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Spring Book Reviews for Story Monsters Ink (Part I)

Writing book reviews this year for one of the top rated children’s literature magazines in the nation, Story Monsters Ink, has been not only FUN (who doesn’t love getting  a sneak peek of amazing books?) but also incredibly fulfilling as a writer. Through this writing experience, I have discovered so many NEW mentor texts and styles of writing that are inspirational for readers and writers of all ages. Click on my “Book Reviews” Link for more! Thank you to the authors for being brave and vulnerable (right?) in sharing their works with the world.

 story_monsters_ink2Thank you Cristy!
@CristyBertini (Editor in Chief of Story Monsters Ink)

A Song about Myself by John Keats and illustrated by Chris Raschka

 Oh, how I love poetry. And whimsical illustrations. So this stunning and creative book featuring the poems of the John Keats (originally published in 1901 from The Complete Words of John Keats) and pictures by Caldecott Winner Chris Raschka tugged at my heartstrings and reaffirmed the fact that I do indeed love poetry. Per the illustrators note in the back of the book (and in my opinion just as important to read and discuss as the book itself) we find out that this poem is a letter John Keats wrote to his beloved sister after a twenty mile adventure and trek through the mountains of Scotland. It is about a ‘naughty boy’ who goes on a quest of wonders and ‘follow[s] one’s nose To the North, To the North” and writes poetry as he wonders. Childhood memories (Granny, washing tubs, ink stands, and running away) are referenced in short, fragmented and rhyming prose. (Note: I love how poetry is the asterisk, the EXCEPTION, the rule breaker! to grammar and mechanics). Accompanied by Mr. Raschka’s distinctive (and stunning) watery and soft edged designs, this book is definitely a must for poetry lovers of all ages.

I Am (Not) Scared by Anna Wang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Childhood is such a precious, fleeting, beautiful and vulnerable time for little ones (parents included!). Having stories that address our anxieties, name them, encapsulate them, and hopefully calm them is incredibly important, not to mention awesomely comforting! I Am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang and illustrated by Chrisopher Weyant (winning author/illustrator team of the Theodore Geisel Award I am (Not) Small prequel) shares a day in the life of two animal creatures having a conversation about being brave…and scared. Told completely in large, easy to read dialogue (speech bubbles without the bubbles) the furry friends debate what is scary and what is not scary (a tub of hairy spiders or a pit of hot lava is DEFNITELY scary!) The reader then discovers the setting of the story and root of their cute exchange…a rollercoaster park! This story is fantastic for making inferences based on the animal’s expressions and conversation (illustrations are vibrant, colorful, and pop against a white backdrop) Best part? They decide to be scared together! The ending is a sweet reminder that having friends makes us feel A LOT better in scary situations…and talking about our feelings is absolutely OK!

Today I feel- An Alphabet of Feelings by Madalena Moniz

This alphabet story is one of the most delightful, charming and innovate representations of the alphabet I’ve ever read! The thoughtfulness Ms. Moniz clearly puts into each illustration is truly remarkable- mostly because every single picture represents the feeling in such a “Yes, I feel that way too!” or “I can’t believe she captured that feeling so explicitly!” Each stunning page is a single word describing an emotion…Brilliant, Daring, Original and Uncertain are just a few of my favorites. A little boy is on each page in a variety of circumstances – and these circumstances, surroundings, and scenarios are SO CLEVER! On the ‘M’ page, the little boy feels “Mini” and is tucked inside someone’s pocket. Patient? Putting together a huge puzzle. Warm? Snuggled in mommy’s embrace. One that tugged at my heartstrings is “Adored”- a huge wall of framed photos with the little boy’s sweet face grinning in the middle (I have one of these walls for my little ones!) I believe when these feelings are written down, in this case by the masterful Ms. Moniz, it affirms to readers that it IS normal to have huge ranges in emotions and being honest and authentic about them is the best (and most healthy) response of all.

 

Time to Dream by Timothy Khan, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Time to Dream by Timothy Khan and illustrator Helen Oxenbury is an enchanting and special story about a brother and sister exploring the woods in hopes of discovering the source of rhythmic, unusual (and fun to read) ‘nighttime noises.’ (Helen Oxenbury is also the illustrator of the beloved and classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which lends itself beautifully to a compare and contrast literature discussion/lesson).
Jack is very nervous and keeps asking his sister Alice if what they’re hearing is “…the Wicked Wolf…with his big bad claws and his snap-trap jaws?” Alice is adorably reassuring while they meet exquisitely illustrated woodland creatures along the way. The ending reveals a surprise (with Jack not being entirely wrong about his worries!) that will delight readers and hopefully lull them into their own sweet slumber, or as author Timothy Khan so beautifully writes; And they sailed off to sleep on that sweet lullaby.

Lighter Than Air by Matthew Clark Smith

Oh how I love true stories. And I also love stories that begin with thought provoking quotes such as;
“No endeavor by man to rise into the air can succeed, and only fools would attempt it”
-Charles Augustin DeCoulomb, 1780
Lighter than Air by Matthew Clark Smith and stunningly illustrated by Matt Tavares shares the inspirational journey of Frenchwoman Sophie Blanchard’s first flight in the air, and even better, the first woman to accomplish such a phenomenal feat. As a very young girl, Sophie was (restlessly) in admiration of the brothers Montgolfier with their incredible hot air balloon aerodynamics, and later on her ‘dare-devil’ balloonist future husband, Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Her loving husband recognized Sophie’s zest for life, and ballooning, and created opportunities for her to fulfill her dreams of flying. This true story encapsulates Sophie’s fulfillment of her dreams, the experience of flying, and the really BIG deal it was to have a woman’s name shared amongst the her male peers. The author’s note at the end is tragically fascinating and sure to spark even more interest in this little known, but incredibly brave, woman of the sky. Illustrations by Matt Taveres are gorgeous- from detailed borders around each picture, to brightly colored hot air balloons- all the while subdued enough to emulate the era. Just another reason I LOVE true stories.

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Why unwriting is a writer’s best friend

Absolutely love this post. Makes the re-writing or ‘un-writing’ seem less daunting, and FUN!! In the process of re-writing several things myself and I’m tired of questioning it…but as girl and duck says…stay true to yourself 🙂 Thank you!!!

girl and duck

Writers love words. Not just for what they do—create entire universes. They love them as individuals.

Most writers (and editors) will blush with delight when handed a dictionary. They enjoy nothing more than ‘word talk’. Who likes pernickety, lilting, lumber, moot?

Moot is a queer word. Queer is a great word that’s taken on a life of its own. Lilting? Is there much call for it? Lumber. The noun is ho-hum. But it’s a terrific verb. Pernickety is lovely to say but, really, it belongs to Jane Austen.

And so on.

Words also drive writers to despair. There’s a famous story  about James Joyce. According to the story, a friend came to visit Joyce and found him slumped across his desk.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked the friend.

‘It’s the work,’ said Joyce, without raising his head.

‘How many words did you get today?’ asked the friend.

‘Seven,’ muttered Joyce.

‘But that’s great,’…

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Love everything about this post and the exquisite illustrations and poetry to share on Valentines Day ❤❤❤ thank you Kathy!!

Writing and Illustrating

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ANNIE WILKINSON– Featured on Illustrator Saturday August 30th 2014.

valentineAUTHOR CAROL MURRAY: http://www.carolmurray.net CRICKET IN THE THICKET

valentinebarbara-valentineBARBARA DILORENZIO: Featured on Illustrator Saturday April 14, 2012

valentine-by-sue-ann-erickson-rosie-and-magee-loveSUE ANN ERICKSON: www.sueannerickson.com

valentine1-seal-and-african-penguin-valentine-m-kogan-2-11-2017

‘Twas in contrary

February you swept

away my heart. I

swooned for you and you for

me, forever we’re true! 

© 2017 Michelle Kogan

MICHELLE KOGAN:www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com Look for her poem and cover art in The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2014-2015,  poetry anthology.

valentine-love_noll-jpegCHERYL KIRK NOLL:Featured on Illustrator Saturday.

ANYWHERE

by Eileen Spinelli

Love can find us
anywhere:
on a bus or bench
or chair,
in the sunlight,
starlight,
dark,
walking through
a city park,
climbing up
a snowy hill,
lonely,
fretful,
tired…
still–
like a haunting song
or poem
love will bring
each heart
back home.

kirstenphoto 13KIRSTEN CARLSON –Featured on Illustrator Saturday June 8th 2014

valentine-lynnor-bontigao1LYNNOR BONTIGAO: www.lynnorbontigao.com

valentinexoxo%20love-jpegAMALIA HOFFMAN: Amaila…

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#ReadYourWorld Review “I am Not a Number”

I am not a Number Review
#ReadYourWorld

by Larissa Juliano www.larissajuliano.com

            I am not a Number (provided by Second Story Press) is an emotional account about the beautiful, and often persecuted Indigenous Peoples in the North American continent. The story (based on true events) starts off with the heart wrenching separation of a family, as the young children are sent to a residential school to ‘unlearn’ their heritage, language, customs, and everything else that encompasses one’s identify. In the 1880’s until more than a century later, Indigenous families were taken from their homes to ‘assimilate’ with the Christian Canadian culture. According to authors Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, the residential schools were; “created and funded by the federal government in the belief that Indigenous peoples were uncivilized and needed to be ‘saved’ from themselves”.

Assimilating them into what was considered the ‘proper society’ meant harsh and often abusive punishments, poor quality education, questionable food and isolated and disease ridden living conditions. This thoughtfully crafted story, beautifully illustrated by Gillian Newland, follows a young girl named Irene and her two brothers (and later revealed to be author Dr. Dupuis grandmother in the ‘Author’s note’). There is a lot of dialogue between Irene and her family, and later on, the harsh and punitive nuns who subject Irene and other children to severe emotional and physical anguish as they force children to not utter any phrases in their own language. Before Irene was snatched from her beloved family’s home, her mother tells her to ‘never forget who you are’. This mantra allows Irene to remain strong under her circumstances and eventually reunite with her family during the summer months. Despite the upsetting depiction of this time in history, there is a happy ending to the story for Irene and her brothers.

I really treasured the family’s bond in this story. Vivid descriptions of the settings, circumstances and then the character dialogue beautifully depict the range of emotions Irene and her family experience – from fear and naïveté to bravery and determination. Lots of questions will arise from children as they read this book, but the Author’s Note in the back (along with some beautiful photographs of Indigenous families) help explain this tragic time in history…and what has been done to rectify the treatment of these families by the government.

~ I am not a Number provided by Second Story Press

Image from http://www.jennykaydupuis.com

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with is on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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Book Giveaway – Grace Lou by Larissa Juliano

Kathy Temean is so supportive and an incredible resource for authors in all phases of their writing journey….Thank you so much for allowing me to share my book and story 🙂

Writing and Illustrating

Author Larissa Juliano has agreed to Giveaway a copy of book Grace Lou. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Starting today, everyone who follows this blog will get an extra chance to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news and if you are a follower, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

grace-louBOOK DESCRIPTION:

Laurissa says, “Gracie Lou is my first book in print and is a thoughtful, heart-warming story about a little girl who dreams big (or is it a dream?). Inspired by The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, Gracie Lou embarks on an adventure that emulates…

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The Underdog?

 

By Larissa Juliano

 Katy finished up the side streets. So traffic could move in and out around the city.
Then she went home to rest. Then…and only then did Katy stop.
~Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

            Desperation. Not wanting to give up. Does my work matter? Am I enough?

What is this feeling? The feeling that can’t seem to contain these words and images and ideas that I want to shout from the rooftops? Or, how Katy can’t sit still as the snow piles on, until finally the Highway Department gives her the go-ahead! Go Katy, go! Is this what authors feel when they decide…they DETERMINE, I am going to make my words KNOWN… I am going to plow the snow! Desperate? Vulnerable and brave for sure….and most definitely, accessible to others. Because that is how I feel when I write…excited and eager, but really super vulnerable.

Writing is so personal. Whether it is a poem depicting elements in a season, or short stories about motherhood, descriptions of nature and the thoughts and associations that go along with it. Funny? Funny is HARD to write. Is it really funny, or just to me? What about writing that is weird, dark, scary or morbid?

Words come from our hearts to our minds to our fingertips to people’s eyes. Our innermost thoughts that most often WE don’t even understand, become available for the world to see- and we choose to do that! This is not our diary tucked under our pillow from the emotional middle school years…Writing for the world and sending our sketchy, fractured, awesome, manuscripts means opening ourselves up in such a different way.

Through this experience of being an indie author (and an aspiring traditionally published author)- I have gained such a deeper sense of empathy for writers and what it means to expose ourselves and hope for some kind of response- any response really! Acknowledgment perhaps that our work is getting noticed. Am I plowing enough snow? Did I make a difference?

Boy, the market is competitive. So many ridiculously creative, ingenious and innovative authors – like, where do they get their ideas from? How to compete? I suppose ultimately, as I’ve shared on previous posts, if our writing touches peoples lives in some way- whether it’s our family, our kids, students, friends, and more…if a child feels like they connected to your story, that their voice was heard, that they saw themselves in your story- well, that is what keeps me going. 🙂

PS- I totally could’ve referenced Mike Mulligan by Virginia Lee Burton as well, and Maybelle. And The Little House. LOVE HER.

She is a master at supporting “the underdogs”.

 

 

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