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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Childrens Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,922
26. CBC Children’s Choice, Vote Polar Bear

KaliChildrensChoiceIt is such an honor to have Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue selected as a finalist for the CBC Children’s Choice Awards! But kids, now we need your help!

Vote for Kali!!


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27. Award-winning children's author, visits #IWSG

I invite you to cruise on over to #IWSG and visit with me today as I chat about... "Book Festivals: A Must Have for Your Book Marketing Toolbox" at...


Thanks for your interest, I look forward to chatting with you, once I return from work!


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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28. In this mornings email from Publishers Weekly!

0 Comments on In this mornings email from Publishers Weekly! as of 3/17/2015 11:54:00 AM
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29. Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too)

  • Gleam and Glow written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Peter Sylvada
  • Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
  • Hiroshima No Pika written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki
  • Fox written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks
  • The Harmonica written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
  • Peppe the Lamplighter written by Eliza Bartone, illustrated by Ted Lewin
  • The Shark God written by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

What do they all have in common?

  1. They have very sad and dark themes
  2. I love to read them to third graders

According to the What Kids Are Reading report from Renaissance Learning and Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic, it seems pretty clear that funny books are the most popular when choosing books for unassigned reading. In the Kids & Family Reading Report, 70% of 2,558 parents and children look for a book that “makes me laugh.” As you scroll across the top fiction titles per grade of the 9.8 million students from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the 2013-2014 school year tracked in the What Kids are Reading, you see the same lighthearted, amusing titles appear over and over again.

Although these reports do not encompass all the books students read or measure all the students in the United States, these do provide useful snapshots into the homes and schools of today’s young readers.

I get it: Light humorous fiction provides much-needed escape and reminds readers not to take the world or ourselves too seriously. These books offer an escape from harsh realities and a place to dream and imagine another, better, or different world.

Sad and Dark Books for ChildrenWhile I encourage all readers to choose their own books based on their interests, needs, and experiences, our unique roles as educators make us critical influencers on exposing students to a wide variety of texts they might not have considered for themselves.

Some of my most meaningful teaching moments and conversations came when the 27 of us would be clustered together on the carpet reading one of those texts. When we read Fox, my students were disturbed at the Fox-Magpie-Dog relationship and were dismayed by Magpie’s actions. This led us to a discussion (and away from the day’s read aloud lesson plan…) about betrayal they had experienced in friendships and families.

The world is messy, sad, and dark. Kids face racism, poverty, homelessness, neglect, violence, hunger, sexism, divorce, disempowerment, and more. Sharing sad or dark books with students starting in elementary school, like A Shelter in Our Car and When the Horses Ride By, challenges students emotionally and recognizes their realities and capacity to empathize.

Using books with dark themes or settings in the classroom can give students the language to express their emotions, models for how to discuss and engage on these topics with adults and peers, and a safe space to explore difficult topics. When students read about characters struggling with abuse, bullying, or poverty, they also see how the characters found strength and resources to cope and thrive.

Think of your most memorable texts from middle school, high school, or college. The further students advance into social studies and literature they engage with darker subjects and content. Incorporating such texts early on stretches the types of books young readers can see themselves reading and liking, as well as prepares students for analyzing complex themes and characters.

Next read aloud, choose a sad, dark book because it can:

  • provide an opener into difficult conversations and topics
  • offer complex themes, characters, and motivations worthy of multiple readings
  • give young readers words to express what they are feeling or experiencing
  • model how we act and talk about tough situations, including the grieving process, processing anger, witnessing trauma or violence
  • reinforce the development of the whole child: we want children to explore the whole human condition and develop empathy
  • prepare young readers for the world they belong in and will someday lead
  • prepare them for profound, challenging books to come in middle school and high school  (hello, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Metamorphosis, Their Eyes Were Watching God among so many others)

When I look for a meaningful text, I am on the hunt for authors and illustrators who have tackled difficult topics with not only respect, but also with honesty and with the perception that even the hardest topics like racism, sexism, poverty, and war can be understood by children.

Things to think about when selecting a sad or dark book:

  1. What is the purpose of introducing a sad, dark book?
  2. Is this the best book for the unit’s content or skill?
  3. Where do parents fit in this?
  4. What background information do students need beforehand to handle, appreciate, and comprehend this book and its message(s)?
  5. What follow-up discussion or activities should I organize to help students process and appreciate this book?

There are many authors and illustrators who are finding powerful stories, communicating difficult subjects to children, and treating young people with respect and dignity. Looking for your next thought-provoking book to explore with students? Try…

What are the saddest, darkest books your students love? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

6 Comments on Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too), last added: 3/18/2015
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30. #656 – Gollywood Here I Come! by Terry John Barto & Mattia Cerato




Gollywood Here I Come!
written by Terry John Barto
illustrated by Mattia Cerato
Author House       8/14/2014
30 pages        Age 4 – 8
“When Anamazie isn’t twirling a baton, taking an acting class, or attending singing and dance lessons, she fantasizes about being a movie star. One day, after leading the Wattle View School Band in the 4th of July parade, and a few hard knocks, her dream comes true.”
The Story

Anamazie, a talented young turkey, leads the school band in the local holiday parade, and then hops in her doting mother’s car. They are off to the Korn-A-Plenty Community Theater for the finals of the Gobbleville’s Got Talent show. Though she gave a rousing performance, Anamazie does not win the show.
Mom Henrietta is waiting backstage along with a talent scout from Gollywood Studios. He wants Anamazie to screen for the studio’s next motion picture. Anamazie wins the part, but has trouble working with the leading man. Will Anamazie lose her first starring role, or will she become the star she has always dreamed she would become?


Gollywood Here I Come opens with an expansive layout of Gobbleville. There are homes, restaurants, a bank, a taco restaurant with half arches, and—hurray—a bookstore. In the distance is the GOLLYWOOD sign (similar to the large Hollywood sign in Los Angeles). The illustrations are quite detailed and the turkeys—Gobbleville citizens —are expressive, colorful, and imaginative.


I like the length of the story and the illustrations, which are on every page sans one. Mom Henrietta is a stereotypical doting stage mom. She follows her daughter’s career so closely, trying to help at every juncture, that studio security must escort her off the movie set. Anamazie does have some difficulties, but I was disappointed that we do not get to see how she overcame those. Because of a lack of character development, it is difficult for the reader to care about her, though mom Henrietta Pearl is a hoot. Children’s story protagonists must solve their conflicts (problems, difficulties). Instead, the story glosses over this by simply telling the reader,

“Six months later, the film debuted . . .”

Suited more to the older end of the suggested reader age of 5 to 8, Gollywood Here I Come is a cute mini-version to fame with a message of perseverance, hard work, and a positive attitude as the means to success. This is the author’s first picture book. His second, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon, released last December. (reviewed HERE (coming soon)).

GOLLYWOOD HERE I COME! Text copyright © 2014 by Terry John Barto. Illustrations copyright © by Mattia Cerato. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Author House LLC, Bloomington, IN.

Purchase Gollywood Here I Come at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryAuthor House.
Learn more about Gollywood Here I Come HERE.
Meet the author, Terry John Barto, at his website:  tjbkids.com
Meet the illustrator, Mattia Cerato, at his website:   http://www.mattiacerato.com/
Check out additional Author House books at its website:   http://www.authorhouse.com/
Coming soon from Terry John Barton, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon



Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Author House, Gollywood Here I Come!, Mattia Cerato, movie stardom, Terry John Barto

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31. Has this naughty elephant met his match? New Book "Rupert the VERY Naughty Elephant" Underway

Pencil sketches are underway for "RUPERT the Very Naughty Elephant" written by Laura Brigger....Yes, he's VERY naughty....but has he met his match? 


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32. #655 – Bigfoot is Missing by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt & MinaLima

bigfoot cover



Bigfoot is Missing!

J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt (Children’s Poet Laureates, past and present)
Illustrated by MinaLima (Miraphora Mina & Eduardo Lima)
Chronicle Books          4/1/2015
40 pages      Ages 7+


“What beast stalks the dim northern forests?
What horror tunnels under the sands of the desert?
What monster lies in wait beneath murky lake water?

“Bigfoot, the Mongolian Death Worm, the Loch Ness Monster—these and many more creatures lurk within these pages. Are they animals yet discovered? Are they figments of imagination? Only eerie whispers and sinister rumors give us hints at the truth.

“Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis (2011-2013) and Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt (2013-2015) team up to offer a tour of the creatures of shadowy myth and fearsome legend—the enticing, the humorous, and the strange.”



“CRYPTOZOOLOGY is the study of hidden animals, or those whose real existence has not yet been proven.”

Have you ever wondered about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or any other cryptid? If so, then this interesting picture book is for you, regardless of age. Is this nonfiction or fiction? That will depend on whether you believe any of these extremely unusual creatures are real, or from the imagination.


I do love the layout of the book. Reading feels like a world tour of the odd. You must look everywhere to find the poems: missing posters, park signs, classified ads, and on plastic bottles stuck in the mud of a swamp. Immediately, you will realize an ingenious poet—uh, two ingenious poets—wrote Bigfoot is Missing .

Kids will enjoy this book, especially if they like the weird and unusual. The illustrations are colorful renderings of the cryptid’s home, be it park, ocean, or roaming the United States. Despite the subject matter, not a single scary page or poem exists in this kid-friendly picture book. Bigfoot is Missing  is a great choice for April Poetry Month. For those unsure what to believe, the authors included a short descriptive history of each creature.  Chronicle Books offers a teacher’s guide, in line with several common core areas.*


BIGFOOT IS MISSING. Text copyright © 2015 by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt. Illustrations copyright (2015) by MinaLima. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Bigfoot is Missing at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Books.
Learn more about Bigfoot is Missing HERE. (check it out!)
Meet the former Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, at his website:  http://www.jpatricklewis.com/
Meet the current Children’s Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt, at his website:  http://www.poetry4kids.com/
Meet the illustrators, MinaLima, at their website:  http://www.minalima.com/
Find more picture books that are wonderful at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
*“Correlates to Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards: Comprehension and Collaboration, 2-5.2; Presentation of  Knowledge and Ideas, 2-5.4, 2-5.5; Reading Standards for Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, 2-5.7” (from Chronicle Books Poetry Picture Books teacher’s guide)
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Poetry, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, cryptids, cryptozoology, forlklore, J. Patrick Lewis, Kenn Nesbitt, MinaLima, monsters

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33. Author to Bookstore: Timeline

The process of writing or illustrating a children’s has often been compared to having a baby. That gestation-to-birth time is partly the work of creating the story and pictures, but that’s just the beginning. Here is a fantastic explanation of the actual publication timeline, written by tween and teen author extraordinaire, Jen Malone. Bookmark

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34. Happy 5th Anniversary, drydenbks – Interview with Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden is a children’s editorial & publishing consultant with drydenbks LLC, a company she established 5 years ago today, after 25 years as a publisher and editor with major publishing houses. I had the privilege of working with … Continue reading

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35. #664 – The Flat Rabbit by Bárður Oskarsson




The Flat Rabbit
Bárður Oskarsson
Owlkids Books           9/15/2014
40 pages     Age 4+

“What do you do with a flat rabbit? A dog and a rat come across a rabbit. A flat rabbit, lying silently on the road. It all seems rather sad, so they decide to move her. But where to? They can’t just return her to her apartment, completely flattened. What would the neighbors think? The dog and the rat try to figure out what to do. Then the dog gets a brilliant idea. They decide to give the rabbit the send-off she deserves.”



The Flat Rabbit deals with a serious subject most young child, under age 6, are incapable of understanding: the finality of death. The author uses humor in this gentle story of two friends sending off another friend—the flat rabbit—in a respectful manner, honorable and pleasing to the rabbit. They find their friend in the middle of the road and decide it cannot be much fun lying there. The dog and rat decide to help the rabbit move to a better place.

“Do you think she is having a good time? the rat finally asked . . .

“I don’t know . . .” he [the dog] replied slowly. “I don’t know.”

As a social worker, The Flat Rabbit would be a great tool for helping kids process not only death, but also separation. Nearly every page can provoke discussion. The abrupt ending demands discussion. The Flat Rabbit can open up discussions on the mysteries of life, the finality of death, and the use of compassion and respect.


I also love the simple illustrations and the gentle humor.

“Do you know her?” [The rat asked the dog.]

“Well,” said the dog, “I think she’s from number 34. I’ve never talked to her,                                        but I peed on the gate a couple of times, so we’ve definitely met.”

The Flat Rabbit may not be a typical picture book, but it does a great service for children dealing with, or asking about, death. Parents will have a platform for discussion and a gentle way to help their child cope with a difficult subject. The most important aspect, as this social worker sees it, is the respect and compassion for life and death that the author deftly deals with in The Flat Rabbit. The dog, after brainstorming most of the day, comes up with a brilliant plan to help the rabbit. The dog and the rat gently lift the rabbit off the road then spend the rest of the day and night on their plan to honor and care for the rabbit.


An interesting side note: the author lives in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago made up of 18 islands between Iceland and Norway.  Flata Kaninin, the original version, was nominated for The Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize 2014. Sadly, it did not win.

THE FLAT RABBIT. Text and illustrations copyright © 2011 by Bárður Oskarsson. Translation copyright © 2014 by Marita Thomsen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books Inc., Berkeley CA and Toronto, CAN.
Learn more about The Flat Rabbit* HERE.
Purchase The Flat Rabbit at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryOwlkids Books
Meet the author/illustrator, Bárður Oskarsson:  short bio
Meet the translator, Marita Thomsen, at her website:
Find other wonderful picture books at the Owlkids Books website:   owlkidsbooks.com

*The Flat Rabbit—original title Flata Kaninin—published in 2011 by BFL:    www.bfl.fo

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Bárður Oskarsson, compassion, death, life cycle, Owlkids Books, picture books for older kids and adults, respect, unfathomable questions

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36. Public School Superhero Giveaway

Enter today for a chance to win PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO and more funny middle grade books from James Patterson. I'm a fan of Patterson not just for his adult mystery novels, but for his generosity to book people of all ages. Just today Scholastic Reading Club announced his pledge to help school libraries with $1.25 MILLION in grants! Sadly, we're not giving away millions in cash today, but for your resident middle grade humor/adventure/graphic novel lover, this book might be priceless anyway. Read on for a synopsis and sample art, as well as the Rafflecopter widget to enter the giveaway (US only, ends 3/16/2015)

by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Illustrated by Cory Thomas

In stores March 16, 2015

About the Book:

In this story about a good kid with a great imagination struggling in a less-than-ideal world, James Patterson brings his bestselling "Middle School"-style humor and sensibility to an urban setting.

Kenny Wright is a kid with a secret identity. In his mind, he's Stainlezz Steel, super-powered defender of the weak. In reality, he's a chess club devotee known as a "Grandma's Boy," a label that makes him an easy target for bullies. Kenny wants to bring a little more Steel to the real world, but the question is: can he recognize his own true strength before peer pressure forces him to make the worst choice of his life?

James Patterson's newest illustrated novel is a genuinely funny yet poignant look at middle school in a challenging urban setting, where a kid's life can depend on the everyday decisions he makes.


JAMES PATTERSON. Photo credit: David Burnett

JAMES PATTERSON. Photo credit: David Burnett

About James Patterson:

James Patterson was selected by readers across America as the Children's Choice Book Awards Author of the Year in 2010. He is the internationally bestselling author of the highly praised Middle School books, I FunnyConfessions of a Murder Suspect, and the Maximum RideWitch & WizardDaniel X, and Alex Cross series. His books have sold over 275 million copies worldwide, making him one of the bestselling authors of all time.




Learn More at PublicSchoolSuperhero.com

Visit the Author Site at JamesPatterson.com

Follow James Patterson on Twitter and Facebook



Make it through middle school with James Patterson! Enter for a chance to win copies of:

·         Public School Superhero

·         I Funny

·         Treasure Hunters

·         House of Robots

Prizing & samples courtesy of Little, Brown. Giveaway open to US addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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37. Rain Reign – Diversity Reading Challenge 2015

Today’s recommendation falls into category #9, A book written by or about someone on the autism spectrum. Title: RAIN REIGN Written by: Ann M. Martin Published by: Feiwel and Friends, October, 2014 Themes/Topics: Aspergers, homonyms, loss, rules Suitable for ages: 7-12 Awards: Schneider Family Book … Continue reading

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38. Children’s Book Review of "A Father’s Love" & Book Giveaway

    by Sally Matheny

A Father's Love
     It's time for a book review and giveaway! Be sure to read below how to enter for the drawing.

      I’m so glad Zonderkidz is publishing I Can Read! books like A Father’s Love, part of the NIV Adventure Bible series. 

A Father’s Loveis a level 2 book, which means it is a high interest story for developing readers.

     The full-page, colorful illustrations are beautiful. Most of the thirty-two pages contain thirty words or less. Sentences are broken up into about ten words per line. The print is large and easy to read.

     Of course, this is the familiar story Jesus told about a father and his sons. One son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance until he is eating with pigs. He decides to go home and ask for his father’s forgiveness. If you haven’t heard the story, I’ll not tell you the ending, but I will tell you that not everyone is happy to see the prodigal son.


     This is a great story to share with youngsters. Most first – third grade students will find the text within their reading range.

     A Father’s Love  will open up discussions on responsibility, forgiveness, jealousy, and acceptance.
     I highly recommend this well-written and beautifully illustrated book.

     In fact, I plan to give a copy of this book away this week. Everyone who leaves a comment below will have their name placed in a drawing for the book. We’ll announce the winner at 3:00 p.m. (EST)  March 7, 2015.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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39. Guest Author and Illustrator, Kathleen Bullock Visits Write What Inspires You

I am delighted to host author/illustrator Kathleen Bullock. It's not too often that an author is also an illustrator. Come along for a glimpse into Kathleen's creative world. Take it away Kathleen...

In earlier days I worked my art in oils and watercolor, pencil and pastels, even the occasional collage. I’ve always been an illustrator at heart, rather than a classic ‘artist’. With a new world of electronics on the horizon, I saw that I’d have to adapt to creating artwork for publication in an electronic format, and I have. It’s a challenge to minimize the digital look of electronic art and give each piece the casual look of ‘top-of-your-head’ sketchiness that I so love, but I’m starting to get there.

I used Photoshop to create the artwork for Olive and the Great Flood. This meant that I could control the color and images on each page for consistency. Each separate piece of art is on its own invisible layer. I can eliminate or correct any of these images before I fix the art on a single layer. The pages then are sent to the publisher as individual jpegs for publication.

You can see my evolving styles on my portfolio web site, www.kathleenbullock.carbonmade.com

Also, look for my next book soon to be published by Guardian Angel,

I hope readers will enjoy reading Olive and the Great Flood as much as I did illustrating it.

Olive and the Great Flood tour schedule http://childrensauthorconniearnold.blogspot.com 

Guardian Angel Publishing 


There will be two drawings at Connie Arnold's blog tour conclusion on the 28th for a copy of Ms. Arnold's first children’s book, Animal Sound Mix-up and a dove wind chime.


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

0 Comments on Guest Author and Illustrator, Kathleen Bullock Visits Write What Inspires You as of 2/27/2015 8:51:00 AM
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40. Getting Kids Into Music? Can It Be Done?

Learning To Play Music

Kids Love Music

Children’s Music Education is too important to be minimized or overlooked.

Articles and lists of why children need to be learning music are easily found on the net.

Everything from improved brains to social and educational benefits.  So we can conclusively establish that learning to play a musical instrument is vital for everyone.

Yet, educational authorities have allowed music to be marginalized in many schools.

It seems kids have stopped listening to classical music or learning to play an orchestral instrument?  And apparently, 75% of high school students in the US never or rarely take lessons in arts or music. This is not looking good.

I would like to see every school with orchestras, bands, choirs and a good supply of musically competent teachers.  Because there’s nothing like enjoying an orchestra playing your favorite music to help you feel great as it rebuilds you from the inside out.

Anyway, what does Richard Gill the highly respected advocate for Children’s Music Education say?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because children are listening to pop music at school they are receiving a music education.  Indeed, just listening to music of any kind is not music education. What’s more if you peel away the pop jargon, the music the kids are listening to is essentially a simple melody – lots of rhythm and just a waste of time.”

Call me grumpy perhaps, but I have to say, nothing annoys me more than seeing children choosing entertainment through technology.

For instance, kids on a device. IPhone, iPad, spending time scrolling through Facebook and Pinterest images while sorting out twitter feeds.

And there is more.  In general education, formal learning is under fire.  Have you read about the  growing attitudes of some groups of children towards learning in general.  A ten year old said this in our local newspaper.

“You Don’t Do School and you just live and learn things…I do whatever I feel like I want to do.”

Mmmm – he will struggle learning music with this attitude.  Music is a privilege and a joy but does include attitudes of commitment and hard work.

So!  How can we motivate kids to Learn To Play Music?  And, how do we motivate the reluctant ones to do so?

Perhaps we might learn something from Youth Sports?

Many children participate in youth sports each year?  Viewed as a rite of passage in a child’s development, parents believe that youth sports are good for their kids.

If the clichés that permeate sports broadcasts and locker room speeches are to be believed, sports participation teaches children the value of hard work, builds character, and develops future leaders.

Young children follow and like their sporting heroes and want to be as good as them.

I’m not going to beat about the bush.  I think it’s time we considered this a model for Children’s Music Education?  Finding music heroes for children to choose to like and follow?  Asking this question: ‘Who is your absolute favourite classical musician?’ 

The real problem is so often children don’t know what music they don’t know about! The music they haven’t heard.

They don’t know what they’re missing until they hear it.  And, by tapping into their inner core that loves music, and selecting music outside their experience which will inspire, encourage and motivate, kids can be encouraged to turn around for another look or listen or both.  And then it’s: “Oh! I lOVE this music!

As a former teacher and musician I realise that Kids think classical music is all too complicated and long.   My conversation with Kids can go a little bit like this.

Oh! Chrissy!  You actually like Classical Music?  Oh I’ll never listen to Classical Music!  I don’t like it at all” 

Classical Music” I reply, “should be a grand excuse for stepping out of the world to share exquisite moments of sheer bliss.  There’s the have to have music you love to listen to, over and over again.  And the magnificent music that keeps us spellbound – the music that you don’t want to ever end.”

As my friend Ginny says: “With classical music you never know what you’re going to get.  Some concerts are so exquisite I have to stop myself sobbing out loud.”

Learning to play a musical instrument

Teach Kids Music!

Anyway, moving on.  Whether kids play an instrument, sing along, or enjoy the music played by others, every child deserves an adult who will understand how a child can become the very best they can possibly be.

To be sure, teachers who patiently sit through countless music recitals and question their sanity at encouraging those trumpet or violin lessons need do so no longer.  A musical moment shared with even one other person, is a treasure that exists at no other time, in no other way.

To be honest I believe the way forward is in ‘Live Music’ being a part of everyone’s day to day.  Yet it is not for the majority of people. So why be part of it?  Why not we need to ask?”

Stephen P Brown says: “Think about what your plans are tonight or this weekend. Are there simply not enough concerts?  Yes – I did just say that.”

When most people think of classical music they think of an orchestra at a large concert hall, but music is far greater than being confined to an exotic square box for a night out once a month or twice a year When someone comes home from work without anything in the calendar (i.e. kids’ sports or band practice, etc.), what do they do? They think of going to a movie, or a restaurant. Perhaps visit a museum at the weekend, or a walk in the park. Some like to annoy a neighbour or family, whilst others potter in the garden.

The more concerts we host, the more they will enter people’s minds; the more the press will include them in the “what to do” listings online and in their papers; the more they will be accessible at times and places more convenient than now. The more concerts you arrange, even for a handful of people, the more music grows to become an essential part of their lives, and at the moment that is truly a God-given gift that most people are missing out on.

Now, hold that thought!  On this theme of ‘Go to a concert’  Everyone likes Street Concerts!

And, what can be more exciting for most people than the involvement in sharing live music, whether it be classical, jazz or pop!

Which brings me to the very recent street concert in Sydney.  “Visions of Vienna

The sails of the Sydney Opera House were alive with moving images of paintings by famous Austrian artists. And the music presented in the Opera House Concert Hall by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Austrian Conductor Ola Rudner was a colourful selection of polkas, waltzes and marches.   As the music played the people in the street began to dance.  It was wonderful, colourful and glamorous!

I think it’s time we found new and innovative ways to make music training more widely available to young people, and to start this during childhood.

When his Auntie left him a piano in her will, Welsh singer, Aled Jones decided he  wanted to learn to play Beatles Songs on his very own piano.  Needless to say this intriguing beginning began his career with the end result – Aled’s first self-titled album by the time he was 11.

We’ve reached the beginning of the end.

Which brings me to Kids’ Educational Stories about Music.  You see, I can’t resist the opportunity to once again mention my children’s books. Just thought I’d throw in a plug for it while we’re all here.

Classical music!  Coffee and a good book!

Sounds like a plan!

Cheers Chrissy

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41. New Dr. Seuss Picture Book Manuscript Found

Random House Dr SeussA long-lost Dr. Seuss book has been discovered. Random House Children’s Books will release What Pet Should I Get? on July 28th.

According to USA Today, the story stars a brother and sister who are looking to bring in a new addition to their family. The same sibling duo appears in the Seuss classic, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, which came out in 1960. For that reason, the editorial executives estimate that the soon-to-be published picture book was written sometime between 1958 to 1962.

The New York Times reports that “the manuscript had been in a box that was discovered in the home of Dr. Seuss (otherwise known as Theodore Geisel) in the La Jolla section of San Diego, shortly after his death in 1991, and set aside. In 2013, Mr. Geisel’s widow, Audrey, and longtime secretary and friend, Claudia Prescott, went through the box and found the nearly complete manuscript, along with other unpublished work.” The same team plans to use other uncovered documents and materials for two more picture book projects.

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42. One Witch at a Time Blog Tour

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for including us on the blog tour for One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser! Check out the other blogs on the tour, as well as a guest post from the author and a giveaway of both books (The Brixen Witch in paperback and its sequel in hardcover).


One Witch at a Time Blog Tour Schedule

Mon, Feb 9 - Cracking the Cover
Tues, Feb 10 - Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Wed, Feb 11 - Mother Daughter Book Club
Thurs, Feb 12 - GreenBeanTeenQueen
Fri, Feb 13 - The Book Monsters
Mon, Feb 16 - Word Spelunking
Tues, Feb 17 - Read Now, Sleep Later
Wed, Feb 18 - Small Review
Thurs, Feb 19 - Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Feb 20 - The Flashlight Reader

About the book

Misplaced magic is trouble.

The day had started so well. But now here was Rudi, racing home to intercept a thief. All because of a foolish bargain made by a nine-year-old girl.

Trouble has returned to Brixen, and once again, Rudi is the one who must make things right. Can he undo the disaster caused when an unsuspecting stranger brings a foreign witch’s magic into the Brixen Witch’s province? 

Guest Post

Alethea asked me to write about the books that keep me reading past bedtime, but I have a confession to make: I’m a terrible bedtime reader. Five pages and I’m drifting off, no matter how awesome the book is!

Maybe that’s why I love to travel: There’s nothing better than a long flight or a day under a beach umbrella, because then I can devour a good book in one long sitting.

I have a few absolute favorite books. If I could stay awake past bedtime, these would be the ones to keep me reading:

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean: This book is haunting and horrifying, and unfolds so relentlessly that it gives me chills just thinking about it!

Nation by Terry Pratchett: I’m a huge Pratchett fan, and this is his masterpiece. Not as wildly fantastical as his Discworld books, it’s heartbreaking in parts, and laugh-out-loud funny in other places. (And if you’re a writer, and want to study a master of the omniscient point of view, Pratchett is your guy.)

Anything by Jonathan Stroud: Currently I’m reading The Whispering Skull, the second book in his new Lockwood & Co. series, about young ghost hunters in London. And his four Bartimaeus books are among my favorites of all time.


Anything by Hilary McKay: Her Casson family series (Saffy’s Angel and sequels) are some of the funniest books ever. I’m eagerly anticipating Binny in Secret, the sequel to Binny for Short, which is hilarious and sweet. Plus, there’s a dog.

Just thinking about all these wonderful books makes me think I should take another long trip soon!


About the author

Stacy DeKeyser is the author of The Brixen Witch, which received two starred reviews and was a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Pick, and its sequel, One Witch at a Time, as well as the young adult novel, Jump the Cracks and two nonfiction books for young readers. She lives in Connecticut with her family. To learn more and to download a free, CCSS-aligned discussion guide, visit StacyDeKeyser.com.



One lucky winner will receive The Brixen Witch in paperback and One Witch at a Time in hardcover. US addresses only, please!

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Open to US residents only. Ends 02/23/2015.
  2. We and the publisher are not responsible for items lost, stolen, or damaged in the mail. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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43. Is Nostalgia the Next Big Thing?

If, like me, you enjoyed reading mystery stories such as Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven and the Nancy Drew series you'll be pleased to hear that, according to a newspaper article I've just read, the trend apparently is going back towards traditional storytelling and the sort of books we liked to read as children are back in vogue.

This does seem to be the case, several of the books nominated for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize are mystery-based stories such as Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (5-12 age group) and Smart by Kim Slater in the Teen group. Of course, the theme's been given a fresh angle and modern mystery stories deal with topical issues. Smart for example investigates the death of a homeless man  and  although Murder Most Unladylike is set in a traditional boarding school and investigates the murder of a teacher it explores topics such as racism and same-sex relationships. All very modern.

Nostalgia has been popular for some time now. Items that my children played with such as Furbies, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchis are fetching incredible prices. Many toys such as Furbies, and even traditional toys from my childhood, have made a come back - modernised, of course.

I think the reason for this is because in our fast-paced, twenty four hour, high pressure society many people long for the simplicity of the past when children played in the streets with hooplas, footballs and skipping ropes or wandered the fields looking for adventures.  Nowadays most parents don't think it's safe to let their children out of their sight so most children are cooped up indoors playing on Ipads and computers. Small wonder that many people feel quite nostalgic about the past.

Mystery stories have always been popular, of course. A few years ago I wrote a detective series called The Amy Carter Mysteries for Top That Publishing.

They're quite popular with children in schools I visit and it's tempting to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and write another detective series reminiscent of Enid Blyton's popular tales. With my luck though by the time I'd finished it the trend would have moved on and something else would be 'in vogue'. And guessing what the next Big Thing will be is pretty impossible.

What do you think? Is Nostalgia here to stay?

Karen King writes all sorts of books. Check out her website at www.karenking.net

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44. The Drawing Center Hosts a Tomi Ungerer Exhibit

Tomi UngererThe Drawing Center is hosting the “Tomi Ungerer: All in One” exhibit. As a children’s books creatorTomi Ungerer (pictured, via) has become well-known for the picture books The Three Robbers and Moon Man.

According to the press release, Claire Gilman served as the curator for this art show. It will run from January 16th to March 22nd.

This retrospective features Ungerer’s “childhood drawings depicting the Nazi invasion of Strasbourg, through his work in New York and Canada, and concluding with the artist’s most recent political and satirical campaigns, as well as his illustrations for the 2013 children’s book Fog Island, ‘Tomi Ungerer: All in One’ re-introduces this wildly creative individual to New York City and the world.” Visitors will also see Ungerer’s erotic artwork and animation pieces.

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45. A Sad Update Thanks to Best Buy and Lenovo Laptops

Hi Everyone!

I’ve commandeered a friend’s laptop to let everyone interested know what is going on in the land of Where’s-Sue-Is-She-Coming-Back. I plan on returning, absolutely. At the moment, I am home, rolling around in a wheelchair, staying off my hip/leg for two more months. Then rehab will begin. I hope. For those who don’t know, my leg was broken while removing the old hip. It had to be screwed and wired together—in a five hour operation–in addition to attaching a new hip. Until the bone heals around the post inside the leg I cannot put any weight on the leg. If I do, the post will ram down into the leg and break it apart, destroying too many things to think about.

You are probably wondering how this keeps my fingers off the keyboard of my laptop. Well, it would not if I had a laptop to use. My new (less than a year old) laptop had a faulty motherboard, according to Best Buy Geek Squad, who replaced it under warrant. Returned in  August, the motherboard went out again in late September. This makes me think the problem is not the motherboard but something else which is causing the board to go bad. What are the odds the a motherboard – the main components of your computer, would go bad twice in a year? This is the first time I have ever had a motherboard go bad in all the computers I have ever used.

None of this matters to Best Buy. Since I did not return the laptop to them, but rather called and had a friend return it, and it was not done by September 5th (30 days past returning the “fixed” laptop) Best Buy blew me off and refuses to find and fix the real problem. The Geek Squad tried to submit my laptop but a manager said “NO!” He wants me to buy a new motherboard – or a new laptop since the cost would be similar. A brand new, top-of-the-line laptop, with solid state drives, destroys its motherboard not once, but twice within its first 8 months.

Thanks a lot Best Buy, for NOT standing behind your Geek Squad service and the products sold to me. I will never again buy even a piece of gum from Best Buy.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Agency is now trying to deal with Best Buy, which no longer is concerned with customer satisfaction or the quality of any service it provides. This is not the first time a Geek Squad agent agrees something should be done and a manager nixed it without regard to the customer, the Geek Squad’s knowledge, or any concern for customer loyalty. There was a time when I would not even look anywhere but Best Buy, mainly because of the customer service and the way the company stood behind the products it sold. NOT ANYMORE! With no competition in my area all the company—the manager at this store—care about is a sale — the managers leading the way.

Until I can get another laptop, I cannot post. Borrowing a friend’s laptop is not a good solution. I apologize to everyone who has sent in a book for review. I am still reading all the books, taking notes, and hand writing the review. Once this is settled, or I figure out how to come up with another $1000 for a solid state, top-of-the-line, don’t-need-to-worry-about-laptop, the reviews will be posted. Please do not send in an books until further notice. If you do, please keep in mind it could be 6 months before a review is posted. Or maybe longer.

I hate this. It makes me angry. I sincerely apologize to every reader and loyal supporter of KLR. This was not how this medical adventure was to have worked out.

Filed under: Children's Books Tagged: AVOID BEST BUY, Best Buy, Geek Squad, Lenovo Laptops, Poor Best Buy Repair Service

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46. Tiny Hamster to Star in Picture Book

hamsterSimon & Schuster Books for Young Readers plans to publish a children’s book starring the YouTube sensation, Tiny Hamster.

Here’s more from the press release: “Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster will have a photographic treatment and feature images from the video. When Tiny Hamster accidentally eats some mad scientist goo, he turns into a giant, Godzilla-like hamster, stomping through the city and eating everything in sight. This adorably monstrous story is sure to delight readers of all ages. The Tiny Hamster videos, including ‘Tiny Hamster Eating Tiny Burritos,’ are created by Denizen Company.”

Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima, and Amy Matsushima, the co-founders of the Denizen Company, will collaborate on the writing for the forthcoming picture book. A release date for both the book and a new video with the same title has been set for June 2nd. Follow this link to check out a playlist of videos featuring the celebrity rodent.

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47. One Final Update

Thank you for your kind words and concern. Here is an update. The Consumer Protection Agency is nothing more than an arbitrator, not  a protector. If Best Buy continues to refuse to fix the problem they missed all these months ago–and the are–there is nothing I can do short of a lawsuit.  This is not lawsuit worthy, though I would love to make the company stand by what it sells and fixes.

The same goes for Lenovo, the Chinese company making headways into the American computer world. Supposedly top-of-the-line computers, solid state drivers, and who knows what else (I am not a computer expert) that puts Lenovo computers ahead of many others, but they failed me miserably.

IF, and only if, I had bought directly from the company, they would outright replace my computer. But since I bought from Best Buy, they will offer no help. Another company refusing to stand by what the make and sell. It is Lenovo that made the lemon of a computer and yet they feel no duty to replace a badly made unit.

Which brings me to the worst post I will ever write. I will start saving for a new computer immediately, but until I have enough I will be absent. This borrowed computer goes back today. A borrowed computer, actually a small netbook, doesn’t have the needed power.

I appreciate all of your kind thoughts, wishes, and prayers. I WILL BE BACK. I hope sooner than later. I never anticipated a day like this would arrive, nor did I ever think such a day would immensely bother me, as it continues to do. Take care of yourselves, read a lot of kid’s books, and please stay alert for my return.


Filed under: Children's Books

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48. Interview with Alinka Rutkowska, Author of ‘Cinderella’s Secret Slipper’

alinka_cartoon_low - Version 2Alinka Rutkowska is an award-winning and best-selling author and coach who’s been featured on Fox Business Network, the Examiner, She Knows, She Writes, Blog Talk Radio, The Writer’s Life and many more. She’s here today to talk about her latest children’s picture book, Cinderella’s Secret Slipper.
Welcome to Blogcritics, Alinka! Congratulations on the release of your latest picture book,Cinderella’s Secret Slipper. When did you start writing and what got you into children’s books? 
Thank you. I’ve been writing since I remember. One of my most notable achievements as a school girl was founding the second school newspaper. There already was one, but I thought it needed some healthy competition. That got me into the writing and publishing world very early on, and I have loved it ever since.
I’ve always loved children’s books, but I only wrote my first one when I took a break from the corporate world to travel around the world. I then had more time to get in touch with myself and to understand what I really wanted to do in life – and that’s to have the privilege to shape young readers’ minds through my stories.
Tell us a bit about Cinderella’s Secret Slipper
Cinderella’s Secret Slipper tells the story of our favorite princess while she’s living her “happily ever after.” She’s a mom and has some real-life problems like her son smashing one of her favorite glass slippers against the wall. Since it’s the only glass pair she has and she’s very nostalgic about it (after all she was wearing it when she first met her husband!), she’s on a quest of putting the slipper back together again, which turns out to be quite challenging.
The early reviewers really appreciated the “real-life” aspect of the story and very much enjoyed the humor.
Writing the story was challenging, as it’s completely different from my “Maya & Filippo” series, which focuses on world-travel and profound messages. Cinderella’s Secret Slipper is shorter, lighter and funnier. It’s main aim is to entertain, but the insightful reader will find a profound message in it as well, it’s just very subtle.
What was your inspiration for it? 
I love classic fairy tales, and I know that when they end with “and they lived happily ever after,” they don’t really end. There’s so much more to tell and I’m fascinated by it!
I also got much more tuned into what my audience wants and this seemed to be a perfect fit. Now that the pre-release reviews are out, it makes me very happy to see that my readers are delighted with this story.
What is your writing process like? 
I usually come up with an idea and write it down in my “drafts” folder. Then I let it marinate in my head for a while. At a certain point I feel like I have to let it out and pour it all onto paper. Then I read it, change a few things and move on to something else.
After a while I read it again and again and again… change a lot of things and send it off to my critique group. If it comes back with positive feedback andCinderella Coversome minor improvement suggestions (as opposed to “flush it down the toilet”), I edit the story again and if I’m satisfied, I send it to my editor. We toss it to each other back and forth, and then the illustrator gets the manuscript.
How was your experience working with an illustrator?
I’ve been working with the same illustrator since book one, and he’s created the artwork for 15 of my titles. It was love at first sight. He liked the idea of my books when we first talked about it, created a few drafts, which I loved and we’ve been working happily ever after.
I usually just send him the story, and when he sends it back the illustrations are perfect 95% of the time. If I want a change, there’s never a problem.
My readers have paid me many compliments for the artwork, which makes me very happy. I have had offers from other illustrators, but when they came back with their drafts I just couldn’t imagine having those illustrations in my book. I wouldn’t feel like the book is “mine” anymore.
What was your publishing process like? 
I publish all my books independently. I really enjoy the speed of the process and the control I have over all aspects. I’ve also learnt a lot about publishing and feel like I don’t need a traditional publisher. However, I have a lot of respect for traditional publishers and have sold rights to 16 of my titles to traditional publishers abroad.
What has writing for children taught you? 
Writing picture books is very different from writing any other fiction. Since the expected word count is around 600, writing for children taught me brevity. I learnt to hook the reader from the very first sentence, create a compelling story that draws the reader in, have him on the edge of his seat wondering if the main character will ever solve his problem and then create a climax and often a surprising ending.
This has to be done in around 600 words, which is less than half of this interview, so it’s quite challenging. I learnt to weigh every word for its life and cut off anything that doesn’t move the story forward.
Writing for children is both an art and a science!
What do you know now that you didn’t know when you published your first book?
So much! I’ve always been a nerd with my nose in books, and that hasn’t changed much, only now my nose is also in online articles and courses, so I learn new things every single day.
I’ve learnt plenty about book marketing, optimizing my books’ metadata for online sales, getting reviews, selling in bulk, foreign publishing deals and much more. This has allowed me to create a business helping other authors.
I’ve also attended several events for authors and made connections that led to opportunities I haven’t even dreamt of.
What do you find most challenging about book marketing? 
I graduated in management and marketing but that’s very different from book marketing online! My degree did give me the confidence that I should be able to do this though :) But it’s the confidence that allows me to move on, not the degree.
Book marketing is such a broad subject, and the landscape keeps changing so quickly that the most challenging thing is to keep up and to be able to identify the things that work for you. That’s why it’s important to test and understand where most of your results are coming from.
There are many avenues to success and also success means different things for different people but the important thing is to focus on those marketing strategies that bring you what you want to achieve.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book? 
Ha! I don’t think I do because it’s never really complete. When I’m done with the first draft, there are many edits to come. When I have the final manuscript, it needs to be illustrated. When I have the illustrations, the book needs to be put together. When it’s ready, I wait for the proof to come.
When I see the physical proof I get really excited, and I always carry it around with me because I love to look at it. While I keep admiring my proof, I prepare the launch of my book. While the book is being launched, I’m already thinking about other promotional campaigns and about other books.
So I guess the only time I really celebrate is when I go to one of those award ceremonies and get a medal. While it’s hanging on my neck and gently swaying as I move around the room and make new connections, I feel really blissful but I’m not sure if that beats what I feel when that first proof comes in the envelope.
What do you love most about the writer’s life? 
The freedom. I worked in big multinational companies before, and while I had great positions and a lot of visibility I was just one little part of a huge machine. And in the end, I had to do what was expected of me.
With book writing and publishing I have much more control, flexibility, I make my own decisions and I do it when I want to. The difference is huge.
What is your advice for aspiring children’s authors? 
Just do it. I know that at the beginning you will be very focused on the writing and you will have no author platform and no marketing experience, but that’s just how it works. We all had to start, and you will eventually learn to do many of the things you need to know to succeed.
Experience comes with practice, and if you are passionate about what you’re doing, that passion will take you places.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 
I’d like to give them some presents! If you enjoy children’s picture books, I’d like to give you a free copy from my award-winning collection – go grab it here: http://alinkarutkowska.com.
I have something special for authors as well, it’s my “200 Book Marketing Tips” ebook, which you can download for free at http://alinkarutkowska.com/authors-home/.
Thank you!
My interview with the author originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.

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49. Unexpected News

Finally, some good news. Levono called today and it was someone from the upper echelon, or at least a supervisor. He somehow came across my complaint and request for help and is going to do just that. Levono is footing the bill and offered a discount on a new system when I decide to upgrade.

It is wonderful to find there are companies that still care about their customers after the sale, thinking about customer loyalty. Too bad Best Buy no longer falls in this category—no more loyalty from this gal.

I am pleasantly surprised by this unexpected phone call. I am not sure how long it will take, but it will be faster than any other solution at my disposal. So I will soon see you on a regular basis, when I no longer need to quickly borrow a friend’s computer. Thanks friend!

Waiting to return, and reading and writing reviews in my handy notebook, will be my second priority—just behind standing up on two feet again. Oh, yeah, another good news I had forgotten about. My left leg was always 1/2 inch shorter than the right (from the original hip replacements), but now it is only 1/4 of an inch shorter. This may not seem like much unless you, too, have different length legs. A little less wobble!!


Filed under: Children's Books

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50. Book Review: The Last Wild/The Dark Wild

I read both of these books together, so I'm going to do what I rarely do and review them together. If you haven't read the first book, you might want to stop after my review of The Last Wild, because my review of The Dark Wild will, of necessity, have spoilers for the first book.

The Last Wild
by Piers Torday

In a dystopian future, all animals have died out from an illness called "red-eye" that mutated to spread throughout the animal populations. The only animals still living are a few hardy species like cockroaches. Even the bees are dead, which means that there are no more food crops. The only food left is a synthetic food called Formul-A, and the only supplier of Formul-A is the Facto corporation, essentially giving them control of the remaining human population.

Twelve year old Kester Jaynes has been incarcerated in Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children for six years. The Academy is just as horrible as its name makes it sound: the children live regimented, restricted lives, and breaking the rules is punished by solitary confinement. Kester can't even complain: he hasn't been able to speak since his mother died. The words just won't come out.

Kester keeps company with a cockroach at lunch, but one day he's surprised to hear the cockroach speaking to him in his head. Shortly after that, one hundred pigeons break through his window and help him escape from Spectrum Hall. Kester discovers that Facto lied: the animals are not all dead. There is a group of them — a Wild — still living on the edge of civilization, and Kester has a unique ability to talk to them through a kind of mental connection. Between the red-eye virus and the cullers sent out by Facto to kill any remaining animals, the Wild is in grave danger. Kester sets off with the pigeons, the cockroach, a stag, and a wolf cub to find his father, who used to be a vet, and try to find a cure for the red-eye.

If all this sounds a bit unbelievable, it is, but that's ok. This isn't the kind of book that has to be realistic. The characters and the situations are somewhat exaggerated, like you might find in a Roald Dahl or a Lemony Snicket book, with the same kind of dark humor found in those books.

The main characters are Kester and a girl named Polly, whom he meets along the way, and various animals. Kester and Polly are good characters, but the animals are really the best thing about this book. Torday has done an outstanding job of giving the animals unique voices that really fit their personalities. Kester develops through the story, as he learns to be self-reliant and to take responsibility.

The pacing is good, and the plot keeps you turning pages, as Kester, Polly and the animals go from one situation to another as they try to make their way to the city to find Kester's dad. The Last Wild is a unique and interesting book, and a good read. I've read a lot of books, and I can honestly say that I haven't read anything quite like it.


There isn't really any diversity that I saw in the book. In fact, in a few cases I was bothered that some of the villains had impediments or physical characteristics exaggerated in a negative way for comic effect. For example, the evil headmaster stutters.

Who would like this book?

Middle-grade readers, particularly those who like animal fiction. Be aware that The Last Wild is a dark book, and there are deaths; some animals are killed by evil people in front of Kester and Polly. Sensitive children who are bothered by such things may want to give it a pass.

I suspect that this book would have strong appeal for fans of the Warriors series. It's a very different kind of book, but I think that Warriors fans would appreciate not only the animal characters, but also the dark conflicts in a dangerous world, the Wild community, the theme of personal sacrifice, and the well-paced plot.

The Dark Wild
by Piers Torday

Kester and Polly have saved the Wild, and helped Kester's dad find a cure for the red-eye virus. But the Facto corporation isn't going to give up their control of the world and everything they've worked for so easily. Selwyn Stone, the head of Facto, wants something more than to kill all the animals. He wants what Polly has, the secret she swore to her parents that she'd never reveal.

Other factions are also after the secret, and Polly escapes into the city to protect the secret. Kester sets off after her, to help and protect her, but before he can find her he discovers another Wild — an army of bitter, angry animals living under the city, who are determined to destroy the human race. Kester is caught in the middle, and must try to find a way to stop the Dark Wild, while also saving Polly and the animals of his Wild from Facto.

The Dark Wild is a gripping read, and just as thrilling as The Last Wild. In the first book, Kester had to learn to be a leader, but in this one he learns something much more difficult: the value of loyalty, personal heroism, and sacrifice. Other characters develop as well, particularly the wolf cub, who is beginning to grow up and become an adult wolf.

It's also just as dark as the first book, if not more so. In one painful scene, Kester, as a prisoner, has to watch Selwyn Stone taxidermy a squirrel who had been one of Kester's friends. The squirrel was already dead, killed earlier in the book, but it's quite a horrifying scene.

Some things are not resolved by the end of the book, so there may be another book on the way.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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