Story Monsters Ink June 2018

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June 2018



One to Read:

Wé McDonald ESPN Host Mike Greenberg

Pens a Loveable Tale about a Furry MVP One to Watch:

Siena Agudong

Astronaut Clayton Anderson

Launches Little Readers on an A to Z Mission

Debbie Wideroe

Inspires Eco-Awareness with Children’s Book Series

Fathers Incorporated

Partners with Little Free Library Teaching Toolbox:

summer reading! Q&A with

Carol Brendler and Lisa Brown


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


Linda F. Radke


Cristy Bertini

WRITERS Melissa Fales, Nick Spake, Rita Campbell, Olivia Amiri, Julianne Black, Larissa Juliano

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

DESIGN Jeff Yesh

Science & Nature Editor Conrad J. Storad

PROOFREADER Deb Greenberg Order Story Monsters Ink through subscription services for schools, libraries, and businesses.

Web Management Patti Crane


Linda F. Radke Cristy Bertini

Book Reviewers Darleen Wohlfeil, Diana Perry, Jessica Reino, Tynea Lewis, Sherry Hoffman

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

Cover photo courtesy of The Fred Rogers Company Story Monsters Ink magazine and 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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


Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

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.”

June 2018

In this issue 04 Remembering Mister Rogers



Q&A with Carol Brendler and Lisa Brown

One to Read: WĂŠ McDonald



Teaching Toolbox: Summer Reading!

ESPN Host Mike Greenberg Pens a Loveable Tale about a Furry MVP



Fathers Incorporated Partners with Little Free Library

One to Watch: Siena Agudong



Debbie Wideroe Inspires Eco-Awareness with Children’s Book Series

Astronaut Clayton Anderson Launches Little Readers on an A to Z Mission

28 Liv on Life 36 How Does Your Garden Grow?

38 Summer Reading List 44 Monsters at the Movies

46 Student Writers 48 Book Reviews

Tell us what you think of this issue! Email your comments to | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Mister Rogers by Melissa Fales

photos courtesy of The Fred Rogers Company

Fifty years ago, children scattered in living rooms across America were first invited to visit Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Beginning in 1968, Fred Rogers became an on-screen friend to countless young people who were drawn in and put at ease by his calm demeanor, melodious voice, and his assertion that he liked them, just the way they were. Ironically, as Rogers often 4

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shared, it was his dislike for the medium of TV that led him to create the beloved show. He once told CNN’s Jeff Greenfield, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.”

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Born in 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Rogers grew up singing and playing the piano at the knee of his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely. He attended Rollins College, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition in 1951 and meeting the woman who would later become his wife, concert pianist Joanne Byrd. Rogers got his start in television working for NBC right out of college, parlaying his significant musical ability into jobs on shows such as The Voice of Firestone, The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, and The Kate Smith Hour. He also dabbled in work for several children’s shows, but his aversion to the merchandising so closely tied into children’s programming led him elsewhere. In 1954, Rogers began working as a puppeteer on The Children’s Corner, a Pittsburgh Public Television show, where he found relief from the consumerism of commercial TV. During the several years he spent with the show, he introduced some of his most beloved puppet characters: King Friday XII, Henrietta Pussycat, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and Daniel Striped Tiger. Rogers also spent time in Canada, working on a shortlived children’s program called Misterogers where some of his most recognizable backdrops and props originated, including the trolley, the huge tree, and the majestic castle belonging to his highness, King Friday XII. Rogers later acquired the rights to that show and returned to Pittsburgh where he created Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It first aired nationwide in 1968 through National Educational Television, a precursor to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). In 1969, the impactful testimony Rogers gave in front of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications in support of funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was hailed as a game-changer. In his soft-spoken manner, Rogers deftly made the case that children’s programming on public television addressed a need in society and served as an antithesis to the troubling messages that so

commonly infiltrated television programming. He also sang one of his songs from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Instead of the cuts that were planned, Congress went on to appropriate $22 million, more than double the previous years’ funding for public broadcasting, and Committee Chairman Senator John Pastore famously told Rogers that he’d earned those millions. Those funds also helped the PBS hit show Sesame Street become the blockbuster it was. Sonia Manzano, who portrayed Maria on Sesame Street for 44 years, appreciated how Rogers’ show complemented hers. “Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were the perfect combination of children’s programming in the early 1970s, with Sesame Street’s emphasis on cognitive skills and Mister Rogers’ emphasis on social, emotional interaction,” she says. Each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood opens the same way, with Rogers returning home singing, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” before changing into his trademark sneakers and cardigan sweater. Episodes typically feature interactions with various “neighbors” and make-believe adventures with puppets, interspersed with Rogers’ musical compositions. The concept behind the show relies largely on his soothing presence, unhurried pace, and ability to connect with children.

On set with David Newell, who portrayed the delivery man, Mr. McFeely | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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covered couch in the hospital lounge (this was before hospital rooms had TVs) so that I could watch Mister Rogers,” she says. “I remember feeling lousy. I remember that the vinyl of the couch was cold against my legs. And I remember being worried that I would do something wrong and get sent back to my room and miss the show. And then Mister Rogers came on, and nothing mattered. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t feel cold. I wasn’t worried. Mr. Rogers made me feel safe.” Over the course of its three decades on air, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood won four Emmy awards. Rogers earned a Lifetime Achievement Award, 40 honorary degrees, and induction into the Television Hall of Fame. Less than a year before Rogers passed Fun experiments with television presenter and science educator Bill Nye away in 2003, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, During most episodes, Rogers takes his viewers on a the nation’s highest civilian honor. field trip, introducing children to the types of places one might find in a neighborhood. One such field trip was to author/illustrator Eric Carle’s studio. “It was an honor to work with him and appear on his TV show,” says Carle. “We read my book From Head to Toe together and painted tissue papers. It was an absolute pleasure to visit and paint papers together, both of us in our white smock jackets. The way he spoke to children was so calm and kind and respectful. I will always remember Fred with great fondness and admiration. We are so fortunate for all that he gave to the world.”

When it comes to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, however, it’s not about awards or accolades. Rogers never sought those out. Instead, it’s about how he made people feel and continues to make people feel today. And one thing everyone in the neighborhood can agree on is that “It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling.” For more information about Fred Rogers and his legacy, visit

The best part about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is that Rogers was simply being himself on screen. “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self,” Rogers once said. “I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.” That’s how he lived his life and how he filmed his television program. “Fred Rogers was authentic,” says Manzano. “That’s why all the satirized versions of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that we all enjoyed, couldn’t touch or diminish him.” Many children, like author Kate DiCamillo, found refuge in Rogers’ placidity. DiCamillo, who was often ill as a child, still remembers how he made her feel every time she watched an episode. “I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was really young, and I remember the nurses letting me sit on a green, vinyl6

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Visiting with children’s book author and illustrator Marc Brown

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“One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.” – Fred Rogers

with the cast of Sesame Street. Photo courtesy of Sonia Manzano. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

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One to Read:

Wé McDonald by Melissa Fales

In 2016, an unforgettable 17-year-old singer took NBC’s The Voice by storm, unleashing her powerful sound and sharing her poignant journey from childhood bullying victim to rising star and antibullying advocate. In an effort to bring her inspiring story to more young people, Wé McDonald has recently released a children’s book. In The Little Girl with the Big Voice, McDonald writes about enduring and ultimately overcoming the vicious taunting she suffered. “My book touches on bullying, but it ends with me on stage, being triumphant and realizing that I don’t have to change who I am for people to like me,” says McDonald. “I think that’s a very important message for kids today. It’s something more kids need to hear.” Growing up in Harlem surrounded by her family of talented musicians, McDonald thought being able to sing was a universal trait. She didn’t realize she had a special gift until she was 12 years old. “I liked to sing, but I didn’t know I was good at it,” she says. “I thought everyone could sing until I found out that being tone deaf was a thing.”

that same comfort to others,” she says. “I wanted to give reassurance to anyone who was struggling that things were going to be alright.” When McDonald was in eighth grade, she started taking vocal lessons through an afterschool program at Harlem School of the Arts. “At first I was horrified,” says McDonald. “I figured it would be a new place and new people to make fun of me. But it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.” As she grew, so did her voice, her polish, and her professionalism. She went on to perform at major venues including the renowned Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. She is currently studying jazz vocals at William Patterson University. McDonald will be releasing an EP soon. The lyrics to her recently-released new single, “Head Up High,” are featured on the back of The Little Girl with the Big Voice. She says she enjoyed her turn at being an author, but

McDonald’s naturally high-pitched speaking voice, a stark contrast from the deep singing voice her fans enjoy, combined with her need to wear thick eyeglasses, made her a target for bullies in her school. At home, she sought comfort from her family and especially from music. “I’d turn on the radio and write in my Barbie diary,” says McDonald. “Listening to music always made me feel better.” Being bullied drove McDonald to want to sing even more. “Singing was the best way I knew how to express myself,” she says. “I thought I couldn’t be the only person feeling like this.” And since music had always soothed her when she was feeling down, McDonald decided to pursue a career in music where she could use its ability to heal to help others. “I wanted to give | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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she plans to release more music before she writes another book. “I don’t approach singing and writing in the same way, but I do approach both of those things with the same heart and passion,” she says. Viewers of The Voice witnessed that heart and passion throughout McDonald’s appearance on the show. It all started when her father surprised her with a ticket to the Philadelphia auditions. There, McDonald and her father were hauled into a huge center with a few thousand other people. “It was really early in the morning, too, but the mood was electric,” she recalls. One of the most memorable points in the process was waiting to hear if McDonald made it to the blind audition round. “We were in our hotel room and we got a call that they were having a meeting and they wanted us there,” she says, adding that she went into a full-blown instant panic. “I thought that we were late for something, that we didn’t look at the schedule correctly, or that we had messed up,” says McDonald. When she arrived at the meeting, there were only a few other contestants there. When the announcement came that they’d made it to the blind auditions, 10

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“When kids read it, I want them to take away that confidence is beautiful in people no matter what they look like. You can have a small beginning, but if you work hard, you can end up on top. You have the right to fight for that.” McDonald was floored. “It was so surreal,” she says. “It was an unbelievable feeling.” During her blind audition, McDonald belted out a rendition of “Feeling Good” that compelled all four judges to turn their chairs around, indicating an interest in having her on their team. “Honestly, I only remember some of it,” McDonald says. “It was so

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overwhelming.” Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, and Blake Shelton had all turned around when McDonald closed her eyes briefly during the tune. “When I opened my eyes, Adam (Levine) had turned around,” says McDonald. “I couldn’t help it. I freaked out a little. I had a moment.” McDonald, who ultimately placed third overall, chose to work with Keys as her mentor, but says she gleaned valuable advice from all four of the show’s star coaches. “When you have musicians like this sharing what they’ve learned throughout their experience in life with you and helping you, it’s priceless,” says McDonald. “With my book, I feel like it’s my turn to share what I’ve learned from my experiences. I hope I can help others who were in my situation.” In The Little Girl with the Big Voice, McDonald offers a very personal look into her own transformation. “This book is really about my journey,” she says. “It shows how I used to try to change who I was just to make people like me, but it ends with happiness. When kids read it, I want them to take away that confidence is


beautiful in people no matter what they look like. You can have a small beginning, but if you work hard, you can end up on top. You have the right to fight for that.” McDonald_final.indd 25

12/29/17 9:31 AM

For more information about The Little Girl with the Big Voice, visit | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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ESPN Host Mike Greenberg Pens a Loveable Tale about a Furry MVP by Melissa Fales

Popular ESPN television personality Mike Greenberg is not only a trusted sports authority, a member of the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and a New York Times bestselling author, he’s also a passionate opponent of cancer. He and his wife, Stacy Steponate Greenberg recently co-wrote a children’s book together, MVP: Most Valuable Puppy (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster), and they are donating all of their proceeds from it to help fight pediatric cancer.

“Everything we ever make from this book will go towards cancer research, until there is a cure,” says Greenberg. “It’s very gratifying for us to be able to do something that can make a difference in this world.” Greenberg’s inspiration to raise money for cancer research traces back to 2009 when Stacy’s friend, Heidi Armitage, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It had spread to her bones by the time it was discovered 12

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and she died that same year,” he says. “She was dealt cards you don’t come back from and that was just the most unjust thing I had ever seen.” Wild emotions raced through Greenberg’s head during Armitage’s memorial service. “She was outdoorsy, she didn’t smoke, she was a healthy eater,” he says. “I remember staring at the backs of her children’s heads—they were both under 10 years old at the

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money for Heidi’s Angels,” says Greenberg. “It was Stacy who came up with the idea to create a kids’ book, starring Phoebe.” MVP: Most Valuable Puppy is a charming tale about a girl and her dog. “It’s about a little girl who likes sports and learns how to play from her dog,” Greenberg says. “There are a lot of sports books about little boys, but this one is different. And we don’t make a big deal of the fact that it’s about a girl. She’s just a girl out there playing with the other kids and having a blast.”

time—and I was sad, but more than sad. I was angry. It wasn’t fair. I was livid because this was such an injustice.” Greenberg transformed his anger into action and in 2013, he and Stacy created Heidi’s Angels, a foundation to raise money for cancer research. That same year, Greenberg released his debut novel, All You Could Ask For, about women trying to keep their everyday lives and friendships intact while battling cancer. He’s donated all of his proceeds from the novel to Heidi’s Angels to fund anti-cancer efforts. Greenberg, who has been with ESPN since 1996, is most well-known for Mike and Mike, the long-running show with Mike Golic, and now the new morning show, Get Up. However, Greenberg says he’s always wanted to be a writer, something he traces back to his childhood spent browsing through the bookstore his parents owned and operated. “I got into broadcasting as a way to pay the bills while trying to write the great American novel,” he says. His first book, Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad was released in 2006 and became a New York Times Bestseller. His novel My Father’s Wives was released in 2015. Most recently, says Greenberg, thanks to the photos he and Stacy have posted on social media, he’s gained clout not for his broadcasting or his writing, but for his dog, Phoebe, an Australian Labradoodle with a pink tail (it was originally dyed pink when Heidi passed away as a subtle tribute to her battle with breast cancer). “We had been thinking about a new project to raise more 14

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There’s nothing morose about the story. “This isn’t a book about cancer,” Greenberg says. “In fact, there’s no mention of cancer in the book. It’s a classic children’s story. You can read it to a 2- or 3-year-old and an older child might be able to read it themselves. It has a nice message for kids to take away.”

“There are a lot of sports books about little boys, but this one is different. And we don’t make a big deal of the fact that it’s about a girl. She’s just a girl out there playing with the other kids and having a blast.” Greenberg says illustrator Bonnie Pang’s depiction of Phoebe is spot-on. “She brought our dog to life,” he says. “She did a sensational job not only of creating a dog that looks just like Phoebe, but conveying her when she’s animated. There’s almost a magical quality in how she jumps off the page.” Greenberg, unabashedly smitten with Phoebe, unapologetically calls her “the world’s cutest dog” and says kids who read the book will grow to adore her, too. Interestingly, Greenberg’s experiences with Phoebe are his first as a dog owner. “I never had a dog growing up,” says Greenberg. “In fact, I was afraid of dogs my whole life.” His fear stems back to an incident when he was just 6 years old and visiting a

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friend’s house. “We were wrestling as little boys do, but his little dog thought I was attacking him,” recalls Greenberg. “He came racing over and bit me. That was it. I was terrified of dogs ever since.” Years later, Greenberg found himself at odds with his wife and kids, all of whom wanted a dog. “I was the lone holdout,” he says. “That experience as a 6-yearold really stuck with me.” Finally, he was talked into it. “You know, I never understood why people loved dogs so much,” he says. “But now I have Phoebe.” Earlier this year, ESPN legend Dick Vitale asked Greenberg to be an honoree at his V Foundation for Cancer Research Gala in May, recognizing Greenberg for his work with Heidi’s Angels. “I was extremely moved and touched by it,” says Greenberg. With MVP: Most Valuable Puppy set to be released just days before the gala, the Greenbergs decided to acknowledge Vitale’s personal crusade to combat pediatric cancer by donating their proceeds from the book to fund pediatric cancer research. “Stacy and I talked about it,

and thought it was appropriate, especially since it’s a children’s book,” says Greenberg. “We knew that Heidi would have loved the idea.” | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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One to Watch:

Siena Agudong by Melissa Fales photos by Travis Hayes

Nickelodeon’s new show, Star Falls, features Siena Agudong as Sophia Miller, a teen with a seemingly endless arsenal of ploys aimed at setting her single mother up with one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors. When movie star Craig Brooks lands in her small town for a filming project with his three children in tow, Sophia takes advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play matchmaker for her mom.


Agudong, 13, admits there are some similarities between her and the character she portrays. “She is a huge schemer, and although I have fun with pranks, I am not as mischievous as Sophia,” she says.

stage was in Willy Wonka and her first role was portraying an Oompa Loompa. “I was so excited when I found out that I was the Oompa Loompa that got to say, in a very deep voice, ‘Doopa Dee Doo,’” she says.

Born in Hawaii, Agudong was acting by the time she was 7 years old. “I grew up watching my older sister, Sydney, do a lot of theatre,” she says. “I was so inspired. I started doing theatre as well and fell in love with everything about acting.” The first time Agudong took the

Agudong transitioned from the theatre into TV by playing Lulu Parker on the ABC drama, Killer Women. She went on to become a regular guest star on Nickelodeon’s popular Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. She also appeared as Tiffany on TV Land’s Teachers,

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field playing my heart out,” she says. All that soccer playing paid off with Agudong landing a role in the upcoming Warner Brothers movie Alex & Me alongside Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team

member Alex Morgan. In Alex & Me, Agudong plays Reagan Wills, a big Alex Morgan fan. “Reagan is a passionate soccer player who dreams about being on a certain team but when she doesn’t make the cut, she is devastated,” says Agudong.

“I really want to be a role model for others. I know how significant it is to have one. It’s very important for me to be a positive example for girls my age.” winning a 2017 Young Entertainer Award for “Best Guest Starring Young Actress 12 and Under” for her performance. According to Agudong, these acting jobs were a valuable learning experience. “They were so incredibly fun,” she says. “I got so close to the casts I worked with and I appreciate being able to grow as an actor from those projects.” Now, Agudong has the lead role in Star Falls. “Sophia comes up with a lot of sneaky and persuasive ways to get Craig Brooks and his three children, Diamond, Phoenix and Bo, to stay at her house,” she says. There’s a little bit of culture shock and a lot of laughs. “Sophia and Diamond try everything they can to set up their totally different parents,” says Agudong. “There are a lot of crazy challenges that arise when the two completely different families try to live under one roof.” When she’s not acting, Agudong likes playing with her dogs and spending time with her family. “Or you can find me on the soccer 18

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When Reagan accidentally bumps her head, her life-size Alex Morgan poster magically comes alive and becomes a friend, trainer, and coach to Reagan. “From that point on, everything changes for Reagan because she now has U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan to help her,” she says. Agudong says she enjoys every aspect of acting. “I love the adrenaline of going to set and not knowing what to expect,” she says. I also absolutely love adopting another person’s life for a day and experiencing many events that I may not actually encounter in my own life.” For Agudong, one of the hardest parts about being an actress is

trying to fit everything into her very busy schedule. “It’s very challenging to juggle full-time school and a full-time filming schedule but it is so worth it to me in the end.” When things get tough, Agudong turns to her role models for inspiration. Her biggest inspiration is her sister Sydney, but she also looks up to Selena Gomez and Liza Koshy. “I admire how hard Selena Gomez works to achieve her dreams and her honesty and humbleness,” she says. “Liza is so incredibly confident, silly, and not hesitant to be herself. I adore that so much. She is so pure.” Agudong says she’s aware that girls will be looking to her for guidance on how to act and what to do. “I

really want to be a role model for others,” says Agudong. “I know how significant it is to have one. It’s very important for me to be a positive example for girls my age.” As far as future plans, Agudong envisions herself continuing with acting. “I have every intention of pursing my acting career when I’m an adult,” she says. “This is what I want to do and I truly enjoy every second of this amazing journey and feel so blessed and grateful.” For more information about Siena Agudong, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @SienaAgudong. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Astronaut Clayton Anderson Launches Little Readers on an A to Z Mission by Melissa Fales photo courtesy of NASA

As Nebraska’s first and only astronaut, Clayton Anderson holds the sole privilege of representing the Cornhusker State in space. Being selected by NASA in 1998 was a lifelong dream come true for Anderson, as evidenced by the faded newspaper clipping he has of a photo taken of him at the Ashland Summer Carnival in the mid-1960s.


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In it, he’s 6 years old and dressed for the children’s parade in a handmade astronaut costume, complete with a helmet made out of a hat box and a lot of aluminum foil. “My mother always said that when I was a little boy, I often told her I was going to become an astronaut one day,” he says. Since retiring from space travel, Anderson has been busy writing books, including his first, The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut, released in 2015, and his first children’s book, A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet, released in March. Writing a book for kids wasn’t even on Anderson’s radar until a friend who manages a bookstore told him about the numerous titles in the Sleeping Bear Press Alphabet series. “They don’t have a space one yet,”

she hinted. The result is an A to Z journey filled with space words, a poem for each letter, and fascinating facts about NASA. “I wrote down the alphabet and picked a word for each letter,” he says. “I had multiple choices for a few of them. I finished the poems in less than a week. I thought that was the really fun part.” Anderson praised the book’s illustrations by Scott Brundage. “They’re very visually impactful,” he says. Anderson also wrote the sidebar information on each page which gives children a deeper glimpse into what it’s like to be an astronaut. “It’s a book that can really grow with the kids,” he says. “Small children might only be able to read the letters on their own. As they get older, they’ll be able to read the poems. And as their reading skills improve, they’ll be able to learn something about space.”

“It’s important that we get kids excited about STEAM. It’s really important to the future of America that our children are focused on these kinds of disciplines. These are the people who are going to be the problem-solvers of the future.” Anderson hopes A is for Astronaut will spur a curiosity about space among his young readers, similar to the way he was indelibly affected on Christmas Eve 1968 by watching the Apollo 8 mission orbit the moon on TV. “Listening to the communication between ground control and that command module 239,000 miles into space was incredible,” he says. “I remember that tension and that drama and that excitement when they re-established contact after a long period of static. That was a huge Wow! for me. That really planted a seed in my head.” Of the 30 years Anderson spent with NASA beginning in 1983, the first 15 were as an aerospace engineer. For the last two years before he was selected as an astronaut, he was the manager of the Emergency Operations Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I knew little to nothing about managing emergencies, but NASA had taught me a lot about planning, training, and flying,” he says. “I was able to take the plan, train, and execute methodology from space flight and apply 22

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it to emergency response.” Anderson was fortunate in that although he was completely prepared, he never had to deal with a real emergency. “We simulated a ton of them, just like we do in space flight,” he says. “We simulate all the time so when the time comes, you’re ready.” Spending 167 days in space took guts, determination, and especially perseverance, since Anderson submitted 15 applications to NASA before he was finally accepted as an astronaut. “That’s supposedly a record,” says Anderson. “Applying to become an astronaut is easy. Getting selected is hard. I just didn’t give up.” The application, according to Anderson, is tedious, involving hours of work. “Once it’s done, it’s relatively simple to update it every year,” he says. So he did … again and again. After the 13th try, Anderson was called in for an interview. “At that point the flame was lit,” he says. It still took two more tries, but Anderson knew he was getting closer to his goal. In all, Anderson had the opportunity to experience six space walks, spend five months on the International Space Station, and fly on two space shuttles: Atlantis and Discovery. In 2013, he retired from NASA and embarked on a writing career. In June, Anderson’s third book will be released. It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions is a collection of the often thoughtful and sometimes inane inquiries Anderson has received about space over the years. The most perennial topic, according to Anderson, is food. “The food in space is pretty good, actually,” he shares. “I got to eat both Russian food and American food. The Russian food was preferable. I definitely did not starve.”

Anderson says he hopes It’s a Question of Space will encourage young adults to consider space exploration and other STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) fields when they think about their career choices. “It’s important that we get kids excited about STEAM,” he says. “It’s really important to the future of America that our children are focused on these kinds of disciplines. These are the people who are going to be the problem-solvers of the future.” Looking ahead, Anderson says he plans to continue his schedule of speaking engagements and to keep writing. “My mantra is: I write to inspire, to entertain, and to educate,” he says. “I can’t get in front of audiences everywhere, but if people choose to look at my books, that gives me an additional avenue and a different way to inspire them.” For more information about Clayton Anderson and his books, visit | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Debbie Wideroe

Inspires Eco-Awareness with Children’s Book Series

Once, Debbie Wideroe awoke from an especially vivid dream and jotted down “The Adventures of Camellia N.” on the notepad she keeps next to her bed. It didn’t mean much to her at the time, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that those words had significance. “I couldn’t get rid of it,” says Wideroe. “Then, literally, one day it took over and I instantly knew what I wanted to do.” That’s how Wideroe’s popular The Adventures of Camellia N. series came to be.


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Published by Notable Kids Publishing, she’s already released the first two books of a planned set of nine, drafted with the hope that reading about Camellia’s magical experiences all over the globe will help children develop a deeper appreciation for our planet. Growing up, Wideroe was strongly influenced by her father, a fervent believer in sustainability before the term became widely used. “I grew up with the idea of reuse, recycle, repurpose,” she says. “I developed an innate sensibility of taking care of the earth without even thinking about it.” Wideroe started writing at age six and never stopped, compiling journals and poetry in addition to magazine columns and stories. Her eco-conscious upbringing and way with words set the stage for her future as a children’s author of environmentally-themed books. However, children’s literature wasn’t the first step in her career. Instead, Wideroe did stints in children’s television, marketing, and teaching. “While I was at Harvard University for graduate school, I was lucky enough to study under Dr. Gerry Lesser, one of the creators of Sesame Street,” she says. She went on to be in charge of marketing for Warner Brothers’ Baby Looney Tunes and other animated properties. And although she didn’t set out to become a teacher, she’s taught advertising and marketing at Pepperdine University for nearly 20 years. “It just kind of happened,” she says.

information about the region and its creatures. “I go to the experts for this,” she says. “I’m not a scientist. They tell me which animals are endangered, some critically so, and I weave them into the stories. I try to highlight the coolest things about all of the creatures and show how incredible they are. If kids find these animals amazing, perhaps they’ll want to take care of them.” The first two books in Wideroe’s series are The Arctic (the first-place winner of a Royal Dragonfly Book Award in the Green/Environmental category) and Under the Sea. The third book in the series, detailing Camellia’s trip to the Amazon rainforest, is due out this fall. “In 2020, when the Olympics happen in Asia, will be a perfect time to launch the book,” Wideroe says. One thing that truly sets Wideroe and The Adventures of Camellia N. apart is the way her vision extends beyond her books and into other avenues where she can make a difference. “I see it as a book series, but it’s also a platform for change,” she says. For example, she started Camellia Kids Care, a global pen pal program that began with a match-up between a school in San Francisco and one in Norway. Her latest set of pen

All of these experiences combined to make Wideroe uniquely qualified to write The Adventures of Camellia N. series. In the books, little Camellia N. visits faraway places around the globe each night in her dreams, meeting different animals along the way. Wideroe says over the course of the nine books, Camellia will visit all seven continents as well as deep space and the deep sea. “I like the idea of introducing children to the magnificence of the earth at a young age,” she says. “I think the younger they are when you capture their interest, the better the chance that they are going to internalize those feelings of wonder and awe and want to care for the earth when they are older.” Foremost in Wideroe’s mind when she writes Camellia’s adventures is an admonition from Lesser about keeping children’s books educationally accurate. “I always think about that,” she says. When she’s researching a new location for Camellia to visit, she consults with wildlife professionals for the latest | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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“When your book is sitting on the shelf, you don’t feel it as much. But when you’re watching little children reading it, you can see you’re making a dent. That’s when you know you’re touching people’s lives.” pals live in Calabasas, California and Zambia. “I want these kids to start to understand how interconnected Earth’s creatures and cultures are,” she says. “We’re already seeing that happen with the pen pal program. While they’re learning about a different culture, I hope they’re also learning that at the end of the day, we’re all the same. I hope they’re becoming global ambassadors. This is the next generation. These are the ones who are going to have the power to make big changes.” Another one of Wideroe’s efforts is Camellia Cares, a partnership with Children’s Scholarship Fund that will allow her to teach low-income parents about fostering communication with their children. “Although this initiative is not tied to the environment, it is tied to literacy, which is another one of my passions,” says Wideroe. “I am a teacher, after all.”


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Wideroe says her drive to complete the series has been buoyed by the many supporters of her books and her larger message, including people like Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and former Energy Secretary. “I’m fortunate and grateful to have influential people supporting and cheering for me,” she says. However, Wideroe says nothing is quite as rewarding as going into schools with her books and visiting with students. “You really feel it at that level,” she says. “When your book is sitting on the shelf, you don’t feel it as much. But when you’re watching little children reading it, you can see you’re making a dent. That’s when you know you’re touching people’s lives.” For more information about Debbie Wideroe and her books, visit | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Liv on Life Just READ! by Olivia Amiri One of my favorite things to do in the entire world is read. I curl up on my bed next to my boxer doggie, a cup of decaffeinated Earl Grey tea with organic honey, and 20 books and just read. Books take me to a place I might never go. I love learning about places, people, and things and noticing the differences in characters and their cultures. I love learning new and complex words. I often keep a dictionary on my bed, making it handy to look up any new words I might not recognize. Although I might understand the word because of the way it is used in the sentence, I still look it up to get the exact definition. Sometimes I’m asked to read out loud especially at school, which isn’t always easy for me because I mainly read to myself. What I learned about reading out loud is you can develop the skill of how to put feelings into what you’re reading as well as good pronunciation so the listener knows what you’re saying. I know reading might not sound great, especially when it’s a long essay or boring book that you have to write a report on. This feels more like a chore. But real reading is when you’re truly immersed in the story of the book to the point that you begin to picture everything that’s happening almost like you’re standing right there. You start to notice everything as if it was happening to you. When you read like this, you also feel sympathy for the characters and you might even think to yourself, Why didn’t he do that instead? True reading is only achieved when you have the mindset of “Okay, I can try this.” Positivity and being brave to try something new is what reading is all about. Actually, it’s a good practice for life in general.



American History

ISBN: 978-1-58536-380-3

This picture-book biography examines the life of Irving Berlin, one of America’s most well-known composers, who immigrated to America in 1893 and whose songs continue to be popular today. This fall, we celebrate the 80th Anniversary of his beloved song,

“God Bless America”!

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. 28

Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 | 866-918-3956



Installation of RDR Little Free Library at Boyd Elementary School in Atlanta with Principal Joi C. Kilpatrick

Fathers Incorporated Partners with Little Free Library by Melissa Fales

Having established 51 children’s libraries inside metro Atlanta barbershops through its Real Dads Read program, Fathers Incorporated is now joining forces with Little Free Library to get even more books into the hands of low-income children. This joint venture will result in an additional 50 Little Free Libraries installed at various Atlanta elementary schools, making books available to children even after school hours and on weekends.


Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

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“With this partnership, we’ll not only be increasing access to books for low-income children, we’ll also be increasing the engagement and involvement of fathers in their children’s education,” says Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. In 2004, Braswell founded the non-profit organization to encourage men to be more involved in their children’s lives. He says the move was in response to his experience growing up and his initial experience as a father himself. “I know personally what it means to not have a father in your life,” says Braswell, who regrets not being a more active participant in his eldest child’s life. “I was young and dumb,” he says. “I didn’t recognize the role I needed to play. When my second daughter was born, it crystallized for me the importance of my presence in my children’s lives.” The Real Dads Read initiative that places children’s books in barbershops has been an overwhelming success for Fathers Incorporated. “Research shows that literacy in high-poverty areas isn’t due to a lack of interest in reading, it’s the lack of access to books,” says Braswell. Since children are allowed to take the books from the barbershop home and keep them, Real Dads Read is constantly replenishing its stock, to the tune of roughly 250 books each month. “That’s exactly what we want,” says Braswell. “We want these kids to have books. We’re trying to reduce the number of book deserts, particularly in lowincome communities where the majority of children do not have any books to read in their homes.”

to house the books, or shares the blueprints to build one. Typically hung on a post, a Little Free Library often resembles a bird house and operates much like the “need a penny, take a penny” dish next to a cash register. “The idea is to let the library become part of the streetscape and part of the neighborhood,” says Braswell. Braswell installed Little Free Libraries at three elementary schools in Decatur, posting photos of the events on social media. When Little Free Library CEO Todd Bol happened to see them, he decided he wanted to learn more about Real Dads Read and contacted Braswell. “The rest is history,” Braswell says. “We’ve been pretty much joined at the hip ever since. Real Dads Read will be establishing reading clubs in each of the 50 schools that will receive a Little Free Library. “We want to engage fathers with some literary activities,” says Braswell. “We’re a father agency, not a literacy agency, but one thing we do know is that when fathers read with their children, good things happen.” Little Free Library will also be partnering with Real Dads Read on a mobile unit project that places crates of children’s books in the back of specially-marked police cruisers. “The police car becomes a mobile library,” says Braswell. “The kids know that these officers have books. It helps to create a conversation between law enforcement and the children in their

The barbershop library project earned Real Dads Read a reputation for making a difference. Schools started calling Braswell for advice on how to get more fathers engaged in their classrooms. Last September, Braswell was at a school in Decatur when he had a big idea. “I thought that a Little Free Library would fit in perfectly with the outside of the school,” he says. Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that facilitates free book exchanges and sells simple, attractive wooden boxes

CEO Todd Bol of Little Free Libraries reading to children at Boyd Elementary School | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Real Dads Read Barbershop partner Freddie Johnson, III reading with Kenneth Braswell Jr. at Anytime Cutz in Atlanta.

community. It builds connections.” The project is set to start in Atlanta soon. In addition to its Real Dads Read efforts, Fathers Incorporated is launching a new campaign in June called Drive to Five. “With this program, we’re narrowing our focus to fathers who are raising children ages infant to 5 years old,” says Braswell. “We believe that this cohort is where we can make the largest impact on children.” According to Braswell, non-resident dads are far more likely to totally disconnect from their children by the time the children are age five than resident dads. “Forming lasting bonds during those first five years is absolutely crucial,” says Braswell. “I’ve seen the impact that fatherlessness has on communities, especially lowincome communities. It’s devastating. This work we do is to ensure that the dads we work with are as intimately connected as early as possible.” One aspect of Drive to Five will be to provide educational materials about responsible parenting to new fathers and fathers-to-be. The branding for Drive to Five features a superhero cartoon character named Adam, and Braswell says he wants regular, everyday dads to learn to see themselves this way. “He’s not Super Dad,” says Braswell. “Yes, he’s standing there with a cape, but he can’t stop bullets in his teeth. He doesn’t have x-ray vision. What he does have is Daddy power. When a father reads with his child, that’s a power. When he has a positive interaction with the mother of his child, that’s another power. I want every 32

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father to understand how much daddy power he has. Each father has to activate his own powers, but he has to be aware of them first. That’s where we come in.” To learn more about Real Dads Read, visit For more information about Fathers Incorporated, visit Find out more about Little Free Library, including how to start one, by visiting

“We’ll not only be increasing access to books for low-income children, we’ll also be increasing the engagement and involvement of fathers in their children’s education.” | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Teaching Toolbox:

Summer Reading! by Larissa Juliano What comes to mind when you think about summer with your children? Swimming? Summer camp? Barbecues? Music in the park? All of those sweet summer experiences should be part of your family time, and this year, let’s add some fun literacy projects and book series exploration as well! Research consistently shows us that children regress one to two reading levels every summer because of lack of daily reading experiences. When you read or talk to your young children about books, they develop important language skills, understanding about books and print, and knowledge about how stories are constructed that will help them become strong readers and writers. Most importantly, when parents and children enjoy summer reading together, children become engrained with the knowledge that reading is important to their families, 34

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and therefore will be important to them as well. It’s not just a “school thing.” Here are some suggestions of reading possibilities to keep it fresh and exciting for those cherished, fast-flying, summer days. Going to the library? Of course! Attending storytimes at your local bookstore? Absolutely. Let’s keep those reading skills sharp, imaginations active, and curiosity about the world around us satisfied.

Plan ahead: Buy a sketchbook and some fresh markers and colored pencils for children to keep as their summer sketchbook. Encourage them to write details on their pages of things they see, read, or experience. Just putting pencil to paper keeps those literacy skills at the

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forefront of their minds. And this is very special to revisit at the end of the summer. Have your child write the date on every page as well. I usually add a little sentence or two for my own mommy memories. Stock up on some dollar store prizes before the summer begins and tuck away in a secret spot. Love of reading should always be the incentive, but having a few little treasures and trinkets to entice busy bodies to sit for a few minutes while they settle and relax into a book is always okay, too. Tentatively plan a theme week of topics throughout the summer and head to the library every Monday or Tuesday to check out fiction and non-fiction books about these specific subjects (with free choice always being an option for added reading, too). Some of my favorites are bugs, superheroes, zoo, adventure stories, castle and knights books, books about buildings, bunny books, bird books, etc. This can start off strong in July but then fizzle out by August with other commitments and camps, but then make those weeks a “freebie” week and children can read two or three books on their own for a dollar store prize!

Think outside the book: Check out some books on bird watching (there are so many kid-friendly ones available online or at your library) and head to the backyard or park to observe which ones you see. This can go along with a theme day on bugs and catching some creepy crawlers in jars (with holes and leaves of course) for a day of observation. Read some books about how bugs survive and what their purpose in nature is. This is usually very important! Especially bees! Add an artistic element and use some paint, crayons, or markers to create nature pictures of the birds, bugs, or bees you’ve seen or hope to see. Make a fun birdhouse (plenty of ideas on Pinterest) and add some fun seeds and food to attract certain flying friends. Seek and find books about various buildings/living spaces (skyscrapers, castles, treehouses, caves) and have your readers get ideas, sketch some out, and then create their own structures out of various building materials (blocks, popsicle sticks and clay, marshmallows and toothpicks, magnetic tiles, etc). This is always a favorite in my house and my children become so inspired with the creations they see in these beautifully photographed or illustrated books. Despite busy hands moving and imaginations working, their minds will absorb the words and pictures.

Find a favorite character, read three or four books about the series, and then have them create a treat that goes along with that character. Fancy Nancy tea party, Curious George brownies, Hungry Caterpillar fruit kabobs, Fly Guy Dirt Pudding Cups, etc. The possibilities are endless. If your children are phasing out of the naptime stage, make the rest time about books and reading. Have them enjoy a snack while reading so it never feels like a requirement, but just a fun, quiet experience. Play special music in their rooms at this time, print some coloring pages from authors’ websites to go along with it, and encourage them to color in their sketchbooks about their books as well. If they are reading Star Wars books, have them watch the Star Wars movie or cartoon series at the end of the week or weekend. Disney books? Pick a Disney movie for a rest time. Don’t feel trapped into a schedule— books and reading and coloring and writing are what it’s all about. If you skip a day or two, don’t worry! Make up for it at the next visit to the library. Car rides or long road trips? Surprise your children with a summer bucket of books next to their car seat with fresh finds that you checked out from the library, discovered tucked in the back of their bookshelf, or very inexpensive finds at your local second-hand store or tag sale. I always buy tons of gently used books for my children’s daycare!

Bedtime reading: No matter what, try to do something reading-related every single day. Working parenthood is busy. Staying home is busy. Carpooling is busy. Do not put pressure on yourself where the reading experience turns stressful for both you and your little ones. But no matter what, one of our responsibilities as parents and teachers is to nurture a love of learning during all months of the year. A quiet bedtime story every night after a long day of grass-stained knees, sweaty foreheads, and popsicle slurping with friends will be a memory you and your sun-kissed child will remember forever.

Larissa Juliano is a children’s book author, elementary school teacher, and reading specialist. Follow her on Twitter @larissasjuliano or visit | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


How Does Your Garden Grow?


Hummingbird Takes the Stage by Rita Campbell (photo by Kevin Cole)

We recently purchased a small lake cabin in Alabama. The people before us were not gardeners— obviously from the lack of any plants on the grounds. While a lake cabin brings enjoyment just sitting and watching the people go by in their boats, being a gardener, I needed something more. So I started researching different types of gardens I could plant for enjoyment. Why not plant a hummingbird garden? I placed my store-bought hummingbird feeder on the shoreline, but I only had one visitor to the feeder. Not much of a show. It was time to get serious. So I started doing some research on these little birds and they are absolutely amazing. It will take some work to invite them to our property, but I am thinking it will be so worth it. Getting a garden started always takes work and this property is no exception, considering it took us all day to plant six crepe myrtle trees, and we even had an augur to drill the holes. Little did we know of the enormous amounts of rocks we would run into. The property is full of rocks with mica in them. It looks like fairy land which is somewhat appropriate for me since I have written a fairy book. The rocks while being somewhat of a nuisance, sparkle like fairy dust from the mica. After doing some research, I have discovered a wealth of children’s books as well as adult informational 36

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books about the hummingbird. So once again there are many opportunities for you to read to your children while developing your hummingbird theatre garden. I call it a theatre because hummingbirds will provide hours of entertainment. While I love to listen to the tunes of songbirds, when it comes to performers, hummingbirds are delightful. The hummingbird is like a one-man stunt show. They can fly forwards or backwards, hover, and even fly upside-down, and they do all of this so fast we can’t hardly see it—beating their wings between 70 and 200 times per second! Using their agility allows them to

How Does Your Garden Grow?

reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour while flying and 60 miles per hour while diving. They buzz. They dart. They dazzle. Together, it makes for a hard act to follow. With all this activity, they are heavy feeders and have to eat about every 10 to 15 minutes between flights. It’s believed that they generally eat two to three times their own body weight in bugs and nectar every day. You and your children can do quite a few things to keep your stars of your theatre happy. Help your children select an attractive feeder for your home garden. Teach them how to make the hummingbird mix ... it involves sugar and water, and is fun! Introduce the hummingbird species to your children via an easy-to-hold and read book, Beginner’s Guide to Hummingbirds. It is small, only 4 inches by 7 inches, and has great pictures of common hummingbirds. It’s a good starter book for young children with an interest in nature, yet contains enough identification tips and other information as they grow into teens and young adults! Another informative book is About Hummingbirds: A Guide for Children. This would also be a great time to add a chapter to your garden journal with pictures of the hummingbirds that frequent your garden. Plant easy-to-grow hummingbird plants like zinnias and marigolds from seeds, watch them sprout, and watch the hummingbirds love them! Narrow gardens are better as it’s easier for the hummingbirds to access the garden from either side. Create curving flower beds. The hummingbirds are usually fighting for territory. It is much better for them to be able to zip down into the garden quickly before the competitor gets a chance to take over. Create clusters of colorful blooms. Hummingbirds have excellent eyesight, but planting flowers in clusters will make it easier for the hummingbird to see numerous blooms instead of just one flower.

hummingbirds have great memories and will return to your garden for years. Hummingbirds, just like all other animals, need food, water, and shelter. Their diet consists of nectar from flowers (red is the favorite color), and small insects such as aphids and spiders. Eating many small meals a day, hummingbirds consume small invertebrates and up to 12 times their own body weight in nectar each day. They also act as pollinators for many plant species. Designing a garden with hummingbirds in mind also pays extra dividends. Pollinators such as bees and other beneficial insects will join the show. So pull up a chair and let’s get started.

Plant of the month: Bee Balm is perennial in zones 4 to 9 and can take partial shade. The leaves smell of orange and spice, and attract bees and hummingbirds. Plant Size: 3 to 4 feet tall, 18 to 36 inches wide. Light: Partial shade. Soil: Rich, moist. Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart. Perennials (such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines), biennials (such as foxgloves and hollyhocks), and many annuals (including cleomes, impatiens, and petunias) are brightly–colored tubular flowers that hold the most nectar and are loved by hummingbirds.

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

To layer the blooms: Plant your tallest plants in back or in the center if it is accessible around the circumference of the garden (an example plant for this is Phlox). Plant middle size plants in the middle (such as Bee Balm). Use Salvia Sage as a small plant for the front. Choose flowers that bloom at different times, giving the birds a source of nectar throughout the season. Perennials are an excellent type of plant. It is said that | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Summer Reading List


LIST The Bubble Who Would Not POP! by Shelly Roark

Billy Bubble is ready to burst! The excitement of finally being out of his bottle on a beautiful, sunny day is everything he’s hoped for. But, the green-eyed girl with the bubble wand has a special message that needs to get to heaven. Billy’s secret mission through the dangers of the sky will bring him before God, where he’ll learn an important lesson about God’s love and compassion. Join Billy Bubble on his journey and discover the power of prayer! For ages 5-8 years.

Circus Fever by Alva Sachs

Jessica has a BIG imagination and an even BIGGER love for clowns. The circus is coming to her town, and she can’t wait to go. Come along and share Jessica’s adventure under the Big Top! Alva’s stories engage, excite, and empower the young reader with color illustrations. Her award-winning titles include, I’m 5, Dear Master Dragon, Dancing Dreidels, and On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! Her website enhances the stories with related activity sheets.

Buddy’s Candle

by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel

A father shares a meaningful story from his childhood with his 9-year-old son. In a gentle way, the father describes how a loving dog named Buddy not only helped him to hveal when facing a serious illness, but also changed his life in miraculous ways. Buddy’s Candle is a touching and heartwarming story to help us deal with grief and teaches us how to live life fully and accept the loss and death of creatures of all species with an open heart.

Catalina and the King’s Wall by Patty Costello

When Catalina overhears the king planning to build a wall, she fears her family won’t be able to visit. Catalina tricks the king into building walls that droop, drip, swirl, and swoosh away. But the king demands an impenetrable wall. Luckily, Catalina has the perfect ingredients to bake up a family reunion! Through beautiful illustrations and enjoyable prose, kids learn how to stand by convictions of inclusivity and kindness even when powerful people tell them not to.


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Summer 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).

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.

Smudge Bunny

by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel

Smudge Bunny is the story of Smudge, Dr. Siegel’s beloved pet rabbit and her journey to reach their home and family. In recounting her story, Smudge comes to realize that sometimes the paths in life that look like detours, are really just different ways to get to where we were meant to be all along. The book is a wonderful gift for animal lovers as well, because it teaches the true spirit of kinship between humans and our favorite furry companions.

I Don’t Like Vegetables! by Mrs C

Spike doesn’t like vegetables! His grandpa teaches him how to grow some vegetables, but when Grandpa is not around, something magical happens in the greenhouse! A beautifully illustrated, awardwinning book recognized by Practical Pre-School magazine to encourage young children to recognize and learn about vegetables, while keeping their interest with a wonderful story. Features include a playground scene for children to match vitamins to vegetables which help initiate discussions about benefits of eating healthily.

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

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. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Summer Reading List

Teeny Sweeney and the Mustache Cash by Amberly Kristen Clowe

Third-grader Teeny Sweeney has been one-upped by seemingly perfect Amanda Mayweather too many times. When their teacher assigns a project to create a business plan, Teeny knows she’s destined for success. After all, with two entrepreneurs as parents, business sense is in her blood! The best laid plans, though, often go awry. Teeny will have to learn that God’s plan is one she can always trust, and that with prayer it is possible to love everyone—even Amanda Mayweather. Chapter book for ages 6-10 years.

Bacon’s Big Smooching Adventure by Olivia Johnson

“Bacon’s Big Smooching Adventure is a whimsical story about a smooching pig with a huge heart for his animal friends. He smooches all kinds of furry and not-so-furry animal friends to raise money for animals in need. Bacon knows that everyone is unique and special in their own way and that everyone needs to be loved. We hope you will enjoy Bacon’s Big Smooching Adventure.”

The Cows Go Moo! by Jim Petipas

Join this band of bovines as they embark on an Udderly Crazy World Tour of music, mishaps, and cow farts! The Cows Go Moo! is a rhyming picture book and song full of humorous lyrics and illustrations. They are in the snow, on the beach, and in many famous places like: Stonehenge, Easter Island and The Great Wall of China! The tour is kicking off! Are you ready to join us? Let’s get mooving!

Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town by Leslie Tall Manning

An out-of-control 16-year-old finds her life turned upside down when she and her family become the stars of a reality show. The time: 1861. The place: North Carolina backcountry. For four months, cameras will follow Brooke’s every move as she relinquishes the comforts of modern day to live the grueling life of a pioneer. But can a young girl’s wishful heart surrender to a time and place she believes she can never call home?

Sunflower Summer by Wendy Dunham

Sunflower Summer, one of four early readers in the Tales of Buttercup Grove series, is a sweet story of friendship, patience, and working together. When Raccoon finds giant sunflower seeds, he invites his woodland friends to help plant them. However, when his friends discover the seeds take 100 days to grow, they become discouraged. With Raccoon’s encouragement, they tend to their seeds for 100 days when they realize, some things in life are worth waiting for!

Martina Ballerina by Imelda Rose Sobiloff

Martina Ballerina is an inspiring new book with a wholesome story and beautiful illustrations for 4- to 8-year-olds. The story celebrates Martina’s love of dance. Young readers relate when her impassioned spirit butts up against the discipline required for ballet. But they really hold their breath when Martina is passed over for a choice spot in The Nutcracker! Can Martina overcome the blow? Will she ever dance again? Kids and parents treasure this book.


Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

Summer Reading List

The Wish

by Tara McCarton

The Wish is a magical story about two young fairies, Audrey and Vivienne, who live in a colorful village. Audrey does not speak with words yet, and Vivienne is kind and includes Audrey in all that she does. They are surprised by a fairy godmother that grants them three wishes, and what they do with these wishes will warm your heart and spread joy and kindness to all who read this book. The Wish will inspire and teach everyone about kindness, inclusion, and the value of focusing on the ability in disability.

Bash and Lucy Fetch Team Vera and the Dream Beasts by Lisa and Michael Cohn

Sensory-sensitive Bash gets upset when his life is too loud, busy, or smelly. He relies on his dog, Lucy, to keep him calm. But his girl-power cousin, Paula, says her soccer team has the right to take Lucy away because girls deserve the very best canine coaches under Title IX. And superstar Lucy is the best—for Bash’s boys’ team. Can Bash show he respects the girls’ rights while keeping dear Lucy by his side?

Ace, King of My Heart: An Assateague Pony’s Tale of Strength and Survival by Lea Herrick

Ace, a tiny, wild colt born on Assateague Island, struggles to survive (with a little help from his animal friends) as he grows into a magnificent stallion. Educational activities included! Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award, 2017 Green Earth Book Award “Long List” Honoree, 2017 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards first place winner. Teaches children life lessons of perseverance, optimism, and hope, with a larger message for all ages: the need to preserve our beautiful natural habitats and ecosystems. Available on

From Riches to Rags by Jaclyn Howell

Most people anticipate a story that describes a character’s triumph from rags to riches. But what happens to a girl who gets away with countless bullying antics at school since her father knows what strings to pull to get her out of trouble? Meet Serendipity, who needs to be humbled in her world of entitlement. How will she change her selfish ways if she doesn’t have God in her life? Does she need to lose everything and go from riches to rags to find her purpose?

Tip & Lulu: A Tale of Two Friends by Lauren Isabelle Pierre

When Lulu, a lonely leopard cub, scours her lush Savannah home in search of a playmate, she learns right away that making friends isn’t always easy or fair. Through an unexpected turn of events, she meets Tip, a shy meerkat pup, and the two forge an unlikely friendship. But what happens when the young friends are put to the test? Can their newfound friendship be their greatest strength? Read the book for yourself and see!

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! | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Summer Reading List


by Michelle Path

When Andi is engulfed by a wave, she finds herself transported to an underwater world called Corallai. There she meets Aquanna and the various other inhabitants who live there, and their role in helping to ensure the survival of the ocean’s ecosystem. Corallai is a story filled with magical creatures weaved into a tale of both wonder and fascination sure to delight young readers. Available in bookshops worldwide,, and

Like Everyone Else: A Story About Overcoming Differences by Michelle Spray

Like Everyone Else is about a young boy who doesn’t let anything or anyone stop him despite his differences. “You see that I can’t walk well, but I could not walk at all. You hear that I can’t speak well, but I could not speak at all. You think that I get special treatment ... and maybe I do sometimes.” He strives to be just like everyone else. You’ll see! Great for teaching inclusion and empathy.

The 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Edited by Sean and Corie Weaver

“An apt title for this collection of kid-friendly stories told in an out-of-the-box, Ray Bradburyish adventure style. The cast of likeable characters are diverse, engaging, and relatable to today’s generation. STEM topics, deftly integrated through character relationships and discovery, cover a wide range of thought-provoking ideas to keep young scientists pondering. Verdict: Great fun with strong curricular ties. Highly recommended for young and old lovers of science and storytelling.” - School Library Journal

Rise of the Jaguar Woman: Book Two of The Mayan Chronicles by Lee E. Cart

Second-place winner in the International Latino Book Awards, Rise of the Jaguar Woman: Book Two of The Mayan Chronicles by Lee E. Cart plunges Na’om and her black jaguar into the Underworld where they face numerous trials concocted by the gods. The pair must use their magical abilities to return to the land of the living where their archenemy, Satal, plots her revenge, amassing a supernatural army to use against everyone Na’om knows and loves.

The Birthright Chronicles: The Dragon Warrior

by Peter Last

Clues point to a powerful wizard masterminding the genocide, but with no indication of his location, stopping him is a daunting task. Conflicts of interest and personality blur the lines between friend and foe. With alliances so difficult to determine, the question becomes: Can a person change their allegiance? Guardians of Magessa ISBN# 978-1934610886; The Wizard’s Tower ISBN# 978-1934610893; The Dragon Warrior ISBN# 978-1934610909. Available from

Love, Animals, & Miracles: Inspiring True Stories Celebrating the Healing Bond by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel with Cynthia Hurn

Dr. Bernie Siegel has long observed how relationships with animals have helped his patients, alleviating their suffering and heartbreak. Now, he’s gathered many inspiring true stories to show us how to live better, healthier lives. Let these stories teach you, and apply their lessons to your daily life. If you have an animal, an appreciation for the inspirational, or simply the need for a smile, you’ll treasure this celebration of animals, and the Siegel zoo, as a source of love, wisdom, and miracles. 42

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Summer Reading List

Love, Magic, & Mudpies: Raising Your Kids to Feel Loved, Be Kind, and Make a Difference by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel

A husband of more than 60 years, father of five children, grandparent of eight, and a beloved physician, Dr. Bernie Siegel shares the gems garnered from his practice and his own family life to show readers what he’s learned about raising kids with love, wisdom, and humor. With a wealth of quotes, anecdotes, parenting tips, and his comforting, down-to-earth tone, Dr. Siegel addresses the myriad questions that parents face as they strive to guide their kids to happy, healthy adulthood.

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.

Click on the book cover to purchase any of the above titles. To advertise your book in our Reading list, contact Cristy Bertini at for rate information. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Monsters at the Movies

Avengers: Infinity War Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: A When Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, audiences were given just a small dose of the phenomenon that would become the MCU. When Marvel brought six of its established heroes together for The Avengers, it seemed as if they had topped themselves and this universe couldn’t possibly become more ambitious. A couple years after that, we got Captain America: Civil War, which seemed like the Marvel movie to outdo all others. Turns out that directors Anthony and Joe Russo were actually holding out on us, as Avengers: Infinity War makes everything that came before look like a slight brawl. Bigger doesn’t always equal better, but in this case, going big pays off in marvelous ways. In all the years I’ve worked as a critic, no film has left me breathless quite like Infinity War did. Even while typing this review, my nerves are still shot and my brain is still struggling to process everything that transpired on the silver screen. Walking out of the theater, you feel as if you just ran a marathon. Come to think of it, the MCU on the whole has been a marathon that’s spanned 10 years and almost 20 outings. What makes Infinity War all the more exhausting is that it’s not even the end of the MCU’s third phase. We still have two more movies until the fourth Avengers comes out in 2019. The good news is that Infinity War will leave you pumped to run for the home stretch … at least after taking a much-needed breather. This movie not only assembles the Avengers, but pretty much every major MCU hero, from Spider-Man to 44

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Black Panther to the Guardians of the Galaxy. While there are a couple notable omissions, the filmmakers compensate for this with some of the best cameos of recent memory. The film additionally includes several dream team-ups with Iron Man brainstorming alongside Doctor Strange and Star-Lord getting jealous of Thor’s rugged good looks. Even less popular heroes like Scarlet Witch and Vision are given a lot more to chew on here. Although the story jumps around constantly and juggles countless characters, it never feels overstuffed or unbalanced. If anything, each subplot is given just the right amount of attention. Of course the real star here is the villainous Thanos, played by an especially sinister Josh Brolin. Having briefly appeared in several movies already, no baddie

Monsters at the Movies

has been built up like Thanos and Infinity War doesn’t disappoint with his grand arrival. Armed with a weapon known as the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos sets out to find the remaining Infinity Stones. With the complete package, Thanos is capable of virtually anything, including wiping out half the population with a snap. No Marvel villain thus far can contend with Thanos on a physical level, but what’s truly refreshing is that the filmmakers don’t simply make him a power-hungry god. Thanos catches us off-guard with moments of vulnerability, particularly during his interactions with adopted daughter Gamora. That being said, the fact that Thanos has a little humanity in him arguably makes the atrocities he commits even more unspeakable. In the same vein as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, Thanos evolves from being a cool-looking antagonist to a genuinely intimidating opponent with a complex mindset. Speaking of The Empire Strikes Back, this is by far the darkest and most unsettling MCU movie to date. Fortunately, this doesn’t come at the expense of this franchise’s trademark humor, as we get several hilarious interactions between our heroes. The film will have you laughing one second and dropping your jaw the next, but the tone somehow doesn’t feel all over the place. In other words, Justice League this is not. Also like Empire, Infinity War takes chances with the universe it’s created, leaving us on a cliffhanger that’ll stick with the audience forever. Without delving into spoiler territory, the ending is bound to inspire heated conversations and theories. It’s hard to say if Marvel will be able to deliver a conclusion that’ll satisfy everyone going into the next Avengers movie. If they can pull it off, however, we may be in store for the finest double feature since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For now, I can safely say that Infinity War is an exhilarating, devastating, hysterical, and challenging first half with enough stunning action sequences to sustain us for an entire summer.

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:


Enter to Win our Avengers: Infinity War Poster Giveaway! Email and be sure to put “giveaway” in the subject line. Include your name and mailing address. One entry per person. Two winners will be notified by email on June 13. (U.S. residents only). Sponsored by Fingerpaint Marketing and Story Monsters LLC.

Riddles & Giggles Q: Where do sharks go on summer vacation? A: Finland! | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Student Writers


A Week in Alice’s World by Naomi Kendell, age 8

Of course there are lots of worlds in the universe, and one time, me and my two sisters decided to explore one of them. Sarah, Aiden, and I are a seamless team, never apart in ideas. So, we decided to visit the land of Alice in Wonderland. What we didn’t know was the first Alice’s great-great-great-granddaughter was now ruling. So, we went and she captured us! I didn’t understand when she first said we were going to be her pets, but then I realized she was going to turn us into birds with the magic locket that had been in her family for years. It would not come off her neck until her dying day, as only Alice knew. Quickly, we tried to escape, but she held us tight. “You first!” she said to Aiden. “No, never,” was the reply. But through the shouts, the screams, and the yells, one by one we were changed into birds. Once we were all birds, she took us inside and tied thick strings on our legs. Then, she separated us. Me and Aiden tied to the roof to look better, and Sarah in


Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

a cage in Alice’s bedroom to sing to her. Once on the roof, me and Aiden started planning. We were thinking the same thing, so it wasn’t too hard. So, we couldn’t break the strings, but we could grow strong enough to loosen them enough that our legs could fit through. It took a week for that to happen, but it finally did. Once it did, we were almost free to go. We just had to rescue Sarah! We thought rescuing Sarah would be harder than ourselves, because it is easy when you are in it, but not easy when you are outside of it. But actually, it was easier because she had the same idea as us and was stronger than ever. When Sarah got out, I went and unclasped Alice’s locket, took it off, and put it on myself and everything was as it had been before. Alice woke up and we captured her, questioned her and freed her on account that she would do no more wrong from then on. I’m glad we didn’t bring Rachel. She would have been bossy, telling us what to do. But, I am glad I told her about it, because she wrote a book about it and that’s what you have in your hands. Farewell, and I hope we meet again soon. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Book Reviews


Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Kids) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a fascinating book for those with hungry minds. It’s filled with amazing facts and fun experiments, along with the cool realization that exploring the heights of outer space and the depths of the dark blue sea have a lot in common. The photography heightens the interest level and encourages learning.

Lindie Lou Adventure Series

by Jeanne Bender, Kate Willows (Pina Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This cute series follows a sweet little puppy named Lindie Lou through her adventures. Starting out in the happy home where she was born, we see the puppies grow and get ready for their new forever homes. Each book is a new adventure, whether it’s a door left open, a fast ride in a truck, or flying high on an airplane, and each includes valuable lessons Lindie Lou must learn. This adorable puppy will have children eager to follow her in each new setting. Great introduction for young readers into chapter books and the concept of a series.

A Werewolf Named Oliver James

by Nicholas John Frith (Alison Green Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a cute story of self-actualization and belonging. No matter what perceptions or rejections may come from the outside, home is a place of understanding. When Oliver suddenly comes into the fullness of his identity as a werewolf, it is met with startling reactions from those around him. As he heads home wondering how he will ever explain his abrupt transformation, he arrives to find no explanation is needed. Home is a place of acceptance and inclusion.

I Am the Rain

by John Paterson (Dawn Publications) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Captivating! From the onset, its words compel. An unseen force pushing you forward with an irresistible effect. A voice leading deeper into its identity, until you feel a living connection in its cycle. What a great way to enjoy science, and learn the amazing cycle of water!


by Anna Kang, Christopher Weyant (Two Lions) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is truly a delightfully creative way to learn respect, and a clever way to find the importance of each individual to the corporate whole. School supplies each provide a unique quality to a task, and Eraser begins to doubt her contribution. Everyone can add to the project, but her job is only to remove things. This cute story reminds us that everyone has value, whether it’s completing a school project, or rounding out the joys of family life. 48

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Book Reviews

The Big Umbrella

by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates (S&S/Paula Wiseman Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Rainy days bring warm and snuggly thoughts. And what better way to describe an umbrella. It waits quietly at the door until it’s needed, then opens wide and gathers you in. This sweet depiction of kindness falls upon us as gently as the rain.

Marigold & Daisy

by Andrea Zuill (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Sibling rivalry goes back to the second child ever born in time. We can never exhaust its content. There is a story to tell in the voice of every second, and third, and fourth, and so on and so on. Every family will store such tales upon its bookshelves. Zuill’s adorable graphics will enliven the reading experience of every non-firstborn. Simple and delightful!

Rosie the Tarantula: A True Adventure in Chicago’s Field Museum

by Katie Macnamara, Peggy Macnamara (Northwestern University Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago was founded in 1893, and is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. Along with millions of artifacts and preserved specimens, it also houses many live creatures as well. Rosie is numbered among these live creatures. In 2011, Rosie snuck off the third floor where she lived, and took a fascinating tour of the museum. Her discoveries lasted a year, and upon her return, inspired this story. Its soft, almost poetic flow, narrates her amazing adventure.

A Home For Leo

by Vin Vogel (Two Lions) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Leo finds himself caught between two really different worlds, and two loving families. Loving both, Leo also feels a bit lonely in both. Is there a remedy, a true joy for all? Today, in a world of diversity, many find themselves in such a place—multiple cultures, diverse languages, extended families. We love it all, but sometimes it can press on our emotions. Sometimes, we may find ourselves wondering where we truly belong. There are many helpful ways to find our own personal wholeness in such diversified settings, and Leo finds his.

Friends Stick Together

by Hannah E. Harrison (Dial Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The artwork alone makes this a truly enjoyable reading experience, but the storyline’s added depth of heart, and practical wisdom makes the purchase well worth the money. I think we all have run across those larger-than-life folks who press hard on the annoyance button, and at the same time, our world would truly be off kilter without them.

Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones

by Ted Enik, G.F. Newland (Schiffer) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is truly history made fun. The whimsical rhyme turns man’s folly to laughable learning. Greed and misguided ambition are sneaky culprits that can disrupt the best of times. Competition between Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and O. Charles Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale stirred quite a Bone War! Each paleontologist used less than ethical means to outdo the other, yet brought to the public the wonder of dinosaurs. The illustrations by G.F. Newland complement the great text so wonderfully, that it is a most entertaining lesson in (pre)historical events! | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

Visiting You

by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg, Andrea Edmonds (EK Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Though there is a sweet sadness that flows lightly through this book, it brings us to a gentle reality that we all share heartache and loss. Though we may all look different, come from many different places, and seem less than engaging, once we dare to reach, to touch and be touched, a common thread can tie such sweet bonds. This is a sweet reminder to not judge harshly. To take a moment and engage that troublesome person. We might find they are carrying a burden we understand quite well, and sharing it may lighten both our loads.

Sky’s Amazing Dream

by Mark Stevens, Carol Stevens (CreateSpace) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Who says imagination is only for kids? Sky, a beautiful Golden Retriever, has some pretty big dreams of his own. Mark Stevens is a bestselling author and the very proud daddy to Sky, and he enjoys sharing his wonderful adventures. Though Sky’s dreams lead him to great success, he finds being home with those he loves best, and helping others, is the greatest adventure of all.

Neema’s Reason to Smile

by Patricia Newman, Mehrdokht Amini (Lightswitch Learning) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Brightly-colored illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini beautifully highlight the poignant story found within Neema’s Reason to Smile. While following the pages of this Kenyan tale, readers will transcend to young Neema’s journey through her life and witness her desire to attend a local school near her village. Saving each coin earned through peddling fruit, young Neema defines the perfect example of hard work and determination. Everyone should own a dream basket like Neema, and thanks to the useful appendix included with this empowering tale, teachers, parents, and students alike can follow the directions to create their own. Equipped with Depth of Knowledge questions, a handy glossary, and real-life dreams of Kenyan students, Patricia Newman inspires readers to dream and reach goals while emphasizing the necessity of education as a key to unlocking a world of opportunities.

Albert’s Tree

by Jenni Desmond (Walker Books Ltd) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Albert’s Tree is a soft, fuzzy tale that young readers will be sure to love. Spring awakens Albert the bear from his slumber, making him want to seek out his favorite tree. As he settles into his favorite comfortable spot on the branches, a surprise startles the huggable, lovable bear. Continuing through the playful story are adorable forest animals helping to solve the mystery in question. Illustrations mesh perfectly to add both humor and sweetness to the tale. Easily destined to be a new favorite, readers will learn how the beauty of friendship can evolve in the most surprising ways.

Hazel and Twig: The Birthday Fortune

by Brenna Burns Yu (Candlewick) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Hazel and Twig: The Birthday Fortune is a delightful tale which incorporates Korean words and delicately illustrated characters to introduce first birthday customs for the Korean culture. Family bonds between young siblings play an important role in birthday preparations for young Twig. Along with reading for the pure enjoyment of taking in a beautiful story, this book serves as a helpful tool in discussing family and cultural traditions. Author and illustrator Brenna Burns Yu has many reasons to celebrate; this delightful birthday tale is both beautifully written and illustrated and will surely leave a lasting impact on readers.


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Book Reviews

What’s on Your Plate? Exploring the World of Food

by Whitney Stewart, Christiane Engel (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

A picture, geography, and cookbook all in one, I love everything about it. Starting with the sneak peek pictures of the world map and children enjoying dishes all across the seven continents, we are then transported to special countries, including Morocco, Brazil, Italy, Spain and more. Each page gives the reader a synopsis of the food and general culture of that country. The recipes look delicious and easy to prepare. I’m sure that after reading this beautiful book, parents and children will quickly travel to the kitchen.

Better Together: A Book of Family

by Barbara Joosse, Anneke Lisberg, Jared Schorr (Abrams Appleseed) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Family and friends fulfill our lives in so many ways and this sweet story celebrates these special relationships between animals. Better Together appeals to kinesthetic animal lovers who will appreciate the sturdy open-the-flap pages that, when peeled back, reveal the family coming together in various scenarios (feeling lonely, scared, hungry). I like the inclusion of animals that are not your typical animal characters in books—zebras, meerkats, bats, and crows. A nice discussion for some older readers as to why the author included those families, and also a fun extension project would be to research other animals that have a tight family bond! The focus throughout this colorful and lovely illustrated story was clearly how much we are all better when we’re together.

This Zoo is Not for You

by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

This sentimental story (sprinkled with some silly) starts off with a little platypus approaching the zoo gates, only to be shunned by some snooty flamingoes, entitled chameleons, dismissive pandas, and rude elephants. It’s hard not to feel sad for the platypus, but the author keeps the rhyming text fresh and readers will quickly catch on to the repetitive phrase “this zoo is not for you.” Fortunately, the animals quickly realize how rude they were and then discover an envelope the platypus left behind! Forgiveness and fun are at the heart of the story along with the powerful message … kindness matters more than anything and everyone deserves a chance at friendship.

Remy Sneakers and the Lost Treasure

by Kevin Sherry (Scholastic) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

Remy Sneakers and the Lost Treasure is a fast-paced, fun cartoon book. Remy’s house gets broken into and his grandma’s journal gets stolen. That was his most important family heirloom, the journal of the Raccoon family. Remy and his critter crew set out to find the thief. Will they find the journal? Read the book to find out!

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: The Haunted House Next Door by Andres Miedoso, Victor Rivas (Little Simon) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

This is an entertaining, adventurous book series. If you’re a kid or an adult, you can relate to this book because everyone has a friend who’s afraid of everything. The big difference is that the other friend, Desmond Cole, is a fearless 8-year-old who patrol’s Kersville for ghosts, monsters, and spirits. And Andres Miedoso, his new best friend is determined to go everywhere with Desmond, but he’s afraid of everything. By the way, Andres Miedoso is also the author of this book series. You might want to read up on him to see if he actually is afraid of everything! | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School

by Julie Falatko, Colin Jack (Scholastic) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Sassy and Waldo are happy dogs who belong to their young master, Stewart, but when Stewart leaves for school, they fear that he may be heading to danger. Sassy climbs onto Waldo’s shoulders s they disguise themselves as a human by wearing a trench coat, then sneak into the school where they pass as the new kid. They’ve practiced speaking “human” and everyone but Stewart believes they are. It is up to Stewart to convince his beloved pets that he is safe and happy in school. I found the illustrations most comedic and entertaining. Younger readers will just love the escapades of these two loyal pooches. A fun read for any child.

The Disappearing Spoon

by Sam Kean (Back Bay Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

This science-based book makes learning about the Periodic Table actually fun. The author takes the huge task of learning about elements and what’s not an element and breaks it all down into manageable, understandable bits. A complete lesson, he informs readers on how the Greeks named the elements and includes the Periodic Table of Elements, an exciting glossary, and a helpful Index. This book was fun to read and I believe it will present this subject in a way that readers will enjoy learning. I also see it igniting the spark of science in future chemists, physicists, and other scientists.

My Year in the Middle

by Lila Quintero Weaver (Candlewick) Reviewer: Diana Perry

In a racially-polarized sixth-grade classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu’s talent for running track makes her a new best friend—and tests her mettle as she navigates the school’s social cliques. Some say blacks and whites shouldn’t mix and others say we’re all the same race: human. Having just moved from Argentina, Lu feels stuck in the middle and wishes to remain invisible but she realizes she must make her stand. Teenage life is hard enough as it is, but Lu has more than most in this coming of age story. Kids will relate to her and root for her.

Rock Collecting for Kids: An Introduction to Geology by Dan R. Lynch (Adventure Publications) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Being an avid rock collector myself, I can attest that Mr. Lynch knows his subject matter. This book includes great examples of rocks and minerals, complete instructions to teach young collectors what to take, how to be safe, where to look, and even how rocks and minerals are formed. A really fun read and a great guidebook for children to use when rock collecting. The glossary includes all kinds of terminology that will leave any reader feeling like a junior geologist.

Love, Penelope

by Joanne Rocklin, Lucy Knisley (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Diana Perry

This is the most charming example of a perfect big sister—Penelope. The book is filled with heartwarming daily letters from Penelope to her unborn sibling. She shares the trials and tribulations of being a fifthgrader and asks little questions about her sibling’s development, which leads to big questions about the world around her (like if and when her moms are ever going to get married “for real”). I was touched and found myself smiling through each page. The perfect book for any child who either is or will soon be a big brother or sister.


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Book Reviews

The Boy Who Went Magic

by A. P. Winter (Chicken House) Reviewer: Diana Perry

The mages of Ferenor were outlawed and destroyed by the royal family centuries ago for performing incredible feats and powering wondrous machines with their magic, and the world is a much duller place. Bert is a young boy who’s lived in an orphanage longer than he can remember, with no friends and a most ordinary life. He’s told that magic is just a myth. But then a chain of strange and inexplicable mishaps causes Bert’s life to spiral out of control. This book is indeed a magical adventure with many mysteries. Young readers will be caught up in all the action and suspense of this page-turner.

Front Desk

by Kelly Yang (Arthur A. Levine Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Ten-year-old Mia Tang lives in the motel where her parents work. They clean the rooms and she works the front desk. The owner is a horrible man who cheats them constantly. Mia makes a new friend, Lupe, and through their daily lives, they reveal to young readers how America can be the best and the worst place for a poor immigrant to be. Mia comes up with an idea that will not only help immigrants understand English phrases, but pulls many together in a plan to get them all out of poverty. A must-read. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Q&A with

Carol Brendler and Lisa Brown by Julianne Black


Carol Bren

Lisa Bro wn

Sometimes a book comes along that is so full of fun, you actually get trapped between its pages—a book that has layers and layers of goodies to stare at, rhyme to chew on, and concepts that buzz in your noggin like bumble bees. The Two Mutch Sisters by author Carol Brendler and illustrator Lisa Brown, is just that kind of picture book—the kind your kiddo asks you to read over and over, and you really don’t mind. The Mutch sisters are very different women living together in the same house. In fact, the only things they have in common are their love of collecting and the fact that they are related. So what happens when the house gets so full of stuff that there isn’t even any room to set a tea cup? For this month’s Q&A, I tracked them both down— author and illustrator—to learn how this project came about, what the background was on the story, and how the characters got, well, so awesome. Q: The Two Mutch Sisters is an adorable read! I can’t help but think there is some sibling back story there… Carol: Imagine a small townhouse, like 1,000 square feet, in which lives my sister, my husband and me, four cats, and one pug with enough furniture for two houses crammed inside of it, and you have my life just before I wrote The Two Mutch Sisters. My sister (and the pug) left for a new job after just a couple of months of living with us, to everyone’s relief—and yet, it wasn’t the same. 54

Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

Q: The concept of “same but different” is so important to support inclusion at a young age, and learning this lesson through adult sibling characters talking about adult possessions (one crinoline, one French bassoon, one gargoyle…) makes it unusual. Where did your character ideas come from? Carol: I bet Lisa can answer this best. I just wrote about two sisters who liked to collect things. I left it completely open as to what ages the characters would be. The idea that the sisters had very defined tastes (and preferred color palettes!), and the idea that, while the objects were nominally the same, they reflected the particular tastes of the ladies—that was all Lisa’s doing. This illustrates (ha ha, pun intended) the truism that collaboration on a project with editors, book designers, and illustrators always results in a book that is far beyond—and way better than—what an author could come up with on her own. Q: The Two Mutch Sisters is as delightful to read as it is to see, and part of the appeal is the two sister’s styles, combined yet separate. Where did the overall theme for each sister’s sense of style come from and how often were you able to inject your own ideals? Lisa: I was trying to bring to life two distinct characters, both obsessed with objects. It’s not that Violet, (the messy) is a collector and Ruby (the tidy) is not, but rather, they are both collectors and organize their accumulated treasures in their own particular way. I had the freedom within Carol’s fabulous text to


visualize the Mutch sisters however I wanted. So their sense of style, both in their collections and persons, is inspired by my grandmothers … one was soft and messy with chintz upholstery, the other angular and neat with a stark mid-century aesthetic. Both were partial to olive green. I long to be the latter, but am unalterably the former. And I don’t like green. Q: Lisa’s illustrations are delightful. Did you choose her directly or was it just a fabulous blind date by the publisher? How much of the Mutch sisters’ physical attributes came about on paper from your head? Were you surprised by the initial drawings? Carol: Our editor paired us up—and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I had purposefully not imagined any sort of physical attributes for the Mutch girls, wishing to leave that entirely up to the illustrator. Because of this, it was totally a treat to see what Lisa drew. I received sketches of the initial artwork via email while in a room full of other authors, and so I immediately got to share the art with a bunch of children’s book creators. What could be a better surprise?! Q: Fluffy cat, sleek cat. Puzzles, chess. Flowers, stripes. Each page is filled to the brim with opposing design to give personality to the two sisters. How was that to work on? Was bouncing back and forth between color schemes exhausting or exciting? Lisa: The color schemes were quite fun, actually, as I was trying to conceive of how the same type of item would look when it belonged to Violet, versus the one chosen by Ruby. By far, the most challenging spread was the one where all of their stuff was piled up all around them. I wanted to make sure that whatever object one of them owned had a twin—two of everything, not just the things mentioned in the text. It drove me a bit mad, frankly. Q: Another thread that weaves its way through the book is personal space and boundaries: to be ok being close, but not immediately on top of each other. While reading the book to my 5-year-old daughter, it immediately opened a dialog around play dates and the idea that while being together is fun, going home is sometimes nice, too. I get the feeling you’ve been there?

Carol: Um, yeah. I like spending time alone, and I think that’s not unusual among writers. So visiting with loved ones is always welcome, but, yes, it’s nice to retreat into my own world—or into the world of a book—afterwards. Introverts truly treasure their space. Q: The small vignette-style groups of illustrations against the white background give such an added feeling of separation, but so many per page adds to the feeling of clutter. Was the back and forth difficult to determine how much negative space to include per page? Lisa: When I’m illustrating a book, I begin with thumbnails, get bigger in sketchy storyboards, and then move to a tightly sketched dummy. In all of these steps, I am able to see the flow and rhythm of the pages, so that I can plan when things are cluttered and pages are clear. I try to create a balance. In the dummy book, I can easily view the actual page turns, and that informs the rhythm as well. It’s always a challenge to figure out the perfect balance. And it’s always loads of fun. Q: I noticed on Twitter (@expectorchids) you retweeted a wonderful quote by D.W. Winnicott: “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” While I can totally relate, I’d love to hear what that means to you and the tug of war you got past to bring your books through from concept to publication. | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



For more info about author Carol Brendler, visit For more info about illustrator Lisa Brown, visit The Two Mutch Sisters is published by Clarion Books. 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.

Carol: Every so often, there’s that tweet that really speaks to you. As I said, I like my alone time. I’m not happy in crowds or at parties and yet, I do want to contribute to the world, you know? I don’t want to be insignificant. I have things to say, and being a person who is more comfortable sitting at the kids’ table, I know who I want to say them to. It’s the tension between these two—being introverted and yet having something to offer the world in my small way—it’s this tension that drives my desire to write stories for children.


Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 |

Yesterday’s adventures for today’s kids In the 1950s two brothers and their girl cousin live on an Appalachian Mountain ridge with no electricity or running water. They are poor, but rich with wild adventures. They build a treehouse, discover an old Indian burial mound, go river rafting, find a thieves’ cave, and stumble upon a deranged old woman hiding in their clubhouse. But that’s not all! They encounter rattlesnakes and wild razorbacks, and fall asleep each night hoping to hear the panther scream in the distant hills. ★★★★★ Readersʼ Favorite Review available at Amazon • | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | June 2018 | | June 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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