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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,175
26. book review: Shieldwolf Dawning

title: Shieldwolf Dawning516+sRTYYpL._AA160_

author: Selena Nemorin

date: Astraea Press; 2014

main character: Samarra

Shieldwolf Dawning is the first in a new speculative fiction series by Selena Nemorin. Samarra and her brother, Cassian, have been moved to Gaia, a planet with a deteriorating natural environment and are being raised by the Sairfangs after the death of the children’s parents. Their step-parent’s wealth protects them from the pollution and scarcities and provides Cassian with the best education money can buy. Samarra is stuck at home cleaning and doing chores. As sexist as this situation seems, it has more to do with Cassian’s future position in life rather than the fact that he’s a male. Samarra despises her situation. She’s impetuous and curious. Given the opportunity to leave her situation, she talks her brother into escaping with her. And so begins their adventure.

The book rattled my attention the mention of ‘all-terrain aircraft’!  Written in third person, the author still confines herself to the limited perception of the main character. That annoys me! Use that voice to fully develop a story with multiple character’s perspectives and with rich settings or stick to first person. Cassian is poorly developed which is tragic given how important he becomes at the end of the book. Time sequences were unequal in length and there were too many detailed situations that were never developed.

Shieldwolf Dawning is unique in two ways. First, it gives us an adventurous female of color  with blue dreads who often saves herself in situations. Second, it’s steeped in philosophy. Where knowledge of the field could provide a stronger appreciation for the book, I had none. I suspect that most teens without this knowledge will be as frustrated as I was with Samarra and never really invest in the story. She repeatedly wanders into situations that end up with negative consequences. Maybetwo-thirds of the way into the book when I was really tired of her doing this over and over again and I began to think that these wanderings might have something to do with stages of intellectual or moral development and that these curiosities were purposeful in her growth. This seemed to make sense to me when Samarra reasoned about moral judgment, truth and honestly.

Sheildwolf Dawning is an ambitious book that doesn’t quite reach it’s potential.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: fantasy

0 Comments on book review: Shieldwolf Dawning as of 9/16/2014 10:06:00 PM
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27. Product Review: Travel Brush Set

Yesterday I did a painting using the Richeson Travel Brush Set, a collection of short handled brushes that come in their own stiff protective case.

The case opens to display the brushes while you're working. Each brush tucks into its own elastic holding strap. I like to drape the case over the left page of the sketchbook while I'm working. Turned inside out, the case can also set up on the ground like the letter A, with the cord holding it open at the desired angle. When it's closed up in travel mode, a magnet clasp secures it.


Here's the painting I did with those brushes, using gouache (opaque watercolor). I thoroughly documented the making of the painting on video, and it will be one segment of the next DVD/download called "Gouache in the Wild."


The brush set includes four rounds (sizes 2, 4, 6, and 8) and three flats (sizes 1/4", 1/2" and 3/4"). The combination of brush sizes gave me everything I needed, even for the fine details of the neon supports and wires. The close-up detail above is about an inch and a half square.

I have used the brushes for several paintings now, and I've tried them with watercolor, gouache, and casein.

They're are all made of synthetic fibers, which is what you want for casein especially (the ammonia in casein is hard on brushes). The flats don't hold as much liquid as an equivalently sized sable brush. These are more chisels than mops. They have just the right amount of spring, and so far, they have held their points and edges.

You can get the Richeson Travel Brush Set from a variety of art suppliers, including Daniel Smith, Cheap Joe's, and Dick Blick. 

The set of seven brushes, complete with their case, retail for $79.95, but on Amazon the set is discounted to $38, which is an amazing deal. 

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28. Guest Book Review: Saving Wombats by Emma Homes

wombatsPrint Length: 53 pages
Publisher: Spark Street Communications Pty Ltd (June 25, 2014)
ASIN: B00LB8ZDG6
Age Level: 8 – 11 | Grade Level: 3 – 6
Juvenile Fiction/Wildlife

Five Stars

Ruthie, dad Tom and mum Kate, along with Ruthie’s younger siblings, Liam and Bel, and their pet wombat Womble are en route to her cousins’ farm to spend a lovely holiday in the countryside. Up ahead they see a sad sight: a wombat has been run over by a speeding truck. Ruthie’s parents stop to check the animal and discover it has a tiny baby in its pouch. The baby is still alive. Luckily, the Jirringbah Wildlife Shelter is on the same route and soon they get the baby, called a pinky, to Jo Matthews who shows the kids how to take care of the pinky. While they are there, the kids learn a lot about Australia’s wildlife and some of the skin diseases that can affect these animals; one is a horrible disease called mange! Ruthie doesn’t want to admit that soon Womble will be old enough to be released into the wild – imagine if he gets a nasty, itchy skin condition from the mange. Once they get to their cousins, the kids find out more about wombats and mange because there is a wombat on the farm that looks as if it has a bad case of mange. Medication can cure the condition, but it’s catching the animal and applying the medication regularly that’s the problem. Wombats are also pretty quick when it comes to getting away! With the help of some wildlife experts and her Uncle Dave, they devise a clever way of getting the medication onto the skin of the elusive wombat. Will the medicine cure this sick wombat? Will Ruthie be able to release Womble back into the wild?

Saving Wombats by Emma Homes is the second book in Ruthie’s Wildlife series. Ruthie is a great role model for kids since she is a Zoo Youth Ambassador. With wild animal habitats declining worldwide because of human encroachment, it’s important for today’s kids to learn about animals, and to care for them and respect their rights. This is a charming tale that will appeal to its target audience. Author Emma Homes turns Ruthie’s family trip into quite an adventure – wombats may look cute and cuddly, but don’t get on the wrong side of them or try to invade their burrows! There is a wonderful warm atmosphere between the characters of Ruthie’s family and the people they meet. Ruthie and her siblings are real and believable and any parent would be proud of them. In this simple tale an amazing adventure unfolds, with the kids committed to helping animals. The author cleverly feeds necessary information into the story so that by the end of the book young readers will have learned an amazing number of facts about wombats. I really loved reading this!

Purchase here!

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.


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29. Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier

Mel and Cathy and Anna have passed vampires on the street, and sat near them in cinemas, but they don't know any. Vampires stick to their own kind, and Mel and her friends hang out with other humans - until a vampire boy in a bizarre sun-proof suit shows up at school and captures Cathy's heart.

Mel is horrified. Can she convince Cathy that life with a vampire is no life at all? Should she? And then all her assumptions about vampires are turned on their head when she meets Kit, a boy who makes her laugh - a boy with a very unusual family history.

Will Mel's staunch anti-vampire stance jeopardise her closest friendships? And where does Kit fit in? In the end, who will choose...Team Human?


This novel was published in 2012, and I initially read it last year, but never wrote up my thoughts on it. I don't read a ton of paranormal romance these days (and it hasn't really appealed to me as a genre since I was thirteen or fourteen), but when I revisited Team Human I thought it was such an excellent example of YA paranormal romance done right that I wanted to share my rambly, rambly thoughts on it.

What I loved about Team Human was that it functioned both as a satirical take on the entire young adult vampire fiction phenomenon/subgenre and as a really enjoyable and immensely readable novel about vampires, that was as humorous as it was thought-provoking. I am not a fan of vampire romance, love triangles, or angsty, angsty undead old guys who look like young men. If you aren't either, Team Human is well worth reading - I think it'll appeal to paranormal romance fans and non-paranormal romance fans alike. It's much more about friendship than it is about romance, and that's something I really appreciated. Despite the fact that Mel and Cathy live in a place where vampires exist among them, there's a real authenticity and realism to their lives - their parents are actually around and interested in them, they don't have unlimited money or cars, they go to a public school and do their homework and are otherwise pretty normal teenagers, making them a lot easier to relate to.

Mel is an at times unsympathetic protagonist - she is so vehemently opposed to vampires she can be pretty nasty - but who grows a great deal over the course of the novel and loses at least some of her prejudice. The cover is less-than-stellar, and the US cover uses the same models, and possibly is even worse. I think it's awesome that all the central characters aren't super-white - Mel is Chinese-American - and that that's represented on the cover, but the guy in the background is... creepy. So, ignore the cover. Unless you like it! I'm a big fan of the tagline, though, and it sums up pretty accurately what the book is about - friends not letting friends date vampires.

There's no alternating point-of-view one might expect in a co-written novel; the narration is seamless, and it's an easy read. Plus: there's zombies. You know how much I love zombies. If you don't: I love zombies. A lot. Not in real life. Please, never in real life. But in stories, yes. Every film, TV show and novel could be improved by the addition of zombies. I'm really hoping that a sequel to Team Human eventually shows up, because I'd love to find out what happens after the ending, and I'd love to see how Cathy's story in particular continues.

Team Human on the publisher's website.

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30. Telephone


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31. Talking Books with Oprah

IMG_3416

IMG_3415

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32. Copycat Bear! by Ellie Sandall

The game of copycat takes a funny and sweet turn in Copycat Bear! by Ellie Sandall.

Mango is a bird who has a bebearar friend name Blue. Blue likes to copy everything Mango does like hopping, flying, and singing. But Mango finds it so annoying that she flies away. By the evening, Mango has a change of heart and learns to appreciate how you can be different, but still best friends.

This delightful book focuses on friendship. Blue frustrates Mango by trying to copy her, but once they are apart, Mango realizes how much she enjoys Blue’s company. Sandall has written and illustrated this wonderful book, bringing to life the concept of appreciating our differences and being able to become friends again after a disagreement. The soft, warm colors are as comforting as when Mango snuggles up to Blue at the end of the story.

This is a sweet book that will make a great addition to any home library.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tiger Tales (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589251202
ISBN-13: 978-1589251205

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


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33. Call for Submissions: Sugar Mule

Sugar Mule, an online literary magazine open to all genres, invites submissions for Issue 47, guest edited by Alyse Knorr. Please send poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, book reviews, and hybrid works of all forms, themes, and subjects--we look forward to reading your work.
Please e-mail your submission of no more than 5 unpublished poems or no more than 7,000 words of unpublished prose, as one MSWord or RTF document, to:

alyse.knorr.sugarmuleATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

between September 1 and December 1. NOTE: do not send submissions after this date. Art and book reviews will also be considered.  

Please include a short bio and introductory note. Friends and former students of the editor should please refrain from submitting.  

Sugar Mule does not pay for accepted work(s) at this time. You retain all rights to your work; we retain none. 

About Sugar Mule:
Sugar Mule is a long-standing online literary magazine with more than 40 issues and extras like online books and anthology-sized special issues. Sugar Mule is published about three times a year and is open to all forms of poetry and prose. Recent contributors have included Deborah Poe, Ryan Eckes, Molly Gaudry, Travis Macdonald, j/j hastain, Duane Locke, Jessica Dyer, Tyler Mills, Sheila Black, and Laura Madeline Wiseman. Visit our website for more information.
 

About the guest editor:
Alyse Knorr is the author of Copper Mother (Switchback Books, 2015), Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books, 2013), and the chapbook Alternates (Dancing Girl Press 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, Caketrain, Drunken Boat, ZYZZYVA, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. She received her MFA from George Mason University. She is a co-founding editor of Gazing Grain Press and teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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34. Harry and the Monster by Sue Mongredien

harryWhen it comes to bedtime, helping youngsters deal with nightmares can be tough. Harry and the Monster is a delightful and funny book that just might help.

The first night, Harry has a bad dream about a scary monster. Each night afterwards, he is afraid the monster will interrupt his dreams. No matter what Mom and Dad suggest, that monster keeps ruining all his dreams and wakes him up. But one night, Harry thinks he and Dad have come up with a great solution to change everything.

Both of my girls went through nightmare stages. I wish I had this book back then. Mongredien is smart to tackle the monster issue with ideas other parents have probably used in the past: Mom says to imagine him wearing something silly so he won’t be so scary, Dad checks under the bed to make sure he’s not there, etc. This  helps the story make sense to kids. Their parents have probably told them some of the same things.

East also makes this book work by drawing the monster and his antics in such a zany manner that kids will be laughing more than scared of what’s going on, all the while relating to Harry’s fears about the monster.

I loved this book beginning to end.

Highly recommended!

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tiger Tales (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589251466
ISBN-13: 978-1589251465

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


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35. Harry and the Monster by Sue Mongredien

harryWhen it comes to bedtime, helping youngsters deal with nightmares can be tough. Harry and the Monster is a delightful and funny book that just might help.

The first night, Harry has a bad dream about a scary monster. Each night afterwards, he is afraid the monster will interrupt his dreams. No matter what Mom and Dad suggest, that monster keeps ruining all his dreams and wakes him up. But one night, Harry thinks he and Dad have come up with a great solution to change everything.

Both of my girls went through nightmare stages. I wish I had this book back then. Mongredien is smart to tackle the monster issue with ideas other parents have probably used in the past: Mom says to imagine him wearing something silly so he won’t be so scary, Dad checks under the bed to make sure he’s not there, etc. This  helps the story make sense to kids. Their parents have probably told them some of the same things.

East also makes this book work by drawing the monster and his antics in such a zany manner that kids will be laughing more than scared of what’s going on, all the while relating to Harry’s fears about the monster.

I loved this book beginning to end.

Highly recommended!

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tiger Tales (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589251466
ISBN-13: 978-1589251465

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


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36. Book Reviews: Non-fiction

I’ve recently read two nonfiction books that are completely unrelated in topic, location and even the time period in which they’re set yet, they’re very similar in that they’re well written books that address the intellect of young adults.

 

The Compassionate Warrior: abd El Kader of Algeria by Elsa Marston (Wisdom Tales, 2013)

FC9781937786106summary: A brilliant military strategist, superb horseman, statesman, philosopher, Muslim hero . . . Emir Abdel Kader (1808-1883) was an international celebrity in his own time, known for his generosity and kindness even towards enemies. Today he is recognized as one of the noblest leaders of the 19th century and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. This fascinating biography of the heroic Arab who led the resistance to the French conquest of Algeria, endured betrayal and imprisonment, and in 1860, in Syria, saved thousands of innocent people from mob violence brings a vital message for our times.

Marston combines her love of scholarship and of young adult literature as she writes about Emir Abdel Kader. At times, she speaks directly to her audience in a tone that guides them as they learn more, not only about this brilliant and compassionate leader but, also about Algeria. France’s relationship with the country was just beginning as Algeria struggled to eventually become a unified nation. Their relationship was complex and interpreted differently through the lens of each of the cultures. Marston provides only what she could document, resulting in a book that is a rare historical document. I think young adults would be more engaged in a story that included more about the Emir’s personal and family life, however this books focuses more on his political accomplishments along with the country’s development. Readers gain insights not only into a country we here tend to ignore, but also into the complex arena of international relations. Nothing is as simple as it seems!

 

Up for Sale: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery by Alison Marie Behnke (21st Century Books; August 2014)

+-+805560493_140summary: Up for Sale takes a hard look at human trafficking, identifying perpetrators and telling the stories of victims through their own words. You’ll discover why some people become vulnerable to trafficking and you’ll read about what their lives are like on a daily basis. You’ll also meet some of the courageous individuals and organizations working to free people from lives in bondage so that, in the words of US president Barack Obama, each person can “forge a life equal to [their] talents and worthy of [their] dreams.

I enjoyed this book. I appreciated its effective use of color, images and layout in telling a multidimensional story. Yes, multidimensional. Human trafficking has no single definition, no single place or location. At its core, it is an horrendous abuse of those with no power: children, women, the poor, the uneducated, homeless… Up for Sale brings to light many of the ways this crime against our humanity is perpetrated today. I liked that the book made sure readers understood this global crime isn’t just committed ‘over there’, but that it happens here in America everyday. The author treats the young adult readers as if they’re aware enough to need to know about human trafficking and without being exceptionally graphic, she provides a dose of reality. Teen readers will appreciate the numerous examples of how this crime is committed over and over again. As the faces and situations change, readers develop a heightened sense of compassion, a greater sense of social justice.

 

 


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: alison marie behnke, Book Reviews, elsa marston, nonfiction

1 Comments on Book Reviews: Non-fiction, last added: 9/5/2014
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37. Book Reviews: Non-fiction

I’ve recently read two nonfiction books that are completely unrelated in topic, location and even the time period in which they’re set yet, they’re very similar in that they’re well written books that address the intellect of young adults.

 

The Compassionate Warrior: abd El Kader of Algeria by Elsa Marston (Wisdom Tales, 2013)

FC9781937786106summary: A brilliant military strategist, superb horseman, statesman, philosopher, Muslim hero . . . Emir Abdel Kader (1808-1883) was an international celebrity in his own time, known for his generosity and kindness even towards enemies. Today he is recognized as one of the noblest leaders of the 19th century and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. This fascinating biography of the heroic Arab who led the resistance to the French conquest of Algeria, endured betrayal and imprisonment, and in 1860, in Syria, saved thousands of innocent people from mob violence brings a vital message for our times.

Marston combines her love of scholarship and of young adult literature as she writes about Emir Abdel Kader. At times, she speaks directly to her audience in a tone that guides them as they learn more, not only about this brilliant and compassionate leader but, also about Algeria. France’s relationship with the country was just beginning as Algeria struggled to eventually become a unified nation. Their relationship was complex and interpreted differently through the lens of each of the cultures. Marston provides only what she could document, resulting in a book that is a rare historical document. I think young adults would be more engaged in a story that included more about the Emir’s personal and family life, however this books focuses more on his political accomplishments along with the country’s development. Readers gain insights not only into a country we here tend to ignore, but also into the complex arena of international relations. Nothing is as simple as it seems!

 

Up for Sale: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery by Alison Marie Behnke (21st Century Books; August 2014)

+-+805560493_140summary: Up for Sale takes a hard look at human trafficking, identifying perpetrators and telling the stories of victims through their own words. You’ll discover why some people become vulnerable to trafficking and you’ll read about what their lives are like on a daily basis. You’ll also meet some of the courageous individuals and organizations working to free people from lives in bondage so that, in the words of US president Barack Obama, each person can “forge a life equal to [their] talents and worthy of [their] dreams.

I enjoyed this book. I appreciated its effective use of color, images and layout in telling a multidimensional story. Yes, multidimensional. Human trafficking has no single definition, no single place or location. At its core, it is an horrendous abuse of those with no power: children, women, the poor, the uneducated, homeless… Up for Sale brings to light many of the ways this crime against our humanity is perpetrated today. I liked that the book made sure readers understood this global crime isn’t just committed ‘over there’, but that it happens here in America everyday. The author treats the young adult readers as if they’re aware enough to need to know about human trafficking and without being exceptionally graphic, she provides a dose of reality. Teen readers will appreciate the numerous examples of how this crime is committed over and over again. As the faces and situations change, readers develop a heightened sense of compassion, a greater sense of social justice.

 

 


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: alison marie behnke, Book Reviews, elsa marston, nonfiction

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38. The Summer of Kicks by Dave Hackett

An accidental band. A record store. A pair of shoes and two perfect girls. This is going to be one hell of a summer.

Starrphyre is your average dorky 16-year-old, although with one difference. He has a very weird girly name, thanks to his hippy parents – a live-to-air radio sex therapist mum and a bass player dad from a tragic one-hit-wonder 80s metal band.

A long hot summer stretches ahead of Starrphyre and all he wants is one date with his dream girl, Candace McAllister. But how can he get her to notice him when she’s the star of every other high-school guys’ fantasies? Perhaps starting a band with his video-game obsessed pals will do the trick …

I found Summer of Kicks reminiscent of King Dork by Frank Portman and Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer. The narration is quick-paced, loaded with jokes and one-liners, and Starrphyre is an endearingly dorky protagonist (who at times behaves terribly, if realistically, which is frustrating - I think that's a difficult balance to find, constructing a character who is realistically flawed but remains likeable, and I think the more you can relate to Starrphyre's profound awkwardness/struggle to figure girls/life/anything out, the more you'll enjoy this novel).

I think it's a novel you're going to love if you like a bit of absurdity - an extraordinary amount of coincidence, and some unbelievably out-there characters (a sex therapist mum who talks about her son's love life on the radio, a seemingly-intelligent older sister who for some reason tolerates the most horrifically awful boyfriend of all time - The Tool is hysterical in his awfulness) - and I think the novel's strengths lie in the ludicrous and the hilarious. The scenes involving the band - which never really comes to fruition (which reminded me of all of my aspirations as a kid of wanting to be a rockstar and forming bands for a week with friends, until we disbanded upon us realising none of us really played any instruments) - were some of the funniest, centred around the very important task of deciding on a band name (my favourite was Bingo Death Cage. That, or Empire of Gandalf). Starrphyre becoming an accidental YouTube sensation was also very amusing, and a super-condensed and disaster-laden performance of the musical Grease. Other characters who were highlights: record-store owner Sean-pronounced-Scene, the aforementioned Tool, Starrphyre's psychic nan and former rockstar dad and hilarious/terrible mum, and Polar Fleece Reece. Who has a terrific name.

I think this novel is very strong comically and is charmingly romantic and captures the awkwardness of being sixteen really well, but we also get a bit of more serious subject matter/weighty issues Starrphyre has to confront. It felt like there wasn't a lot of room for that to be fully explored in this novel (a lot of terrible things happen all at once), but I think there's a real multi-dimensionality (don't know if that's a word, let's pretend it is) there, so I'm looking forward to what Hackett's future novels have in store.

The Summer of Kicks is silly and fun and romantic, and a novel I think a lot of young teenage readers of all genders will enjoy - it captures the terror/euphoria of youth very authentically.

The Summer of Kicks on the publisher's website

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39. No! by Tracey Corderoy

No

Everyone thought Otto was adorable until he learned a new word. Soon his new word became a big problem.

I’m not sure who will get a bigger kick out of this book: kids or parents. As parents, we’ve all been through it. Our kids learn the word “no” and suddenly our happy little camper becomes a contrary, sometimes difficult, little bugger. At the same time, Corderoy respects and understands how the child is feeling. Though Otto liked his new word, at some point it took on a life of its own and made him miserable. That’s when something wonderful happens to turn it around and Otto learns how helpful other words can be.

Not only is this book charming and a bit humorous, the illustrations by Warnes are the perfect touch. He captures so many emotions within Otto’s facial expressions. He also has chosen a color scheme that is subtle and warm.

If my girls were preschoolers, this is a book I would add to our library.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tiger Tales (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589251504
ISBN-13: 978-1589251502

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


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40. Call for Book Reviews: The Angle Magazine

The Angle Magazine is seeking book reviews for an upcoming monthly online feature. Please keep reviews between 500 and 1500 words. We are open to everything from current bestsellers to obscure collections to classics.  

Include the review in the body of the email (attachments won't be opened), and send submissions to:

brennaATtheangleagencyDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . ) 

Thank you!

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41. Two Awards and Apologies for the Long Silence

Inspiring Blogger Award from
Julia Hones

Liebster Award from Sandra Cox
See below the info that comes with
the Inspiring Blogger Award















First the apologies for not blogging. 
1.) I've been busy working on my mystery. My goal is to finish this draft by mid-September. There's 24-25 chapters in mind, and I'm on chapter 17 so far. 
2.) We've had company and made a couple of out-of-town trips to visit folks we hadn't seen for a long time, due to travels. 
And 3.) We are getting ready for another long trip to Spain and Portugal. (I haven't even finished blogging about the last trip, but that's how it goes sometimes. Oh, the stories I'd like to tell!)

Meanwhile, two very nice blog friends gave me awards that you can see at the top of this page and read about below. Thank you so much, ladies!

Julia Hones gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award, which I find quite an honor. Julia has a marvelous blog called My Writing Life that I love to read and find inspiring in its own right, and you will too, so do check it out. She's also had many short stories and poems published and is the poetry editor of Southern Pacific Review

As a recipient of the award, I'm supposed to reveal 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to others whose blogs I find inspiring. Hmm. 7 reveals . . . Okay, here we go.

1. In my junior year in college, after finals, I let a girlfriend talk me into bleaching my hair blonde. (She was bleaching her hair, and we were hyper from finals, so I thought, "Why not?") Because I have a lot of red in my hair, it went red instead of blonde. Because I have a few freckles, everyone who met me as a redhead thought I really was a redhead -- to the point that when I got tired of it and decided to dye it back to dark brown, I was told, "No, don't do that, it won't look natural."

2. My favorite dessert is a cookie. Forget pies, cakes, and rich creamy custards. Give me a cookie. Any cookie, although I like sugar, shortbread, oatmeal, or peanutbutter the best.

3. I am a crossword puzzle nut. I love the New York Times crossword puzzle. I can't always finish it (Fridays and Saturdays), but I usually start the day with it. For one thing, it wakes me up and gets the wheels turning for writing later in the day.

4. My husband and I met through a cat named Meathead. That is a ve-r-r-r-y long story, that only some of our friends know and would take up too much space here. But we have very fond feelings for our feline cat-alyst from long ago.

5. I used to write everything in longhand first, but the computer has spoiled me. Cut and paste is so convenient. Even so, I miss that feeling of connection between pen or pencil and heart, and I still write my poetry first in longhand.

6. This is probably a horrible confession for an author to make, particularly one who writes children's books, but . . . I never liked The Wind in the Willows. I know, I know, one of the world's great classics. What's wrong with me! But I never could get into it, no matter how many times I tried. 

7. I loved Edith Nesbit and Edgar Eavers, though. And they stand the test of time. I re-read a couple of their books recently and still found them so funny.

And now the nominees:
1. Keith Wynne has a truly inspiring blog called Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer . He'll also send a little blurb via email called Thought of the Day, if you sign up for it at his site. I bookmark nearly everyone of these blurbs, as they are quite pithy and inspiring.

2. Catherine Ensley is an author of inspirational romance novels and is writing a four-part series. On her blog she "shares her thoughts on country life, simple living, adventure, reading, writing and faith that transforms." I think you will find it very enjoyable. 

3. Victoria Lindstrom's Writ of Whimsy blog is rich with Middle Grage book reviews, poetry tidbits, thoughts on writing, and a section I love, "Whimsical Word of the Week." Check out her site; it's great fun.

4. Lynda Young has a wonderful blog called W.I.P. It: an Author's Journey in which she addresses many issues for writers with insights and reminders that are so helpful to all of us on this common journey. 

5. Check out Carol Riggs, a published YA author with a personable writing style. Her blog, Artzicarol Ramblings, is full of writing tips, YA book reviews, and shares of her own personal journey with agents and publishers. 

6. Renee Hand's The Crypto-Capers Review is a children's book review blog as well as a platform for her radio show, Stories from Unknown Authors. Renee also writes winning interactive mysteries. How cool is that? Check out her site, and you may find yourself being interviewed if you've written a children's book.

7. Mark Noce has a rather eclectic blog, sharing news about his flash fiction publications, gardening, music he likes, and news about other writers. It's always a feel-good experience to read one of his posts. 

On to the Liebster Award, which Sandra Cox kindly gave to me. Sandra's blog is called, not surprisingly, Sandra's Blog  . Sandra is a prolific blogger as well as a prolific author. Spend a little time at her site. Her pictures will make you smile. Meanwhile, the Liebster Award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, ferreting out blogs you think are worthy of more followers. (Thank you, Sandra!) The rules for accepting the award are to share 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions posed by the blogger who nominated me, nominate 11 bloggers who qualify, and pose 11 questions to them. Happily, Sandra modified the rules, asking 6 questions, and nominating 5 newbies. So I am following her lead:

The questions she asked:
1. If you were an animal, what would you be? Probably a dog. I love animals, but dogs have a special place in my heart. They are so loving and loyal.
2. What is your favorite genre? That's a hard one. Mysteries and historical novels are about equal.
3. When reading, do you prefer paper or a hand held device? Paper, for sure!
4. What's your favorite vacation spot? Galicia, Spain. 
5. What's your favorite charity? Another hard one. We contribute to a number. I suppose Southern Poverty Law Center, a remarkable organization that goes after hate groups in this country and prosecutes hate crimes.
6. If given the choice, where would you live? Right where we live now. As a runner up, Galicia would be next, but we are quite happy where we are.

Okay, my nominees are:
Richard Hughes at Writing and Living by Richard P. Hughes , is an eclectic blogger, sharing thoughts about writing, art, life in general, publishing issues. Right now he's running an interesting series of interviews with other bloggers, called, "Where I Live and Why I Like It.

Rosi Hollinbeck at The Write Stuff reviews children's books, interviews authors, and does a wonderful job of culling and sharing links to help writers in every sphere of writing. I always look forward to her posts, and you will too.

Kenda Turner at Words and Such post book reviews, interviews, and shares rich thoughts about the writer's journey. Always a good read.

Loretta Proctor at Books and Other Things blogs about books, art, and music, "and all things creative and beautiful." Her current post is about Seamus Heaney, one of my favorite poets.

Jeanmarie Anaya's delightful blog, Jeanmarie Anaya is definitely worth your while. Humorous, pithy, eloquent. She writes about a number of writing issues, and wrote a lovely tribute to Robin Williams. 

And here are my six questions for these worthy recipients:
1. Where is your favorite place to read a book?
2. When beginning a new W.I.P., do you write by hand or wordprocess?
3. What are three of your favorite books? 
4. If you could be a character in a novel you've read, who would you be?
5. Which author, living or dead, do you wish you had the opportunity to meet?
6. When did you begin to write for yourself (as opposed to doing early homework assignments)?

And that's it, folks. I look forward to your comments, (feel free to answer any of the questions I posed for the nominees), and I do hope you check out the blogs in both sections of this post.

Ciao for now . . .

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42. Interview With Kerry O’Malley Cerra: MG Author

I am so pleased to be doing a post with Kerry O’Malley Cerra, the author of the middle grade book, JUST A DROP OF WATER.  What better way to honor Labor Day than to have Kerry talk about the book and freedom. Here’s Kerry:

1. Tell us about your personal connection to 911.
Pretty quickly after the attacks, it was discovered that Mohamed Atta—the lead hijacker of the plane that flew into the north tower in New York City—lived in our town. Fear was already heightened throughout America, but this information almost paralyzed me. I had three small kids and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d seen Atta at the grocery store, a restaurant, the park, the bank. At the same time these scenarios were running though my head, I discovered that a close college friend—who is Muslim—was having a difficult time and that his parents, who lived in the town where the terrorists took flight lessons, were being questioned. I wish I could say I believed their innocence in that moment, but it would be a lie. I’ve never really forgiven myself for that.                           Just a Drop of Water Cover

2. What motivated you to write JUST A DROP OF WATER?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t like myself for doubting my friend and his family. Once my head cleared and the fear subsided a little, I knew—with all that is in me—that they were innocent. I started to wonder why I doubted them in the first place. And, I wondered if my kids, at their young ages, would have ever doubted their friends. At what age do we go from trusting and innocent, to fearful and jaded? I wanted to explore that, and Just a Drop of Water is the result.

3. What’s the message you want readers to take away from the story?

I sincerely hope that the theme of peace comes though. While the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were tragic, I hope we can learn from them. Acceptance is the key to peace, and that begins with children. I don’t mean acceptance of terrorism, but acceptance of religious, cultural, racial, and all other differences to eventually create a world where we can live side by side, peacefully. When I see and hear stories about children in the Middle East being brainwashed and trained to hate at such young ages, it breaks my heart. Why can’t we be doing the same thing but with the opposite message? I hope that Just a Drop of Water is a step in that direction.

4. Our theme this month is FREEDOM. How does that idea resonate with your book and all that took place during the events of 911 and the writing of your story?

I’ve always loved the word freedom. It’s a strong word that evokes much emotion for me. Though freedom equates to rights, those rights come with much responsibility. That’s a hard concept for kids to grasp. In the story, Bobby is free to be whom he wants and he chooses to be a bully. Jake has the freedom to defend Sam. But, both of these roles come with responsibility and both, ultimately, have consequences. This is the part that Jake struggles with the most. If Bobby hits Sam, Bobby deserves to be hit in return, but all this does is get Jake in more trouble. He can’t see the fine line between standing up for what he believes in, yet finding a way to do that peacefully—finding a way to do it that won’t get him in trouble. How does this relate to war? If terrorists attack our country, is it okay to attack them back? When does defense cross the line? Is it better to find another way to solve the problem? These are all questions the book raises, and questions to be considered when freedom is discussed. I hope teachers, parents, and/or librarians will talk about this with kids as they read the book.              Kerry Offiicial Author Photo copy

You can reach Kerry at:
Twitter @KerryOCerra Website is: http://www.kerryomalleycerra.com

Just a Drop of Water:   Kirkus calls the book:
“A perceptive exploration of an event its audience already sees as history.”
“…the supplemental material middle-grade history teachers are looking for…”

Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, Palmetto Ridge. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.
According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.
You can now pre-order my book from these locations:
Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes & Nobel / Book A Million / Powell’s Books

 


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43. The Monthly Book Brief – The Very Best New Release Books in September

Fiction Books When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett A story of growing up, journeys into the great unknowns and that anything in life is possible. Parrett’s writing is truly mesmerizing. Her words immediately draw you in and you are swept away. Poetical, evocative and truly moving this will not only have you immediately falling […]

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44. The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

For Fin, it’s just like any other day – racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated.
 
When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learnt in school could have prepared him for this.
 
With his parents missing and dwindling food and water supplies, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must find a way to survive in a nuclear winter … all on their own. 
 
When things are at their most desperate, where can you go for help?


I love apocalyptic stories set in familiar locations, and the fact that The Sky So Heavy is set in Australia really added to the realism for me, though it explored something entirely foreign (thankfully). Though I'm not familiar with the Blue Mountains, they make for an amazingly atmospheric setting, a great sense of isolation and fear. Though it's an apocalyptic novel it lacks melodrama, and it explores the motivations and emotions of the central characters beautifully. It's about ordinary kids facing an extraordinary situation, a terrifyingly believable one. (I find fictional stories about nuclear war a lot scarier than fictional stories about zombie apocalypses, largely because zombies don't exist in our reality. I mean, I hope.)

Though the novel opens with a flash-forward to a particularly thrilling point in the story, it's not a novel of non-stop thrills - I think the strengths of the novel lie in the way characters are developed as the story progresses, as they are shaped by their circumstances. After the flash-forward, the story returns back in time to prior to the (shall we say event?) event occurring, these opening scenes a little clumsy in that way every apocalyptic story is - Everything was perfect... until! Dialogue is flippant and the impending threat of nuclear war is quickly set up - once everything is established, it's an enthralling read. Some decisions by certain characters (very difficult to avoid major spoilery spoilers here) are difficult to believe, but that probably reflects the reality of extreme situations - people behave in irrational ways. Fin has an authentic and endearing voice, a kid just trying to look after his brother. I think this novel will appeal to teenagers of any gender.

The Sky So Heavy is accessible and thought-provoking and relevant, an enjoyable read. Well worth a look if you're after another frighteningly realistic apocalyptic novel to read after you've finished the Tomorrow When the War Began series.

The Sky So Heavy on the publisher's website

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45. Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

title: Brown 9780399252518Girl Dreaming

author: Jacqueline Woodson

Date: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin; August 2014

Main Character: Jacqueline Woodson

MIddle Grade Fiction

There are rules to children’s books you know, and Jacqueline Woodson just broke one.

Brown Girl Dreaming is the author’s poetic telling of her childhood and retrospective visits to childhood are supposed to be adult books. Somewhere along when Jackie learned to embrace words and the power they contain, she became entitled to a Poetic License that let this book be produced as a children’s book. Thank goodness!

For me, a Black woman of the same generation who grew up in Ohio with a mother from Mississippi, I quite often found myself pausing and connecting to the story while I daydreamed about my own life. But, this book wasn’t written for me. Will teens relate? Will they find themselves in the spaces Woodson creates when she talks about teeth, not being as smart as, about grandpa’s love and forever friends? I think that they will not only find themselves in these nuances, but they’ll also see how they fit into the larger stories of their family, community and history itself.

In creating a fictional autobiography, Woodson leaves huge spaces that all readers can dive into and find their own meaning. Woodson looks back as adult, but tells the story through the eyes of a child. Her family is her haven whether they’re in New York or South Carolina and even when it looks like things might be going wrong, Jacqueline’s family is perfect in the young girl’s eyes. This girl has a dream to fulfill and we’re going to find out where she gets her strength!

Young Jacqueline is disenchanted with the inaccuracies of memory and the confusion between storytelling and lying.

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.

You’re lying my mother says.

 

Maybe the truth is somewhere between

all that I’m told

and memory.

So, Jacqueline decides to give us her own truths in this story of self empowerment.

I’m so glad Woodson broke the rule!

I reviewed an ARC and am looking forward to adding a final copy to my collection as it will also contain photos.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. source


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: african american, Jacqueline Woodson, review

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46. Guest Book Review: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Wendy Leighton-Porter

shadow

Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing; 1 edition (April 15, 2013)
ASIN: B00CDUXKUC
Rating: Five stars
Age group: 9+

The Shadow of the Volcano is the fifth adventure of twins Joe and Jemima Lancelot and their friend Charlie. Joe and Jemima have been searching for their parents who disappeared several months earlier. Thanks to an old book and a magical key, as well as special charms, the kids and Max (their talking Tonkinese cat) are able to travel back in time to search for the twins’ parents. Sadly, on their previous adventures, it seems the twins’ parents were always just ahead of them. On this trip, they hope they’ll catch up with their mum and dad. Trips back in time can be dangerous, especially if they end up in the middle of a war, or some disaster. The kids have had their fair share of those and this trip is no less dangerous. The kids and Max end up in Pompeii, just a few days before Mount Vesuvius will explode, destroying the whole city. Unfortunately, they also land up on the tail end of a consignment of slaves. The slave dealer Scylax is ecstatic because he’s convinced he was short-changed by three slaves in the last delivery. Jemima befriends a young slave, a Briton called Caris, and tries to cheer her up. Luckily, Joe and Jemima are attractive twins and take the fancy of their new owners, while Charlie, originally thought weedy, impresses the book-keeper with his skill in mathematics. Joe has the hardest time of all, working his fingers to the bone, as he grumbles, while Charlie and Jemima have relatively easy jobs. Max manages to inveigle himself into the household, but on the night of a party, is booted out. He is rescued by a priestess of the Temple of Isis, and she is in love with a gladiator. An adventure to rival all others ensues, with a magnificent fake battle between Leo (a lion that Max helped) and Felix, the handsome young gladiator. All this time, the kids keep trying to warn people about the impending disaster; some listen and will escape the conflagration, but for the most part, people don’t heed the warnings. Vesuvius has rumbled before and they are used to it. Will the kids catch up with their parents? Will they make it back to their own world?
I just love this series and, in my opinion, it keeps getting better with every book. Author Wendy Leighton-Porter has such a lovely sense of humour that brings even the smallest characters vividly to life. Max is utterly captivating as himself, with delusions of grandeur after living as the descendant of a god in the Temple of Isis. The kids’ new owner is based on a real Pompeiian, whose villa was discovered and excavated. So much fact is cleverly woven into the story, teaching kids a history lesson without their even knowing it. There are details that young readers will remember, simply because of the way these have been used in the tale to lend credence and veracity. Who can argue with an exciting piece of history? Of course, as in her other books, Wendy Leighton-Porter does not shy away from the gritty realities of life back then. Being a slave was no easy task, and if one was a gladiator, death was just another fight away. I truly enjoyed the rich detail of Pompeiian life pervading the story, down to the descriptions of the eruption and what it must have been like for people at the time. The end material includes some lovely particulars for avid young explorers and historians; a glossary, a floor plan of a typical house, photos of the Pompeiian excavation and more. As always, maps put the leap back in time firmly into perspective. This book is a real winner, and don’t be surprised if your young relative starts sounding like an expert volcanologist. PS: If anyone is wondering how the romance is going between the twins’ Uncle Richard and Charlie’s mum … they are going on another date!

 

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Volcano-Shadows-Past-Book-ebook/dp/B00CDUXKUC

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.


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47. Guest Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

more

Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (July 22, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0763676209
ISBN-13: 978-0763676209
Genre: Dystopian
Suggested reading Age: Grade 9+

Three stars

Seventeen-year-old Seth drowns; in fact his action is deliberate. He wants to escape the horror of his existence. Racked with guilt over the fate of his younger brother, an event he feels is his entire fault, he doesn’t have much to live for. Then he wakes up, back in his old home in England, and things start becoming very weird indeed. He is wrapped in silvery bandages, and his old street is deserted. The whole place is uninhabited and overgrown. He seems to be the only person left alive in the world. He must now forage and scrounge for clothing, food and water. He wonders if this is hell. His dreams don’t help because his previous life comes back to him in huge, unwelcome chunks of memory. Then he meets two other people, with their own unique and strange tales to tell.

Despite the fantastic beginning, with a description that pulled me right into the ocean with Seth, I struggled to finish this book. Parts of it were incredibly exciting and then would grind to a halt with unnecessary introspective and philosophical meanderings on the part of the main character, meanderings which became boring and one had the urge to say, “Oh, just get on with it!” The plus side: an utterly riveting and plausible story premise that comes much later on (just when you are wondering what on earth this is all about and is he dead or not, and if everyone else is dead, then where are the bodies?); really wonderful descriptions that have the reader in the grip of the moment; action and tension to add to the positively bleak and hopeless situation; events that come out of nowhere that have a cinematographic and surreal feel to them; the depth of emotion Seth feels for the loss of his younger brother and his friends. In fact, Seth’s guilt is so palpable that one is consumed with curiosity to learn the truth. The two characters that join him are so different, so lost as well, and so eager to hide the circumstances of their lives/deaths. One feels the pain of the characters as they reveal the humiliating and tragic burdens they each carry.

What I did not enjoy: the flashbacks were sometimes jarring and intrusive, until I accepted them as part of the story-telling process; the fact that this world, while it began as an interesting construct, did not have enough to sustain the story and/or the last three inhabitants. I found the ending abrupt and it short-changes the reader in a way. There were many loose ends in the unfolding of this tale that I feel the author might have tried to answer. The characters were confused and, as a result, the reader becomes confused. It is as if the author didn’t bother to work things out to the last detail, which is possibly not the case, but feels that way. The reference to same sex love/relationships was dealt with sensitively and delicately, in an almost tender way. However, this might surprise readers who are not prepared for it, especially if the reader is younger than the protagonist’s age of 17. Ultimately, the characters’ thoughts on what constitutes life and death, and the option of living in a constructed world, avoiding the reality of a life too sad/tragic/hopeless to contemplate should give readers food for thought. However, I have no doubt that the intended audience of older teens and YA readers will love this book.

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-This-Patrick-Ness/dp/0763676209/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.


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48. Call for Submissions on the Theme of Disobedience: Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry

Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry is now accepting submissions for our next issue, Volume VII, The Disobedient Issue. We are leaving the interpretation of the concept of disobedience open, but know that this issue was inspired by reading Poetics of Disobedience by Alice Notley and by necessary acts of civil disobedience everywhere. Please send only your best work, any length, any style.

Deadline for this issue: January 31, 2015

Expect a response within 1 - 3 months after close of submissions. If you have not heard from us after this time period please feel free to inquire.

The details:

- Please submit 1 to 5 poems, 1 craft essay, and/or 1 book review, using the online submission form.
- Please include a brief third-person bio in your cover letter.
- Simultaneous submissions are fine as long as we are notified promptly when work is accepted elsewhere, but please no multiple submissions. The only exceptions to this rule is if you are submitting both poems and an essay, or both an essay and a book review, or both poems and a book review.
- Previously published is also fine, as long as it was in print, not online, and as long as you as the author retain all copyright. Because we strive to be the first online publisher of your work, if it has appeared anywhere that is publicly accessible on the web (including on your blog) then it is considered previously published. Please feel free to contact us and we will provide clarification on a case-by-case basis.
- We acquire one-time, non-exclusive rights to publish your work, at which time all rights revert back to you as the author. If we should ever decide to create a print anthology and would like to include your work, we will contact you.
- If accepted for inclusion you may be asked to provide a brief contributor's statement exploring your view of disobedience in literature . (See past issues for examples of what me mean.)
- Please note that we are a non-paying market.
- No snail mail submissions. All submissions must come through our online submissions manager.
Upload your submission here.

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49. Starting to blog about children's books I read, #BookADay, and why I DON'T do formal book reviews

As some of you already know, I've been participating in Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge and having great fun with it; you can see my posts so far here and all my #BookADay collages on Flickr.

I've decided to keep posting about the children's and YA books I read (and re-read) this way, even if I'm unable to do it every day. But now I'm torn; I'm not really adhering to the rules of the official #BookADay challenge...although I AM reading/rereading an average of a picture book a day, I don't always post about it. I mentioned on FB that I'm pulling back a wee bit from online distractions so I can get more writing done.

I enjoy the process of putting together these mini book-collages, however, especially for favourites I'm re-reading, because it gives me an excuse to delve more into the background of the book as well as finding out more about the author and illustrator. I'm also finding that it gets more people interested in these books.

Because I'm not strictly following the #BookADay rules, however, I'm going to change the footer of these images from now on...else I'll feel like a #BookADay cheater!

Please note that these are not meant to be formal book reviews. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I just like reading books written for young people, and sometimes I am going to blog about them. I want to make this clear because I strongly prefer NOT being contacted about reviewing books. Reading a book for review or critique vastly changes the reading experience for me, and I am already finding it a challenge to carve out time for pleasure reading.

And thanks again to Donalyn Miller, whose Book-A-Day Challenge inspired me to start doing these book mini-collages!

 

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50. Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick


Some things are too big for a boy to solve. 

Jesse is an eleven-year-old boy tackling many problems in life, especially fitting in to a new school. 

Luckily he meets Kate. She has curly black hair, braces and an infectious smile. She wants to ‘Save the Whales’ and needs Jesse’s help. 

But they haven’t counted on Hunter, the school bully, who appears to enjoy hurling insults at random. 

With Hunter’s catchphrase ‘Ha!’ echoing through the school, something or someone has to give. 

But will it be Jesse? Kate? Or is there more to Hunter than everyone thinks? 

An inspiring and funny story about the small gestures that can help to make the world a better place.

I think Steven Herrick writes with a great deal of insight and subtlety, so I was really looking forward to reading Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain. I strongly recommend both Cold Skin and The Simple Gift (the only other Herrick novels I've read so far) - extraordinary verse novels with tough subject matter delicately handled, very powerful. They demonstrate beautifully the meaningfulness that can be achieved even when words are used economically.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain is written in prose rather than verse, and for a younger audience than other Herrick novels I've read, and it's both funny and thoughtful. I think it will really appeal to kids in upper primary school. It's positive and uplifting - a lovely little story with lots of nice messages, about environmental conservation and charitable causes (it's very message-dense). The story is told from the perspectives of both Jesse, who is well-meaning and quiet and a bit eccentric (he talks to a poster of Jesus that he refers to as Trevor, as his parents are atheist - the family dynamics are rather amusing), and Hunter, who is the school bully but gradually revealed as an endearing character - his interactions with the elderly man he befriends were some of my favourite in the book. As someone who was a bit eccentric and very thoughtful as an eleven-year-old, I really identified with Jesse, but both characters are likeable and authentic.

It's definitely a feel-good sort of novel, and one I think 9-12-year-olds will love, and anyone older who likes heartwarming stories about saving whales and making friends and the various awkwardnesses of being eleven.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain on the publisher's website.

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