Monday, January 29, 2018

The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean ~ ~ Blog Tour, Author Interview, Review, & Giveaway!

The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean 
by Robert Gillespie 

Genre: Children's Fiction, 48 pages
Category: Fantasy / Nature
Publisher: Page Publishing
Release date: July 2017
Content Rating: G

Book Description: Popcorn and Jellybean had never ventured down the path beyond the big tree. But since they never really did anything exciting, and even though it made them a little nervous at first, they decided it would be a fun adventure for a couple of days. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as it turned out, if the explorers were not prepared! Join them as they take on new challenges each day, learn how to survive by following the behaviors of the animals they encounter, and go where Mother Nature leads them. And who knows, maybe we could learn as well!


HALL WAYS REVIEW: The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean is a fun and informative story, full of outdoor adventure for young readers to enjoy. Author Robert Gillespie and his son Colton have included all the elements that kids like in a story: best buddy escapades, independence, a little danger, and a safe and happy ending. What kid (or adult) wouldn’t want to bravely venture out into the woods like Popcorn and Jellybean?

Admittedly, I am perplexed by our main characters. They are not clearly defined or put into context for readers. (Are they really food or are they boys with nicknames? Are they big or small? How old are they? Why does Raisin have a B on his cap? Where is this story set? Do they live together? Did their parents okay this trip? How does this all work, exactly?) My advice is to suspend your disbelief, don’t dwell on logistics, put aside your questions, and have fun with Popcorn and Jellybean.

It’s a lovely book to hold in your hands, and even though it’s text heavy, it’s not intimidating due to the font size, amount of white space, and fifteen or so half and full-page illustrations. The dialogue is natural between the characters, and the vocabulary fits the target audience and includes a few challenging words. The narrator inserts himself into the story from time to time with some foreshadowing and asides, which adds a little interest to the storyline, too.

Though the cover may mislead some into thinking this is a story for the youngest readers, I would recommend this book for second through fourth graders. The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean is a chapter book, and like most kids’ books, I would recommend it as a read along or read aloud. For some readers, there are parts that could feel a little scary and make them anxious or upset. There are also parts – like the characters having matches and knives and eating plants and berries they find in the forest – that an adult should clarify and discuss. (I’d love to know where aloe vera and watermelons grow wild in the same woods.)

The book is full of lessons and learning for the readers, but it’s all contextual and interesting and never dry. I liked how some lessons were subtler than others (not just soap on the packing list, but biodegradable soap). Sometimes the lessons are learned by what the characters do right, and sometimes they are shown by what is done wrong: just like in life. The over-arching theme shows the value of preparation, staying calm, keeping a positive attitude, and being logical when confronted with a problem to solve.

The illustrations (not sure who did them) are lovely and engaging, and they provide a nice respite for readers who need a break in the action. Most images have muted, water-colored backgrounds and colorful, but not too bright, foregrounds with plenty of things to observe. The main characters have warm, expressive eyes and friendly faces, and I think readers would like to see them pictured within the story, so hopefully that will happen in future installments.

Also, for future installments, there needs to be a more thorough proofreading done. The book has capitalization, punctuation, and agreement errors, a sentence or two with misplaced words, and some tense changes. Most readers won’t notice the errors, but especially in children’s books, the writing needs to be immaculate since kids are still learning the rules. On a positive note, if I used the book in the classroom, it would be an opportunity to do a quick, real-life grammar lesson.

Thank you to iRead Book Tours and the author for providing me a lovely print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 


Bob has spent more than 13 years as a wildlife conservation educator sharing information and animal encounters with audiences of all ages. He has a passion for teaching about a wide range of topics nature related and loves passing it along to his two sons. His youngest son, Colton, was the inspiration behind The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean, where it all started as a simple bedtime story. Bob currently resides in Carlsbad, California, and works as a professional interpreter guide at a world-renowned conservation organization.

What was the most important aspect of your book?
For me, relatability was the key in putting this book together. Not just in the written word, but also in the illustration style that was incorporated throughout. My target audience is middle-graders, and middle-graders have a very definite way in which they relate and communicate to each other, and how they look at the world around them. The goal was to shape the storyline into something that would resonate with those kids.

What advice would give budding writers?
Write what you already know about, and write from the heart. If you are well versed in your subject matter, the writing will come easier.  Feel the words you are using, and don’t be afraid to push the limits of grammar correctness. Entertain your audience. Read your book aloud to yourself, and hear what others are hearing. Is it clear? Does it make sense? Does it flow? I read my book to several 2nd grade classes. Did they laugh where I thought they should? Did they react where I hoped they would? Have fun with it, and don’t try to copy the style of anyone else.

How did you research your book?
For me, the research had already been done. All I had to do was draw from my experiences and knowledge not just from real life experiences, but also from the knowledge base I have built up over the many years spent teaching about wildlife and conservation issues.

Do you have aspirations of becoming a best-selling author?
To be completely honest, that has never been part of my agenda. I never even had aspirations of being a writer. It just happened, and it has been a great experience. I’m just focusing on each book, and not looking that far ahead. If it were to happen, then that would be a bonus. There’s a world full of gifted writers that have been at this craft a lot longer than me, so I try to keep my writing world compact and stress free.

Why did you pick this genre?
It was more about this genre picking me. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing in the past, but never too seriously. This whole thing started as a bedtime story to my son, and simply evolved into what it has become today. I guess the story line just kind of fell into place, but it all goes back to writing about what you know. Through my years of teaching summer camps and my experience in wildlife education, I have a good feel for children and what they tend to gravitate to.

Do you have a favorite author?
I read every day without fail. For me, when it comes to any book, it’s more about the content of the book than the author. If the storyline doesn’t grab me by the end of the first chapter or two, then chances are that I will put down and won’t go back to it. I do like the early works of Stephen King, as well as Dean Koontz and James Patterson.

Enter the Giveaway!
Win a paperback copy of The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean by Robert Gillespie and a $20 Amazon gift card (1 winner / open to USA & CAN)
Ends Midnight, Feb 9, 2018

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  1. Thank you for reviewing our book. I agree - let's suspend disbelief, and just enjoy the adventure as it was intended. It's easy to over analyze things sometimes. A 'B' on a cap is really irrelevant to the story line, but I'm glad this can be used as a grammar lesson.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Robert! As the mother of five and a former school librarian, I know all too well the kinds of questions kids will ask -- mostly irrelevant. Ha! I enjoyed the book and look forward to more in the series.