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1. Around the world in forty two days.

The title of this post might be a slight exaggeration but Karen, Steven and the girls did travel from Australia to England via Dubai before visiting France then back for a whirlwind tour of England and a return trip to Australia all in the space of forty two days. I realise they didn't exactly go around the world, but they certainly crossed it a couple of times.

We have hundreds of photographs so choosing the ones to share is proving difficult, but I hope you enjoy this selection. If you would like to see more, please visit my previous post.


Paris - Karen, Zoe, Steven and Lilly

Lilly's pose was entirely spontaneous, but I wonder if the inspiration came from her favourite Disney film.

Queen Elsa starring in a Frozen Sing Along at Disneyland Paris. Notice anything familiar in the pose?  

 Zoe had difficulty remembering the name of the Eiffel Tower but pointing first at her eye and then her tummy (Eye Full!!) did the trick. 

These two photographs make me smile, I love the way Lilly is copying her daddy with a sad and happy face. 

Is it just me or does anyone else think Lilly looks a little like Audrey Hepburn?  
Lilly on the left Audrey Ruston (Hepburn) on the right


As Zoe gets taller, I get shorter!

From Paris, it was back to London.

Karen and I enjoy a glass of champagne as we walk around a Christmas market alongside the River Thames.

We stayed at a hotel close to the London Eye, but the girls were more impressed with the playground (London Eye in the background)
Steven and Lilly

Zoe having fun

Why are playgrounds made for big people when I'm only little?


London by night


Fortnum and Mason all decked out for Christmas


Back at home and Zoe is very excited to see 'Postman Pat’ pulling up outside. The girls are more used to seeing the postman arriving on a motorbike.

 An Australia Post Postie
(Flickr: Vanessa Pike-Russell via News)


On the move again…this time it’s off to a hotel in Basingstoke to join more of our family.

L to R;  My sister Sue with her husband Brian and daughter Jackie, me with our two grandsons Kip and Tris from our son's first marriage, Terry, Karen, Paula (my niece and Sue's daughter) holding Zoe, Steven, Jean and Fred (my husband's parents), Dave (Paula's husband) and Lilly in the front. 

 
Our two little granddaughters treated us all to a surprise performance - don't they look adorable in their tutus. 

Lilly on Christmas morning

Zoe with her half-brothers Kip and Tris, the boys returned to England from Australia a few years ago so this was an emotional reunion.

Zoe and Kip getting to know one another again.

Steven taking Nanny for a spin around the dance floor.

With the excitement of Christmas behind us it was time to return home. 
Now I understand why adult colouring books are so popular there is something very therapeutic about getting out the paints and crayons. I loved ‘colouring in’ with the girls and also enjoyed sticker books and magic painting, something I hadn't done since our grandsons were small.  

We were delighted to see this little chap while out walking.

We couldn't be with Zoe on her actual birthday, so we had an unbirthday birthday tea a few days before they returned to Australia. Happy fifth birthday Zoe. 


Love and happy smiles...





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2. StoryMakers | Mike Curato’s Little Elliot Books

STORYMAKERS Mike Curato Featured Image

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books are fast becoming a favorite of children and parents alike. The author and illustrator has created a little polka-dotted elephant with a big heart. The Little Elliot series — Little Elliot, Big CityLittle Elliot, Big Family; and Little Elliot, Big Fun — is heavily influenced by the zeitgeist of the1930s and conveys wonderful messages about family and friendship.

Mike Curato and MerryMakers president Clair Frederick joined StoryMakers host Rocco Staino to talk about the series of Little Elliot books and the huggably soft plush products created by the toy maker. Little Elliot is one of the newest members of the MerryMakers family.

We’re giving away three (3) signed copies of Mike Curato’s Little Elliot, Big City; Little Elliot, Big Family; and a MerryMakers plush toy. Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.

Watch Mike Curato read Little Elliot, Big City on “Read Out Loud,” then download the activity kit!

Read Out Loud Little Elliot Books

ABOUT THE LITTLE ELLIOT SERIES

Little Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big City CoverLittle Elliot, Big City
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers

Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy like cupcakes And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter a friend.

Little Elliot, Big FamilyLittle Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big Family Cover
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers

When Mouse heads off to a family reunion, Little Elliot decides go for a walk. As he explores each busy street, he sees families in all shapes and sizes. In a city of millions, Little Elliot feels very much alone-until he finds he has a family of his own.

Little Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big Fun

Little Elliot, Big Fun
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Available August 2016

In this third story of Little Elliot and Mouse, the friends head off in search of adventure . . . and lots of fun. Little Elliot, the polka-dotted elephant, and his friend Mouse go to the amusement park to see the sights and ride the rides water chutes, roller coasters, carousels, and more. But Elliot isn’t having much fun the rides are too wet, too fast, too dizzy, and just plain too scary until Mouse figures out a way to help him overcome his fears. Together, Mouse and Little Elliot can do anything.

Worm Loves WormWorm Loves Worm Cover Written by J. J. Austrian with illustrations by Mike Curato
Published by Balzer + Bray

Perfect for fans of And Tango Makes Three and The Sissy Duckling, this irresistible picture book is a celebration of love in all its splendid forms from debut author J. J. Austrian and the acclaimed author-illustrator of Little Elliot, Big City, Mike Curato. You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm . . . and a worm. When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next: They get married but their friends want to know who will wear the dress? And who will wear the tux? The answer is: It doesn’t matter. Because Worm loves Worm.

ABOUT MIKE CURATO

Via mikecurato.com

Mike loves drawing and writing almost as much as he loves cupcakes and ice cream (and that’s a LOT!). He is the author and illustrator of everyone’s favorite polka-dotted elephant, Little Elliot. His debut title, Little Elliot, Big City, released in 2014 to critical acclaim, has won several awards, and is being translated into ten languages. The follow up book, Little Elliot, Big Family, was just released in October, 2015, and has received several starred reviews. At least two more Little Elliot books are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Mike had the pleasure of illustrating Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, which is available January 5, 2016. He is also working on several other projects, including his first graphic novel. Mike lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

CONNECT WITH MIKE CURATO
Website (Mike Curato) | Website (Little Elliot) | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

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3. #816 – The New Small Person by Lauren Child

The New Small Person Written and Illustrated by Lauren Child Candlewick Press    2/10/2015 978-0-7636-7810-4 32 pages    Ages 4—8 “Elmore Green started life as an only child, as many children do. He had a room all to himself, and everything in it was his. But then one day a new small person came along, …

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4. I’m back!!

Happy New Year everyone!  

Karen, Steven and the girls arrived from Australia on the 6th December, and life took on a different pace. We enjoyed a trip to Disneyland Paris, a few days in London, Christmas in a hotel with more of the family, a pantomime, numerous days out plus lots of time for simply catching up. Our son and daughter-in-law haven't changed a bit in the two years since we last saw them (Malaysia 2013), but the girls have changed a great deal. Zoe was five on the 21st of this month and will be going to school soon. Lilly will be four in May, and they both appeared very grown up in comparison to when we last saw them. 

Thanks to my hubby Terry and daughter-in-law Karen we have hundreds of photographs. Picking the ‘best’ is proving difficult, but I hope these and those in my next post will give you a flavour of the fun times we shared.

Knowing how arduous the journey from Australia to England can be we decided to stay close to home for the first few days.
Visiting Sherborne Abbey. The Abbey has featured on my blog in previous post (The filming of Far from the madding crowd) here  and (A Royal Visit) here .

Inside the Abbey
Back row L to R Terry, Karen, me, Steven. Front row L to R Zoe and Lilly

Zoe so loved the Christmas tree in the Abbey she had to give it a kiss!

The sun came out to greet our visitors, but rain is never far away in England much to the delight of two little girls from Australia. 

This and the previous photograph were taken on the site of the old railway line that used to run through Henstridge. As you can see the girls were beginning to feel the cold so it was time to hurry home and warm up.

 A couple of days later and time for a trip to the City of Bath, it's getting colder now but the family are suitably dressed.  Shame I didn't think to wear a hat it was pretty nippy around the ears.

Karen & Steven enjoyed a little light shopping. I don't think they intended the bags to be in the photo but Terry and I decided to keep hold of them – you can never be too careful! :-)

A Few days later it was time to catch the train to Disneyland, Paris. We spent four days at Disneyland and a further day in Paris.

We boarded the train at St. Pancras and it wasn't long before Zoe and Lilly made friends with a little girl called Delilah. The three girls spent almost the entire journey together. I'm enjoying all the attention especially the hug from Lilly.

Disneyland, Paris.



















More holiday photos next week.

Feeling very sad when the family left I decided a little Joanne Harris would be the perfect pick me up and Gentlemen & Players didn't let me down! In the words of Anne Marie over at Beetles, Bikes and Books  ... a very dark tale of events centred around a boys' elite Grammar School. Strange things happening relating to an event 13 years or so ago. I love trying to work out who dunnit! but I admit to being stumped. There's always something you miss in a book like this. If you're a Joanne Harris fan and haven't read this - do so

Did you enter the Joules Design a Welly Competition? If you did you might be interested to see the winning design...


The boots will be on sale at Joules.com later this year. To find out more visit Joules Facebook Page. The winner was a lady by the name of Andrea it would be nice to think she read about the competition on my blog! 


Thanks for your visit I hope to catch up with all my lovely blogging friends very soon.


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5. StoryMakers | Angela Dominguez

STORYMAKERS Angela Dominguez Featured Image

Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita and Knit Together author and illustrator Angela Dominguez creates heart-warming tales about family and togetherness. Angela Dominguez is a two-time recipient of the American Library Association’s Pura Belpre Honor (2014 and 2016).

It’s kind of a love letter to my mom.
— Angela Dominguez on “Knit Together”

Angela’s picture books are rooted in the themes of family, tradition, and friendship. Several of her books including Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita; Let’s Go, Hugo; and Knit Together pull from relationships with family members and artifacts from her childhood. A wind-up toy inspired French bird Hugo. Angela’s memories of wanting to be a skilled knitter like her mother led her to write a book to remind children they can be talented in their own way. An aunt’s interest in indigenous cultures informed the writing of a version of Mary Had a Little Lamb with a Peruvian twist.

Angela’s books aren’t only an option for children growing up bilingual; they are excellent for those who want to expose young readers to the Spanish language and Latino culture.

Aspiring illustrators will enjoy hearing about Angela’s process and seeing what a book looks like from start to finish.

We’re giving away three (3) sets of books from Angela Dominguez. Each set includes signed copies of Maria Had a Little Llama and Knit Together. Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Knit TogetherKnit Together Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

From an award-winning illustrator comes a sweet story of mothers and daughters, drawing and knitting, and learning to embrace your talents just right for Mother’s Day. Drawing is fun, but knitting is better because you can wear it Knitting isn t easy, though, and can be a little frustrating. Maybe the best thing to do is combine talents. A trip to the beach offers plenty of inspiration. Soon mom and daughter are collaborating on a piece of art they can share together: a special drawing made into a knitted beach blanket. For every mom and daughter, this is an arts-and-crafts ode creative passion and working together.

Santiago StaysSantiago Stays Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Harry N. Abrams

Dominguez presents a humorous and endearing portrait of a stubborn French bulldog and a determined little boy.

Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una LlamitaMaria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Everyone knows about Mary and her little lamb. But do you know Maria? With gorgeous, Peruvian-inspired illustrations and English and Spanish retellings, Angela Dominguez gives a fresh new twist to the classic rhyme. Maria and her mischievous little llama will steal your heart.

Let's Go, Hugo! CoverLet’s Go, Hugo!
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

Hugo is a dapper little bird who adores the Eiffel Tower — or at least his view of it from down here. Hugo, you see, has never left the ground. So when he meets another bird, the determined Lulu, who invites him to fly with her to the top of the tower, Hugo stalls, persuading Lulu to see, on foot, every inch of the park in which he lives instead. Will a nighttime flying lesson from Bernard the Owl, some sweet and sensible encouragement from Lulu, and some extra pluck from Hugo himself finally give this bird the courage he needs to spread his wings and fly?

Marta! Big & SmallMarta Big and Small Cover (August 23, 2016)
Written by Jennifer Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Roaring Brook Press

Marta is “una nina,” an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends. As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is “sabrosa” tasty, very tasty But Marta is “ingeniosa,” a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results. With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.

COMING IN 2016

How Do You Say/ Como Se Dice Cover How Do You Say? Como Se Dice? (November 8, 2016)
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Hello “Hola.” Some people speak Spanish. Some people speak English. Although we may not speak the same language, some things, like friendship, are universal. Follow two young giraffes as they meet, celebrate, and become friends. This bilingual tale will have readers eager to meet new friends and “amigos.”

COMING IN 2017
Sing Don't Cry CoverSing Don’t Cry
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Pura Belpre Honor winner, Angela Dominguez, based this musically driven story on her beloved grandfather. Her abuelo always encouraged her to stay positive and carry on.

ABOUT ANGELA DOMINGUEZ

Via AngelaDominguezStudio.com
Angela was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had A Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. When she is not in her studio, Angela teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013. She also enjoys presenting at different schools and libraries to all sorts of ages. Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and is represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency.

CONNECT WITH ANGELA DOMINGUEZ
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Host: Rocco Staino
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Producer: Kassia Graham

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6. Nurturing Strong & Courageous Sons and Daughters

by Sally Matheny

Strong and Courageous
Photo by pixaby.com
Often, we hear heartbreaking stories of youth, raised in Christian homes, choosing to walk away from the Truth of Jesus Christ.
It’s frightening.

As Christian parents, we find it difficult to contemplate the possibility of our children living, and dying, without the hope, the peace, and the eternal joy that comes only through Christ.

What can parents do when the Enemy silently creeps into our children’s lives and captivates their attention with lies and deception? What can we do to help them avoid unnecessary distress in their futures? 
Read more »

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7. The Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon

Robyn is a tinkerer.  She loves building things with her dad, but since her dad's job has taken up most of his time lately, Robyn is on her own.  One night after Robyn sneaks out as usual to head to the junkyard to find a voltage adapter for a project, things seem a bit off.  Usually dodging the guards and scaling the fence are fun endeavors, but this night the guards are more soldier-esque than usual.  And this time when she made it over the fence, there was a dog.

Luckily Robyn is a prepared girl, and has a pocket full of bacon to keep the dog at bay. True, the bacon was orignally for Robyn's friend Barclay who calls the junkyard his home, but Robyn is thankful she packed it.

It turns out that changes are afoot in a much more far ranging way than just upped security in the junkyard.  This night comes to be called the Night of Shadows, and what it is is a coup.  The standing government and all of the members of parliament are rounded up and/or killed. Robyn's father works for the government.

When she races home, she finds a horrifying sight.  Her empty house is in shambles and her parents are gone.  All that is left is a puddle of blood in the kitchen. Robyn is a wanted girl.

Now Robyn is forced to try to remember all of the warnings her father gave her that she only half listened to.  The ones that started with "If anything ever happens to me and your mother...".  Upon hearing strangers back in her house she takes the few items from her safe and takes off into the forest.

What comes next is an adventure that will keep readers up well into the night.  Solitary Robyn must learn that sometimes it's okay (and necessary) to trust others. Her group of friends must learn to live by their wits and manage to help others who may not be so resourceful along the way.

Magoon has reimagined the world of Robin Hood in an alternate time period and has woven in technology and the idea of the big brother very well.  Readers do not need to be familiar with the original tale to have a rip roaring time, but the ones who are familiar will likely be pleased with the reimagining of many of the main characters.  Magoon has also woven in moon lore as an aspect of the world building that brings an air of fantasy to the whole story.

I cannot wait for the next installment of this exciting story!

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8. Family or your dream? How to select the right option?

There is always a fine line between doing a thing and doing the thing correctly. You can achieve things in the most traditional way or in the right way. However there is always a thing that you have to remember whilst you conquer the world. It is the most important thing in your live and you may not even realise that. No we are not talking about fame, authority, money, hard work or patience. We are talking about your family.

Do not forget your loves ones

In all the glitz and glamour of your dream and in between the long nights at the office and the hard work, you may forget the people who love you the most. Yes your colleagues and co-workers are your family too, but it’s your loved ones who are the most precious people in your life. You can never discount the love that you can get from them and you can never ignore the affection that you have for them too.

Of course, in all the hard work you can occasionally forget their existence and that alone can be a huge knife in your relationship with them. Sure, even they understand that you are a dreamer and a vision-ist. However you have to remind them that they are special to you as well. In fact in order to be successful you have to always provide them the time you have. Sure your work and your dream are important, but if you do not have a family, everything is void and useless.

Your family understands, but

We are sure your family wishes you all the success and good luck in your professional career. However they do that because they love you and they need to be happy. You may become selfish and forget their role in all this, but you just can’t ignore their love for you. But when it comes to selecting between the two, you must always give them equal preference and chance.

They understand your dream and even you should understand their want. A loving wife or a husband needs his or her partner by his or her side at pivotal points in life. This is where you dream can take a temporary break. We are not commenting you to let go of your dreams, but we are telling you to give your family a chance too. They are humans and they are the most precious thing that you can ever have. Hence do not lose them.

What exactly should you do?

Well you can’t let go of your dreams can you and without your family you are nothing. Hence it is always better to balance it. Take Weekends off, go for family picnics or treks, take family vacations and tours, have dinner together every day, take your kids to school once in a while, say I love you to your partner often, and meet your parents every week. These are simplest of things, and you can do them pretty easily. You can’t select one over the other; hence mixing them up is the best thing.

Remember, a big and glamorous house without a family is just a house, not a home.

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9. Single Parenthood- I'm Glad I Paddled The Boat Ashore

                                                         
The color of the water in the gulf changed from dark blue to black at nightfall, so my vision was hazy, but I held my son tight as our raft bounced on the waves.

My stomach felt weak, and I braced myself for what may be a trip to the edge of the world. I gently stroked my son’s wavy blond hair and rocked him against my chest. His hair smelled like the day we had before nightfall...full of sunscreen, salt, and sweat. The droplets of water on his hair gave off the only light, except for the silver fish splashing in the waves and the tiny white stars twinkling above.

We are a part of the stars and the vast sea, suspended on our raft in rough deep water, miles above the ocean floor, and so far from land that we couldn’t see a line in the horizon, or where the sky ended and the body of water began. Disoriented, I prayed I could hold my head up while our son slept on my chest sucking his thumb knowing I would bring him home safely. Nevertheless, all I knew was that I was waiting for you.



I could see your bright eyes and brown hair sprinkled with water and sand from earlier in the day. I could see you paddling in the dark directionless water toward us and our future lives together. But then, the boat began to spin fast, then faster, as if we were on a ride at a theme park; but, the boat was disappearing from the shore.

My heart raced as we spun backward and further away from what appeared to be nowhere...the night got darker, and I could not open my eyes. I tried to force them open as my heart pounded in my chest. My eyes felt glued together. I frantically splashed water on my face and my eyes opened.- It was a dream.- 

The first time I had this dream my son was a baby and his father and I kept separating for short and long periods of time. I dreamed it after a day at the beach with my son and his father, which happened to be a fun day. -But evidently, my subconscious saw things differently.-

I think it was due to the fact that I refused to admit how frightened I was of someone I dearly loved- I was young and tormented by my situation. Nevertheless, I was obviously more afraid of changing my circumstances than I was of him or anything else. In addition, single parenthood frightened me.

My mother told me once that "there is nothing as constant as change," and it’s true. Yet, so many of us will do anything to avoid changing what feels comfortable and predictable in our lives, when in truth, without change, you miss the things that make life worthwhile or in some cases bearable.

In any event, I decided this dream was a subconscious awakening for me, and there are few things more precious than awareness. I'm glad I paddled the boat ashore.


I've had different variations of this dream throughout my son's childhood and I've often wondered what it meant. And what's bizarre, is my son is now a grown man and I dreamed it again last night. I've dreamed and wrote down different versions of the dream in my journal over the years. I decided to post it today because I realized that many parents, single or married would be able to relate.

All parents cherish their children's safety and future and when our children are born they do not come with an owners manual, in fact, that do not belong to us at all.

In closing, I'm going to leave you with a phrase I wrote long ago,

Motherhood/Parenthood is an art impossible to explain, one which requires a vast sea of love, devotion, compassion, and understanding unmatched by any affection we will know again.  

And boy is that the truth.


Thanks for visiting A Nice Place In The Sun.

And as we say in South Louisiana, "Let The Good Times Roll."

Have a great day!

















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10. StoryMakers | Wolfie the Bunny & My Cousin Momo

STORYMAKERS Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora

Ame Dyckman entertained the idea of a wolf and bunny book for quite some time before the inspiration for  Wolfie the Bunny finally hit. What started out as the voice of a tiny character in her head turned into a book about the families we choose.

I didn’t specifically set out to write an adoption story. Family is family no matter what. — Ame Dyckman on Wolfie the Bunny.

Ame is joined by author and illustrator Zachariah OHora who brings out Dot’s spunk and Wolfie’s warm heart in visual form. Their team is the perfect balance of cool and calm mixed quirky exuberance. Together, they talk about kid lit they’re working on that will be published soon and in the near future. The next book on which they’ve collaborated, Horrible Bear, will be released in the spring of 2016. Zachariah’s most recently published book, My Cousin Momo, is about a flying squirrel who’s a bit on the shy side.

WATCH AME AND ZACHARIAH’S EPISODE OF READ OUT LOUD!

We’re giving away three (3) sets of books from Ame and Zachariah. Each set includes signed copies of Wolfie the Bunny and My Cousin Momo. Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.

ABOUT WOLFIE THE BUNNY AND MY COUSIN MOMO

Wolfie the BunnyWolfie the Bunny Cover by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Hachette Book Group

Families of all kinds will delight in this sweet tale of new babies, sibling rivalry, bravery, unconditional love…and veggies! The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can–and might–eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it’s Wolfie who’s threatened, can Dot save the day?

My Cousin Momo Cover

My Cousin Momo by Zachariah OHora
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group (USA)

Zachariah OHora’s distinctive retro art and kid-friendly humor take the stage in this story about accepting and celebrating differences. Momo is coming to visit, and his cousins are SO excited But even though Momo is a flying squirrel, he won’t fly for his cousin’s friends. Plus, his games are weird. He can’t even play hide and seek right But when Momo’s cousins give his strange ways a chance, they realize that doing things differently can be fun…almost as much fun as making a new friend.

COMING SOON SPRING 2016
Horrible Bear CoverHorrible Bear by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Bear didn’t mean to break a little girl’s kite, but she’s upset anyway–upset enough to shout “HORRIBLE BEAR!” Bear is indignant. He doesn’t think he’s horrible! Then Bear gets a truly Horrible Bear idea. What will he do next? As Bear prepares to live up to his formerly undeserved reputation, the girl makes a mistake of her own, and realizes that maybe–just maybe–Bear isn’t as horrible as she had thought.

ABOUT AME DYCKMAN
Via amedyckman.com
As a kid Amy had her nose in a book. (And usually Band-Aids on her knees from running into stuff). As a grown-up, Ame has tried lots to fun jobs ranging from teacher to costumed character, but being a children’s book author is her very favorite job of all. (She still gets to go to schools and read to kids, and now she only has to dress like a duck when she wants to.) Are live in New Jersey with her family, pets, book collection, and a big box of Band-Aids.

ABOUT ZACHARIAH OHORA
Via zohora.com
Zachariah OHora is an award winning illustrator and children’s book author. His work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, American Illustration, and Print. His work has been collected by Alice Waters, Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind and late night talk show host Jon Stewart.

His debut children’s book Stop Snoring, Bernard! won the 2011 Founders Award at the Society of Illustrators, a Merit Award from the New York Bookbinders Guild and was chosen as the PA One Book for 2012. The PA One Book program is a state and private funded program that seeks to encourage literacy in the state of Pennsylvania by giving books to every library, Headstart program and low income schools. The program distributed 100,000 copies of Stop Snoring, Bernard! and hosted the author on a six week tour of the states schools and libraries.

He illustrated The Pet Project written by Lisa Wheeler (Atheneum Books April 2013) and his next book No Fits, Nilson! (Dial Books June 2013). His latest book, My Cousin Momo (Dial Books 2014) about a Japanese flying squirrel visiting his North American non-flying cousins. His illustration work has appeared on posters, album covers and in numerous magazines and newspapers. Clients include The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Oxford American, Wax Poetics and NPR.

Zachariah was raised in New Hampshire, and lived in San Francisco, Berlin, and New York. He now lives and works in Narberth, PA with his wife Lydia Ricci and two sons Oskar and Teddy. Like the main character in Stop Snoring, Bernard! he is known to snore, sometimes loudly.

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11. StoryMakers | Discovering Wes Moore

STORYMAKERS Wes Moore Image

Discovering Wes Moore is the YA follow up to education advocate, veteran, and Rhodes Scholar Wes Moore’s New York Times bestseller, The Other Wes Moore. The Other Wes Moore is the story of two men with very different paths. While one is heading off to Oxford University on a scholarship, the other was sentenced to life in prison. The Other Wes Moore traces their paths from childhood to adulthood. What went wrong in the life of the other Wes Moore? Discovering Wes Moore is an accessible version of the bestseller, for young readers, requested by teachers.

This Way Home is Wes Moore’s first young adult work of fiction, with Shawn Goodman. Moore and Goodman’s book is set in Baltimore, which has been in the news most recently due to several protests in response to police brutality. Elijah and his friends live for basketball but a street gang threatens to take that all away if the team doesn’t rep their colors. What happens if they don’t give in? What happens when a community takes a stand?

I want them [young people] to say, “He gets my life. He gets what I see. He understands what I know.”  — Wes Moore on writing This Way Home

Watch this episode to learn more about Wes’ books, what he is doing to further his service mission as a veteran, and how he’s making attending college a bit easier for young people in Maryland.

We’re giving away three (3) signed copies of Discovering Wes Moore and This Way Home. Enter to win this mini bundle, now!

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ABOUT DISCOVERING WES MOORE

Discovering Wes MooreDiscovering Wes Moore Book Cover by Wes Moore
Published by Ember

For fans of “The Wire “and “Unbroken “comes a story of two fatherless boys from Baltimore, both named Wes Moore. One is in prison, serving a life sentence for murder. The other is a Rhodes Scholar, an army veteran, and an author whose book is being turned into a movie produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Two men. One overcame adversity. The other suffered the indignities of poverty. Their stories are chronicled in “Discovering Wes Moore,” a book for young people based on Wes Moore’s bestselling adult memoir, The Other Wes Moore.

The story of the other Wes Moore is one that the author couldn t get out of his mind, not since he learned that another boy with his name just two years his senior grew up in the same Baltimore neighborhood. He wrote that boy now a man a letter, not expecting to receive a reply. But a reply came, and a friendship grew, as letters turned into visits and the two men got to know each other. Eventually, that friendship became the inspiration for “Discovering Wes Moore,” a moving and cautionary tale examining the factors that contribute to success and failure and the choices that make all the difference.

ABOUT THIS WAY HOME

This Way HomeThis Way Home Book Cover by Wes Moore with Shawn Goodman
Published by Delacorte Press/Random House

One young man searches for a place to call home in this gut-wrenching, honest novel from New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore with Shawn Goodman. Elijah Thomas knows one thing better than anyone around him: basketball. At seventeen, he’s earned the reputation of a top-level player, one who steps onto the court ready for battle, whether it’s a neighborhood pickup game or a tournament championship. What Elijah loves most about the game is its predictability: if he and his two best friends play hard and follow the rules, their team will win. And this formula has held true all way up to the summer before their senior year of high school, when a sinister street gang, Blood Street Nation, wants them to wear the Nation’s colors in the next big tournament.

The boys gather their courage and take a stand against the gang, but at a terrible cost. Now Elijah must struggle to balance hope and fear, revenge and forgiveness, to save his neighborhood. For help, he turns to the most unlikely of friends: Banks, a gruff ex-military man, and his beautiful and ambitious daughter. Together, the three work on a plan to destroy Blood Street and rebuild the community they all call home.

This Way Home is a story about reclamation. It’s about taking a stand for what matters most, and the discovery that, in the end, hope, love, and courage are our most powerful weapons.

ABOUT WES MOORE

Via theotherwesmoore.com Wes Moore is a youth advo­cate, Army com­bat vet­eran, social entre­pre­neur, and host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Win­frey Net­work. His first book The Other Wes Moore became an instant New York Times and Wall Street Jour­nal bestseller.

Born in 1978, Wes and his sis­ters were raised by their wid­owed mother. Despite early aca­d­e­mic and behav­ioral strug­gles, he grad­u­ated Phi Theta Kappa in 1998 as a com­mis­sioned offi­cer from Val­ley Forge Mil­i­tary Col­lege, and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity in 2001, where he also played foot­ball and earned a bachelor’s degree in Inter­na­tional Rela­tions. He then became a Rhodes Scholar, study­ing Inter­national Rela­tions at Oxford University.

After his stud­ies, Wes, a para­trooper and Cap­tain in the United States Army, served a com­bat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion. Wes then served as a White House fel­low to Sec­re­tary of State Con­deleezza Rice. He serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Vet­er­ans of Amer­ica (IAVA), The Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity, and founded an orga­ni­za­tion called STAND! that works with Bal­ti­more youth involved in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Wes is com­mit­ted to help­ing the par­ents, teach­ers, men­tors, and advo­cates who serve our nations youth. A por­tion of all book pro­ceeds for “The Other Wes Moore” are being donated to City Year and the US Dream Academy.

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12. The Big Book of Hugs: A Barkley the Bear Story | Dedicated Review

The lessons The Big Book of Hugs provides are useful and very important, and the warmth it radiates is a rare quality that children will instantly respond to.

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13. Love story, part infinity

Greg Taylor (1975-2015)
My beloved husband, Greg Taylor, passed away on December 25, 2015, Christmas afternoon, around 2:30 pm.

I would like to share our love story.


We met on Craigslist (yes, Craigslist--they have a dating site). On a Sunday afternoon, September 23, 2007, I answered his personal ad and we exchanged our first emails. His personals posting had the heading as simply "hi" and the post was a list of funny and random things about him, including "I'm taller than you, even if you're tall."

I responded with "hi back" and a corresponding list, including "I'm shorter than you, even if you're short. But most people say I don't 'look' short."


We met for the first time on a Friday night, September 28, after work in front of the (now gone) Virgin Megastore in Union Square. I arrived first, and was listening to my iPod. As he approached, I removed my headphones, got flustered because he was so handsome, and my earbuds got tangled. I handed them to him to hold for a second, a gesture he for some reason found endearing and would mention for years later. We decided to walk and find a place to eat, and ended up at Yaffa Cafe on St. Mark's Street (also now gone). For many years later, on September 28 we would go back and meet in front of the Virgin Megastore, which eventually was turned into a Duane Reade drugstore (of course).


We sat in the back courtyard and talked and talked and talked. He was a fifth-grade teacher, I was a children's book editor, he was studying history in grad school, I was always thirsty to learn more about everything. I liked sushi, he didn't eat raw meat. I had gone skydiving, he preferred his feet on the ground. But we couldn't stop looking into each other's eyes. His eyes were the most beautiful blue-gray. He told me they changed colors in the light, and I later discovered that they were sometimes flecked with green.


I had a birthday party to attend later that night in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, and asked him if he wanted to come with me. When he agreed, I knew he liked me. (He had told me earlier that he hated Williamsburg.) He told me later that when I asked him to come with me, he knew I liked him, too.


Now here's the "falling in love" montage. Kissing like there was no tomorrow. Going for walks--he showed me his neighborhood in Brooklyn and we walked to the Brooklyn museum and watched a dog frolic in the jumping fountain. It was there that we took our first picture together:



This is also the hat he wore when we first met.
Meeting each other's friends. House and dog sitting out in New Jersey (he LOVED dogs). Teaching me to play golf (he LOVED golf). Drinking a lot of wine (he LOVED wine). Introducing me to opera. Going to parties and weddings together, going to lots and lots of diners. (Later, when we briefly were looking to buy an apartment, it was important to us that the neighborhood have a diner.) Emails, texts, phone calls. Making each other laugh. Holidays. Supporting each other's careers.
Dog sitting Maggie, Roxie, and Caesar
He would share the books I edited with his students, especially Grace Lin's Year of the Dog, and he would proudly tell his students that he was friends with the real-life Melody who was a character in the book. When I attended his school's holiday concert, he introduced me as Melody and I was a celebrity. I later spoke to his school about being a children's book editor.

We took a trip out to Iowa together, where he spent his summers as a kid. Showing off, he took us down a backroad where we promptly got stuck in the mud and he had to call his uncle for help--they laughed and said he was a city boy now. 


Not a smart thing to do in a rental PT Cruiser
He started flying out to my parents' home in Southern California with me and ended up falling in love with California, and especially my parents' backyard. (He wanted to live there. In my parents' basement.) We played a lot of tennis and golf.


His mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he flew out to stay with her for six months to care for her. I went to visit him while he was there and spent Thanksgiving with his family and stayed in his childhood home.

We moved in together into his tiny 5th-floor walk-up apartment in Park Slope. The two of us and his two cats, Venus and Serena, made a nice family. And then in October 2011 he proposed, on the same rock in Central Park where my parents got engaged.

We were married less than a year later on July 21, 2012, in my parents backyard.




It was a glorious day, and we were excited to start a life together as husband and wife. 


And then he was diagnosed with cancer, synovial sarcoma, about six months after our wedding. You can read about that initial journey here. Major surgery, long recover, chemo, and then another long recovery.


Just as Greg was starting to regain his strength, we found out that his cancer had recurred in January 2014. We knew that with Greg's type of cancer, once it came back, there was no cure. At first, Greg didn't want any treatment--he didn't want to go through chemo again. We decided to travel--to Rome, and then Paris. Greg left the US for the first time (aside from Mexico) in February 2014 and we went to Rome and had a glorious week. Before he died, Greg wanted to walk where Augustus walked.






On the night before we were to leave for Paris, he was struck by excruciating tumor pain. We stayed in Rome for another week while we stabilized the pain, and then flew back to NY where he agreed to try a pill form of chemo. We were told that if the chemo worked, it would probably only work for 3-4 months. That pill ended up working for 18 months, and although he wasn't feeling great all the time, we were able to still have a relatively stable life. The chemo turned his facial pigmentation and hair snow white. He hated how his face looked and so he covered it with facial hair. Kids especially would stare at him--either thinking he was a pirate, or Santa, or, as we joked, a pirate Santa. Twice, once in our apartment lobby, and once at the Brooklyn Museum, he had a kid point to him and say, "Look! It's a pirate!"

Right before pirate Santa decided to shave his beard off.
We went to the US Open, a few hockey games and baseball games, and took a trip down to Atlantic City to see Bob Dylan perform.

Through it all, Greg handled his illness with courage and grace. It wasn't easy by any means, but I was eternally grateful to him for how he accepted and dealt with his situation. He knew this cancer would probably kill him, and although he was terrified of dying, his goal was to get as many good days out of life as possible. He had always been loving and attentive and romantic, but these past three years, he became even more so. 


For my 40th birthday last year, because he knew he didn't have the energy to take me out or throw me a party, he threw me a cyber party instead. He got over 100 T-shirts made in our wedding colors (fuchsia and purple) with the Chinese character for "love" on the back, and my last name in Chinese "Ling" on the front, to match the tattoo on my shoulder. He sent them to friends and families all around the US, and asked them to take pictures of themselves in the shirts and email, Tweet, and Facebook the pictures to me on my birthday. Here are just a few:




He told me he needed to make sure to tell me how much he loved me as much as he could in the time he had left. He told me that I should feel comforted in knowing how much I made his life better. He told me how in awe he was that he had met me, that I had responded to that one Craigslist ad so many years ago. He left me love notes around the apartment, on my computer, in my wallet. We had so many silly inside jokes, and I'm mourning the passing of what was known only between us. And of the children we never had (he was SO GREAT with kids, and would have made an amazing father), of our future that has been cut short.

But, I'm also so so so grateful for the time we had together. I loved him unconditionally. I loved his all-enveloping hugs, his sweet kisses in the middle of the night. I think we probably laughed even more together in these past three years--it became almost a competition to make the other laugh. We made up funny dances and funny voices. He got more and more into music, especially Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and John Lennon (he admired the great love between John and Yoko), and also discovered a love for Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Motown. But, Bob Dylan above all.  


Gradually, the chemo stopped working, and Greg started having more and more pain. We tried one last chemo, which worked for two months, and we knew that we were running out of options. A few months ago, we found out that Greg had a spot in an immunotherapy trial at Sloan Kettering, and we jumped at the chance. It was a Phase 1 trial, never tested on humans, but we knew if there was someday going to be a cure, it was probably going to be through immunotherapy. But on the day he was due to start, they discovered that his liver levels were high, which disqualified him from the trial, and the doctor sent him over to the hospital to see if they could solve the problem so that he could start the trial.


He had a procedure done to help drain the bile from the liver (which they thought was causing the high levels). Unfortunately, his liver levels didn't improve, and other liver levels were starting to get high as well. We knew that he had at least one tumor in the liver, and that once the liver starts to go, it can end quickly.

Every night after I left the hospital to go home, he sent me a text. "I love you sweetheart. More than anything. You are such a superhero." His last text to me was, "You are the best thing to ever happen to me." He was the best thing to ever happen to me, too. 

Eventually, they started Greg on chemo while in the hospital, and he was released on December 23rd--we were thrilled to have him home for the holidays! This is the last picture we took together, in his hospital room while waiting for our ride home:
As my mother told Greg the last time she saw him, "You're still very handsome!"
After one night at home (Venus was ecstatic to have us both home again!), we ended up calling 911 and going to the ER in an ambulance on Christmas Eve. Greg had been struggling with nausea and ended up vomiting blood and fainting a few times. He was admitted into the ICU for observation, as they suspected internal bleeding. But, he appeared stable after getting fluids, with no symptoms aside from some weakness and dizziness.

But on Friday morning he suddenly started having seizures, and then started bleeding profusely internally. The doctors were able to stabilize him with a breathing tube and blood transfusions, but we knew there wasn't hope for a full recovery, and I knew Greg didn't want any drastic measures taken just to keep him alive. They removed the breathing tube and Greg rested peacefully for a few hours before passing on while I held his hand.

Over the two-week hospital stay, we knew that the end was coming--Greg said he didn't know if he had days, or weeks, or months, so he was going to focus on enjoying each minute with me. I'm going to focus on each minute at a time. And breathing. This last year especially, Greg was struggling, and his bad days were outnumbering his good days. Recently, he said that the pain and complications he was having were making it easier to let go. I know he is at peace now.

Greg did not want to have a funeral, but he will be buried in Iowa where he spent his summers. He wanted his body to rest under open skies.

If you want to offer some support, please donate money towards sarcoma research--if I may suggest, the Sarcoma Foundation of America: http://www.curesarcoma.org
or Mt. Sinai for Sarcoma research: https://philanthropy.mountsinai.org/waystogive

Greg started his care at Mt. Sinai with Dr. Robert Maki and Nurse Practitioner Linda Ahn (who is now at Sloan Kettering). They made the whole process more comforting for both of us, and even though I wish we had never had to meet them, I'm thankful they were in our lives. 

I'm grateful to his many doctors and nurses--at Mt. Sinai, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and at New York Methodist. They have such a tough, important job, and see suffering and death every day.

I'm also so blessed to have such loving friends and family and colleagues, including the authors and illustrators I work with, who have supported us over the years and are mourning the loss of Greg, too. This isn't a unique journey that we traveled on--what's devastating is that so many people are touched by tragedy.

I know Greg didn't want a big deal made of his death. But, for my own healing, I wanted to acknowledge publicly what an extraordinary man he was. He was full of passions--whether it was golf, wine, watches, jewelry, opera, American history, Chinese history, Andy Kaufman, dogs, cats, lacrosse, soccer...or me!--when he loved something, he loved it with all of himself, and learned everything he could. He was supremely moral, had a kind heart, and was sometimes loyal to a fault. He was sardonic, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and silly. He could put kids at ease in seconds. He had a deep voice that got higher and lighter when he was in pain--I knew he was feeling strong when his voice was deep. He was ticklish, and especially hated when I touched his feet. He watched the same movies over and over again, memorized the best lines, and would constantly call me to watch funny scenes. He also loved pointing out continuity errors. When he was in pain, he told me it helped him when I held his hand. 

His favorite books were The Plague by Albert Camus, and Sophie's Choice by William Styron. His favorite song was "Love Minus Zero" by Bob Dylan. His favorite movie was "Deer Hunter." 

People loved to tease him--he had the kind of personality that made people feel like he could take it. But he was sometimes sensitive about it. Sometimes he just wanted people to be nice to him. He was ferocious (but nice!) when dealing with customer service, and usually got what he wanted. He hated being told what to do, but I knew he took everything in, even when he was arguing (and when he was arguing, he always sounded angrier than he really was), and was able to keep an open mind. He was always so proud of me and my career, and embarrassed me by boasting about me to everyone he knew. And he was an astonishingly good teacher--so many of his students stayed in touch with him, and I feel lucky to have met so many of them. He made a difference in their lives. He made a difference in the world. 

Although he was an introvert at heart, he was the mayor of his old block. He knew everyone and they knew him. He was buddies with all of the shop keepers--one of them helped him get up the stairs of his apartment when he came home after his surgery. They always asked me how he was doing after his surgery. He made Brooklyn into a small town. Although his time was cut short, he had a rich, fulfilling life, and so many people who loved him.

The day after his death, I remembered that he had wanted to make me a music mix before he died, and I was feeling bereft that he hadn't been able to do it. But I checked my computer just in case, and there it was, a playlist called "For Alvina" and it was like he was giving me a hug and a message from the great beyond. The last two songs on the mix are "Shelter from the Storm" and "Across the Universe."

For those of you who have read this far, thank you for bearing with me. My mother is with me now, and I've been surrounded by friends, both virtually and in person. Greg and my dear friends Donna and Daniel were with me at the hospital when he died, and took care of me that night and the next day.

And just to leave this on a note of levity, albeit one that I'm finding profound right now, this is a silly email Greg sent me while I was at work and then out to dinner about a month ago. Venus is our one remaining cat (Serena also passed away from cancer about a year ago). Warning, there is cursing ahead!:
I'm very lonely.  Venus is also lonely.  The two of us are acting like our worlds have been destroyed.  

While we cuddled - more like held on to one another as the universe battered us - she said, "Dad?"

I said, "What is it, sweetie?"

"I miss Alvina."

I said, "I do to, Venus.  I miss her too."

She asked, "Is it always going to be like this?  Is it always going to hurt this much?"

I explained to her that it will always hurt but that we will get better at dealing with it.  Eventually the wound will heal and a scar will grow in its place, making us stronger.

She said, "What?"

"Ugh," I said.  "Right now we hurt because the wound is so new.  As time passes the wound will close and a scar will form." 

She replied, "What are you talking about?  I don't have any open wounds.  I said I miss Alvina."

"It's a metaphor," I said.  "We are wounded EMOTIONALLY.  We will develop EMOTIONAL scars."

She said, "I have no idea what a metaphor is.  A metaphor?  What the fuck is a metaphor!  I'm a fucking cat.  Stop treating me like a human being, because I'm not a human being.  Also, STOP TOUCHING ME!"  

Then she swatted at me and jumped off the bed and ran into the other room.

Venus and I both miss Greg. I wait for the wound to close and the scars to form.

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14. Overheard

Scott: “What’s with all the hand gestures?”

Huck: “I’m silent-beatboxing.”

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15. I guess she has a future in catalog copy?

Rilla, standing in front of the coat closet: “I’m looking for Jane’s old coat with flowers on it.”

My mother, pulling out the flowered coat directly in front of Rilla’s face: “You mean this one?”

Rilla: “No, Mom said it was an aqua background. That’s seafoam.”

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16. A touching short story… ‘The Little Boy and the Beast’ by Uwe Heidschoetter & Johannes Weiland

Doesn’t it just give you the feels?

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17. Heavy Artillery

Huck (returning home from a playdate): Can I add something to my wish list? Two shields, a sword and a cotton ball.

Me: …A cotton ball?

Huck: You know, the little white round puffy kind?

Me: Okay, so a regular cotton ball. I’m just curious, what’s it for?

Huck: Well, it could be two shields and TWO swords. But Parker only has one sword, so he let me use it, and he had a cotton ball that he threw at me and I deflected it with my shield EVERY TIME.

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18. Winter Wonderland sketches - preschool book that celebrates the wonder of winter for young and old....





Sketches from "Winter Wonderland"  written by Debbie Estrem.
This is the third book in a nostalgic series for parents and 
grandparents to share with little ones, celebrating 
the best memories of every season. 

The first two books in the series are now available!




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19. Animal Families

This month's themed art is Family.  I thought I'd share some animal moms and their families.


Momma Bear soothes Baby Bear.
written and illustrated by Shennen Bersani.


Mother elephant sleeps with her baby.
written by Linda Stanek, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.


A mother garter protects her young.
written by Jerry Pallotta and Van Wallach
illustrated by Shennen Bersani.


A zebra shark and her children.
written by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.


And finally, as bats prepare to hibernate…
written by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.




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20. Meow says mother cat and her little kittens four.

November's theme is FAMILY, so here's my illustrated spread showing the cat family. This is for Over on the Farm which will feature ten animal families living on the farm. It comes out spring 2016, is written by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by me and published by Dawn Publications.

Thanks for taking a look and Happy November!

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21. Soon (Book #5 in the Felix and Zelda family of books) by Morris Gleitzman

It's 1945 and the war is over but not the danger.  Felix, now 13, and Gabriek are hiding out in a relatively safe albeit rather wrecked building, and have one simple rule - Stay quiet and out of sight.  There are roving bands of men wearing badges that say Poland for the Poles and never hesitate to shoot anyone who is Polish, and that includes Felix, who is Polish, but he's also Jewish.

The war was hard on Gabriek and Felix who lost quite a few people they loved very much, and now Gabriek spends most of his time sleeping off the cabbage vodka he makes in his still, when not doing repair work to get food for the two of them.

Felix, who wants to become a doctor, goes how on the streets with his "medical bag" and the skills he learned from Doctor Zajak, when he and Gabriek joined the partisans before the war ended.  While out looking for people to help, Felix runs into two people - Anya, a mysterious girl wearing a filthy pink coat and carrying a gun, and Dimmi, who threatens the lives of Felix and Gabriek because the lock they fixed for him has broken.

Felix isn't out on the street long before he is kidnapped by the Poland for the Poles thugs who require his "medical services."  Luckily, Felix escapes and back on the street, a woman throws her baby to him just before she is shot to death.  Felix is immediately smitten by the baby and brings him home to an unhappy Gabriek.  

It turns out that Anya is living in an orphanage with other kids under the care of Dr. Lipzyk, who invites Felix to visit his medical library anytime he wants to.  But things happen that make Felix uncomfortable about the doctor.  First, nothing seems to be done about Anya constant vomiting, then, Felix makes a deal with Anya for an endless supply of powdered milk and other baby needs for Pavlo (yes, Felix and Gabriek name the baby a nice Ukrainian name, since his mother was from the Ukraine), and lastly, the doctor cold attitude toward him when he sees Felix without pants on.

In the post-war danger and chaos in Poland, where hate and bigotry still seem to rule the day, will Felix be able to retain his hopeful spirit that the world will someday be a safe and happy place?
 
I wasn't expecting a 5th book and I may have jumped the gun a little in my need to find out more about Felix's experiences during World War II when I ordered it from The Book Depository.  It's out in Australia, New Zealand and Britain, but I don't know when or if it will be published in the US.  But is is do worth reading, even though I didn't get any sense of closure when I finished it - but perhaps that is as it should.

Soon is an action packed novel, partly because Felix is able to go out among people in a way that he hasn't been about to for a long, long time.  And amazingly, Gleitzman has managed to keep Felix a consistent character in Once, Then, After, and now Soon even as he matures, and despite some of the horrific things he has witnessed (I don't count Now because it is about Felix at 80 year old and not told from his point of view).  Felix is a character who seems to understand human behavior instinctively even if he does still read some behaviors incorrectly at first, but that is just because he is an optimist.  And readers can't help but care about what happens to him.

Soon can be read as a stand alone book, but it would be a much richer experience if readers at least read the first three books.  And like all of the Felix and Zelda family of books there is violence, but not sex or bad language.

Once again, Gleitzman has explored themes of family and friendship in the worst of times and written a powerful, appealing novel and now I would really like to know what happens to Felix next, but I have a feeling it's not going to happen this time.

You can read an except of Soon on Morris Gleitzman's website HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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22. Themed art - Family


Two sisters and a step-sister, from a retelling of Cinderella published in Japan in 1994 by Hikari no Kuni.

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23. #776 – Bear and Bunny by Daniel Pinkwater & Will Hillenbrand

This month is Picture Book Month for those who love picture books, and Picture Book Idea Month if you are on the writing or illustrating end of picture books. Continuing with that theme is a wonderful, heartfelt picture book by Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand. Bear and Bunny Written by Daniel Pinkwater Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand …

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24. When aging policies can’t keep up with aging families

The very look and feel of families today is undergoing profound changes. Are public policies keeping up with the shifting definitions of “family”? Moreover, as the population ages within these new family dynamics, how will families give or receive elder care? Below, we highlight just a few social changes that are affecting the experiences of aging families.

The post When aging policies can’t keep up with aging families appeared first on OUPblog.

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25. Sunny Side Up, by Jenni and Matthew Holm

Every now and again you come across a perfect book. Of course there's no such thing as perfection for everyone, but for you as a reader, the right book lands into your hands at the right time.  This is how I feel about the Holm's Sunny Side Up.

It's 1976 and Sunny Lewin is being sent down to Florida to spend some time with her Grandpa. But where Gramps lives is no Disney World ... it's a retirement community where Sunny has to wear an ID at all times to prove that she belongs there.

Luckily, Sunny isn't the only kid in the community.  The groundskeeper's son Buzz lives there as well.  He is totally into comics and introduces Sunny to some of his favorites while she's in Florida.  The two of them manage to make some money finding lost cats for the old ladies, and golf balls for the pro shop to fund their comic habit.

These all seems rather bucolic and idyllic on the surface, but readers learn through Sunny's flashbacks that there is a reason that she is spending time with Gramps far from home.  It turns out her older brother is experiencing problems with addiction.  Sunny doesn't understand what's really happening -- she just knows her brother isn't who she remembers him to be and he's causing all kinds of trouble for their family.

Handled deftly, Sunny's confusion and concern are heartbreaking. Based on true events, the authenticity in this title stands out.  The push pull of Sunny's feelings for her brother are obvious and none of the characters are one note.  Little things like the toilet roll doll and lifting buns from the early bird special may go over younger readers' heads, but are perfect for the setting and the time period.

I borrowed our copy from the library, but will be purchasing this one to live on my shelves.  I can imagine future me pulling it from the shelf and shedding a tear or two each and every time.

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