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February 2018

The Literacy Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Kwame

AlexanDer

is the Next Read Across America Ambassador Hannah Alper

is Making a ‘Momentus’ Difference Author Visit:

Suzy Kline Vashti Harrison

Introduces Young Readers to Little Leaders in Black History

Eagle Scout Paul Ollarsaba

Gives Kids in Need the Gift of Reading

Sparking Imagination with

Stellar Science

Sarah Hill

Creates a Whimsical Woodland Series for Kids Q&A with

Deborah Diesen


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Honor Roll Gold Award Recipient, Mom’s Choice Awards. Named among the “great magazines for kids and teens” by School Library Journal. 2016 Irwin Award winner for “Best Publisher of a Literary Magazine” and “Best Editorial Director.”


February 2018

In this issue 04

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Kwame Alexander is the Next Read Across America Ambassador

Eagle Scout Paul Ollarsaba Gives Kids in Need the Gift of Reading

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Hannah Alper is Making a ‘Momentus’ Difference

Sparking Imagination with Stellar Science

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Author Visit: Suzy Kline

Sarah Hill Creates a Whimsical Woodland Series for Kids

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56

Vashti Harrison Introduces Young Readers to Little Leaders in Black History

Q&A with Deborah Diesen

38 How Does Your Garden Grow? 40 Winter Reading List

44 Kids Can Publish 46 Monsters at the Movies 48 Liv on Life

50 Book Reviews 58 Kids Corner

Tell us what you think of this issue! Email your comments to cristy@storymonsters.com. StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Feature Cover Story

Kwame

Alexander is the Next Read Across America Ambassador by Melissa Fales

Growing up, Kwame Alexander was surrounded by books. They filled his family’s house, dominated their conversations, and ruled career aspirations for his father, a publisher, and his mother, a writing teacher. “I couldn’t escape literature as a child,” Alexander says. “It was everywhere. Reading was like eating in our house. Books were like air.” Given that environment, it’s no surprise that this New York Times bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning poet and author has become a literacy advocate on a global level. His latest book, Solo, was co-written with his friend Mary Rand Hess.

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By the time Alexander reached middle school, he had largely lost interest in reading, but he doesn’t buy into the pervasive idea that boys of that age are naturally reluctant readers. “It’s more that they don’t want to read the books we think they should read,” he says. “Maybe we’ve got to let them decide. Maybe they need to discover books that will rip their hearts out and stomp on them. I remember reading a book about Muhammad Ali when I was 13 or 14 that I couldn’t put down. Those books existed then and they exist today. Those are the books I try to write now. I want to write books that are unputdownable.” Alexander hopes Solo will be that type of book. Hess started writing it over 10 years ago, but the story never really gelled. Set in L.A., it followed the son of 6

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a has-been rock star to Kenya where he discovered what really matters in life. Realizing that her story was in need of a rewrite, Hess invited Alexander to step in, suggesting they change Kenya to Ghana since Alexander had visited Ghana several times. “I immediately said yes,” says Alexander. “I’d wanted to write about Ghana since my first trip in 2012. I just could never figure out how.” With Alexander on board, Solo became a tribute to both the nation of Ghana and rock ‘n’ roll music, which at first glance might seem like disparate subjects. “The cool thing is they’re really not,” says Alexander. “There’s this direct line that we consciously tried to show between them. Rock ‘n’ roll music came from the blues. The blues came from songs that Africans sang.


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“I love making words dance on the page. Poetry allows me to capture heavy, emotional things that are happening with a lot of kids in a way they can quickly understand. I want to write the books that kids are not going to want to put down. I want to entertain them. I want to inspire them to go out and pick up another book. I’m trying to write books that are going to make books cool.” So the roots of rock ‘n’ roll are in African music and it’s been really cool to write about that energy and that connection.” Alexander first began visiting Ghana through an invitation of an American friend who was living there. “It was a really eye-opening experience,” he says. “The people live in severe poverty but they’re extremely happy and polite and hopeful. They inspired me to do something to match that hope. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I knew I could do something.” Alexander has visited twice a year since, delivering books and co-founding a literacy program there. “I’ve learned a lot about myself from those trips,” he says. “It’s truly been a life-changing experience.”

Another life-changing experience happened when Alexander’s middle-grade novel, The Crossover, earned the 2015 Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. “It was like I’d been a jet plane for the 23 years of my writing career and each year I’ve gotten a little faster, but I’ve still been grounded on the runway, just waiting to take off,” he says. “When the Medal happened, the plane took off. Overnight, I went 30,000 feet in the air.” Alexander appreciates the fact that these two momentous occasions, traveling to Ghana and winning the Newbery Medal, coincided. “All of these opportunities were coming at me, spectacular and wondrous,” he says. “Simultaneously, I’m in Ghana in a community with two wells. One is broken so kids have to walk three miles to get water, but they’re smiling and laughing the whole way. That really kept me grounded when I needed it the most.” Written as a novel in poem form, The Crossover is a unique book about basketball that grabs readers in a way other more traditional books haven’t. Alexander had written a number of poetry books before it, but none like it. He says he believes children have innate appreciation for poetry if they’re interested in the topic. “I think of poetry as the bridge that allows kids to develop an appreciation of language, the rhythm, the rhyme, and the word play,” he says. Poetry has since become Alexander’s default writing style. “My passion right now is poetry and it’s what I’m most comfortable with,” he says. “I love making words dance on the page. Poetry allows me to capture heavy, emotional things that are happening with a lot of kids in a way they can quickly understand. I want to write the books that kids are not going to want to put down. I want to entertain them. I want to inspire them to go out and pick up another book. I’m trying to write books that are going to make books cool.” Alexander says Solo builds on successful writing styles he experimented with in The Crossover. For example, he used italics to indicate dialog so as not to disrupt the rhythm of the poem. “I didn’t know if it would work in the context of the story, but it did,” he says. “By the time I wrote Solo, I was more comfortable with it. This is my thing now; this is how I do dialog now. In that aspect, The Crossover was a lot of let me try this out and see if it works. It’s allowed me to become more confident with each book.” StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Next up for Alexander is Rebound, due out in April, and a corresponding book tour. “When I finished writing The Crossover, I wasn’t finished with the characters,” he says. Neither were his readers, who have continually asked him about what happens next. “I heard that so much, it became a challenge to figure out what would happen next,” says Alexander. “It’s a prequel and it’s a sequel. Let’s call it a follow-up. It’s about the father from The Crossover, set in 1989 when he was 12 years old and spending the summer with his grandparents. It’s chock-full of basketball, Now and Later candy, and comic books. And a girl. There’s always a girl.” Plans for the second season of Alexander’s popular Facebook Watch literary talk show, Bookish, are in the works. “It’s been kind of like The Crossover in that I’m figuring it out as I go and I’m having a great time doing it,” he says. The show has recently reached 1 million views. “The whole idea behind Bookish was creating a show around books that wasn’t corny and boring, but something that kids will want to watch and parents will want to watch and hey, maybe even watch together,” says Alexander. Alexander’s inspiration harkens back to the literary foundation his parents laid for him. “I’d like to see young people immersed in and engaged with literature in the way my parents wanted me to be,” he says. “The

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tools I’m using are the same ones they used with me. My mother told really funny stories. On Bookish, I’m telling really funny stories. My mother read aloud to us. What am I doing on Bookish? I’m reading aloud. My mother took us to book signings to meet authors. What am I doing on Bookish? I’m introducing kids to authors. It’s the same focus and the same intent. The reason I’m ‘bookish’ now is that my parents molded me to the degree I could be molded. I’m trying to do that with children in this cool way.” Alexander has been selected as the National Education Association’s Read Across America Ambassador for 2018. He will be a featured author with NEA’s Read Across America and Reading is Fundamental’s celebration on March 2 in Washington, D.C. to kick off National Reading Month. “It’s an honor,” he says. “It’s another step along that path of trying to change the world, one word at a time, and to do it my way.” He says his inspiration for the job will be his parents, of course. “If there’s a way to create a bookish person, they did it,” he says. “Everything I’ve achieved is because of them. I want to scale that up and do it on a massive level. To create a lot of little Kwames—kids who love words—that’s my goal.” For more information about Kwame Alexander, visit kwamealexander.com.


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Feature Story

Hannah Alper is Making a ‘Momentus’ Difference by Melissa Fales

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Hannah Alper has already begun to make a difference in the world, and the 15-year-old is just getting started. Originally known for the environmentalist blog she created before she turned 10, Alper was recently the youngest person named to the esteemed Bloomberg’s Ones to Watch in 2018 List. She’s also a WE Movement ambassador and a newly published author. Her book, Momentus: Small Acts, Big Change, is a tangible demonstration of Alper’s passion to make this planet a better place. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to write a book to spread my message,” Alper says. “I want to amplify my voice any way I can.” Alper was speaking at an educator’s conference in Vancouver when she was approached by Steve Brown, the President and CEO of Nelson, Canada’s largest educational publisher. “He said he loved my message and what I had to say,” recalls Alper. “He said he wanted me to write a book.” Alper was thrilled. “Writing a book gives me a chance to share what I truly believe: that anyone can make a positive impact on the world, regardless of where you’re from, how much money you have, or how old you are,” she says. “The idea behind Momentus is that if many people are each doing small positive actions, it’s all going to add up to big positive changes. The impact of all those small actions will be momentous. All of us working together will be momentus.” Momentus includes 19 interviews Alper conducted with some of her biggest role models. “These are all people who have truly inspired me,” she says. “I hope that when people read their stories, they’ll be as inspired by them as I am.” The list includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. “She’s so admirable,” says Alper. “She knew that education is the key to getting far in life, so she spoke out when the Taliban tried to take it away from her. She got shot when she was just 15, but she got back up and now she’s one of the biggest education advocates in the world.” Alper also included Corinne Hindes, who co-founded Warm Winters when she was just 11 years old. “She came up with the idea of giving the cold-weather items from the lost-and-found at ski resorts to the homeless,” says Alper. “What’s even cooler is that she advocates for not just giving the homeless the clothes and toiletries they need, but having a conversation with them, and acknowledging their humanity.” 12

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Naturally, Momentus features the two brothers whom Alper calls her biggest role models of all: Craig and Marc Kielburger. Together, the Kielburgers founded the children’s charity and youth empowerment WE Movement. Alper has been a WE ambassador for several years. “I’m so honored to be able to call them not only my role models, but my mentors and my friends,” she says. Before she became an author, Alper was a blogger. Following in the footsteps of her father, Canadian music blogger Eric Alper, Hannah started the blog, “Call Me Hannah” when she was just 9 years old. “I didn’t know what I wanted it to be about,” she says. “My parents gave me some advice. They said not to write about Justin Bieber or myself. They told me to find something I was passionate about and to write about that.” After thoughtful consideration, Alper decided to write about her love of animals. As she grew, and learned


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“When I found out I made the list, it was very surreal. I think the best part about it is that it shows that adults are ready to listen to young people. I might be the one who’s on the list, but I feel like I’m representing all the other young people out there doing amazing things. There are a lot of young change-makers out there. We’re all ones to watch.” more about the world around her, the topics she expounded on expanded to include climate change, deforestation, poverty, mental health, education, and bullying. She earned a reputation for her staunch sense of responsibility that belied her youth. “The world needs us to make a difference,” Alper says. “We all make a difference, either positive or negative. I believe that it’s our duty as citizens to make the world a better place today for tomorrow.” Alper says her life changed for the better when she learned about the WE organization, with its tagline, “WE makes doing good doable.” “I didn’t know there were so many other young people trying to make a difference in the world,” she says. “No one in my school was doing what I was doing, but with WE, I found a whole community of like-minded people. I loved the idea of being a part of an organization filled with young people who were as passionate about changing the world as I was.”

It was Canadian YouTube personality Lilly Singh, also a WE ambassador, who nominated Alper for the Bloomberg’s Ones to Watch list. “When I found out I made the list, it was very surreal,” says Alper. “I think the best part about it is that it shows that adults are ready to listen to young people. I might be the one who’s on the list, but I feel like I’m representing all the other young people out there doing amazing things. There are a lot of young change-makers out there. We’re all ones to watch.” For more information about Hannah Alper, visit callmehannah.ca or find her on Instagram and Twitter @thathannahalper.

Alper started doing fundraising campaigns for WE at her school, then began attending and speaking at various WE Day events across North America. “My generation is changing the world,” she says. “I’m hoping I can inspire more change-makers.” She’s also traveled to Africa with an arm of the WE organization called ME to WE. “My favorite place I’ve gone with WE to ME has to be Kenya,” says Alper. “It keeps you even more motivated when you get to see places like that first-hand. It really shows you how much you take for granted. I used to have to wake up at 7:30 a.m. to go to school and I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Then you learn about kids in Kenya who don’t have the opportunity to go to school, and who would gladly get up earlier than that to have the chance to get an education.” StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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LETTERS lost then found Award-Winning Author Amy L. Johnson shares conversations between two brothers from 1942-1945 shining a unique spotlight on the Great War. “I see quite a lot of these collections – but this one stands out.” Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation

CAN HE HELP THEM CHANGE THEIR FUTURE WHEN IT’S ALREADY PAST? A V A I L A B L E M A Y 8 , 2 018 W H E R E V E R B O O K S A R E S O L D

letterslostthenfound.com Also available on Amazon.com

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Author Visit:

Suzy Kline by Melissa Fales photo courtesy Jennifer Doyle, Upton Daily


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The classroom experience Suzy Kline gleaned and the interactions she observed during her 27-year career as a teacher explain the verisimilitude of her children’s books, including the 36 books in her Horrible Harry series, which follow the adventures of an engaging crew of elementary school students. Kline’s latest, Horrible Harry and the Field Day Revenge, is the most recent example of her ability to write stories young readers relate to and identify with. “I think when kids read my stories, they see themselves,” Kline says. “When they’re in class, they’re not thinking, ‘Gee, what a great lesson the teacher is giving today.’ They’re thinking, ‘I was supposed to be the line leader today but Billy says it’s his turn.’ These things don’t seem like a big deal to adults, but they’re a big deal to kids. Those are things I’ve written about.” Writing Horrible Harry and the Field Day Revenge reminded Kline how much her students looked forward to the annual event. “Field Day was always a highlight of the school year for the kids,” she says. “I remember how excited they’d get. They’d be outside all day, playing different games with their friends.” In the book, a mystery prize is up for grabs and the competition becomes fierce. When Harry develops a tickle in his throat and happens to cough just as Mary takes her shot at throwing a disc, he’s accused of cheating. “It’s up to the reader to decide if Harry really is cheating or not,” says Kline. “It’s really a story about friendship.” Most of the characters Kline features in the Horrible Harry series are based on actual students, or a composite of students Kline had in her classroom over the years. “I had a ‘Mary’ in my class, and I loved her, but she would say things like, ‘We’re a minute late to line up for music,’ recalls Kline. “My class ran very smoothly that year, thanks to her.” “Song Lee” is based on a girl Kline had in class who was originally from Korea. “She was the kindest student I ever had,” Kline says. “If someone was crying, she’d be the first one over to comfort them. If someone forgot their lunch, she’d share hers.” And, of course, there was a “Harry.” “He was a boy who always pushed the envelope,” Kline says. “He loved science and he’d be late coming in from recess because he found a frog or some other little creature. He had a good heart and he never meant any harm, but with him in my class, I had to go to bed earlier every night that whole year.” 18

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Kline says she started writing children’s books because she always enjoyed reading stories aloud in the classroom, both as a teacher and as a student. “I wanted to add to those stories,” she says. According to Kline, one of her fondest memories of her own school years was when her teacher read My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett out loud to the class for 10 minutes each day after lunch recess. “I looked forward to that so much,” Kline says. “I can’t remember anything else she did, but the fact that she read to us like that was very special to me.” Kline’s first book, Shhhh! was published in 1984. She introduced the Herbie Jones series a year later and the first book in the Horrible Harry series, Horrible Harry in Room 2B, was released in 1988. At the time, Kline was still teaching. “I would write during the summers,” she says. Now retired from teaching, Kline can write during any season she likes. She still enjoys going to school, but now, she’s just visiting to read to children and tell them about her craft. “I don’t have to go to meetings or grade papers,” she says. “I get to enjoy just being with them.” During her school visits, Kline says she always tells the students that her pocket notebook is the most important thing she owns as a writer. “I’ve always kept a notebook in my pocket to write ideas down,” she says. “A few words are all you need.” As an example, Kline says she once wrote “hole in the ceiling” in her notebook after watching two girls


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“(Harry) was a boy who always pushed the envelope. He loved science and he’d be late coming in from recess because he found a frog or some other little creature. He had a good heart and he never meant any harm, but with him in my class, I had to go to bed earlier every night that whole year.” climbing ropes in gym class. “One of them came down and told me that while she was up there, she looked down and she could see the bald spot on her teacher’s head,” says Kline. “The other one told me that there was a hole in the ceiling. That got me thinking about Harry and how he would be at rope climbing because one thing Harry can’t do is heights. It would have to be something special to make him go all the way up to the top. And I came up with the idea of his archnemesis, Sidney, hiding something in a hole in the ceiling.” That was the inspiration behind Horrible Harry on the Ropes. “These are the little seeds that get me going with writing,” says Kline. “My inspiration comes from simple things, taken from everyday life.” Kline’s idea for the Horrible Harry character and his stub people army sprung from something as basic as the end-of-the-year practice of students cleaning out

their desks. “This one kid must’ve had over 60 stub pencils in there,” Kline says. “He had his own pencil sharpener. He could have never sharpened them down so short with the classroom sharpener. He took the smallest one and said, ‘Here Mrs. Kline, you can have this.’ And it gave me the idea for a character that would do something with stub pencils.” Currently, Kline is writing the very last Horrible Harry book, Horrible Harry Says Goodbye, due to be released in the fall of 2018. “He’s been in second and third grade now for 30 years,” she says. “He’s never going to make it to fourth. It’s bittersweet, but I’m excited because I’ll be writing something new. I don’t know exactly what that will be yet, but I’m looking forward to it.” For more information about Suzy Kline, visit suzykline.com.

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Vashti

Harrison

Introduces Young Readers to Little Leaders in Black History by Melissa Fales

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Photos courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Featuring 40 inspiring and trailblazing women, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Of course, Vashti Harrison included iconic figures such as Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells in her new book, but she also chose to showcase some less familiar ones such as Mary Eliza Mahoney and Augusta Savage. “It was a challenge to pick only 40,” Harrison acknowledges. “I couldn’t leave out Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, but I also wanted to dive into history and learn

about incredible women I had never heard of before. I’m excited to have a diverse group. There are artists, a scientist, a doctor, a mathematician, and many more. I hope there’s something for everyone.” Harrison, who earned an MFA in Film and Video from California Institute of the Arts, is known for her documentaries and experimental films. “I felt like since I was paying a lot of money to be at CalArts, I needed to take every opportunity I could to get the most out of it,” she says, adding that she dabbled in music, theater, and art. “I was like a kid

in a candy store,” she says. “It was such an incredible environment filled with creativity.” While Harrison spent most of her time there working on her thesis film, she took a drawing class during her final semester. “I wanted to do something just for fun,” she says. “You know, blow off some steam.” Instead, the class reignited an interest in drawing she hadn’t felt in years. “I used to draw all the time but I stopped when I started doing films,” she says. Harrison started spending more and more of her free time drawing and realized that she wanted to incorporate illustration StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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“This project has sparked something inside me. I’m interested in learning more about creative women from all around the world. There are so many more fascinating stories to learn. I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover.” into her career somehow. After graduation, she began to take commission work illustrating other people’s books. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is the first book in which Harrison has done both the writing and illustrations. The idea took root last February during Black History Month when Harrison posted daily drawings of black women along with brief summaries of their historical achievements. She was surprised by how moving she found their individual stories. “I kept thinking of myself as a little girl and how I wish I’d known about these women,” she says. The more she thought about it, the more she could envision developing her idea into a book. “It seemed like the time was right,” she says. “I think people are hungry for this type of content. They’re ready to celebrate the stories of women and people of color.” Little Leaders is the finished product. “It was such a powerful and fun experience for me to have my hand in every part of the creative process,” Harrison says. “I couldn’t fit an entire life story in the 300-word, mini-biography, so I had to be able to tell some of the story through my art.” The illustrations within the finished product are true to Harrison’s 22

initial vision. “I wanted it to look like animation,” she says. “I was envisioning people being able to flip through history and when you flip the pages just right, the only thing changing is the clothes, the hair, and the background.” By keeping the figures so generic, Harrison encourages young girls to envision themselves in their shoes. “I want you, the reader, to see yourself in any one of them, and to feel their strength and possibility in you,” she writes in her introduction. The book introduces each Little Leader chronologically by her date of birth, beginning with Phillis Wheatley, who holds a unique distinction within the book. “All of the women were born and raised in America except for her,” says Harrison. “We’re not sure where or when she was born. She was taken from West Africa when she was 8 years old and brought to Boston. Her amazing story is that she was the first African American woman poet to be published.” The last woman Harrison features is Dominique Dawes, Olympic Gymnastics Champion, who was born in 1976. Readers are likely to have their favorite Little Leader and there’s one that particularly resonates with Harrison. “I love the story of Alma Woodsey Thomas,” says

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Harrison. “She was a painter but she taught elementary school nearly her whole life.” Thomas was the first student in the art department at Howard University and displayed a great deal of talent, but she enjoyed working with children so much that she was a teacher. “She taught at my junior high school, Shaw Junior High School, for 35 years,” says Harrison. “After she retired, she started painting and her style just exploded. When she was 80 years old, the Whitney Museum of American Art did an exhibit of her work, the first solo exhibition of an African American woman artist there ever. I love her story because it shows that success doesn’t have to look a certain way.” Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is the first in a series of three Little Leaders books and Harrison is already working on the next one. “This one will feature international women,” she says. “This project has sparked something inside me. I’m interested in learning more about creative women from all around the world. There are so many more fascinating stories to learn. I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover.” For more information about Vashti Harrison, visit vashtiharrison.com.


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Oprah Winfrey

Angela Davis

Mary Bowser

Alma Woodsey Thomas

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Paul Ollarsaba Gives Kids in Need the Gift of Reading by Melissa Fales

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Feature Story

For his Eagle Scout Service Project, Paul Ollarsaba III collected new and gently-used books for the Mesa, Arizona-based literacy initiative, Kids Need to Read. Ollarsaba’s original goal was to collect 500 books, but he far surpassed that number, ultimately amassing more than 1,000. “Most of the books were written for kids in kindergarten up to third grade,” says Ollarsaba. “As we were sorting through them, I noticed some Percy Jackson books which made me happy. Those were always my favorite.” Ollarsaba was attending a comics convention at the Phoenix Convention Stadium when he happened to notice a booth promoting Kids Need to Read. “It was the first time I had ever heard of them,” he says. He learned that it was a non-profit organization that puts donated books into the hands of disadvantaged children who might not otherwise have books to read at home. The organization’s mission touched Ollarsaba. “I’ve always believed that knowledge stems from reading at a young age,” he says. “Unfortunately, there are many, many kids who just don’t have that opportunity. When I saw Kids Need to Read and what they do to help kids get books, it reminded me that reading has always been a big hobby of mine. I’ve been an avid reader since I was 4 years old. I thought I could use my Eagle Project to give families who can’t afford books the joyous gift of knowledge.”

Ollarsaba first became involved with Scouting at 8 years old when he joined Cub Scouts. “I had heard that Scouting was a lot of fun and I knew it would teach me important life skills I would need when I got older,” he says. Eager to learn, Ollarsaba quickly began earning merit badges. The fact that he achieved the highest rank within Boy Scouts at age 13 demonstrates Ollarsaba’s ability to commit to a goal. “Most boys don’t become Eagle Scouts until they are 16 or 17,” he says. “One of the reasons that it happened so quickly for me was that my scoutmaster told me that when she looked at me, she saw a future Eagle Scout. That gave me the drive to make that happen.” Ollarsaba said he was determined to become an Eagle Scout at a young age because he knew that the older he got, the more complicated his life would get. “I knew I would be very busy in high school,” he says. “I wanted to get the Eagle Project completed before I got distracted by other things, which you often see happen with Boy Scouts.” For example, Ollarsaba has been bitten by the acting bug. “My school is heavily focused on the arts and I’m very interested in becoming an actor,” he says. “I wouldn’t say acting is a hobby of mine. It’s really

Ollarsaba put the call out broadly for donations of children’s books. “I distributed a bunch of fliers, I told the people at my church about it, and I used social media to ask for new or barely-used books,” he says. “I got a lot of response on Facebook. That’s where the majority of the donations I received came from.” He even cleared out his own bookshelves and contributed a few of his own. Some of the donated books Ollarsaba received weren’t in good enough shape for him to give to Kids Need to Read, but he felt they weren’t ready to be thrown into the recycling bin just yet. Instead, he used them to create a free library on his family’s front yard in Tempe. “We used a chest and filled it with books for people to take as they please,” he says. “We ask that they bring it back when they’re done reading it. So far, everyone has.” Even after creating the free library, Ollarsaba still had a few books left over, so he donated them to a local woman’s shelter.

Paul numbering boxes at the Kids Need to Read facility in Mesa, AZ. StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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“I’ve always believed that knowledge stems from reading at a young age. Unfortunately, there are many, many kids who just don’t have that opportunity. When I saw Kids Need to Read and what they do to help kids get books, it reminded me that reading has always been a big hobby of mine. I’ve been an avid reader since I was 4 years old. I thought I could use my Eagle Project to give families who can’t afford books the joyous gift of knowledge.” Paul with his mom, Leah Troglia.

more of a passion.” His latest role is as the young Will Bloom in a production of Big Fish. He’s already eyeing the California Institute of the Arts as a potential college. Ollarsaba says the project took over a year to complete and involved a great deal of communication between him and the staff at Kids Need to Read. Some donors brought books directly to Ollarsaba’s house, but he and his family members also had to do a lot of scheduling and running around to pick up donated books. Ollarsaba says he owes much of the success of his project to the constant support of his mom, Leah Troglia. “She really pushed me to get this done when I needed a push and she was a huge help, especially when it came to the book collecting,” he says. Looking back on his Eagle Scout Service Project, Ollarsaba says it makes him happy to think that children are enjoying the books he provided to Kids Need to Read. “It wasn’t really hard, it just took some coordination to make everything happen,” he says. “I knew all along that all of the work it took was worth it because it’s for such a good cause.” To find out more about Kids Need to Read, visit kidsneedtoread.org.

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Sorting books with his sister, Jordan, and his Troup’s assistant scout leader Joe ‘Spike’ Lee.


A Spectacular

Seek and Find Challenge challenge for all ages!

Bigfoot VISITS

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1 BigFoot 1 Footprint

Legendary

5 Coyotes Crazy

A New Serie FR OM

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Happy Fox B

5

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4 Titles Com ing

Inside you’ll find . . .

01 8 !

Amazing, highly detailed seek and find scenes hand drawn by Artist D. L. Miller.

Page after page featuring fun facts and photos of the many exciting places the elusive BigFoot visits around the world!

Over 500 Hidden Amazing Animals, Friendly People and Whimsical Items to find in every book.

Distributed by...

(800) 457-9112 • Sales@FoxChapelPublishing.com • www.FoxChapelB2B.com

StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Feature Story

Sparking Imagination with Stellar Science by Paul Ian Cross

Science and art are often seen as opposites at different ends of a spectrum, yet they have a lot in common. They both require a creative mindset. They need careful study of a subject or art form to gain knowledge and experience. They require the development of technical skills, which take many years to perfect, meaning it’s often a long time before someone is able to make a breakthrough or create their masterpiece. When these two opposing sides are brought together, however, great things can happen. As a biologist, I’m intrigued by the facts I learn every day at work; my job involves making sure clinical trials of medicines are completed to the highest standards of science and ethics. My work interests me and inspires me, and it drives my creativity, which helps me to develop ideas for plots, characters, and settings for my stories. Why did I follow a career path as a scientist? Because science excites me, and excitement fuels passion. 30

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As a writer, I now see the endless possibilities that science provides for my stories. But the journey to a career in science was not easy. When I was a child, I found it difficult to motivate myself to read, which is absolutely essential for the careers I have today. It was not that I found reading difficult. It was because, quite frankly, I wasn’t interested. When my teacher performed an experiment in the laboratory, I was enthralled. If a nature documentary was on television, I couldn’t look away. But read a book? No thanks. What happens to those children who find reading boring or difficult? They stop reading altogether, and that impacts their education and their further development. A “Eureka!” moment came for me at the age of 12, when I saw a photograph in the newspaper of a Tyrannosaurus rex chasing Jeff Goldblum. A movie with real dinosaurs! Well, they looked real enough to


Feature Story

“There are so many exciting worlds out there for them to explore in books, comics,and on screen, and there will always be something for everyone. Your child just has to find the one that’s right for them. After that, the sky’s the limit.”

me. My interest sparked instantly. As an avid dinosaur fan, I looked forward to it with great delight. After some careful research, I discovered the upcoming movie was actually based on a book. I couldn’t wait for the summer release, so my mom bought me a copy of the book instead: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Using a combination of scientific theory and wellcrafted storytelling, the book fascinated me. I read it from cover to cover in a matter of days. Me, a reluctant reader, who couldn’t usually get past the first chapter. This was a game-changer. For parents trying to help their reluctant reader, there are many simple and effective methods. I’ve mentioned the first: to focus on a topic of interest. Another popular and effective method is to use stories with humor. From joke books to rhyming picture books, everyone loves to laugh. We always think of books as the only option, but comics and Story Monsters Ink

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Feature Story

graphic novels can also be a great starting point. Perhaps, rather than reading first, it may be better to practice the words after listening to them read out loud. There are so many audio options available now: from audiobooks to podcasts to YouTube videos. Any one of these methods could be the starting point your child is looking for. Sometimes, there can be other reasons why a child is reluctant to read. They may be struggling and need extra support. But by employing a few simple methods, change can happen. And it can happen quickly. When you read about a subject you’re passionate about, it becomes easier. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t read widely in other genres or on other topics—the complete opposite, in fact. But if you’re struggling to get your child motivated with their reading, you just need to start small. Something you know they’ll love. Just as reluctant readers sometimes struggle, writers can face problems with motivation, too. How do we approach this? We follow a similar process, by writing about what we know and love. I enjoy all areas of science, from biology to astronomy and physics. After accepting the fact that I’ll never get to travel around the Solar System myself, I settled for the next best thing: learning as much about it as possible. I even took an astronomy course. This study eventually led me to writing a series of blogs called #OurSuperSolarSystem. There were so many new discoveries being reported each day, I wanted to share them with people—especially children. As with any writing, ideas are generated and stories begin to form. I imagined what it would be like to go into space, unguided and unprepared. A character appeared in my mind, yet I didn’t know how this character would come to life. An opportunity finally arrived when I was approached by the innovative storyteller and director, Michael Sokolar. Michael and his colleagues at Little Lights Studio were in the process of developing a wonderful new iPhone app, called Bedtime Stories. A storytelling app for parents, it allows the parent or guardian to become a storyteller, to develop their own stories to share with their children. A new method of engaging reluctant readers, perhaps? Time will tell. I was asked to write for the app and I was of course, over the moon, literally. No, seriously, I wrote a story 32

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Cornelius Comet’s Astroadventures

about going over the moon! The name I had written down a year before finally came to be: Cornelius Comet. The story begins with Cornelius in science class, where he meets a new student, Anna. And then, these new friends, two unlikely astronauts, go on the journey of a lifetime. How do you visit space if you can’t go yourself? You do the next best thing and create your own journey around the Solar System. I realized when I was writing that this was the journey I’d always wanted to make. By writing about something I was passionate about, my writing flowed and my interest sparked. As such, Cornelius Comet’s Astroadventures are very close to my heart. I hope that Cornelius and Anna’s stories inspire children to find their own passion for a subject, whatever it may be. Who knows where it might take them? There are so many exciting worlds out there for them to explore in books, comics, and on screen, and there will always be something for everyone. Your child just has to find the one that’s right for them. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Paul Ian Cross is a scientist and author from London who writes science-inspired stories for children and young adults. The Bedtime Stories app (getbedtimestories.com) is now available for iPhone.


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Feature Story

Sarah Hill

Creates a Whimsical Woodland Series for Kids by Melissa Fales Sarah Hill was on maternity leave with her six-month-old baby, Poppy, and her two-yearold daughter, Olivia, when she had a life-changing experience. “I was knee-deep in nappies, liquidized butternut squash, and other such baby-related delights when Posie Pixie appeared in my brain, just as she is now, in her purple pixie boots, jingling, tinkling bluebell hat, and sporting her characteristic cheeky grin,” Hill says. The cheerful character, full-fledged at her impromptu debut, would eventually inspire Hill to write the award-winning Whimsy Wood children’s book series, now being made into an animated television show produced by London 5 Studios. Although she had never written before, Posie Pixie’s sudden arrival compelled Hill to put words to paper. “After Posie appeared in my mind, all by her little self and without being invited may I add, I really didn’t 34

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have any other choice but to sit down and start writing about her exciting adventures in Whimsy Wood,” Hill says. “She’s terribly persistent, you see, in her own sweet way.” Hill grew up in the county of Lincolnshire on England’s east coast. “This particular part of the world is filled with wide-open spaces, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and farming, especially arable farming, is commonplace,” she says. At a young age, Hill developed a love for animals of all kinds. “Although I was an only child, I grew up with a handsome West Highland White Terrier called William who I saw as my furry brother,” she says. “While becoming a doctor like my father was not for me, my passion for animals and love of science and problem-solving led me to veterinary medicine.”


Feature Story

“Our children are growing up in a world where screens of all shapes and sizes are a part of everyday life … to me, the outside world is just as relevant and important, perhaps even more so, in this screen-addicted era.” After earning her veterinary degree at Bristol University in England, Hill spent 10 years in the field. Her first job was for International Animal Rescue in Goa, India. “I worked on their neutering project for stray dogs and cats and treated various other animals from sacred cows to snakes,” she says. “That trip was one incredible experience, considering I’d never been

to a third-world country before, on both a professional and personal level.” Upon returning to the United Kingdom, Hill worked for other animal charities, including the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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from her childhood. “I remember that Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge stories were seasonal and I loved that concept,” says Hill. “If you read my Whimsy Wood books in order, you’ll discover that the flora and fauna change as you read through the series. I love how nature is constantly changing and since my children’s books are based in a woodland, I wanted the Whimsy Wood Family stories to reflect this.”

and tended to small animals at various veterinary hospitals and practices. Once Posie Pixie appeared, however, instead of caring for small animals, Hill decided to write about them, along with fairies, insects, and the plants that can be found in the woods. According to Hill, other Whimsy Wood characters popped fully-formed into her consciousness, just as Posie Pixie did. “From their personalities, to their attire and even their names, they were just there in my mind,” says Hill. There were a few characters that needed some finishing touches and young Olivia was more than happy to help her mother with the job. “I distinctly remember Olivia’s reaction when I asked her if I should name Posie’s woodlouse best friend Willow or Wibble,” says Hill. “She looked at me as though I had three heads and said, ‘She’s Wibble, Mummy!’ To Olivia, Posie’s best friend was obviously Wibble Woodlouse! In hindsight, I can’t believe I had been so silly as to ask!” Inspiration for the Whimsy Wood tales comes easily to Hill. “Partly I think they are lurking in my subconscious from the books I loved as a child, and still do,” she says. “My favorites were Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree stories, and Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit collection. I’m sure that those wonderful reads have hugely influenced my own writing.” Additionally, Hill finds that ideas tend to flow while she’s walking her dog, Huxley, in southwest England’s Wiltshire countryside where she lives today. “Wiltshire has plenty of rolling green hills,” she says. “It always makes me think of Tolkien’s Shire.” Each of Hill’s Whimsy Wood books is set in a specific month. She got the idea from another favorite series 36

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One of Hill’s missions with the Whimsy Wood books is to encourage today’s children to spend more time in nature. “Our children are growing up in a world where screens of all shapes and sizes are a part of everyday life,” she says. While Hill acknowledges that technology has its beneficial uses, she laments the disconnect existing between children and nature. “I remember reading an article a few years ago about the Oxford Junior Dictionary removing ‘natural’ words such as ‘acorn’ and ‘buttercup’ and replacing them with words more ‘relevant’ to the 21st century, such as ‘attachment’ and ‘broadband,’” she says. “Shocked, stunned, and horrified could barely describe how I felt when reading that piece or how I feel about that now. To me, the outside world is just as relevant and important, perhaps even more so, in this screenaddicted era.” Hill hopes her books will encourage children to learn more about nature and the creatures that inhabit the earth, and that the TV show will help spread her message to children who might never pick up a hard copy. The original Whimsy Wood books will be re-released with illustrations to match the TV show’s artwork. “The new Whimsy Wood Family books are refreshingly beautiful and illustrated in such a child-friendly, eyecatching, and colorful way,” says Hill. There will also be new Whimsy Wood Family merchandise available. Hill has been named as an executive producer for the TV show. “One of the roles of a TV executive producer is to supervise creative content,” says Hill. “This means I can ensure that the animated TV series remains true to the overall ethos and feel of Whimsy Wood. I had always hoped and dreamed that Whimsy Wood would one day make the huge leap from book to screen and fortunately for me, London 5 Studios were keen to take my Whimsy Wood project on board.” For more information about Sarah Hill and the Whimsy Wood Family, visit whimsywood.co.uk.


StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

A New Beginning:

Seeds by Rita Campbell

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

February is a good month to plan a discussion about seeds with your little gardener. It is a time to prepare the garden and begin to sprout seeds for your spring garden. Growing seeds with children can be a very rewarding and a great learning experience, and there are many books you can use along the way, some fictional and some nonfictional. A couple of books that use photographs and simple text to teach children about where seeds come from and how they relate to our food are Let’s Go Nuts and From Seed to Plant. Another book that contains fun and engaging activities or experiments that kids can do with seeds is titled Seeds. And One Bean actually takes you through growing a bean plant. The information is delivered in a story form and follows a young boy and his sister as they take care of a bean throughout the entire growth cycle. This book can be a good choice for introducing preschool-age kids to the magic of beans. And beans are probably one of the most fun seeds to grow and one of the easiest and most magical when you think of Jack and the Beanstalk. When growing seeds with your child, begin by making sure that they realize plants need water, sun, soil, and air to grow. Every seed has a tiny plant inside of it and food to help it grow. The Endosperm is what provides food for the plant. The Embryo is made up of cells such as the primary roots, cotyledons, and embryonic leaves needed to grow a mature plant. The Seed Coat protects the internal parts of the seed. When a seed starts to grow, we call it germination. Germination can take place with or without soil. Some seeds need light to germinate. Others need darkness. Once the seeds have the right conditions, the plant inside starts to grow bigger and bigger. It pushes open the seed coat— sort of like a chick hatching out of an egg. Tiny leaves appear and push out of the soil. Some ways to help seeds to germinate is by creating a greenhouse environment for them. There are many ways to accomplish this, but one of the simplest is to use a wet paper towel and a plastic bag. Once the seed germinates, it will need to be planted in some soil to receive the nutrients it needs to grow into a plant. While all seeds have a seed coat, some coats are thick and some are thin. Thick seeds need to pass through a process called scarification. That simply means that the hard seed coat changes to allow moisture to get in. Gardeners often times perform manual scarification

by soaking their seeds in water or putting a small cut in them to soften the coats so they’ll grow faster. It was thought for many years that roots grew downward because they were responding to the force of gravity. When space studies were performed in an environment without gravity, it was discovered that plants reacted in the same way they do on earth. Sprouted roots behaved as if they were growing on Earth—growing away from the seed to seek nutrients and water in exactly the same pattern observed with gravity. The plant is thought to have an ability to orientate itself as it grows and doesn’t need gravity to guide it. Nature is just amazing and we are constantly learning from her. That is why gardening is so much fun and can be so magical. Cold weather this time of year can be a bit agonizing, at least it is for me. Spring is so close, yet not close enough. I can almost smell the sweet aroma of the flowers blooming and hear the birds singing. But, the reality is most of us will probably have a few more frosts before it’s officially time to enjoy gardening outdoors again. So let’s get started indoors.

Plant of the Month Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is one of the first signals of spring from the plant world. These tiny, delicate bulbs emerge just as the ground thaws and have thin, grass-like leaf blades just three or four inches long with a single flower stalk per bulb that produces a bell-shaped white blossom about six inches above the ground. They are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. Snowdrops do best in partial sun, well-drained soil, and cool, moist conditions. They are considered one of the spring “ephemerals,” meaning they flower on the forest floor before the leaves of the trees emerge and by early summer they have gone dormant again until next year.

Rita Campbell is a master gardener. The Moonbeam Award-winning author has combined her love of gardening and teaching to create a educational series of books for children ... with a touch of magic. spritealights.com

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READING

LIST

Unraveling Rose by Brian Wray

Rose is a stuffed bunny who loves having fun with the little boy she lives with, until she discovers a loose thread dangling from her arm. Rose tries to ignore the little string, but it is no use. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t stop pulling at it, and it’s all she can think about. Can Rose find a way to forget about the little loose thread? The story will help parents and teachers talk to children about what to do with obsessive thoughts. 978-0-7643-5393-2 $16.99

No More Noisy Nights by Holly L. Niner

Who is making so much noise and how will Jackson ever get to sleep? Despite some silly, sleepy mistakes, genteel Jackson finds a fun and quiet activity for each of his noisy neighbors. He finally gets a great night’s sleep—and discovers three new friends in the morning. Cozier than a mole in fuzzy pajamas, No More Noisy Nights is an underground, under-the covers read-aloud, perfect for calming the bedtime boogety-woogeties.

Cowgirl Lessons by Rae Rankin

Inspired by a real girl and her favorite horse. Cowgirl Lessons is a charming story celebrating the bond between children and horses. Told from the point of view of a young girl getting ready for her weekly horseback riding lesson, interacting with her parents, and getting to the barn for that special time with her horse, Cowgirl Lessons is perfect for your favorite bookworm or cowgirl! Recommended for ages 2 and up.

Shelly’s Sweet Tooth by Jessica R. Herrera

Shelly’s sugar-eating habits are driving his mom bonkers and leaving his shell a little too snug! Is Shelly right? Is there really no such thing as too much candy? Shelly reminds us that healthy eating can not only be good for us, but delicious, too. Want more Shelly Snail? Visit JessicaRHerrera.com for coloring pages, educational worksheets, and to purchase the “Listen-Along Version” of Shelly’s Sweet Tooth!

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Winter Reading List

Xalien the Purple Alien: Xalien Visits the Farm by Michelle Path

On Xalien’s latest visit to Earth, Jessica, Adam and Sarah take her to visit the farm. This time Xalien learns how to milk cows, collect eggs, and much more. Of course there is the usual fun and laughter as they explore the farm and visit the animals which sees Xalien ending up in many funny situations. Collect all six books in the series! They are available from rowanvalebooks.com, michellepath.com.au, Amazon.com, and online bookshops worldwide.

Quincy the Quail Saves a Life by Barbara Renner

Quincy the Quail is a little clumsy, but that doesn’t stop him from taking care of his family. When the quail family hunts for food in a new neighborhood, they encounter a bullying hummingbird. Quincy protects his chicks from the bully and ends up saving a life. Audio QR codes allow the reader to hear the quail calls and hummingbird sounds. Read interesting facts about the Gambel’s Quail and Rubythroated Hummingbirds. Available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and RennerWrites.com.

Queen Vernita series by Dawn Menge

Follow Queen Vernita on her educational adventures! Each year, Queen Vernita and her 12 wonderful friends learn about the days of the week, months of the year, and seasons. Queen Vernita and her friends explore the Oceaneer’s kingdom, the Blue Ice mountains, Islands of Enchantment, the coastline, Baja Quails, and Gator Country, and they meet Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer! There are 10 books in the Queen Vernita series (Outskirts Press, $9.95 to $19.95, paperback, children’s fiction/action & adventure). For more information, visit www.queenvernita.com.

I Am Sheriauna

by Sherylee Honeyghan

Sheriauna is a vibrant, smart, funny little girl with tons of personality! She has a unique story to share with the world and she loves to help others see differences as strengths. Learn about one little girl’s experience with being different and how we can all be kind to each other, while creating a more inclusive world for everybody. www.iamsheriauna.ca

I See the Sun series by Satya House

Explore the world! Life in different countries told from a child’s point of view. I See the Sun books are an award-winning series of bilingual picture books, each focused on one country and one day in the life of one child with a story told from the child’s perspective. Every book introduces the culture, family life, and language of one particular country in a way that is sensitive to each culture. Includes age-appropriate (5+) country facts and a glossary for extended learning. Books include I See the Sun in: Turkey, Nepal, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Mexico, and Myanmar (Burma). www.satyahouse.com

Sir Walter Farluba by Donna LeBlanc

Since Sir Walter, the Earl of Karother, is never invited to play in the town band, he assumes that none of his subjects like him. And the townsfolk, never seeing Sir Walter, assume that he doesn’t care about them. Then one day, a horrible noise filters down from the Earl’s castle. And it takes one brave young girl to find out what it is! Story Monster Approved winner! Purple Dragonfly and Royal Dragonfly Book Awards winner. Available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

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Winter Reading List

Max and Bear by Pam Saxelby

Bear is given to Max’s dad at a very special party, but Max isn’t there yet. He is still growing in his mommy’s tummy! When Max is born, Bear is so excited! But when Max’s mommy gives him Sophie the giraffe instead, Bear is disappointed. He decides to wait for Max to grow up a bit. But when his mommy gives Max Turtle to play with instead, he is again disappointed. Will Max ever notice Bear? A sweet story to show young readers that good things do come to those who wait.

Josie the Great by Pam Saxelby

So many things are changing for Max and Bear. They’ve moved into a new house in a new neighborhood and now ... a new baby? Max’s parents keep talking about someone named Josie, but who is that? With his trusty friend Bear by his side, Max navigates the changes in his life and wonders what it all means. Josie the Great is a sequel to the author’s Max and Bear. Young readers and those who have yet to learn to read will enjoy the further adventures of these two characters.

Gracie Lou

by Larissa Juliano

Gracie Lou is bored. And lonely. What is a little girl to do when there’s nowhere to go and no one to play with? Wish upon a star! As Gracie Lou travels through the starry sky to magical lands, she experiences exciting and whimsical adventures that ignite all her five senses. Readers will delight in the vivacity of Gracie Lou’s imagination (or is it?) as they anticipate where the curly-haired cutie will head to next.

Mosquito Creek Inn by Sherrie Todd-Beshore

Book 1 of mystery series Mosquito Creek Detective Club. Discovering a hidden suitcase prompts seven school friends to snoop into an unsolved disappearance. While hunting for new clues, the kids explore where danger has already been, discovering people in their town harbor desperate secrets. While attempting to retrace evidence, history begins to repeat itself, testing the untried courage of young sleuths against a cunning foe. MG & Tween. www.patchworkpublishing.com

The Crow Child

by Sherrie Todd-Beshore

Book 1 of mystical Crow Child Trilogy. Orphaned at three, Elijah O’Day Clearwater lives with his grandfather on a small farm. Elijah also lives with cystic fibrosis. Thirteen days before his 13th birthday, Elijah begins to have vivid dreams. One is of a chieftain leading an ancient clan in Ireland. Another is of a Blackfoot chief in North America. His dreams may be an outlet for a school bully or they may hint of an unusual destiny foretold by his fire-sign. MG &Tween. www.patchworkpublishing.com

The Bigfoot Paradox by Rebecca Coyte

J.T. Meeks is a shy, 12-year-old kid who has always been interested in finding a bigfoot. When infamous bigfoot hunter Billy Matrix invades his town, J.T. gets involved in a hunt for bigfoots that quickly spirals out of control. J.T. must dig deep within himself to find the courage to do what’s right and stick up for his friends, both human and sasquatch. 2016 eLit Award winner for juvenile/young adult fiction.

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Winter Reading List

Jet Lee Dragon Warrior by Pamela K. Witte

Born in the year, month, day, and hour of the dragon, Jet Lee is destined for karate-kicking greatness. Too bad he’s such a loser. Bullied on a daily basis and working in the Wu’s fish shop to earn his allowance, 12-year-old Jet thinks things can’t get any worse. He learns how wrong he is when a beastman attacks his mom and vows to take over New York City. Saving the city is tough for anybody, but it’s nearly impossible when you’re in sixth grade. It’s a whirlwind week of subway chases, demon spit, and samurai swords. And time is running out!

A Buss from Lafayette Teacher’s Guide by Dorothea Jensen

Teachers! This guide for using Dorothea Jensen’s Purple Dragonfly Award-winning novel, A Buss from Lafayette in the middle school classroom will help your students understand the American Revolution, the role Lafayette played in that war, and American life in the early 19th century. Includes bulletin board ideas, handouts, games, quizzes, discussion questions, class projects, and a full answer key. Its cross-curricular activities include language arts/reading, social studies, mathematics, and suggestions for real and virtual field trips. Available for pre-order now! abussfromlafayette.com

Voiceless Whispers by Jane Frances Ruby

Voiceless Whispers is a tale of two cultures separated by miles of canyon and centuries of technology. Members of both cultures unite to battle a crisis that cascades when the monsoon season ramps up. Jane Frances Ruby, an award-winning young adult author, sends readers into a thrilling canyon adventure while they learn about the area’s features. This book is appropriate for junior high readers and older.

Click on the book cover to purchase any of the above titles. To advertise your book in our Reading list, contact Cristy Bertini at cristy@storymonsters.com for rate information.

StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

43


Kids Can Publish!

My Favorite Teacher... M r. D a hle by Jack Vento, grade 12

away ages. Although I’ve never been one to shy No class pains me more than foreign langu izing! the language of HTML and CSS less agon from a challenge, Mr. Dahle made learning ly ficial lly smells like teenager—at my unof I plop down in Mr. Dahle’s lab—which usua A he starts the day, “Guess what? Only ten assigned desktop. “Goo d morning, children!” days left till you’re outta here.” too. ications inspires me to follow my passions, Mr. Dahle’s passion for this language’s appl ster mustache he’s been working on since seme During breaks, he shows us his handlebar cts proje goatee nicely), intro duces us to personal one (which complemented his Tony Stark ia s us the newest, most intriguing social med he’s been constructing on his own, or show Dahle finds himself in California for a week or tech story out on the Web. Even if Mr. help us t him an email with our code and he will with the DECA team, we can always shoo able er his location, he makes himself an avail debug it from across the country. No matt resource for students. no website and lets us rip it apart until we can For projects, he finds us a horrid-looking s will be to scrap and redesign said company’ longer. Then he lets us know that our job sure od meth oaching a foreign language, this website on our own. When it comes to appr my and self-guidance. Upon the submission of does leave all kinds of room for creativity e grad the king sure what to expect when chec first independent CSS website, I was not ed to aside in a separate class. “Mr. Vento! I want book. Later that day, Mr. Dahle pulled me e renc refe re futu pretty impressive. I saved it for let you know your Badlands website was s n classes today, very well done, sir.” Comment and showed it to the rest of the web desig r students throughout our learning process. and credit like that encourage me and othe g is related to class, Mr. Dahle is always willin Regardless of whether or not the subject ent ol career, I have develope d into an independ to lend a hand. Throughout my high scho next the to I wanted to take my next movie filmmaker. I direct, shoot, edit, and produce. and its premier. I aske d Mr. Dahle for pointers level by making a Snapchat Geofilter for ng maki he made for prom, and helped me in after school he showed me some designs my ific alumni or frien ds of his that work in my own. Even advising me to speak to spec desired profession.

year, at what he has shown me since freshman His web design class offers just a glimpse age (without flashcards or verb conjugations) and I can’t wait to see how I take this langu , and Dahle for connecting with me from the start into my next phase of life. Thank you, Mr. ways through high school. continuing to help me grow in all the little

Hey Kids! Visit www.StoryMonsters.com and click on “Kids Can Publish” for instructions on how to submit your work! 44

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StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

45


Monsters at the Movies

Coco

Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: ADespite having a rich history and lore that makes leeway for numerous possibilities, Day of the Dead has barely been touched upon in popular culture. For a lot of Americans growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, their first exposure to this Mexican holiday was perhaps the LucasArts video game, “Grim Fandango.” Just three years ago, it played a key role in the beautifully animated film, The Book of Life. The idea of Pixar tackling Día de Muertos sounds like a match made in heaven. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina don’t disappoint with Coco, which mixes infectious music, deep themes, rich culture, brilliant comedy, and enchanting visuals into one lively package. Young Anthony Gonzalez provides the voice of 12-yearold Miguel Rivera, who desires to be a musician more than anything else. Since Miguel’s great-greatgrandfather abandoned his family to pursue a career in music, though, the Rivera’s have outlawed singing and instruments from their house. Miguel is convinced that music is his calling upon discovering that he might be a descendant of a musician named Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). In an act of rebellion and desperation, Miguel steals the late musician’s guitar and is cursed for his actions. Not quite alive and not quite dead, Miguel runs into his deceased relatives, including his great-great-grandmother (Alanna Ubach). They take him to the Land of the Dead, which offers a feast for the eyes around every corner. Even the afterlife’s equivalent of the DMV is a marvel to behold. While there, Miguel learns that the curse can be easily broken if a relative gives him their blessing, but the Rivera family adds a catch to the deal: Miguel has to give up music for the rest of his life. Realizing that Ernesto is the only family member who will encourage his musical dreams, Miguel sets out to find him with some help from 46

Story Monsters Ink | February 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

a deceased musician named Hector (Gael García Bernal) and a loyal dog that’s smarter than he looks. On paper, the plot here might sound like traditional kids’ movie fare. Even Miguel’s aspirations to be a musician are eerily similar to what we saw in The Book of Life. What makes Coco a tour de force of originality is how it goes about addressing these familiar life lessons. Without giving too much away, the screenplay has several inspired twists that range from shocking to heartfelt. The final destination in particular is a pleasant surprise. By the midpoint of Coco, the audience might think they have the moral all figured out. Miguel needs to keep following his dream and his family needs to accept his love of music. The filmmakers wisely don’t just pick one side of this debate, however. While chasing your passion is a key theme, Coco also makes a strong argument for sticking by family and traditions. In the end, everybody needs to make a compromise in order to grow and


Monsters at the Movies

the reconciliation Miguel comes to with his family is genuinely touching. Not only is Coco brilliantly written, but the music adds another layer of atmosphere. Michael Giacchino’s score often has the essence of an uplifting celebration, which is appropriate given the film’s subject matter. The soundtrack additionally includes of slew of catchy songs, but the standout by far is “Remember Me” from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of Frozen. While it might not stick with you like “Let It Go,” the song should prove popular come Oscar season. Speaking of which, there’s little doubt that Coco will become the latest Pixar outing to take home the Best Animated Feature prize.

Nick Spake

Riddles & Giggles Q: What is a snowman’s favorite breakfast? A: Frosted flakes!

Arizona native and a graduate of Arizona State University, Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for ten years reviewing movies on his website: nickpicksflicks.com.

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Liv on Life

Find your Passion! by Olivia Amiri

A passion can be a great thing to have. A passion can open you up and be an outlet to express yourself and free your creativity. It’s not always easy to find a passion. I find the best way is try new things! You might find that you have a passion for something that you never ever knew existed. Having a passion can be comforting and fulfilling. If someone hurt your feelings, you can express your feelings of hurt and anger through your passion. You can paint your feelings and emotions onto a canvas, which many artists do. You can sing a song about it or write a poem that allows you to fully express a rainbow of emotions. You can also express it through playing baseball, swimming, or soccer. Don’t do a hobby if you don’t enjoy it. Someone might like ice skating and become really good at it, but it starts to take over their life, and they don’t really enjoy it. No reason to continue. Always know you are doing a passion because you love it. It takes effort and hard work to truly have a passion. I love piano and singing. I have to practice daily and work hard. I put a lot of effort and time into them. That helps them grow because I’m nurturing them. So try something new, find your passion, and focus on you!

Olivia Amiri 11-year-old Olivia Amiri is a little girl with big advice! Sharing insights and Vobservations on the world around us, her message is clear: kids are still the best teachers to remind grown-ups of the simple joys in life. livonlife.com

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Daddy’s Family Tree begins when Brandon receives an unexpectant call from his mother that his estranged father has died.

The story begins when two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night coming from outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood.

Brandon (father) has a minor heart attack and it creates a situation for the family to learn the importance of encouraging Brandon to pay attention to his health for the sake of himself and family.

I See the Sun in . . .

“It’s a great concept for a book series, and it seems to me that it is one that would be as at-home inside the classroom as it is in a child’s bedroom.” — Education Week “A fine addition to geography and bilingual collections.” — School Library Journal “A gentle, intimate glimpse into the parallels and differences in the lives of children around the world.” — Publishers Weekly “Kids may easily recognize the connections with their own families and with the stories of relatives far away.” — Booklist (American Library Association) “This is more about commonalities of feeling and experience than cultural differences.” — Kirkus Reviews “Providing a learning tool with recognizable characters and surroundings . . . now that’s a true (and useful) gift of education.” — Book Dragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

N!

I See the Sun in Turkey

ISBN: 978-1935874348 • Price: $12.95 Available wherever books are sold.

www.satyahouse.com

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Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

Martin Luther King: A Peaceful Warrior

by Ed Clayton, Donald Bermudez, Xernona Clayton. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

As I sit in the wake of mind-numbing and heartbreaking civil unrest that is crushing the country I love, this powerful reminder slides into my hands. King’s voice whispers from the past, “There’s power in peace!” Destruction can never bring relief. King knew that, and chose nonviolent civil disobedience, and changed his world for the better.

Wonder Wheels

by Shawnie Clark, Burcin Pervin Karamuco. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Independence is a wonderful thing, and yet we often take it for granted. Just being able to do ordinary tasks for ourselves or for others can bring much needed feelings of satisfaction. Kobe’s new wonder wheels give him a whole new sense of self. He is able to enjoy simple tasks without help, play with others and make new friends. What an amazing gift to discover our conditions may challenge us, but they never define us!

Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace

by Harris J, Ward Jenkins. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a combined Muslim greeting of peace, and the power of paying it forward rolled into one inviting call to action. Harris J, an international singing sensation, uses the lyrics to the hit song of the same name, along with the warm visuals of Ward Jenkins, to make this a timely and heartfelt reading experience. Simple kindness, caring, and sharing can brighten any day!

Alma and How She Got Her Name

by Juana Martinez-Neal. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

We may wonder what our parents were thinking when they named us. Alma thought her name was too long and just didn’t fit. But, when her father shows her the love, memories, and wonderful personalities that brought her that name, she thought it was a perfect fit! We should wear them with pride, whether our features or names, because they all carry an honorable heritage. A great book for introducing family history and the importance of our place within it.

The Pink Umbrella

by Amelie Callot, Genevieve Godbout. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This book holds delight to its finish. Its soft colors and sweet illustrations soothe the emotions, while the text encourages and uplifts. Life gathers in its full array in this small cafe, where good things blossom everyday.

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Book Reviews

The Antlered Ship

by Dashka Slater, the Fan Brothers. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The illustrations by Terry and Eric Fan are a true visual delight. From first glance, the artwork captures, and holds you firmly in its talent, page by page to the end. The quality and detail of the book enhance the reading experience with whispers of adventure. This unlikely crew finds heart and friendship, along with hardship and disappointment. The quest can often challenge our grit, only to press us on to greater discoveries.

Annie and Simon: Banana Muffins and Other Stories by Catharine O’Neill. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This multiple award-winning book presents a delightful look into sibling relationships. Annie and her much older brother, Simon, share endearing times together, building strong bonds that will last a lifetime. This is a great lead into chapter books.

A Bedtime Yarn

by Nicola Winstanley, Olivia Chin Mueller. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I was completely captured by the charm of this book! The tender story, though a common one, carries a heartbeat so gently felt that it reads like none other. The creative love by which Frankie’s mom meets and dispels his fear will surely stir the emotions, and make you want to knit.

Gruel Snarl Draws a Wild Zugthing by Jeff Jantz. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Have you ever pondered your life, wondering where the reality lies? Well, welcome to the kids’ version. Gruel, a kid from an intergalactic dimension on the other side of a ripple in space, is busying himself by drawing wild zugthings from out of this world. A zark and a fizz, a zake and mouzes, but the wildest thing of all jumped right off his page, and caused quite a stir. Meanwhile, on the other side of that ripple, another little boy busies himself drawing. The question is: Who’s drawing whom?

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl

by Angela DiTerlizzi, Elizabet Vukovic. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Oh, the wonder of childhood. That sacred time when the heart dares to believe and the mind doesn’t contradict. A time when a stick becomes a horse and we can ride the open air, and the mundane becomes sublime. This story delights the imagination, and reaches beyond limitation where a little girl can be whomever she wants to be.

Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum by Carolyn Bracken. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

What a delightfully fun way to introduce the wonder of art and its famous masterpieces! Mr. Owliver loves his job at the museum. Being surrounded by the great works is like being surrounded by friends, he knows them so well. One special night, on Owliver’s birthday, magic comes to the museum, and Mr. Owliver will never forget it! Illustrations are amazingly fun.

Claire Wants a Boxing Name

by Jo Meserve Mach, Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, Mary Birdsell. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Fitting in among our peers is tough, and it’s even harder if we are regarded as “different” in any way. Finding My Way Books honors children with disabilities by telling their stories and highlighting their unique strengths and abilities. Like all children, they love, laugh, and have goals and dreams. Claire, in this story, is working hard at learning to box. She is eager to earn the very special boxing name her coach will give her. Her determination rewards her efforts. StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

51


Book Reviews

Alfie: (The Turtle That Disappeared) by Thyra Heder. Reviewer: Julianne Black

This is an adorable tale of a girl and her pet turtle, told by a girl … and her pet turtle. The story of Alfie is narrated from the perspective of young Nia, but switches to Alfie’s perspective when he disappears on his quest for a birthday present for Nia, through the house, across the yard, and into the fish pond. Thyra Heder does a gorgeous job in both storytelling and illustration, creating a sweet and relatable tale for any child in love with their special animal and wonders what life might be like from their perspective. Perfect length and originality in theme will capture squirmy library story time listeners and bedtime wigglers alike.

Dough Knights and Dragons

by Dee Leone, George Ermos. Reviewer: Julianne Black

An awesome story about two unlikely friends and a shared hobby: baking! Told in fast-paced and fun rhyme, the knight and the dragon cook up a storm to end the rivalry between man and beast at their upcoming duel to the death! Will the Knight spear the winged beast as he is bound by his kingdom’s rule when he comes of age? Will the Dragon swallow the Knight as commanded by the law of the land? Or will they stress bake themselves into a delicious new solution? Dee Leone and George Emos serve up a fun and scrumptious way to settle a conflict, get a little silly, and provide a great story!

Counting with Tiny Cat

by Viviane Schwarz. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Striking and bold, pronounced and vivid, the illustrations lend themselves beautifully to a cat’s yarncounting adventure. Written in short phrases, the real showcase is Tiny Cat’s expressions and the placement of yarn balls as he gets more feline entertainment than he bargained for. What exactly does Tiny Cat want to do with the bouncing red balls? This book is a great first counting story and a fine mentor text to teach our littlest mathematicians about number representation. It also shows budding artists how just a few colors on a page can have a big impact!

Trampoline Boy

by Nan Forler, Marion Arbona. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

A poignant, heart-tugging, unique story appropriate for children of all ages. Trampoline Boy likes to twirl in the sky as he bounces, admires airplanes and birds, and relishes in his surroundings. Many children stop, stare, and snip at Trampoline Boy, calling him weird. But he keeps jumping away and truly captures a spirit of mindfulness. The taunting and teasing will definitely spark conversation with readers as they make personal connections with their peers. Thankfully, our world is filled with many friends who appreciate those who are different. A must-read for all.

Pocket Flyers Paper Airplane Book

by Ken Blackburn, Jeff Lammers. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Fingers big and small will absolutely love this fantastic series of paper airplane creations! These miniature aircrafts are brightly colored accompanied with easy-to-follow instructions. It is worth noting that after folding, the flyers really are miniature! About the size of a toddler’s hand—adorable! What is extra special is how each paper airplane has beautiful and unique pictures to capture the spirit of their theme. Others in the series include Flying Creatures Paper Airplane Book and Space Flyers Paper Airplane Book. This trio of books is great for family activities.

Cody and the Heart of a Champion

by Tricia Springstubb, Eliza Wheeler. Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

Cody and the Heart of a Champion is a thoughtful account of growing pains. As a kid like Cody, sometimes it’s hard to deal with life’s everyday changes that she encounters with both her family, friends, and of course, nature. Just when Cody thinks she understands something, it changes. Will Cody be able to adjust and move through all these changes? Read the book to find out! 52

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Book Reviews

The Tale of Angelino Brown

by David Almond, Alex T. Smith. Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

The Tale of Angelino Brown is an imaginative, touching story filled with many surprises. The biggest surprise is when Bert, the bus driver realizes he’s not having a heart attack but instead it’s a tiny boy angel that’s creating the movement in his front shirt pocket. When Bret takes the tiny boy angel home, he and his wife, Betty, name him Angelino. Both Bert and Betty decide to care for him and in doing so, they bring him to the local school where the teachers are not as excited about Angelino as Bert and Betty are. The illustrations have an old world, creative feel. The story covers many issues such as friendship, love, and picking on others because of their differences.  

Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess by Meg Welch Dendler. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Princess Bianca had never set foot outside the castle walls. Not once in her over-protected, pink, fluffy life. But when a dragon is spotted in the land and fear spreads that the monster has conquered the king and his brave knights, Bianca realizes that it is her duty to protect her kingdom. This is an enlightening and encouraging story for any young reader who lacks self-confidence. There is an underlying meaning to this book that you shouldn’t judge others without knowing their circumstances. Kids will read it for the adventure—parents should buy it for the life lesson.

The Boy from Tomorrow

by Camille Deangelis. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are 12 years old and 100 years apart. The children meet through a hand-painted talking board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. But how can he change their future when it’s in the past? I couldn’t wait to turn each page as this story unraveled one surprising twist after another. I highly recommend young readers dive into this mystical, thrilling adventure!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway by Jeff Kinney. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Greg Heffley and his family are getting out of town. With the cold weather and the stress of the approaching holiday season, the Heffleys decide to escape to a tropical island resort for some muchneeded rest and relaxation. A few days in paradise should do wonders for Greg and his frazzled family. But the Heffleys soon discover that paradise isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Sun poisoning, stomach troubles, and venomous critters all threaten to ruin the family’s vacation. Adults will enjoy this book as much as kids. Most creatively written, I can’t imagine one more disaster for poor Greg. Kids will read this book over and over again.

Hurricane Child

by Kheryn Callender. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and 12-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck. She’s bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won’t stop following her, and worst of all, her mother left home one day and never came back. But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Together, they must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother before Caroline loses her forever. This is a tale of confusion, hurt, disappointment, and finding the strength to carry on. Readers will bond with this character and won’t be able to put the book down.

StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

53


Book Reviews

Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required by Brian Lynch, Edwardian Taylor. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Welcome to Toy Academy: where toys learn to play. This is where action figures train to battle, stuffed animals study the art of the hug, and collectibles practice standing very, very still. Though Grumbolt isn’t really any of those things, he’s determined to fit in. But when the Evil Toy Academy threatens to bring down his school, it’s up to Grumbolt to go where no good toy has gone before and prove he’s truly a great toy after all. Kids will cheer and root for misfit little Grumbolt. Most entertaining!

Super Fail

by Max Brunner, Dustin Mackay. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Laser vision isn’t so hot when you’re cross-eyed, and supersonic flight’s a real downer when motion sickness keeps you grounded. Twelve-year-old Marshall Preston is a Defective—a person with superhuman abilities that are restricted by some very human setbacks. While other kids are recruited to superhero teams, Marshall’s stuck in seventh grade with a kid who can run at super speed but can’t turn a corner, another with a radioactive peanut allergy, and a telepath who reads everyone’s thoughts out loud. Readers will be sucked into this story as they accompany this gang of well-meaning misfits in this fast-moving tale of heroism, friendship, and bravery as these characters find their own way in life. A must-read!

One True Way

by Shannon Hitchcock. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being true to oneself. This is a thoughtful, coming-of-age story about a budding romance between two girls that explores all facets of this discovery from all points of view. A truly interesting read.

Wizardmatch

by Lauren Magaziner. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Twelve-year-old Lennie Mercado practices her invisibility powers all the time (she can now stay invisible for 15 seconds!). Her grandfather, the Prime Wizard de Pomporromp, has decided to retire, and his grandchildren are coming from all over to compete in Wizardmatch. The winner inherits his title, his castle, and every single one of his unlimited magical powers. Lennie is desperate to win, but when Poppop creates a new rule to quelch any sibling rivalry, her thoughts turn from winning Wizardmatch to sabotaging it ... even if it means betraying her family. This is the perfect story to teach young readers that there’s always hope if you just believe in yourself. Young readers will love this great adventure with a generous sprinkling of magic!

Finn & Puss

by Robert Vescio, Melissa Mackie. Reviewer: Julianne Black

A sweet and thoughtful book about a boy finding a lost cat, making friends, and then realizing the cat belongs to someone else and they are looking for it. The text is simple enough to be incorporated into a first time reader or young bilingual audience, but without the cookie cutter standby sentences about a “cat on a mat.” Melissa Mackie’s soft and sweet illustrations round out the storytelling, forming an almost tactile connection to the main character and the cat.

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Promote Your Book In Our Next Issue! Email cristy@storymonsters.com for rate information. 413-687-0733

StoryMonsters.com

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55


Q&A

Q&A

photos by credit Whitney Spotts

with

Deborah Diesen by Julianne Black

The Pout-Pout Fish books have been a staple in our house since my daughter was born, and we recently added The Not Very Merry PoutPout Fish as a holiday treat this year! Q: Pout-Pout Fish fanatics know how our favorite lovable and grumpy fish turns it all around in the end for a happy ending. What was the inspiration for your Pout-Pout character? Where did our unlikely yet utterly-relatable champ come from? 56

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A: Many years ago, my elder son, who was a toddler at the time, was having a pouty day. I tried to cheer him up by making an exaggerated pouty face at him. He smiled, and then he made a pouty face back at me. We both started laughing and I said, “We look like


Q&A

fish. Like pout-pout fish!” And just like that, the idea appeared. Mr. Fish has been swimming around in my head ever since! Q: The illustrations (by the fabulous Dan Hanna) are so captivating. How much art direction did you have on the original project and how on earth did you ever explain your idea for the sulky yet adorable fish? A: Dan’s art is amazing, and the series wouldn’t exist without his talent and vision. As we began work on the first book, I provided no art direction to Dan. I wasn’t actually sure what Mr. Fish looked like! But as soon as I saw Dan’s illustrations, I said, “That’s it, exactly!” Q: At events and book signings, I’m sure you hear, “I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book….” Any words of advice you’d like to give our readers?

Q: With the full and mini versions of his adventures available, our favorite gloomy hero has a dozen books out now as well as an adorable stuffed animal since that first release in 2008. How has Pout-Pout Fish evolved through you? What would you like to see Mr. Fish swim towards as he celebrates his 10th birthday? A: As I’ve written Mr. Fish’s stories, I’ve learned something new with each adventure. I look forward to continuing to learn as I write, exploring topics such as how to fall asleep, what to do with good advice, how to handle anger, and how to clean up the ocean. I’m delighted and grateful that so many children, families, teachers, librarians, and more have welcomed the Pout-Pout Fish books into their lives. A writer and an illustrator may create a book, but it takes readers to bring it to life!

A: I typically give four pieces of advice to would-be authors (and I regularly repeat the same advice to myself): Read. Writing grows from reading. The more you read, the more you understand about story structure, plot, character development, and use of language. Share. Meet with other writers to receive feedback on your work. Writing starts as a solitary activity, but it develops from the input and encouragement of others. Persevere. All aspects of the writing process, from first drafts to revision to finding a publisher, require doses of hard work, and you’ll occasionally be doused by discouragement along the way. So commitment to your craft is crucial. Have fun! Enjoy what you’re doing. That will always improve your writing. Q: Your latest release, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark just came out this fall. Any behindthe-scenes tidbits or interesting facts on this new addition to the Pout-Pout Fish family? A: When I was writing The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, I felt a little stuck for a while, because I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted the story to unfold. So I just skipped ahead and wrote the ending first! That made it easier to go back to the beginning and see where I was headed. The writing got easier after that. “We are kind. We are fair. We are all potential friends. So we speak up when we need to—that’s how bullying ends.”

Deborah Diesen is the author of many beautiful children’s picture books, including the favorite Pout-Pout series kicked off by the New York Times bestselling The Pout-Pout Fish. Connect with her at deborahdiesen.com. Julianne Black is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist, and author. She has illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award-winning augmented reality picture book. julianneblack.com StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Kids Corner

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M W  H  N  N 

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W R  M  M  L 

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AMBASSADOR  HANNAH  WHIMSY  LEADERS  SOLO   

58

Story Monsters Ink | February 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

COCO HARRY  KLINE  OLLARSABA  VASHTI 

DIESEN HORRIBLE  KWAME  READING  IMAGINATION 


StoryMonsters.com | February 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

59


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Story Monsters Ink magazine February 2018  

This month's features include: Kwame Alexander is the Next Read Across America Ambassador; Hannah Alper is Making a [Momentus] Difference;...

Story Monsters Ink magazine February 2018  

This month's features include: Kwame Alexander is the Next Read Across America Ambassador; Hannah Alper is Making a [Momentus] Difference;...