Sowards - WWI in Western Europe is often viewed as a tragic war that wasted lives and didn’t really accomplish much, but in Eastern Europe, it’s how a lot of countries gained their independence. I think it’s important to show that, and I absolutely think the legion’s story should be better known—what they did was incredible.

People and events are complicated, and by learning more about lesser-known angles of history, we can gain better understanding of not only historical events, but also of what it means to be human.

Life Is What It's Called - What writing projects are you working on next?

A.L. Sowards - I’m finishing up a prequel novella for a new medieval series, and then I’m hoping to start another Heirs of Falcon Point spin-off novel about Ingrid Lang.

Life Is What It's Called - How does this book help us understand what's going on with that region now?

A.L. Sowards - I think A Waltz with Traitors will give readers a sense of just how difficult it is to govern a country like Russia. No government is perfect, but it’s easy to pick out the flaws in the Tsar’s rule, Soviet rule, and several governments in between. I’ve read nonfiction titles about the Soviet Union during WWII, and there’s this sense that living in Russia means dealing with a series of catastrophes. WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution were certainly part of that.

I think many countries have a hard time letting go of lands that were once included in their territory, and that is being played out currently in the war between Russia and Ukraine. I don’t go into a lot of detail about the situation in 1918 Ukraine in the book, because the focus of the story is on the legion. But for anyone who wants to know more about how awful life was for Ukrainians under the Bolsheviks, I recommend Red Famine by Anne Applebaum.

The legion’s struggle for freedom and independence ended in a new country, but a century later, there are still groups of people working, fighting, and dying for liberty and sovereignty. 8. What should readers know about you as an author and your books?

I love history and love to immerse readers in a mix of war and romance. Most of my books (including A Waltz with Traitors) will feature characters who find strength through faith. Though written for adults, my books can also be read by most teenagers (and I have content information on my website for anyone who would like more details about this or any of my other books). Also, for anyone who prefers audio or ebook formats, maps for A Waltz with Traitors are on my website for easy reference.

Life Is What It's Called - How does this book stand apart from other books on the market?

A.L. Sowards - I’ve not found another English-language novel about the Czechoslovak Legion. There are a few nonfiction books about them, but most of those were written for a more academic audience, so this novel is a really good choice for those wanting to know about their story.

My books are historical fiction rather than historical romance, so there will be more emphasis on the history than some readers might be used to. My characters often experience hard times and dark events. My books are more gritty and raw than most historical romance novels, but cleaner and more hopeful than a lot of other war books.

Life Is What It's Called - What did you find difficult about writing this book?

A.L. Sowards - The characters move along 6,000 miles of rail line, so one of the challenges was having so many different settings. Every time the train pulled into a new depot, I had a new setting to figure out. I also ran into slightly (sometimes vastly) different versions of the same events, so I had to weigh sources and plot needs to decide which account to follow. Some of the events the legion was involved in were very well documented, but in many cases, a lot of the details weren’t recorded and are now lost to history.

Life Is What It's Called - What was your favorite scene to write in this book?

A.L. Sowards - I finished writing and doing most of my revisions on this novel back in 2019, so it’s hard for me to remember which scene I most enjoyed writing. (I’ve written six books since then.) But I always enjoy writing scenes where the love interests finally make things work, and I like the end of books because I get a little attached to my characters and I like to see them get their happy endings.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you hope readers will learn from this book?

A.L. Sowards - I hope they’ll learn more about history. The Czechoslovak Legion ought to be better remembered, and I want this book to help with that. I also hope readers will take away some inspiration by watching characters deal with hard things and not only survive, but also find joy even when it feels like the whole world has gone crazy.

I enjoyed the characters and the history described in A Waltz with Traitors. Sowards paints a vivid picture of the time period, danger, and hardships that accompanied the Czechoslovak Legion and Russian people. She explores an often-missed part of history and shows the realities of war through her characters. Sowards mainly focuses on the two main characters of the story, Filip and Nadia, but she also shares stories and experiences of several minor characters. I felt like I was getting the whole experience as a reader. Overall, I felt like the author does a really good job at sharing the horrors and triumphs of war while also inspiring hope in the future. You could tell the author took the time to do extensive research and really took the time to understand her characters' emotions and mindset. The characters felt dynamic, likeable and engaging. The story moved quickly. This is a must read for historical fiction readers. I would also highly recommend readers checking out Sowards' other fiction reads. She explores new parts of history that most historical fiction authors won't bother with, making her stories fresh and exciting. To learn more about A Waltz with Traitors, click here.

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Please note this post is done in conjunction with the author. I received a free ebook to review, however, I shared my honest opinion.

Wyoming Wild Blog Tour Review and Author Interview

Friday, March 10, 2023

Wyoming Territory, 1876

US Marshal John “Hawk” Hawking is one of the most respected lawmen in the West, so when a telegram arrives from the small town of Sand Creek warning him of a death threat against him, he immediately begins an investigation.

Posing as a farmer, Hawk heads to Sand Creek, a town ruled by a violent and corrupt sheriff. Only one person is trying to stop him—Liesl, the sheriff’s own daughter. When she meets the self-assured and attractive new farmer, John, she hopes he might help her in the fight for justice.

John is completely unfazed by Sheriff Hodges’s attempts at intimidation, and Liesl is quickly swept up by Hawk’s courage and integrity. Just as quickly, Hawk finds himself falling for Liesl’s strength and bravery, as well as her grace and beauty.

When Liesl discovers John’s true identity, she feels betrayed. Despite her lingering distrust of him, Liesl agrees to work with him to enact a dangerous plan that will put the criminals away forever. Liesl must put her life, and her heart, in the hands of his lawman if she has any hope of saving her family and her town.


Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner.

Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.


Life Is What It's Called - Can you read Wyoming Wild as a standalone or do readers need to be familiar with the Sheriffs of Savage Wells series?

Sarah Eden - While Wyoming Wild includes characters from the other two books in the Sheriffs of Savage Wells series, it can be read on its own without having read the other books.

Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write this romance?

Sarah Eden - I have loved the character of Marshal Hawking ever since writing the first book in this interconnected series. He has decided that keeping the peace in Wyoming Territory requires a heart of stone and is absolutely determined to never lose his heart. I just knew that at some point I needed to see what he would do when his heart inevitably stopped listening to him.

Life Is What It's Called - How is it similar and different to your other romance novels?

Sarah Eden - For Wyoming Wild, I got to lean very heavily into the western romance subgenre. There are sheriffs and marshals, riding horseback across the territory, criminals and shoot outs… Even more so than the other two books in the series, this story got to unabashedly embrace its identity as a western.

Life Is What It's Called - What was the best part of writing this story?

Sarah Eden - Marshal Hawking thinks of himself as heartless and cold, but he is so much more loving and tender than he realizes. It was so fun to take such a gruff, rough-around-the-edges hero and slowly watch his walls begin to crack.

Life Is What It's Called - What characters did you relate to most while writing this novel?

Sarah Eden - I relate so much to the hero and heroine in this novel.

Marshal Hawking has been told so often that doing his job requires him to be icy and unreachable. Authors are told that all the time–that, because harsh reviews and rejection are part of this job, we have to have a skin so thick that we, in essence, are rendered emotionless. And I believed that for a long time.

Liesl Hodges, the heroine of Wyoming Wild, is carrying an enormous weight on her shoulders. She’s trying so hard to hold a town together, to protect a loved one, to defeat an unbeatable foe. She’s exhausted but doesn’t dare give up. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the many hats I wear and roles I feel. My heart really went out to her while writing this story.

Life Is What It's Called - What do you hope readers will learn from this story?

Sarah Eden - At its heart, this is a story about community, about people looking out for each other, about the transformative nature of compassion and connection. Both of our main characters are isolated in both literal and figurative ways, and that isolation comes at a cost. I would hope that, watching them sort out their difficulties and come to better understand the strength and resilience that comes from trust and connection, readers will also gain a deeper appreciation for those life-altering connections in their own lives.

Life Is What It's Called - What writing projects are you working on now?

Sarah Eden - So many things! I’ve recently finished writing the next installment in my Georgian-era “Gents” series. I’m neck-deep in a brand new, top secret project that I’m really, really excited about. I’ll be working on another book in my “Huntresses” series. And I’m getting ready to venture back into my “Hope Springs” series as well. It’s going to be a very busy writing year.

Wyoming Wild is the third book in the Savage Wells series. You could read this as a stand-alone or as a series. I think this book is my favorite from the series so far. I enjoyed the mystery element to the story. It was so exciting that I tried to skip to the back of the book to figure out the ending so I could go to bed easily without staying up too late. Sarah Eden didn't make it easy for readers that want to know the ending by reading the back of the book. She unfolded the drama gradually and puts the pieces back together gradually. It's definitely a book that's hard to break apart in multiple readings. It's also a book that you need to pay attention to the subtle clues throughout her book. The romance was interesting and entertaining enough in this story, but I loved the mystery and action part more. In her more recent books, Eden has really grown into mysteries and action-packed books. I would love to see more of this in her upcoming books. This was an entertaining and fun read.  This was a clean romance/action book. It would be appropriate for teens to adults to read. Click here to learn more.

Please note that I received a free copy to review, however, this is my honest opinion. This post also contains affiliate links that help support this blog. This post is in cooperation with Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard Review and Author Interview

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Join Graysen Foxx on a wild, treasure-hunting adventure!

Ordinary Elementary is anything but ordinary. Below the classrooms are winding, abandoned, underground passages filled with lost treasures. Fifth-grader Graysen Foxx, aka The Gray Fox―finder of secrets, solver of mysteries, and explorer of the unknown―is hot on the trail of the legendary treasure of Principal Redbeard, which includes decades of confiscated gadgets, rare comic books, first-edition Pokémon trading cards, an original Rubik’s Cube, and a retro handheld video game.

Graysen is determined to find the treasure and share it with his fellow students. His nemesis, Raven Ransom―nicknamed “Red Raven”―plans to stop him and claim the prizes for herself, just like she did with the game-winning home run kickball everyone thought was lost on the roof of the school.

Wearing his adventurer-iconic fedora, journaling in his field notebook, and wielding his elastic stretchy hand, Graysen is ready for action. But can he avoid the second-grade spy network working for Raven? Could the third-grade twins, Maya and Jack, give him an advantage? Can he avoid the ruthless sixth graders while trying to protect the innocent first graders? And who is the mysterious Midnight Moth who is leaving cryptic notes and riddles?

It's a battle between courage and cunning, smarts and shrewdness, charity and cheating. With the treasure on the line, can Graysen trust his rival―or is it just another one of her traps? May the best treasure hunter win!

Book Trailer: 


J. SCOTT SAVAGE is the author of both the Mysteries of Cove and the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has published 20 books, visited more than 3,000 schools, and taught dozens of writing classes.

He has four children, nine grandchildren, and lives with his wife, Jennifer, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.

Visit the author at and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jscottsavage.

Other Books by J. Scott Savage:


Life Is What It's Called - What will readers like most about this book?

J. Scott Savage - I hope they'll like how the treasure hunt takes place completely inside of the school and its grounds and the middle grade noir voice that Graysen talks in. I wanted this to feel like mixing a fifth grade Indiana Jones with a lot of those old classic black and white detective stories starring actors like Humphrey Bogart.

Life Is What It's Called - How is this similar and different from your other books?

J. Scott Savage - On the one hand it it's another middle grade fantasy. So you get all of the adventure, puzzles, action, and humor that I love.

But because of the Indiana Jones type feel, It never crosses completely into fantasy. So you can get the janitor's three-legged hairless cat, Slayer guarding an important set of blueprints. But Gray isn't suddenly going to discover a unicorn out on the playground.

Life Is What It's Called - How many books will there be in the Graysen Fox series?

J. Scott Savage - At least two for sure. Shadow Mountain just released the cover for book two Grayson Fox and the Curse of the Illuminerdy that will release January of 2024.

Life Is What It's Called - What lessons will kids learn from the characters?

J. Scott Savage - I really wanted to stress how Gray and his friends have to choose between specifically focusing on getting the treasure or helping the other kids in their school.

Also, one of the things I love about Indiana Jones is that even though he's constantly searching for treasure he wants to use it for the good of all mankind. Grayson Foxx wants to find the treasure for the good of all student kind.

And I think just finally that we all have talents that we can choose to use to make a difference in the world around us.

Life Is What It's Called - Why do you think it's important for kids to be kind vs. looking out for themselves?

J. Scott Savage - One of the most important things about stories is they help us to be able to understand each other a little bit better. Especially in elementary school and junior high, kids are so afraid of being considered weird or different, that they tend to hide some of the most important parts of themselves.

Kids who read a lot tend to be much more empathetic. So I hope that giving them role models who are kind to the other students around them will help that even more.

Life Is What It's Called - What are you working on next?

J. Scott Savage - I'm actually just finishing book two of the Graysen Foxx series. I'm also editing a graphic novel called Quantum Galactic Sports League that will come out with Penguin in September of 2024. I am co-creating it with the artist Brandon Dorman. It's sort of a mix between Last Kids on Earth, Space Jam, and football.

After that there are a couple of projects that I have in mind, but nothing that I can talk publicly about yet.

My seven-year-old daughter instantly gravitated to this book and was carrying it around with her wherever she went as she was reading. I took it away, so I could read it for my review and as soon as she had it back, she finished it within a day and has reread it again. She really enjoyed this book and said it was one of her favorites. She was instantly attracted to the cover with the bright colors and cartoon illustration. As for my thoughts, the voice was a little different from the author's other books. J. Scott Savage got inside the head of his character and really created something unique and different. To me, the story had an Indiana Jones, Recess, and Harry Potter (without the Fantasy elements) feel to it. The story was very kid-friendly, and I think it would especially appeal to younger middle grade readers in elementary school. It was the exact kind of book that I was looking for my son about 4-5 years ago. My son was ready for middle grade books at a younger age, but the content for middle grade books is often geared toward middle schoolers and not always appropriate for younger kids. I had even asked his teachers and our local librarians for help. It was a struggle to find books. This book was exactly what I was looking for and I think it helps fill a gap that publishers often miss. Advanced readers that are reading chapter books at a young age will find this book perfect for them. It would also appeal to older elementary school students as well. It has a little bit of everything. Kids will enjoy the action, the drama, and the fun adventure in the story. The author does a good job at also including different characters from different grade levels, so the book really feels like it has something for every student. It also has a bit of what an elementary school may feel like to a student...older kids trying to make bad trades, mysterious rooms, and trying to navigate teachers and the principal. It would be a fun book to read out loud to students and to listen on an audiobook. I would feel comfortable with my preschooler listening to it in the car. I thought it was a really cute story and as a parent, I would love to see this as a series with several books. To learn more about this book, click here.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. I received a free copy of the book to review; however, this is my honest opinion.

My Love for You Is Like a Garden Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Thursday, March 2, 2023


My Love for You Is Like a Garden

Written and Illustrated by Laura Smetana

All Ages | 38 Pages

Publisher: Flying Cardinal Press | ISBN-13: 9781737140962

Publisher’s Book Summary: With bright, watercolor collages, My Love for You Is Like a Garden celebrates unconditional love with vibrant garden scenes that will delight fans of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle. Perfect for baby showers, bedtime read-alouds, or anyone you love!

Say “I love you” with this charming picture book families will love reading together over and over again. Bold, colorful illustrations of flowers, butterflies, and animals will inspire readers of all ages to explore the natural world⁠—and maybe even plant their own garden. Children will delight in finding ladybugs hidden throughout, and a glossary provides the names of each plant and animal featured. A beautiful book to share with a child, parent, or anyone who means the world to you!

My Love for You is Like a Garden Activity Kit – Free Download

Available for purchase on: Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, Author’s Website.

A Friends and Family Offer

If you’ve already purchased a copy of My Love for You Is Like a Garden, head on over to Laura Smetana’s website to receive two free downloadable 8×10 watercolor collage art prints:

–Print 1 – My love for you is like a garden

–Print 2 – My love for you flows freely


Laura Smetana is the author and illustrator of My Love for You Is Like a Garden, a joyful picture book that celebrates unconditional love with bold, watercolor collages of garden scenes. She is also the author of Ice Cream with Grandpa: A Loving Story for Kids About Alzheimer’s & Dementia (illustrated by Elisabete B. P. de Moraes), which was winner of a Northern Lights Book Award, and Little Squiggle’s Lake Adventure, which she co-authored with her son, Stirling Hebda.

When she isn’t writing or painting, Laura can be found talking to kids at school author visits, gardening in her sunhat, and spending time with her family outdoors. Laura lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and son. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Downers Grove Artists’ Guild.

Visit her online at and @SmetanaLaura on Twitter.


Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write My Love for You Is Like a Garden?

Laura Smetana - The inspiration for My Love for You Is Like a Garden began during the COVID pandemic. During those early months when we were under stay-at-home orders, I spent a lot of time gardening in my backyard. We couldn’t see family and friends in-person, but when I was in my garden, I was reminded of their love—behind each plant there was a story and shared memories. For example, the lilacs I planted with my dad that now bloom in his memory, the tiger lilies from my mom that reminded me of summers with my grandparents, the apple tree my son picked out with his grandpa. There is love in every garden, and the ways unconditional love can present itself reminded me of a garden—and the idea blossomed from there!

Life Is What It's Called - Why is the message of this story important?

Laura Smetana - The message of unconditional love and understanding is universal. It’s important for children—and people of all ages for that matter—to feel seen, nurtured, and know they are loved. Love can be tender, love can bloom with pride, love can be fierce—but no matter what, rain or shine, it’s important for children to know they will be loved throughout all the ups and downs in life. My Love for You Is Like a Garden feels like a great big hug when I read it, and I hope that everyone reading the book gets that same feeling of being loved too. How does My Love for You Is Like a Garden stand apart from other picture books on the market?

My Love for You Is Like a Garden is a joyful celebration of love, but it is also interactive with ladybugs hidden throughout and educational with a glossary that gives children the opportunity to learn the names of the flowers, plants, and animals featured in the book. The subject matter also lends itself well to extension activities like visiting a local garden, planting a seed and watching it grow, or creating art inspired by nature.

To help parents, caregivers, and educators build upon their reading experience, I created a free Activity Kit for My Love for You Is Like a Garden that’s available for download on my website. There are activities for all ages, including coloring pages, cut-paper collage art activities, a garden color scavenger hunt, plant observation journal, word search, writing prompts and more.

While My Love for You Is Like a Garden is a children’s book, it has crossover appeal for people of all ages. It is the perfect way to say, “I love you,” and it makes a great gift for anyone you love—children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. I have heard from people who are planning to give My Love for You Is Like a Garden to their parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as a way to show their love. I’m planning on giving a copy to my mom, and I hope she feels loved whenever she reads it!

Life Is What It's Called - How does My Love for You Is Like a Garden relate to your life?

Laura Smetana - I started creating the watercolor washes for the book in June 2021. Little did I know a tornado would rip through our community that night, sending a tree through our roof, and causing severe damage to many of our neighbors' homes—leaving many uninhabitable. It also swept away a wall of trees in our yard, my flower garden, and a watering can that my dad, who passed away the year prior from Alzheimer’s disease, had given me. He taught me how to garden, so the watering can was very special to me. In the days after the tornado, my husband got me a beautiful blue-green, metal watering can, which became the inspiration for the first spread I completed for the book—a watering can with hearts pouring out. To me it is a symbol of love, healing, and hope.

Over the next year, while working on the collages for My Love for You Is Like a Garden, and repairing our home, I worked on replanting my garden and was reminded of all the love shown by our neighbors, family, friends, and strangers in the aftermath of the tornado—those who helped clean up debris, removed fallen trees and branches, tarped our roof, brought meals, and helped with repairs and more over the course of the next year. Many of the illustrations in the book were inspired by the flowers, plants, and animals in our garden—those that were planted before the tornado, and those that were planted after, including flowers and plants from neighbors, friends, and family to help us replant what was lost, and a tree from our local arboretum, as part of their tree recovery effort in the community. Now, when I look out my window, I am reminded of all of their love and kindness.

Life Is What It's Called - What makes My Love for You Is Like a Garden a good fit for a baby shower gift?

Laura Smetana - The message of unconditional love combined with vibrant, watercolor collages makes My Love for You Is Like a Garden a great baby shower gift that parents and children will enjoy reading over again and again. It’s a wonderful way for new parents to express their love and share the joy of reading, all while introducing their child to flowers, plants, and animals. I loved getting books at my baby shower and I love giving books to help new parents build their own home libraries for their children. I have fond memories of my mom reading to me every night as a kid, and now as a parent myself, I look forward to reading bedtime stories to my son every night. I started reading to him daily while I was on my maternity leave and we've kept that daily tradition ever since. Reading books aloud is a great way for parents to bond with their children and create shared memories that plant the seeds for a life-long love of reading.

Life Is What It's Called - Why is it a good read-aloud for children?

Laura Smetana - The text of My Love for You Is Like a Garden is simple and sweet, and the perfect way for parents to say “I love you” while snuggling on the couch for storytime or as a bedtime read- aloud. The bold watercolor collages are eye-catching and children will delight in finding the ladybugs hidden in the illustrations, which adds a fun, interactive element to the read-aloud. When I read My Love for You Is Like a Garden to kids, I always enjoy the moment they discover there are ladybugs hidden in the illustrations. Then it’s wonderful to see their anticipation at each page turn and their excitement when they find each one.

As a former early childhood educator, I loved reading books to my students that offered the opportunity to return to the text and illustrations for further discussion and observation. My Love for You Is Like a Garden gives children the opportunity to go back and count each ladybug, as well as to find each plant and animal named in the glossary, and continue exploring the themes in the book in their own world—making it an educational, interactive, and engaging read-aloud that children and adults will enjoy returning to again and again.

Life Is What It's Called - What was the best part about writing this book?

Laura Smetana - One of my favorite parts of working on My Love for You Is Like a Garden was creating the cut- paper watercolor collages that complement the text. My process starts by painting the watercolor washes—usually outside on my deck, surrounded by flowers, trees, and birdsong. Then there is sketching, cutting, tracing, more cutting, arranging, pondering, rearranging, and finally gluing everything into place. Creating a collage is like a puzzle, and I love seeing each piece of cut paper come together to create the final illustration.

On my website, I have a behind-the-scenes, step-by-step look at how I created the monarch butterfly collage, and I love talking to students about the illustration and book-making process at school author visits. I’m so happy My Love for You Is Like a Garden is finding its way into the hands of readers and I hope children are inspired to try making their own cut-paper collages at home or school. I can’t get enough of collage art, in fact, I’m working on another watercolor collage book inspired by fall leaves. Readers can sign up for my newsletter at to get updates and to learn about my other books too.


Enter for a chance to win a glorious garden-themed grand prize, including a hardcover copy of My Love for You Is Like a Garden, autographed by Laura Smetana!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A cotton tote bag filled with:
    • A hardcover copy of My Love for You Is Like a Garden, signed by author & illustrator Laura Smetana
    •  4 oz of tea from Adagio Teas
    • A bar of Italian rose soap
    • Cherry blossom & tea rose hand lotion
    • Sunflower & ladybug garden stake
    • A 12-piece colored pencil set
    • A mini sketchbook with elastic closure band
    • 5 blank cards & envelopes featuring art from My Love for You is Like a Garden
Two (2) winners receive:
  • A paperback copy of My Love for You Is Like a Garden, signed by author & illustrator Laura Smetana

My Love for You Is Like a Garden Book Giveaway

This post is partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Flying Cardinal Press. This post also contains an affiliate link to Amazon.
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