Acquired Book By: I started hosting with Prism Book Tours at the end of , having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) whilst I was visiting as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. I had to put the memes on hold for several months (until I started to resume them (with Top Ten Tuesday) in January 2018). When I enquiried about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. I am unsure how many books I’ll review for them as most are offered digitally rather than in print but this happily marks one of the blog tours where I could receive a print book for review purposes. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors.
I received a complimentary copy of “Hall-o-ween” direct from the author Tia Perkin in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On why I wanted to accept this Picture Book blog tour:
It has been quite a long while since I’ve had the joy of reading and reviewing Children’s Lit on a regular basis. I used to receive quite a few titles – some of which were picture books, like this one. However, in the past most of the picture books were in hardback – with the one exception, I received a printed but unbound copy of “The Blue Hour” from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer programme.
I’ve been missing being a champion of #KidsLit on Jorie Loves A Story – as I have such an eclectic curiosity about *stories!* – my readerly life wanders quite a bit through genre, style and voice as I continue to seek out what personally inspires me to read. This particular book just felt *right!* as it has a bit of cheeky humour whilst its celebrating one of my favourite holidays: HALLOWEEN! What could go wrong? lol I loved the illustrations as you’re about to find out, too!
Acquired Digital Audiobook by: I am a new blog tour hostess with Audiobookworm Promotions wherein I have the opportunity to receive audiobooks for review or adoption (reviews outside of organised blog tours) and host guest features on behalf of authors and narrators alike. I started hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions at the end of  during “The Cryptic Lines” tour wherein I became quite happily surprised how much I am now keen on listening to books in lieu of reading them in print. My journey into audiobooks was prompted by a return of my chronic migraines wherein I want to offset my readings with listening to the audio versions.
I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Once Upon A Time in Venice” via the publicist at Audiobookworm Promotions in exchange for an honest review. This complimentary copy I received is part of the ‘Adopt an Audiobook’ programme where reviewers are given a 90 day window to listen and review the book. I was given a soft deadline where I could post my ruminative thoughts at an hour which worked for me on the day the review was due which in this instance is the 25th of July or at any point ahead of the 25th if I finished the audiobook sooner. This differs from a blog tour which has a more set schedule of posting. The audiobooks are offered to ‘adopt’ for review consideration and are given to readers to gauge their opinions, impressions and insight into how the audiobook is resonating with listeners. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
I am posting my review slightly overdue as the weeks leading up to the 25th as well as until the start of August were especially unkind for listening considering how many lightning storms I was trying to dodge just to stay connected! I decided to post this review the first week of August to allow myself enough time to finalise my thoughts on behalf of the story.
Why this particular story impressed me and why I wanted to listen to it:
As I had forementioned previously on my last adopted audiobook review from Audiobookworm Promotions, I am shifting my reading life to be bent more towards listening to audiobooks than reading stories in print, as a purposeful quest to see if I can offset the repetitiveness of my chronic migraines, which have plagued me quite heavily this year.
I wanted to find a few audiobooks off the Adoption page as a way ‘back’ into reading, as I originally was going to listen to these stories during #Audiobookmonth which was in June. I hadn’t realised then how hard it would be to reclaim my reading life after my Spring migraines, which unfortunately didn’t just delay my listening hours with these audiobooks but with all books in general – which thankfully I restored back into my during the month of July!
This particular story felt like the kind of story I would love as it is set in Italy (I love Italian stories!) for starters and it is about the love shared between a grandson and a his grandfather. I grew up in a close knit family having two sets of grandparents and a great-grandmother, so right away, I had memories of my own bubbling to the surface which were reasons enough to want to listen to the story Ms Roy had written.
Secondly, I do not oft get to listen to Children’s Lit on audiobook – as generally speaking, the titles my library chooses to focus on are Adult Fiction. This gave me a chance to hear a story for Middle Grade listeners but through the course of my own listening, I realised this story is meant for all readers, of all ages! It is a timeless story about multi-generational families, the love that binds us to our heritage and how in the end, love can both shield us, protect us and enable us to have the courage to face the tomorrows we never felt we had the strength to meet.
Acquired Book By: I was selected to review “Fannie Never Flinched” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 3rd Year Book Blogger.
I received my complimentary copy of Fannie Never Flinched from the publicist at JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I was excited about this non-fiction picture book:
I’ve spent 2016 becoming acquainted with Women’s Rights & the Suffragette movement – gaining further insight into the plight of women who pioneered our future path to walk with freedom, dignity and the innate rights we were denied so long ago. Although readings on these topical subjects began originally when I first picked up a novel about the Shirtwaist Industry called Rivington Street by Meredith Tax; this pre-dates my blog Jorie Loves A Story; back when I was earnestly reading books out of the family library ahead of borrowing books from the local one. The book spoke to me in my early twenties and due to such a horrific testament of real-life, I had to take a break from pursuing to read more books with similar topics and themes.
Somehow 2016 became the year where I picked up the courage to continue where I left off, however, I did not exactly plan my path through Feminist Historical Literature nor have a pre-set focus on Women’s Rights, no what happened is truly quite an organic projectory of interest as stories alighted in my hands to read which hugged me closer to the truth that was not yet available to learn whilst in school. This is my third year as a book blogger and within that span of time I’ve learnt more about History from such a dynamic layer of interest and thought of presence than I ever did in the years ahead of my graduation! Imagine!? The authors who are writing Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction on select topics of Women’s Studies are carving out a new level of insight for today’s woman and young girls.
Girls do not have to grow up and wait til they can seek out the literature on their own to find the stories that are capturing those of us in our twenties and thirties who would have loved to have had the same stories available to us at their age. Publishers are being more cognisant of what today’s readerly audience needs and wants; as they are giving us more of the hidden stories that are shrouded from the historical past by biographers who never felt their light needed to shine. They are being pulled forward out of time’s capsule of secrets by writers who felt inspired by their life story and are presenting them to us in wonderful accounts across genre and range of interest.
This is why I was so thankful to find Fannie Never Flinched as it felt like nearly a capstone of honest readings where women championed a cause that enabled them to find progress at a time where that felt like it could be impossible to obtain. The Labour Rights for Women was definitely hard-won, but until this year, I hadn’t realised just how hard-won the battle was for us to gain those rights. There are such horrible things that happened to the original women who stood their ground and demanded better respect, pay and equality than we could ever fully imagine. We can have empathy and understanding for what they went through – but the physical, emotional and internal wounds they must have carried with them is harder to fathom. They are history’s heroines who allowed all of us the ability to stand firmer on our future paths for having carved out so many obstacles out of our way!
In Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights Mary Cronk Farrell combines vivid prose, primary research and historical photos to reveal the life and death of one woman who helped pave the way for labor reform in the United States, illuminating the hard work, courage and spilled blood underlying the benefits many American workers enjoy today.
When immigrant women earning poverty wages in St. Louis sweatshops voted to strike, Fannie Sellins was there. When destitute coal mining families dared to unionize in West Virginia – and got thrown from their homes – Fannie was there. When hired gunmen threatened, beat and shot miners walking the picket line in Pennsylvania, Fannie was there.
In August 1919, when miners struck Allegheny Coal and Coke in Western Pennsylvania, mine operators would have paid any price to get rid of Fannie. They even threatened to kill her, but Fannie refused to stop her work helping strikers and their families. One muggy afternoon, violence broke out on the picket line and a crowd of people saw company gunmen shoot Fannie down in cold blood. Young people will learn that her killers never paid for their crime and how such injustice could happen in America.
Fannie Sellins (1872-1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when men like Andrew Carnegie and J. P Morgan lived lives of luxury while their workers spent long hours laboring for poverty wages.
Mary Cronk Farrell is an award-winning author of five books for young people and former television journalist with a passion for stories about women facing great adversity with courage. She researches little known stories from history and relates them with engaging and powerful language in her books, multi-media presentations and workshops. Farrell has appeared on TV and radio across the nation. She speaks to women’s groups, civic groups, and at museums, schools and libraries.
I was selected to review “In A Village by the Sea” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. After I was putting together this showcase, to highlight both the story and a conversation with the author, I learnt of her second picture book “Little Tree”; enabling me to combine my showcase to feature both releases. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 2nd Year Book Blogger. I received my complimentary copy of In A Village by the Sea (hardback) and Little Tree (PDF) direct from the publicist at JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
I decided I wanted to switch things up a bit today, and offer the conversation before my thoughts on behalf of the illustrated stories contained within the picture books of Muon Van! In this way, I wanted the author’s own words to help define the stories and in some ways, give an extra layer of enjoyment to my readers as they read this ahead of knowing what I found inside the books themselves! Enjoy!
My convo with Muon Van on her creative way of giving children a beautiful ‘first start’ towards embracing creative stories built on family, hearth and love:
How did you create In A Village by the Sea to bespeak of such a grounding of autobiographical inspiration and homage to your heritage whilst renewing the spirit of Vietnam for those of us who are not as familiar with the country?
Van responds: I come from a long line of fisherfolk on both sides of the family, which is pretty unusual for both an American and Vietnamese-American. I grew up with my dad at sea most of the time, and eating seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I wanted to write a story that would reflect those experiences.
Whilst your father was away fishing, how did your mother encourage you and your siblings not to worry about his safety and well being? Were the passages of home and hearth reminiscent of your mother tending to the home? I ask as there is such a lot of warmth and love set inside this story, it softens the concerns of dangers at sea.
Van responds: Even though fishing is considered one of the most dangerous occupations around, my siblings and I didn’t consider it as such while we were growing up–it was just what our dad did. My mother definitely tended the home–cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, dressing, educating nine kids! I always knew she was a superwoman and supermom but after I had my first kid, I was amazed!
I was curious about the process you took with April Chu to bring your story to life through her illustrations – can you explain how you worked together to give the reader such a wellspring of living realism whilst deepening it with thought-provoking narrative?
Van responds: Unlike what most people think, April and I did not collaborate in real-time on the book–we only met once it was completed! April only received a plain, unannotated manuscript and knowledge that the story was dedicated to my father, a Vietnamese fisherman. With just those pieces of information, she was able to imagine and execute the brilliant art in the book. I, and the readers, are truly lucky!
The spirit of Vietnam is strongly lit inside you, as the story that is set inside this picture book is alarmingly clear and visually stunning – when you wrote the words that are featured against the illustrations did the final copy read to you like the internal visuals you had whilst you had written the story?
Van responds: I believe the published visuals are faithful to the story but in my imagination, they were spare and monochromatic, sort of like the verse. I was surprised, and delighted, by the outcome.
What has caused the fishing lifestyle of the villages in Vietnam to disappear? Is it the culture of the time that is changing or is the fishing industry unable to support itself, as this happens in other countries as well?
Van responds: I can’t speak to all fishing lifestyles in Vietnam–just the one in my ancestral village. The villagers there, and the ones who have migrated to America, have found the the income derived from fishing is not as great, or sustainable, as it is through other means. While most of my relatives worked in fishing when they first arrived in America, most now work in the cosmetic (nails) industry, as it’s lower-risk and more profitable.
In your heart, your drawn to the sea as it states in your biography you live near it; what do you find the most alluring balm about the sea and how it’s set a harmonic pulse inside your life?
Van responds: Probably that it seems so vast and unknowable (you can only see a bit of it at a time, from a beach or a boat or an airplane). I also like the color blue :)
In The Little Tree the colour contrasts are brilliantly bright and pop with vitality whereas the colour contrasts in In A Village by the Sea is more traditional and classic. Did you have input about the colour spectrum for the illustrations and books?
Van responds: No, but I love that they are so different.
The Little Tree is philosophical and intuitive, giving children a pause to think about the larger scale of life and how the circle of life evolves during our lifetime. How did you tap into this life lesson whilst writing such a cleverly witty story?
Van responds: I was inspired after my first (and so far, only) trip back to Vietnam in nearly thirty years. I thought about how my parents must have felt when we left and how they would felt about it now, thirty years later.
I love how you’ve stitched familial history inside your stories – you write from the heart and your stories have a living spirit about them. How did you capture the moment of recognition to be given to the Little Tree by the Little Seed’s leaf? It was such a warm gesture of love from a child to a mother.
Van responds: Parents will always know their children, right? (Ask me this again in thirty years; my older child is only four :))
You give so much of your own heart to your writings and you leave fingerprints of affection in your closing statements where your ancestry and your family are illuminated in short stories of recollection. How did your family react to the picture books and of your continuance of carrying forward your living histories to inspire children and adults alike?
Van responds: My family likes to play it cool but I think one day soon, one of them will get choked up reading it to their daughter or son. Three, soon to be four, of my brothers just had their first child!
Truly blessed to have had the chance to ask these questions of Ms Van and to have your responses threaded inside my showcase! I was truly touched by the warmth of her words in her stories and wanted to gain a bit more insight into how she created the world in which I lived for the time I soaked inside her picture books! I can definitely foresee many Mums and Das appreciating ‘reading time’ with their children as they pick up either volume and enter a world of family and timeless love!
Written in a spare, lyrical style using fresh, evocative imagery, this richly illustrated picture book is about longing for the comforts of home while braving the adventures and perils of the wide world.
In a house by the sea, a woman is cooking. Near the woman, a baby is crying. Under the floor, a cricket is painting. In the painting, a fisherman rides stormy seas, longing to get home to his wife and infant…
The perfect book for teaching about diverse cultures and lifestyles, children will delight in this beautiful story which pays homage to the vanishing fishing culture in Vietnam, honors courage and sacrifice, and celebrates hearth and home.
APRIL CHU began her career as an architect with a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, but decided to return to her true passion of illustrating and storytelling. April currently lives and works in Oakland, California.
MUON VAN was born on the run in the southern port city of Rach Giá, Vietnam. When she was nine months old, she left Vietnam as part of the “boat people” mass exodus. She now lives in Northern California.
Her previous book, In a Village by the Sea, is also a family story and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, as well as rave reviews from The New York Times and School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 Production.