I’m lucky enough to know children’s books author Vikki VanSickle and she was sweet enough to let me interview her for Mind the Gap! Click here for a glimpse into her writing process and make sure you also check out my review of her first picture book, If I Had a Gryphon here!
If I Had a Gryphon – Vikki VanSickle, illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Sam is already bored of her new pet, a rather sedate hamster. Inspired by her book of mythological creatures, Sam longs for a more exciting pet. But she soon realizes that taking care of these magical beasts might not be as wonderful as she thought. Unicorns are shy, gryphons scare the dogs at the dogpark, and having a fire extinguisher handy at all times makes dragons seem like an awful lot of work. In the end, Sam realizes that her hamster is a pretty sweet and safe pet … or is he?
If I Had a Gryphon is a raucous rhyming read-aloud about fantastical beasts in everyday situations–and the increasingly beleaguered heroine who has to deal with them. The perfect primer on mythological and fantastic beasts for young kids not quite ready for Harry Potter!
Release Date: February 9th, 2016
I don’t think I’ve reviewed a picture book on this blog before and honestly, I don’t know why. I love picture books! I have a whole shelf dedicated to them, and most of those books are from the past couple of years, nevermind the amount I collected during my actual childhood.
So, I think it’s about time I started talking about the wonders that can be found in picture books, and what better book to start with than the superb If I Had a Gryphon.
With sweet rhyming prose and an easy, bouncy rhythm, the story follows Sam as she tries to decide what kind of mythical animal she would most like to have – anything but a boring old hamster. I read it to my three nieces (aged 3-9) and we had fun talking about the different creatures and which ones we would personally like to own (I think I settled on unicorn), so it would be a great discussion starter at home or in the classroom.
Not only does Sam list the usual suspects (what you would normally think of when you think “mythic”) such as unicorns and dragons, but she also mentions kirins and jackalopes and basilisks and many more. I’ve heard people say this is the book you give to a child who is too young for Harry Potter and I couldn’t agree more.
Side note: around the time I received my copy, I was also reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I could not get this precious image of a kirin out of my head.
I might be a little biased because our intrepid heroine may or may not be named after me (she totally is – read more to find out why), but how flippin’ cute are these illustrations?? Cale Atkinson, who released his debut picture book, To the Sea, this past year, is an up-and-coming illustrator from BC who has already done work for different animation studios and publishers. His characters are precious, from the round-faced Sam to the majestic titular gryphon and all the creatures in between, and they make the words come alive. I was interning at Tundra when the artwork first came in and it’s actually uncanny how much Sam looks like a cartoon version of me, even though I’ve never met Cale – and so, she was named. For your enjoyment, here is a photo of me dressed as my picture book doppleganger:
I’m lucky enough to know Vikki in real life, and it’s a good thing I love her first picture book otherwise it would be awkward if we ran into each other (I’ve yet to read any of her novels, but since one is referred to as a middle grade version of Dirty Dancing, I don’t see how I could NOT love them). She is a lovely person and is totally living my dream (children’s book marketer by day, children’s book author by night), and if anyone deserves to have a bestselling picture book (and mermaid-like hair), it’s her. It’s hard to pick the right words when you’re writing a rhyming sequence, but Vikki (with the help of her editor, the awesome Sam Swenson) does a fantastic job, making it look effortless and employing some whimsical words and images along the way, such as tinkling unicorn horseshoes and sasquatches with “burly, curly fur”. If you’ve ever wished for an exciting pet or would have cursed someone to be in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class, this book is for you.
Plus the amount of detail is incredible, as I’ve come to expect from all Tundra picture books (photos from my phone don’t do the illustrations justice). If you have a physical copy, remove the dust jacket for a magical surprise!
I enjoy filling out surveys, and I (obviously) love books, so this end-of-the-year survey hosted by Jamie (Perpetual Page Turner) is right up my alley! Read on for my answers :)
Number Of Books You Read: 111 + about 10 manuscripts during my internship (Jan-April)
Number of Re-Reads: 18
Genre You Read The Most From: probably urban fantasy (YA is NOT a category!)
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Bane Chronicles. I mean, I wasn’t really surprised because I haven’t liked the last four Cassandra Clare books I’ve read, but Magnus was always my favourite character.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
When Everything Feels Like the Movies (Raziel Reid) – it got a lot of buzz when it was chosen as one of the finalists for Canada Reads, and that in itself was surprising (in a good way!).
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I’m going to say Every Breath a) because I recommend it on pretty much a monthly basis (technically I read it in 2014, but it was literally the last book I read – I finished it on December 31!) and b) my sister read it and become just as obsessed!
5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?
Best series started: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)
Best sequel: Every Word (Ellie Marney)
Best series ender: The Wondrous and the Wicked (Page Morgan)
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
Susin Nielsen. I read literally all her books (including one that’s not even published yet!) this year.
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Unbearable Lightness – Portia de Rossi
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Every Move (Ellie Marney). I could not move while reading it.
9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Cinder (Marissa Meyer) because I haven’t picked up the rest of the series yet, and I’ll probably have to re-read it before I continue.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath – Ishbelle Bee
11. Most memorable character of 2015?
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
The Book Thief (Markus Zusack) is gorgeous, but it was a re-read. “New” book that was beautifully written: Magonia (Maria Dahvana Headley)
13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?
The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?
Soulless – Gail Carriger. It has so many things I love in it!
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?
I have seen the aftermath of death, the incredible mechanism of the body laid bare, and I know now that each person is a kind of miracle. A spark nestles like a bird inside our chests, so deep that we can’t find where it lives, but it is everything. It’s what makes us dream and think and feel and laugh and sing. And it is a mystery, and it is mundane, and, above all, it is fragile. Any moment could be our last. – Rachel Watts, Every Word
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?
The shortest (not including picture books or comics) was The Little Prince with 98 pages and the longest was the Complete Blooming Goddess Trilogy (Tallulah Darling) with 1080 pages total (it was all one ebook, so if I was counting individual books, it would be Outlander with 850 pages).
17. Book That Shocked You The Most
The Hollow Boy – Jonathan Stroud. THAT ENDING. I NEED THE NEXT ONE LIKE NOW.
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Wattscroft forever!!! Ellie Marney is in charge of writing all the kissing scenes forever.
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Flavia and Dogger from Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Why We Broke Up – Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket!)
21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
My sister told me repeatedly to read a Gail Carriger novel and I’m SO GLAD I read Soulless (and the sequel, Changeless!).
22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
Technically he’s from the end of 2014, but who doesn’t love James Mycroft??
23. Best 2015 debut you read?
Mad Miss Mimic – Sarah Henstra
24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?
I flat out sobbed at the end of The Wondrous and the Wicked (Page Morgan).
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Not published in 2015, but I really enjoyed Knightly and Son – Rohan Gavin
28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
In terms of being sad, I’d say Why We Broke Up, but if you’re talking about one that beat me down until I finished it, I’d say Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?
Lair of Dreams – Libba Bray
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Anne & Henry – Dawn Ius. I had such high hopes for it because it had such a great concept, but the characters infuriated me.
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?
This year was the first year I really paid attention to book blogs and really worked on my own reviews. Some of my favourite blogs include: Pop! Goes the Reader, The Broke and the Bookish, A Reader of Fictions, Snuggly Oranges, Cuddlebuggery, and, of course Perpetual Page Turner, plus a whole lot more! I also have to shout out to all the blogs I follow/who follow me here :)
2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?
Probably my Simon vs review or my extensive review for Every Breath/Every Word.
3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
The post with the most comments was my Top Ten Books of 2015 from a few weeks ago.
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I helped out at OLA which was a really interesting experience, but I also got to meet Alan Bradley at Random House which was really cool (he’s such an adorable old man!).
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Every Word blog tour (most views on one particular day); overall, it was my Blurryface track-by-track review (in terms of views) and top 10 books of 2015 (in terms of comments).
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I’m quite proud of my UK in YA TTT!
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I set 100 books as my Goodreads challenge and surpassed that goal!
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?
Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett) is going to be the first book I read in 2016.
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?
I don’t even know if it will come out in 2016, but I’m salivating for the next Lockwood and Co (Jonathan Stroud) book.
3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
The Love That Split The World – Emily Henry. It’s been getting a lot of hype and it was the first book to come to mind.
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?
I’m really hoping that Every Move will be published in North America next year so I can complete my collection!
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?
I’m setting a goal for 120 books, plus one of my resolutions is to read more classics. And my sister and I (and possibly our nine year old niece) are going to do a full Harry Potter re-read which is really exciting.
6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:
The two 2016 books I’ve read so far have been The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner) and Vikki VanSickle’s If I Had a Gryphon (illustrated by Cale Atkinson), both of which I recommend (and will have reviews up in the next couple of months!).