Back to School

It’s that time of year again: Back to School! And because I run an elementary school library, it’s back to school for me, too! I’ve been very productive this summer with my writing, completing the first three books in my new series for girls, ages 8-12: Evie and the Volunteers. I will miss the extra summer writing time but look forward to seeing all of the little faces at school. Next week several children’s book authors will be participating in a back to school blog tour. More information to come. Until then, check out the first book in the Evie and the Volunteers series.


Favorite Tear Jerker Books



When I receive reviews from the readers of my YA novels, I admit that I get giddy when people express that the books made them cry. I mean, like I’m high-fiving with myself and doing backflips down my hallway. Well, maybe I’m being a tad bit melodramatic, but I do like to induce emotion. When that happens, people are connecting with the characters. So, my thought for today is this:  What books have induced you to a fit of emotion so strong you babbled over with enough tears to fill your kitchen sink?  Yes, I have a problem with that melodrama thing again….

For me, there are three books I read in my childhood that I can distinctly remember sobbing through:

1. Where the Red Fern Grows

2. Little Women

3. Bridge to Terabithia


Please share your picks.

BE THE VET, Children’s Book Lets Kids Be the Doctor

Do you like dogs and cats?
Have you ever thought about being a veterinarian?

Place yourself as the narrator in seven unique stories about dogs and cats. When a medical emergency or illness impacts the pet, you will have the opportunity to diagnose the problem and suggest treatment. Following each story is the treatment plan offered by Dr. Ed Blesy, a 16 year practicing veterinarian. You will learn veterinary terms and diagnoses while being entertained with fun, interesting stories.

This is the first book in the BE THE VET series with the second book to follow in spring 2014.

For ages 9-12



Accountability: What Every Writer Needs, Otherwise Known as a Good Kick in the Pants

Accountability…Unless you are a writer under contract for a book needing revisions, there really is little accountability for the writer who is still at the beginning of her writing career.  While I have a picture book under contract and submitted all necessary revisions, I don’t have any current book deadlines looming.  I don’t want to be a one book author.  I have other stories to tell.


I have a young adult novel, completed, sitting in a drawer after getting nowhere with publishers or agents, though I beat out 4000 people in last year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition to make the top 1000.  It needs major rewrites, which is quite daunting considering the novel is 65,000 words (roughly 250 pages).


I started a middle grade novel over a year ago.  It is literally in the last chapter of the rough draft, and I daily think, “Today’s the day I will finish the rough draft.”  And every night I say, as did my favorite literary character Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”


Time marches on.  It’s amazing how I find time to blog, time to check facebook, time to twitter, time to do laundry (sometimes), time to make dinner, time to be with my family… You get the picture.  So, why don’t I just finish the last chapter?  Because of accountability.  I have none.  That, and I am afraid.  Afraid that I will finish the novel and the rewrites that follow, that I will send queries to agents and publishers, who will, in turn, send me curt rejection notices that say, “This is not for me.  Please don’t take this to be a reflection of your work, but…”  Blah, blah, blah.


And just like my young adult novel, this new middle grade novel will be destined to use up office drawer space, buried away for no one to ever read.  Yes, I know, if you never try, you’ll never succeed.  Right?  After all it took 99 rejections before my picture book was offered a contract. So, tomorrow is another day.  And tomorrow I will finish this novel.  Well, maybe by the weekend.  And now you all know, so please hold me accountable.  Ask me about it.  Make me squirm with embarrassment if I don’t finish.  Be parental.  You have my permission. Thank you.

Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog Book Review

In today’s publishing world even authors from large publishers have to do self-promotion to sell more books unless you’re an author like  J.K. Rowling or Nicholas Sparks.  It’s even more crucial for new authors from small presses to market themselves.  What better place to start, (other than family and friends who really have no choice) than with local authors who share your passion for writing?


When I started to seriously consider writing as more than a hobby, the first classes I took were in the local Coloma library from local author Ami Hendrickson.  She has a strong passion for writing and great expertise about everything from the writing process to social marketing.  A published author of many non-fiction books about horses, Ami recently published her first children’s chapter book, Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog.  I offer my honest review of the book below.


Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog is a short chapter book that introduces the reader to Wilson, a carriage dog in the 1840s, whose job it is to protect his wealthy owners and family from highway robbers by riding alongside their fancy carriage to warn of and ward off danger.  Wilson forms a strong bond with Robert and Anne, the children in the family.  When they visit town for the day, Wilson experiences the sights and sounds of the hustle and bustle around him and helps to bring his family safely home again at day’s end.


The reader will fall in love with Wilson.  I did.  The author does a wonderful job capturing Wilson’s loyal character.  We learn not only about the job of a carriage dog during Victorian days but also of his ability to do his job well while still enjoying the life of being a dog.  The pace moves quickly, and the reader roots for Wilson and knows he will uphold his duty well.  While I admit I found myself wanting Wilson to be challenged a bit more, I realize that the author was most likely attempting to introduce the audience to a different kind of “working dog” while giving him a personality at the same time.  She did that well,  both educating and entertaining.  I hope she has a series in mind to teach children about the various uses of dogs historically.


I recommend Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog to history and dog enthusiasts alike.  Children and adults will love learning about Wilson, the unique guard dog of his time.


The book is available for Kindle download on Amazon at this link.


The cost is 99 cents.  Please support a local author and enjoy your dollar well spent.

Model the Joy of Books: Little Eyes are Watching

My little readers

I recently asked the staff that I work with to tell me their favorite childhood books.  I used the information to make a “School Favorites” Reading Wall in the library.  The children have been very enthused to learn the favorite books of their beloved teachers, principal, and secretary.  I found many of the books within our school library, and the children have been checking the books out this week.


To see the kids so excited made me think.:  how we as adults model reading may be more important than we realize.  Yes, my own kids see me read.  I’m a writer, so I’m a reader by nature, but I haven’t had many discussions with them about what I read when I was their age and were it not for my daily job in a library I wouldn’t be up on the newest  generation of favorite books available to my kids.   I’m trying to bridge the gap between old classics and new classics in my job, so shouldn’t I be doing that in my own family, too?  Shouldn’t we be having discussions about favorite characters and what type of plot keeps them wanting to read more?  I listen to their incessant chatter about what’s happening in the virtual world of this and that video game, so why can’t we have those conversations about books?
 Here is my to-do list:

I also recommend parents to check the joovy zoom 360 ultralight jogging stroller, which is a great option for their kids.


1.  Read more to my children.  You can never be too old to be read aloud to.

2.  Read not for the mere sake of completing a homework assignment but for the joy that books can bring.

3.  Talk about the characters, plot, etc., what they like, what they don’t.

4.  Enforce electronic shut-off before bed, so reading time becomes a valued ritual.


What ideas can you add to model the importance of reading in your home?

Cool Facts: Congrats to Jon, Leslie, Maggie, and April for Being Children’s Book Masters!

Thank you to those of you that played along yesterday with my trivia contest.  Jon, Leslie, Maggie, and April all made very good guesses as to which children’s books have sold more than 4 million copies.  Maybe you have your own guesses, too.  Keep in mind that this list was last compiled in 2000 by Publisher’s Weekly, so the numbers have only grown.


The link is also to the right.


There are two lists, hardcover and paperback, so scroll down the whole page.


Number one for hardcover books:  The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey (Golden, 1942) 14,898,341

Number one for paperback books:  Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illus. by Garth Williams (HarperCollins, 1974) 9,899,696


I am looking forward to an updated Publisher’s Weekly List.  Have a great weekend, and read a great book!

Book Recommendations: Picture Books to Read During Cold and Flu Season

Yep.  It’s here, and there’s little we can do about it.  We’re right in the middle of cold and flu season.  When you’re a parent or work with children, the germs around you are much less contained.  Need something to do with your sick child at home from school?  Check out these entertaining picture books relating to common illness.


Farm Flu , by Teresa Bateman :  On this unusual farm, a young boy hears “Ka-Choo” from the cow and takes him into his home to pamper him as he knows his mom would do for him.  From the cow to the chickens to the donkey to the pigs, and on and on, all of the farm animals catch the flu.  The young boy plays doctor and fluffs their pillows, brings them snacks, and lets them play games. When he realizes the “Ka-choo’s” have stopped he sends them back to the barn!  The lesson parallels our own families when we, as parents, realize that maybe our kids really aren’t as sick as once thought, and the joys of staying home have been celebrated a little too enthusiastically.


How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? , by Jane Yolen:  Beautifully illustrated by Mark Teague, this book in a wonderful dinosaur series asks a series of questions about how dinosaurs handle being ill with the common cold.  The rhyming text accompanies pictures that show the dinosaurs being irritable and uncooperative.  However, by the end of the book the dinosaurs starts doing what they’re supposed to do to get well.   The children and parents will chuckle at the uncooperative behavior as much of it will seem familiar.  And everyone roots for the dinosaurs when they start behaving properly because soon they will be well, just like your child.

Book Review: The Monster at the End of This Book and Other Picture Book Favorites

Really, this book needs no introduction.  If you don’t remember lovable, furry old Grover from Sesame Street trying with all his might to keep the reader from turning pages and getting to the monster at the end of the book, then you have missed out on a childhood joy.  It’s not too late to check out this book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin.  I’ve placed a link to the right.  And in case you forget, Grover finds that he is the monster at the end of the book and tries to put the “and you were so scared” blame on the reader.  Brilliant!  The authors have a known character, engage the readers who can’t help but squealing “Turn it!  Turn the page!”, and an ending that makes the reader and Grover smile.

What is a favorite picture book from your childhood, and what makes it so memorable?  Please share!

Book Recommendation: Bill Peet Books

Once a week I would like to highlight a book, series, or author that I think would be a great introduction to your child.  So, first up is a favorite of my children:  Bill Peet.  His first books were published in 1959 with over 30 added to his credit before his death in 2002.  With beautiful illustrations done by the author himself, the books are often told in rhyme that makes the words flow off the tongue naturally which makes for great read-alouds.  No matter if the books rhyme or not, his stories come alive in his illustrations with often very silly characters.  Some of my favorites include:

The Wingdingdilly:  A dog no longer wants to be a dog, thinking his owner would much rather he be a grand pet like the horse down the road.  When a witch casts a spell on the dog causing a rather unusual transformation, he realizes that maybe he was cut out to be a dog after all.  And seeing his master search for him convinces him that he made a terrible mistake.  Alas, a visit from the witch makes all right again.

Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure:  A bald lion goes into depression at his misfortune, but his friends come to his rescue.  Collecting crocodile tears for a special cure, his friends watch and wait and wait for a miracle hair growth.  After awakening from a deep sleep they soon discover that their cure has in fact worked…and worked…and worked!  The poor lion needs a special visit from Barber Baboon to tame his wild mane.

The Caboose Who Got Loose:   Katy Caboose doesn’t like being a caboose.  She is set free and goes on a journey only to discover that life could be much worse.  All ends well when an accident works to her advantage and she discovers a new life with unusual friends.

Bill Peet’s books will entertain parents and children alike.  Even my older son will listen when his brother gets a story.  The books are long but can be read in 10-15 minutes.  Due to the rhythm of most of the stories, they are best for read-alouds.