Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mr. Pig Live...with (THE INFAMOUS) Louie and Ralphie Ratso...and a GIVEAWAY!

Sound check… are we ready? Cue the lights! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. . .

Hello friends, and welcome back to MR. PIG LIVE! 

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome...


<<Whistles>> <<Applause>>

These two brothers are tough on the outside, kind on the inside, and the stars of a funny, heart-warming new chapter book series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS!

MP: So, first things first. What are your full names, boys?
L. Louie Ratso.
R. Ralphie Ratso.

Illustration copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.
MP: What three words best describe you?
L. Tough, tough, tough!
R. But underneath, really kind, helpful, and generous.

MP: What is the worst thing about being you?
L. Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for everyone else), we’re really bad at being bad.
R. Every time we try to show the world how tough we are, it just shows how good we
are. It turns out being tough all the time is really, really…tough.

Illustration copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.

MP: What is the best thing about being you?
L. It turns out we’ve become infamous…
R. …for really good reasons!

MP: When do you feel the happiest?
L. When we’re doing something nice for someone else.
R. And when we’re together. Especially when we’re with our dad, Big Lou.

Illustration copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.
MP: What is your favorite word?
L. “Nyah-nyah!” (Wait…is that a word? If not, I’ll go with the word “plan,” because I have 
lots of them.)
R. “Righto!”

MP: What is your favorite food?
L. Cheese sandwiches.
R. Our dad’s meatballs. With extra sprinkly cheese.

MP: What is your special talent?
L. Coming up with clever plans.
R. Throwing water balloons. LOOK OUT!

MP: If you could dine with three characters from other books, who would they be?
L. Templeton from Charlotte’s Web, Roscuro from The Tale of Despereaux
R. — ooh, and any of those Rats of NIMH!

MP: If a genie gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
L & R: To have our mom with us again.

MP: What is your most embarrassing moment?
L. In our next adventure (publishing in September 2017), THE INFAMOUS RATSOS Are
Not Afraid, I’m afraid everyone will find out that I’m afraid of ghosts — particularly one
that might actually be living in our neighborhood!
R. And a rumor goes around school that I like a girl. What could be scarier than THAT?

MP: What is your pet peeve?
L. When my clever plans don’t turn out the way I expect.
R. Leaky water balloons.

MP: What was it like working with Kara LaReau?
L. I like what she did with our story. She’s almost as clever as I am (and that’s saying a
R. And boy, is she tough — but usually just on herself, when she’s writing.
L. I hope she keeps telling stories about us.
R. Me, too. And I hope Matt Myers keeps illustrating them. His artwork is super-cool!

Illustration copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.
MP: If you have a pocket, what is in it right now?
L. Some notes I made for a new plan. It’s sure to be the best one yet!
R. A few balloons (for making water balloons), a bar of soap (which we recently used to
soap — and then wash — a neighbor’s windows), and half of a cheese sandwich from
yesterday’s lunch.
L. You really should empty your pockets more often, little brother.
R. Right-o!

I'd better end this interview before Ralphie takes aim with another water balloon — many thanks to the Ratso Brothers for coming all the way from the Big City to chat with us! 

I hope you're all hungry, because our caterer Nina from Mamabelly has whipped up a particularly infamous Literary Lunch just for you. Click here for a peek at Nina's bento of goodies!

About the Author:

Kara LaReau is the author of picture books
such as UGLY FISH and OTTO: The Boy
Who Loved Cars, illustrated by Scott Magoon,
Tale of Table Manners, illustrated by Lorelay
Bové; a chapter book series called THE
INFAMOUS RATSOS, illustrated by Matt
Myers; and an upcoming middle-grade trilogy
called The Unintentional Adventures of the
Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill. Kara
lives in Providence, RI with her husband and
son and their cat.


Louie and Ralphie Ratso are determined to be as tough as their truck-driver father, but the rats’ efforts go hilariously awry in this funny, thoughtful, and smart chapter book...LaReau packs substantial comedy and poignant emotion into each chapter (the boys’ mother has "been gone for a little while now"), adeptly amplified by Myers’s spot art.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books...The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers' sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos' "unwelcome" mat. A nicely inventive little morality "tail" for newly independent readers.Kirkus Reviews

The father-son dynamic is realistic and honest. Young readers will feel for the family as they learn to deal with the absence of a loved one. This slender novel packs a strong message of overcoming loss through love and kindness. A solid purchase; a chapter book that entertains and uplifts.School Library Journal

Generous black-and-white illustrations evoke setting (a rundown city neighborhood) as well as reinforce the storyline and the light tone of the text, with its natural vocabulary. Here’s a beginning chapter book with heart.The Horn Book

* And now for the GIVEAWAY!!! Kara is kindly sending a signed copy of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS to one lucky reader! To enter to win, simply leave a comment below! 

Literary Lunch . . . with The Infamous Ratsos!

Today's Literary Lunch Menu is brought to you by our wonderful caterer, Nina, from Mamabelly!
For more of her fabulous BENTO creations visit her website:
Scroll down to learn how to make this lunch. . .

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be TOUGH just like their dad, Big Lou. But every time they try to show the world how tough they are, they end up proving how kind and generous and helpful they are instead. What will Big Lou think when he hears just how bad the Ratso Brothers are at being bad?

Nina from Mamabelly packed an infamously tough lunch to accompany the book:
  • Tiny Crawley's hat on cheese crackers
  • Mrs. Porcupini's cereal bar soap 
  • Mr. O'Hare's hot chocolate pudding
  • and the Infamous Ratso Sandwich for Florinda Rabbitski : grilled cheddar with beets and pickled mushrooms! Yum-O!

Want more fun literary lunch ideas? Follow Mamabelly here:

* web:
* twitter: @LunchesWithLove

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

A Squiggly Story

by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery

This week's pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.

What it's all about
A little boy admires how well his sister reads and writes: big words and little words, page after page, word after word. How can he write a story, when he knows his letters but doesn't know many words? Soon, he discovers a solution, and a squiggly series of letters and shapes turns into a twisty tale of a soccer ball, a seemingly-peaceful beach, a swiftly-approaching shark...and an alien rocket ship!

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf…

A clever tribute to the process (and power) of storytelling, via Andrew Larsen's sweet, funny text and Mike Lowery's graphic illustrations.

My favorite lines…
That night after dinner,
I sit down beside my sister.
Her face is buried in a book.

"I've been thinking about my story all day and I still don't know how to END it."

"Remember, you're the author," she says, without looking up. "You can do WHATEVER YOU WANT."

My favorite illustration…

Why kids will love it…

Kids (especially those who don't know how to write words yet, like the narrator) will find this story about "writing" a story tremendously empowering, not to mention highly entertaining.

Why grown-ups will love it…

This ingenious form of expression is sure to inspire young readers to squiggle out their own stories!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Behind the Book...with Sharon Chriscoe!

Today in the Cottage, we're thrilled to welcome Sharon Criscoe, who writes for children of all ages. From very young picture books to upper middle grade novels, Sharon is passionate about creating lively worlds for children to grow and learn in. Her latest book is RACE CAR DREAMS, a picture book we're "wheely" excited about!

Tell us a little bit about RACE CAR DREAMS, Sharon!


First, thanks so much for having me, Mr. Pig. I love your blog!

RACE CAR DREAMS is a rhyming bedtime story about a little race car getting ready for bed. After his high octane filled day at the track, he washes his rims at the Tickle-and-Wash, fills his tummy with oil at Guzzle-and-Gulp, and chooses a book from the Speedy-Reads Library that’s all about speed. Then, once toasty and warm, he drifts off to sleep, shifts into gear . . . and dreams of the race!

What inspired you to write the story?
A couple years ago while I was reading the super-talented Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? for around the tenth time, I found myself wanting my very own unique twist on a bedtime story. After much brainstorming, and some trial and error, it hit me . . . full throttle! A race car! Kids love race cars and I had never read about a race car getting ready for bed. I spent the next few weeks in my mobile office drafting those first words.

Yep. That’s right, my office is not only mobile but it’s the passenger seat of a bread truck in which I work alongside my super supportive husband on our bread route.

It took almost another year of tweaking the story, revision after revision, draft after draft (nearly 50 in total!) before Race Car became a book that was submission worthy. And I am so thankful to my wonderful critique partners and the SCBWI Blueboard members who encouraged me and helped me to get him all polished and shined.   

If you were a CAR, what make and model would you be?
VERY cool question! Let’s see, if I were a CAR, I’d be a 427 Chevrolet Corvette! And I’d be a convertible so that way when the weather is perfect, I could vroom around town with the sun shining down on me.

What do you love to do when not writing zippy bedtime tales and other stories?
I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can top spending time with my family. So that will always be first on my list. And of course, if we can have some of that quality time together while at the beach, it’s that much sweeter! I love the ocean and I’d spend the entire summer there if I could.

For our teachers and librarian readers: which titles would you pair RACE CAR DREAMS with for a car (or bedtime) themed story hour?
Oh! A car (or bedtime themed) story hour would be so much fun! If I were in charge of creating this story hour (how awesome would that be!) I’d definitely bring along Goodnight Lightning (Pixar Cars); Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site; Goodnight Moon; Bedtime in the Meadow; and Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?

What’s up next for you?
Thank you so much for asking! My next book is a companion book to RACE CAR DREAMS titled BULLDOZER DREAMS. It was actually my wonderful editor and publisher’s idea. Julie, my editor, said she and my publisher had a fun discussion about what types of vehicles would make for a great book two, and construction vehicles was an instant thought. Julie sent the BULLDOZER DREAMS title to me along with an optional one they had discussed. When I read the email, my thoughts were “A Bulldozer! YES! I want to do that!” Now BULLDOZER DREAMS is with John Joven, the illustrator — I’ve recently seen the proofs and they are so adorable!

Thanks so much for visiting, Sharon!

About the Book

by Sharon Chriscoe
illustrated by Dave Mottram
Running Press (September 2016)
ISBN 978-0762459643

After a day at the track of zipping and zooming, a race car is tired and ready for bed. He washes his rims, fills his tummy with oil, and chooses a book that is all about speed. All toasty and warm, he drifts off to sleep, he shifts into gear . . . and dreams of the race!

About the Author

Sharon Chriscoe may not vroom around a race track, but she does zip and zoom around in a bread truck with her husband, Ricky. Fueled with fresh bread, snacks, and writing tools, Sharon has made this her mobile office! She and her husband live in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. They have three children and one grandchild on the way, as well as an assortment of dogs, cats, bunnies and occasionally a groundhog. In addition to RACE CAR DREAMS, she is the author of BULLDOZER DREAMS (a companion book to RACE CAR DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2017), and The Sparrow and the Trees (Arbordale Publishing, 2015). She is also a contributor to several magazines such as Highlights High Five, Highlights Hello, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. To learn more about Sharon, her books, and future events, visit her website:

Watch the Trailer!