Monday, June 27, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

For Nonfiction Monday: "Awesome America" by Katy Steinmetz

            This new release from Time for Kids offers young readers in grades 3-6 a different way of approaching the familiar topic of American history.  The thematic organizational style and heavily illustrated interior provides an interesting perspective on the history, people, and culture - both past and present - of the United States. The expected topics: our government, founding fathers, 13 colonies, the fifty states, the presidents,  American landmarks, civil rights, and immigration are all here. In addition, there are chapters such as "America's Home-Grown Gifts to the World" which asks the question "What are America's greatest innovations?, highlights the origins of American music, and takes an up-close look at American inventions. Information is supplied in brief, engaging snippets designed to convey the essentials while tempting the reader to research topics in greater depth via the section entitled Explore Some More. Full color photographs, detailed illustrations, charts, graphs, and timelines quickly capture a reader's attention and keep pages turning.

          Awesome America would be an excellent resource for exploring a wide range of topics and will spark ideas for reports and essays. Well worth adding to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Random Noodling.

My selection is "Animal Poems" by Valerie Worth with pictures by Steve Jenkins.  

This collection of twenty-three poems about a variety of animals was published following Worth's death in 1994 and is a fitting tribute to her remarkable talent for using ordinary words to create an extraordinary experience.  Worth's perceptive free verse observations invite her readers to see the familiar -- from snails to whales -- with new eyes.  At first glance, the book appears to target a young audience, and many of the poems suit a youthful demographic.  However, there are also works that require a more sophisticated vocabulary and world view that will appeal to teens and adults as well.

Each spread highlights an individual poem and features the inventive cut-paper artwork for which Steven Jenkins is famous.  Textured, multi-dimensional collages are a visual treat in harmony with Worth's word pictures.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writers Wednesday

If you read or write historical fiction, you're in for a treat. Author Antonio Elmaleh shares a bit of his experience in creating his carefully researched  and well crafted post-Civil War  novel, THE ONES THEY LEFT BEHIND.

Native New Yorker, Elmaleh, who began his career in film, started researching and writing his novel in 1999 and saw his work published in 2014.

The Ones They Left Behind is inspired by the true story of  Gilbert Bates, a civil war veteran who carried the American Flag  from Vicksburg to Washington D.C. in 1868 as a symbol of unity. The novel is told through the eyes of the fictional veteran Harriman Hickenlooper, and addresses not just the experience of a single man, but shines a light on the wounds of the past that continue to resonate into the present and the ongoing need for healing.   

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing?
I enjoyed rewriting more than writing. I am very observant. I listen well.
How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice-versa?
It teaches me patience and hones my ear for the way people talk, act and feel. My love of history informs me as a writer of historical fiction.
What do you do when you're not writing?
Read, stay connected to family and friends, travel.

Briefly, what is your book about?
It's about a man learning to forgive himself and others, and find a reason to live and love after suffering excruciating loss.
What led you to write the book?
Seeing that a great divide rends our country from wounds of the Civil War to this day and wanting to tell a story of hope and reconciliation that is as pertinent today as it was 160 years ago.

What would you like readers to take from it?
To believe that one man can make a difference and to remember that our truest selves will always love and care for one another.
What are your current and future projects?
I am writing another book and continue to finance start-up sustainable energy and sustainable living companies.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
I write every first draft longhand on yellow legal pads. I write 2-4 hours a day, but no particular time of day. I read about my subject and travel to where the story takes place. I rewrite intensively and edit myself mercilessly. I go for three words instead of six.
What challenges did you face researching material and balancing fact with fiction?
Answer: First, there were no live people to interview, so finding the voices of characters came from within me. Second, I focused my research so I stayed on point and did not stray into tangential or superfluous material. Third, knowing when to move from fact into finding the spirit and implication of those facts on my characters.
What books and authors have influenced your writing and how?
Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules of Writing" (hint: it's about ten pages long) and Steven King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" stand at the top of the list.
Writers of influence: Ernest Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Steven King, Stephen Ambrose, Alan Furst, Joseph Conrad
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it it?
No, there are just some times when I don't write, but I am always researching through reading and travel, which is part of writing.
Talk about revising and /or suggestions for upcoming writers.
Rewriting is like film editing, the realized finished work is in that process, so learn to trust it and beware of quick fixes and magic bullets. Learn to give space on the page. Like in music, often silence and pauses are more dramatic and powerful than loud noise. Big hint: Learn to trust your reader's own imagination. Giving them less provokes them to fill in details, which deepens their identification with the characters and their journeys.
What's one additional piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers?
Be gentle on yourself when you work. You are building an entire world for someone else, do it with patience and care, but no judgment. The inner critic loves to hamper and second-guess what you've done, but that critic isn't doing the work, it's just being supercritical. Consider each day's work one step and don't lose sight of the fact that writing, like life, is a process of single steps.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book?
I'm grateful to have the chance to connect with you and hope you enjoy my book, which is inspired by a true story.

Read my blog at

Monday, June 13, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

For Nonfiction Monday: "Ocean Animals" by Laaren Brown and Animal Planet


Here's another in the fabulous Animal Bites series from Animal Planet. This time young readers are treated to a look at ocean life from the creatures of the sky such as the albatross to animals from the ocean's deep sea vents like the exotic giant tube worm. There is the familiar bottlenose dolphin, great white shark, and humpback whale sharing pages with less familiar surgeon fish, green sea turtles, and  whale sharks.

Like the other books in the series, the animal sections are interspersed with thematic units with specific tabs such as Where They Live, How They Live, Vista (showing animals in their environment), Big Data (facts and figures), Animal Gallery (highlighting similarities and differences) and so on. Stunning action-filled photographs, informative notes, colorful maps and charts make for easy access to information and will delight both youngsters and adults as they explore the amazing diversity of sea life on our blue planet.

This book would be great paired with a visit to the aquarium or ocean. A must have for home, classroom or school library. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Beyond Literacy Link.

Summer is a time for travel and exploration so let me share with you "Come With Me: poems for a journey" written by Naomi Shihab Nye and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.


Nye invites readers to join her in a journey through worlds both concrete and fanciful in this collection of 16 free-verse poems. Each turn of the page produces a new opportunity to be surprised, soothed, startled or delighted. The Observer offers the quiet contemplation to be found in the simple study of an inching caterpillar, a drifting cloud, or the glint of sunlight on a blue glass. In contrast, Where Are We Going is an energetic exploration of glittering cityscapes filled with the hustle of crowds.


Yaccarino's bright collage illustrations are a rich addition that produce their own sense of wonder and imagination while capturing the flavor of the text.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Welcome! You're in for a treat if you enjoy middle grade fiction, are a fan of humor, or just love an entertaining story. Today's featured author is David Zeltser, author of LUG Dawn of the Ice Age and its sequel Lug Blast from the North

Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for LUG?
When my daughter was born, I started to think about her future and the world she would inherit. I was also inspired to write something that would make my entire family laugh.

Why did you choose prehistoric times to set your story?
When I began to write about how cavemen might react to major climate change in their world, it put a smile on my face. I felt that the irony of the situation would not be lost on readers, and they would enjoy it. Children are drawn to that era, and by placing the story in prehistoric times, I had the freedom to explore important topics in an entertaining manner.

There is a lot of humor in this book. Where does that come from?
Funny books have always been my favorites. Before I wrote LUG, I wrote comic plays, screenplays, and humor pieces. Coming from humble beginnings, humor has been a constant in my own life. Kids, and their parents, can learn how to handle tough situations through humor. And LUG does exactly that.

The book also touches upon some modern day issues such as bullying and climate change. What key message(s) do you expect kids will take away from your book?
Lug is a small kid in a clan dominated by bullies. Rather than fighting them physically, his journey is to find a way to stand up for what he believes in and thus become a leader in his own right. While there is action in the book around a ferocious pride of saber-toothed tigers, I tried to avoid the typical macho approach when it came to the main conflict. Despite what kids see in movies, the important conflicts they’ll face won’t be resolved by physical violence. The powers that be in this story are defeated through all kinds of other interesting means. I wanted kids who don’t think of themselves as leaders to see what is possible when you really care about something important. It isn’t easy, but by believing in yourself and sticking to your beliefs, the rewards are great.

Who are your favorite characters in LUG?
The two main characters—Lug and Echo. If you think growing up was tough, you should try it as a short artistic boy in the Stone Age. Lug is surrounded by uber-macho cavemen who think the coming Ice Age is “just a little weather.”

Echo is a girl from the rival Boar Riders clan. She is also an animal-lover and the world’s first vegetarian. Both she and Lug have faced tough issues in their young lives, and I’ve tried to capture their determination, as individuals and as a team.

Can you give us an idea of what happens in the next book?
The sequel is called Lug: Blast from the North. All I can say is that there’s a hilarious new character called Blast, and something big, surprising and mysterious coming from the north. The book will be out in Fall 2016.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

For other Nonfiction Monday posts click HERE

For Nonfiction Monday: "Baseball Then to WOW!" by Mark Bechtel.


Did you know that there was a time when batters could request the height at which they wanted a pitch to be thrown? Or that pitchers had the option of throwing overhand or underhand?

Bechtel's new title from Sports Illustrated Kids offers an entertaining and educational exploration of baseball's evolution from the early 1800s to present day. Four well-defined chapters keep the material organized. Colorful illustrations, timelines, and action photographs provide eye-catching compliments to the text and make this 80 page book a treasure of information.

The Basics -  Traces the rules, teams, uniforms, gloves, catcher's masks, and stadiums from 1845 to 2014 thought cleverly illustrated timelines and photographs.

The Players -  counts down the decades with statistic-rich notes on names familiar to fans from Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Miguel Cabrera.  Hitters, basemen, outfielders, pitchers, and catchers are highlighted along with players such as Billy Hamilton (famous for stealing bases), pioneers in the game like Jackie Robinson and familiar characters from Dizzy Dean to Mike Scioscia.

Playball - takes readers though managers, pitching staff, strategies, umpires, and leagues.

Fan-tastic - explores the relationship between baseball and fans with topics such as baseball cards, amateur play from stickball on city streets to the Little League World Series, game day promotions, and of course...ball park foods.

Fingerless gloves, catchers working without face masks, and livestock giveaways at games are just a few of the surprises you'll discover in this comprehensive look at America's pastime.            

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer