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May 2018

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Jessica, Patrick & Rescue

A Journey of Hope and Healing Julian Lennon

Inspires Kids to Imagine a Better World One to Read:

Katherine Applegate

Mara Wilson

Joins Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Judging Panel

Mazza Museum

Brings Beloved Picture Book Art to Life

Shelley Lekven

Molds an Enchanting New Children’s Book

Teaching Toolbox: Science, Social Studies and Stories Q&A with

Lois Brandt


PROMOTE YOUR BOOK IN OUR NEXT ISSUE! 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 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 Deb Greenberg

Web Management Patti Crane

Advertising

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

Book Reviewers

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

Darleen Wohlfeil, Larissa Juliano, Diana Perry, Jessica Reino, Tynea Lewis

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

Cover photo courtesy of Kyla Dunlavey 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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

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


May 2018

In this issue 14 One to Read: Katherine Applegate

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20 Mara Wilson Joins Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Judging Panel

Julian Lennon Inspires Kids to Imagine a Better World

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Jessica, Patrick & Rescue: A Journey of Hope and Healing

Mazza Museum Brings Beloved Picture Book Art to Life

Boston Strong

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Q&A with Lois Brandt

Shelley Lekven Molds an Enchanting New Children’s Book

34 StoryMonsters.com Teaching Toolbox: Science, Social Studies, and Stories

32 Kids Can Publish 36 How Does Your Garden Grow? 38 Spring Reading List

44 Monsters at the Movies 46 Conrad’s Classroom 43 Liv on Life

48 Book Reviews 58 Kids Corner

Tell us what you think of this issue! Email your comments to cristy@storymonsters.com.

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Jessica, Patrick & Rescue: A Journey of Hope and Healing by Melissa Fales

Just seven months into their marriage, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky were seriously injured in the bombings that marred the 2013 Boston Marathon. The couple lost limbs, they lost their freedom for the four years they spent in hospitals recovering, and there were many times when they almost lost hope.

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Amidst all this loss, Downes and Kensky gained a crucial, furry new friend. Rescue, a trained service dog assigned to help Kensky with her everyday actions, bounded into their lives and quickly became a beloved part of the family. Now, Downes and Kensky have co-authored a children’s book, Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship (Candlewick Press), inspired by their beloved Labrador Retriever and the profound impact he’s had on their lives during their darkest hours. In April 2013, the couple was planning to relocate to San Francisco where Downes would undertake a psychology fellowship. “We didn’t know when we’d be back in Boston, so we made a very last-minute decision to go for a walk on a beautiful, sunny day,” says Kensky. “It was rare for us both to have a day off together. We figured we’d check out the race.” The couple found a spot near the finish line shortly before the first bomb went off. “Suddenly we were shot into the air,” says Kensky. “It felt like we were on a rocket ship. I don’t think I learned it was a bomb

until the next day. Very innocent thoughts crossed my mind. I had remembered seeing lots of sound equipment and speakers. I thought something had malfunctioned and it was an accident.” In the chaos, the pair was separated and initially taken to different hospitals. Both had lost their left legs and Kensky’s right leg was ravaged. Efforts to save it were ultimately unsuccessful and prolonged her recovery. “These were not nice and clean amputations,” Kensky says, adding that shrapnel, dirt, and even part of the street were imbedded in their skin. Sometimes, Kensky’s background as an oncology nurse helped her during the process, but sometimes she felt as if she knew too much. “I worried a lot,” she says. “I knew about potential pitfalls and bad outcomes.” They would eventually spend over four years in the hospital, three of them at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. When Kensky learned she’d be permanently disabled, she applied for a service dog from NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) in Princeton, Massachusetts. “I’ve always been a dog lover,” says Kensky. “I’m one of those people who, when I picture heaven, I envision being surrounded by dogs.” The process of getting a service dog was more complicated than she expected. “We filled out an application and then we had an interview and we still weren’t done,” she says. “I remember thinking, We’re getting a dog, not a child, right?” NEADS had to find just the right service dog for Kensky because he would be by her side constantly helping with daily tasks. “He had to be the right height for me,” she says. “They measured how low my hand would go, so if he was fetching something for me, I wouldn’t have to reach too far and lose balance. Also, some dogs don’t like wheelchairs or walkers or crutches. My dog had to be okay with all of those things. And they took into consideration both of our energy levels.” Six months after the incident, Kensky was introduced to Rescue, a lab who would become her service dog. “The first day Rescue met Jess, he came bounding in super goofy, all fired up and her face lit up with pure joy,” says Downes, describing the dog’s amusing antics. “We just started laughing in a way we had not laughed in months. It felt like a new sensation. It was such a foreign thing to feel joy like that.” Kensky says

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watching Rescue do simple things, like chase a ball, was a welcome diversion from their medical issues. “He took our minds off of our problems,” she says. “We didn’t worry about each other and what was going to happen. We could just watch him be in the moment, so active and agile at a time when we felt so dismantled.” Once Rescue entered her life, Kensky slept through the night for the first time since the bombing. “I have these images in my head of Jess at the end of a difficult day,” says Downes. “She was drained physically and emotionally. Rescue would curl up with her and she’d pass right out. His presence was far more potent than any pain medication or sleeping pill.” Rescue has been trained to help Kensky by fetching things, pushing elevator buttons, and should she

“There are a number of kids in our world dealing with amputations. I hope they see themselves in the book and it reminds them of the strength they have.” fall, to stand next to her so she can brace herself to pull herself up. “He also barks on command to alert people,” says Kensky. “I’ve asked my neighbors to please check on me if they hear Rescue barking.” Perhaps more importantly, Rescue gives Kensky StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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ourselves having to explain our missing limbs all the time. We realized that kids want to know the truth and that they can handle the truth. They wanted to know if we were still in pain and why we had our dog in the grocery store.” It’s not a memoir of their ordeal and it doesn’t mention the bombing at all. It features a girl named Jessica who has to adapt after having a leg amputated. Her service dog, Rescue, is by her side through it all. A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated to NEADS, where Rescue was trained.

confidence. “When I have to do something hard, I feel like I’m doing it with a friend,” she says. “Having Rescue with me makes me feel less anxious and nervous.” Rescue continues to bring Downes and Kensky an immeasurable level of support. “He makes us laugh, he comforts us, all the while being extremely handsome and, despite all the attention he’s received, he’s managed to stay incredibly humble,” says Downes. Rescue was named the 2017 Dog of the Year by the ASPCA. Downes and Kensky began writing Rescue & Jessica while still in the hospital. After finding themselves often answering children’s questions about their injuries, they decided to write a book for them. “We went years with missing limbs and that gets a lot of looks from kids and adults,” she says. “We found 8

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Downes hopes children with and without disabilities will find meaning in the book. “There are a number of kids in our world dealing with amputations,” he says. “I hope they see themselves in the book and it reminds them of the strength they have. For other kids, I hope the book builds their compassion and empathy.” “We’re also hoping to inspire the next generation of occupational therapists and nurses,” adds Kensky. Five years after the bombing, the couple is still not completely healed and will likely never be. “We’re still working really hard to make sense of everything,” says Downes. “We’re still trying to figure out what to do with our lives. Our days are no longer consumed by medical decisions, but there are still a lot of physical components for us to unpack.” Luckily, Rescue will continue to be there for them. They still enjoy watching him chasing around his ball, especially when they need to decompress and spend some time not thinking about everything they’ve been through. “Animals do this for people all the time,” says Kensky. “It’s not a new idea that animals can be so therapeutic. There’s definitely a reason dogs are called man’s best friend.” For more information about Patrick Downes, Jessica Kensky, and Rescue, find them on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube at @rescueboston. For more information about NEADS, visit neads.org.


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Julian Lennon

Inspires Kids to Imagine a Better World by Melissa Fales photo by Deborah Anderson

For decades, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Julian Lennon has been a passionate champion for the environment. His 1991 hit song, “Saltwater” professes that humankind’s reckless destruction of our planet brings him to tears. In 2007, he founded The White Feather Foundation to promote environmental and humanitarian causes. Now, Lennon is bringing his ecological message to children in the form of a book trilogy.

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The first in the series, Touch the Earth (Sky Pony Press), was a New York Times bestseller. The second and latest, Heal the Earth, introduces children to the diversity of our planet’s ecosystems, from the rain forest to coral reefs. “It delves deeper into a broader spectrum of concerns, and also shows children that there are so many places and cultures to see, visit, appreciate, understand, and help,” says Lennon. The son of the late John Lennon, Julian is a successful musician in his own right, currently working on writing and recording a new album. He’s also an acclaimed photographer, exhibiting his work internationally, and continues to produce documentary films about environmental and social justice, such as Kiss the Ground, Tawai, and Lost Girls. Before John Lennon died in 1980, he told his son that once he passed, if he was able to send a sign from beyond, it would be in the form of a white feather. Many years later, while on tour in Australia,

Lennon received the signal he had been waiting for, but wasn’t sure would ever arrive. “I was presented with a white feather by an Aboriginal tribal elder, from the Mirning people, which definitely took my breath away,” Lennon wrote on his website. He had come to know the Mirning people through his award-winning documentary, Whaledreamers. “It’s about their life, connection with Mother Earth, and how they’ve been so badly treated by their government, thrown off their own land onto warring tribes’ lands, had their land used for nuclear testing, so it’s unlikely to ever be safe to live on again in our lifetime, and then some,” he says. When the Mirning leaders asked for Lennon’s help in raising awareness about their situation, he was moved to start The White Feather Foundation. The foundation’s motto is “For the Conservation of Life” and its causes include clean water, conserving the environment, and protecting indigenous cultures.

“We’re directing readers to open up a conversation about the topics in the book, to hopefully drive them towards making their own lives and the lives of others better, cleaner, and healthier as they grow.” “Having had the white feather bestowed upon me, I knew this endeavor was to be part of my destiny,” Lennon says. Over time, the White Feather Foundation has grown. “The Foundation lives via donations from the public, as we don’t have galas or large benefactors, so it really is the folks out there who help us help those in need,” he says. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the children’s books will support the White Feather Foundation. The idea to write picture books for children about working together to save the planet grew out of another project Lennon was working on with his friend, Bart Davis. “I thought it might be time to write my biography, as the years are marching on, and I wanted to be sure I had plenty of neverbefore-heard stories to fill my biography with surprise, wonder, and even suspense,” he says. 12

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The two started discussing Lennon’s past, looking for material for the biography. “Whilst browsing through parts of my life, Bart came across my White Feather Foundation, which he took great interest in, and asked me, ‘But what are you doing for the children?’” says Lennon. He acknowledged that he wasn’t doing anything specifically for kids. “Previously, on my first-ever website, I had an area dedicated to children, with daily quotes and facts of interest—which I adored, as I learned much there myself,” he says. “However, for some reason, that never really followed through quite the same to the new website, nor to the White Feather Foundation site.” Davis suggested that Lennon write a book for children that would focus on his commitment to humanitarian and environmental causes. “After the initial concept was forged, there was only one way to go … onwards and upwards!” says Lennon. Having found a capable co-writer in Davis, Lennon began searching for an illustrator. “Much like how music and lyrics need to tell the same story, text and illustration have to be in sync with each other,” he says. “We looked at many artists’ work, but Smiljana Coh’s illustrations immediately jumped out of the page. I certainly knew immediately that she was the right choice for this series.”

The result was the first book in the trilogy, Touch the Earth. “It’s a gentle, first introduction for children to learning a little about their surroundings—good and bad—and to sharing those stories with a family member or friend,” says Lennon. “We’re directing readers to open up a conversation about the topics in the book, to hopefully drive them towards making their own lives and the lives of others better, cleaner, and healthier as they grow.” The third book in the trilogy, Love the Earth, will be released on or near Earth Day in April 2019. Lennon has recently signed a deal with Gaumont to create an animated series based on the children’s books. For Lennon, the creative process behind writing songs and making films is similar to writing books. “It’s almost like throwing spaghetti at the fridge to see if it sticks,” he says. “With every creative project, it’s all about coming up with as many ideas as possible, in alignment with what you’re trying to say, do, feel, hear, and see. For me, it’s very much like cooking, which I love. It’s about coming up with the right ingredients that make the finished project not only something you love, but hopefully something that others will love, too.” For more information about Julian Lennon and his children’s books, visit julianlennon.com. For more information about The White Feather Foundation, visit whitefeatherfoundation.com.

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One to Read:

Katherine Applegate by Melissa Fales

Prolific author and Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate has written well over 100 books, some crafted as part of a series and numerous standalones. Her two recent releases include one of each. Endling: The Last (HarperCollins) is the premier book in a trilogy about an animal whose species may be dying out. Sometimes You Fly (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) highlights the special moments in a child’s life as they grow and learn.

Applegate says it’s a book most people can relate to. “It’s a book about failure, growing up, and making lots of mistakes along the way,” she says. “It also tells young people that it’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s something I’m very good at.” Applegate’s writing career began with creating quizzes for teen magazines and formulating Harlequin romances. “After getting a degree in English and 14

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floundering as a terrible waitress, I started off at the bottom and had to work my way up,” she says. “I also did some ghostwriting for the Sweet Valley Twins series and a lot of work for Disney on books about Mickey Mouse and Aladdin. I started off as quite the hack, but eventually I began writing my own books. I like to think I’ve come a very long way.”


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Applegate and her husband, author Michael Grant, have written together and separately. Their big break came with a series called The Animorphs about kids who could turn into animals. “Scholastic liked it and we ended up with a 63-book series,” says Applegate. “Back in the day, those books came out every month. We were writing fast and furiously. At the time, I had a new baby and man, was I tired. By the end, we were using our own ghostwriters.” For a time, The Animorphs was a TV show on Nickelodeon. “They’re still flirting with the idea of turning it into a movie,” Applegate says. After The Animorphs, the couple wrote a few more books together before taking a break to raise their children. “When we eventually went back to writing, my husband had drifted into the young adult genre with books that tend to be longer and scary,” she says. “I stayed with the middle grade and younger.” Some of Applegate’s

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books include the New York Times bestseller Wishtree, about immigration and prejudice, Home of the Brave about an African boy who moves to Minnesota and must adjust to a drastically different lifestyle, and Crenshaw, about a big imaginary cat and the boy whose imagination birthed him. Applegate’s latest picture book, Sometimes You Fly, showcases the landmark events that happen during the process of growing up and is already being deemed the high school graduation gift for 2018 and beyond. “I’m so pleased with it,” she says. “Honestly, I feel like my name doesn’t even belong on the cover because Jennifer Black Reinhardt did all the heavy lifting. The book is very dependent on the page turn and her illustrations are just beautiful.” Her new Endling trilogy is about the challenges facing Earth’s many endangered species. Applegate was intrigued by the unfamiliar word when she first came across it.

“Endling refers to the last animal in a species,” she says. “It’s a word you won’t find in most dictionaries yet, but it’s unfortunately proving more and more useful. For example, the last male white rhino recently died in the Sudan.” Endling: The Last introduces Byx, a rare dog-like creature called a dairne who faces the possibility that she will be the endling of her own species. Like Endling: The Last, many of Applegate’s books such as her 2013 Newbery medal-winning work The One and Only Ivan, feature animals as main characters. “I’ve always been an animal-lover and I’m fascinated by the idea of connecting with that other consciousness,” she says. “When I was younger, I didn’t want to be an author. I was an aspiring vet until I went to work for one in high school and I wised right up. In my fantasy world, I would have grown up to be Jane Goodall, but unfortunately, I need to be close to a Starbucks or a Pete’s.”


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The One and Only Ivan is based on a true story about a silverback gorilla that lived in a glass box on display as a curiosity in a shopping mall for nearly three decades. He was later re-homed to Zoo Atlanta, where he was given a more natural habitat for the remainder of his years. Applegate regrets never seeing Ivan in person. “I went to Zoo Atlanta during my early manuscript phase,” she says. “I sat there in the rain with my 10-year-old daughter for an hour and a half, waiting for him to come out.” As disappointed as Applegate was to miss a glimpse of the charismatic primate, a part of her was oddly pleased that he had exercised the choice not to greet the public that day. “I was happy to know that he had some control over his life,” she says. Upon learning she had earned the coveted Newbery Medal for her rendition of Ivan’s story, Applegate was rendered temporarily mute. “It was probably the longest pause in Newbery history,” she says. “I was nonarticulate. Every year, there are so many gorgeous books out there and when something like that happens, you just know how lucky you are. I wish every writer could experience that feeling. If you work long enough, you have all of those remainder table books, so this is very gratifying.” On a larger scale, Applegate says she felt that part of the award belongs to Ivan. “I think the best part of winning the Newbery for me was knowing that the book would have a longer life, for Ivan’s sake,” she says. An animated Disney film based on The One and Only Ivan is in the

“It’s a book about failure, growing up, and making lots of mistakes along the way. It also tells young people that it’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s something I’m very good at.” works, produced by Angelina Jolie and featuring the voices of Jolie, Bryan Cranston, and Sam Rockwell. “It’s so gratifying,” says Applegate. “To see the story being turned into a movie is just surreal. I’m hoping to sneak on the set and peek in to see what it’s all about.” Applegate is currently working on new books. “They’re in the embryonic stage, which is a fun time and also kind of scary,” she says. “Most writers will tell you they have lots of ideas, but the hard part is deciding which ones work and then committing to those ideas so half-way through, when you decide you’re crazy, you can keep going.”

When Applegate visits schools to speak with students, she always brings a note she wrote to herself while working on The One and Only Ivan. “It reads, Do I give up on Ivan or not?” she says. “I kept it to remind myself that it’s worth sticking with a project. I always tell the kids that no matter what they do in life, they’re going to have those moments when they feel like giving up, and when they do, I tell them they have to believe in themselves.”

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NEWS BRIEF

Story Monsters Ink and Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California Team Up to Create Home Libraries for Kids in Need A staggering 60 percent of students growing up This year’s in low-income households goal is to reach do not have any age65,000 children appropriate books in with over their homes. In an effort 200,000 new to get new, suitable books into the hands of more books! children in need, these two staunch advocates for children’s literacy are joining forces. “It is such an honor for us to partner with RIFSoCal,” says Linda F. Radke, a former special education teacher, president of Story Monsters LLC and publisher of Story Monsters Ink. Every single child deserves to know the joy of reading and every single book makes a difference. I’m so proud to work with RIFSoCal to bridge the reading gap and give hope, love, and dreams to children in need.” Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California was formed in 1972 and works with underserved youth in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Volunteers, including parents, teachers, librarians, school administrators, and civic leaders orchestrate the book distribution events, demonstrating the community’s support for children’s literacy. Children choose their own brand-new books to keep and read for fun. The books are provided at no charge to the children or their families. A 501c3 nonprofit, RIFSoCal has been recognized for its successful multi-site program, the largest within the RIF organization.

“Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is honored to join forces with Story Monsters Ink to encourage children’s passion for reading, as this is the greatest gift we can give them on their personal road to success,” says Carol K. Henault, executive director of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California. “I am so inspired by Story Monsters and their role as a top-rate literary resource. Our partnership will help ensure RIFSoCal children have new books to keep as their very own – many for the first time – and allow them to discover the magic of reading. I am proud to stand with Story Monsters Ink and together, move forward with fierce determination to improve the literacy potential of our children.” This year alone, the combined goal for these two literacy powerhouses is to reach 65,000 children with over 200,000 new books and make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children, one book at a time. To join their efforts by donating books or funding, visit rifsocal.org.

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Mara Wilson Joins Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Judging Panel by Melissa Fales photo by Ari Scott

Mara Wilson was just a child when she starred as the erudite, supernaturallygifted Matilda Wormwood in the 1996 film version of the Roald Dahl classic, Matilda. Today, at age 30, Wilson prefers writing to acting, but her connection with Matilda and Dahl remains intact. She was recently selected to be a judge for the 2018 Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge, a contest seeking imaginative story ideas from children.

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Wilson says she believes strongly in the message of the contest. “I think it’s so important to encourage children to tell their stories,” she says. “Children need to be told that their stories are important, that their stories matter, and that others want to hear them.” Although she’s best known for her childhood roles on the big screen, Wilson wanted to be a writer before she wanted to be an actress. “I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember,” she says. “Eventually, I learned that I really liked performing them. That’s why I got into acting, because I loved performing stories.” Wilson remembers watching her older brother act and wanting to do it, too. “I thought it looked like fun,” she says. “We grew up in Southern California where it wasn’t an unusual thing to act. It was just another hobby, like the way kids play soccer or t-ball. After appearing in just one commercial, Wilson’s career took off. At age five, she landed the role of Natalie in the 1993 hit Mrs. Doubtfire. “It just snowballed from there,” she said. “Everything happened all at once. Very quickly, things changed.” In 1994, she portrayed Susan Walker in a remake of Miracle on 34th Street. Then came Matilda, which became an instant classic for Wilson’s generation, cementing her position as a child star. Wilson says she understands

Matilda’s appeal to its initial audience and believes that its message is still relevant. “It’s a story where being clever and bookish and smart can lead to power and justice and I think a lot of people appreciate that aspect,”

she says. “It’s an especially great message for young girls today and for children who, for whatever reason, don’t feel that they fit in with their family or their school or their community. I hope it gives them hope and empowers them. StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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and Accidental Fame, released in 2016. It took Wilson roughly nine months to complete. “They had asked me if I thought I could complete the book in nine months,” she says. “I said that’s about how long it takes to form a human, so sure.” While composing the book, Wilson found that some parts of her history were easier to write than others. “The stories I had been telling live or sharing with friends for many years were very easy for me to talk about,” she says. In particular, writing about a It’s really a story about finding your voice and standing up for what’s right and that’s resonating with a lot of people right now. And also, it’s just a fun movie.” After appearing as Lily Stone in the 2000 film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Wilson parted ways with Hollywood and began focusing on her true love: writing. “The whole time I was acting on movie sets, in between shoots I would be in my trailer writing stories and screenplays,” she says. “In high school, I was the kind of kid who could crank out an essay at the last minute and still get an A.” Wilson hit her stride as a college student at NYU. “I started to recognize where my strengths lie, and that is in writing dialogue and characters and plays,” she says. “I fell in love with live storytelling and playwriting in college and that really kept me going, but I always knew that I was going to write a book.” That book was Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood 22

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because those feelings still hadn’t completely processed yet,” she says. “I’ve said it before, and it still holds true: the most complex relationship I’ve ever had has been with a fictional six-year-old girl.” Wilson writes about the ambivalence she felt, and to some extent, continues to feel, living in the shadow of such a larger-thanlife, much-beloved character. She also writes about the ways the role has been a source of joy. “The movie, and of course the book, seem to really resonate with people,” says Wilson.

“I think it’s so important to encourage children to tell their stories. Children need to be told that their stories are important, that their stories matter, and that others want to hear them.”

conversation between Wilson and her sister flowed smoothly onto the page. “There’s a really beautiful metaphor there and it made for a great framing device for the story of our relationship and how it changed over the years,” she says. Not unexpectedly, Wilson found it challenging to write about her personal battle with OCD and depression. “It was very difficult for me to tap those memories,” she says. “I’m glad that I did, but it was a struggle.” The hardest topic for Wilson to write about, however, was her permanent association with the character of Matilda. “I guess it’s

“People often come up to me to say that they loved Matilda and they’re now showing the movie to their children and sharing the experience with them. That means a lot to me.” Wilson’s portrayal of Matilda has also granted her the privilege of being a judge in the 2018 Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge, starring Willy Wonka. This is the second year of the contest, which partners the Roald Dahl Story Company with Penguin Young Readers and Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, in conjunction with Langley Park Productions and Neal Street Productions. With a


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nod to Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the contest seeks “Five new Golden Ticket Winners ages 5 to 12 who will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginations.” With the only criterion for the contest being “imagination,” Wilson says she’s not sure what she’ll be looking for in the entries. “I feel like I’ll know it when I see it,” she says. “I’m going into this

without any expectations. There’s something wonderful about children and how open they are. They don’t tend to limit themselves.” Wilson says that at some point, she will likely release another book. Right now, she’s not limiting herself either, doing some voice-over acting and exploring different types of writing as the mood suits her.

“I’m having a great time with it and just seeing where that takes me. I’m just happy to be writing.” Follow Wilson on Twitter at @MaraWilson. For more information about Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge, visit imaginormouschallenge.com.

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Mazza Museum Brings Beloved Picture Book Art to Life by Melissa Fales With just four pieces of children’s picture book art in its collection, the Mazza Museum opened in 1982 on the campus of Findlay College in Findlay, Ohio. The brainchild of the late Dr. Jerry Mallet, the museum was conceived as a way to commemorate the college’s centennial. Thirty-six years later, Findlay College has become the University of Findlay and the Mazza Museum holds over 12,000 pieces of original works of art.

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Feature Story

“For the first few years, there was a lot of reaching out to artists to purchase pieces from them,” says Kerry Teeple, Mazza Museum Deputy Director. “Today, the tables have turned as our reputation among illustrators has grown and solidified. Now they’re reaching out to us to see if we’d like a piece to represent them and their work.” Mallet was Professor of Education at the college, a former elementary school teacher, and also a children’s book author. “He understood the important role children’s authors and illustrators play in getting kids to read,” says Teeple. “He thought they should be recognized for their contributions to literacy.” His vision for the museum was to have a collection of original picture book art and to invite children’s authors and illustrators to speak. Alumni August and Aleda Mazza made a substantial donation towards the project, giving the museum its name.

in the book. And at the bottom is a biography of the artist. You can come in just to appreciate the art for the sake of the art, or you can read the books and learn more about the illustrators.” Teeple says it’s always a thrill to observe first-time visitors. “They come in not knowing what to expect,” she says. “Then they take a look around and say, ‘Whoa! It’s bright! It’s colorful! It’s happy!’ Then they start looking at the art and they say, ‘I remember reading that book when I was a kid,’ or ‘I just read that book with my child last week.’” According to Teeple, the

“Picture books are unifiers. They’re often associated with a positive time in our lives and read to us by someone special, so there’s often an emotional attachment and reaction to the art.”

The initial four pieces, says Teeple, were a carefully chosen representation of some of the genre’s best illustrators. They included an image from Rain by Peter Spier, an etching Steven Kellogg created just for the museum, an illustration from Apt. 3 by Ezra Jack Keats, and one from The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle, who visited the Mazza Museum for inspiration before opening a museum of his own work. Mallet, who passed away in 2015, had hoped the museum would be able to acquire a new piece of art every year. That goal has been well surpassed. However, says Teeple, Mallet’s main focus was on the educational value of the collection, not its volume. “In everything we do, we hold true to the roots Jerry started,” says Teeple. “We use the art as a way to enhance our discussions about literacy.” In keeping with that objective, the displays at the Mazza Museum are three-tiered. “Say your favorite illustrator is Marc Brown,” Teeple says. “You’d see a piece of his artwork on the wall. Underneath that, you’d see the book the piece is from. You can look at the art and then open the book and see it in its place

Mazza Museum Deputy Director Kerry Teeple with Marc Brown. StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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museum welcomes visitors of all ages, from infants to senior citizens. “Picture books are unifiers,” she says. “They’re often associated with a positive time in our lives and read to us by someone special, so there’s often an emotional attachment and reaction to the art.” At any one time, the Mazza Museum has 350 pieces of art on display. Previously, they would change out the art once a year. “Times have changed,” says Teeple. “In this age of social media, people are expecting new and different all the time. So now, we rotate our six galleries so every three months one of them changes to a different theme.” The Mazza Museum is also known for its biannual conferences featuring speeches, workshops, and book-signings with picture book authors and illustrators. “It’s like camp,” she says. “The participants are teachers, librarians, and picture book lovers and many come again and again. It starts to feel like a family.” In addition to the rotating collections and the twice-a-year conferences, the Mazza holds 48 educational programs over the course of the year, including preschool story times and a monthly art and literature fair. The latest project in the works at the Mazza Museum is a traveling exhibit about the Underground Railroad. Teeple first got the idea while taking a grant-writing class. It was February, Black History Month, and 26

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Teeple was disappointed after searching the museum’s database. “I felt ashamed we didn’t have a better representation of black artists and authors,” she says. “Out of 12,000, I thought we should have had a lot more than we did.” Teeple wrote a grant that would have allowed the museum to purchase more art that celebrates black history. Although the grant was unsuccessful, her idea was very popular. Donors stepped up to help acquire new art and books about the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement. Some of the books that will be featured in the exhibit are Jerry Pinkney’s Ain’t Nobody a Stranger to Me and Henry Cole’s wordless picture book, Unspoken. The exhibit will have accompanying study materials available digitally. It will debut at the Freedom Center: the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati before making stops for six weeks at a time at spots along the path of the Underground Railroad in Ohio. The traveling exhibit is set to open on June 19, 2019. The nineteenth of June, often referred to as Juneteenth, commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States on that day in 1865. For more about the Mazza Museum, visit mazzamuseum.org.


Summer Conference July 16-18, 2018 A three-day conference where authors and illustrators of picture books present about their process and inspiration. Teachers, librarians and book lovers will delight in the educational and engaging keynote presentations by Vincent X. Kirsch, Barbara Reid, Katie Kath, Lori Richmond, Lori Kilkelly, Hannah Harrison, Ethan & Vita Murrow, Ryan T. Higgins and Floyd Cooper.

Go to mazzamuseum.org/conference to register today! Registration closes July 10th.

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Feature Story

Shelley Lekven Molds an Enchanting New Children’s Book Long before she was an indemand character sculptor for films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, Shelley Lekven had a unique idea for a children’s book. It came to her in the form of a poem shortly before she graduated from UCLA with a psychology degree, at a time when she was pondering and imagining what the future might bring. The poem would eventually become the text for her recently released book, Lily Pond, about a young frog who daydreams about how her life might turn out. The book has 23 illustrations, each a highly-detailed clay scene of costumed frogs in a different scenario, all of which Lekven painstakingly sculpted by

hand. “I figured Lily Pond would take a couple of years to finish, but it ended up taking 38,” she says. Of Lekven’s childhood memories, the massive clay sculpture that

commandeered her family’s dining room table looms the largest. Dubbed “Claytown,” the creation built by Lekven, her siblings, and her best friend out of modeling clay existed for a full decade, a testament to how remarkably supportive Lekven’s parents were of their children’s creativity. “We always ate in the kitchen, anyway,” says Lekven. “My mother would joke that the dining room table was only there to protect the light. She wasn’t a very fussy housekeeper. She didn’t care if a little clay got in the carpet.” The experience of creating Claytown undeniably shaped Lekven and her younger brother, StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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very good at doing what we call the in-betweens—the work that happens in clay animation when something turns from a solid into a liquid, so that in the commercial, it happens seamlessly,” she says. Other clay jobs followed, including a 10-page spread for Fortune magazine.

David. When they were teenagers, she assisted him in making an award-winning clay-animated movie about frogs. Both would go on to find careers working

When director Henry Selick came into the Los Angeles studio where Lekven was working, looking for character sculptors for his new stop-motion project, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lekven’s boss recommended her. During one of her first days on the job, Lekven remembers watching a sculptor do the in-betweens for Jack Skellington’s head. “Each

When she finished working on The Nightmare Before Christmas, she anticipated having some free time. “I thought I’d be able to focus on Lily Pond,” she says. Instead, she was asked to work on a film by Pixar called Toy Story. “I couldn’t understand why they needed 3D sculptors for a computer movie, but they wanted me,” says Lekven, who worked on the heads for most of the main characters. After that, Lekven worked as the sculpting supervisor for James and the Giant Peach. During the making of that film, the last illustration for Lily Pond was completed. It had taken Lekven 15 years to complete the illustrations. “When I started, I was single with no

“So many people my age say they feel like they missed something because they never found their passion. I hope kids who read the book are encouraged to find their passion and then follow it for as long as it takes.”

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with clay as adults. When Lekven decided to illustrate Lily Pond, she chose to work with frogs again. “That decision came about partly because I already knew how to sculpt them and partly because I knew they could look pretty silly in clothes,” Lekven says.

head had to have a different mouth position in order to make the changes look seamless,” she says. When that sculptor was assigned another job, Lekven replaced him. “I found out it wasn’t that hard, and in fact, I was better at it than he was,” she says.

After college, she did some freelance 3D sculpting. “My first job was a clay sculpture design for billboards,” she says. “Of course, today they would do the job with computer graphics.” For a time, Lekven worked with David, who had a thriving clay animation career. “That’s when I found I was

Lekven was also tasked with creating all of the expression faces for the character, Sally. “She has my smile,” Lekven says. “I had to do all the different mouth positions and I used a mirror next to me as I worked, so there’s a little bit of me in there.”

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Feature Story

children,” she says. “I thought I had all the time in the world. I would’ve been much more disciplined to finish it if I realized how fast time goes by.” Lekven found a publisher, but they had different opinions about an illustration, one of her favorites. “They wanted me to throw out a scene it took me seven years to make,” she says. When she and the publisher couldn’t come to an agreement, Lily Pond went unpublished. Lekven left the film industry after getting married and starting a family. “I never planned on being in show business in the first place,” she says. About 15 years later, after raising her children, Lekven’s dreams to publish Lily Pond resurfaced. So much had changed. “Photoshop had been born,” she says. “I could fix so many tiny things I had wanted to fix,” she says. She spent roughly eight years fiddling around with the software, perfecting her book. Finally, Lekven felt Lily Pond was ready and she made the bold choice to publish it herself. “I felt so empowered,” she says. “Finally, I

could do it exactly the way I wanted it. It’s been a labor of love.” The reception to Lily Pond has been extremely positive. There’s even potential for it to be developed into a television series. “We’ll have to wait and see,” says Lekven. “I’ve been waiting 38 years for this book to happen, I guess I can wait some more.” Lekven says she hopes children glean a sense of possibility from the book. “I want them to know that they can do whatever they want,” she says. “So many people my age say they feel like they missed something because they never found their passion. I hope kids who read the book are encouraged to find their

passion and then follow it for as long as it takes.” For more information about Shelley Lekven and Lily Pond, visitlilypondbook.com.

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Kids Can Publish!

My Favorite Teacher.. . M r. S ch li tt by Ken neth Wal loch, grade 12

devices to solve problems but I didn’t think I knew I love d engineering and designing r would enhance that love times two. Afte I would get a teacher like Mr. Schlitt who . neer engi an me in my choice to beco his engineering class, I feel more confident W) d on for the Project Lead the Way (PLT For my junior year of high scho ol, I signe ue purs use I was setting myself up to class Principles of Engineering (POE), beca class, from freshman year, was boring a career in engineering. My previous PLTW dom. When I entered the engineering and I was ready to push thro ugh any bore el when class started, Mr. Schlitt, in his flann classroom, I foun d a seat up front and an attitude that made me excited about shirt and jeans, presente d the course with ld solve. the types of problems for projects we wou p foun d time to help/work with each grou During each of the projects, Mr. Schlitt ing walk a like and scrambling for attention), (which is difficult with five or six groups we the bells and whistles of any tool instruction manual, he demonstrated all r to understan d and allowed us to have needed to use (which made the class easie more fun building our projects). e a move I had not seen any other Once, I botched an assignment and he mad “Do you want to get together so we can teacher make before. Mr. Schlitt aske d, years at this scho ol, the routine was make sure you understan d this?” After two teacher to set up a time to review always for the student to have to ask the me the reverse. He surprised me and gave previous assignments, but Mr. Schlitt did success. the feeling that he really care d about my , hes the woods classes. For my senior year Mr. Schlitt also coaches tennis and teac , he managed a class of 36 students who I had him for Woo ds Survey. In this class Schlitt also helps students construct side knew little about tools and machines. Mr. projects that they make for recreation. e. tshirt and he aske d me if I was going ther One day, I was wearing my MSOE swea e ramble on about my plans for going ther He listened, with genuine interest, to me I how t abou s care feel like he actually for biomedical engineering. This made me will use these skills beyond the class. re. He enco uraged and built me into the Mr. Schlitt has prepared me for my futu my him, I am not sure what my feelings for engineer I am ready to beco me. Without I am ready. future may have been, but now I know

Hey Kids! Visit StoryMonsters.com and click on “Kids Can Publish” for instructions on how to submit your work! 32

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Feature Story

Teaching Toolbox: Science, Social Studies, and Stories by Larissa Juliano

Keeping social studies and science curriculum for primary grades that is engaging, exciting, and literacy infused can involve so many ideas, especially with Pinterest and other amazing DIY apps at our fingertips. Hands-on scavenger hunts and STEAM-related creations are always must-haves in the classroom. But we cannot forget about the books! Page-turning resources packed with plots bring these topics to our classrooms in the most engaging and memorable ways. Having been a library teacher for eight years, I have used literature as a vehicle to introduce and reinforce science and social studies concepts more than ever before. Sharing literature to introduce or model various writing styles and literary elements has always been a passion 34

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of mine, along with millions of other educators, parents, and book lovers. So therefore, it makes perfect sense to take the plethora of fantastic fiction and explore social studies and science topics—like the five senses, families and communities, careers, maps and globes, space, engineering, and more. It is important to explicitly point out these topics after reading (or during, without too many interruptions, though, as to keep the readaloud process still natural and organic). Another great thing about beloved, picture-packed stories? They can be placed front and center on the bookshelf and read over and over again, even when the curriculum has moved onto the next topic. With science and social studies instruction often shortened during


Feature Story

busy and mandated curriculum-packed school days, the literacy growth and benefits to reading a book filled with rich vocabulary should never be underestimated. Here are a few ideas of social studies and science topics that I have paired up with authors and literature: Frank Asch books are great for connecting with our sense of sight, smell, hear, touch, and taste. Books by Jan Brett, David Wiesner, Cynthia Rylant, and other adventure-packed stories are perfect for this topic as well. The idea of using Frank Asch books to explore our five senses came to me when our grade level team used Moonbear to talk about our sense of hearing (Bear keeps hearing his echo bounce off of the mountain tops and thinks it is the moon talking to him). After exploring Mr. Asch’s other Bear tales, I realized that Popcorn was perfect to talk about our sense of taste (as is Mooncake), and Hide and Seek for our sense of sight, etc. Children loved watching Bear experience these different moments, and then connecting them with their own five senses. Bonus: Create sketches of what you see, smell, taste (or could taste), touch, and hear. Pourquoi tales are useful for communities, animals, and habitat studies. Pourquoi tales are one of my favorite traditional literature genres and they can be used as mentor texts for so many topics. Pourquoi means “Why?” and I often share with my students that pourquoi tales generally answer “Why?” questions about the universe, animals, and nature. They also showcase rich vocabulary, embrace character growth, and lay the groundwork for some great writing pieces, animal studies, and more. Habitats are also another fantastic subject to introduce with these timeless tales, as so many of these stories take place in the desert, ocean, and plains. True stories in a picture book format are at the top of my list for best books to share with children of all ages. They are wonderful to introduce and showcase topics like animal studies, habitats, inventions, overcoming obstacles, African American History, and more. When these memoirs or real-life narratives are combined with illustrations, children are even more enthralled, and a shorter picture book allows for more discussion afterwards (and more time for reading others in future lessons!). Children just love to know that the story really happened, and an extra bonus is the inclusion of real photos and the author’s note at the end to provoke even more interest.

Books by the famous Eve Bunting, Eric Carle, Simon James, and Denise Fleming are amazing for plants, critters, and nature studies. Biography picture books share information about famous people/events in history (the picture book format is key here!). In particular, Kadir Nelson is extraordinary at capturing the lives of many African American men and women with exquisite text and illustrations.

“With science and social studies instruction often shortened during busy and mandated curriculumpacked school days, the literacy growth and benefits to reading a book filled with rich vocabulary should never be underestimated.” The Isabella series by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) is an adorable and engaging series that brings children around the world with Isabelle as she dreams about the wonders of the world, other cultures, attractions, and more. These rich works of literature are not meant to solely teach these topics, but to be used as a supplemental and enriching resource for story time that connects science and social studies curriculum with fantastic and engaging literature. I would love to hear about other literature studies you have used to enhance your social studies and science curriculum! You can tweet me @larissasjuliano and @storymonsters using the hashtag #StoryMonstersToolbox.

Larissa Juliano is an elementary teacher. Besides teaching, her passion in life is writing books in hopes of inspiring children to use their imagination, especially through literature. Follow her on Twitter @larissasjuliano or visit larissajuliano.com. StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

A GARDEN FOR THE SENSES by Rita Campbell In our everyday life, we often take in so much information in a day that we end up with sensory overload. But imagine just going out to a garden and sitting on a quiet bench and taking in the environment around you with the smells, sounds, and colors of nature. While this is true of any garden, just think what a garden grown to specifically appeal to the five senses would do for the soul. The purpose of a sensory garden is to stimulate the senses. They strive to maximize the sensory impact that the garden has on its visitors. These types of gardens can be most beneficial to adults and children who have sensory processing issues such as autism and other disabilities, as well as those who suffer from dementia and anxiety. A sensory garden can also be a fun, educational tool to explore and learn about our own senses and nature. This type of garden is used to encourage the visitor to generally interact with the environment around them.

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be provided by the plants but also in the hardscape of the garden design such as adding brick, gravel, or stone. Other hardscape elements to incorporate would be things such as garden paths, benches to sit on, water fountains, bird feeders, and garden art. Use a balance of color so as not to overstimulate. Using energizing colors and soft colors will help create a balance in the garden. Adding to the visual interest of the garden are colorful birds and butterflies that will be attracted to the nectar and colorful flowers. Adding visual interest can also be achieved by using plants with varying habits such as those that creep, climb, trail, bush, or stand upright. Incorporating plants with different bloom, leaf, bark, and stem colors provides visual appeal and texture as well.

First and foremost, when choosing plants for sensory gardens, it is imperative that you choose those that will thrive in your region. Native plants are great because they are used to the environment, are less susceptible to disease, and are generally lower maintenance. Next, include plants and other things that appeal to all five senses.

Crucial to creating a calming environment in a sensory garden is the element of sound. Choose plant flora that makes noise when the wind passes through it such as bamboo stems or grasses. Many seedpods make interesting sounds as well. I can remember sitting outside at night in our orange grove and listening to the popping off of the orange blossoms when the trees were setting fruit. Incorporate plants that encourage wildlife to come to the garden and you will enjoy the buzzing of bees, the chirping of a cricket, or the whizzing of a hummingbird. All these things will stimulate the sense of hearing. Wind chimes and rain bells are great additions for the sense of sound in the garden as well.

Color is an important consideration for visualization. Colors may be seasonal, so take that into consideration when planning your garden. Colors will not only

Smells can trigger a wide range of emotions, and plants should be chosen with care. Some plants release scent naturally without the need for touch. All types and

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

varieties of roses, for example, naturally release scent into the air. Other scents are released when the leaves or petals are crushed by hand, such as geraniums. Consider a combination of scents that range from subtle to more intense in order to produce the greatest variety and interest. Plants to consider for their scent include honeysuckle, lavender, violets, mint, and chocolate cosmos, which release a chocolate-like scent. Exploring by taste can be achieved in the garden by planting edible herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables. Some examples of edible flowers include nasturtiums, evening primrose, hibiscus, and pansy. Fruit trees and plants that produce vegetables are also a natural and obvious choice when it comes to taste in the sensory garden. Make sure when planting ones with edible leaves and blossoms that you keep these in a designated area and explain that only these are the edible ones, if the garden is to be visited by children. There is no shortage of plants that offer interesting textures, perfect for encouraging the sense of touch. It is possible to incorporate many different textures in the garden from the feel of a Lamb’s Ear to the irresistible sensation of cool moss or rough seedpods. Do not plant anything that may be dangerous, however, such as prickly roses or spiny agaves or succulents. Feather grass, coneflower, and borage are other examples of plants that are good for touch.

Plant of the Month

Lamb’s Ear is native to Turkey, Armenia, and Iran. It is cultivated over much of the temperate world as an ornamental plant. In the South, it is a perennial and comes back each year. Although grown more for the texture and color of its foliage than for its bloom, my Lamb’s Ears do produce light purple flowers on tall spikes that attract bees.

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

A sensory garden is a wonderful way for children to explore their senses and learn about the environment around them. It is also a healthy place of discovery and an opportunity to get children outdoors. Children with disabilities also greatly benefit from exposure to sensory gardens, as they provide a therapeutic and safe way for them to explore their senses. When creating a sensory garden, use care in choosing the elements that go into the garden, and also consider the layout in terms of the height and reach of the plants and walkways so that it is accessible to the children and/or adults for whom it is intended. This is just one more way to enjoy gardening and make it a learning experience for your child. Take the time to experience the outdoors with all of your senses and enjoy the peace and tranquility. StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Spring Reading List

READING

LIST 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.

The Engirlneers Save Fish Pond

by Heather DeVivo-Winz and Shannon DeVivo

Join the engirlneers on their adventures using science, technology, engineering and math to solve problems in their community. In the first book in the series, The Engirlneers Save Fish Pond, Sally and Tatiana are excited to go swimming in their favorite pond, only to discover it is covered with slime. The engirlneers must enlist the help of their friend to determine the cause and find a solution before it is too late!

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, and it’s all she can think about. In the end, she learns that things don’t always have to be perfect. Unraveling Rose is a Finalist in the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield. 978-0-7643-5393-2

Gracie Lou

by Larissa Juliano

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

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Spring Reading List

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). satyahouse.com

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 michellepath.com.au. Available from Amazon.com.

Someone You Love Has Cancer by Robin Martin Duttmann

Someone You Love Has Cancer: A Child’s Guide to Understanding provides a platform for conversation between parents and children, as well as teachers and their students. This educational poem was written to empower children and ease their anxiety by opening meaningful conversations based on facts. Robin Martin Duttmann is an award-winning author, poet, and creative writing teacher for children at The Windsor International Writers Conference. Available through sbpra.com/robinmartinduttmann or Amazon.com.

If I Weren’t With You by Rosie J. Pova

If I Weren’t With You celebrates the bond between mother and child as it offers reassurance of neverfading motherly love and protection. In a series of simple and direct questions, Willy, the bear cub, seeks and receives comfort from Mama Bear who uses imagery of the forest to communicate her feelings to her cub. This bedtime story will have you and your little one snuggled together.

Why Do I Love Millie? by Betty J. Bennett, Ph.D

A young girl, Helen, finds help where she least expects it in coping with the mean girls at school. Even though her dog Millie can’t talk or do people things, Helen finds comfort in Millie’s unconditional love and supportive companionship. Over 3.2 million students are bullied each year; less than 30 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls will talk to their peers about bullying by age 14. Bullying and it’s affects cannot be ignored. ruffrubs.com

Survival of the Fittest by Tommy Rozycki

A young boy named Darwin has survived a terrible shipwreck and washed ashore on a mysterious beach. Now, with the help of some unexpected friends, he must find a way off the island so he can search for his family! Survival of the Fittest is an interactive, fitness-oriented story that will teach you to grow stronger as you read along! Lessons with demonstrations include: mindfulness/meditation, calisthenics, yoga poses, and strength exercises

StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Spring Reading List

A New Book for Jack by Lois Lunsford

Jack’s love for books sometimes upsets him. Especially when he has so many books already and there are so many more to read! He needs one now that will help him with a problem he’s having at school. He wants to find a book to help him be braver. Can Jack find the perfect book to solve his problem? Come on his adventure and see if caring people can help him.

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest: The Banana Tree by Maggie van Galen

Will Keeno’s monkey business get him in trouble? It usually does! Keeno is a mischievous little monkey, his best friend Ernest is a wise young elephant, and together they have many adventures. In The Banana Tree, the first in The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest series, Keeno learns two valuable lessons about friendship and following family rules. “This book is a must in every child’s library!” Literacy Coach, Perley Elementary. Learn more at keenoandernest.com.

My Mama Loves Me: I’m Her Little Girl by Shanalee Sharboneau

My mama shares with me. My mama cares for me. My mama teaches me to dream. Enjoy the adventures of a mother and daughter as they play the piano, wander in a garden, turn into mermaids who play in the sea, and many other almost magical settings, all with the sweet rhythmic tone of this lovely book showing the beauty of a mother and daughter relationship. Winner of the Readers Favorite - Five Star Award.

My Mama Loves Me: I’m Her Little Boy by Shanalee Sharboneau

My mama plays with me. My mama stays with me. My mama loves me all life long. Enjoy the adventures of mother and son as they go on an African safari, travel to Egypt to search for dinosaur bones, or take a pirate adventure, all with the sweet rhythmic tone of this lovely book showing the beauty of a mother and son relationship. Winner of the Readers Favorite - Five Star Award and Finalist from the International Book Awards for Best Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction.

Ugly Eliza and the Vampire from Valdosta by Joe Brian

Aunt Gertrude Maimsley is in town, and Ugly Eliza is very excited. Until she gets word that her favorite aunt is a vampire! Why does Aunt Gertrude Maimsley sleep during the day? Why does she have sharp teeth? Did she really fly in from Valdosta? Join Ugly Eliza in discovering the truth about Aunt Gertrude Maimsley, but beware … this book may frighten the lice out of your hair!

Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence by Linda DeFruscio-Robinson

Everything was perfect at first. Linda had wanted cats—two of them—so they would have each other for company. And Ginger and Moe, two beautiful cats born in an animal hospital, wanted a loving home. But soon, Linda begins to feel sick, and when she learns from her doctor that she is allergic to her two cats, she is forced to find a quick solution. A heartwarming true story with lessons about love and sacrifice. lindadefruscio.com

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Spring Reading List

Transgender Profiles: Time for a Change by Linda DeFruscio-Robinson

A collection of unique and inspirational stories of 20 transgender individuals of various age groups, backgrounds, and experiences. An informative book for people who are considering transitioning or those who want to better understand people who have transitioned. Transgender Profiles is a testament to a person’s ability to adjust the body to fit the mind and soul, a plea not only for tolerance, but also for compassion and inclusion of people of all genders. LindaDeFruscio.com

Strays

by Jennifer Caloyeras

When a note in 16-year-old Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, but when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may just be the only way to save him. For ages 12-16.

Dust Flowers

by Lisa Gammon Olson

In the days before the dust storms came and scoured the earth, the mother’s garden flourished with fragrant beauty. As the dust storms devastated the soil and all green and growing things dried up, so did the mother’s smile. A young girl is determined to bring back hope and joy into her mother’s life by growing flowers in the harsh and unforgiving conditions. Illustrated by Kyle J. Olson.

The Keeper of Fire

by Davina Marie Liberty

A deadly plague ravages both humans and mystical creatures alike in the divided world of Nigh. Deiji is recruited by a mysterious necromancer to break the spell on each of the four elements in order to quell the fever and reunite the continents. She leaves her simple village life behind and is thrust blindly into distant regions of the unmapped world. Does Deiji have what it takes to meet the challenge and save her people?

The Crystilleries of Echoland by Dew Pellucid

Thousands of children are disappearing from our world. But one returns after a week, riding a wolf, with a falcon circling over him. That boy is Will Cleary. Will tries to live a normal life, but his twin sister is still missing. Then just before his 13th birthday, he learns of a hidden world beneath our feet, a land filled with see-through trees and lucent people. The answer is hidden in an ancient book, deep in a frozen lake of gems … at the foot of the greatest Crystillery of all.

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.

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Spring Reading List

Give Me the Red Cup by Susan Moore Vosseler

Through heartfelt reflections, Give Me the Red Cup transforms from a teaching tool to a source of inspiration. Susan Moore Vosseler shares ideas, challenges, opportunities, laughter, and tears opening the fundamental values within to reveal a deep knowledge of joy in autism. Know your joy! “I love that it has pages to record what is happening. Highly recommend this for any parent who needs a reminder they are doing a good job!” - Parent review (Teachers, too!)

Raising Kids That Succeed by Dr. Lynn A. Wicker

If you feel confused and frustrated as you struggle to parent, Raising Kids That Succeed provides a new way to see yourself as a parent. It focuses on who you are as an individual before you ever arrive at the impact you hope to have on your children. Success is guaranteed, if you simply open your mind and heart as you read this book. You will learn how to stop looking for “fixes” for your kids and come into an awareness of your own beliefs. As your own life improves, the influence and impact on your children will immediately become apparent.

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.

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Liv on Life Being Selfless is Good! by Olivia Amiri No matter who you are, you matter! We are all small pieces of a puzzle, which shapes our world. No matter how someone’s appearance looks, no matter where they live, or how they live, we are all connected, and in the end, the most important thing is to always have a place in your heart for everyone, especially yourself. Let’s say you have been waiting in line for over 15 minutes and you’re finally at the front of line to get your child an animal balloon. You just placed your order and the lady behind you with three screaming kids comes over to you and asks, “Can I please go ahead of you? My child wants that animal balloon so badly…” She says this to you with that “Please help me!” look on her face. What do you do? Do you tell her to wait her turn? Or do you let her go in front of you, even though you have been waiting awhile? By going with this choice, you know you just changed someone’s day for the better. The mom is clearly having a tough time with her kids and you would be helping her. If you could spare the five extra minutes and help another human being, you are contributing to life in ways greater than you know. For today, try to do an act that is selfless and see how good it feels!

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 StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Monsters at the Movies

Isle of Dogs Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: ATo a certain extent, Isle of Dogs is a very traditional story about a boy and his dog. To another extent, it’s not quite like anything you’ve ever seen before. Even by director Wes Anderson’s standards, the film is a revelation of creativity and visual wonder. It’s actually quite intriguing that Mr. Anderson would make an animated feature about dogs, given his previous track record. In Anderson’s other films, cuddly canines tend to go the same way as Old Yeller or Marley, albeit with a darkly comedic edge. In Isle of Dogs, Anderson finally throws man’s best friend a bone. The film is brought to life through state-of-the-art, stop-motion animation, the same style Anderson used to adapt Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The world Anderson has crafted is a marvel to behold with miniature sets worthy of a Best Production Design Oscar nomination. Yet, it’s the story that makes Isle of Dogs an instant classic for animation lovers of all ages. This twisted tale takes place in a future version of Japan where a dog flu virus runs rampant. The mayor of Megasaki City thus orders all the dogs be sent to Trash Island, which is literally an island populated by garbage. Determined to find his beloved dog, a boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) flies to the isolated island to bring him home. Upon crash landing, Atari gets some assistance from a pack of dogs, most of which are masterfully voiced by Anderson’s regular players. There’s Edward 44

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Norton as Rex, Bob Balaban as King, Bill Murray as Boss, and Jeff Goldblum as Duke, all of whom had loving masters before being exiled to the island. The one lone wolf is Bryan Cranston as Chief, a stray who doesn’t take kindly to humans. As he reluctantly signs up to help Atari, however, he just might come to understand the unique bond between man and dog. Along the way, Chief also may win over a purebred named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson) in the finest tale of puppy love since Lady and the Tramp. On paper, the narrative almost sounds like something a child could’ve come up with while playing with doggie toys. Yet, the screenplay’s carefully-woven dialog obviously came from the mind of an adult with an unparalleled imagination. The voiceover performers additionally bring a great sense of gravitas


Monsters at the Movies

and sophistication to the material, as does Alexandre Desplat’s musical score. You could even argue that there are some pretty deep themes underneath the surface. In addition to animal cruelty, the story touches upon prejudice and deportation, encouraging all living creatures to live together in harmony. At the same time, the film isn’t afraid to poke fun at how surreal and bizarre the set-up is. Much like Pixar’s Up—another animated film with talking canines— Isle of Dogs takes itself incredibly seriously while also reveling in its silliness. Throughout the creative process of making this film, Anderson drew inspiration from two unlikely sources: Akira Kurosawa, who made cinematic classics like Seven Samurai, and Rankin/Bass Productions, the company that brought us holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You wouldn’t think these things would ever go together in any capacity, but Anderson flawlessly blends the two while also adding his own signature trademark. He’s made a film that’ll inspire older children interested in becoming animators and adults who have always had a fondness for the art form. Dog lovers are bound to find something to adore as well.

Nick Spake 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.

Riddles & Giggles Q: How do trees get on the Internet? A: They log in!

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The Power of

CONRAD’S CLASSROOM

GREEN by Conrad J. Storad

Curiosity is a good thing. Asking questions is a good thing. This is how we learn about the world around us. Step one in that learning process is pausing to take a good, long look at what nature has to offer. First you see the big picture. Enjoy the vistas or panorama spread out in all directions. Next, look for the pictures within that larger picture. Look and imagine all the way down to the world of the microscopic and beyond. Some of my favorite challenges as a science writer involved writing stories about the world just beyond human vision. Walking through the woods in spring can generate thousands of questions. The variety of plant life is immense. Think a bit harder about plants for a moment. Your mind can wander in many directions. Plants are the oak, ash, or maple trees spreading high above on the trail in front of you. Plants are the moss and lichens on fallen tree trunks, or the neighbor’s freshly mowed front lawn. They are the bursts of color in your backyard flower garden. Plants are also the algae in the swimming pool or the wheat fields of Kansas. They are the crock of mashed potatoes on the supper table, a bushel of corn, or the uneaten can of spinach in the cupboard. Plants are the 46

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Chlorophyll is hard at work within the cells of moss on a decaying log. (photo by Conrad J. Storad)

cotton sweatshirt you put on to ward off the evening chill, your kitchen table and chairs, and the paper on which the words in this magazine are printed. Did you ever think about green plants as machines? You should. Plants are efficient mechanisms that can exploit and transform the tremendous energy of the sun. Plants can convert the energy in sunlight into forms that can be used for other functions. First among them is the production of food.

The biological process at the center of nature’s amazing engine is called photosynthesis. It is not wrong to say that photosynthesis is the ultimate source of all food and almost all energy sources on our planet. You might call photosynthesis the “engine of life.” At the heart of that engine is a green substance called chlorophyll. Photosynthesis puts the power of green into action. For photosynthesis to work, plants first have to capture the


Conrad’s Classroom

RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE BOOKS • How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do by Linda Chalker-Scott • Botany: Plants, Cells and Photosynthesis by April Chloe Terrazas

energy in sunlight. At the heart of the capture process are pigment molecules. Most plants are green because plant cells contain chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are like tiny factories within the plant cell. They contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll molecules absorb energy from sunlight. These molecules absorb most wavelengths of light, but not green. As a result, all green light is reflected. Our eyes see reflected light. That is why these plants appear green to us. Chlorophyll molecules are connected to form a type of antenna that captures light energy. That energy is then transferred along a chain of molecules to tiny reaction centers within the chloroplasts. This is where the real chemistry of photosynthesis begins. Think about this. It takes about eight minutes for light from the sun to travel more than 93 million miles to the Earth’s surface. But a green plant needs only a few seconds to capture the energy in that light, process it, and then store it in the form of a chemical bond.

Organisms on Earth have been using photosynthesis for billions of years. Primitive algae and bacteria were the ancestors of today’s green plants. Modern plants have refined the process to high efficiency. The most important events in photosynthesis actually occur in trillionths of a second. Scientists at universities and research centers around the world are focused on understanding all the bits and pieces of how photosynthesis works. The stakes are huge. Getting answers to age-old questions is important for the sake of learning. Those answers might also lead to real-world applications. If we can learn to mimic how plants so efficiently convert sunlight into energy that can be stored for other uses, the benefits will be astounding. Farming techniques could be improved to feed the world. We might learn better, faster ways to generate electricity at lower cost. Ultimately, we might better understand the nature of life itself. So look around. There really is a lot to see.

WEBSITES • Ask a Biologist – Snacking on Sunlight askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/snacking-sunlight • YouTube - Photosynthesis www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yHVhM-pLRXk • YouTube - Two Little Hands TV – Photosynthesis www.youtube.com/ watch?v=xuivYRmIACM

Conrad J. Storad The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad expertly draws young readers into his imaginative and entertaining “classroom” to help them better understand and appreciate the natural world.

photo by Linda F. Radke

The power of green is always at work within plants large and small.

• The Magic School Bus Gets Planted: A Book About Photosynthesis by Lenore Notkin

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Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

My First Book of Lacrosse: A Rookie Book

by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I believe sports have been a universal infatuation since time began. I can imagine cavemen casting lots and rooting feverishly for man and beast alike, as their personal prowess rises to victory. From major league to minors, to tee-ball for the wee ones, sports, agility, and fanfare runs in our veins. Sports Illustrated for Kids has a great series of Rookie books. Every sport that can arouse their interest can be found clearly illustrated and described for the youngest sport fan. Easy brush up for us family members so we can engage with our kids and share their passions.

Sonya Dor: Child Extraordinaire & Dreamer Galore

by Saul Stoogenke, Yoga D.C. Ariesta. (CreateSpace) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This fun and adorably illustrated book will catch you with its lively rhyme and enthusiasm. Sonya Dor has let her heart soar, and finds her options limitless and her potential as big as her imagination. The dedication, so pure and loving, echoes the heart of parents everywhere, and in itself is worth its presentation to every child. May all our children find such wonder as Sonya Dor!

Mason Jar Science: 40 Slimy, Squishy, Super-Cool Experiments by Jonathan Adolph. (Storey Publishing, LLC) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

Kids are naturally inquisitive. Their hungry minds feed on the why’s of life. Why not direct that budding potential with fun activities to stimulate them with the magic of chemistry and physics, and open the amazing worlds of earth science and biology? The great experiments provided will not only increase your child’s learning, but also increase your personal one-on-one time with them in new and creative ways. I found the experiments to be interesting and fun, and easily doable with common household ingredients. A great book to have on hand for summertime slime projects.

Selah’s Painted Dream

by Susan Count. (Hastings Creations Group) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Now, into the third book of the Dream Horse Adventure series, author Susan Count does not disappoint. Her realism and heart continues to engage us, and carry us through to the end with full attention. The book breathes with life, whether in the connect with heart and dreams, with past and present, or the confusion that stirs and overflows the pot from time to time. Count captures the struggle of human emergence as gracefully as a butterfly comes to its first flight. Teen transition carries such a force capable to scatter, connect, and realign even stronger. Selah struggles through her transition, and learns the joy and importance of relationships, both human and equine.

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Book Reviews

Gracie Brave

by Pamela Krikke, Kate Eldean MA MFT, Jane Moore Houghton. (Mindstir Media) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but what happens when the number of those days increase? What happens when that increase begins to take the lead? Parents and caregivers can become overwhelmed wondering what to do. One in 33 school age children and one in eight adolescents suffer from clinical depression. Gracie Brave brings voice to the child, offering their perspective on their level. It’s a more comfortable approach from an understanding peer, while giving understanding and resources to parents and teachers as well.

In the Past

by David Elliott, Matthew Trueman. (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a cool look back to what came before us. Elliott’s poetic cadence sets our step back through time, and the amazing illustrations of Matthew Trueman set a wide-eyed view of what we’d find there, and maybe even a shiver or two. Fun facts about each entry are provided in the back, offering opportunity for interesting conversations.

The Magician’s Secret

by Zachary Hyman, Joe Bluhm. (Tundra Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I loved this book! Everything about it captures the heart and imagination. Illustrations by Joe Bluhm are wonderful and warmly portray the love and magical relationship between a boy and his grandpa. The wonder of imagination comes easy to the young, but we all come to that critical time where we butt heads with reason, and determine if it will remain a compatible lifelong friend. Sweet Charlie has come to such a day. Will he let go of the wonder? Can he leave behind the amazing stories that seem so real? What is real anyway? Could it simply be the love and fun we share with the most special people of our lives?

Scoop the Ice Cream Truck

by Patricia Keeler. (Sky Pony Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Trying to keep up with others can be a tough pace. Some people just seem to shine with no effort at all, and we start to wonder why it’s not so easy for us. Scoop’s been around a long time, doing what he always did, selling vanilla ice cream cones. But, now there are new guys with bigger trucks, more flavors, and fancy toppings. How will he ever keep up? Scoop tries hard to fit in, but comes to realize he’s fine just as he is. This delightful story shows that learning who we are and how we can be our best will always make us shine.

Thunder II: Footprints in the Sand

by Erik Daniel Shein, Melissa Davis. (World Castle Publishing, LLC) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Thunder’s journey continues. Meeting new friends, and reconnecting with old ones make a delightful story of love and loss, and the journey beyond it. Friends often can be the harness that keeps us from falling, but helps us break through to new adventures. Witty and fun, the characters will again win your heart.

Little Worm: A Story About Worry

by Laura Ann Elpers Pierce, Armando Loredo. (Brown Books Publishing Group) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Adjustments can challenge us, and disappointments can undo us, but tucked just beyond hiding is overcoming. Little Worm is filled with anticipation. He has a plan! But, suddenly his plan is challenged. Will he let the new conditions stop him from his achievements? Can he adjust to the changes, and still reach his goal? An inspiring story with simple techniques to help little worriers take a deep breath, and readjust.

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Book Reviews

Chineasy for Children

by ShaoLan Hsueh, Noma Bar. (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Chineasy is a fun way to learn to read Chinese characters. This book will help children to remember the many characters used by teaching them to imagine them as pictures. One hundred basic and useful characters are grouped here in themes, including the body, animals, and nature. Reading and writing this beautiful language with its elegant lines and characters will become easy with its clear illustrations and explanations. Stick with it, and it will be Chineasy!

Bagel in Love

by Natasha Wing, Helen Dardik. (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Who doesn’t love bagels? Author Natasha Wing comes up with the hilarious idea of a dancing bagel. Not just any dancing bagel, but a toe-tapping, salty, swirling dancer … whom no one wants to dance with. Croissant says no. Pretzel, too. Even Doughnut has no interest when Bagel requests their presence at the Cherry Jubilee Dance. Luckily for our Bagel, a sweet Cupcake joins him for the contest and the sprinkles fly. Illustrations are colorful and eye-catching. Bagel in Love reminds readers that there is always someone out there who will share a dance with them, appreciate their quirks, and enjoy their friendship.

Sheep 101

by Richard T. Morris, LeUyen Pham. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Counting sheep might be a little easier said than done when restless readers are not quite ready for bed. However, a story about nursery rhyme characters and silly, wooly friends will provide a precious bedtime story sure to generate lots of giggles and hopefully some sleepy eyes at the end. When Sheep 101 crashes into the fence, other friends need to keep hopping in order to keep up their bedtime duties! This story does not need to be reserved for bedtime only—it can also be a great mentor text to inspire our own stories. This adorable book has too many special details to count.

Bears and Blossoms

by Shirley Parenteau, David Walker. (Candlewick) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

A sweet and enchanting springtime story surely to become a favorite for families as they enjoy the rhythmic language and precious illustrations during the blooming season. Big Brown Bear and the four bear cubs are ready to enjoy a picnic adventure with kite flying, but the winds are so strong, they carry the little bears up off the ground and away! What will Big Brown Bear do? The setting of bright green hills, fluffy clouds, and perfect pink blossoms are watercolor picture perfection.

Rabbit Moon

by Jean Kim. (Arthur A. Levine Books) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

The rabbit on the moon turns wishes into stars, but soon discovers he has wishes of his own. Rabbit may journey to the moon and back, but the power of hope, wishes, and friendship is infinite. This is an absolutely beautiful book with equally gorgeous illustrations based on Korean folklore. The addition of the author’s note gives the story even greater context behind the story and would make a great addition to any child’s library.

Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night

by Dee Leone, Bali Engel. (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

Nature’s lullaby fills the night and should also fill your bedtime bookshelf. Leone’s lyrical and gorgeous writing is complimented by Engel’s whimsical and beautiful illustrations. Together, it feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket and will surely have children calm and ready for bed.

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Book Reviews

A Couch for Llama

by Leah Gilbert. (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

The Lago family needs to find a new couch and never expects to find a couch-loving llama! Leah Gilbert has created a fun read with absolutely gorgeous illustrations that will elicit laughs and a new appreciation for your favorite furniture. This is definitely a story for the whole family to enjoy.

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

by Christine Pym. (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

We’ve all been there. It can be hard to decide on that perfect bite to eat. Christine Pym’s adorable illustrations and fun word play will take readers on an exciting adventure alongside Little Mouse as he adds to his list of breakfast foods and tries to stay out of trouble.

How Does My Home Work?

by Chris Butterworth, Lucia Gaggiotti. (Candlewick) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

This book is a must-add to any child’s bookshelf. Butterworth’s fun and straight-forward text, coupled with Gaggiotti’s interesting and colorful illustrations offer a wonderful explanation of everyday tasks that we take for granted and teaches the importance of saving energy. This book is a great springboard for discussions on the environment, clean energy, and personal responsibilities within our homes and the larger world. The author and illustrator notes in the back create for an even greater connection with the reader. It would be a great addition to a personal or school library.

The Golden Glow

by Benjamin Flouw. (Tundra Books) Reviewer: Tynea Lewis

Fox is inquisitive and loves nature. His desire to find out more about the “golden glow” plant leads him on an adventure to find the “fabulously fascinating flower.” This fictional story is spattered with information text about different types of trees and flowers. Threads of science were creatively woven into fictional text. There are themes of determination and adventure intertwined into this story as well. This book was translated from French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou.

Fox and Raccoon

by Lesley-Anne Green. (Tundra Books) Reviewer: Tynea Lewis

This lovable story about two friends shows how those who care for each other will readily lend a hand to help in any situation. Raccoon wants to play with Fox, but Fox is too busy with a variety of projects. To lighten her load, Fox offers to help with anything she needs, only to be surprised at the end. The illustrations add an engaging dynamic. The scenes have been created with needle-felted wool, balsa wood, and fabric.

Shai & Emmie Star in Dancy Pants!

by Quvenzhané Wallis, Sharee Miller, Nancy Ohlin. (Simon & Schuster) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

Shai & Emmie Star in Dancy Pants! is a sweet story about family, friendship, and competition. Ms. Englert, the dance teacher at Sweet Auburn School for Performing Arts signs up her class for a dance competition. Shai is paired with her BFF as well as another classmate. Shai makes a secret bet with a frenemy who will win, which changes this competition from being a fun journey to winning no matter what. One of the lessons I took away after reading this book was don’t take a competition too seriously and try not to hurt yourself! 

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Book Reviews

Isadora Moon Goes to the Ballet

by Harriet Muncaster. (Random House) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

Isadora Moon Goes to the Ballet is an adventurous and imaginative story, much like the entire Isadora Moon book series. I really love the stylized drawings, especially the bunny images in pink, white, black, and grey. Isadora Moon is half vampire and half fairy and she really enjoys this. In this book, Isadora goes on a field trip with her class to see the performance of Alice in Wonderland  and the problem is: Her best friend, Pink Rabbit goes missing. Will she find her furry friend and get to see the performance? Read the book to find out!

Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing

by Scott Seegert, John Martin. ( jimmy patterson) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Kelvin Klosmo lives in outer space and his best friend is an alien. An evil genius is rumored to be hunting him to kidnap him, all because it is believed that Kelvin has the all-powerful Zorb. With it, the bad guy can rule the world! To make things worse, his annoying little sister, Bula, has been declared a genius while he has a hard enough time with his homework. But Kelvin soon discovers that he has a hidden awesome talent. Kids will relate to Kelvin and his many mishaps as they learn to believe that even unpopular kids who “mess up” on a regular basis only need to search their true selves to uncover their own hidden talents. I found this book to be the perfect formula to keep any young reader turning the pages.

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond by Sam Hearn. (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry

I really loved the Cast of Characters at the beginning; this helps readers relate to them as they appear in this delightful book. It’s a new take on an old tale. Sherlock is a pre-teen who is in the same grade as Martha Hudson and James Moriarity. Along with their teacher and the rest of the class, they go on a field trip to the museum and soon after they arrive, it is discovered that the famous Alpine Star diamond has been stolen! Along with his trusty dog, Baskerville, Sherlock and friends set out to find the real diamond. Not only does this story have well-placed clues for young readers to solve the mystery, there are enough turns and twists and a surprise ending to leave them wanting to read the next mystery by Sam Hearn.

Out of the Wild Night

by Blue Balliett. (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry

According to Mary W. Chase, Nantucket Island is not just a location—it has a pulse. Here, the line between the living and the dead is practically nonexistent. Humans and ghosts cross paths all the time. Ghosts really do live here, according to Mary, and she would know … for she is a ghost. Only the local children and the crows can see them. This story makes readers appreciate history and old things, houses in particular. The ghosts are tied to their homes and when a land developer buys houses to gut them and make them modern, the ghosts disappear. A group of young ghosts call on a group of living children to help them stay in town as their homes are being torn apart. Can they think of a plan that will help the ghosts remain?

Revenge of the Beetle Queen

by M.G. Leonard. (Chicken House) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter, is at large with her deadly yellow ladybug spies—and she has a devious plan. When Darkus, Virginia, and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they’re determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus’ dad has forbidden them to investigate any further, and crooks Humphrey and Pickering are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia’s daughter and a Hollywood actress, but the beetle villainess is always one scuttle ahead. What kid wouldn’t love reading this fun and educational book?

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Book Reviews

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson. (Arthur A. Levine Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle…. A must-read for any child. It’s an enlightening and entertaining story.

Viola Vincent Reporting … Underdog

by Anna Kenna. (CreateSpace) Reviewer: Jessica Reino

This is the second book in the Viola Vincent Reporting series and it does not disappoint. The protagonist, Caitlin, takes on the charge for social justice under her investigative alter ego, Viola Vincent. With the help of her friends, Caitlin is able to investigate the cruelty and abuse going on in a local puppy mill and is determined to expose the mill for their illegal and cruel practices. Through the character of Caitlin, readers will be able to know that no matter what their age is, it is never too early (or too late) to become involved with something that they are passionate about and create change.

AnnaPolis Summers by Linda Heavener Gerald

Anna comes from a wealthy family—overprotected and surrounded by rich friends from “good” families. Far away from rough, “poor” kids from bad neighborhoods, she is the last person you’d expect to be bullied. But she is the victim of bullying in all its despicable aspects, and almost loses her life. Instead of giving up, she faces it with strength and determination. A good moral lesson, this book serves to teach how to recognize the signs of a different kinds of bullying and help those in need.

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Q&A

Q&A with

Lois Brandt by Julianne Black

In the United States alone, there are more than 13 million kids living in home environments that cannot regularly sustain three meals a day. But even with such a huge number, there is so little being discussed openly for solutions. Free breakfast programs are slowly making the rounds, but more can be done. As a society, we tend to keep the problem to a whisper when the issue might typically be a very sensitive or embarrassing topic for families in the struggle. We worry, we care, and we feel for those in need, but how are we helping? That’s where Maddi’s Fridge comes in. A sweet, lighthearted, yet immensely powerful story about how to get involved when a friend is in need creates a gamechanging strategy when introduced to communities that have a heart but need a push to get involved. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Lois Brandt about her book, what the topic means to her, and how we can all benefit from her groundwork in the efforts to help feed our children. Q: Maddi’s Fridge has won numerous awards since it was published in 2014, including being listed as a Top Mighty Girl Book for Young Readers. Can you give us a little bit of background on how this book came to be? A: Maddi’s Fridge came from a childhood memory. I was probably in the fourth or fifth grade, and went over to my best friend Liz’s house to play after school. Liz lived right next to a dry creek, and we spent the afternoon throwing rocks, sliding in the dirt, and catching grasshoppers. I could have played forever at Liz’s house! The sun started to set and my stomach 54

Story Monsters Ink | May 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

Lois Brandt and Vin Vogel

growled. I said something like, “Let’s get a snack and come back outside.” Liz’s face got really still. She said, “It’s time for you to go home.” I was somewhat clueless as a kid, and I said, “I’m NOT going home,” and ran into Liz’s house, ran into her kitchen, and swung open her refrigerator door. Those who’ve read Maddi’s Fridge can guess what happened next. Liz’s refrigerator was empty, white empty, like a fridge in a refrigerator store. There were a few condiments in the door and one carton of milk on the center shelf. That was it. And I recognized the milk—it was an odd shaped carton that only came from our school’s free milk program. It hit me all at once that Liz’s family was desperately in need of food, and she had been bringing home her milk for her baby brother, who was too young to go to school and receive the free milk. I was in shock. You hear about hungry kids in countries far away (which was bad enough), but now my best friend and her baby brother didn’t have any food. The image of Liz’s empty refrigerator has stayed with me my entire life.


Q&A

Q: While the subject matter is a serious one, the illustrations and the attention to humor within the relationship of the best friends creates a comfortable space in which to explore the issue of hunger. Did you have an illustrator in mind when you began?

Q: I love that the last page of the book gives suggestions for how kids can help struggling classmates. Have any stories come back to you about the impact of the book in classrooms or have you received feedback of raised awareness?

A: No, I didn’t. My editor at Flashlight Press, Shari Greenspan, chose Vin Vogel. I had always imagined that since Maddi’s Fridge was such a serious story, the illustrations would be very realistic. Shari sent me a link to Vin’s portfolio and asked me what I thought. I was surprised at the choice, and a little nervous, but I knew one thing about Flashlight Press: The people produce absolutely gorgeous picture books. So I decided to trust Shari’s judgement, and am so glad I did. Shari sent me Vin’s first few sketches of Maddi and Sofia once the project got underway. There was one sketch in particular, where the two girls were standing together, that brought tears to my eyes. Vin had nailed the friendship and love between the two girls. That sketch eventually became the cover.

A: There has been a great response from schools and kids! If kids ruled the world, we would be in such better shape. I’ve had kids of all ages email me to let me know that they have held a food drive. One girl started a food drive at her local library, another at her school, and others in their grades or with Girl Scouts. Schools and food banks are also pitching in, using Maddi’s Fridge as an inspiration to get kids and adults going. I’ve visited with or Skyped with over 80 schools and service organizations, all of which had food drives, but that’s just a drop in the bucket. I’m very happy that Maddi’s Fridge has had such an impact. 

Q: And the fixation with Cheesy Pizza Bombs? A personal favorite?

A: I was very concerned before Maddi’s Fridge came out that some kids might be upset by the story, especially kids who live in families that are struggling to put food on the table. One solution was to hold food drives. The benefit is twofold. A food drive allows kids who didn’t know about empty refrigerators to do something concrete, to make a difference. A food drive also shows kids who might have empty refrigerators that they are surrounded by a caring community. 

A: I have one rule when writing: that every character in a story wants something. If a character doesn’t have a want or desire, it might as well be a piece of furniture. I was having a huge problem with (the younger brother) Luis. He was just sitting there, lifeless and dull, during the dinner scenes. I thought about removing him, but liked the mirrored lives of the two girls. Then I thought about fish. I love fish, but my sister-in-law, when I first met her, made a funny face every time someone mentioned fish.

Q: I love that your school and Skype visits incorporate food drives! 

So I thought, okay, Luis doesn’t like fish. What would he really like for dinner? My family loves homemade pizza (who doesn’t?). But pizza didn’t seem like enough. Then I thought of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes and their favorite Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. I always thought that was such a good description of terribly junky, sugary cereal. My next thought was Cheesy Pizza Bombs! Luis now had something he wanted, and he became much more interesting. When the book was coming out, I suddenly realized I had a problem. Loads of kids would be asking about Cheesy Pizza Bombs, so I developed a recipe and put it on my website. And yes, before you ask, they are pretty cheesy. StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Q&A

Something that surprised me was the positive response to Maddi’s Fridge from children who have had moments when they knew their family didn’t have enough food. Seeing themselves in a book, seeing the close relationship between Maddi and Sofia, empower these children. Maddi has experienced the same problem. They are like Maddi! And like Maddi, they have friends and are not alone.

making my own. But then others jumped in and really helped to spread the word about childhood hunger in the United States. The discussion guides came from the Anti-Defamation League. There is even a downloadable free Maddi’s Fridge board game designed by the University of Missouri. Many of the schools I have visited have come up with their own innovative games and activities. 

Q: Your website has lots of great pictures of overflowing collection containers. Any pro tips you can share about kicking off a great school-driven campaign for local shelters or kitchens? A: First and foremost, contact your local food bank or weekend backpack program and find out what they need. This way, the food you bring in will fill specific gaps in their shelves. I really admire the schools that put the older kids (fourth and fifth graders) in charge and let them tour a food bank and help come up with their own ideas. The pride they feel when all that food comes in and they know that they can make a difference is a life-changer. I’ve seen a lot of fun ideas, like building a “Maddi’s Fridge” with shelves so that when kids come in they get to put cans in a mockup. I’ve seen refrigerator coin banks to help raise money for food banks. There are a lot of creative people out there working to fight childhood hunger. My last piece of advice is to consider holding your food drive in the early spring or another period of time when people aren’t thinking of those in our community with empty refrigerators. Childhood hunger is a year-round problem.  Q: Maddi’s Fridge expands beyond the pages on your website with a Common Core Curriculum, teacher and family discussion guides, as well as activity pages. Was that always the direction you envisioned—to make the book into a teaching tool, or did the extra guides and activities develop out of need once the book got going? A: You know, I had no idea the impact Maddi’s Fridge would have. I was telling a story that had settled in my heart and that I had to share. I did draft curriculum guidelines and sent them to a friend who formatted them for Common Core. And since I was one of those kids who loved activity sheets, I had lots of fun 56

Story Monsters Ink | May 2018 | StoryMonsters.com

Q: I love your story on your bio page about struggling to read. Any words of advice for students feeling that same stickiness in an area of their own development? A: I tell that story at almost every school I visit because I remember how frustrating and humiliating it was not being able to read. I was in the third grade and waaay behind all of my friends! But like Maddi, I belonged to a caring community. My former kindergarten teacher volunteered to work with me after school. Slowly but surely, I began to understand the words I was sounding out. It took a couple of more years until I really loved books. One day, I found a book that took me on an incredible adventure. I got hooked on reading. For every child, and every adult for that matter, there’s a book out there waiting for you that is going to change your world for the better.

Lois Brandt has been published in Highlights, Pockets, and Sparkle magazines. Maddi’s Fridge is her first picture book and can be found on Amazon. loisbrandt.com Julianne Black is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist, and author. She has illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award-winning augmented reality picture book. julianneblack.com


StoryMonsters.com | May 2018 | Story Monsters Ink

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Story Monsters Ink May 2018  

This month's features include: Jessica, Patrick & Rescue: A Journey of Hope and Healing; Julian Lennon Inspires Kids to Imagine a Better Wor...

Story Monsters Ink May 2018  

This month's features include: Jessica, Patrick & Rescue: A Journey of Hope and Healing; Julian Lennon Inspires Kids to Imagine a Better Wor...