Archive for category: Contests

Review–The Engelsfors Trilogy: “The Circle” and “Fire”

Fire, book II in the Engelsfors Trilogy

Fire, book II in the Engelsfors Trilogy

At the end of this review there’s a contest for a free copy of Fire (so keep reading).

If you’re looking for a good read for your tween or teen daughter, you may want to consider The Engelsfors Trilogy. Book I is The Circle and Book II, just published, is Fire.

They caught my eye for several reasons:

• The books were written (originally in Swedish) by established writers: screenwriter Sara B. Elfgren and journalist Mats Strandberg.

• The rights have already been sold in 29 countries. That sounds pretty good. Doesn’t happen to every book that comes along, that’s for sure.

• Benny Andersson of ABBA has purchased the film rights. Again—bodes well.

When you’re trying to “get kids reading” you’re looking for what your kids will like–something that’s going to catch their interest and draw them in. (As opposed to, say, great literature that will change their lives. We’ll worry about that once they’re hooked on reading.) So if a book appears to be very popular, it may be a sign that your kid will like it, too.

The premise of the Engelsfors series is immediately compelling and unique. Yes, it’s a fantasy featuring witches and magical powers. But here’s the difference. The book’s protagonists are not one but five high school girls with disparate lives and points of view.

The whole point of the book is for these girls to get out of their own heads and start to see other kids for who they really are, and begin the process of empathy. The book sets up a need for the girls to eventually work together, which cements the empathy.

The cast
You’ve got Minoo, the smart over-achiever, with cracks in her self-esteem. Vanessa, the (increasingly thoughtful) partier who wants to be loved. Linnea, the orphaned loner making it through life on her own terms. Anna-Karin, unpopular and bullied, but with potential. And Ida, the “popular” mean girl with pushy parents who must eventually confront her past behaviour.

Of course, those are labels. The key to the Engelsfors Trilogy is the journey that leads behind each of those labels. Finding the grey areas within each of the girls’ personalities, and watching as they transform through self-discovery.

In that way, the book is well-sculpted. There is enough action to keep you going, and enough introspection so you care about the characters.

The actual plot is almost secondary, but here it is: There has been a death at the local high school. Ruled a suicide, but we the reader know it was some kind of mystical murder. The girls are in fact “Chosen Ones” – powerful witches whose lot it will be to save the town from a terrible evil. But to do so, each girl must discover what her special power is, and how she can use it in conjunction with the others’.

Readers will see themselves in the main characters, which is one reason why this is very much a girls’ read. Research shows that female readers tend to want to delve into interpersonal relationships and this novel has that in spades.

Deep into the second novel, I found the pace a little slow going and got a bit bogged down, but it picked up again. Overall, this is a series of books designed to keep you reading—and thinking—about the protagonists and likely about your own character.

If the mark of a good book is a memorable character these are very good books, indeed. I’m looking forward to Book III.

Extensions to the books
In the meantime, eight stories from the books have been made into comics–another great way to get kids reading, especially if the comics get them hooked and then they continue on to read the longer, book version. Visit the website for the comics.

The films are apparently also in production. Check out #cirkelnfilmen #engelsforsfilm #engelsforsmovie on Instagram, Twitter and tumblr for pictures and more from the pre-production.

“The Circle” and “Fire” are the first two books in the Engelsfors Trilogy, by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. Published by The Overlook Press. “Fire” recently went on sale; it’s 704 pages and is aimed at ages 14+ (although it could easily be enjoyed by younger readers). Visit the website.

The contest
Aren’t you glad you kept reading? This contest is as easy as 1-2-3!
Email me at joycegrant at sympatico dot ca, Subject: Englesfors and I will enter your name in a draw for a free copy of Fire, the second book in the Engelsfors Trilogy.
2) Tweet the link to this review (include @JGCanada) and I’ll put your name in the draw a second time.
Post a link to this review on your Facebook page for a third chance to win (email me the link to your Facebook page).
Contest ends Friday, Feb. 28, 2014; unfortunately, it’s limited to residents of Canada and the U.S. Good luck!

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Enter our exciting Gordon Korman contest!

Gordon Korman You know I’m a huge Gordon Korman fan.

That’s because, ever since he wrote his first, award-winning book at the age of 12 (that is not a typo), he’s penned some of Canada’s best loved children’s books.

Now, I’m excited to announce a contest for tickets to see Gordon Korman, live.


You can win two tickets to see Gordon Korman at the IFOA (International Festival of Authors) in Toronto, Ont. on October 26 at 11 a.m.

Korman will be interviewed about his new book, The Hypnotists, live on-stage by none other than Patty Sullivan, popular host of Kids’ CBC!

Here are the event details.

Gordon Korman is the beloved author of hilarious Canadian classic, This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.

Since then Gordon has written more than 70 novels for young readers. Take a look at some of them here: Books by Gordon Korman.

The Hypnotists by Gordon KormanHOW TO ENTER

To enter the contest, send an email to (no dot between Scholastic and Canada); tell us what your favourite Gordon Korman book is, and which one you’d like to read and you might just win it, along with the tickets! Use the subject line: Korman Contest.

CBC's Patty Sullivan will interview author Gordon Korman.

CBC’s Patty Sullivan will interview author Gordon Korman.

We have TWO sets of TWO tickets to give away (along with ONE book of your choice)!

This prize pack doesn’t include transportation or accommodation in Toronto. (You know that, but we have to say it.) Oh, and this prize pack is worth approximately $40, depending on what book you pick. However… reading your favourite Gordon Korman book on the subway on your way to see him at IFOA? Priceless!

The deadline to enter is Oct. 20, so enter now!

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Writing contest for Canadian kids grades 4 to 12

Madonna with Writing Child, by Pinturicchio, 1490s.

Madonna with Writing Child, by Pinturicchio, 1490s.

If you’re a Canadian kid in grade 4 to 12, you could win a great prize in a writing contest sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Centre and TD.

Here are some details:

  • Deadline is Feb. 1, 2013;
  • Fiction or non-fiction stories or poems;
  • Entries must be mailed in (no emails or faxes);
  • Must include an entry form — found here;
  • Prizes: $250 book gift certificate for a winner in each grade plus two honourable mentions ($50) from each grade.

You’ll find more details, the address to send your entries to and the entry form on the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website, here.

(Oh, the image? Yeah, that’s a child in the 1400s. He’s writing. In a book held by the mother of Jesus. Don’t worry, he’s not eligible for the contest–not Canadian. Phew!)




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TDSB writing contest – win a laptop!

TDSB Prize pack for writing contest 2011.It’s time to get writing again – and here’s a wonderful incentive for kids in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

Write 150 to 250 words about what you’re most looking forward to this school year.

And you could win a Dell Inspiron Duo Laptop (value $550) or a backpack full of back-to-school stuff including a Kobo reader and a digital camera (value: $400).

Here’s the link to the contest where you’ll find all the details.

The contest is open to TDSB students, kindergarten to Grade 12. Four winners will be chosen (two elementary and two secondary). Winners will be judged on originality, style and overall impression.

Email your entry to before Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.
Include your full name, student ID number, grade and school.

So… get writing, and good luck!



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Contest! Win a Ji Ga Zo puzzle

Ji Ga Zo puzzleWhat is the best literacy activity you’ve done with your kids to help get them reading?
The three top answers will be shared here and will win a Ji Ga Zo puzzle, courtesy of Hasbro and Getting Kids Reading.

The contest ends on Saturday, April 2 so get your answer(s) in by then.
We’ll be looking for simple, fun literacy-boosting activities (crafts, games, Internet sites, tips etc.) that kids will really enjoy and that will get them reading.
Winners will be notified here, and the puzzles will be shipped directly from Hasbro.

If you don’t know about Ji Ga Zo, it’s my latest obsession. (And no, Hasbro is not paying me to say any of this – although they did give me one free to try out. But I did subsequently buy one myself.)

Anyway, click here for my Ji Ga Zo post that will tell you more about it.
There’s a commercial that explains it pretty well, here.

I just couldn’t pick three winners. I couldn’t, I couldn’t!
Fortunately, Hasbro has generously offered (OK, after a bit of askin’ on my part – well, I couldn’t pick three! I couldn’t!) to give all of the people who entered our contest a free Ji Ga Zo reusable puzzle. The name may be challenging but the puzzle is awesome. This is a $24.99 value – and Hasbro is shipping them free to all our winners.

So congratulations to – and please email your snail-mail address to – our winners:
Jen Robinson
Valerie Strain
Lisa Dalrymple
Goletha Smith and
Greg Heptinstall

Congratulations! Woo-hoo! Picture the confetti I’m throwing.
Ah heck, here – you don’t have to picture it:

Confetti against a blue sky, by Sherrie Thai

Image: Sherrie Thai


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Winner of PictureIt Contest

Thank you to everyone who entered our contest for free PictureIt books.

We have a winner! We put all of the names in a (virtual) hat and randomly chose a winner. Congratulations to Maria Butcher, who should be receiving the books right… about… now.

Maria mentioned in her comment that her son has Asperger’s – these books, in which the child draws his own illustrations, may be an excellent resource for him. I hope Maria will let us know if he enjoys the books (or not – either way, we wanna know!).

Now, for all of you who entered but didn’t win
I can’t bear to see anyone walk away empty-handed! So I went back to PictureIt and asked if they could offer some small discount to anyone who entered but didn’t win.

They’re not set up to offer discounts, but here’s what they generously offered to do: If you entered the contest, they will give you free shipping if you purchase the books through their website directly.

So if you entered the contest and want to buy the books and take advantage of this offer, you’ll need to e-mail Alicia and Leanne (the creators) directly and mention Getting Kids Reading. They can be reached at creators at pictureitpicturebooks dot com.

Thank you to PictureIt for supplying the six free books. And congratulations on having recently been picked up by Chapters/Indigo!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are the links to our contest (which, as I say, is now over). Thanks everyone!
PictureIt book giveaway
Win free PictureIt books

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Contest: Win free Picture It books

We’ve only had two contest entries so far.

And while it’s great that two people have entered (thank you, M and K!)… I ask myself, “why haven’t more people entered?”

I figure it could be for two reasons (both of which have to do with the fact that I’m a neophyte at offering contests):

1) You don’t want to have to worry about picking the books up or paying for postage. Fair enough – I get that. Can’t change it, though.

2) You don’t want to have to put your e-mail address (as asked in my original post) on the Internet. This one I can fix.

So now if you want to enter the contest, just e-mail me your information at joycegrant at sympatico dot ca and I’ll enter you!

3) Don’t know what contest I’m talking about? Read this. And then enter, please.

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"Picture It" book giveaway

“Picture It” picture book giveaway.

Toronto hosted Word on the Street on Sunday.

I’m always blown away by the sheer number of people who come out to the one-day festival. There are kids’ literature lovers, fantasy and sci-fi afficiandoes, magazines, alt literature – even Harlequin had a booth.

I picked up some fantastic ideas for kids’ literacy. One of the best was a brand-new series of books called “Picture It picture books.” They’re the brainchild of Leanne Milech and Alicia Belvedere.

They’re picture books with text on each page, with a big blank space for kids to illustrate them themselves. So for instance, a page will say “I have many toys, but this one is very special to me.” And then room above for the child to draw their special toy.

It’s a brilliant idea, because some kids are more into art than words. This draws them into the language as they explore their artistic side.

There are six books so far. “Goodnight Dreams” is about a girl who doesn’t dream and sets out to discover why. “Captain Zane” takes kids on a sea adventure. There’s also an alphabet book and a number book as well as a book about the child and their family.

The women have sold their idea to Chapters Indigo so it’s certain to take off. It’s also been featured on TV on CityLine.

Here’s the Picture It website with more information.

We’re giving six books away
Getting Kids Reading is proud to be giving a series of these wonderful books away to one lucky GKR reader. I’ll be doing a random draw, selecting one name to win.

If you live in the Toronto area and can pick up the books, that’s great. If you’re outside the city that’s fine but you’ll have to be willing to pay for postage. (I don’t think it’ll cost that much, but I’m no postal expert, so I can’t say for sure yet. Update: Under 10 bucks, the Picture It people tell me.)

The books are for kids 6 and up, although I’m sure that younger kids would enjoy them too. They’re listed at $7.99 each.

To enter the draw, write a Comment with your name and e-mail address. I’ll put all the names in a hat and pick a winner! The winner will be notified on Tuesday, October 12. (If I haven’t had enough entrants by then I might extend the deadline a bit, but let’s see what happens.) Good luck!

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Kids’ writing contest (note: Americans only)

Here’s a little gift for our friends to the south.

Unfortunately, only Americans can enter this contest. (I’ve got an e-mail in to one of the contest judges to ask why-oh-why they’ve limited it. But I digress.)

It’s such a great-looking contest, that I want to point it out to GKR’s American readers (you know who you are).

Remember Mimi, that large, clown-faced woman from the Drew Carey show? The actress’ name is Kathy Kinney, and post-Carey she started a kids’ reading website called Mrs. P.

Her site is hosting a writing contest for American kids, aged 4 to 13.

The two winning entries will be made into books complete with illustrations. (Let’s hope they won’t be drawn by the same person who did Mimi’s make-up! Paf!)

The site is accepting entries starting Sept. 1, so it would be a great end-of-summer writing assigment for the kids. Uh, unless your kids have already started school? Ours don’t start until Sept. 8 – but maybe Americans have already started.

Oh, someone, please inform me about what’s going on south of Canada these days, because clearly I’m out of touch!
Here’s a link to the contest. Good luck!

Additional info: I received a very thoughtful response from a contest judge and from one of the Mrs. P. website creators explaining why the contest is limited to Americans only.

It’s a legal thing apparently. With gift certificates involved, it would be too difficult to administer internationally (according to their lawyers. Yeah, that’s what I said too. A-heh.).

Anyway, they said that if they get a lot of response from non-Americans, they’ll consider holding another contest that’s not US-exclusive. So there’s your homework, everyone!

Canadians (and Brits and everyone else – again, you know who you are)… do check out the Mrs. P. site. It’s quite a major site and clearly they’ve got a lot invested in it. I found it a bit cumbersome to download, and everything had rather lengthy introductions before the “good stuff” so you should check it out before sending your kids there. However, there is quite a lot of content on the site, from games to Mrs. P. reading aloud.
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