Page 1

March 2018

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Neil Patrick Harris Creates a Magical Middle Grade Series Megan McDonald

Announces a Judy Moody Makeover One to Read:

Tony Abbott

Elena Delle Donne

Hits the Court with New Children’s Book Series Behind the Books:

Ben Clanton

Laurie Copmann

Creates a Story of Hope and Healing

A Loveable Pig

Proves that Familes Come in all Shapes and Sizes Q&A with

Linda Ashman


ADVERTISE WITH US! MEET THE STAFF

Would you like to promote your book, product, or business? Contact Cristy Bertini at Cristy@StoryMonsters.com or call 413-687-0733 to reserve your space! Discounts available.

PUBLISHER

Linda F. Radke Linda@StoryMonsters.com

Editor-in-Chief

Cristy Bertini Cristy@StoryMonsters.com

WRITER

Melissa Fales

DESIGN

Bring Story Monsters Ink into Your Classroom! Visit our website at www.StoryMonsters.com to download free classroom question sheets to aid in learning comprehension and encourage your students to discuss what they’ve read in each issue!

Jeff Yesh

Science & Nature Editor Conrad J. Storad

COLUMNISTS

Nick Spake, Rita Campbell, Olivia Amiri, Julianne Black

PROOFREADER

Debbie Greenberg

Web Management Patti Crane

Advertising

Linda F. Radke Info@StoryMonsters.com Cristy Bertini Cristy@StoryMonsters.com

Special Contributors

www.StoryMonsters.com Order Story Monsters Ink through subscription services for schools, libraries, and businesses. “Like” us on Facebook! www.Facebook.com/StoryMonsters Follow us on Twitter! @StoryMonsters Follow us on Instagram! www.instagram.com/storymonsters

Darleen Wohlfeil, Larissa Juliano, Diana Perry

Issues of Story Monsters Ink are recorded by the Arizona Talking Book Library!

Cover photo courtesy of Aaron Lippman/Netflix Story Monsters Ink magazine and www.StoryMonsters.com are trademarks of Story Monsters, LLC. Copyright ©2018 Story Monsters Press, ISSN 2374-4413, ISBN: 9781338199932: All rights reserved. Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the individual writers and are not necessarily those of Story Monsters Ink or its advertisers. Story Monsters Ink is published by Story Monsters Press Postal mail may be sent to Story Monsters Ink 4696 W. Tyson St., Chandler, AZ 85226 Phone: 480-940-8182

2

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

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.”


March 2018

In this issue 14 One to Read: Tony Abbott

08

18 Elena Delle Donne Hits the Court with New Children’s Book Series

Megan McDonald Announces a Judy Moody Makeover

04

22

Neil Patrick Harris Creates a Magical Middle Grade Series

Behind the Books: Ben Clanton

56

26

Q&A with Linda Ashman

Laurie Copmann Creates a Story of Hope and Healing

StoryMonsters.com 30

A Loveable Pig Proves that Familes Come in all Shapes and Sizes

36 How Does Your Garden Grow? 38 Spring Reading List

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 | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

3


Feature Cover Story

Neil Patrick Harris Creates a Magical Middle Grade Series by Melissa Fales photo by Aaron Lippman/Netflix

Neil Patrick Harris is one of the most familiar faces in entertainment, renowned for his work on stage and screen. The Emmy and Tony Awardwinning actor is also a consummate host, with numerous televised awards ceremonies under his belt. His 2014 autobiography, Choose Your Own Autobiography, and the premiere book in his new middle-grade book series, The Magic Misfits, were both New York Times bestsellers.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

5


Feature Cover Story

Harris says his first foray into children’s books has been more labor-intensive than he anticipated, requiring serious deliberation and reflection. It’s one of the side effects of being a conscientious father—his favorite role to date. “I felt such a sense of responsibility,” he says. “You’re creating a world of entertainment for kids who are starting to read. They’re reading on their own for the first time and they’re reading your words, your sentences. It made me more cognizant about the vocabulary and new ideas I was introducing.” Harris started out on TV as the precocious teen, Doogie Howser, M.D., but he avoided the pitfalls that snared so many other child stars. After Doogie came to an end in 1993, instead of burning out or fading away, Harris has remained popular and relevant.

Beginning in 2005, his portrayal of playboy Barney Stinson in the long-running show How I Met Your Mother successfully distanced him from the Doogie character, earning him a new generation of fans and multiple Emmy nominations to boot. Harris broke ground when he came out in 2006, not only for becoming one of the first openly gay actors in Hollywood, but also for his ability to continue to convincingly play staunchly straight roles, such as the serial womanizer Stinson. Harris and his husband, David Burtka have twins—a daughter and a son. “I always assumed I’d have kids someday,” Harris says. “Once David and I were solidified in our relationship, it seemed like something we should do before we got too old. We wanted to be able to keep up with our kids on a bike.”

Becoming a father affected Harris implicitly. “Parenthood has unquestionably changed me,” he says. “As they grow, they learn and they question. It’s constantly shifting. You can’t rest on your laurels because they’re constantly changing, so you have to, too. Just when you’ve got it all figured out, it totally changes again. It’s a constant ebb and flow. I love watching them learn.” Harris says he was inspired to write The Magic Misfits series for his children. “They’re just starting to read on their own,” he says. “Reading has been such a fundamental part of our daily routine. I wanted to write something they would appreciate as they grow older.” He was also inspired to create the books by something else near and dear to his heart. “My love for magic is constant and unbridled,” Harris says. “I thought it would be a good way to honor magic and teach magic tricks. Each book also has some hidden codes and other secrets within.” The Magic Misfits tells of the adventures of a young runaway magician named Carter who gathers a somewhat rag-tag group of fellow magicians together—a group of “magic misfits” to stop a gang of conniving carnival workers. “It’s a book I would have liked to have read as a kid,” Harris says. The second of the four books in the series, aptly called The Second Story, is due out in the fall.

On the set of Genius Junior with “The Dork Side” team. (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

6

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

Harris says he thinks most people can relate to the idea of not fitting in or being different in some


Feature Cover Story

way, and he hopes readers will discover that The Magic Misfits series is as much about friendship and celebrating differences as it is about magic. “Too often, the interests and differences people have are seen as deficits instead of strengths,” Harris says. “I thought this was a nice opportunity to change that narrative. Our differences are powerful. That’s what makes us unique.” Growing up, Harris says he had his own situations where he felt like somewhat of a misfit among his peers. “I wasn’t the quintessential soccer or football guy,” he says. “I was drawn to things like magic and carnivals and art. And thankfully, I had wonderful parents that believed in allowing kids to follow their own passions instead of forcing a social construct on them of what they thought they should be.” When Harris wrote The Magic Misfits, he had his children’s future selves in mind. “I was writing hypothetically in terms of what they’ll like when they’re a bit older,” he says. “It made me think of how I could make the story universal and timeless. That was the idea behind creating the sleepy town of Mineral Wells. I wanted it to feel normal and contemporary but also a little historical.” Harris says he admires the way Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) can set a story. “He’s so good at creating a period piece,” Harris says. “He can make you feel that you’re in a specific place without providing a particular location. He can make it feel familiar and strange at the same time.”

Harris is currently starring as the malevolent Count Olaf in Netflix’s series adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. He was drawn to the role for the sheer challenge of it. “To play someone so much against your own type, that’s the fun of being an actor,” Harris says. “There’s something challenging yet freeing about playing someone who is so unlike you, not only in

my role as the host, I feel more parental than anything,” says Harris. “It’s a competition. Some teams will be moving on and others won’t. I want to make sure that the kids who aren’t moving on still have a positive experience.” Harris sees Genius Junior as part entertainment and part inspiration. “It’s unbelievable to stand back and watch these

“Too often, the interests and differences people have are seen as deficits instead of strengths. I thought this was a nice opportunity to change that narrative. Our differences are powerful. That’s what makes us unique.” their personality and actions but also in their physical appearance.” Harris likes to test just how far he can stretch from himself for a role. Take, for example, his portrayal of German transgender rocker, Hedwig, in the Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which earned him a Tony in 2014. For his next trick, Harris will host Genius Junior, a quiz show pitting teams of extremely intelligent kids against each other in a series of increasingly difficult challenges. Contestants will be asked to complete memory tests, spell long words backwards and complete complex math problems. “In

kids doing the most phenomenal things with the knowledge they’ve acquired,” he says. “I think they’ll give kids watching at home something to aspire to because everything the contestants are doing is achievable. I hope it will encourage kids to study hard and try harder in school. My takeaway from Genius Junior is that it’s a celebration of education.” For more information about The Magic Misfits, visit themagicmisfits.com.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

7


Feature Story

Megan McDonald Announces a Judy Moody Makeover by Melissa Fales photo by Michele McDonald

Megan McDonald owes her writing career to a homeless crab.

Working as a children’s librarian at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, McDonald often led story time sessions, occasionally augmenting stories with props such as puppets. When McDonald couldn’t find a book to go along with a particularly fantastic hermit crab puppet, she crafted her own story about a crab actively seeking a new home. She even came up with a fun refrain, “scritch-scratch,” for the kids to repeat over and over when the crab was on the move.

8

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Feature Story

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

9


Feature Story

When story time was over, parents clamored for the book. “I had to tell them I made it up,” McDonald says. “Their response was tremendous. It really planted a seed. I realized that I might have something.” The story would eventually become her first published book, Is This a House for Hermit Crab? When a book festival drew esteemed children’s author Richard Jackson to the library, McDonald approached him. “I wasn’t trying to sell my story,” she says. “It wasn’t even finished. I just wanted to learn more about the process.” Intrigued, Jackson invited McDonald to send her story to him. “I was just a kid,” she says. “I had no idea what a golden opportunity it was. Later, when I learned how the publishing world works, I realized that I should have dropped everything in that moment and sent the story off right away!” McDonald eventually finished the book and sent it to Jackson. Is This a House for Hermit Crab?

trick with the fake hand in the toilet really happened. That was the only time I can remember where I got to reverse everything and play a joke on my sisters.” While McDonald borrowed many of her own stories for the Judy Moody books, she’s put Judy in a totally different family situation. “I thought it would be way more fun to be the older sister instead of the youngest of five,” she says. “And I decided to give her a little brother.” McDonald introduced Judy Moody to her editor through a collection of vignettes, but they were deemed too disparate and lacking the necessary continuity to become a book. At the time, McDonald was participating in a writer-in-residence program at an elementary school where the third-grade students were making “all about me” collages. “I took that collage idea and imagined that Judy was completing a similar assignment,” says McDonald. “The stories

“Kids have told me they want to sit next to her in class and be her friend. She makes a lot of mistakes, but she never lets that stop her and she’s passionate about anything she’s interested in. I think she seems so real to so many kids because they see themselves in her.” was published in 1990. “I’m so lucky he was willing to take a chance on me,” says McDonald. She went on to write a number of other books, including The Bridge to Nowhere and The Potato Man, which was based on her father’s life growing up during the depression. “Family history and family stories run through a lot of my work,” she says. “I grew up with four older sisters, so there’s lots of material there.” In her Sisters Club trilogy, McDonald explores the dynamics of how those relationships work. However, McDonald has crammed her most authentic childhood experiences into her books about the unforgettable Judy Moody. “The Toad Pee Club was real,” she says. “As the youngest, I wanted to belong to whatever club my sisters were in and do whatever they did. The moon rock was real. And the 10

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

were little snippets about her life. That became the unifying thread to take that bunch of individual stories and turn them into a novel.” The only problem was that McDonald’s draft was a really long novel—hundreds of pages long. “My editor had to remind me that the book was supposed to be written for 8-year-olds,” says McDonald. “She had to rein me in. I was so excited I couldn’t stop. I’m a lot like Judy Moody in that way.” Reluctantly, McDonald cut out a few chapters. “Later, they became the basis for my book, Judy Moody Saves the World,” she says. “At that time, I didn’t know it was going to be a series, so it was kind of painful to make those cuts.” The first book in the series, simply titled Judy Moody, was released in 2000. The entire Judy Moody collection, including the latest, Judy Moody and the


Feature Story

compact formula. “Sometimes I have a really fun idea but it can’t be fleshed-out into a whole chapter book,” McDonald says. The character of Judy Moody, however, has been fleshed-out so convincingly and authentically that children often believe that she’s a real person. McDonald has seen children burst into tears when Judy doesn’t show up at a book signing. “Kids have told me they want to sit next to her in class and be her friend,” says McDonald. “She makes a lot of mistakes, but she never lets that stop her and she’s passionate about anything she’s interested in. I think she seems so real to so many kids because they see themselves in her.” Bucket List, is being re-released with new covers. “It refreshes everything,” says McDonald. The original brown kraft paper covers are replaced with an eyecatching animal print, reminiscent of the tiger-striped pajamas Judy wears. “I thought it would be impossible to find something to match how much I loved that original cover, but I think it’s brilliant,” McDonald says. The first brand new release to wear the new cover will be Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party, due out in September. “When Judy is assigned to make a family tree, she uncovers some things that lead her to believe that she’s related to the Queen of England,” says McDonald. “So, naturally, she decides to have a tea party with crumpets and pinkies up and she holds it in the Toad Pee tent, which becomes—at least temporarily—the Tea Party tent.” After the third or fourth Judy Moody book, fans began asking McDonald when Stink would get his own book. “I’d be at a school visit or book signing and boys would say they wanted to hear more about Stink,” she says. “So really it was my readers who gave me the idea, although Stink is near and dear to my heart because I know what it’s like to have a bossy older sister.” There are now 10 Stink books, including Stink-O-Pedia (volumes 1 and 2). The Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer movie was released in 2011, introducing an even younger generation to McDonald’s books. “Since they weren’t old enough to read Judy Moody chapter books, I created the Judy Moody and Friends series for beginning readers,” she says. The eight books feature the same cast as the Judy Moody books in a more

For more information about Megan McDonald and Judy Moody, visit meganmcdonald.net or judymoody.com.

Book Giveaway! Two winners will receive an autographed copy of Tracy Barrett’s first book in her new middlegrade fantasy series! Free-spirited Marabel must defy expectations to rescue her brother— and their kingdom—in this charming, actionpacked, and magical story perfect for fans of Ella Enchanted and Dealing with Dragons. Email cristy@storymonsters.com and be sure to put “giveaway” in the subject line. Include your name and mailing address. One entry per person. Winners will be notified by email on March 13. (U.S. residents only). Sponsored by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

11


HOORAY FOR

BABY MONKEY! New from Caldecott Medalist BRIAN SELZNICK and David Serlin “A marvel.” —The New York Times Book Review

★ “Irresistible.” —Booklist, starred review

★ “An endearing hero.”

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “Delightful.” —School Library Journal, starred review

★ “Funny.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

An exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel. babymonkeyprivateeye.com SCHOLASTIC TM/® Scholastic Inc.

12

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

scholastic.com/babymonkey


9780735227989 | $16.99

“Teacher Landis knows how middle schoolers work, and he shows his skill here.” –Kirkus Reviews

“The story’s pace and romantic tension build as the students gel as a team, research primary sources, and create a documentary.” –Publishers Weekly

“A solid choice for middle grade collections, especially those seeking contemporary stories with a healthy dose of historical content and curricular connections.” –School Library Journal

PenguinClassroom.com

PenguinClassroom

@PenguinClass

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

13


Feature Story

One to Read:

Tony Abbott by Melissa Fales

In his latest book, The Summer of Owen Todd, Tony Abbott keenly

juxtaposes the carefree summer days of childhood and the bonds of friendship with the darkness of childhood abuse. Inspired by true events, Abbott’s book fits into the nation’s current narrative about rampant sexual misconduct and the “Me Too” movement, but is written from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy. “It’s perfect timing in the sense that conversations are starting that we haven’t had before about sexual abuse, but really, it’s so far past time for this to happen,” says Abbott. “Only when we start to talk about things like this openly does change come and the shame shifts from the victim to the abuser.”

14

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Feature Story

Set on Cape Cod, The Summer of Owen Todd features tween best friends Sean and Owen who are looking forward to long days of play during the summer before they enter the tumultuous world of middle school. Everything changes when Sean confides in Owen that he’s being abused and swears Owen to secrecy. “It’s a dark story, but it’s illuminated with episodes of fun and lightness,” says Abbott. “I wanted it to be as realistic as possible.” Abbott wrote the book at the request of an acquaintance of his wife, a woman whose son was molested as a child and eventually committed suicide. Abbott loosely based the book on her son’s story. “It’s as tragic as can be,” says Abbott. “I immediately knew that the story I would tell would not be the victim’s story, but the friend’s.” Since he hadn’t endured anything like the trauma of sexual abuse himself, Abbott felt unable to craft the story from the victim’s standpoint. “That’s a story for someone who has been victimized to tell,” he says. Additionally, Abbott felt that, statistically, readers would have more ability to empathize with the friend than the victim. “I began to see and hear Owen pretty clearly immediately,” he says. “My first impulse was an artistic one, in the sense of trying to create real life. If a writer can create real characters that live on the page, then they can take what happens in those characters’ lives and make it potent for the reader. That was my goal.” Abbott says he finds middle school characters endlessly fascinating. “There are so many things happening all at once and there are so many decisions to make,” he says. “That’s when you form the foundation of the person you will become. That makes for complex and interesting characters. Owen has a lot going on in his life for someone his age.” When Abbott was Owen’s age, he and his siblings were living in a book-filled house with their mother, a teacher, and their father, a professor of American history. Education was a priority, particularly for Abbott’s father, a World War II veteran who had been the first person in his family to get a college education, thanks to the G.I. Bill. Abbott played the guitar in several rock bands while in high school and after graduation, he entered the University of Connecticut as a music major. “I had no musical training other than a few guitar lessons,” he says. “I couldn’t read music very well.” Still, it came

as a surprise when, at the conclusion of his first semester, Abbott’s classical guitar teacher took him aside and gently suggested that music might not be his strongest suit. Next, Abbott took up studying psychology, where he did well until he earned a “D” in a statistics course. “My psychology professor took me aside to say that maybe psychology wasn’t for me,” Abbott recalls. At a loss for direction, Abbott thought back to high school and an English teacher he particularly admired. “I thought that if I wasn’t going to study music or psychology, maybe I could just read,” he recalls. He switched to an English major halfway through his sophomore year. “I loved it,” says Abbott. “I loved spending time with stories. I felt like the whole world had opened up to me. I even sold my guitar and used the money to buy books, which was quite emblematic. Of course, when I was in my 30s, I realized what a dumb idea it had been to sell that guitar, so I had to go out and buy another one.” Today, Abbott owns three guitars and continues to play music, which he finds therapeutic. “It’s such a mental thing to write and such a solitary thing,” he says. “Everybody has to have a thing you do to counteract all of that mental work. For me, playing music is the counterpart of all that word stuff.” When it comes to “all that word stuff,” Abbott is particularly known for writing gripping, middle-grade series. He wrote The Copernicus Legacy books, The StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

15


Feature Story

“Writing each book is like meeting a new person. You don’t know if it’s going to go well or be a relationship fraught with problems, but you continue with it. Each book is different and presents its own problems. That’s what keeps it fresh.” Secrets of Droon books, and The Haunting of Derek Stone series, among others. “After doing series for a number of years, I’m doing standalones now,” he says. “I’m really enjoying the structure. In a series, you have to leave something on the table to talk about next time. It has to be a complete story, but you need something to get the reader to launch into the next book. When you’re writing a single story, you have to tie up everything.”

16

was told from a boy’s point of view about a girl in his class who had suffered terrible burns. In this semisequel, the narrator is Jeff, one of the other Firegirl characters. “He’s not a great kid in the first book,” says Abbott. “Readers didn’t like him. In this book, I wanted to go deeper into why not.” The book should be released in the spring of 2019.

In July, his book, Denis Ever After, will be released. “It’s a realistic ghost story about 12-year-old twins, only one of them died five years ago,” he says. “The living twin calls his brother back and they join up on this quest to find out how he really died. It’s a little spooky and funny in a way.”

Stay tuned for more new ideas from Abbott. “I love the challenge of writing a new book,” he says. “Writing each book is like meeting a new person. You don’t know if it’s going to go well or be a relationship fraught with problems, but you continue with it. Each book is different and presents its own problems. That’s what keeps it fresh.”

In progress on Abbott’s desk right now is a companion novel to a book he wrote over a decade ago, Firegirl. It

For more information about Tony Abbott, visit tonyabbottbooks.com.

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


“Vibrant illustrations and an engaging main character help young readers explore themes of resilience, courage, and perseverance…” – Foreword Reviews Clarion Rating 5 Stars

“An appealing tale for an expanding family…this one breaks the mold…Lizzy is a cute and relatable protagonist… – Kirkus Reviews AVAILABLE in HARDCOVER and AUGMENTED REALITY

“Colorful illustrations and zippy rhymes give Lizzy an adventurous flair” – The Childrens Book Review

notable kids publishing

www.itsjustso.net

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

17


StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

18


Feature Story

Elena Delle Donne Hits the Court with New Children’s Book Series by Melissa Fales

It wasn’t always easy being much taller than average, but at age 28 and 6’5”, Elena Delle Donne has learned to make every inch of her exceptional height count. She’s a standout WNBA player with the Washington Mystics and was a key member of the United States women’s basketball team that won the gold medal during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Now, Delle Donne has written a book series intended to help young girls recognize that the very thing that makes them different is often what makes them special. The first in the Hoops series (Simon and Schuster) is Elle of the Ball, which releases this month. That will be followed by Full-Court Press this summer and Out of Bounds this fall. “Growing up, there weren’t a lot of girls like me to relate to,” Delle Donne says. I wanted to put a book out there that reminds little girls that it’s okay to feel different.”

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

19


Feature Story

our teacher asked us to measure ourselves with paper and when my paper was hung up, it went down the hall and across the floor.”

Delle Donne grew up in Delaware in a very close-knit family. “Both my parents are amazing individuals who pushed me and motivated me to be my best,” she says. “I spent a lot of time playing basketball with my brother, Gene, which often got pretty competitive.” She has always been particularly close with her sister, Lizzie, who was born blind and deaf and has cerebral palsy. Despite all of her challenges, Lizzie has been a constant source of inspiration for Delle Donne. “Growing up, Lizzie required a lot of care and attention, but what inspires me about her is that she wakes each morning with a smile on her face,” she says. Six feet tall by the time she was in eighth grade, Delle Donne was constantly aware that she was different from her peers. “It was hard for me at first because many times, I was made fun of because of my height,” she says. “I remember my worst day of school back in third grade when

It was Delle Donne’s family who helped her through the rough patches. “It was tough but my mom always encouraged me and told me to be proud of my height,” she says. Eventually, she learned to see her height not as an adversity, but as an advantage, particularly in the sport of basketball. “I started playing basketball when I was four years old,” she says. “I got pretty serious in second grade when my mom brought me to a gym with Coach Noonan (still the trainer I work with today) who saw potential in me right away due to my size and hand-eye coordination.” Delle Donne excelled in high school basketball and was chosen to play for the UConn Huskies. While she recognized what an honor it was to be selected for such a prestigious team, she felt uneasy about it. “I knew when I was leaving home to go to University of Connecticut that something wasn’t right,” she says. “Being in Connecticut was draining for me because I was so far away from my family and my sister, Lizzie. I was also feeling a lot of pressure at the time because I was making these big decisions about my future, which was moving too fast for my liking.” Delle Donne decided to follow her heart and remain closer to her family. After only a few days, she left UConn and enrolled at the University of Delaware. “Coming home and playing for

the Blue Hens just felt right to me,” she says. “Luckily, I had such a supportive group of people around me who supported my decision.” She took some time off from basketball to regroup, played a little volleyball, and eventually got back into the game. “Growing up so close to the university, it was an honor to play for UDel and bring national recognition to the women’s basketball program,” she says. After college, Delle Donne started playing with the Chicago Sky, the second pick overall in the 2013 draft. During her first year, she won the Rookie of the Year Award and played in her first WNBA All-Star Games. She was with the Sky for four seasons, despite her occasionally near-debilitating battle with Lyme disease. “Winning the MVP award in 2015 was such an honor since I had overcome so much the previous season with my Lyme disease flare-ups,” Delle Donne says. “It reminded me of all of the hard work I had done and the value that I’ve received from it.” She describes her participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics as a “surreal experience.” She says she still cherishes the relationships she made during that time. “I really bonded with the girls that I played with, many of whom I had known before and we’ve become close friends over the years,” she says. “Winning the gold medal meant so much and being able to bring it home to the States was a proud moment.” The road to the Olympics wasn’t easy, even for a superior athlete such as Delle Donne. It required dedication, commitment, and StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

20


Feature Story

a lot of hard work, traits she has consistently held herself to. She uses the slogan “Demand Excellence” to motivate herself to reach for greatness. “I always demand excellence because I always tell myself not to settle for less,” she says. “In every area of my life, I’ve always pushed for just a little bit more. It’s also my tool that holds me accountable when I’m playing. I always try to push myself in practice, preparation, and passion.” It’s a way of life that she tries to exemplify for the many young women who look up to her on and off the court. She’s started the Delle Donne Academy basketball camp as a way to encourage other young women to strive for their personal best. “I take being a role model for these girls seriously and try to live my life in a way that exemplifies the things that I stand for,” she says. “All the camps within the Delle Donne Academy are unified, meaning we incorporate Special Olympic athletes.”  

Since 2014, Delle Donne has served as a global ambassador to the Special Olympics, a cause that resonates very deeply with her. “The Special Olympics allows me to combine two things I love which are my sister and sports,” she says. “The special needs community has had a special place in my heart and has been a part of my life since I was young. I wanted to give back and be a part of a community that

confidence in their own unique abilities. “Growing up, I had a lot of insecurities around my height and just emotions in general,” she says. “I know there are girls out there that are experiencing very similar feelings and I want to tap into that to let them know that there’s nothing wrong with them.” Hoops features a taller-thanaverage heroine whose normal adolescent struggles are amplified

“In every area of my life, I’ve always pushed for just a little bit more. It’s also my tool that holds me accountable when I’m playing. I always try to push myself in practice, preparation, and passion.” celebrates the triumphs of those with special needs.” When she’s not playing ball and showcasing her athletic skills, Delle Donne has begun embracing her creative side. She and her wife, Amanda Clifton, make furniture and household décor under the name DelleDonneDesigns. She is also enjoying writing books, although she admits writing for kids took some effort. “There were some challenges as I needed to change my mindset and constantly remind myself who the audience was,” she says. “I had to find a way to tap into the emotions I had when I was that age and figure out how to tell that story so that it resonated with a younger audience.” Delle Donne hopes her new series will help young women develop

by her height. “I don’t want to give too much away, but the series follows a girl named Elle DeLuca who is 12 years old and six feet tall,” says Delle Donne. “Elle has hopes in finding success playing for her school’s basketball team while facing some challenges along the way.” She also recently released an autobiography, written with Sarah Durand, called My Shot: Balancing it All and Standing Tall. “It gives a really good overview of the various parts of my journey thus far,” she says. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you always need to be true to yourself, and that’s the motto I live by every day.” For more information about Elena Delle Donne, visit elenadelledonne.com.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

21


Feature Story

Behind the Books:

Ben Clanton by Melissa Fales

Ben Clanton remembers his disbelief the first time he saw a photo of

a narwhal. Having never heard of this type of tusked whale, Clanton was shocked and delighted to learn that such a creature existed and determined to write a children’s book about one. Instead, he’s written a whole series, with the first book, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea published in 2016 and Super Narwhal and the Jelly Jolt published in 2017. The third book, Peanut Butter and Jelly, will be released in March. “Jelly has discovered the only thing Narwhal has ever eaten in his whole life is waffles,” says Clanton. “He convinces Narwhal to try new foods, and weird things end up happening. I don’t want to say too much, but Narwhal may or may not change size and color.”

22

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Feature Story

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

23


Feature Story

Clanton became fixated on narwhals after picking up Polar Obsession, a photography book about animals by Paul Nicklen. “I started filling sketch book after sketch book with pictures of narwhals,” Clanton says. “I knew I wanted to create a book with a narwhal character, but I couldn’t find the right elements for his personality.” One day Clanton was waiting in line for ice cream at a place that makes waffle cones. “I started thinking how, if I put one on my head, I would look like a narwhal,” says Clanton. “That shows how allencompassing my narwhal obsession was. Then it struck me—what if the character was as sweet and awesome as waffle cones? What if he was one continual sugar rush of goodness? That’s when I had the fully-realized character of Narwhal in my brain.” With the character solidified, the rest fell into place. “I just had story idea after story idea,” says Clanton. “I picked a jellyfish for Narwhal’s sidekick because they’re fun and cute and simple to draw.” Clanton’s style of including multiple stories under one Narwhal and Jelly title suits the unusual, comicstrip style plots he comes up with. “Lighthearted, fun, quirky stories feel right to me for these two,” he says. He’s obviously onto something. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea won an Eisner Award and Super Narwhal and the Jelly Jolt was named one of Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. Currently, Clanton is working on the series’ fourth book, Narwhal’s Otter Friend. “I’ve given myself the very difficult task of somehow drawing an otter that’s cuter than an otter in real life,” says Clanton. “I’m not sure that’s actually possible.” Clanton carefully researched otters for the book. “They’re fascinating creatures,” he says. “There are 13 different kinds of otters, but I’m focusing on the sea otter. When they’re sleeping in the water, to avoid floating off, they sometimes hold paws. How adorable is that?” As a child, Clanton struggled with reading. “I always loved books, but books with pictures,” he says. “I remember entering third grade after moving from Oregon to Montana. The teacher asked us to quietly read one of the The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I was so far behind the other students. I had never read a chapter book before. I just held the book and pretended to read, turning the page when the kid sitting next to me did.” 24

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

“Imagination and drawing are like muscles. They’re something you work at by practicing. If you use those muscles, you can develop a skill. If you want to get better at soccer, you have to practice. If you want to get better at balancing pineapples on your head, then you have to practice. That’s true for drawing and creating stories, too.” It was the Harry Potter series that motivated Clanton to improve his reading skills. “Eventually I got to the point where I was too excited about the story to have to wait to have it read aloud to me,” he says. While attending Willamette University, Clanton volunteered at a nearby school where he was introduced to the latest children’s books. “I read books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems,” he says. “These books were so funny and clever. It got me wondering if I could do something like that. That’s when I started writing down the stories I was making up and sketching ideas for illustrations.” Clanton never had formal drawing training. “I learned from looking at other books,” he says. Clanton believes anyone can create art if they’re willing to put in the effort. “Imagination and drawing are like muscles,” he says. “They’re something you work at by practicing. If you use those muscles, you can develop a skill. If you want to get better at soccer, you have to practice. If you want to get better at balancing pineapples on your head, then you have to practice. That’s true for drawing and creating stories, too.”


Feature Story

After graduating, Clanton got a job running a before-and-after school program. “It was great because I had the middle of the day and the end of the day to work on my stories,” he says. “It also gave me some test subjects.” His wife, Kelsey, was supportive of his writing, but realistic. She offered him an ultimatum. He could take a year to achieve his dream of scoring a book deal, but if he didn’t get one after the year was up, he needed to find a “real” job. “It seemed fair,” says Clanton, who did indeed, get a book deal within the allotted timeframe. “Honestly, I loved creating books so much that even if the year elapsed, I’m not sure I would have stopped. Ever since I got it in my head that I wanted to create books, it’s felt less to me like a matter of if and more of a matter of when.” His first book, Vote For Me!, featuring an elephant and a donkey, was published in 2012. Other books written by Clanton followed, including Mo’s Mustache and Rex Wrecks It. He’s also illustrated a number of books written by other authors.

One of Clanton’s books, It Came in the Mail, is particularly close to his heart because it was inspired by his own treks to the mailbox as a boy and the excitement of the possibilities awaiting him. “I grew up on a farm and the mailbox was quite a way from the house,” he says. “I never minded the walk because my imagination was always coming up with ideas of what could be waiting for me. Maybe there was a letter from Michael Jordan or maybe there was an envelope with a million dollars. And I’d make up reasons why those things might be in my mailbox. Oddly enough, I was never really deterred by the fact that there was nothing in there.” That boundless optimism continues to carry Clanton through the ups and downs of writing and illustrating children’s books. “I won’t say it’s always been smooth sailing,” he says. “I paid my dues in terms of rejection. But I’m really happy with where I am right now. I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing.” For more information about Ben Clanton and the Narwhal and Jelly series, visit benclanton.com.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

25


Feature Story

Laurie Copmann Creates a Story of Hope and Healing by Melissa Fales

The intricately quilted wall hanging on display in author Laurie Copmann’s home is more than an artfully-crafted work of art. It’s the basis of her children’s book, The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm and photographs of its brightly colored, painstakingly detailed blocks serve as the book’s illustrations. “It took me 800 hours just to cut out all of the fabric pieces,” says Copmann. “I thought I would never finish. I love the quilt and I’m thrilled with how the photos for the book came out, but that’s not what’s really gotten everyone’s attention.”

26

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Feature Story

What has gotten everyone’s attention is how a story about renewal and creating something beautiful from something broken has transcended its existence as a simple kids’ book. It’s become a book adults read as they navigate through grief or struggle through a trying time in their lives. It’s a book parents buy for their children and then buy copies to share with their own friends. “I didn’t know this was going to happen,” says Copmann. “It was supposed to be a happy book for children but for some reason, it seems to be giving all ages a message of hope and helping them heal emotionally.” The book is about a tree and the family who regularly visits to enjoy its cool, expansive shade. The family is saddened when they find one of the tree’s large

“The story was written for me, to help me move through a problem, and yet it’s touched people in ways I never imagined. Knowing that my book is having such a positive effect on others, helping them heal and move forward and giving them hope, has been so rewarding to me.” branches on the ground after a storm, but they use the branch to create a swing they can all enjoy, uniting the branch with the tree again. “It’s about the idea that change is inevitable,” Copmann says. “Sometimes things happen that change our lives forever. However, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be happiness in what comes next.” Readers who are weathering some kind of storm in their lives have drawn comparisons between themselves and the tree, feeling reassured that things will be okay, albeit changed, on the other end. A husband of one of Copmann’s colleagues was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a very young age. The colleague said she didn’t think it was a coincidence that she read the book. “She told me she needed to hear that story,” says Copmann. “The story seems to apply to many different things and mean different things to different people. The message is ‘When life sends a storm … build a swing.’” The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm has particularly resonated with readers who have experienced the loss

of a close friend or family member. People liked the story so much, they’ve hung swings as memorials for loved ones. “I really like the idea of a swing holding people like the arms of their loved one, as they sit on it and take time to reflect on their memories,” Copmann says. Due to popular demand, Copmann is now selling swing seats she’s made out of reclaimed wood. The swings are available in three sizes, from a full-size seat to a decorative one and one that’s Christmas ornament size. “People have started tucking those into sympathy bouquets,” says Copmann. “It becomes a lasting memento.” Copmann was inspired to write what would eventually become The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm nearly 20 years ago when her parents’ 37-year marriage ended in divorce. She originally wrote it in verse, later rewriting the story in prose. “I didn’t intend to share it with anyone,” she says. “I wrote it for me. It was therapeutic.” Drawn to a hanging quilt featured at a fabric store, Copmann decided to illustrate her story using fabric StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

27


Feature Story

page of text. It took Copmann over 10 years to finish. “Obviously, I wasn’t working on it the whole time,” she says. “I had small children. I was busy. I’d work on it at night after dance and basketball when the kids were in bed, sometimes until 1 a.m.” Copmann, an elementary school principal, hopes she’ll have the opportunity to write more books once she’s retired, not that she’s in any rush. “I love working with children,” she says. “It’s a joy to bring happiness to them, to watch them learn and build their confidence.”

and began designing the elaborately detailed 15 blocks that would comprise her quilt. Her friend, quilter Shirley Kraus, did most of the stitching. Hidden in plain sight within the blocks are images of traditional good luck charms for children to find. “I wanted that element of optimism,” says Copmann. “Plus, I thought it would be fun for children to have something to look for with each page turn.” To create the book, each block was carefully photographed and paired with a

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!

Coming Soon!!!

Story Monsters Ink readers will receive a 20% discount. Use the Storymonsters20 at checkout.

8-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR CALLIE CHAPMAN Glitter The Unicorn Series www.GlitterTheUnicorn.com GLITTERTHEUNICORNBOOK

28

GLITTERTHEUNICORN

glittertheunicornbook@gmail.com

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

While The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm has won numerous awards, including Story Monsters LLC’s own Royal Dragonfly Book Award, Copmann says the letters she’s received from readers mean more to her than any award could. “The story was written for me, to help me move through a problem, and yet it’s touched people in ways I never imagined,” she says. “Knowing that my book is having such a positive effect on others, helping them heal and move forward and giving them hope, has been so rewarding to me.” For more information about The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm, visit lauriecopmann.com.


Out of this world fun for early readers.

The Jupiter Twins The newest Funny Bone Books: First Chapters featuring twins and best friends Trudy and Tina. Each book is 3 to 5 chapters, 850 to 1,200 words, with lively full-color illustrations throughout. First Chapters are a fun and easy transition to chapter books for ages 5 to 7. Find at your favorite bookstore or library. Each book: $4.99 softcover $19.99 hardcover

www.redchairpress.com StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

29


A LOVEABLE PIG Proves that Families Come in all Shapes and Sizes by Melissa Fales By the time Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter realized they had been duped, it was too late. They were told the five-pound piglet they were adopting was a mini-pig, but that was one big lie. When they realized there was nothing small about their pet pig Esther, they were already madly in love with her. 30

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

The couple shares the story of what a difference a swine can make in their first picture book, The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig. “Our meeting Esther has been life-changing in every single aspect,” Jenkins says. “From how we live to where we live to our grocery list to what we do for a living.”


Feature Story

Esther entered their lives in the summer of 2012. The animal-loving pair already had two dogs, two cats, and a roommate with another cat living in their 1,000 square-foot home in Georgetown, Ontario. “A pig wasn’t on the wish list,” admits Jenkins, but when an acquaintance contacted him about a lovable mini-pig who desperately needed a home, he said yes. “I was told she’d never weigh more than 70 pounds,” says Jenkins. “I thought she’d be like a third dog, no big deal.” Knowing that Walter wouldn’t be as thrilled about the new addition, Jenkins tried to spin it. “He’s a magician, so I told him to imagine the possibilities for his magic show,” says Jenkins. “After all, no one else makes a mini-pig disappear.” The fallacy began to unravel when Jenkins and Walter took Esther to the vet. “He took one look at her little stubby tail and said she was a commercial pig,” recalls Jenkins. “Then he told us she’d eventually weigh about 250 pounds. But she blew past 250 pounds by the time she was nine months old.” Today Esther’s holding steady at 650 pounds, roughly the size of a female polar bear. Despite Esther’s growing weight, the couple couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of her and continued to keep her in their home with their other domestic pets. She was even house-broken. “She has such a personality,” says Jenkins. “We have so much fun with her every day.” They started a Facebook page so their family and friends could see photos and keep up with the antics of their corpulent friend. It went viral. “All of a sudden, the Facebook page got 100,000 likes,” says Jenkins. “It felt like overnight.” By 2014, Esther’s popularity posed a problem. According to their town’s bylaws, it was illegal for Jenkins and Walter to own her. “She was all over social media,” says Jenkins. “We didn’t want to get in trouble or appear to be flaunting her in the face of the law. But how could we get rid of her? She had become accustomed to living with us in our home. It was all she had ever known.” Building on Esther’s online popularity, Jenkins and Walter started a crowdfunding effort to buy a new place where they could legally and peacefully live with Esther. They raised $440,000 within two months, with donations coming in from almost 10,000 people in 44 countries.

They used the money to purchase a 50-acre farm in Campbellville, which they transformed into the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary for abandoned and abused farm animals. Today it’s home to not only Jenkins, Walter, and Esther, but also over 50 animals including chickens, a peacock, a turkey, cows, a horse, a donkey, sheep, and even other pigs. The sanctuary, a registered charity, is open for tours and volunteer work days. Visitors will likely get to see Esther, if she decides to grace them with her presence. “Most of the time she’ll come out and greet her fans,” says Jenkins. “I swear she knows when ‘her people’ are here. But she does rule the roost and some days she’s just not interested.” Esther seemingly wants nothing to do with the other pigs at the sanctuary. “She’s terrified of them,” says Jenkins. “When we moved, we agreed we’d allow her to choose between the barn and the house. We would have been heartbroken if she wanted to live with the pigs, but we needn’t have worried. She is very much a house pig.” According to Jenkins, Esther spends most of her time napping. “She has a queen-sized bed on the floor in our living room and another queen-sized bed in her bedroom,” says Jenkins. “She has a life of leisure.” She also loves to drink iced tea; a diluted two-gallons worth every day. For Jenkins and Walter, nothing has been the same since Esther came into their lives. “Esther StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

31


Feature Story

has changed everything,” Jenkins says. “She made us re-evaluate what it means to love animals. We went vegan. We’ve even changed careers. I was in real estate and Derek was a magician. Now I’m doing Esther’s social media and he’s managing the sanctuary.” Thanks to Esther, Jenkins and Walter are also now New York Times bestselling authors. When news of the sanctuary and the story behind it spread, Jenkins and Walter were approached about writing a book. “We both assumed it would be a children’s book,” says Jenkins. “We pictured a pig version of Clifford the Big Red Dog.” Instead, it was an adult nonfiction work. “Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time allowed us to tell the whole story in a way we couldn’t on social media,” Jenkins says. “It gave us an incredible opportunity to fill in the blanks for people of what they were seeing. I don’t know how many people get to come out of the gate with

32

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

a New York Times bestseller. When I say ‘we’ wrote a book, it means me, Derek, and about 300 other people. All I know is we had an awesome team behind us, including our co-writer Caprice Crane.” A sequel is due in July. “Esther the Wonder Pig ended with our move to the farm,” says Jenkins. “Happily Ever Esther picks up the story from there.” It was only natural that Esther’s story be made into a children’s book, too. For The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig, Jenkins and Walter teamed up with Crane again. “She took our thoughts and sentiments and turned them into an actual coherent book,” says Jenkins. “And our illustrator Cori Doerrfeld nailed it.” More than just a cute story about an animal finding a forever home, The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig gives Jenkins and Walter a platform to spread what they see as a key message about compassion. “This book has given us a chance to open peoples’ eyes,” says Jenkins. “We hope it makes


Feature Story

“Our meeting Esther has been life-changing in every single aspect. From how we live to where we live to our grocery list to what we do for a living.”

adults and children think about what their idea of a family is and what a companion animal is. We want them to learn how important it is to be kind to all kinds of people, and, of course, all kinds of animals.” For more information about The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig or the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, visit estherthewonderpig.com and happilyeveresther.ca. Find Esther on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and check out her reality show, “Life According to Esther” on Facebook Watch.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

33


34

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

35


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Make Your Garden

Relative by Rita Campbell

Well, I made it through the winter. Spring has sprung, so they say, and it is time once again to do my favorite thing, gardening! When planning a garden with a young child, there are so many questions to ask yourself to help make gardening relative to you and your location as well as make it a successful and enjoyable experience for you and for them. Here are a few: Because there are so many varieties of each vegetable, which one should you plant? Which type of vegetable will do well in your part of the world? Which vegetables are your kids most likely to enjoy growing and eating? Can you relate any particular plants to their learning like history, culture, literature, plant and social biology, and nutrition? What are your growing conditions where you have chosen your spot to garden? These are a few questions to think about when planning your garden. Create a sense of ownership of the garden by giving your children choices and allowing them to decide which plants they want to grow. Of course, you have to be aware of the different varieties of each vegetable and what growing conditions they need. Check the days of maturity, meaning the time taken to go from seed to harvest. Is your growing season long enough for that variety? For example, some tomatoes take fewer days than others to mature. This is important information to look at and consider if your harvest will come before frost. 36

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

It can also give you a good planning technique so that you are sure to plant some early harvest fruit as well as late harvest, so your garden will produce steadily and you will have fresh vegetables available throughout the season. Some crops will need to be started indoors early before setting out after frost. Some plants do better when seeded directly in the ground. When choosing which type of plant will do well in your area, you must consider your growing zone. Plants are happiest in their comfort zone. Take a look at the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map (planthardiness. ars.usda.gov). Identify your location. For a bit of added insurance that your plants will thrive, you may want to choose ones that are one zone hardier than your region. Making sure the varieties you choose will grow in the area of the world where you live will ensure success but you can take it one step further. The plants you choose should be suited to all the growing conditions in your yard. Always check the tag, seed packet, or plant profile to know for a fact that your selection will receive the sunlight, soil type, and moisture it needs to thrive. Then make sure there is sufficient space for it to reach full size. It’s amazing how fast those little plants grow


How Does Your Garden Grow?

into large specimens. All these factors together mean a healthy, thriving, and beneficial backyard.

little gardeners. Playing in the dirt can be fun and educational at the same time.

Let your kids choose the vegetables you are going to plant, but before you give them a choice, make sure the options you give them are kid-friendly like radishes, lettuce, carrots, nasturtiums, and of course, green beans. Nasturtiums have an added benefit. Their peppery smell helps to keep rabbits out of the garden. You can also make a pretty salad with them by using every part of the plant, even the flowers. However, make sure your child understands that not all flowers are editable.

Plant of the Month

Can you relate your garden to learning? Absolutely! There are many children’s books such as Three Sisters Garden by Sandra Baker that was written about a type of garden and its history. It would be a good one to share with your child. There are many things that go into the planning of a garden. Make it fun! Make it educational! Do your research so you will be successful! Let’s inspire some

Tomatoes are by far the most popular home garden crop—and taste is the reason why. Nothing beats the taste of a perfectly vine-ripened tomato! They may be round, red, and softball-sized. You can choose from varieties with fruits as tiny as marbles or ones with fruits weighing several pounds. In addition to the classic red-orange hue, fruits of various varieties ripen to orange, yellow, purple, green, striped, and even white!

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

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

37


READING

LIST Ally Alone

by L.S.V. Baker

“No dad to coach soccer, to play games or read books. No dad to ride bikes or take fish off of hooks.” Tomorrow is Donuts with Dads Day at school. Ally the Alligator is not looking forward to this day because she does not have a dad to invite. What will she say when she shows up alone? Everything turns around when Ally chooses to focus on what she has instead of what she is missing.

Sideways Fred by L.S.V. Baker

“Jumping,” thought Fred, “looks like wonderful fun. I can’t wait to grow legs and hop in the sun.” As a tadpole, Fred can’t wait to jump like the older frogs. But one of Fred’s new legs is shorter than the other and the jumping coach tells Fred that jumping is not for him. Instead of giving up, Fred figures out a special way to jump. He practices and practices until he hits the target the best!

Gerome Sticks His Neck Out by L.S.V. Baker

“He no longer stuck out, his height no longer laughable. But with his head hanging low, he felt most ungiraffeable.” Gerome does not like the attention he draws due to his height. He finds a way to keep a low profile but knows he isn’t being genuine. He is finally able to fully embrace his height, and its advantages, when his concern for another becomes greater than his concern for himself.

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

38

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Spring Reading List

Bubby’s Puddle Pond: A Tortuga’s Tale of the Desert by Carol Hageman

Children who learn how to rely on friends and themselves when they’re young grow up to be happier adults. Bubby’s Puddle Pond tells how Bubby, a tortoise in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, moves outside his solitary shoebox into an unfamiliar world, making friends who band together for safety, comfort, and companionship. Along the way, Bubby realizes that just as he can trust his friends, he can trust himself, too.

Chloe and the Desert Heroes: A Tale of Adventure in the Sonoran Desert by The Desert Awareness Committee

Chloe is a newcomer to Arizona. She not only finds herself bullied at school but she loses her way one day in the harsh and unforgiving Sonoran Desert. Friendly encounters with colorful desert wildlife help her find her way home and teach her how to survive. The story promotes self-reliance and stewardship of the fragile Sonoran ecosystem. It is a perfect fit for Arizona curriculum studies and the study of great deserts of the world.

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.

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

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.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

39


Spring Reading List

The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals) by Tracey Hecht

In The Slithery Shakedown (April 2017), the Nocturnal Brigade—Dawn, a serious fox; Tobin, a sweet pangolin; and Bismark, the loudmouthed, pint-sized sugar glider—unite to stand up to a big bullying snake. The snake slithers away, shedding his skin in the process. Now the animals wear the snakeskin as a cape, a reminder of their courage. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @NocturnalsWorld. Leave a comment with #StoryMonsters and receive your own Nocturnal Brigade cape for your favorite stuffed animal!

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

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.

Cody the Pony Goes to Pony Club by Michelle Path

Mimi has a new pony called Cody. He is broken in and now they are about to embark on their learning journey together, starting with a day at Pony Club! This is the second book in the Cody the Pony series and is based on the author’s own pony. Beautifully illustrated by the talented team at Bookwood Illustrators, it would make a perfect gift for a child who loves animals, especially horses. Visit www. michellepath.com.au. Available from Amazon.com.

The One and Only Owen by Nicole Evans Haumesser

The One and Only Owen is a musical journey of self-awareness and love taken by Owen, a young earthworm. Owen feels sad due to his constant comparison of himself to other creatures around him in the garden. He wishes he were a bee, a ladybug, or anything but himself. But when Owen discovers his value, his self-esteem grows and it changes how he views the world around him. Highlights the importance of earthworms in garden ecosystems.

Don’t Feed the Elephant by Sherry Ellis

People say you’re not supposed to play with your food. But one elephant never got the message. This charming story won’t just entertain kids with its hilarious descriptions and zany main character. It will also educate them about the alphabet and help them learn the order of letters. From animal crackers to zebra cakes, the elephant is enthusiastic to gobble everything up, even when it lands him in hot water.

40

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Spring Reading List

Explorations of Commander Josh: In Space by Donna LeBlanc

A high-flying adventure into the great unknown! Join the lovable Josh, who—with ideas from his favorite travel shows and his mother’s laundry basket—uses his brilliant imagination to take off for the stars. In this series, Story Monster Approved and Purple Dragonfly Award-winning author Donna LeBlanc crafts unique worlds in which readers can play and explore, with the promise of many more adventures to come!

It’s All Silly ... Says Tilly by Sharmaine Bernard

Tilly, who is teased, shows kindness to her teaser, Billy. When Billy is teased, she stands up for him and they become friends. Together they show kindness to others, helping them to be accepted. Respecting others’ differences helps to make them feel valued and not alone. Tilly is a free-spirited soul who sees everyone as the unique and special person that they are. It is a light, humorous rhyming read that you will want to read again and again.

The Tale of Prince by Bianca C. Staines

It’s a dog’s life, and Prince couldn’t have asked for a better one. That is, until she arrives. When a stray she-dog trespasses into his territory and steals his humans’ hearts, his life is ruined. Getting rid of Bennie seems impossible. Then, one night, a cat is found dead in his home and Bennie has vanished. Accused of pet-icide, Prince must find her and, on the way, discover the wolf that lives inside every dog.

The Giddlywumps by Sue Ann Kunberger

The Giddlywumps are adorably frightening creatures who live in the walls and sneak into children’s messy rooms at night. The Giddlywumps are the strangest things, with orange eyes and purple wings; they creep under the bed and up the sheet, across your toes to tickle your feet! For the Giddlywumps, the messier the room, the better. There’s only one sure way to keep the ‘wumps away, for Giddlywumps won’t come ’round to rooms where mess is never found!

Dee and Deb Off They Go: Kindergarten First Day Jitters by Donna M. McDine

The anxiety of finding one’s own place and friends in kindergarten without the comfort of having her fraternal twin sister nearby at first overwhelms Dee. Until she realizes even without her fraternal twin sister, Dee and her classmates for the most part are in the same boat.

Growing Up

by Sue Ann Kunberger

Growing Up is a sweet story of a boy and his three-wheeled trike. He rides his trike up and down the street, carting his baby sister along and honking his horn so his mother can keep track of him. But, growing up can be difficult for a little boy when he outgrows his favorite toy.  Soon, with Dad’s help, his prayers are answered with a new, two-wheeled bike.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

41


Spring Reading List

Have You Ever Heard a Screeching Cat? by Melvin H. Harlan

What’s that fraidy cat Max really scared of—his shadow, himself, or Arlynn’s furry red cap with the especially long earflaps? Arlynn receives a new hat for his birthday and shortly after, his cat Max starts screeching and acting strangely. So Arlynn decides to only wear the hat when Max is sleeping. But one day Max wakes up early and starts screeching at Arlynn! Arlynn decides it’s time to teach Max a valuable lesson about facing fears.

The Bat Book

by Conrad J. Storad

Bats are NOT scary! Little Boy Bat lives under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. One day he overhears some human kids saying mean, nasty things about bats. Bats are ugly. Bats are weird. Bats are SCARY! Their words make him feel very sad. L.B has a long talk with his parents. They give him some useful advice. L.B. takes action. He decides to write and illustrate a book so that he can teach those human kids some facts and the truth about bats.

Rattlesnake Rules by Conrad J. Storad

Too often misunderstood, rattlesnakes have gotten a bad rap over the years. Conrad J. Storad demystifies the world of rattlesnakes and introduces children to such topics as who, when, and what rattlesnakes eat. He shows readers why rattlesnakes have rattles and what it means if you hear one. You will also learn how the snakes forked tongues help them survive. The delightful and colorful illustrations of Nathaniel P. Jensen help bring the story alive.

Gator, Gator, Second Grader: Classroom Pet or Not? by Conrad J. Storad

Many creatures make great classroom pets, but others just DO NOT! That’s what the teacher says, anyway! When second graders Benny and Jacob bring a baby alligator to school in a cardboard box, their teacher, Mrs. Nichols, has an important message to share. A baby gator is NOT a good classroom pet! As an impromptu pet safari unfolds, Mrs. Nichols helps her students identify which creatures are suitable for school and which animals are better housed elsewhere.

Aggie Boyle and the Lost Beauty by David Fine

Aggie Boyle is going through the misery of being an unpopular and not-so-attractive girl in middle school. After another miserable day of school, Aggie falls asleep, feeling completely lost and alone. Awakening to an unexpected transformation, she begins an adventure that leads her to a colonial village with surprising inhabitants. She finally finds her true self and true friends as she wields her magical powers in a race to save an entire town from destruction.

More Tales For Your Monkey’s Mind by Steve Michael Reedy

In the vein of Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, and Dr. Seuss comes a read-along for the older child and inner child. More Tales For Your Monkey’s Mind is a collection of six illustrated short stories written with the same imaginative and fanciful fervor as its predecessor. Author Steve Michael Reedy continues his look at the side effects of our social structure using dancing purple hippos, a giant clock, shooting stars, and talking pink fuzzy bunnies.

42

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Spring Reading List

The Birthright Chronicles: Guardians of Magessa by Peter Last

Senndra, Josiah, and their comrades are all that stand between a massive army and total annihilation of their country. Facing horrific odds, the young cadets have no hope of defeating the invading horde. Will they be able to overcome their trials, and find the strength to finally realize themselves as the Guardians of Magessa? Guardians of Magessa ISBN# 978-1934610886; The Wizard’s Tower ISBN# 9781934610893; The Dragon Warrior ISBN#  978-1934610909. Available from Amazon.com.

Tucks and Me: Crispus Attucks and America 1766-1773 by Katherine V. Stevens

An unlikely friendship between a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks and Gabe, a sickly 10-yearold boy is the thread Katherine V. Stevens uses to unravel the events that occurred on the Eastern Seaboard during the late 1700s. As a bond of friendship and trust forms between Tucks and Gabe, readers will learn about the hard life of being a seaman and what life was like in colonial America. A must-read for anyone who wants to learn about this important chapter of American history.

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 | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

43


44

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


A quick romp through an African rainforest gives kids 3 & up • An understanding of loss & hope • Amazing chimp facts • A fun seek & find

afriendshipforever.com

know nature

Nature Fun & Facts

Is Sammy a horse or is he a fish? $17.95 USD retail

ahorse my the Se SamIs he a horse or is he a fish?

ISBN: 978-0-692-76673-6

A feast for the eyes and a spark for the imagination, Sammy the Seahorse delights readers of all ages with its fascinating facts about the lives of seahorses and their habitats. Mom’s Choice Gold, plus more.

ll, Ed Martha Dr iscoll & Ann Dr isco

.D

d by trate Illus

ra Lion n And Susa

SECOND EDITION

Mountain meadow critters create a trail for all to enjoy

$17.95 USD retail ISBN: 97809846835-2-9 Little worm wiggles across the meadow. Did he see a trail? All the other animals follow, up to the big moose, and then the curious boy. Facts about each animal and the other details in each spread, plus a fun seek & find. Ages 3 and up. Mom’s Choice Gold winner.

A Rocky Mountain Tale on a mountain meadow trail

Written by Jennifer Davies Gance Illustrated by Susan Andra Lion

PLEASE VISIT: www.suelion.com

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

45


Monsters at the Movies

Early Man Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: B+ A few years back, John Cleese and Kirk DeMicco started developing a caveman comedy called Crood Awakening. The film was intended to be a stop-motion, animated feature produced by Aardman Animations along with DreamWorks. After these two studios cut ties, however, DreamWorks went on to produce a computer-animated adventure called The Croods instead. Now just five years after that prehistoric flick hit theaters, Aardman brings us Early Man, which feels much closer to Cleese and DeMicco’s original vision. It’s kind of like when Pixar released A Bug’s Life just one month after DreamWorks’ Antz. Like The Croods, Early Man also centers on a primitive tribe that’s stuck in the Stone Age, but one outspoken misfit is eager to evolve. Eddie Redmayne voices Dug, a caveman who would rather take on a mammoth than hunt puny rabbits. Although his tribe is reluctant to change, they’re forced to adapt when the Bronze Age army invades their valley. Tom Hiddleston is pompously villainous as Lord Nooth, who’s like a slightly less goofy version of Xerxes from 300. Dug makes a deal with Nooth, playing for the valley in a game of soccer, or “football” as it’s known in the United Kingdom. Those familiar with the sport might know that soccer wasn’t invented until the 19th century. In this film’s universe, however, it cleverly derived from the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Speaking of dinosaurs, the opening scenes of Early Man will give anybody who 46

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

grew up with Ray Harryhausen movies déjà vu. Anyway, Dug and his tribe aren’t exactly up to date on the rules of soccer. They get some much-needed guidance from a girl named Goona (Maisie Williams), who has always dreamed of playing soccer in a stadium with the crowds cheering. She’s like Tatum O’Neal in The Bad News Bears, but less developed. Actually, that’s the best way to describe Early Man. It’s an underdog sports comedy meets The Flintstones. If you already know the sports movie formula going in, the plot here isn’t exactly going to catch you off guard. That being said, Early Man does have a few original elements that separate it from the rest of the crowd. For example, how many sports movies can you think of that have cavemen, wild boar, and giant, man-eating ducks? The filmmakers throw a lot of weird ingredients into a primordial soup.


Monsters at the Movies

As strange as it all might sound, though, those ingredients mesh together to create a satisfying meal. Even if parts are a bit clichéd, the film doesn’t simply reinvent the wheel. Directed by Academy Award-winner Nick Park, Early Man has the signature wit one would anticipate from an Aardman production. The animation is whimsical, the writing is sharp, and the visual gags are so fast-paced that you probably won’t catch them all in one sitting. When stacked up against Park’s other efforts, Early Man doesn’t reach the same heights as Chicken Run or Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. In the end, though, the film does have enough charm and humor to reach its goal.

Nick Spake

Riddles & Giggles Q: What is a leprechaun’s favorite cereal? A: Lucky Charms!

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.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

47


Liv on Life Slippery Monkey Bars by Olivia Amiri Have you ever had a really bad day, or week, or year? Or simply broken your arm and couldn’t do the things you love to normally do? My broken arm story goes like this: One chilly morning on the way to school we picked up my friend, Bee. When we got to school, it was a pretty normal start of the day—math groups, readers workshop, and lunch. Then it was time for big yard, which is a huge field, covered in short grass. I love the monkey bars. At my fast pace, I reached for the middle bar, but instead I slipped and fell directly on my left arm. My whole arm was numb and throbbing, I couldn’t move my arm or fingers. They brought me to the office and had me lay down on a small rickety cot, and started to ask me questions. I just nodded and shook my head. Somehow my voice wasn’t working very well. My mom came as quickly as she could, although to me it seemed like days. The office gave me a wheelchair and a chocolate cupcake, which was the best part. When we got to the doctor’s, he confirmed by X-ray that it was indeed broken. I picked out a purple cast. After four weeks, I went back to the doctor’s so he could take off the cast, and I got more sugar treats: cherry lollipops! Even though to this day, my left arm is shorter than my right arm, I am most grateful for my arms. I realized how lucky we are that we have bodies that function. And we can do so much with our bodies and arms that we take for granted: such as ride a bike, swim, climb trees, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, type on computers, and swing on monkey bars! I remind myself everyday how lucky I am.

Olivia Amiri 11-year-old Olivia Amiri is a little girl with big advice! Sharing insights and observations 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

48

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


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.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

49


Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

Symphony Hollow

by Jessica Reino, Emma Graham. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This book is delightful from cover to finish! The characters, theme, illustrations, colors, and fonts all heighten the pleasure of its reading. The book itself is as much a work of art as the symphony it portrays. And the puns will surely delight the adults conducting story time. This is a fun way to introduce music greats to the young.

Bradley and the Dinosaur

by Julian Hilton, Jacqueline East. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This fun, rhyming tale will delight young ones as they share in Bradley’s grand adventure. The best playmate I found in childhood was my imagination. It could turn the most natural of settings into the most amazing wonderlands, and adventure beckons at every turn.

My Bunny

by Justin Davis, Claire Adele. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This sweet, repetitive rhyme will engage children to read along as they search for Millie’s elusive little bunny. A great way to encourage little ones to keep their eye on their precious treasures.

The Silas Series: The Adventures of Silas and Opal by Grannie Snow, Matthew Gauvin. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

No matter which of the five titles you read, you will enjoy the smooth rhyming text, and the delightful illustrations by Matthew Gauvin. Children will eagerly await each new adventure of these two adorable cats, and their loving owner. We’re hooked from book one when Grannie Snow meets Silas. Each story builds upon the other, until they all feel like family.

The Adventures of Bubba Jones: National Park Series by Jeff Alt, Hannah Tuohy. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Two great titles, Time Traveling Through Shenandoah National Park and Time Traveling Through the Great Smoky Mountains, but one amazing adventure in time. How better to discover the wonders of old, than to step back in time and experience them for yourself. These adventures have it all: history, family, education, excitement, and fun. Truly a great way to learn.

50

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Book Reviews

Shelly’s Sweet Tooth

by Jessica R. Herrera. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

A great story for little minds to discover the danger sweets can present. Poor Shelly was getting sluggish and slow. Without the help of those around him, he could have unexpectedly become lunch for a fit and faster foe. Just as the little snail has to make up its mind, we too have to make wise decisions about what we eat. An audio version is also available.

Thunder: An Elephant’s Journey

by Erik Daniel Shein, L.M. Reker. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Thunder is a young pygmy forest elephant, forced into an incredible journey when he is separated from his mother by poachers. The characters of our story are broad and diverse, yet together strong and capable. The witty banter entertains, while the strength of heart unites and uplifts. It brings a clear focus of our need for each other, and the realities of a world contrary to it. It’s our world, and what happens to it and in it, affects us all. Delightful tales like this awaken, educate, and bring hope to humanity.

I Am Loved

by Nikki Giovanni, Ashley Bryan. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Newbery Award honoree Ashley Bryan has hand-selected a dozen of National Book Award winner Nikki Giovanni’s poems to illustrate with his inimitable flourish. Poetry captures the heart and soothes the mind. Its smooth rhythmic flow arouses the emotions and provokes actions of interest and determination. Even infants seem to follow its melodious continuity with matching coos of delight. The brightly colored illustrations stimulate and carry the sensory impact.

Yellow Kayak

by Nina Laden, Melissa Castrillon. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The author uses a rhythmic sequence, or flow of sound in the sharp stops and two word footfalls, to create momentum and exhilaration. The abrupt cadence builds with each new line, bringing stillness, or storm to mounting heights. A child and his friend brave the sea, and tested and tried, they return happily. Illustrations by Melissa Castrillon build a visual force to match the text, bringing its full end to a powerful ovation.

The Trial of Mother Goose

by Ricky Kennison. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This fun courtroom drama brings forth a cold case we all remember. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall. But was he pushed? Eyes of suspicion are directed to Mother Goose. Could she be guilty? A host of notable characters are brought forth as witnesses. How will it end? Is Mother Goose doomed? We’ll have to crack the case to find out.

The Word Collector

by Peter H. Reynolds. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I love this kid! If you are anything like me today, you must gasp when in earshot of conversations that no longer hold, or uphold, the beauty of our language. The practice of using language with fluency and aptness appears to be a lost art. Jerome cherishes the wonder of words all around him—short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multisyllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower. Thank you Peter H. Reynolds, for reminding us of the grace, beauty and wonder of expression, in mere words.

StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

51


Book Reviews

Bunny’s Staycation (Mama’s Business Trip) by Lori Richmond. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Richmond’s creative talent seems to spill evenly over all the endeavors of her life. Knowing the fine balance necessary for working parents, she portrays her creative flare in Papa Bunny’s imaginative ability to count down the days till Mama returns with great fun and adventure. Clever and endearing!

Wisdom & Wordplay

by Robert Eddison. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Words are fun. We often use them in games, or witty quips and phrases. Condensing philosophical observations into one-liners takes great skill, and shows a mastery of language. It is called Aphorism. This book is filled with such skill, and offers a fun dip and dive opportunity when you find a quiet moment to titillate or enlighten your mind.

100 Things I Love to Do with You by Amy Schwartz. Reviewer: Julianne Black

Told in rhyme as snippets of insight featuring the essential nature of closeness between (but not limited to) friends or siblings, this book would be an especially big winner in families where a second child was on the way. Focused on the enjoyment of micromoments in time, Schwartz does an equally amazing job with the illustrations to create an overall feeling of intimacy by celebrating simple acts of mindfulness. A joy to read and share!

When I Grow Up

by Tim Minchin, Steve Antony. Reviewer: Julianne Black

Perfect for fans of Tim Minchin’s Tony Award-winning Matilda the Musical! Minchin pairs the fabulously fun lyrics from the song “When I Grow Up” against Steve Antony’s gorgeously detailed illustrations to bring to life the fun that comes with anticipating adult life when you are young. From ice cream, candy, and cartoons to climbing trees, each page feels like summer vacation! When I Grow Up makes a great read for school or home, with each page depicting a wonderland of experience! Enjoy!

Maddi’s Fridge

by Lois Brandt, Vin Vogel. Reviewer: Julianne Black

A beautiful story of friendship centered around a hardship too many children face today: not having enough food. It’s a topic difficult to talk about, especially to this age group, but Brandt spoons in just the right amount of lighthearted humor to make a typical “bringing awareness” style book into a classic feelgood story about the bond between two friends. Perfect for libraries, but better for story time, Maddi’s Fridge is a wonderful conversation opener and has the potential for some serious healing. Adorable illustrations by Vin Vogel round out the work and give it an extra dose of approachability. Certainly a keeper and magnificent grade school resource.

Charlie Builds

by Bob Bianchini. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Designing, engineering, building, and creativity are all key components of successful buildings! Luckily, we do not need a lot of fancy tools when we have our imagination, a playful dad, and a great backyard. Charlie and his dad are the perfect team to construct skyscrapers out of blocks, fire stations from boxes, and more creations. This colorful and short rhyming board book will engage readers as they relate to their own special moments with Dad—especially snuggling up to bedtime stories about special hobbies.

52

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


Book Reviews

Romeo’s Big Book of Clever Ideas by Alain Gree. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

We take a brainstorming journey with Romeo to find the perfect way to transport his suitcase on a camping trip. He has so many treasures he’d like to bring, but if he brought them all, he would be able to pick up his suitcase! Should he make it into an airplane? Or perhaps a go-cart? Maybe a rocketship? The adorable ending makes us cheer for Romeo’s open-minded ideas and brings up fun discussion with children about problem-solving.

Wanda’s Better Way

by Laura Pedersen, Penny Weber. Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

A beautiful, heartwarming, and relatable story about a little girl trying to figure things out her way. Wanda is faced with three different challenges and she needs to figure out how solve them. The adults in Wanda’s life wonder if she would rather participate in other hobbies but Wanda is determined to figure out solutions that make activities enjoyable for her! In addition to the relatable storyline, the illustrations in this book are beautiful. I especially love the inclusion of an interracial family and the empowering message for our young girls that giving up (or giving in) should never be an option.

The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals) by Tracey Hecht, Josie Lee. Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

The Slithery Shakedown is a quirky, humorous book great for beginner readers, with fun illustrations. I love how the story takes three completely different types of animals—a pangolin, a sugar glider, and a red fox— and puts them together in a tight friendship. A friendship that even has them all standing up to a bully snake. A great bonus at the end of the book is the fun facts about nocturnal animals. This description of the animals helps you understand what they are and how interesting of a combo they are together.

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: Ghosts Don’t Ride Bikes, Do They? by Andres Miedoso. Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

If you’re expecting a scary ghost story, this isn’t one of them. But instead you get a wonderful adventure story filled with helpful, mischievous ghosts. The story takes place in Kerville, a town with a history of ghosts and spirits hanging around. And everyone knows if you see a ghost or spirit, you just call Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol. In this book Desmond and his best friend and ghost patrol partner, Andres Miedoso, track down a ghost on a bike. Although, Desmond really doubts a ghost can ride a bike because “they float everywhere.” This is the second book of the series. 

A Problematic Paradox

by Eliot Sappingfield. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Nikola Kross feels like she’s a weirdo. Maybe she acts and feels that way because her mom left when she was just a toddler and her dad spends all his time on his amateur science experiments. One day her father is kidnapped and she is shocked to learn who her plain old unremarkable dad really is and what’s more, she learns a huge secret about herself. This is the ultimate mystery-action-adventure-science- fiction story of them all. I can’t wait to read the next one.

The Stone of Integrity

by M. J. Evans. Reviewer: Diana Perry

In this third book of the Centaur Chronicles, Carling, future queen of Crystonia, is summoned by the historian of the Minsheen herd of Centaurs who entrusts her with a secret ancient map. She has proven herself worthy so far by venturing into dangerous situations in many faraway lands to gather the sacred stones. This time, she must go to the feared island of Hy-Basilia to find the stone of Integrity. The settings are so visual and fantastic, reminding me of lands told of in classic fairy tales. The map of Crystonia gives visual guidance as kids read this lively story. The story unravels one sub-plot after another as the dangers keep coming and the adventure never stops. StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

53


Book Reviews

Treachery and Truth

by Katy Huth Jones. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Immersed in the historical background of the 10th century, this true tale of Good King Wenceslaus, as told by his faithful servant Poidevin, brings the reader into the Dark Ages. Fear grips the land of Bohemia as the faithful face betrayal and persecution under the reign of the pagan Duchess Dragomira. As she struggles for power with the rightful heir, Prince Vaclav, her foes forge alliances in secret despite the risk of discovery. Who will survive? A good-vs-evil tale, it gives readers a peek into history, exposing the laws, weapons, foods, and life from long ago. I loved the cast of characters, the glossary of terms, and the map of Central Europe, giving visuals to all who enjoy this delightful tale.

Baggywrinkles: A Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea by Lucy Bellwood. Reviewer: Diana Perry

This book is a fast-paced graphic novel about two adventurous lads who learn all about life aboard a ship. Young readers will learn nautical terminology and how to navigate all kinds of waters without the modern equipment we have today. Kids will feel like they’re part of the crew as they battle land-lovers, search for treasures, and visit all of Europe as real-life, sword-wielding pirates.

Esme’s Wish

by Elizabeth Foster. Reviewer: Diana Perry

When 15-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, so why can’t she? But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance. Beautifully weaved with magic and adventure, I loved how the ending suggested a future sequel. This book has everything any adventure and fantasy lover could want. This is the ultimate bedtime book to cause dreams of grand fantasies.

The Boggart Fights Back

by Susan Cooper. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Once again, there’s magic afoot in Scotland when Allie and Jay visit their grandfather and are eagerly greeted by the Boggart, an ancient sprite, and his cousin Nessie, formerly known as the Loch Ness Monster. Things are rarely peaceful with two boggarts around, but this time a real estate developer is the one causing a disturbance. If you’ve ever wondered if the Loch Ness monster really exists, this is your book. But how does a huge monster like that escape being discovered day after day? And what else is at the muddy bottom of the loch? Kids won’t be able to put this one down. A truly fun read.

Hypnotic Dunces

by Kate Jaimet. Reviewer: Diana Perry

Four middle-grade kids stuck in a world of pushy parents and clueless teachers. Luckily, they’ve found a way to fight back against the forces of adulthood: a secret club called Dunces Anonymous! I really had fun reading this book filled with non-stop chaos. Young readers will thrill over this exciting pageturner with relatable characters. This is the third book in Jaimet’s award-winning series and it’s perfect for a bedtime read!

54

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

55


Q&A

Q&A with

Linda Ashman by Julianne Black

Over the past 20 years, Linda Ashman has produced over 30 children’s books, published by book giants like Disney-Hyperion, HarperCollins, Random House, and Sterling. In 2013, she created a comprehensive resource guide: The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. It is crammed with tips and practical information, and what didn’t make it in the book, or what she’s learned since then, finds life in her amazingly helpful blog.

Q: If you could only choose one piece of advice or one lesson that has saved you the most time over the course of your career so far, what would it be? A: When I first started writing many years ago, I attended an introductory workshop on children’s books. One of the speakers recommended typing the texts of picture books into a document and doing a word count. This was a revelation! I’d been writing overly long and descriptive texts and, not surprisingly, racking up the rejections. Once I realized how sparse picture book texts are, and how much of the story can be told through the illustrations, it made all the difference. I still do this exercise with books I love. In addition to word count, I also note page numbers and text breaks to get a sense of the pacing and drama escalation. Q: How about the one thing that has saved you the most money? A: Using my library card. Reading lots of picture books is the best way to learn to write them. In the 56

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

beginning, I also read lots of books on the business and craft of writing for children. Not to plug my own work, of course, but I wrote The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books to share everything I wish I’d known when I first started writing and to help others avoid the many mistakes I made (and save them both time and money!). There’s also a huge amount of information online, from blogs like PictureBookBuilders.com (to which I contribute along with seven other authors and illustrators); writing challenges; and online classes and webinars. I don’t try to keep up with it all (it can be a little overwhelming!), but I do keep links to some helpful sites on the Resources for Writers page of my website. Q: While the writing world tends to be made up of a lot of solitary authors, the need to critique and collaborate still seems to be a very important part of success. In past interviews, I’ve noticed you mention Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as a resource and network. Any others that you find helpful?


Q&A

A: Yes, SCBWI is certainly the best place to start if you’re looking to connect with other children’s book writers. While the national conferences (in Los Angeles and New York) may be out of reach in terms of time commitment and expense, there’s likely to be a regional chapter in your area that offers conferences, workshops, and connections to fellow writers. I always encourage writers to sign up for a manuscript critique if they’re planning to attend one of the SCBWI national or regional conferences. It’s incredibly valuable to get face-to-face feedback from an editor, agent, or published author or illustrator. It’s how I met my first editor, in fact. Aside from SCBWI, bookstore and library events are also a great opportunity to meet local authors—I’ve met a number of writer friends that way. Q: After working with a variety of well-known publishers and then self-publishing The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, what was your takeaway on the process? Did you find that both directions have their own place in the industry or did you favor one way over the other?

works that way. I typically juggle the big projects with the urgent stuff that comes in regularly—a contract to review, manuscript to revise, sketches to look at for an upcoming book. At the moment, I’m working on revisions for an editor (and your questions, of course!), but am eager to return to a new manuscript I started before the holidays. Q: And after all this, what’s next? A: I’ve got several more books coming out in the next few years, including William Wakes Up, a follow-up to William’s Winter Nap, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, which just arrived in October (Disney-Hyperion). The publication process moves very slowly, so I’ll keep working on new manuscripts to start filling the pipeline for the 2020s!

A: I wrote The Nuts and Bolts Guide after teaching a series of classes on writing picture books. From the beginning, I envisioned it as a kind of handson workbook for writers—with writing exercises, reading lists, resources, and interviews with industry professionals—as opposed to an actual book, so I never considered submitting it to a publisher. Even so, the learning curve for creating a 150-page PDF, then a Kindle-compatible version, was steep! As for picture books, I can’t imagine going the self-publishing route. The publication process is a long and intricate team effort, involving a range of talented people—the illustrator, editor, art director, sales and marketing staff, publicists, and others. Definitely far beyond my skill set! Q: Would you be willing to share your working schedule with us? Many people have no idea the time that goes into each picture book, never mind the volume you’ve produced so quickly. What does a typical writing work day look like for you when you are knee-deep in a new project?

For more on Linda Ashman’s books, workshops, and blog, check out www.LindaAshman.com.

A: I really admire people who manage to write every day, but I’m not one of them. I tend to be more project-oriented. Whether it’s writing a new story or preparing for a conference presentation, I like to focus on that exclusively until it’s done. Not that it usually

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 | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

57


Kids Corner

WORD

H N 

A

R A 

W V  T 

E

M I 

N S 

SEARCH

N B 

C

K

U

O

L

T

C

X

Z

F

M A 

U

A

B

H M  T 

F

I

S

E

R

Q

H

R

F

F

H

X

A H 

V

P

F

R

J

C

W T 

T

O

B

B

A

D S 

F

B S 

B

S

R

C

L

A

N

T

O

N

I

N

K

K

A

G

T

P

C

S

T

T

G

N H 

I

U M  N  W  A 

Z

W K 

Y

Y

N

H

G G 

L

L

A

B

T

E

K

S

A

B

I

S

O

D R 

M P 

Z

H J 

O

C

B

M R 

U U 

O

H M  E 

H E 

H C 

J

N

O

P

O

I

H B 

D

H A 

O E 

E

Q

S

P

T

O P 

J

L

Q

R T 

K

X

F

R

F

D

M P 

B S 

R

B I 

S

A

Y

Z

P

P

D I 

T

F

M U  E 

R

X

K

M D 

B

Y

S

A

M A 

I

G I 

C

W P  S 

D

T

Y

A C 

Y

E

H

Q N 

Z

A

L

U T 

N

  ABBOTT 

ASHMAN

BASKETBALL

CLANTON HARRIS  MAGIC 

COPMANN HOOPS  MISFITS 

ESTHER LEPRECHAUN  MOODY 

NARWHAL

READING

SPRING

58

Story Monsters Ink | March 2018 | StoryMonsters.com


StoryMonsters.com | March 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

59


m

ask

at

t .co un rner o o sc Di tersC r ax ato uc ter@B d E as yM Pla

®

Building Character is Child’s Play ®

A Valuable Resource For Parents, Educators & Young Children! Stories That Build Character to Impact Choices Baxter’s Corner® mission is to use creativity and storytelling to affect behavior choices through open discussion between children and adults about values and ethical topics that challenge us in today’s world, because Building Character is Child’s Play®.

What is a shy giraffe to do when a friend is being bullied? “Parents and educators both share responsibility to engender in children empathy and a sense of responsibility. Baxter’s Corner provides a unique series of children’s books that help adults teach these essential skills while telling children delightful stories. The Go Beyond section makes sharing these tales opportunities for lessons about the impact of choices we make. Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ, Independent School Administrator – Miami, Florida

Meet The Animals That Teach Kids About Making Good Choices

Other Baxter’s Corner titles include: Ally Alone, What a Tree it Will Be!, Oakley in Knots, Sideways Fred, and Ellema Sneezes. Available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and BaxtersCorner.com. www.BaxtersCorner.com PlayMaster@BaxtersCorner.com

Profile for Story Monsters Ink

Story Monsters Ink March 2018