Monday, May 22, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

What is the fascination with sharks?

Curious readers will find plenty of answers in Animal Planet’s chapter book SHARKS! which takes a look at sharks, from the petite 8-inch Dwarf Lanternshark to the enormous 45-foot Whale Shark.

The author, Lori Stein, dives into the subject beginning with a look at shared shark characteristics and basic differences. Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: senses, feeding habits, hunting strategies, and social interactions as well as in-depth looks at Great Whites and Hammerheads, discussions of shark bites, and the importance of sharks to the ocean ecosystem.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from the study of cancer in Dogfish sharks, to the ongoing tracking of a Great White Shark named Mary Lee. Double-page FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the cave off the coast of Mexico where sharks can sleep, the epic 12,400-mile migration of a Great White Shark named Nicole, and the spectacular breaching of sharks as they hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun resource for home or school.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Picture Book Friday

I’m The Happiest by Anna Shuttlewood takes a gentle look at a group of animal friends who find themselves at odds when they begin competing with each other.

There’s no denying the obvious when Giraffe claims to be the tallest, but it doesn’t stop Hedgehog, Pig, Frog, Sheep, Leopard, and a host of others from experiencing a twinge of jealousy. Only Raccoon is happy for Giraffe. 

Soon each one is laying claim to a favorite quality: spikiest, prettiest, greenest, curliest, spottiest, and so on. But Raccoon continues to celebrate the unique qualities of his friends with the happiest of all dances and before long all his friends are setting their competition aside and joining in the celebration.

The bright watercolor illustrations are playful, never crowding the child-friendly text.

An entertaining story to read aloud.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

The Age of Dinosaurs lasted about 186 million years. Those millions of years produced creatures whose names: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus are familiar to book and movie audiences.

Animal Planet’s new chapter book, DINOSAURS! opens with an overview that introduces some of the more familiar names, explains the basics of fossilization, details how dinosaur are placed in orders and groups, and describes the characteristics that dinosaurs share.

Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: the bi-pedal theropods, T-Rex, dinosaur parents, feathered dinosaurs, the gigantic sauropods, anatomy, and carnivores vs. herbivores.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from growth rates in dinosaur hatchlings, to the Pinocchio Rex named for its long nose. FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the discovery of the most complete T-Rex skeleton, Sue -- the remarkable mummification of dinosaur skin brought to light by a 16-year-old amateur paleontologist – as well as discussions of dinosaur eggs, and the ways in which Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus utilized their armored tails in battle. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun and informative resource for young dinosaur fans.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Hattie Peck: The Journey Home by Emma Levey is a lovely story of diversity and the true meaning of family.

Hattie Peck returns in this follow-up book as she faces that parental moment of saying good-bye to the hatchlings that she saved and raised.  Unable to have eggs of her own, she collected the abandoned eggs of birds, reptiles, even a platypus. Raising her extraordinary blended family proves to be a mix of fun and chaos, but Hattie meets each challenge with wisdom and humor.

But at last the moment comes when her brood must leave home and make their way in the world. True to form, Hattie Peck shepherds her flock through stormy seas, up mountains, down underground, and through wind, rain and snow until each hatchling is settled into a new life. In a melancholy moment, she finds herself now with an empty nest, but life has  a splendid new surprise waiting just for her!

The lively text and bold colors make this a fun read-aloud. The subtle message never intrudes on the story’s exuberance. Simple language will make this a favorite with new readers. The imaginative and often large-scale illustrations contain just the right amount of detail to encourage new discoveries with closer examination.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Picture Book Friday

If you are a fan of ABC books or looking for a gift for that special little someone, this gem celebrating sustainable farming is a must have!

A Farmer’s Alphabet,” written by Charles Long with illustrations by Christina Allen, is an exceptionally fine example of all that is best in an alphabet book. The rhyming text is clever, imaginative, and introduces young readers to new vocabulary that is defined or explained in an author’s note at the end of the book. Each letter is paired with animals, plants, or other nature-inspired terms.

One of my favorite passages is:
M is for mushrooms, for moon, and for mice.
N is for nettles and nests in the night.
O is for owls, for onions, and oats.
P is for pumpkins, potatoes, and poults.

The glorious watercolor illustrations are inspired by Christina Allen’s farm in southern Maryland. The realistic artwork is beautifully detailed and many of the pages would be equally at home in frames.

Lovely from beginning to end.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Salamander Dance by David FitzSimmons is a feast for the eyes and a delightful read that introduces young readers to the exotic woodland world of the spotted salamander.

The story traces the life cycle of these shy amphibians as they find their way to cool vernal pools in the spring where their dance takes place in the dark of the night. A few days later, the females lay eggs then return to their forest homes. Baby salamanders, known as larvae, emerge a month later and live their underwater life sustained by plankton and insects. As summer warms and dries the pools, the salamander’s metamorphosis causes them to grow legs, and their gills disappear as their lungs develop. Soon the young salamanders make their way into the forest and seek refuge where they will hibernate throughout the winter.

 Lyrical descriptions, “Through slippery leaves, down muddy slopes, salamanders slide silently into the rising waters of their vernal pools,” are paired with richly colored illustrations of varying perspectives. The detailed pictures yield new information with each examination – an invitation to delve deeper.  

The final pages include a discussion that explains what vernal pools are and how they are created. Additional information on the natural history, migration, dancing, life-cycle, and diet of the salamander is provided along with a Glossary.

A perfect choice for nature lovers.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Charming in every way, Wonderful You: An Adoption Story captures both the birth mother's search for the "perfect family" and the anticipation and joy of the adoptive parents when their hopes for a child are fulfilled.

The poetic voice is never forced nor does it stray from the heart of this thoughtfully imagined story.  The verse carries the reader through the birth mother's determination to give her child a loving family, celebrates that special moment when a couple becomes parents, and imagines their future as a family with all those "firsts" -- crawling, walking, birthdays, school, snowmen, before ending with a special promise to their "Wonderful You."

Inspired by author Lauren McLaughlin's experience as an adoptive mother, the story is filled with honest warmth and subtle insight. An ideal gift.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poetry Friday

I’m delighted to share Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson by Susan Snively, PhD.

Snively, who regularly leads discussions at the Emily Dickinson Museum,has collected 35 of Dickinson’s loveliest poems to introduce the poet’s artful work to a new generation of upper grade readers. The verses are organized by season and point up Dickinson’s interest in nature. Many of her works are inspired by the large garden where she preferred to spend time caring for the plants and observing the creatures who made a home there. Subjects range from butterfly and bee to death and eternity in this sweeping tribute to her remarkable talent.

The text is enriched by brief definitions that are strategically tucked beside or below the illustrations. A section titled, “What Emily Was Thinking,” provides a discussion of the works. A brief biography introduces the poet and creates a frame for her work.

The lovely pen and watercolor illustrations capture the varied subjects, reflect the shifting tones that range from playful to thoughtful, and provide hints to some of the subtler meanings embodied in Dickinson’s choice of words. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Writers Wednesday

When Mountain Lions AreNeighbors by Beth Pratt Bergstrom, California Director for The National Wildlife Federation, is a thoughtful and well-written collection of stories that highlight the challenges and opportunities that are inherent when people and wildlife coexist. 

The book focuses on the ways in which individuals – from biologists and other natural scientists to homeowners and freeway commuters – are finding ways to support and even encourage California’s amazing biodiversity. A pair of deer venturing across the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing presence of P22, Griffith Park’s resident cougar, a peregrine falcon in San Jose City, and harbor porpoises returning to San Francisco Bay are only a few of the remarkable stories.

Bergstrom covers a lot of territory as she recounts the work undertaken to study and conserve a wide variety of creatures across California’s geographically diverse landscape. Each of the five photo-illustrated chapters open with a specific case and its significance in the overall conservation picture then enlarges on the theme to include associated topics before closing with a look at other related animals and situations in a series of one-page essays at the end of each chapter.

The writing is compelling and varied in its approach to the subjects. Chapter Three, Keeping Bears Wild: How Staff and Visitors in Yosemite National Park Help Wildlife, opens with forty-eight hours in the life of Yosemite black bear, based on the recorded travels of one of the bears tracked for research in 2014. This approach provides readers with an in-depth look at motivations, behaviors, and the impact of human habitation on the natural activity of this wild inhabitant of Yosemite. Additional discussions focus on Yosemite’s environment, the work of staff to intervene and develop humane strategies to reduce human/bear interactions that led to property damage and bear deaths. The chapter concludes with a look at the bighorn sheep, the fisher, the pika, Great Gray Owls, and the Yosemite Toad among other subjects.

The final chapter, Good Neighbors: What Californians Are Doing For Wildlife In Their Own Backyards details the ways in which communities, schools, organizations, and individuals are finding ways to support local wildlife.

The tone of the book is honest, realistic, and cautiously hopeful. The current challenges facing out natural environments are daunting, but this book is a reminder that successes are possible. Whether you’re a dedicated conservationist or simply someone who values the opportunity to enjoy a walk in nature, you’ll find inspiration and a new appreciation of the wild world just outside your door.

I enthusiastically recommend When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Kingly College Knight Classes and the Dainty Damsel University of Distress: A Royal Mess by Jessica Parsons endeavors to turn the fairy tale world upside down in this tongue-in-cheek rhyming story. Dainty princesses and brave knights may make for an entertaining story, but they aren’t much use in real world situations – a fact all to evident when the Queen endeavors to turn all her subjects into paragons of fictional virtue and creates havoc instead. 

All too soon, the populace is in revolt and the queen soon discovers there’s more to personal success then rescuing fainting damsels in distress. Her princely sons won’t fight dragons and the ladies abhor glass slippers. But all comes right in the end when her majesty institutes a new policy the insures everyone can pursue their own dreams of success without bending to stereotypical roles. 

It's an entertaining story with a valuable subtext. The lengthy title gives a hint that the story is a bit longer than it needed to be. Never-the-less, youngsters who enjoy princely fairy tales will find fun in the pages which are designed to be colored by the reader.

The book identifies its audience as ages 6-12, but younger readers may require some assistance with the vocabulary and syntax. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons shines a spotlight on twenty-one unique creatures from the animal kingdom: fish, insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Many of the names will be familiar goldfish, bullfrog, blue jay, opossum, and monarch, but there’s a twist in the up-close and personal portraits and first-person narratives. 

Monarch means butterfly to most people, but here the monarch is actually the beautifully striped yellow and black caterpillar. Details about the life of the Spotted Salamander are shared in a short pair of verses. The Eastern Box Turtle treats readers to the secret of its long life.

Crisp, colorful photographs provide stunning close-ups of the cotton-candy pink Bush Katydid, a perfectly coiled fox snake, a bright-eyed Eastern Screech Owl, and the green brilliance of a Gray Treefrog among the many spectacular images.

Thumbnail portraits are paired with additional animal details in a section titled Natural History. A double-page spread featuring life-size silhouettes challenges readers to make identifications and a Glossary provides definitions of important terms.

A wonderful addition to home or school library!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, ForensicsExperts, Police Chiefs, and More by Cheryl Mullenbach chronicles remarkable lives and contributions of women in law enforcement from Sadie Likens, Denver’s first Jail Matron in the late 1800s, to Cristina Pinto, a modern day Forensic Specialist, in this well-written and carefully researched collection of biographies. 

There’s an impressive number of “firsts” – Isabella Goodwin: first female Undercover Detective, Grace Wilson: Chicago’s first African American Policewoman, Eva Blackman: first woman to become a Police Commissioner, and Penny Harrington: Portland’s first female Police Detective and first female Police Chief as the author traces the history of women in law enforcement. The accounts point out both the ridicule and discrimination women faced and the determination and successes they achieved, often under the most difficult of circumstances.

Comprehensive interviews provide readers with thoughtful accounts of the professional and personal challenges inherent in their various fields such as FBI special agent, Forensic Artist, and Forensic Specialist and the individual stories behind their success.  Julia Grimes account of her life as an Alaska State Trooper Pilot begins on a whim by Julia’s father when he agrees to let her take an introductory ride in a Cessna because he’s sure she’ll become airsick and give up her interest in flying. But the 14-year-old discovers a passion that leads her to a career that includes aerial surveillance, working with a K-9 drug dog, and undercover work.

The stories are both educational and entertaining, rich with anecdotes that run the gamut from horrendous to humorous. The content, which provides an historical perspective on topics ranging from prostitution to police brutality as well as discussions of modern-day drugs, and violent crime, is handled with honesty and sensitivity. Never-the-less, parents of younger teens might be advised to peruse the book and be prepared to discuss the contents.

The book contains side bars to direct the reader’s attention to related topics. Black and white photographs, a list of resources for learning more about career opportunities in law enforcement, source notes, and a bibliography complete the book.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Curious Critters: Marine by David Fitzsimmons highlights twenty unique marine creatures ranging from the Roseate Spoonbill, Tufted Puffin, Double-crested Cormorant, and the Loggerhead Turtle to a fascinating collection of fish, crabs, crustaceans, and other denizens of our oceans.

The carefully researched and informative text alternates voices between first-person narratives and well-crafted poems that focus on details of how and where these individual species live, eat, and grow.  Readers will find unusual facts about a variety of behaviors: the migration of Black Sea Bass, the search by a Hawaiian Reef Hermit Crab for a new home and the carnivorous garden grown within the body of the upside-down jellyfish.

Crisp, colorful photographs provide stunning close-ups of candy stripe shrimp, the one-in-two-million Blue American Lobster, the extraordinary Atlantic Horseshoe Crab whose relatives shared the planet with dinosaurs, and the Giant Pacific Octopus whose intelligence is proving to comparable to many vertebrates – to name only a few of the remarkable animals to be discovered.

Animal lovers of any age will find this book to be entertaining and educational at the same time. A recommended addition to school and home libraries.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Here's some fun: Baby Animals, a new book from Animal Planet by Dorothea DePrisco.

Young readers are treated to a fascinating assortment of creatures from Monarch butterflies to penguins to humpback whales. Follow the development of a Spotted Owlet from hatching to fledgling to adult. Discover how some animals are born ready to live on their own like Spotted Eagle Rays and Green Anacondas, while others remain dependent on their parents for weeks, months and even years. Bear cubs remain with their mom for three years, Orangutan mothers and babies may stay together for up to ten years.

With every turn of the page, readers will be treated to facts about a host of unique animals. Male African Bullfrogs guard their tadpoles. Baby Orcas are 8 1/2 feet long and weigh up to 350 lbs at birth.
Like the other books in the series, the animal sections are interspersed with thematic units with specific tabs: How They Grow, How they Live, Where They Live, Vista (showing animals in their environment), Big Data (facts and figures), Animal Gallery (highlighting similarities and differences) and living/working (ways people interact with animals and habitats). 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 life around the globe.
A must have for home, classroom, or school library. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Little Chick and the Secret of Sleep by Malachy Doyle takes young readers on an imaginative journey through a bedtime story as a wide-awake chick follows the moon’s silvery glow on a nighttime adventure. 

In her search for the secret of sleep, chick discovers three new friends who share her problem.  The story builds with each new friend as chick unravels their varied sleep problems and culminates with chick, monkey, dragon, and elephant finding the perfect night’s sleep snuggled together.
The quiet voice and gentle language create a soothing experience for youngsters. The charming colorful pictures fill the pages with simple, but appealing imagery.  

MALACHY DOYLE is a prize-winning author of over 90 books for children of all ages. His stories have been translated into 23 different languages. He lives on a tiny island off the north-west coast of Ireland. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Animal Planet offers up new fun in Animals on the Move by Dorothea DePrisco.

In this fabulous new title from the Animal Bites series, young readers are treated to a look at the many forms of locomotion found in the animal world: in the air, on the ground, underground, and in the water. The familiar and fast Cheetah (clocked at 70 miles per hour), a delicate dragonfly’s 11,000 mile migration, the nimble antics of Adele penguins, ballooning spiders, and the aerial acrobatics of the Peregrine Falcon are just a few of the spectacular subjects on display in this entertaining and informative collection.
Like the other books in the series, the animal sections are interspersed with thematic units with specific tabs: How They Move, Why they Move, Where They Live, Vista (showing animals in their environment), Big Data (facts and figures), Animal Gallery (highlighting similarities and differences) and working (ways people interact with animals and habitats). 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 life around the globe.

A must have for home, classroom, or school library. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writers Wednesday

The SHORT-SIGHTED GIRAFFE by A. H. Benjamin is a charming tale about Giraffe, who can’t see well, but is determined to deny her need for glasses.

The challenge for Giraffe is avoiding injury as she staggers and stumbles her way through her day. A knock on the head from a branch inspires her to wear a helmet, but doesn’t prevent her from colliding with a rhinoceros.  A stubbed toe requires boots, and a painful brush with a thorn bush results in her strapping on a pillow. One thing leads to another until Giraffe finishes her day adorned in a life preserver, bell, and finally she takes to carting around a ladder for those inevitable tumbles in holes. 

No matter how silly she thought glasses would make her look, her friends know this is decidedly worse so they take matters into their own hands, create a pair of glasses, and slip them on her while she sleeps.

When Giraffe finally gets a good look at her ridiculous appearance she gives up the miscellaneous wardrobe and discovers the glasses make her look rather smart!

The story is delightfully entertaining in its exaggerated, but funny disasters. Colorful, oversize illustrations highlight the action for young readers. The subtle message about being yourself is left quietly in the background rather than being paraded through the text which allows the story to shine.

A single page at the end titled: Next Steps offers discussion and activity ideas.

A. H. Benjamin is well-known for his children's books and he has 35 titles published through multiple presses. His books are sold worldwide and have been translated in 25 languages.
Some of his work has found its way into radio, television and theater.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson with photographs by Tom Uhlman explores three of America’s National Parks: Yellowstone, Saguaro, and Great Smokey Mountains. 

Our national parks are places of relaxation, adventure, and enjoyment for citizens. They are also living laboratories in which scientists can study the natural world from the geysers of Yellowstone to the fireflies of the Great Smokey Mountains.

Each of the three sections of the book focuses on a particular locality and opens with a fact sheet that provides basic information about the park’s history and environments before joining scientists as they delve into some of the most notable features and creatures.

Readers receive an in depth look at how rangers, geologists, biologists, herpetologists, and entomologists - alongside citizen scientists and volunteer researchers survey, study, and work to preserve the wonders that attract thousands of visitors each year.

Meticulously researched, carefully organized, and smartly written, this Scientists in the Field entry offers detailed looks at the experience of a diverse group of men and women as they pursue their scientific endeavors.

Stunning color photography ranges from dynamic panoramas to exquisite close-ups. Maps, charts, graphs and drawings augment the text. 

Future scientists in grades 4-8 will find a wealth of experience and encouragement here. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

FIZZING PHYSICS by Steve Parker provides aspiring young scientists with an opportunity to explore machines, light, sound, electricity, and magnets in a fun and easily accessible format. 

Each section includes hands-on activities to demonstrate basic concepts through the use of everyday materials. The five main subjects are broken down into subtopics as in the case of Machines: simple machines, wheels, friction and so on. 

A colorful mix of carton style illustrations and photographs create eye-catching visuals.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Presidents of the United States, a new release from Time For Kids, offers a one or two page spread on each president complete with a sidebar that provides an illustration and essential facts.  A timeline along the bottom of the pages highlights important events during each president’s time in office. 

In addition the book opens with background information about the nature of the presidency, a helpful overview of the three branches of government and insight into the concept of a multiple political party system.  Following the newly elected 45th president, there are discussions of the basic steps in organizing a campaign, highlights from the 2016 election,  an inside look at the White House, and a brief discussion of several of the familiar First Ladies. 

The compact eighty-page volume captures American political life in a nutshell and gives young readers a basic overview of our leaders past and present and the government in which they operate.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Ryann Ford’s photographic treasure, The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside  is a visually stunning celebration of America’s early love affair with touring on the open road. Memories abound in this one-of-a-kind collection.  The book was inspired by a road trip Ford took from California to Texas where she discovered the unique, sometimes quirky, and occasionally exotic rest stops that were so much a part of the historic roadside landscape. With her curiosity aroused, she researched the subject and discovered that these iconic bits of Americana were rapidly disappearing.

The Last Stop is the culmination of several years spent locating and photographing these monuments to a bygone era. The pictures are starkly beautiful with the architecture set against desolate landscapes. One of the most striking features is the absence of cars and people at sites that were once a center of road-weary travelers and dusty vehicles. Each image engages the eyes, the mind, and the imagination and though there is reluctance to leave the scene, the reader is compelled to turn the page and discover what next awaits. The text that accompanies each photograph is merely a thumbnail map paired with the name of the location, highway, and latitude and longitude lest it distract from the strong reality of each photograph.

A forward by Joe Ely titled Lord of the Highway sets a thoughtful tone for the book. A Brief History of Rest Stops by cultural historian Joanna M. Dowling, a leading authority on the subject, provides context for the photographs that follow. However, it is Ford’s extraordinary gift for capturing the lonely beauty of her various subjects that is spellbinding.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Camilla de la Bedoyere opens her book EGG TO BEE by comparing and contrasting some of the physical traits different types of bees share and how they differ.  A clearly labeled series of photographs follow the development of a bee through the stages of egg, larve, pupa, and adult.  Life in the hive is gives readers a deeper understanding of the complex social life of this amazing insect and provides a deeper glimpse into bee development.

Bedoyere also takes readers through the busy life of a bee and introduces readers to the important work of beekeepers.

True to the series concept, the text is readily accessible for children and accented with illustrations featuring crisp, up-close photographs, and clearly labeled diagrams. Notes for parents and teachers provide related activities for further exploration. A glossary and index complete the 24 page paperback book.

An excellent addition to home and school libraries.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Inman's debut sci-fi/fantasy novel AGELESS asks the question -- If you could live forever, would you? 

Alessandra Sartori wasn't given that choice as a child, but she is forced to live with the consequences. Inman follows her struggles across the decades from 1943 to 2025 as she endeavors to evade the sinister forces arrayed against her when her secret becomes known. Brisk pacing keeps the reader engaged. The author’s willingness to delve into the darker aspects of mortality creates an undercurrent of menace and the unexpected ending provides a chilling climax.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Lynn Sanders’ story, DANCING WITH TEX, is based on the special relationship between George Archibald and Tex, an endangered Whooping Crane.  Sanders traces Tex’s life from hatching through years of study at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin where she was cared for by George. His understanding of crane behavior inspired him to “dance” with Tex in imitation of crane bonding rituals and his success, paired with the skills of crane biologists, eventually led to Tex successfully producing an offspring. That chick went on to father many others and aided in protecting the Whooping Crane for future generations.

Woven through the story of Tex is a subtle reminder that everyone has the power to make a difference and create a world that is a better place simply by making the choice to help.
Clear, concise language, simple sentences, and vocabulary augmented with a helpful glossary for unfamiliar terms makes the story accessible for young readers. Colorful illustrations provide beautiful visuals to further highlight the important story points.

An Author’s note, Questions and Answers, and Discussion Guide provide additional support for readers.

Friday, January 13, 2017


Saturday, February 18th! Save the Date. This is a truly fun event for a very worthy cause. Tickets are now available. I'm looking forward to meeting readers and sharing thoughts. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Welcome to today's interview with Erica Abeel, author of the WILD GIRLS.

Abeel effortlessly transports readers from life with the beat poets of Paris in the 1950's to the New York scene of the 1960s as her three heroines break the bonds of convention, that said marriage and motherhood where a woman's proper choice, in pursuit of their artistic dreams. Buoyed by their friendship, they find strength in their shared struggle despite the cost they must pay for their determination. Gripping, witty, and funny. Readers will find themselves smiling and nodding in understanding with every page turn.

Erica Abeel IS a ‘Wild Girl’— she lived the life, these are her friends, and this is an insider’s peek into that world.” —Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians

Can you offer us a couple of insights into what makes a “Wild Girl” wild?

In the context of my novel, “wild girls” is a phrase used by the heroine Brett’s professor to express his fears for her and her two free spirited classmates.  The friends want to live as sexual beings in a culture that zaps women who express that aspect of themselves.  They’re putting themselves in harm’s way, the professor warns; “these young men don’t value what’s freely offered.”  He compares them to acrobats who leap through a ring of fire, expecting to be caught on the other end.  The question hangs – and repeats itself throughout the novel: who will catch these “wild girls” on the other end?

In the 50s you married the first person you slept with.  My “wild girls” scoff at that.   So what makes a “wild girl” wild in my novel is the pursuit of sexual adventures during a fiercely puritanical era -- a leap through the ring of fire – and the ambition to make a life in the arts at a time when marriage and family is the be-all and end-all for women.

How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa?
As John Irving said in “The World According to Garp,” when you’re in the midst of writing a novel, “Everything applies.”  While I was hammering out “Wild Girls,” I’d often  pick up the newspaper and spot some detail in a story that’s related to a character or theme in the novel.

No one is safe from us writers!  Everything is material, a writer once said – was it Nora Ephron?  We schlurp up character traits, mannerisms, smells, voice timbre, details of dress – the whole spectrum of the seen and unseen world -- and stick them in our novels. Writers are ghouls, Julia, the Boston blueblood of the trio of friends, says in the first section.  A dear departed friend of mine was inseparable from her ratty fur hat.  That hat now belongs to my character Julia in “Wild Girls.”

I also often discover events -- such as the recent show in Paris on the Beats and Allen Ginsberg -- that reference the novel’s world.   The other day I zoomed in on a theme common to both Sarah Jessica Parker’s new HBO show “Divorce” and “Wild Girls.”  Both feature heroines who set forth with grand artistic dreams, but then are sidetracked by financial realities (like a husband’s failing career) into more mundane pursuits.  It’s an old story, I know, but it’s all in the telling, right?

To the second part of your question I’d reply that as a writer, I often feel I’m more an observer than participant.  When I’m not writing – like now, when I’m getting the word out about “Wild Girls” – I feel guilty and a little unfocused.

The writer’s life can be hazardous.  People you know are sometimes convinced you’ve stuck them – or their story -- in your book, even when that’s not the case.  Characters are often composites of different folks, real or imagined.  So, a cautionary note: you have to be willing to offend people, even lose friends.  With any luck, the bad feelings will blow over.  

What do you do when you are not writing?
Writing is so demanding, it’s essential to kick back at the end of the work day.   So, I head out to the gym or take a great Pilates class.  Summers I play tennis and do long-distance swimming in the bays around East Hampton.  And there’s always, happily, a glass or two of Rose.  My very favorite non-writing activities involve hanging with my two young grandsons, who are endlessly amusing.  I’m in charge of the boys’ cultural activities.  I’ve been taking the older one to the theater since he was in diapers.  He’s already a writer.

What led you to write the book?  
Anger was a big motivating source -- anger at the damage  inflicted on young women by guys who are taught there are the nice girls you marry, and the others you “use” for sex.  Two of my heroines become severely damaged by sexual encounters that derail them for years.  In all kinds of ways the 50s was a punishing time for women.  But I also wanted to celebrate the daring and guts of kickass characters who refuse to be limited by the restrictions they’re born into.  “Wild Girls” showcases the resilience, wiliness, and life force of women.

What would you like readers to take from it? 
I hope they’ll identify with my characters’ ability to reinvent themselves and “follow their bliss,” in Joseph Campbell’s famous phrase.  Though these women battle the rigid rules of the 50s, I’m hoping readers will recognize their own struggles today – now that there are almost too many choices -- to forge a path of their own making.  And I’d like readers to laugh at the past absurdities that I mock (such as the self-disgust women were encouraged to feel about their own bodies). 

What are your current/future projects? 
I’m starting a new novel, a comic, satirical take on feminism in the early 70s, set among a group of writer/activists presided over by a Betty Friedan-like character.  I also continue to review films and interview directors.

Your biography mentions you love to write about warrior women who lived against the grain before the upheavals of the 60s. That’s a very specific topic. Why does it have such a strong appeal for you?
Partly the topic appeals to me for its dramatic value.  My characters fight for the right to live as they choose when everything around them offers only a single choice.  Built into my subject is conflict and drama.  The topic also allows me to foreground female feistiness and strength.  My characters experience the world as resistance, much as in 19th century novels, where a hero must make his way in a society primed to advance only the rich and well-born.  In “Wild Girls,” it’s heroines – not heroes – who make their way in a world mobilized to bind and limit them.

What challenges did you face in creating this manuscript?
Understanding, through many drafts, what to take out.  Initially, I had a 4th woman whose story I was keen on telling – and it may yet surface in a different book – but which diluted the dramatic force of my other 3 heroines’s narratives.  So the 4th character hit the cutting room floor.  After the initial draft, I constantly wrestled with the challenge of how to streamline a complex, multi-pronged story that spans decades so it wouldn’t become a baggy monster.

What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
I’ve always loved the 19th century French novelists, such as Stendhal and “The Red and the Black” and Balzac.  I like the paradigm of a young hero – in my case, a heroine – setting out to conquer the world – or “pursue happiness,” in Stendhals phrase.  “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh has long been an obsession; my 2008 novel “Conscience Point” riffs on its love triangle.  I admire sections of “Atonement” by Ian McEwan, and will read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Salter.

What are the most important elements that you want to bring to your writing?
I want to bring humor and wit to the story, so that even in grotesque or punishing situations the reader will laugh.  Or at least smile.  I also aspire to make the reader cry, which of course is hoping for a lot.  I try to fashion characters the reader can empathize with, even when they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

Talk about revising and/or suggestions about revising for upcoming writers. 
You have to learn to be your own editor.  If something you’ve written doesn’t grab you, it likely won’t grab the reader either.  Be prepared to chisel and cut – “kill your darlings” if necessary.  Keep focused on forward momentum, and if a scene doesn’t promote that, consider getting rid of it.

What's one additional piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers? 
Keep a question hanging fire throughout the novel that the reader wants answered or resolved and that will keep her reading.  Learn to become inured to rejection and naysayers – or use negative reactions to improve your work.  Never give up.

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book? 
I hope they’ll be inspired by it and have a good laugh over the funnier scenes.  And enjoy their time with my characters, who have been great company for me over five years.

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