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26. Cinderella’s Prince

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

Cinderella’s Prince

A Short Fairy Tale Retelling

By Manelle Oliphant

Download this story free by clicking here.

The rolling motion of the carriage stops and I jerk awake. My neck hurts. I rub it with my hand and look out the window.  The next house on our list is grand and grey, much like the last one. How did the fashion of grey start among the upper classes of my kingdom? Grey is a boring color.

Servants bustle outside my door, and it opens. I step into the sun and take the box Buffins holds toward me. It’s also grey. I’m as bored of it as I am of the houses. I sigh. I must have been a little drunk or be-spelled when I declared I’d marry the girl who’s foot fit the shoe now nestled inside. It was a stupid idea.

I thought about the ball, where I’d met the nicest, most beautiful, funny girl ever, and my slapdash decree at it’s end. When I’d come to my senses the next morning I despaired of ever seeing her again. Feet don’t come in all that many sizes after all. I assumed I’d be engaged within the week to some random noble daughter. Now, three months later the shoe hasn’t even slipped over a toe. That’s how I know it’s magic. When I first realized this I felt hopeful, but now I imagine I’ll be trying shoes on smelly dainty feet for the rest of my life.

My servants knock. Their servants answer. We are announced and shown into a flamboyant room with three ladies inside. They curtsey. The mother makes simpering small talk as she shows me to my seat. “You are so noble. We are honored. We hope your journey has been comfortable. Would you like tea?” Etc etc.

I’ve heard it all before but this time I’m hungry, so I accept the offer of tea. I imagine her lauding it over her neighbors later. “The prince took tea at my house and said is was ever so refreshing. He didn’t take tea at your house. Oh dear, how unfortunate for you. We can’t all be so lucky, I suppose.”

I sit in an overstuffed chair.  Two young ladies sit on a couch across from me. I try not to cringe when I see them. There is a possibility they are pretty but it’s hard to tell with all the face paint they wear. I paste a smile on my face. “Which one of your lovely daughters will be first?”

Cinderella's Prince: Personal Project: Watercolor & Ink

Cinderella’s Prince: Personal Project: Watercolor & Ink

Each girl giggles and sticks out a left foot. They strain to get closer to me in hopes of being first. I try not to laugh as one falls off her chair onto her giant bustle.  I kneel before the girl still seated, ignore the aroma of sour foot, and try the shoe. As usual it won’t even slide over her toes. I hold the shoe while she tries to get her foot in from every direction but I know it won’t do any good. When she has exhausted herself I turn to her sister. She is back in her seat pretending nothing untoward happened. She tries her foot in the shoe. After a brief struggle she goes so far as to take the shoe from me to try it her self. I have to wrestle the shoe away.

The first sister squirms in her seat. “Let me try it again, she got a longer turn.”

I look at her but don’t respond as I place the shoe back in the box, and hand it to Buffins.  I’m so tired. I sigh as I sit. These are the least well-mannered girls I’ve met. I wish I’d waited to accept an offer of tea.

A maid enters the room carrying a tray. She sets it on the table next to me. The tea’s smell mixes with the ladies perfume and I feel a little lightheaded. The servant doesn’t leave but stands close behind my shoulder and I feel her staring at me. Even the servants in this house are ill mannered.

The lady of the house waves her hand at the girl. “That will be all, Ella.”

I hear her curtsy. “Yes,  My Lady.”

Her voice. I’ve heard it before. My heart beats faster. I turn but her back is to me and she is almost out the door.

I stand. “Wait.”

She turns around. I want to squeal with excitement like my younger sister does. It’s her, blue eyes, dimples, and a laughing smile. Granted she’s dirty, her hair is covered and her dress is patched, but it is her.

I can’t help staring at her as I speak. “This Lady must try the shoe as well.”

The room is silent. I look around. The lady and her daughters sit with their mouths open. My servants stand unmoving. I motion at Buffins to bring the box forward. “I said this lady must try the shoe.”

He blinks at me. “Your Highness, I… we…”

I scowl at him. “Buffins.”

He stops stammering and hands me the box. I take the servant girl’s rough hand and lead her to the sofa. It’s the same hand I held at the ball. Of course it belongs to a servant. Why did I not realize?

I kneel and remove her left boot. The shoe glides over her foot.

I take her hand. “I knew it was you when I heard your voice.”

“I’m glad, your highness, for if you hadn’t I would’ve let you wander the world with that shoe. It just so happens I have the other one right here”

From her apron pocket she takes the matching shoe. When she puts it on there is a puff of smoke. The dirt and rags disappear. Now she, Ella, sits all clean in an elegant day dress, with her hair arranged in a stylish way.

I take her hands and pull her into my arms.  “Ella, will you marry me?”

She smiles. “Of course.”

I give her smile a kiss. Something, I admit, I’ve wanted to do since the first moment I saw her in the ballroom.  The awful daughters gasp and Buffins’ cries in protest but I ignore them all. I’m going to live happily ever after.

The End

 Support the creation of more art and story by Manelle on Patreon.com

The post Cinderella’s Prince appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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27. Review of the Day: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song
By Frances Hardinge
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
ISBN: 978-1419714801
Ages 10 and up
On shelves May 12, 2015

I was watching the third Hobbit movie the other day (bear with me – I’m going somewhere with this) with no particular pleasure. There are few things in life more painful to a children’s librarian than watching an enjoyable adventure for kids lengthened and turned into adult-centric fare, then sliced up into three sections. Still, it’s always interesting to see how filmmakers wish to adapt material and as I sat there, only moderately stultified, the so-called “Battle of the Five Armies” (which, in this film, could be renamed “The Battle of the Thirteen Odd Armies, Give Or Take a Few) comes to a head as the glorious eagles swoop in. “They’re the Americans”, my husband noted. It took a minute for this to register. “What?” “They’re the Americans. Tolkien wrote this book after WWI and the eagles are the Yanks that swoop in to save the day at the very last minute.” I sat there thinking about it. England has always had far closer ties to The Great War than America, it’s true. I remember sitting in school, baffled by the vague version I was fed. American children are taught primarily Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII fare. All other conflicts are of seemingly equal non-importance after those big three. Yet with the 100 year anniversary of the war to end all wars, the English, who had a much larger role to play, are, like Tolkien, still producing innovative, evocative, unbelievable takes that utilize fantasy to help us understand it. And few books do a better job of pinpointing the post traumatic stress syndrome of a post-WWI nation than Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song. They will tell you that it’s a creepy doll book with changelings and fairies and things that go bump in the night. It is all of that. It is also one of the smartest dissections of what happens when a war is done and the survivors are left to put their lives back together. Some do a good job. Some do not.

Eleven-year-old Triss is not well. She knows this, but as with many illnesses she’s having a hard time pinpointing what exactly is wrong. It probably had to do with the fact that she was fished out of the Grimmer, a body of water near the old stone house where her family likes to vacation. Still, that doesn’t explain why her sister is suddenly acting angry and afraid of her. It doesn’t explain why she’s suddenly voracious, devouring plate after plate of food in a kind of half mad frenzy. And it doesn’t explain some of the odder things that have been happening lately either. The dolls that don’t just talk but scream too. The fact that she’s waking up with dead leaves in her hair and bed. And that’s all before her sister is nearly kidnapped by a movie screen, a tailor tries to burn her alive, and she discovers a world within her world where things are topsy turvy and she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. Triss isn’t the girl she once was. And time is running out.

From that description you’d be justified in wondering why I spent the better half of the opening paragraph of this review discussing WWI. After all, there is nothing particularly war-like in that summary. It would behoove me to me mention then that all this takes place a year or two after the war. Triss’s older brother died in the conflict, leaving his family to pick up the pieces. Like all parents, his are devastated by their loss. Unlike all parents, they make a terrible choice to keep him from leaving them entirely. It’s the parents’ grief and choices that then become the focal point of the book. The nation is experiencing a period of vast change. New buildings, new music, and new ideas are proliferating. Yet for Triss’s parents, it is vastly important that nothing change. They’re the people that would prefer to live in an intolerable but familiar situation rather than a tolerable unknown. Their love is a toxic thing, harming their children in the most insidious of ways. It takes an outsider to see this and to tell them what they are doing. By the end, it’s entirely possible that they’ll stay stuck until events force them otherwise. Then again, Hardinge leaves you with a glimmer of hope. The nation did heal. People did learn. And while there was another tragic war on the horizon, that was a problem for another day.

So what’s all that have to do with fairies? In a smart twist Hardinge makes a nation bereaved become the perfect breeding ground for fairy (though she never calls them that) immigration. It’s interesting to think long and hard about what it is that Hardinge is saying, precisely, about immigrants in England. Indeed, the book wrestles with the metaphor. These are creatures that have lost their homes thanks to the encroachment of humanity. Are they not entitled to lives of their own? Yet some of them do harm to the residents of the towns. But do all of them? Should we paint them all with the same brush if some of them are harmful? These are serious questions worth asking. Xenophobia comes in the form of the tailor Mr. Grace. His smooth sharp scissors cause Triss to equate him with the Scissor Man from the Struwwelpeter tales of old. Having suffered a personal loss at the hands of the otherworldly immigrants he dedicates himself to a kind of blind intolerance. He’s sympathetic, but only up to a point.

Terms I Dislike: Urban Fairies. I don’t particularly dislike the fairies themselves. Not if they’re done well. I should clarify that the term “urban fairies” is used when discussing books in which fairies reside in urban environments. Gargoyles in the gutters. That sort of thing. And if we’re going to get technical about it then yes, Cuckoo Song is an urban fairy book. The ultimate urban fairy book, really. Called “Besiders” their presence in cities is attributed to the fact that they are creatures that exist only where there is no certainty. In the past the sound of church bells proved painful, maybe fatal. However, in the years following The Great War the certainty of religion began to ebb from the English people. Religion didn’t have the standing it once held in their lives/hearts/minds, and so thanks to this uncertainty the Besiders were able to move into places in the city made just for them. You could have long, interesting book group conversations about the true implications of this vision.

There are two kinds of Frances Hardinge novels in this world. There are the ones that deal in familiar mythologies but give them a distinctive spin. That’s this book. Then there are the books that make up their own mythologies and go into such vastly strange areas that it takes a leap of faith to follow, though it’s worth it every time. That’s books like The Lost Conspiracy or Fly By Night and its sequel. Previously Ms. Hardinge wrote Well Witched which was a lovely fantasy but felt tamed in some strange way. As if she was asked to reign in her love of the fabulous so as to create a more standard work of fantasy. I was worried that Cuckoo Song might fall into this same trap but happily this is not the case. What we see on the page here is marvelously odd while still working within an understood framework. I wouldn’t change a dot on an i or a cross on a t.

Story aside, it is Hardinge’s writing that inevitably hooks the reader. She has a way with language that sounds like no one else. Here’s a sentence from the first paragraph of the book: “Somebody had taken a laugh, crumpled it into a great, crackly ball, and stuffed her skull with it.” Beautiful. Line after line after line jumps out at the reader this way. One of my favorites is when a fellow called The Shrike explains why scissors are the true enemy of the Besiders. “A knife is made with a hundred tasks in mind . . . But scissors are really intended for one job alone – snipping things in two. Dividing by force. Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between. Certainty. We’re in-between folk, so scissors hate us.” If I had half a mind to I’d just spend the rest of this review quoting line after line of this book. For your sake, I’ll restrain myself. Just this once.

When this book was released in England it was published as older children’s fare, albeit with a rather YA cover. Here in the States it is being published as YA fare with a rather creepy cover. Having read it, there really isn’t anything about the book I wouldn’t readily hand to a 10-year-old. Is there blood? Nope. Violence? Not unless you count eating dollies. Anything remarkably creepy? Well, there is a memory of a baby changeling that’s kind of gross, but I don’t think you’re going to see too many people freaking out over it. Sadly I think the decision was made, in spite of its 11-year-old protagonist, because Hardinge is such a mellifluous writer. Perhaps there was a thought to appeal to the Laini Taylor fans out there. Like Taylor she delves in strange otherworlds and writes with a distinctive purr. Unlike Taylor, Hardinge is British to her core. There are things here that you cannot find anywhere else. Her brain is a country of fabulous mini-states and we’ll be lucky if we get to see even half of them in our lifetimes.

There was a time when Frances Hardinge books were imported to America on a regular basis. For whatever reason, that stopped. Now a great wrong has been righted and if there were any justice in this world her Yankee fans would line the ports waiting for her books to arrive, much as they did in the time of Charles Dickens. That she can take an event like WWI and the sheer weight of the grief that followed, then transform it into dark, creepy, delicious, satisfying children’s fare is awe-inspiring. You will find no other author who dares to go so deep. Those of you who have never read a Hardinge book, I envy you. You’re going to be discovering her for the very first time, so I hope you savor every bloody, bleeding word. Taste the sentences on your tongue. Let them melt there. Then pick up your forks and demand more more more. There are other Hardinge books in England we have yet to see stateside. Let our publishers fill our plates. It’s what our children deserve.

On shelves May 15th.

Source: Reviewed from British edition, purchased by self.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews:

  • Here’s the review from The Book Smugglers that inspired me to read this in the first place.
  • And here’s pretty much a link to every other review of this book . . . um . . . ever.

Spoiler-ific Interviews: The Book Smugglers have Ms. Hardinge talk about her influences.  Remember those goofy television episodes from the 70s and 80s where dopplegangers would cause mischief.  Seems they gave at least one girl viewer nightmares.


1 Comments on Review of the Day: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, last added: 1/16/2015
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28. Call for Submissions: Fairy Tale Review

Submissions are now being accepted for the twelfth annual issue, The Ochre Issue, of Fairy Tale Review. The Ochre Issue has no particular theme—simply send your best fairy-tale work along the spectrum of mainstream to experimental, fabulist to realist. 

We accept fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, in English or in translation to English, along with scholarly, hybrid, and illustrated works (comics, black-line drawings, etc.).

The reading period will remain open until the issue is full—we predict closing it sometime in late spring or early summer. 

For full guidelines, visit our website.

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29. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Little Brown, 2015

Hazel, Ben and Jack have grown up together in the town of Fairfold, knowing it’s the most interesting on earth to live.  Tourists flock to this small town to see the main attraction in the middle of the forest, and sometimes they don’t come back.  The children have been brought up to know they should never act like tourists or they too, may disappear.  They keep iron and oatmeal in their pockets and don’t venture into the woods on a full moon.  They hang special herbs on their lintels and wear them in small bags around their necks.  They do this because Fairfold is a truly different, one where humans and faeries live side by side.  There is a reason the residents protect themselves from the faerie folk as well as the other magical and dangerous creatures of the forest that are from another realm.  And the main attraction?  A beautiful boy with horns, asleep in a glass casket that is unbreakable.

Hazel and Ben are brother and sister and when they were little, they played at being a knight who kills evil creatures and the boy who can sing them into submission.  As they grow older, their child play is forgotten and other people and attentions take over.  Now as teens, they go to parties where Hazel kisses the boys and Ben hangs out with his best friend Jack, who himself has an interesting past.

But things in Fairfold begin to unravel, especially when the boy with horns wakes up.  The morning after, Hazel wakes up knowing she had something to do with his awakening but keeps her secret hidden.  When Ben and Hazel decide to search for the beautiful boy with horns, Jack warns them not to, asking them to take heed of his warnings.  They decide to pursue the object of their fascination regardless, not knowing that this awakening has also roused a most terrible monster of the forest who will wreak havoc and destroy anyone who stands in its way.  There is only one solution, but can Hazel and Ben meet the challenge or will they be destroyed as well? 

 A popular sing-song rhyme all of the kids in town know goes like this:
There’s a monster in our wood. 
She’ll get you if you’re not good. 
Drag you under leaves and sticks. 
Punish you for all your tricks. 
A nest of hair and gnawed bone.
You are never, ever coming…
And the one thing they’ve learned is to never ever say the last word.  It’s too late now….

Readers can tell with this novel that Holly Black knows how to write fantasy.  From the setting to the characters to the thickening plot, Black puts her special spin on the story, weaving a beautiful type of lyric onto the pages.  She makes her characters real but has a gift of also making things other than human come to life.  The forest and town aren’t just places, but living and breathing entities, just like the characters.  The main characters in this novel are dynamic and so different from each other but yet maintain a triad that can’t be broken without breaking the storyline.  It wouldn’t work without the trio…those three characters belong together.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read urban fantasy, and am glad this is the book to take me back there again.  Fantasy readers will very much DEVOUR this book and be satisfied with an ending to the tale without hanging on the strings of a sequel (although the adventures could continue in a completely different realm).  HIGHLY recommended for upper junior high and high school.  Even better, it'll be published January 2015!

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30. The Queen of the Tearling: Review

Have you read The Queen of the Tearling yet? If not: stop what you are doing immediately; do not pass Go; do not collect $200. Just go read The Queen of the Tearling. You will not regret it. I’m really bummed that I didn’t read it sooner. (And didn’t read it soon enough to count it among my 2014 favorites, because it definitely is, you guys.) It’s the sort of novel I’m predisposed to like because it features all of the following: lost princesses, a kingdom in turmoil, a tiny bit of romance, and ladies being badasses. And the underlying message is “this is why books are important, you guys.” So, this is all to say: if you like any of all of these things, please go read The Queen of the Tearling, and then join me in biting my nails, squealing like a ten year-old, and making grabby hands for... Read more »

The post The Queen of the Tearling: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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31. Don't overlook these books!

I love the seven books my panel selected as the finalists for YA Speculative Fiction. I'm really proud of our shortlist as a representation of the best YA Spec Fic books of 2014. However, there are always the ones that got away, the ones that didn't quite make it. When seven people are deliberating, compromises have to be made, and sometimes, no matter how passionate you are about a book, you can't convince your fellow judges. Here are some of the 2014 Cybils nominees that I loved, but which didn't make the cut as finalists:

Divided We Fall Trilogy: Book 1: Divided We Fall
Trent Reedy

This is a frighteningly believable book about a near-future conflict between a state and the Federal Government, with the National Guard caught in the middle.  Exciting plot, credible and distinctive teen male voice, and well-developed protagonist.

Gwenda Bond

For anyone who has ever wanted to be Circus. Part mystery, part circus story, and a bit of magic, this story of a young wire walker trying to overcome her family's past and prove herself is dripping with atmosphere and loaded with teen appeal.

Love Is the Drug
Alaya Dawn Johnson

Federal agents investigating Washington DC prep school student Emily Bird may be more of a danger to her than the rapidly spreading global pandemic. An exciting thriller that shows the stark contrast between the power elite in Northwest DC and the working class in the Northeast, and the racism that exists in both.

Shadowfell #03: The Caller
Juliet Marillier

The conclusion of a terrific high fantasy series that started with Shadowfell. I've loved all the books in this series, but sadly I've been unsuccessful at convincing my fellow judges to shortlist any of them. With well developed characters, a page-turning plot, and themes of sacrifice and choice, this may be the best book of the trilogy.

The Girl from the Well
Rin Chupeco

A creepy paranormal horror story told from the point of view of a centuries-old ghost. With distinctive voice, an almost poetic writing style, and a strong dose of Japanese culture, The Girl from the Well has a lot of teen appeal. This one came very close to making the shortlist, but we had some concerns about the mentally ill being used in a stereotyped way for horror effect.

A Creature of Moonlight
Rebecca Hahn

As the daughter of a dragon and a princess, Marni is torn between two worlds, the wild and beautiful but dangerous forest, and the equally dangerous life at court. A beautifully lyrical, character-driven fantasy with a theme of choice and being true to yourself.

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32. First Crystal Pen Publishing Newsletter

Here is the first newsletter for Crystal Pen Publishing, the new publishing name for my Kindle books. Hope you like it! Please give me some feedback about what you would like to see in the next issue!


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33. Zac’s Destiny 2014 Kindle Award Winner!

Zac’s Destiny, winner of The Book Awards for a Kindle title 2014!
Available on Kindle from Amazon worldwide.


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34. Caution: Witch in Progress 2014 Award Winner!

Caution: Witch in Progress, The Book Awards runner-up for printed book of the year and gaining highest number of votes for a fiction title 2014!


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35. Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. Candlewick Press. 2014. Reviewed from ARC. Morris Finalist.

The Plot: To understand Ava Lavender and her wings, you have to understand her mother and her grandmother before her. So Ava tells the story of the three generations of women in her family, of their loves, and how they survived heart break and loss.

And how Ava was born with wings, and how that shaped her life.

The Good: Yes, Ava was born with wings -- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a beautifully written work of magical realism. Ava's being born with wings is something obvious to the world, but there are other things throughout the book, from a sister who turns herself into a bird to ghosts to how the women in Ava's family sometimes see or hear or smell the world around them.

I loved the language of this book, and began jotting down phrases almost from the start: "Foreseeing the future, I would later learn, means nothing if there is nothing to be done to prevent it." "My whole heart for my entire life."

When telling the story of her mother Viviane and grandmother Emilienne, the women who raised her, Ava concentrates mostly on their loves and lost loves and betrayals of their teen years. And while the introduction mentions things that Ava does as a grown woman, the story in the book -- like the stories of Vivane -- takes place during Ava's teen years. Obviously, Emilienne and Viviane grown older, but the most important part of their lives -- the part that Ava talks about -- are the parts when they are young women.

I mention this in part because, given the multiple generation storytelling and that Ava's own story doesn't start until half way through, it's tempting to wonder why this is a young adult book and not an adult book. I know I did -- but I think it's because, in part, the most important things that happen in Emilienne and Viviane and Ava's lives, the things that shape them, the things the book are about are all events from their years as young women.

I can easily see who I would recommend this book to -- the language is lovely and lush. Readers who like magical realism. Teens who want something different from a reading experience. And book discussion groups -- there is a lot to talk about and examine and analyze.

I have to confess something, though. This is the book that shows I can read not just as a reader, but as a librarian, looking to see who would like a book and also recognizing just how great a book. But. And sorry -- but this isn't a book for "me", as a reader. If I were on a committee, I would be open to persuasion and open to arguments about why to vote for this book. But for me, the way that loss and despair practically broke Emilienne and Vivianne for so long -- it just was too depressing. And (more spoilers) there is a violent attack at the end that bothered me not so much from the realism of the violence and hatred, but for what was behind it. Again: this is a personal, reader reaction. That's about me, not the book.

Other reviews: the School Library Journal Someday My Printz Will Come blog; Steph Sinclair at the Tor blog; A Book and a Latte.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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36. How Will We Live Our Afterlives?

Here's the basic set-up for The Devil's Intern by Donna Hosie: Hell and "Up There" are just places people go to after they die. While there are definitely evil folk in Hell who suffer horribly, some people, like our teenage protagonist Mitchell, seem to end up there for random reasons. For them, Hell is pretty much a really boring, overcrowded place. They hold jobs and can change. Mitchell's good friend, a Viking prince who died in battle at sixteen, has learned to read in Hell.

Mitchell is an intern in the accounting department and through his boss is able to get his hands on a device that will allow him to time travel. His plan is to go back in time with his three best (dead) friends to relive and change their deaths. Mitchell, in particular, wants to get to live the life he missed out on because he was hit by a bus.

There's much that's entertaining and intriguing in this book. There's plenty of narrative drive once the group finally gets on the road. But I had a hard time with the "paradox" business that Mitchell kept talking about. If these dead kids changed their deaths, what does that do to their afterlives where they were best friends and even two couples? The things that happen at each of their deaths that only happen because of something else that happened and could that be changed? Well, I was watching an episode of Dr. Who this afternoon that I couldn't follow, either. The where-are-we-in-time thing is difficult for me.

While I was reading The Devil's Intern, I wondered if it was really YA or was it an adult book with teen characters? One of the big factors in determining YA is supposed to be theme. YA themes often involve young people working out how they're going to live their lives. At first, I thought the characters in The Devil's Intern were coming to terms with how they had lived their lives, which would be adult. However, you could argue that they are working out how they're going to live their afterlives, bringing us around to YA territory again.

Hellbent by Anthony McGowan is another YA book set in Hell. Interesting how totally different they are.

The Devil's Intern is a Cybils nominee in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category.

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37. George R. R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon

martin_ice dragon 2014George R. R. Martin is best known for penning his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga, the basis for HBO’s crazy-popular series Game of Thrones. Speaking from personal experience, it’s shamefully easy for fans of that franchise to forget just how prolific he is. Admittedly, ASOIAF is pretty absorbing — what with bloody betrayals and dragons and reanimated corpses and all — and the enormous cast of characters spread across seven kingdoms takes up a lot of mental space. But right now, with the show between seasons (season 5 won’t start until the spring) and book six, The Winds of Winter, not due out for…let’s say “a while,” it’s a good time to check out GRRM’s other work. His bibliography includes many more speculative fiction novels and short stories for adults in addition to a fantasy novella ostensibly for children, The Ice Dragon (Tor Teen, October 2014).

The Ice Dragon originally appeared in Dragons of Light (Ace Books), a 1980 anthology edited by Orson Scott Card, then was republished by Tor/Starscape in 2006 as a stand-alone volume illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert. This October, Tor Teen released a new edition with illustrations by comics veteran Luis Royo. Set in the same fantastical world as A Song of Ice and Fire, The Ice Dragon is one of several fairy tale–type stories that ASOIAF character Jon Snow recalls caregiver Old Nan telling him and his half-siblings during their childhoods.

In The Ice Dragon, “winter child” Adara is chilly, both physically and emotionally. Her mother died giving birth to Adara during “the worst freeze that anybody could remember,” and her neighbors gossip that “the cold had entered Adara in the womb.” As a small child, Adara frequently stays outside for hours despite freezing temperatures; at age four, she encounters an ice dragon (which breathes cold) and becomes fascinated. The ice dragon seems equally drawn to her, and each winter for several years the pair goes on many long flights. War nears Adara’s family farm and her uncle urges her father to take Adara and her siblings somewhere safer, but seven-year-old Adara runs away, unwilling to leave the ice dragon behind. When the enemy’s soldiers and fire-breathing dragon threaten her family, however, Adara and her ice dragon return to protect them… at a wrenching cost.

In the Spring 2007 issue of The Horn Book Guide, reviewer Deborah Kaplan wrote of the 2006 edition, “The combination of a seven-year-old heroine with scenes of gory violence makes the audience for this fairy tale unclear.” It’s a good point: despite its young protagonist, many illustrations, petite trim size, and large typeface, the book’s violence and formal language aren’t especially kid-friendly. I think the main audience of this new volume will be adult Game of Thrones completists, rather than child or even teen readers; after all, both Martin and Royo have dedicated adult followings. Lush paintings and block-print-looking chapter opener art printed (as is the text) in frosty blue on creamy pages — along with a dynamic poster of Adara and the ice dragon in flight — make this a handsome addition to a diehard GoT fan’s collection.

feastoficeandfireSide note: did you know that Sariann Lehrer and Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, the authors of A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Cookbook based on their blog The Inn at the Crossroads, live (and cook things like boar’s head and eels) in Boston’s Allston neighborhood? Small world! There are several recipes I’d love to try (honeycakes with blackberries, yum) if I could drop in for dinner — but I’d pass on the eels, thanks.


The post George R. R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon appeared first on The Horn Book.

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38. Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny, 355 pp, RL 4

Full disclosure here:  I have been a fan of Jason Segel's since watching the television show Freaks & Geeks ages ago. Having grown up with the Muppets, I was further impressed by Segel when I heard an interview in which he spoke passionately and thoughtfully about co-writing and acting in the Muppets revival movie. This, along with the fact that Segel had the good sense to team up with

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39. Friday Feature: The Regenerates by Maansi Pandya

Title: The Regenerates
Series: The Regenerates, Book 1
Author: Maansi Pandya
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Radiance Publishing

Blurb: Abolition Day has arrived again, the day when any of Cor’s citizens arrested for opposing the regime are publicly executed in a special ‘cleansing’ ceremony. Sixteen-year-old Ven is an aristocrat. He lives in a palace, goes to lavish parties and wears buttons made of pure gold. To him, Abolition Day is nothing more than an unpleasant holiday that comes and goes. All of that changes when his best friend, Coralie, makes the execution list. In order to save her life, Ven teams up with a mysterious criminal who warns him that his city is in terrible danger. He offers Ven a deal: steal something from the palace for him, and he’ll save Coralie’s life. Not about to watch his best friend die, Ven makes the deal and slowly uncovers the truth behind the criminal’s warning – something out there is desperate to see Cor burn to the ground, and it makes Ven question everything he’s believed in.

Order Paperback/E-book at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Regenerates-Maansi-Pandya/dp/0993884008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414240665&sr=8-1&keywords=the+regenerates 

Author Bio: Maansi Pandya is a YA Author who loves Fantasy, especially adventure stories! She currently lives in Vancouver, Canada and studied Creative Writing and Political Science at the University of East Anglia.

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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40. The Six Swans

The Six Swans, Personal project: Watercolor

The Six Swans, Personal project: Watercolor

The Six Swans

A Short Fairy Tale Retelling By Manelle Oliphant

Text and illustrations © 2014 by Manelle Oliphant

You can download this title for free by clicking here. 


he morning sun warmed my face and I opened my eyes. Blinking, I waited for my mind to wake up. I still felt tired after my night’s sleep. I remembered my long labor and my baby. I pulled the beautiful white blankets closer to me. The baby made a noise. I unwrapped him to get a look at the little perfect face I remembered from last night.

A pig.

It squealed and squirmed in my arms.

I almost cried out but stopped myself. My brothers counted on me. My breaths came quick and heavy like yesterday when I was in labor. I shook Albert awake.

He smiled up at me until he saw my face. He sat up. “What’s the matter?”

Still breathing heavy I shoved the blankets of pig at him. Where was my baby? I searched the bedding. He could still be here somewhere.

Albert glanced from the pig to me as I pulled the blankets onto the cold floor. No baby. My chubby baby boy wasn’t here. My strength failed and I knelt down. Silent tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t make a sound or my brothers would be swans all their lives.

Albert rang for the servants and gathered me into his arms. I felt warm and safe close to him.

The servants entered the room, followed by the Queen and her favorite advisor. “What’s wrong Albert dear?” Her voice smooth, with hard edges.

I pulled my face from Alberts now wet shirt and looked at her. A smile played at the edges of her mouth. This was her latest effort to be rid of me.

Albert let go of me and ran toward his mother. “Mother, our baby is gone! This pig was put in it’s place. We must punish whoever has done this.”

The queen put his hand around her arm, and patted it. “My dear. I warned you something like this might happen. I’m afraid your little mute wife doesn’t have all her wits about her. She’s done this herself.”

They both looked at me. I imagined myself through their eyes. I must have looked crazy with my tear stained face, crumpled night gown, and my worn out body. We stared at each other for a split second. I shook my head. No. No. No. Not me! I pointed at the queen. She did it. I looked at Albert and pointed again. Your mother. She’s the one to blame.

She smiled at me. “See what I mean? If you insist on bringing home waifs from the woods and marrying them you also have to face the consequences.”

Albert looked from me to his mother. Did he believe her? She’d poisoned his mind against me for the last two years. I knew he loved me. I knew it. Why couldn’t he see her sinister intentions?

The queen smiled and met his gaze. “Think about it my boy. If someone kidnapped the new prince why replace him with a pig? I’m afraid your little wife has done this herself.”

The color drained from Albert’s face. He looked at me and his shoulders slumped.

No! I climbed across the bed toward him. I reached out. He mustn’t believe this awful thing of me. He looked at me for a second before he took my hand.

I looked at the queen. She gave me a wry smile. “Albert my dear, you must do something about this. You owe the kingdom more than a crazy queen. What if your children were to inherit her mind? It’s for the best this baby is gone.”

Albert looked at me. I could see through his eyes to his breaking heart. He believed her. My shoulders slumped. How to defend myself without talking? I opened my mouth. I could speak, prove I’m not crazy, but all these years of silence would be in vain. I shut my mouth and slumped onto the bed.

The queen continued. “She has killed her own child and must be tried.” She made a motion with her hand. “Lock her up until we decide what to do with her.”

A guard came toward me. If they locked me up how would I finish the shirts that would break the spell on my brothers? I looked to my husband again and begged with my hands.

He only looked unsure.

The guard pulled me out and toward the the lower floors. No! I needed to finish my work. I yanked my arm out of his and ran the other direction. I heard the queen yell for him to go after me. I found more energy and ran faster. I ran, up, up, up, until I reached my tower room where my work waited. I hurried inside. I locked the door and stood panting. I heard the guard reach the door. He knocked.

“Princess, open the door.”

I wouldn’t of course. I heard the queen’s voice. “I don’t care if she’s locked up here or in the dungeon. Stand guard and don’t let her out. After the trial we’ll decide what is to be done.”

I heard her walk away. The guard shuffled around for a minute until he got comfortable outside the door. Then silence.
I leaned on the door, exhausted. I thought of my husband whom I loved. Would he stand up for me? Where was my baby? I put my head in my hands and cried.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow for long. My work waited. If they sentenced me to death I wanted my brothers to live as men. I worked through my tears. By dusk I finished weaving cloth I’d need for the last shirt. The bell rang in the square. It echoed off the buildings so anyone nearby would hear. They were about to pronounce my sentence.

At the window I could see the crier far below and people gathered to listen.

“Let it be known, this day, the princess Ingrid was found guilty of murder after killing her young son, the prince of this land! Her sentence is death. She will be burned in the morning!”

I wasn’t surprised. My mother-in-law needed to remove me before I could prove her guilt. I turned around and looked at my little room. My body cried out with pain and exhaustion, but if I didn’t finish by morning what would become of my brothers? I lit a candle and worked on.

Later I heard a knock at my door. I went over but didn’t open it. I heard my husband’s voice.

“Ingrid! I know you are awake. I hope you can hear me.”

I sat down and put my ear to the key hole.

“I’ve tried everything to save you, but we can’t find the baby. I have no power to stop things. Not until I come of age and the regency ends. Mother says I am bewitched by you and my word can’t be trusted. She has convinced everyone the kingdom’s future safety requires your death.”

My heart ached. I still loved him. If I could tell him everything maybe he could do something… but I couldn’t, not yet, not until my brothers stood beside me as humans again.

I heard him move and his voice got louder. “I don’t want to lose you, like I lost our son. I don’t know what to do.”

His voice sounded higher than normal. He was crying. I pushed my fingers under the door. This man, my husband, wasn’t perfect, but I loved him, and I wasn’t going to die angry. After a second his hand touched mine. We sat there for some time, but I needed to finish before daybreak. After a while I pulled my hand back and went to work.

The last shirt needed one more sleeve when the sun’s light shown through the window. I heard a commotion outside the door. Time for my execution. Maybe it would be okay without the sleeve. I gathered the shirts into my arms and unlocked the door. No point being difficult. The queen came in followed by three guards. Albert stood beside her with hair mashed up on one side. Did he sleep outside my door? Our eyes met as the they pulled me away.

Down, down, down to the courtyard where I faced my death. I wasn’t the only one who worked through the night. A thick wooden stake was surrounded by piles of wood and dry straw.

The guards pulled me forward. One tried to take the shirts but I fought him.

The queen stood on a balcony above the courtyard where she could watch. “Leave them. If the little witch wants to hold a bunch of ragged shirts while she burns what’s it to us?”

He let me keep them. I searched the sky. Where were my brothers? Ropes were looped around my legs and middle and were pulled tight.

A hooded man with a torch stepped forward.

They always flew here at sunrise. Why be late today?

He lowered the torch and the straw at my feet caught fire.

Honk. Honk.

Here they were!

Honk. Honk.

Two of my brothers swooped down and scattered the twigs, which had caught fire. They pecked at the man with a torch until he backed away.

The queen shook her fist at the executioner and her guards. “Shoot those birds!”

My other four brothers held a blanket in their beaks. They circled low in the courtyard. When they passed the balcony, where my husband stood behind his mother, they set the blanket at his feet. I saw him bend to pick it up but smoke, feathers, and people blocked my view. My brothers fought now except the two who pecked at my ropes.

Honk! Honk! Honk!

The queen leaned out and shouted more, “What’s the matter with you?” Shoot them! Shoot them!”

A guard ran by with swans pecking at his face. “There are too many, my queen!”

I felt the ropes loosen.
Albert moved in front of his mother. “Quiet!” His voice carried over the crowd. “Halt the execution!” The commotion stopped.
“My son, we have gone through this. She is a murderer.”

He held up the blanket. “If she is a murderer, Mother, explain to me how my son is still alive.”

The queen’s face drained of color. “Still alive?”

The ropes fell at my feet.

I threw a shirt over the swan closest to me and he turned from bird to man. I heard the crowd gasp but ignored them. Again, and again, shirt on swan, bird to man. Soon all six of my brothers stood before me, men during the day for the first time since my birth. I put my hands up to the sun and spoke my first words since I learned of their curse. “My brothers!”

I gathered my human brothers into a big circle hug. My youngest had a wing for his left arm but he smiled at me. “We saved your baby from drowning.” He pointed at the advisor. “That man threw him down a well.”

My husbands voice carried around the courtyard with the authority of a king. “Guards, arrest my mother the queen, and her advisor, for attempted murder of the crown prince, and the princess.” The queen shrunk into herself but she didn’t protest as she was led away.

Albert ran down and put his arm around me. I stroked my baby’s head and smiled at Albert. “Hello.” It was the first word I’d ever said to him.

He pulled me close. “I’m sorry I didn’t fight harder for you.”

“It is forgiven.” Happy tears formed in my eyes. Years of silent lonely work were at an end. I saved my brothers, I could speak, and I had my family close. This wasn’t the time for holding grudges.

The End

Learn how you can support Manelle and the creations of more stories like this one by clicking here.

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41. Muddy Max - a graphic novel review

I have been busy lately with review and blogging obligations, as well as work and preparation for the holiday season, but I did take time out to read a copy of Elizabeth Rusch's graphic novel, Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek. Thanks to the hard-working intern who brought it to my attention and supplied me with a copy.

Rusch, Elizabeth. 2014. Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.  Illustrated by Mike Lawrence.

Max lives in the aptly-named suburban town of Marsh Creek. In addition to the marsh on the outskirts of town, mud is everywhere in town as well, making it almost impossible for the child of neat-freak parents to stay clean!  Max becomes suspicious of his parents'secretive habits, frequent trips to the marsh, and fanatical obsession with his cleanliness.  When he accidentally discovers that mud gives him superpowers, he and his friend Patrick become determined to figure out exactly what is going on in Marsh Creek.

This is an easy-to-read graphic, sci-fi novel that should be popular with younger kids and reluctant readers. The panels are easy to follow, with simple, but expressive drawings in muted browns and grays that reflect the book's muddy locale. Hopefully, future installments will add some dimension to the Max's female friend. Not willing to completely divest herself of her nonfiction roots, Rusch adds some real science about mud and its denizens in the back matter.

I predict that more than one member of my book club will want to take this one home.  I'll have to place some holds on library copies.

A Teacher's Guide to Muddy Max is available here.

Elizabeth Rusch is also a talented author of nonfiction. Last year I reviewed her book, Volcano Rising.

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42. Going Out On A High

I have liked some of M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales/Pals in Peril books better than others. (I know I'm nitpicking on this, but the name of the series changed for some reason.) I had to be won over by the first book, Whales on Stilts, but the second one, The Clue of of the Linoleum Lederhosen, was a hit. The third one I read (there are supposed to be six; I seem to have missed a couple), Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware wasn't a favorite. But the final book in the series, He Laughed with His Other Mouths, is an absolute gem.

The basic premise for all these books: A Tom Swift-type character named Jaspar Dash and a spunky girl (younger and spunkier than the 1930's era Nancy Drew) existed in their own book worlds that reflected the eras that created them, the 1920s/30s and the 1980s/90s. And yet, at the same time, they are existing in our own twenty-first century where Jaspar, in particular, is both having adventures but out of place.

In He Laughed with His Other Mouths, Jaspar is now that classic/stereotypical character, the young male in search of his father. Jaspar will go to the ends of the universe in search of dear old dad. He will accept some pretty outlandish behavior from his father figure. However, Jaspar is a young hero, and he recognizes evil when he sees it. Maybe he doesn't recognize it right away and maybe he needs a little push from his spunky girl companions, but he does recognize and behave as a hero should.

All of the books that I've read in this series operate on more than one level. You have the basic contemporary adventure. You have characters from an older book world trying to function in a contemporary one. You have the knowledge that children who are now old, if not dead, read the older books back when they were new and shiny.

With He Laughed with His Other Mouths, Anderson does something quite marvelous with footnotes. Using footnotes for witty asides has become a cliche since Terry Pratchett perfected doing that back in the day. But Anderson uses his clever footnotes not to be witty but to tell another story entirely, this one about a kid during World War II who was a Jaspar Dash fan. This is a complete story, a piece of serious historical fiction embedded in a fantasy satire/comedy.

As with all these books that I've read, I wonder how much of this wonderful stuff child readers will understand. Assuming they enjoy the layer with the contemporary adventure, will they get the jokes that are part of it? Will they get the nostalgic elements?

Kid readers aside, for those of us who do get He Laughed with His Other Mouths, it's pretty damn brilliant.

He Laughed with His Other Mouths is a Cybils nominee in the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category.

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43. The Wonder and The Imaginary; 2 very special books indeed

I believe any book can fuel the imagination when it arrives in the right hands at the right time, but there are also some which explicitly explore how we nurture creativity and create space for inspiration and following our dreams. The Wonder by Faye Hanson and The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett are two such books which I’ve read recently and which have left me brimming with delight, hope and happiness and which have sparked hours of inspired play in my children.

wonderfrontcoverThe Wonder by Faye Hanson is a sumptuous début picture book about a young boy whose head if full of daydreams which transform the humdrum world around him. Time and again adults tell him to get his head out of the clouds and come back to reality, but this is barely possible for a child who finds wonder, curiosity and delight wherever he looks. Finally in art class he’s able to let loose his imagination onto a blank sheet of paper delighting his teacher and filling his parents with pride.

The child in this story sees ordinary objects but has the imagination to turn them into astonishing stories, breathtaking ideas, and worlds full of adventures waiting to happen. I know I want to foster this ability in my own children (and in myself!); the world becomes more beautiful, richer, and simply more enjoyable when we are able to imagine more than the grey, wet and humdrum daily life that all too often catches us up. This utterly delightful book is an enthusiastic encouragement to let more imagination in to our lives.

Click to view a larger version of this interior spread from The Wonder by Faye Hanson

Click to view a larger version (it’s really worth it!) of this interior spread from The Wonder by Faye Hanson

Hanson’s illustrations are dense, saturated, and rich. Careful use of colour lights up the boy’s dreams in his otherwise sepia coloured life. Limited palettes add to the intensity of these pictures; it’s interesting that their vitality doesn’t come from a rainbow range of paints, but rather from focussing on layer of layer of just a few colours, packed with exquisite detail. There’s a luminosity about the illustrations; some look like they’ve got gold foil or a built-in glow and yet there are no novelty printing techniques here.

All in all, an exquisite book that will tell anyone you share it with that you value their dreams and want to nurture their ingenuity, inventiveness and individuality.

imaginarycoverNow let me play devil’s advocate: Is there sometimes a line to be walked between feeding a child’s imagination and yet enabling them to recognise the difference between real life and day dreams? In The Wonder, there are plenty of adults pointing out the apparent problems/risks of day dreaming a great deal. On the other hand, in The Imaginary, a mother fully enters into her daughter’s imaginary world, not only acknowledging an imaginary best friend, but actively supporting this belief by setting places at meal times, packing extra bags, even accepting accidents must be the result of this friend and not the child herself.

Amanda believes that only she can see her imaginary friend Rudger. But all this changes one day when a mysterious Mr Bunting appears on the doorstep, apparently doing innocent door-to-door market research. But all is not as it seems for it turns out that Mr Bunting has no imagination of his own and can only survive by eating other people’s imaginary friends. He’s sniffed Rudger out and now he’s going to get him, whatever it takes.

Click to see larger illustration by Emily Gravett , from The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

Click to see larger illustration by Emily Gravett, from The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

If you’ve ever wondered where imaginary friends come from, and what happens to them when their children grow up and stop day-dreaming this is a book for you. If you love a good villain, adventures which include libraries and narrow escapes you’ll enjoy this too. If you’re a fan of elegant and attractive books you’ll want to feel this between your hands. The illustrations by Emily Gravett are terrific (in every sense) and incredibly atmospheric, magically adding beauty and tension to a story which I thought couldn’t be bettered.

Intelligent, clever, thoughtful, and packed with seeds of love and inspiration The Imaginary is perhaps my favourite middle grade/young fiction book of the year. If you want a fuller flavour of this gem before hurrying to get it into your hands, head and heart, there’s a full teacher’s guide to The Imaginary available on the Bloomsbury website and you can watch a video of Emily Gravett working on her illustrations here.


One of the ways my girls have been inspired in their playing since sharing these books became clear when they told me they wanted to make a star-making machine to go with the one features in The Wonder (see the illustration above).

M first wrote out some recipes for stars:



I provided a little food for thought…


…and a selection of machine parts.


Several hours later the star machine was coming together



Next up a selection of star ingredients were sourced:


The machine was fed…


Can you see the pulses of one star in the making?!


And out popped these stars (here’s a tutorial) at the end of the star making process:


Here’s one just for you:


Whilst making our machine we listened to:

  • Invisible Friends by Dog on Fleas
  • Imaginary Friend by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
  • ‘Pure Imagination’ from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film
  • Land of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz (Groan!)

  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading The Wonder and The Imaginary include:

  • Creating a wonder wall on which to write all those curious questions you and the kids want to find answers to. There’s a lovely tutorial for creating your own Wonder Wall over on Nurture Store.
  • Going on a Wonder Walk. I’ve been thinking about places which spark the imagination or create a sense of awe and thinking about how I can take the kids to visit these places and see what ideas the experience sparks. In general the sorts of places I think have the potential to ignite wonder include high-up places with views to the horizon, hidden places, for example underground, enormous spaces whether man-made or natural, and dark places lit only by candles or fire. I think these locations could all work as seeds for the imagination, and so during the coming holiday I’m going to try to take the girls to a place that fits each of these descriptions.
  • Spirals feature a great deal in The Wonder‘s artwork. Here are various art projects which might inspire your own spiral creations: spiral mobiles, spiral suncatchers, spiral wall art made from scrap paper and even human spirograph art (you need huge pieces of paper but this looks great fun).

  • How do you foster your kids’ imagination? And your own?

    Disclosure: I was sent free review copies of both books in today’s post.

    3 Comments on The Wonder and The Imaginary; 2 very special books indeed, last added: 12/15/2014
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    44. Strange things did happen here…

    Hi everyone!  So, that was another fun hiatus.  Since our last episode: My family moved from our Wisconsin home of 20 years, to the Fort Wayne area. I’ve made it a project to check out all the area coffee places and review them on FourSquare (and also hopefully find a new favorite haunt or two). Put […]

    2 Comments on Strange things did happen here…, last added: 11/28/2014
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    45. The Story behind 'GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit' by Terry Nicholetti

    When I moved from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC in 1998, I was missing my three granddaughters, ages 10, 8, and 6, and wanted to stay close to them. At the same time, I was going through a rebellious phase, resisting doing daily things we all need to do, cleaning, sorting mail, paying bills, etc.  My therapist encouraged me to make friends with the “little girl” within me who was so angry about “shoulds” and find a way to work together.  She also encouraged me to look for the “why;” why should I care about this task that I don’t want to do.

    One day I told her that I had paid all my bills on time that month, and she said, “Good for you! Give yourself a gold star!” What an idea! So I started a little notebook, listed my accomplishments, and gave myself a gold star each time. I wanted to share this idea with my granddaughters, so I designed a two-way postal card out of oak tag. On the top part it said, “Here’s something I did that I’m proud of.” On the bottom half, to be returned to the sender, it said “Here’s what I think of your story.” I made up a supply of these cards, and for a while, we exchanged these messages with great joy.

    When I shared these cards with my friends, they said, “This is a great idea; you should turn it into a product!” I didn’t want to just write up a boring “how to” pamphlet to go with them, so I got the idea to write a children’s story about a little girl named NoraLee Johnson who hates doing chores and misses her grandparents who have moved away. She is visited by Loofi Mondel from planet Ifwee, where the motto is “If we care, it’s magic!” They travel in a space ship to Ifwee, where NoraLee meets several residents who only do things they care about. Then they give themselves gold stars, and share their accomplishments with people they love. That’s GoldStar Magic!

    They also show her the “magic two-way postal cards” so she can stay close to her grandparents by writing to them about things she’s proud of. The GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™  including NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, two-way postal cards, gold stars, and a link to download the Ifwee song.


    Terry Nicholetti, Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, is a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright and author, with nearly 30 years experience in sales and marketing. A speaker, consultant and member of National Speakers Association, Terry helps clients, especially artist/entrepreneurs, find their voice and tell their stories. For the past five years, Terry has been studying Mindfulness Meditation, and loves to share a simple yet profound process for becoming more “mindful or “present” at difficult moments, for example, when one is nervous right before a presentation. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life's experiences through our thoughts. Inspired by missing her own grandchildren after a move, Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit ™, including the delightfully illustrated  NoraLee's Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.


    Title: GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™ including NoraLee's Adventures on Planet Ifwee Genre: children
    Author: Terry Nicholetti
    Publisher: Terry Nicholetti
    Purchase linkhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0971648816 

    The Gold Star Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™
    Bringing children and their grandparents closer together – one story at a time!
    Parents: Are you looking for ways to help your young children (ages 4-10) stay in touch with their grandparents?

    Grandparents: Are your Skyping, texting, emailing, to stay in touch with your grandchildren? Do you remember how exciting it was to get something in the mail addressed to you?

    The Gold Star Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™  offers a really unique way to use first class mail to help children get closer to their grandparents – as well as build their self-esteem – one story at a time! The kit is built around NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, a delightfully illustrated, 32 page book about a little girl who hates doing her chores, and misses her grandparents. When she visits Planet Ifwee, she learns how to use GoldStar Magic! to solve both these challenges. NoraLee meets residents like Robinia Clarinda Gazaundry, who helps her dad with the family laundry. From her new friends,  NoraLee learns to do something because she cares, give herself gold stars because she feels so proud, and use magic Two-way postal cards to tell her grandparents so they can be proud too.

    The kit also includes:

        6 Two-Way Postal Cards™ and sealers for children & grandparents to tell their stories.
        Lots of Gold Stars.

        A link to download The Ifwee Song!“ by Terry and Jan Nigro of Vitamin L Children’s Chorus.

    0 Comments on The Story behind 'GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit' by Terry Nicholetti as of 12/1/2014 1:00:00 PM
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    46. Friday Feature: Annie Cosby

    "... a darkly romantic beginning to what promises to be an unusual contemporary YA fantasy series."
    - Serena Chase, USA Today

    When Cora’s mother whisks the family away for the summer, Cora must decide between forging her future in the glimmering world of second homes where her parents belong, or getting lost in the bewitching world of the locals and the mystery surrounding a lonely old woman who claims to be a selkie creature—and who probably needs Cora more than anyone else.

    Through the fantastical tales and anguished stories of the batty Mrs. O’Leary, as well as the company of a particularly gorgeous local boy called Ronan, Cora finds an escape from the reality of planning her life after high school. But will it come at the cost of alienating Cora’s mother, who struggles with her own tragic memories?

    As the summer wanes, it becomes apparent that Ronan just may hold the answer to Mrs. O’Leary’s tragic past—and Cora’s future.

    Buy the book

    The second book, Learning to Live, is out now!

    You can catch up with Annie at SincerelyAnnie.com. She'd love to hear from you!
    Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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    47. A Letter to ZODIAC by Romina Russell

    Review by Becca ZODIACZodiac #1 by Romina RussellAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Razorbill (December 9, 2014)Goodreads | Amazon At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain…. Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to

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    48. Mortal Heart: review + giveaway

    Assassin nuns! Who doesn’t love assassin nuns? (All of the people who get assassinated by them, probably.) If you aren’t a threat to 15th-century Brittany, though, you’re probably safe. That said, if you haven’t read any of the books in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin LaFevers, GO READ THEM NOW. That is an order. The second book, Dark Triumph, is one of the best books I’ve read in the past year, and I think the series as a whole is pretty awesomesauce. The premise is as follows: the books follow the adventures (murder adventures) of three initiates – Ismae, Sybella, and Annith – of the Convent of Saint Mortain, the god of Death. All of the convent’s novitiates are also supposed to be the daughters of Mortain and have the creepy birth stories to prove it (with the exception of Annith whose birth is mysterious and unknown). They have all... Read more »

    The post Mortal Heart: review + giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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    49. In The Limelight with MG/YA Author Cheryl Carpinello…

    I want to thank magnificent middle grade/young adult author, Cheryl Carpinello for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Cheryl’s book Sons of the Sphinx can be purchased from Amazon, and other major on-line bookstores. Welcome, Cheryl! So let’s get this interview started…

    How long have you been writing, Cheryl?

    Probably around 20 years, but I started writing for MG/YA readers about 10 years ago. Nothing I wrote in those first 10 years will ever be published.

    Never say never, Cheryl! Wink. Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Sons of the Sphinx?

    We had visited Egypt in 2008 and that started me thinking. However, it wasn’t until 2010 when the Tutankhamen exhibit was in the US that I thought seriously about writing a book set back in ancient Egypt.

    Egypt is definitely on my bucket list. What sets Sons of the Sphinx apart from other books/series in the same genre?

    I believe it is the fact that this isn’t just an historical adventure story full of action and danger. It is also a story of a young teenager trying to come to grips with who she is and how she fits in the world around her. Ages 14-18 are stressful years for kids, more than most people would think. Any trait that sets a teen outside of the norm can be devastating, and Rosa, the main character, has just such a distinction. She can hear dead people, and her classmates know this. This makes for some tough times for Rosa.

    Hear dead people? Now you’ve got me hooked! As a middle grade/young adult author, what is your writing process?

    I do a lot of brain work before I start a story. Once I have a basic idea and outline in my head, then I write that out—when I say write, I mean in long hand. Then it’s back to mulling the idea over in my head for a while longer until I can sit down and write out a chapter by chapter outline. Once the outline is finished, I start writing the story. My goal is always to write the first draft without worrying about changes or omissions. Each day before writing I do type the previous writing on the computer without making any edits. If I find that something is not working, then I change from that point on. I don’t go back over previous entered material. Once the first draft is done, I start rewrites and do any additional research. From that point on, it’s a breeze! Just read, rewrite, edit, rewrite, and so on. My story always goes through my personal editor at least three times. Then a professional editor goes through another three or four rounds with me.

    Wow, I don’t think readers realize the leg-work authors must do to write a book! Thanks for sharing your process, Cheryl. How long did it take for you to start and finish Sons of the Sphinx?

    I started working on the idea in May 2010. Sons of the Sphinx was released in October 2014.

    Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, Cheryl?

    Do your homework: research the time period you are writing in. While I saw Egypt firsthand, I did a ton of book research, and I went to the Tutankhamen exhibit three times. Even if you are creating your own story’s history/background, you need to know everything about it.

    Good advice! What’s next for Cheryl Carpinello the author?

    Right now I’m working on sequel to my first Arthurian tale Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. I’ve also got the first book in my new trilogy series Feathers of the Phoenix over half finished.

    Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

    I don’t even need to think about this—the Ancient World 1000BC to 400BC. I love the Greeks, Romans, even Egyptians of that time period. I’m also keen to see Atlantis! Those eras gave modern man and society so much in the way of philosophy, government, art, science, that it had to be fascinating to be a part of those worlds.

    Blurb for Sons of the Sphinx:

    Armed with what she considers her grandmothers curse, 15-year-old Rosa agrees to help the ghost of King Tut find his lost queen Hesena. Though Hesenas ba inhabits part of Rosa, finding the whole spirit of Hesena so that she and Tut can be together for the first time in over 3300 years proves to be a harder task than Rosa first thinks. Thrust back into Ancient Egypt with Tut, Rosa discovers that finding Hesena is not all she must do. She must keep out of the reach of the living Horemhebwho crosses mortal boundaries using Seths evil magicif she is to stay alive to make it back home.

    Buy Links for Sons of the Sphinx:

    Cheryl Carpinello’s Author Sites:

    Author Bio

    I love the Ancient and Medieval Worlds! As a retired English teacher, I hope to inspire young readers to read more through my Quest Books. Please follow me on this adventure. Hook up with me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google.

    Also please visit my other sites: Carpinello's Writing Pages where I interview childrens/MG/Tween/YA authors; my home website Beyond Today Educator, and The Quest Books where I've teamed up with Fiona Ingram from South Africa and Wendy Leighton-Porter of England/France/Abu Dhabi to enable readers to find all of our Ancient and Medieval quest books in one place.

    0 Comments on In The Limelight with MG/YA Author Cheryl Carpinello… as of 12/12/2014 7:36:00 AM
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    50. Holiday Buffet of Free Ebooks compliments of Musa Publishing…

    Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes some wicked-awesome deals! Anyone who has an ereader or tablet will benefit from this wonderful opportunity to score 40 fabulous reads for the holidays. Musa Publishingis offering 13 Days of Free Ebooks starting December 13th—whoa that’s TODAY folks! Below is a list of ebooks and authors on board with this promotion, but you better act fast, as their ebooks are available for free download for only ONE day. BTW—I’m on the list too, and anyone who gets an ereader or tablet for Christmas will benefit from my free download day! Ho Ho Ho…

    December 13th, 2014:
    The Rhesus Factor by Sonny Whitelaw
    Returnby Lynn Rae
    Struckby Clarissa Johal

    December 14th, 2014:
    Tournament of Chance by S.G. Rogers
    Obsessionby JoAnne Keltner

    December 15th, 2014:
    Bridge to Desire by Alice Cross
    Saving Hope by Liese Sherwood-Fabre
    The Grimm Legacy by Addie King

    December 16th, 2014:
    Spire City: Contagion by Daniel Ausema
    Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick
    Time Will Tell by Mary Palmer

    December 17th, 2014:
    Guarding His Heart by Carolyn Spear
    An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale

    December 18th, 2014:
    Hunter’s Find by June Kramin
    Five Golden Suitors by Jen Coffeen
    First Frost by Liz DeJesus

    December 19th, 2014:
    The Reluctant Bridegroom by Arabella Sheraton
    Persephoneby Kaitlin Bevis
    The Glass Sealing by Andrew Leon Hudson

    December 20th, 2014:
    The Exile of Elindel by Carol Browne
    Michaela’s Gift by Cordelia Dinsmore
    Pantheonby Josh Strnad

    December 21st, 2014:
    Only a Hero Will Do by Susan Lodge
    Prentice and Desiree by Brita Adams
    The 13th Guest by Rebecca Royce

    December 22nd, 2014:
    Silhouette of Darkness by George Wilhite
    Long Haul by Tom Olbert

    December 23rd, 2014:
    DEAD series by Lizzie T. Leaf
    Looney Dunes by Anne Skalitza
    Her Name by Alicia Joseph

    December 24th, 2014:
    Regarding Eliza by Viki Lyn
    The Sun God’s Heir by Elliott Baker
    Hard Pressed by Sharon Maria Bidwell

    December 25th, 2014:
    To Catch A Fish by Mary S. Palmer & David Wilton
    She Dreamed of Dragons by Elizabeth Walker
    Identity Crisis by Elizabeth Ashtree

    I hope you take advantage of this wonderful offer from Musa Publishing. There’s a book for every taste on the list from romance, science fiction, horror, thrillers, paranormal, fantasy, speculative fiction, and young adult, so please help yourself to this buffet of ebooks! Wishing you, and your family, a safe and happy holiday season! Cheers and happy reading!

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