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September 2018

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Judy Newman on Books, Blogging, and Back to School Tom Rogers

Gives Young Readers Insight into the Events of 9/11

Trudy Ludwig

Inspires Kids to be Kind

11-year-old Aiden Dennis

Creates a Special Fellow to Help Kids Stay Focused

David Shannon

Celebrates 20 Years of his Mischievous Namesake

Britt Menzies

Introduces Some Little Stinkers with Big Lessons

Reading Rescue

Changes the Literary Landscape for Struggling Students

A Dreadful Interview

with Quentin Q. Quacksworth

Little Lobbyist Jax Weldon

Helps Arizona Dinosaur Gain Fame

Teaching Toolbox:

Back to School


with Jacqueline Jules

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


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Cover and interior photos of Judy Newman courtesy of Scholastic Story Monsters Ink magazine and are trademarks of Story Monsters, LLC. Copyright ©2018 Story Monsters LLC, 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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 LLC Postal mail may be sent to Story Monsters Ink 4696 W. Tyson St., Chandler, AZ 85226 Phone: 480-940-8182


Story Monsters Ink | September 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.”

September 2018

In this issue Features 4 JUDY NEWMAN

on Books, Blogging, and Back to School

10 Tom Rogers

60 Q&A

Gives Young Readers Insight into the Events of 9/11

with Jacqueline Jules

64 Teaching Toolbox:

14 Trudy Ludwig

Back to School

Inspires Kids to be Kind

18 11-year-old Aiden Dennis

Creates a Special Fellow to Help Kids Stay Focused

22 David Shannon

Celebrates 20 Years of his Mischievous Namesake

26 Britt Menzies

Introduces Some Little Stinkers with Big Lessons

32 Reading Rescue

Changes the Literary Landscape for Struggling Students

Monthly Columns

36 Little Lobbyist Jax Weldon

30 Liv on Life

Helps Arizona Dinosaur Gain Fame

42 My Favorite Teacher

40 A Dreadful Interview

50 Monsters at the Movies

with Quentin Q. Quacksworth

44 Fall Reading List 54 Book Reviews

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


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Judy Newman on Books, Blogging, and Back to School by Melissa Fales

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Each month, Scholastic Book Clubs distributes fliers to over 800,000 teachers with images of colorful, promising books for their students, who enthusiastically select which ones they want to order and read. According to Judy Newman, president and reader-in-chief of Scholastic Book Clubs, teachers do the most important work on the planet: educating children. “At Scholastic Book Clubs, teachers are our partners in our efforts to get more books into kids’ hands,” Newman says. “Our model is all about choice. When kids choose their books, they read more. It’s about making books and reading fun.”

Newman has a natural affinity for teachers. Her mother and grandmother both taught. “It’s in my blood,” she says. So is a love of books. “As a kid, I read everything and anything,” says Newman. She would race her bike to the public library in Newton, Massachusetts, to participate in the summer reading program. “I always wanted to be the kid who read the most books,” she says. At the end of each school year, Newman’s parents allowed her and her siblings to pick out as many books as they liked. “That was our reward for graduating to the next grade,” she says. In 1979, after graduating from Connecticut College with a Bachelor’s Degree in political science, Newman found herself lacking direction. “I was supposed to move to Washington, D.C. and go to law school, but I didn’t do amazing on the LSAT,” she says. Instead, she attended the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures, an elite, intensive, six-week course to prepare graduates for careers in publishing. “Naturally, it was very rarified,” says Newman, who got in on the recommendation of a friend of her then-boyfriend’s dad. “That’s why I always tell young people to use your connections,” she says. “It’s ok. You’ll have to survive on your own once you get there.”

Newman got a job at Dell Publishing and moved to New York City, where she worked during the day and took classes at the NYU Stern School of Business at night, eventually earning her MBA. While at Dell, Newman was asked to start a business to compete with Scholastic and created the Trumpet Club book program. It got her noticed by Scholastic, who tried to woo her unsuccessfully until 1993, when she made the leap. As president of Scholastic Book Clubs, Newman is in charge of producing the fliers for students and catalogs for the teachers. Each grade has its own monthly catalog 10 months out of the year, plus occasional specialty catalogs, for a total of 150 annually. “We choose books from all publishers,” she says. “Little ones, big ones, whatever we can find. Our staff is out there searching for books constantly. If there’s a hole in the market we can’t find books to fill, we’ll create them.” Newman says she’s seen many changes in the business over the past 25 years. “Since 2000, we’ve been fully online,” she says. “It’s an amazing testament to the durability of this business model.” She’s seen trends come and go. “We went through a little love affair with digital, but it didn’t last,” says Newman. “Teachers tell us kids still want physical books … it’s more of a holistic experience when you’re holding the actual book in your hands. There’s something about turning the page, seeing where you are in the book and how many more chapters you have to read. Plus, there’s no sense of pride with reading digital books. You can’t collect digital books and put them on your shelf.” A more recent change for Newman is adding “children’s book author” to her résumé. “Yes, for some masochistic reason, I decided to become a writer,” she says. Her | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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new Bobs and Tweets series already includes three titles: Meet the Bobs and Tweets, Bobs and Tweets: Perfecto Pet Show, and the soon-to-be released Bobs and Tweets: Trick or Tweet. Newman’s concept for the series caters to a particular type of reader. “Not all kids are great at reading,” she says. “You get the kids who are super precocious who leap from Dr. Seuss right into Harry Potter, but there are a lot of kids who are left behind. We know that we lose them around third grade. They start to feel unsuccessful or they find books too hard or not interesting. My idea was to create a digestible book for that specific kid.”

“We know that if kids don’t have equitable access to books, it sets them back. They don’t have the vocabulary and the skills to express themselves. It makes it very hard for them to be successful and nearly impossible for them to follow their dreams. That’s why we have to get every single kid reading. That’s why I do what I do.”

The Bobs and Tweets adventures focus on two families—the messy Bobs, and their antitheses, the orderly Tweets. In Meet the Bobs and Tweets, we learn that each family has one member who would seemingly be more comfortable in the other’s house. “There’s Gene, a neat freak who lives in a family of slobs, and Lou, all messy and wild, who comes from a family who’s all super neat and clean,” says Newman. The second book is a zany romp involving a skateboard ramp, animals, and a talent show, and the third book takes place as the Bobs and Tweets trick-or-treat in the middle of a blackout. All of the Bobs and Tweets books are written in comical rhymes and are illustrated by Kristy Caldwell, whose work Newman discovered on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website. But you won’t find Newman’s name anywhere on the Bobs and Tweets books. They’re written under the pen name Pepper Springfield. “I was so terrifyingly overwhelmed during the process of writing,” says 6

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

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Newman. “I didn’t even tell anyone I was doing it for a long time. I was too afraid. After all, I’m supposed to be an expert in children’s books.” She almost threw in the towel at one point, but showed a manuscript to a trusted friend who told her exactly what she needed to hear, “Keep going.” That’s exactly what Newman has been doing. Two more books are set to be released in 2019. No one knew what a blog was when Newman started at Scholastic, but running one is now a big part of her job. “We’re approaching 70,000 subscribers and our goal for this year is 150,000,” she says. To Newman, the blog is one more way people can connect with Scholastic Book Clubs and learn about titles they might want to read. “It’s so hard for people to find out about new books, or even old books,” says Newman. A highlight of the blog is seeing Newman and her colleague, David Vozar, dressing up in funny book-inspired costumes. “We probably have too much fun with it,” says Newman.

kids don’t have equitable access to books, it sets them back,” she says. “They don’t have the vocabulary and the skills to express themselves. It makes it very hard for them to be successful and nearly impossible for them to follow their dreams. That’s why we have to get every single kid reading. That’s why I do what I do.” For more information about Judy Newman and Scholastic Book Clubs, visit her blog at

When she’s not posing for crazy blog photo shoots, Newman travels to classrooms all across the country to talk with teachers. Scholastic Book Club recruits teachers nationwide to be part of its advisory board. “Everything we create has to work for teachers, so we need their input,” she says. Often, the teachers tell Newman about tightening school budgets. “The dirty secret of teaching is that most of them are using their own money to outfit their classrooms,” she says. “Every order they place with us gives them access to free books. It’s a big give-back, tens of millions of dollars. We hear it from teachers all the time ... if they didn’t have the Scholastic Book Clubs, they wouldn’t have classroom libraries.” Once again this year, Scholastic Book Clubs is joining author James Patterson for the Patterson Partnership. “He’s giving us $2 million to give to teachers for their classroom libraries,” Newman says. “We’re matching that with 2 million bonus points. We’ll draw teachers’ names from over 125,000 entries and each teacher selected will receive $500 and 500 bonus points to purchase books.” Newman says the money and points will help teachers provide the books kids want to read and make sure students at all reading levels have accessible books to enjoy. According to Newman, a child’s access to books is an accurate predictor of success later in life. “We know that if | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


From the creators of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

The New York Times bestselling series continues with fun tips to help little ones love reading!

“This beloved series hit the ground running, and it’s still going strong.” — Booklist “Filled with humor and common sense.” — Kirkus Reviews

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Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 | | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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William R. Satz Middle School (Holmdel, New Jersey) chose Eleven for their all-school read this past school year.

Tom Rogers Gives Young Readers Insight into the Events of 9/11 by Melissa Fales


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

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Tom Rogers was asleep in his home in the Los Angeles hills when the rogue plane flew into the North Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001. He woke up to the phone ringing, a call from his wife telling him to turn on the TV. He did, just in time to see another plane hit the South Tower. The total destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon, the hijacking and subsequent crash of Flight 93, and the indelible impression these events left on our collective psyche forever changed our country and every American who remembers that day.

Several years later, Rogers was stunned to realize that children who were too young to have personal memories of 9/11 and those who hadn’t been born yet had little knowledge of it. He decided to do something to change that. His middlegrade book, Eleven (Alto Nido Press), about a boy whose 11th birthday falls on 9/11, was released in 2014. “The events of that day need to be told and passed on,” Rogers says. “I know it’s hard for people to talk about it. It’s still fresh for many of us and we still get emotional, but we need to make sure that future generations don’t forget.” A question from Rogers’ young nephew planted the seed for what would be his debut children’s book. “What’s the big deal about 9/11?” asked the boy who was only two years old on that fateful day. All he knew, he said, was that it had something to do with someone blowing up a building in New York City. Surprised by this, Rogers asked some of his teacher friends what they taught their students about 9/11. They said they didn’t teach anything due to a lack of age-appropriate books on the subject and the fact that it wasn’t in the curriculum. That’s when Rogers became determined to write Eleven.

The book introduces Jersey City resident Alex Douglas on Sept. 10, 2001, the eve of his 11th birthday. When Alex realizes he’s not going to get the only thing he really wants for his birthday—a dog—he has a temper tantrum, yelling “I hate you,” at his father just before going to bed. When Alex wakes up the next morning, his father has already left for his job, driving a commuter train to the World Trade Center. Rogers says he chose to home Alex in New Jersey because that state suffered the greatest loss of life that day. “I also liked the perspective of being separate from New York City, but close,” he says. “I thought that would stand for how the rest of the country watched these things unfold. For me in California, it felt like it was happening to a next-door neighbor.” At first, Alex is having his best birthday yet. “School is canceled mid-morning and all the students are sent home,” says Rogers. “Along the way, he rescues a stray dog and plays baseball with his buddies.” Then Alex learns about the terrorist attacks. “He wonders if he’ll ever see his dad again or if the last thing he says to him will be those three words of anger,” says Rogers. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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In Eleven, Rogers weaves three equally gripping plot threads. There’s Alex; an old man waiting for his son, presumably affected by the attacks, to come home; and a mystery character escaping from the collapsing towers. “It’s through his eyes that we experience what was really happening at Ground Zero,” says Rogers. Readers will be left wondering if the survivor is Alex’s father or the old man’s son. “Part of the appeal for kids is trying to sort out the mystery and figure out who he is,” Rogers says. Each Eleven chapter page is time-stamped, reminiscent of the 9/11 Commission Report Rogers read as part of his research for the book. “It goes through the events of the day in minute-by-minute detail,” he says. “I thought including times would help give kids a sense of the immediacy and the tick-by-tick progression of the day, the way we experienced it. Anyone learning about 9/11 now has the benefit of hindsight, but that morning, once that second plane hit, that’s when it switched from an accident to an attack. We didn’t know if there was going to be 20 more hijacked planes or 500. We didn’t know what would happen next.”

photo by Minh Q. Pham

“The events of that day need to be told and passed on. I know it’s hard for people to talk about it. It’s still fresh for many of us and we still get emotional, but we need to make sure that future generations don’t forget.”

Rogers says he wrote the book with middle-school readers in mind. “That’s when I started to figure out the world doesn’t always work the way it should, that the world isn’t always fair,” he says. “There’s a real appeal for kids that age to learn about what it’s like when tragedy strikes and to think about how they would respond. Plus, kids are fascinated by things that freak out adults. They’re always trying to figure out what makes this alien species tick.” When Rogers conducts author visits to schools, he always asks teachers to share their 9/11 stories 12

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

with their students. “The room gets real quiet,” says Rogers. “The kids pay attention because it’s a little bit forbidden. It’s unusual for them to see their teacher vulnerable. It triggers interest and empathy and makes them want to understand.” Rogers says most students grasp the intensity of that day. “I feel like they get it,” he says. “They understand the scope of the loss and the tragedy. But I also want them to know how something so bad brought out the better side of people’s nature; how people gave blood and donated money and held vigils.”

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In the four years since Eleven was released, Rogers has been writing for Disney’s animated series Elena of Avalor, now in its fourth season. However, he’s still very involved with others working to keep the memory of 9/11 alive, including educator Lesley Roessing, who’s put together a 9/11 curriculum for schools. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum carries Eleven in its bookstore. “It’s really gratifying to have my book there as part of their educational outreach,” Rogers says. He has also united with fellow 9/11 children’s authors. “Nora Baskin, who wrote Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, Gae Polisner, who wrote The Memory of Things, and I did an event together near Ground Zero last summer and became almost instant friends,” he says. “We’ll be meeting up for an event in New Jersey on September 11th this year.”

No matter where he is, Rogers takes time on every 9/11 anniversary to remember the lives lost and reflect on an experience he’ll never forget. “I had the same response most people had,” says Rogers. “First, a broiling emotion. Then anger, shock, worry, dread and helplessness, but also wanting to reach out and help.” At the end of that raw, sorrowful day, Rogers and his wife gathered with a small group of friends for dinner. “That was the quietest and most emotional dinner I’ve ever had,” he recalls. “I still get choked up thinking about it. We all just wanted to be together to reaffirm the connections we had with the people we love. And ultimately, that’s what this book is about.” To learn more about Tom Rogers and Eleven, visit

The Churchill School on East 29th in New York, located across from an FDNY station that lost six firefighters on 9/11. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Trudy Ludwig Inspires Kids to be Kind by Melissa Fales photos courtesy of Random House Children’s Books

Children’s author Trudy Ludwig adds chatterbox Owen McPhee to her cast of unforgettable characters in her latest book, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! Owen’s constantly talking, having onesided conversations with people who never get a word in, until he loses his voice and has to start listening to those around him for the first time. “It’s a learning 14

experience for him,” says Ludwig. “One of the reasons I wanted to write this book is that we’re at a point in our country and our world where we’re not really listening to one another and what our needs are. I believe that if we can be more compassionate in our listening, and really hear what others have to say, we can open the lines for more connection. We

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

all have a need for connection. While talking can prove a point, listening can open your heart.” In Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!, as she has with her other books, Ludwig addresses the complexity of children’s friendships and the issues that arise from them in simple ways. She touches on topics such as bullying, social anxiety, and self-esteem. “My mission with

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groups. However, she couldn’t find anything about relational aggression appropriate for her young daughter. “There was nothing,” she says. “There was a huge resource gap.”

all my books is to recruit more kindness warriors,” says Ludwig. “What I’m trying to do is empower kids to make better choices in how they use their words and actions to be helpful rather than hurtful.” Years ago, when her daughter was bullied by the second-grade classmates she considered friends, Ludwig sought out information about this puzzling behavior. “It’s called relational aggression,” Ludwig explains. “It’s a term coined by Dr. Niki Crick to define bullying that uses relationships to intentionally manipulate and hurt others. It’s the ‘frenemy’ who says, ‘Nice dress’ while rolling her eyes.” Other signifying behaviors may include gossiping, spreading rumors, giving someone the silent treatment, and intentionally slighting or excluding someone. “And it’s not just something mean girls do,” says Ludwig. “Boys do it, too.”

Ludwig, a freelance copywriter at the time, decided to write a children’s book about relational aggression. The result was My Secret Bully, published in 2003. It’s about a girl named Monica and her friend, Katie, who subtly and cruelly bullies her. “I wanted to create this picture book to help my daughter and other kids who found themselves in the same situation,” says Ludwig. “I wanted them to understand that they have choices when it comes to friendships and I wanted them to understand what constitutes a healthy friendship. If they don’t understand that, I worry that they’ll gravitate to abusive romantic relationships as adults.” As it turned out, Ludwig not only has a knack for writing children’s books, she finds it rewarding to help young readers develop

positive social behaviors. “I’ve found my niche,” she says. She has 10 titles to date and has won numerous awards, including the Mom’s Choice Gold Award. Ludwig is perhaps best known for The Invisible Boy, released in 2013, which follows the story of Brian, an introvert largely ignored by his classmates. When a new student arrives in the classroom, Brian is the first to reach out to welcome him. “One reason I wrote The Invisible Boy was to show

Eager to help her daughter, Ludwig looked for books on this particular type of bullying. She found Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons’ ground-breaking look at bullying in girls’ social | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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“The reality is that we’re all more than our labels. We all have the capacity to be kind and to be cruel. I write books to help kids recognize that they choose how to treat people. I want them to choose to be kind.” children that you don’t have to be a superhero to do super things,” says Ludwig. “In fact, you can be just a normal kid, or an average grown-up like me. You just have to be kind. Kids often think you need big actions to make a difference, but actually it’s the little things … those small shows of kindness that can cause a ripple effect.” When she’s not writing, Ludwig travels the country speaking and leading workshops for students,

educators, and parents about bullying. “It’s become such a hot topic that it’s being misused and overused,” Ludwig says. “What I try to do is help people understand what bullying is and what it isn’t. Not all hurtful behavior is bullying. If someone does something unintentionally hurtful to you once, that’s rude, but it’s not bullying. If someone does something intentionally hurtful to you once, that’s mean,

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Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

but it’s not bullying. Bullying is when someone is hurtful on purpose and they continue to do it, even when you show you’re mad or scared or try to get them to stop. Bullying is about a power imbalance.” Ludwig supports a campaign by The Committee for Children promoting the idea that the word “bully” is not a noun. “We don’t want to label these kids, we want to help them change,” she says. “The reality is that we’re all more than our labels. We all have the capacity to be kind and to be cruel. I write books to help kids recognize that they choose how to treat people. I want them to choose to be kind.” For more information about Trudy Ludwig and her books, visit


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Aiden Dennis Creates a Special Fellow to Help Kids Stay Focused by Melissa Fales

You never know when inspiration will strike. For 11-year-old author Aiden Dennis, it came in the middle of breakfast one day. “I was in the car on my way to school and I was eating a waffle,” he says. “I looked at it and it kind of looked like a face. I thought, It’s a waffle. It’s a fellow. It’s Captain Waffello!” Aiden found this culinary character so compelling, he wrote a book about him and called it The Adventures of Captain Waffello: Toasty’s Revenge. While it’s a tale all kids can enjoy, this book is especially suitable for kids like Aiden who have ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

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Aiden was just five years old when he was diagnosed with ADHD. “It makes it hard for me to focus sometimes,” he says. “It feels like there are a lot of things distracting you. But being fidgety like I am can help you be better at some things, like drumming, and people with ADHD also tend to be very creative.” When Aiden first sat down to write about Captain Waffello, he was overwhelmed with possibilities. “There were almost too many ideas in his head,” says his mother, Angie Butler. “The hardest part about writing for Aiden was sorting through all of the potential storylines and picking which direction he wanted to go in. He was just so excited. We had long brainstorming sessions where he would throw out ideas.” During one of those marathon brainstorming sessions, Aiden envisioned Captain Waffello as having ADHD. “He said that way, the character could be relatable to kids with ADHD and kids with ADHD could see a superhero who’s like them,” says Butler. In The Adventures of Captain Waffello: Toasty’s Revenge, Captain Waffello may have to battle Toasty the Terrible and the evil Toastettes, but his greatest challenge is to stay focused. His faithful sidekick, Sir Rup, helps him to stay on task. Interspersed throughout the narrative are mazes and special activities designed to give kids with ADHD a break from having to concentrate on the storyline. It was important to Aiden that his book offers a positive message for kids who might struggle with reading. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” says Aiden. “Accept the person you are. Sometimes when I can’t focus for more than 30 seconds, I start to beat myself up. I don’t want to do that and I don’t want other kids to do that.”

wanted the illustrations to look like, then Butler would draw and Aiden would edit whatever she came up with. “He made a lot of changes, but that’s okay,” says Butler. “I wanted it to match what he was seeing in his head.” One unique component to Aiden’s books involves giving readers the chance to interact with the story using what he calls Action Fingers. “It’s something I did to help me calm down and fall asleep a long time ago,” Aiden says. “I made a person out of my index finger and middle finger and imagined it was a person going on all sorts of adventures. I would fall asleep pretending. I thought other kids might enjoy trying that, too.” The Adventures of Captain Waffello: Toasty’s Revenge includes a heartfelt note to parents from Butler

Aiden’s second book, Captain Waffello’s Next Big Adventure is due in January 2019. “There will be a new villain but I can’t tell you about it because we want it to be a secret and a surprise,” Aiden says. “It’s going to have new activities to keep kids engaged, so it’s not just the same book with different characters.” Aiden hopes that more books about Captain Waffello and Sir Rup will follow. Butler does the illustrations for Aiden’s books. A former helicopter pilot, she currently works as an instructional designer and illustrator for a company that develops employee training materials. “My background in design certainly did come in handy for this project,” she says. Aiden would explain what he

Aiden and his mom promoting their book on News Channel 12 Arizona Midday | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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offering tips for reading with kids who have ADHD. “There are some ideas for how to help if they’re getting distracted, such as giving them permission to take a break when they need one,” says Butler. “Or maybe doing an I Spy game with the illustrations. Or even something as simple as asking them a question about what they think will happen next to help keep the kiddos involved in the story.” Butler notes that clinical psychologist Dr. Giselle Crow reviewed the tips to make sure that the advice she was giving was accurate. Naturally, Butler is proud of her son for completing his first book, particularly in light of all of the special effort he needed to exert in order to execute it from concept

to finished product. She says Aiden is always looking for ways to help other kids in his hometown. “He has a huge heart,” she says. “He sees his books as one more way he can reach out to help others.” Butler is quick to point out that when it comes to ADHD, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. “Aiden and I are not experts on ADHD,” she says. “We just know what he likes, so that’s what we’re going to put in all of the Captain Waffello books he writes. Every kid is different, but we hope that other kids with ADHD will enjoy them, too.” For more information about Aiden Dennis and his books, visit

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept the person you are. Sometimes when I can’t focus for more than 30 seconds, I start to beat myself up. I don’t want to do that and I don’t want other kids to do that.”


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

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David Shannon

Celebrates 20 Years of his Mischievous Namesake by Melissa Fales

Author David Shannon was sure he had concluded his popular David series eight years ago with the release of It’s Christmas, David! But when his editor, Bonnie Verburg, pointed out that 2018 marks not only the 20th anniversary of the very first David book, but also the 25th anniversary of its publisher, Scholastic’s Blue Sky Press, he agreed to do one more in commemoration of these special milestones. Shannon’s new book, Grow Up, David! is about the dynamics of having an older sibling.


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Feature Story | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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“It’s one more level of authority in a kid’s life,” Shannon says. “There’s your mom, there’s your teacher, there’s Santa, and then there’s that big brother or big sister.” The book will also be published in Spanish. Shannon had been mulling over the idea of a story about two brothers for some time. “There’s an escalating tension to Grow Up, David!” he says. “David bugs his big brother and his big brother torments him, but by the end of the book, they’ve both matured a little bit.” Shannon loosely based the book on his experiences with his own big brother. “The story is modeled on our relationship, but only to the degree that David is modeled after me,” he says. “I always refer to David in the third person because he’s not me. The books are semi-autobiographical.” photo by Blue Trimarchi

“David doesn’t do anything all that unusual. He doesn’t do anything that almost every kid hasn’t at least thought of. The unusual thing is that he does them all.”

The David series opened in 1998 with No, David! which was basically an updated version of a book Shannon made when he was five years old. “It’s about eight pages long and it’s just drawings of me doing stuff I wasn’t supposed to do,” he says. “On every page, I wrote ‘No, David!’ because those were the only words I knew how to spell.” When Shannon’s mom presented him with the original, he pored over it nostalgically before coming to the realization that his five-year-old self might have been onto something. “I thought it would actually make a good children’s book,” Shannon says. He created new illustrations, but something seemed off. “With the new drawings, it lost all of its personality,” says Shannon. “It fell totally flat.” He studied the original to see what had been so appealing about the story in the first place, and realized the drawings were the crucial component. “I went back and tried to draw like a five-year-old,” he says. “That’s where David’s teeth 24

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came from. With that style, the whole story just came to life.” Shannon says he thinks No, David! was a hit because kids tend to hear the word “no” so often. “It’s such a big word in a child’s upbringing,” says Shannon. “The weird thing is that I believe ‘no’ actually means ‘I love you’ more than ‘yes’ does. When you say ‘No,’ you know you’re going to get some push-back, but a good parent says ‘No’ anyway. It means I care enough about you to want you to be a good person and to be safe, even if you get mad at me.” No, David! received a Caldecott Honor in 1999 and spawned a series of David books, including David Goes to School and David Gets in Trouble. Shannon says he thinks the books remain popular because kids relate so well to the main character. “David doesn’t do anything all that unusual,” says Shannon. “He doesn’t do anything that almost every kid hasn’t

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at least thought of. The unusual thing is that he does them all.” Shannon admits he’s having a hard time grasping that No, David! came out 20 years ago. “I feel so fortunate to have a book that’s fired up kids for that long,” he says. “I want to thank everyone who first enjoyed it as a kid and are now bringing their kids to my book signings. It took me a while to get used to that, but now I think it’s cool.” It was almost inevitable that Shannon would become an illustrator. “No, David! is probably the best example of how I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon,” he says. After high school, he left his hometown of Spokane, Washington for the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and moved to New York City in 1983 after graduating. “I did freelance editorial illustrations, working with very serious subject matter,” he says. A piece he did to accompany a book review of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in the New York Times caught the eye of someone at Scholastic. “They had a manuscript by Julius Lester for a collection of AfricanAmerican and Jewish folk tales and were looking for an illustrator,” says Shannon. “They asked me if I was interested in illustrating a children’s book and I thought it would be fun to do one.” When Lester’s How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have? was released in 1989, Shannon was flooded with requests to illustrate more children’s book manuscripts. At first, he folded these jobs in with his editorial work, but he soon realized how much more fun the book

illustrations were. “It made me feel like a kid again, back when I would draw the characters of whatever book I read,” Shannon recalls. “When I read The Hobbit, I had drawings of Gandalf and Bilbo all over my room.” Eventually, at Verburg’s urging, Shannon tried writing his own children’s books. “Writing is completely different, almost the opposite of illustrating,” he says. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a word is worth at least 10 pictures.” The first book he wrote and illustrated, How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book in 1994. To date, he’s written and/or illustrated over 35 books for children. Next year, Shannon will release Mr. Nogginbody Gets a Hammer. “It’s based on the phrase, “If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail,” he says. “It’s about a clueless fellow who decides he can fix anything with his hammer. Of course, hilarity ensues.” Shannon is open to whatever the future might have in store for him to write and illustrate. “Right now, I’m working on a book about my dog and his relationship with dirt,” he says. Shannon says he’s learned to never say never when it comes to whether or not there will be more books about David. “I said I wasn’t going to do any more David books eight years ago, but here we are. I guess we’ll see what happens.” For more about David Shannon and his books, visit | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Feature Story

Britt Menzies

Introduces Some Little Stinkers with Big Lessons by Melissa Fales

Britt Menzies never considered herself an artist. When she put a brush to canvas and created a painting of her then 2-year-old daughter as a ballerina, it was just for fun. That was in 2005. Since then, this mom on a mission has parlayed her illustrations of happy, fresh-faced children into a successful business, StinkyKids, offering products such as apparel, dolls, and books featuring her charming, diverse cast of characters. Menzies has written and illustrated three StinkyKids books, each with an important message for young people. “I want kids to understand that no one is perfect,” says Menzies. “The whole brand of StinkyKids teaches kids about play, exploring the world, and making mistakes along the way. Kids need to know that making mistakes is a universal human experience. Our motto is Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned.” Menzies worked as an accountant until her first child, Max, was born and she eagerly transitioned into life as a stay-at-home mom. A daughter, Emma, followed. Menzies and her husband Mark jokingly called their kids “Little Stinkers,” not for olfactory reasons, but because of their innocence and endless curiosity. When Menzies needed to come up with a name for 26

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her burgeoning business, she chose StinkyKids as a reminder of those happy days. After Menzies made that painting of Emma as a ballerina, she did paintings of Max and other children in a similar, simple, and cheerful style. Someone who saw Menzies’ work offered to buy the rights, intending to put her designs on t-shirts. “Instead of selling the rights, I decided to go into business for myself,” says Menzies. She produced t-shirts and sold them at various craft shows and fairs. “I even sold them out of the trunk of my car in the carpool line at my children’s school,” she says. StinkyKids took a giant leap forward when Nordstrom began carrying the shirts. “That’s when it was no longer just a t-shirt company but a full-fledged brand,” says Menzies. “Nordstrom challenged me to bring personalities to these characters. That’s when I decided to write about the StinkyKids and their adventures.” Each of the StinkyKids books centers around the characters making mistakes or getting into trouble. “I want kids to know that just because you made a mistake, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad kid,” says Menzies. “It doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to

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adulthood. I want kids to know that their words really do have that kind of lasting power.” The next book in the series to be released will be The Writing on the Wall. “The title is a play on words,” Menzies explains. “It’s about permanent marker ending up where it’s not supposed to be.” Menzies says she has synopses completed for 13 more books. “There sure are a lot of mistakes to write about,” she says. In addition to the StinkyKids books, t-shirts, and bicycles available on Menzies’ website, there’s even a StinkyKids: the Musical. “It debuted in 2012 and it’s been produced all over the world and across the U.S.,” Menzies says. “It’s been one of my greatest successes along this whole journey.” The show won the 2012 Off Broadway Alliance Award for best family show. Now, Menzies has a StinkyKids animated series in the works. Recently, Menzies became a preschool teacher. “It’s my retirement job and I love it,” she says. Working with young children has helped her to hone in on the

like you.” That positive message has led to all three books earning a Mom’s Choice Silver Award. In The Runaway Scissors, StinkyKid Britt goes to bed with gum in her mouth only to find it hopelessly entangled in her hair the next morning. The only fix is to cut the glob out. “It really happened to me when I was a kid,” says Menzies. “I ended up looking like a porcupine.” In See a Full Moon, the StinkyKids wonder if a full moon really does affect people’s behavior. “That one was based on a sleepover my son had,” says Menzies. “It was rough. In the middle of the night, I called all the parents up and said, ‘Come and get your child now.’ It was not going well.” The third book, Have a Heart is about bullying. “I was bullied extremely badly as a kid through elementary and junior high school,” Menzies says. “This book deals with bullying at a preschool level, which is often when it starts.” At the end of the book, Menzies expresses her personal opinion on the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” “I strongly disagree,” she says. “You can get over a boo-boo in time, but words can stick with you into

“The whole brand of StinkyKids teaches kids about play, exploring the world, and making mistakes along the way. Kids need to know that making mistakes is a universal human experience. Our motto is Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned.” aspects of the StinkyKids that are the most appealing for kids. She’s currently working with another teacher to create a curriculum featuring the StinkyKids characters. “The stories will incorporate the preschool standards and themes,” says Menzies. “The StinkyKids will still be exploring the world and, of course, making mistakes as they go.” | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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When Menzies reflects on how far she’s come with StinkyKids, she says she feels grateful to be leading a brand she so thoroughly believes in. “I’m not a writer or an artist,” she says. “I’ve come this far because passion brings out the best in people. I’m passionate about StinkyKids because we’re giving kids confidence. We’re showing them that it’s okay to make mistakes


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

and sometimes the best things in life come out of the worst mistakes we’ve made. And I think that’s a message that’s going to help kids to grow up to become great adults.” For more information about Britt Menzies and the StinkyKids, visit | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Liv on Life Get a Library Card! by Olivia Amiri Now that it’s September, almost everyone is going back to school. Most likely there will be some sort of exam at the start of the year to test your current knowledge of a particular subject. Usually, this is to determine placement in a reading or math group. I always find that studying helps me do much better on all my tests. For example, if your exam is on the history of Columbus— who he is and what he did on his voyage—you might seek a “primary source.” A primary source is a piece of information taken directly from history. An example of that could be Columbus’ ship log. But you don’t have any ship logs on your bookshelf, so what do you do? You could start by getting a library card either from your school or your local library. Having a library card allows you to borrow/check out books and read as many books as the library allows. I love the library and I love that you can go there and borrow books whenever you want. You can read them and learn from them. A library can be a community and a place to expand your mind. A bonus of going to the library is that you recycle books. If you just went and bought the book, it would only be for you to read, and you couldn’t share the joy of reading with others. Not to mention, you’re also helping the planet to reduce paper waste. Finally, you get to read about all sorts of stuff that you might never get to experience in your life. Go get your library card today!

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. 30

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CCBC Best Book selection

Anxie ty Senso ry SelfRegula tion

ay w e th and . n s pe sion egie o ks cus trat o Bo dis ng s to ati e cr Amazon, Ingram, Chapters/Indigo, Barnes & Noble | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Feature Story

Reading Rescue Changes the Literary Landscape for Struggling Students by Melissa Fales

The average proficiency rate on New York State standardized tests for third-grade students in English Language Arts is currently 40 percent. Literacy Trust is working in New York City public schools to help improve those statistics and boost reading skills through its signature program, Reading Rescue, which provides 30 minutes of one-on-one literacy instruction every day for targeted students reading below grade level.

“At Literacy Trust, we believe that the ability to read is a basic civil right,” says Executive Director Tiffany Zapico. “We believe that empowering children with the essential skill of reading empowers them to be active citizens and that literacy is the foundation for personal and professional success.” In 1993, Dr. Nora Lee Hoover, a professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Florida, developed the Reading Rescue program based on five areas of reading instruction: comprehension, vocabulary development, fluency, phonics, and phonemic awareness. Hoover’s research determined that Reading Rescue was most effective with students in the first grade. “That’s due, in part, to the program’s focus on the foundational reading skills acquired that year,” says Zapico. 32

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At the core of Reading Rescue is a signature twoyear professional development program for teachers, paraprofessionals, and other school staff. “It’s 10 days of professional development over two years,” Zapico says. During that time, Reading Rescue program managers visit each school for four full days, monitoring work with students and meeting with administrators. “We use ongoing feedback from the schools to be the best possible partner we can be,” says Zapico. “Building strong relationships with our schools adds that extra element of support that can make all the difference.” Simultaneously, the educators receiving the professional development commit to providing a one-on-one reading intervention to at least one first-grade student for 30 minutes each school day. Zapico says she prefers to use the term “intervention” instead of “instruction” or

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“tutoring” because it emphasizes how much the student is in need of extra support. “These students are truly struggling,” she says. Participating schools perform reading assessments to determine which students are good Reading Rescue candidates. “We target the students at the top of the bottom 25 percent,” says Zapico, with the idea that they are the most likely to improve with targeted assistance. In 2007, the American Educational Research Journal published findings of a study showing “strong support for the effectiveness of the Reading Rescue intervention model” and that students involved in the Reading Rescue program outperformed students receiving instruction in a different intervention program. “We’ve had a lot of success with our schools and student achievement,” says Zapico. “Each year, more students are reaching grade-level proficiency.” According to

the Reading Rescue website, students involved in the program improve by an average of 8.25 reading intervention levels. Since 2000, Reading Rescue has been operating exclusively in New York City public schools, where it is the fastest-growing literacy intervention program. When Zapico became the Literary Trust executive director in 2014, Reading Rescue was in 18 schools. “The program will be in 100 schools this upcoming school year,” she says, with the majority of those considered “high poverty” schools based on the number of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch. “We’ve decided to focus on New York City because there’s so much work to be done here,” says Zapico. “We want to serve as many kids and as many schools as we can. One hundred is great, but when you consider that there are 794 public schools, you get a sense of how much more we need to do.” | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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“When a student is struggling to read, they’re very aware that there’s a problem. It often hurts their selfconfidence. They tend to withdraw from classroom participation and activities they used to enjoy in order to hide the fact they can’t read.” This dramatic growth of the Reading Rescue program is due partially to the revitalization of the non-profit organization under Zapico’s leadership. “We also started thinking more strategically and focused on finding some great new funding partners,” Zapico says, namely the Benedict Silverman Foundation and the Young Men’s Initiative through Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. There is no cost to the families of the students served by Reading Rescue. “We ask for a minimum fee for service from the schools,” says Zapico. “We aim to keep our costs as low as possible for our school partners.” Reading Rescue is also involved with the Universal Literacy Initiative established in New York City by the Department of Education and Mayor de Blasio. “There’s a lot of momentum around these reforms,” says Zapico. “The city has set a goal of having 100 percent of second graders reading at grade level by the year 2026. It’s very ambitious, but we like ambition and we’re very proud to be a key partner in this effort.” The Universal Literacy Initiative has hired 500 literacy coaches who will be assigned to schools to help support teachers in Kindergarten through Grade Two. “We’re providing Reading Rescue training to all of these coaches,” says Zapico. Over 3,000 students have benefitted from Reading Rescue in just the last four years since Zapico has been at the helm of Literacy Trust, but she shared the story of one recent participant whose progress exemplifies the very reason the Reading Rescue program exists. 34

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“One student from Harlem was living in temporary housing and had experienced a lot of trauma in his life,” she says. “He was struggling with reading, he was struggling socially, and he was identified as being in need of additional support. The one-on-one intervention time he received through Reading Rescue made a huge impact on his ability. He ended the school year as a fluent, confident, self-motivated reader.” Zapico says an inability to read affects everything about a child’s school day. “When a student is struggling to read, they’re very aware that there’s a problem,” she says. “It often hurts their self-confidence. They tend to withdraw from classroom participation and activities they used to enjoy in order to hide the fact they can’t read.” She says seeing students responding to the focused instruction of Reading Rescue is extremely rewarding. “Once they start to improve their reading skills, their confidence changes,” says Zapico. “They become more engaged in school. You can watch them transform as they get excited about reading. It’s very exciting to see those results.” For more information about Reading Rescue, visit

The heart-warming conclusion to the beloved,

Newbery Honor–winning series is here!

Find out what happened to Mo’s Upstream Mother!

Three starred reviews for The Law of Finders Keepers!

H “Lovers of the previous books will

delight in the return of Mo.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

H “The Mo and Dale Mysteries 9780803739628; $16.99

series ends on a high a note— just as it began.” —VOYA, Perfect 10

H “[A] satisfying conclusion . . .

Amusing, dramatic, and tender.”

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—Booklist, starred review



PenguinClassroom | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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photo by Carol Osman Brown

Little Lobbyist

Jax Weldon Helps Arizona Dinosaur Gain Fame by Carol Osman Brown


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Feature Story

Eleven-year-old Jax Weldon has loved dinosaurs since he was a toddler. He loves learning about them and drawing pictures of them, but he never expected a dinosaur to take him on the biggest adventure of his life. Sprawled on his bed amid his favorite books, his dog “Cinnabun,” and stuffed dinosaurs, he recalls, “When I was three years old, I had memorized the book Sounds of the Wild Dinosaurs and could make all the sounds. I had a touch globe that lit up and made a sound when I pointed to a dinosaur anywhere in the world. I just loved all that cool stuff.” He brought home countless dinosaur books from the library and later began collecting fossils. His collection includes the fossilized bone of an Allosaurus, an estimated 135 million years old. “Our family visits my grandmother who lives near Lake Havasu, Arizona and owns some land with a canyon

“I learned a lot about how a bill becomes a law. I also realized the real power of words and pictures … and that I am not too bad at public speaking.” on it, which is pretty cool,” he explains. “So my sister Jewel and I get to hike all around and look for fossils, rocks, snakes, and other interesting stuff. It’s a lot of fun. We also visited the natural history museum in Mesa, Arizona last year, and we took a family vacation to see the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. It was really interesting.”

He checks the Internet monthly to see if there is any dinosaur news worldwide. One day last fall, he was surprised to discover California had announced that Augustynolophus was named the state’s dinosaur. “I wondered if Arizona had a state dinosaur,” Jax says. “I did some research to find it did not. I thought Arizona should have one, too.” So, he did some digging to see which dinosaurs were found in Arizona. “I found that Sonorasaurus bones had been found in southern Arizona. Our state is the only place where this dinosaur has been found. This dinosaur was about 50 feet long and 27 feet tall. It lived between 93 and 112 million years ago. It is big, has Sonora in its name— for the Sonoran Desert—and was discovered by an Arizona man! That’s when I had the idea to write a letter to the governor.” Jax outlined his reasons why having a state dinosaur would benefit the state of Arizona in a letter to Governor Doug Ducey. “It could boost the economy and attract tourists interested in dinosaurs and geology,” he explained. “They could visit the ArizonaDesert Sonora Museum near Tucson that has an exhibit about dinosaurs and the Sonorasaurus. This dinosaur is native to Arizona only, so that makes it special like native plants.” Jax completed the letter and mailed it in November of 2017. “I don’t think anyone thought the governor would actually reply to me,” he says with a chuckle. After a month of waiting, Jax worried his letter was lost in the mail and sent another copy. “One day in

illustration by Dmitry Bogdanov | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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He then met with education committee members and answered more questions about Sonorasaurus. He explained that it lived in the Cretaceous period, and was the first known brachiosaur to have lived in North America during that time period. He then provided information to Senator Kate Brophy McGee, who sponsored the bill. She introduced SB 1517 to the Arizona State Senate in January of 2018. Later, Jax testified before a Senate committee hearing. “It is really a neat thing that a student here in our state took the time to do this research and bring this into the legislative process,” said Ducey’s spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato.

Jax with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (photo by Dan Weldon)

January, my mom picked up the mail and gave me an envelope with my name on it. I looked at the official address of the governor’s office and quickly read the letter. It said they had read my letter and Governor Ducey wanted to meet me. My whole family got excited and we were all jumping around,” he recalls with a grin. Jax and his dad headed to the Arizona State Capitol Building. “I told them that I had an appointment with the governor. It is a very impressive building. I talked to Dawn, the governor’s assistant, who said they get a lot of mail and chose mine to give to the governor because it was a very well-written letter. We met Governor Ducey, who thanked me and said he was interested in this project. Someone took a photo of us. Then he left for a meeting,” Jax says. “I told Dawn about the Sonorasaurus, which stands for ‘Sonora lizard.’ Its official name is ‘Sonorasaurus Thompsoni’ because dinosaurs are named for the person who made the discovery. It was first discovered by Richard Thompson in 1994 when he was looking for fossils in the Whetstone Mountains of southeastern Arizona.” 38

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Next, Jax was asked to testify before the House of Representatives committee in a public hearing. “It was a really big room and there were people in front of me, behind me, and on all sides. I was pretty nervous because I’ve never done anything like that before,” recalls Jax. “They gave me a big microphone. I took a breath to calm myself and started speaking about the dinosaur. I relaxed a bit and then it all just happened. I told how having a state dinosaur could benefit Arizona. I said that Sonorasaurus could represent our state well since it has only been found in Arizona. They were funny and asked a lot of questions. I explained it was really big, ate plants, and lived in the Cretaceous period.” Jax also provided letters of recommendation for the bill from Richard Thompson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and a University of Florida biology student. A few weeks later, he received some news. “We heard that our bill passed in the final vote and just needed the governor’s signature to become law,” he recalls. “We were so excited! I told my teacher, Mrs. Voris, and we were all super surprised and happy. Mrs. Voris baked cookies in the shapes of dinosaurs with frosting and blue sprinkles. The whole class was clapping.” Governor Ducey signed the bill on April 19, 2018, and Sonorasaurus became the state’s official dinosaur. Jax says he learned a lot from his experience and his message for kids who want to make change is to work hard and never give up. “I learned a lot about how a bill becomes a law. I also realized the real power of words and pictures … and that I am not too bad at public speaking.” | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



A Dreadful Interview with

Quentin Q. Quacksworth by Melissa Fales Illustrations by Adam Horsepool

From the very first page of A Dreadful Fairy Book, set to be released in November, readers will get a sense of the conflict between author Jon Etter and narrator Quentin Quigley Quacksworth, Esq., who makes no effort to hide his disdain for A Dreadful Fairy Book, and the fact that he would rather be narrating literally anything else. “But I’m a professional, and though I find the story not at all appropriate for young readers and encourage them not to read it under any circumstances, I did my best with what Mr. Etter gave me,” Quacksworth says. “As I’m sure you and your readers are aware, authors merely come up with their stories. It is we narrators who bring those stories to life.” Etter is best known for his written works of fantasy and has been published in The London Journal of Fiction, The Singularity, and The Great Tome of Forgotten Relics and Artifacts, among others. For over 20 years, he’s taught high school English in Wisconsin public schools. A Dreadful Fairy Book is his first children’s book, and much to Quacksworth’s dismay, not the last. It’s the first in a three-book series called Those Dreadful Fairy Books. The odd coupling of Etter as author and Quacksworth as narrator hasn’t been easy for either one. In fact, Quacksworth says he regrets his involvement with Those Dreadful Fairy Books which he regards as “…the one unsightly blemish on my otherwise exemplary 40

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narratorial career.” Typically, says Quacksworth, he wouldn’t be bothered with this type of blather. “Normally, authors seek me out personally (I have won multiple Blabby Awards for my narrating, after all), but business was slow, so I went down to the Narrators’ Union office to pick up an open assignment,” he explains. “Unfortunately, I overslept and ended up stuck with this dreadful tale.” In A Dreadful Fairy Book (Amberjack Publishing), readers meet the heroine of the trilogy, a sad fairy named Shade. Her house and her treasured book collection have just been lost to a fireworks mishap, so she is understandably crabby. “However,” says Quacksworth, “she was prone to grumpiness even before that, mostly because nobody else in her village really saw the value in reading, which is her absolute favorite thing to do.” With her beloved books gone and nothing left to lose, Shade sets out on a trek to find an elusive library she’s only heard rumors about. “As much as I’d love to spoil this book for readers, the Narrator’s Code of Ethics and my union contract with Mr. Etter forbids me from saying too much about it,” says Quacksworth. When pressed, Quacksworth offered this tantalizing clue to the library’s location. “If it exists, which it may not, it would be the only library to have survived the last war between the Seelie Court and the Sluagh Horde, the two opposing


“Normally, authors seek me out personally (I have won multiple Blabby Awards for my narrating, after all), but business was slow, so I went down to the Narrators’ Union office to pick up an open assignment. Unfortunately, I overslept and ended up stuck with this dreadful tale.” forces in the lands of the fairies,” he says. “It would be found on the highest peak of the Marble Cliffs overlooking the great western seas of Elfame, and it would be full of magical wonders, maybe.” Along her journey, Shade meets a cast of irresistible characters unlike any fairies she’s ever known. “Oh, they’re all immense disappointments, really,” says Quacksworth. “There’s a dandy troll who refuses to live under bridges for fear it would soil his elegant clothing, a pack of rude and pugnacious shapeshifting púca brothers, a questing beast who doesn’t like to be chased, a will o’ the wisp who doesn’t like to lead people astray, and a number of others.” Quacksworth finds Shade’s closest companions the most objectionable. “The worst of the lot, however, are the two who join her for the majority of her journey: a fast-talking, card-sharping brownie who refuses to do housework and a mute, kleptomaniacal pixie,” he says. “The less said of them, the better.”

It’s quite clear that Etter and Quacksworth were completely incompatible and loathed working together, with Etter going so far as to pronounce Quacksworth as “the opposite of fun.” “Well,” huffs Quacksworth, “if believing that stories should focus on characters who always mind their manners, do as they’re told, and cheerfully eat their vegetables at every meal, proper, morally-improving tales like Lovey Tumkins and the Pleasant and Helpful Wee Folk or Honest Jim and the DoRight Lads, both of which I’m proud to have narrated, is ‘the opposite of fun,’ then I’m quite proud to be ‘the opposite of fun.’ As for Mr. Etter, I prefer to speak of him as little as possible, although I will note that as a public school teacher and father of two, he really should know better.” Quacksworth says he simply cannot bring himself to endorse Those Dreadful Fairy Books under any circumstances. “Should parents and teachers encourage young people to read them?” he asks. “No. Will children’s manners and moral fiber be improved by reading them? Absolutely not. Would delightful aunties who give lovely hand-knit socks for holiday and birthday presents approve of them? I should say not! Will any young reader who ill-advisedly chooses to read them enjoy their cast of fairy misfits or laugh out loud at their offbeat humor? I fear for our future if they do….” For more information about Jon Etter, Quentin Q. Quacksworth, and Those Dreadful Fairy Books, visit

According to Quacksworth, the second book in the series finds Shade working with a secret society to protect precious ancient texts sacred to Elfame and crucial to its future. In the third book, Shade and her allies must work together to stop the war looming between Sluagh Horde and the Seelie Court. “I know they sound very exciting,” says Quacksworth, “but let me assure you that they’re actually quite silly and not at all proper fairy entertainment. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


My Favorite Teacher

Why do we have to do homework? by Kyler Min, age 7

Provided a pencil and a title, what story could a first-grader write? I would say gibberish. However, Mrs. Romero kept giving us such assignments every week. Each Monday, I handed Mrs. Romero my writings. The second day, Mrs. Romero added a check mark on my gibberish and returned it to me. The third day, the wasted paper showed up in the trash can. At least I recycled it. Boring, boring homework. I had thought this tedious cycle would go on and on, until something happened. In the assignment “My Favorite Sports,” I accidentally mentioned my diving trip to Bermuda. If I did not know how to swim in the Bermuda Triangle, I would vanish into Atlantis. I didn’t get the check mark as I always had. I got an orange “Wow!” My writing sheets had always looked like an empty beach that nobody cared about. The “Wow!” was like colorful beach toys which attracted many children. I could almost hear the laugher from the kids. I would like to read my story again and again. In the next assignment, “My Favorite Cartoon Character,” I wrote about Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I got a “Love!” Soon I got a “Great!” smiley faces, and even “Sounds so delicious!” A smile always stained on my lips when I wrote my stories. I couldn’t wait to see what feedback I could get. But there came the biggest challenge of all. Mrs. Romero gave me four pages, asking me to write “My Table at School.” Four pages just for a table? I couldn’t believe my eyes. How to write so many pages just about a table? It took me four days to finally come up with this: On the magic land called Romero Land, there are five kingdoms (tables). I, King Kyler, rule the fifth kingdom. My kingdom’s flag is yellow. We have a hexagon table. Every day, King Kyler and his knights meet at the table to discuss important issues…. You know what happened? I didn’t get a check mark. I didn’t get just a “Wow!” I got a “Wow!” with three huge smiley faces. Three of them! I could feel that Mrs. Romero’s jaw almost dropped! After this, I started to feel very confident about writing. I could answer any challenge from Mrs. Romero. I received “Nice!” “Amazing!” and even “You will be super rich! $$$” on my business proposal. At the end of the school year, in “My Alien Friend” story, I wrote about Charlotte. She was leaving us the next year. I felt very sad. “Because Charlotte is an alien, none of my friends on earth can take her place in my heart,” I wrote in a low mood. “Amazing Writings!” That was the last comment I got. This could be true, because my homework got published in different magazines. All these started with the orange “Wow!” Thank you, Mrs. Romero. I now understand why we have to do our homework.

Hey Kids! Visit for instructions on how to submit your work! 42

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 | | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Fall Reading List


LIST The Blue Footies by Joan Dee Wilson

These Blue Footed Boobies joyfully plunge the surface of the deep blue sea until one day, Tuey, Blue, and Bea spy debris on the beach. Together they moan, “This shore is our home.” Mumford grunts as bluefooted children come to clean up. But when the mighty ocean waves blow a plastic blob ashore, they need these children even more. Ingram Content Group, paperback ISBN: 978-0-9975527-4-4, hardcover ISBN: 978-0-9975527-5-1. 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Winner.

The Day I Ran Away by Holly L. Niner

While Dad tucks her in, a little girl named Grace calmly recounts her day—which was anything but calm. She had a tantrum (because of some injustices involving a purple shirt and breakfast cereal) and was banished to her bedroom before deciding to run away. Understanding that kids have ups and downs, Grace’s mom wisely gave her daughter the space and time she needed to reach her own decision to return home—to open arms.

No More Noisy Nights by Holly L. Niner

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

Unraveling Rose by Brian Wray

Rose is a stuffed bunny who loves having fun with the little boy she lives with, until she discovers a loose thread dangling from her arm, and it’s all she can think about. In the end, she learns that things don’t always have to be perfect. Unraveling Rose is a 2017 Gold Winner for “Picture Books, Early Reader” Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards. Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield. 978-0-7643-5393-2

Lester the Scared Little Leaf by Nina Gardner

Lester Leaf watches his friends, Shaky Sam, Bright Betty, and Golden Gary shout out with joy as they leap from the tree. But Lester is too afraid of falling. So how does he overcome his fears and take that leap of faith? Take this colorful journey with Lester in a story of puns that’ll make you chuckle, then make you feel that you too, can overcome. 44

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Fall Reading List

The Missing Bouncy Ball by Misti Kenison

Emma has lost her favorite bouncy ball in the park. Can our dapper detectives, Fox and Goat, find it for her? Young children will follow their journey through the golf course, past the soccer field, and across the tennis court to the playground as they solve the mystery and learn new concepts along the way. This toddler’s version of Sherlock Holmes is guaranteed to both engage and entertain young minds.

Think Farm Animals by Karen S. Robbins

Think Farm Animals combines two things toddlers and preschoolers love—guessing games and animals! Designed with die-cut circles that give clues to the barnyard animals hidden beneath, children are invited to listen to the clues, guess the animal, and then lift the flap to see what it is. This delightful, interactive board book and its adorable drawings will provide hours of fun while helping kids increase their knowledge, language, reading, and small motor skills.

Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast by Regan W.H. Macaulay

Mixter Twizzle is an odd, red, round-shaped, mischievous creature. He lives in a hovel, beneath a rustic barn, underneath the chicken coop at Riverdale Farm. He’s a snoozing sneezer and a snoring barker—a peculiar sort that both annoys and pleases. At first, Mixter Twizzle is thrilled by his egg-gorging fests, delighting in his own wickedness, but he soon realizes he is lonely. He longs for companionship, but the hens will have nothing to do with him. Can this fiendish creature learn to make friends at the farm?

Bobby Birthday: A Story about Friendship by Larissa Juliano

Bobby Birthday loves going to birthday parties even when he’s not invited. He samples the food, peeks at presents, bounces on inflatable elephant trunks, all the while escaping his mom’s healthy cooking. Then one day, Bobby meets a boy named Teddy who only has grown-ups as guests. As Bobby talks to him, he realizes his party crashing can serve a much better purpose—encouraging friendship, no matter what our differences may be.

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.

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 ageappropriate (5+) country facts and a glossary for extended learning. Books include I See the Sun in: USA, Turkey, Nepal, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Mexico, and Myanmar (Burma). | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Fall Reading List

The Adventures of Keeno & Ernest: A New Friend by Maggie van Galen

Big news! The Adventures of Keeno & Ernest: A New Friend has just received the coveted Mom’s Choice Award® honoring excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Follow the adventure to learn if monkeys really can fly when Keeno meets a new friend! In the end, Keeno learns some valuable lessons about friendship and staying true to himself. Learn more at

Dinosaur Devotions

by Michelle Medlock Adams

Dinosaur Devotions, written by award-winning author Michelle Medlock Adams, will help your middle grade children dig deeper into the Word while uncovering fascinating facts about dinosaurs. These 75 devotions also include segments like Dino Stats, Bible Excavation, Digging Deeper, Did You Know?, and Jurassic Journaling. Dinosaur Devotions blends fun dinosaur facts with a deeper understanding of God’s Word, making your child’s faith journey an extra fun adventure!

The Tale of Prince by Bianca C. Staines

There’s a dead cat in the swimming pool and the insufferable Bennie has vanished. Accused of double peticide, Prince—Bendall Road’s top dog—finds himself on the run from the HARASS team (Hamster Alley Regulators And Secret Service), a faint trace of cologne his only clue to solve the mystery...

The Heath Cousins and the Moonstone Cave by Eileen Hobbs

Addie B. and her cousins Jack, Beanie, and Bodie discover Moonstone Cave while visiting their grandfather. The cave leads them to a magical garden where they meet Gemma and her white wolf Jadira. During their adventure, they must learn an important lesson: to work together if they want to escape the dangers ahead of them and find their way back home.

Seed Savers: Treasure by Sandra Smith

A suspense-filled story set in a future where gardening is illegal, the Internet is limited, and Big Brother is always watching. In Clare’s world, blueberry is just a flavor and apples are found only in fairy tales. After discovering the truth about food, Clare and her brother set off on a journey to find a place where gardens still exist. Will they escape the evil GRIM? And can children really change the world?


by Susan Miura

Seventeen-year-old Shilo Giannelli possesses the gift that set her family tree on fire. It will ignite miracles that tip the scales of life and death ... but will she have to sacrifice her heart? Eighteen-year-old Misty Morning is fighting the demons of her past to give her child a future. When their worlds collide, these unlikely friends will need extraordinary courage and faith to hold onto the people they love.


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Fall Reading List

The Uncontrolled by Zachary Astrowsky

From 14-year-old author Zachary Astrowsky comes the story of three teenage friends, John, Chase, and Hazel, who join together in the aftermath of a striking revelation and attempt to fight back against the majority around them that has been secretly implanted with a tracking and brainwashing device. The fight seems hopeless until John realizes that he has the ability to see the future, and the kids devise a plan to outwit the leader of The Controlled. 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Winner.

The Hard Way by Selma P. Verde

Before starting his freshman year of high school, Paul Jones’ best friend moves away. He meets Anik Hatcher and starts hanging out with his friends who like to cause trouble around the city. What they do at the Homecoming football game, pressures Paul to become a key player in their most harmful prank yet. He learns the hard way that choosing friends and making decisions, good or bad, have consequences that could change his life.


by Linda Yiannakis

Could life be more unfair? Nine-year-old Ellie doesn’t think so. With her summer off to a terrible start, she stumbles across a mysterious carved chest in the attic. What she finds inside gives her the power to change her life exactly the way she wants it to be. But it’s not long before Ellie learns to be careful what she wishes for—and what she wishes gone.

Digby of the Dinosaurs by Linda Yiannakis

Sixty-five million years ago, a meteor struck the earth and all the dinosaurs went extinct. Or did they? Digby Darby has no idea about the extraordinary turn his young life is about to take when he runs off one afternoon. He tumbles into a hidden canyon and finds himself among dinosaurs that escaped extinction and survived to the present day in their secret domain. Will Digby adapt in this strange new world or will he struggle just to survive?

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

His one desire ... to be a knight. His future queen ... at times reckless. Bound by friendship and loyalty. Out for adventure, Guinevere and Cedwyn become embroiled in a life-or-death struggle. When renegades kidnap the children of Cadbury Castle, the two vow to rescue them. As their plan unravels, Cedwyn must turn his dream into reality. Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

Mystery Horse at Oak Lane Stable by Kerri Lukasavitz

With Shady Creek’s schooling show only two months away, 12-year-old Cassie wonders if she can convince her dad in time to buy the new rescued horse at Oak Lane Stable for her very own or face showing George the old school horse—again. Cassie’s summer before 8th grade is filled with adventure, heartache, and unexpected danger. A middle grade novel that will keep the reader turning pages until the very end. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Fall Reading List


by Jason C. Joyner

Launch Conference is the opportunity of a lifetime, and for Demarcus Bartlett and Lily Beausoliel, it almost seems too good to be true. However, it’s grades or athletics that brings these teens together. It’s something deeper, something less tangible, something that goes straight to the core of who they are. Something . . . supernatural? It will take an unreserved and united act of faith to save the world. The only question is: will it be for better or worse? 

The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are 12 years old and a hundred years apart. The children meet through a handpainted talking board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But tragedy leaves Josie afraid for her safety. Can Alec help change her future when it’s already past?

Flip the Silver Switch by Jackie Yeager

Tech prodigies The Crimson Five are back again, ready to compete against the best inventor teams in the world at the Piedmont Global Championships with their newest invention. But when they arrive, they’re blind-sided by a last-minute change in the contest rules. Kia knows her team must unite if they want to win, but tragedy and rumors threaten to derail the team’s hard-won trust.

Meet Me Where I’m At

by Cindy Best and Joyce Shor Johnson

This book helps special needs children understand how they are wired and it offers them ways to communicate without having to express themselves verbally or even face-to-face. Written for children in the early grades, it provides concrete strategies that can be individualized and then given to new teachers, coaches, or friends to help them understand who the child is and how he or she functions best. Ultimately, it teaches children how to advocate for themselves.

Raising Kids That Succeed by Dr. Lynn A. Wicker

If you feel confused and frustrated as you struggle to parent, Raising Kids That Succeed provides a new way to see yourself as a parent. It focuses on who you are as an individual before you ever arrive at the impact you hope to have on your children. You will learn how to stop looking for “fixes” for your kids and come into an awareness of your own beliefs. As your own life improves, the influence and impact on your children will improve as well.

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.


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 | | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Monsters at the Movies

Christopher Robin Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: B The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh isn’t often regarded as one of the all-time greatest Disney films, perhaps because it doesn’t have the most structured story or revolutionary animation. The film is truly beautiful in its own simplicity, however, capturing the spirit of A.A. Milne’s original books with a hint of Disney’s signature whimsy. The film even ends on a surprisingly poignant note as Christopher Robin contemplates the future and asks Pooh never to forget him. Christopher Robin, the latest live-action adaptation from Disney, essentially picks up where the original Pooh picture left off. For anyone who grew up with Winnie the Pooh (and honestly, who didn’t?), the film tugs at the nostalgic heartstrings in all the right ways. During his youth, Christopher Robin spends much of his time doing nothing with his stuffed animal friends in the enchanted Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher is forced to say goodbye to his childhood companions, however, when his parents send him away from home. It’s actually quite clever how the film’s version of Christopher largely resembles A.A. Milne’s actual son, who provided the inspiration for the Pooh books. Like the real Christopher Robin Milne—our protagonist— is shipped off to boarding school and later joins the army. Growing up to be played by Ewan McGregor, Christopher marries a woman named Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a daughter named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Overcome with work, Christopher has little time for his family and has practically forgotten about his old friends … that is, until Pooh randomly pops up in his neighborhood. 50

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

The smartest decision on the filmmakers’ behalf was enlisting Jim Cummings to reprise the voice of Pooh as opposed to hiring a big-name celebrity. Cummings has been voicing the bear of very little brain since 1988 and it’s hard to imagine any other actor doing the character justice. While it can be jarring seeing a realistic, CGI version of Pooh at first, Cummings immediately wins the audience over with his softspoken, innocent voice that’ll make anybody feel warm inside. Cummings also provides the voice of the bouncy Tigger, who was initially going to be played by Chris O’Dowd. We additionally get some nice work from Brad Garrett as the gloomy Eeyore and Nick Mohammed as the fretful Piglet. The rest of the voice cast, which includes Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, Sophie Okonedo as Kanga, Toby Jones as Owl, and Sara Sheen as Roo, all do fine, although they’re sadly sidelined here. Gopher, meanwhile, is a no-show, but then again, he’s “not in the book.”

Monsters at the Movies

The story plays out like Steven Spielberg’s Hook, except instead of Neverland, Christopher Robin must return to the Hundred Acre Wood. Kind of ironic seeing how director Marc Forster previously brought us Finding Neverland. Accompanied by Pooh, Christopher is motivated to revisit to his old stomping ground where everyone else has mysteriously vanished. Although Christopher is more concerned about getting back to his job at a luggage company, it isn’t long until he gets back in touch with his inner child. There have been a lot of movies about letting go and growing up, but Christopher Robin taps into something a bit more unique: the fear of reconnecting with your past. The film even makes brilliant use of the Heffalumps, which act as an embodiment of Christopher’s reluctance to embrace his boyhood days. All the while, McGregor turns in a genuine performance and truly makes you believe that he’s talking to living playthings. Although Christopher Robin is sure to delight its target audience, it could’ve been a great family film had it taken a few more risks. It would’ve been nice if more time was spent in the Hundred Acre Wood, which is where the

most thought-provoking and visually-interesting scenes take place. The climactic chase in London, while amusing enough for kids, lacks the creativity of something like Paddington 2. The movie also might have benefited from blurring the line between reality and fantasy, as it’s made evident from the get-out that Pooh and his friends are real. Part of what made Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are so gripping is that it never spelled anything out, allowing for numerous different interpretations. Christopher Robin is more clear-cut and the audience can quickly figure out what’ll be learned by the time the credits roll. On that basis, though, the filmmakers ultimately hit their mark with charm, sincerity, and of course, honey.

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: | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 | | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Book Reviews


Bear Moves

by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz (Candlewick Entertainment) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Well, put on the music and move over, cause Bear’s got some moves and he doesn’t mind sharing them. This is a fun, feel-good read. Bear introduces the reader to music and dance, and the illustrations are sure to add laughter to the beat. (Ages 2-5)


by Irene Dickson (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The simplest of things can often bring the greatest rewards. Following all the joys a boy and his dog can share with a simple stick. You can throw it, balance with it, float it down a stream, and draw pictures in the sand. And we agree, building friendships is the very best of all. (Ages 2-5)

My First Book Of Quantum Physics

by Kaid-Sala Ferrón Sheddad, Eduard Altarriba (Button Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

When I hear terms like elementary particles, my mind runs to the massive crumbs left in the middle school lunchroom. Or quantum entanglements fills my mind with visions of playground altercations needing attention. But, what if the concepts of quantum physics were introduced in an easier and more entertaining way? These authors have lifted the gray haze, and brought the quantum world to our fingertips. Children (and adults) will enjoy pushing the boundaries of what we call reality, and stepping into the quantum world! (Ages 3+)

Try a Little Kindness

by Henry Cole (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The sweet, rhythmic flow of the text, and soft, easy appeal of the illustrations make this a great feel-good reading experience that can linger for a lifetime. Each page features a different way to be a good person, like using proper manners, telling someone they are special, or sharing a treat! The opening page will catch the heart and quickly become a childhood mantra. (Ages 3-5)

Mae’s First Day Of School

by Kate Berube (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I bet we all remember our first day of school. Oh, we may not remember the details, but that cold clammy feeling that stirs every time we face a new venture, reminds us. Life is never as hard when we encounter it with a friend. Mae is afraid to go to school. Riddled by the monstrous “what if” thoughts, she hides and determines not to go. But, lucky for Mae, she meets others who are just as frightened as she is. And together, they are able to overcome. A great reminder for all of us. Let’s grab a hand and do all those wonderful things we wish we could do! The illustrations are simple and sweet, and capture the heart. (Ages 3-7) 54

Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Book Reviews


by Sam Usher (Templar) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Wind and thunderstorms can be cozy, exciting, and evoke lots of adventures—inside and outside of the house! A little boy and his grandpa go searching for a kite to fly on a windy, stormy day and throughout their search, reminisce about other experiences they had together as they bump into special mementos. A beautiful story that will inspire children to look for adventures in nooks and crannies, and most importantly, with their families. (Ages 3-7)

I Am Actually a Penguin

by Sean Taylor, Kasia Matyjaszek (Templar) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Playing dress-up is a childhood experience that will never get old and this is a funny, sweet, and completely relatable story about a little girl who loves this pastime. Her imagination, creativity, and perseverance is adorable (and admirable) as she really embraces becoming her costume—in this case, a penguin. The illustrations are vibrant, fun, and different with the use of mixed media and multiple picture and plot points on each page. Readers will enjoy reading this delightful story and then quickly running to their own dress-up box. (Ages 3-7)

Duck Gets a Job

by Sonny Ross (Templar) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

This is a story about being yourself and not a carbon copy of the vast majority. Sonny Ross creates a combo of creative words and illustrations to entertain young readers with his tale. Children will delight in the silliness of Duck as he takes readers through the steps of getting a job in a big city. Duck soon discovers that spreadsheets are not his cup of tea, so he opts for a job that fits his special gifts and passion. A perfect read-aloud for discussing sequencing and introducing job skills and goals, this picture book really fits the bill! (Ages 3-7)

Little Robot Alone

by Patricia MacLachlan, Emily MacLachlan Charest, Matt Phelan (HMH Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Little Robot Alone is a story about a robot curing boredom by using his imagination, technical skills, and some elbow grease. The authors and illustrator have created a story that showcases the importance of friendship. The occasional rhyming text intermixed with the imagery produced from the descriptive wording allows readers to purely enjoy the robot’s surroundings and appreciate the soft, dreamlike illustrations. What a wonderful text to use with young children to bring up the topic of befriending others and discussing what it feels like to be alone. This profound story is more than the superficial idea of a robot creating a friend; digging deeper, teachers and parents can easily help readers have text connections by incorporating this story into lessons about having positive character traits and finding them in others. (Ages 3-7)

Rock What Ya Got

by Samantha Berger, Kerascoet (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

I love the opening of this story! It opens wide the imagination and excitement rushes in. Carrying a powerful message, each page delights with its endearing illustrations. For anyone who has ever whispered, or shouted, “If only....” Happiness comes when we own who we are, and success follows when you can rock what ya got. This is a fun presentation for kids who are finding, and claiming their own unique spot in this iffy world. (Ages 4-7) | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

Snail Mail

by Samantha Berger, Julia Patton (Running Press Kids) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

We’ve all heard and used the term “snail mail” for ages now, but Samantha Berger and Julia Patton have adorably and brilliantly put pictures and a story to this cute term. Snails actually delivering mail! Berger captures our heart from the beginning with a little girl mailing a letter across the country, and the long and exhausting trek the determined snails must make to get it to her recipient. The story also takes the reader on a journey through special landmarks of America with sunsets and rainbows in every backdrop. Snail Mail will teach many, and remind more, of how exciting it feels to run to the mailbox and have a special delivery waiting inside. (Ages 4-8)

Energy: Physical Science for Kids

by Andi Diehn, Hui Li (Nomad Press) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge

Energy, energy everywhere! This is an educational book to help young readers learn about the many forms of energy. The illustrations bring to life the concepts to engage visual learning and processing. The author has also included STEM activities to help further solidify the concepts. Energy races through your feet and is fueled by food and rest. What happens when your energy runs out? Do you get cranky, tired, or thrash about? Have a snack! Take a snooze! Keep your energy up and you’ll never lose! Energy is everywhere, you just need to look. One thing for sure, you’ll find it in this book. (Ages 4-8)

Matter: Physical Science for Kids

by Andi Diehn, Hui Li (Nomad Press) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge

Let’s begin to learn about matter in this science educational book. ”Birds in the sky and rocks on the ground. Things made of matter are all around! Solids and liquids and gasses, too. Make up the world including you. Matter is everything, everywhere you look. Does matter, matter? Learn how important matter is as you read through this book. The illustrations are vibrant and will keep your child’s attention as they take their first steps into science experiments. Be sure to try the STEM activities included to reinforce the learning of the science concepts. (Ages 4-8)

Ted the Friendly Frog and the Tale of the Diamond by Scott Mcall (Brown Books Kids) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

Learning can be tough, and some lessons can last a lifetime. We have much to learn growing up, and our parental guidance far outlasts that of the animal kingdom, but both share the wisdom of the aged and the benefit of a listening heart. Ted the frog learns the importance of obedience the hard way. And we the readers learn, the choice is always ours. (Ages 5-6)


by Jennifer Sattler (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Bully’s middle name might just be Greedy. He thinks the pond and its beautiful lilies are all for his own private enjoyment. Running off all those who pass by to share in the pond’s beauty, Bully finds himself quite content all alone. Can anyone stop Bully and his bullying ways? Using humor and whimsy, authorillustrator Jennifer Sattler masterfully shows young readers that standing up together can make all the difference in the world. (Ages 5-7)


by Diego Vaisberg (Templar) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a cute lighthearted story about a mysterious find. A large egg appears in the backyard. Is it a giant canary? A large lizard? A huge turtle? Life changes when the egg hatches. It’s sure to bring giggles to little readers and maybe even secret hopes that they, too, might find such wondrous things in their own backyard. (Ages 5-8)


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

Book Reviews

Squiffy and the Vine Street Boys in Shiver Me Timbers by Steve Stinson (Muddy Boots) Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield

This is a really fun story about Squiffy, who builds a pirate ship on a tree and invites the Vine Street boys to come aboard. The boys learn “Pirate talk” with a hilarious and predictable ending. I loved the characters, creativity, and imagination of this story. The illustrations bring the story to life. This is a fun and laugh-out-loud type of story. (Ages 5-8)

Howl Like a Wolf!

by Kathleen Yale, Kaley McKean (Storey Publishing) Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield

This book has so many educational and fun activities for young children! They can learn to howl like a wolf, see like a bat, and even dance like a honey bee! You didn’t know that a honey bee can dance? Well, you better get reading! This is a wonderful book for children and they will have lots of fun while learning. Also includes a link to download animal masks. A must-read! (Ages 6-9)

Big Foot and Little Foot

by Ellen Potter, Felicita Sala (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

Big Foot and Little Foot is a fun, adventurous book about seeing each other’s differences and overcoming fear to become friends. Hugo, the main character, is a young curious Sasquatch who wants to adventure in the Big Wide World, but that’s off limits. The most important Sasquatch rule is to never be seen by a human. But Hugo breaks that rule when he meets a human and they become pen pals. (Ages 6-9)

Love for Logan

by Lori DeMonia, Monique Turchan (Halo Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

These two darling sisters return with another story of love and inspiration. Logan’s older sister has trouble processing sensory signals, and that can make life challenging. When one member of a family struggles, it affects them all. Leah’s family supports her with understanding and awareness and learning, but most of all with a love that can overcome those difficult obstacles most of us will never face. This story of love and compassion will inspire us all to become aware of the struggles of others, and be a positive influence with understanding. (Ages 6-12)

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System

by Bethany Ehlmann, Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Children’s Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This one is sure to thrill any kid with their head in the clouds, and beyond! Packed with amazing facts, awesome photographs and diagrams, famous scientists, and so much more, it is sure to please. Whether just-for-fun reading, information for reports or projects, it will fill many interests. Science is fun! (Ages 8+)

24 Hours in Nowhere

by Dusti Bowling (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Welcome to Nowhere, Arizona, the least livable town in the United States. For Gus, a bright 13-year-old with dreams of getting out and going to college, life there is made even worse by Bo Taylor, Nowhere’s biggest, baddest bully. When Bo tries to force Gus to eat a dangerously spiny cactus, Rossi Scott comes to his rescue by giving Bo her prized dirt bike. Determined to buy it back, Gus and his friends decide to go searching for gold in Dead Frenchman Mine. As they hunt for treasure, narrowly surviving one disaster after another, they realize this adventure just might lead them somewhere. A great, actionpacked story. (Ages 8-12) | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

A Long Line of Cakes

by Deborah Wiles (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Emma Lane Cake has five brothers, four dogs, and a family that can’t stay put. The Cake family travels from place to place, setting up bakeries in communities that need them. Then, just when Emma feels settled in with new friends … they move again. Now the Cakes have come to Aurora County, and Emma has vowed that this time she is NOT going to get attached to anyone. Why bother, if her father’s only going to uproot her again? But fate has different plans. And so does Ruby Lavender, who is going to show Emma a thing or two about making friendships last. This is a perfect story for young readers with a very sweet ending. (Ages 8-12)

Daring Dreamers Club: Milla Takes Charge

by Erin Soderberg, Anoosha Syed (RH/Disney) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla’s fear that her moms won’t let her go. Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she’s ready for this real grand adventure? Kids will particularly love how the book ideally ends, then leads into a sample of the next book. I found this to be a perfect fifth grade story. (Ages 8-12)

Kid Scientists: True Tales of Childhood from Science Superstars by David Stabler, Anoosha Syed (Quirk Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

What a delightful way for young readers to take more of an interest in science—by learning about our famous scientists’ childhoods. Did you know that there is one famous scientist who also invented the first pair of swim fins? Another scientist was also a genius mathematician whose calculations helped astronaut Neil Armstrong to be able to walk on the moon. Who are these people? You’ll have to read the book to find out. This is a brilliant book that will inspire and enlighten our budding future scientists. It proves to young readers that they, too, should dare to reach for the stars. (Ages 9-12)

Everything I Know About You

by Barbara Dee (Aladdin) Reviewer: Diana Perry

During a class trip to DC, 12-year-old Tally and her best friends, Sonnet and Caleb are less than thrilled when they are assigned roommates and are paired with kids who are essentially their sworn enemies. For Tally, rooming with “clonegirl” Ava Seely feels like punishment, rather than potential for fun, but Tally soon discovers several surprising things about her roommate—including the possibility of an eating disorder. This is a must-read for parents and teachers and a perfect lesson on bullying and another less-talked-about problem facing young girls today. (Ages 9-13)

The De La Cruz Diaries: Oops-A-Daisy

by Melody Delgado (Clean Reads) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

The De La Cruz Diaries: Oops-A-Daisy is a fun and captivating book. Daisy De La Cruz is a 12-year-old girl with dreams of becoming a famous singer. I liked that the book dealt with real issues including family issues, bullies, and how hard you have to work to accomplish something. This is a good book for anyone facing these life challenges. (Ages 12+)


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

The Crow Child

by Sherrie Todd-Beshore (CreateSpace) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Twelve-year-old Elijah Day Clearwater is not your average child. Since the death of his parents when he was three years old, he has been living with his paternal grandfather. He struggles every day with Cystic Fibrosis. What sets Elijah apart from everyone else is something ‌ magical. Thirteen days before his 13th birthday, Elijah begins to have vivid dreams. Perhaps the dreams are just an outlet from the stress of a bully at school, or maybe they hint at a destiny that was foretold prior to his birth under the firesign. This story teaches young readers how their very lives today were formed by others who came before them. It is easy to bond with the well-developed characters. A great read. (Ages 12+)

To submit your book for review, email Cristy Bertini at for submission guidelines. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Q&A with

Jacqueline Jules by Julianne Black With more than 40 titles under her belt in a wide variety of genres, Jacqueline Jules is a writing powerhouse. But who could blame her? As a librarian, teacher, author, and poet, her whole world is centered around books! Q: Before we get into your work, can you tell us a bit about how this love of words started? Do you remember a moment in your childhood perhaps where you were bitten by the book bug? A: I have this distinct memory of myself as a child, sitting in a high-backed white chair, reading a book. My cousins are nagging me to get up and play, but I want to finish my book. This may seem like an ordinary memory for a bookworm, except the white chair was in Switzerland on a trip to see relatives I only visited twice. That may be the moment I realized that I was addicted to reading. For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader, with an eclectic appetite. If I connect with the story or the character, I’m hooked. The genre makes no difference to me. I can name favorites in just about every genre except horror. This served me well in my work as a librarian because I read a sampling of everything in my collection to provide an honest reader advisory to students and teachers. Q: Looking over your published works, you have some popular series books like the Zapato Power series and the Sofia series, some picture books, some poetry…. At the end of the day, which formats do you feel you connect with the best? Which seem to resonate the best with your students? 60

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A: Some people prefer historical fiction. Others read mostly nonfiction or autobiographies or fantasies. My reading tastes are all over the place. Variety keeps me entertained. It is the same with my writing. Some days I am in the mood to work with metaphors and I write poetry. Other days, I want to be inside the head of my characters Freddie Ramos or Sofia Martinez. And then there are the days when I become engrossed by a scientific or historical event and I can’t stop researching. The freedom to work in different genres spurs my creativity. Not every idea works as a picture book. Maybe it is better as a poem or a chapter book or a novel. Writers work in isolation so I am not sure I can judge what resonates the best with my readers. However, I have been thrilled to receive feedback from readers all over the world about my books. Recently, I heard from a bilingual teacher in Honduras who told me her third graders were obsessed with Freddie Ramos and his super-powered sneakers in the Zapato Power series. My heart is very full when I hear that Zapato Power is the first chapter book a young reader has finished on his or her own. Freddie Ramos is directly based on the students I taught while working as a school librarian. My students kept asking me for books on superheroes. This inspired me to imagine what it would be like if one of my students had a secret superpower. Where would he find superhero jobs in an elementary school? How would it complicate his everyday life?


Q: Your latest release, Pluto is Peeved!, is a graphic novel-style picture book; how did that come about? Was it a conscious decision to write for that style of illustration or did it evolve after the story was completed? A: Pluto is Peeved: An Ex-Planet Searches for Answers is my second book in this format. Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation is also a graphic novelstyle picture book. After writing the story of the 1787 Constitutional Convention as a comic book, I began searching for another topic that would work well in this format. It took me a number of years and a number of revisions, but finally Pluto is Peeved! came together. I love theater and frequently attend plays. Writing the text for a comic book is like writing a theater script. The dialogue for each character must express that character’s personality. I worked hard, with the help of a wonderful editor, to create unique dialogue for Pluto, Dinosaur, Rock, and all the other museum characters in Pluto is Peeved! Q: I love that you have a Reader’s Theater on your website where teachers can download (for free!) a script to engage the students in the content by reading out loud different speaking parts. This is such an awesome idea to accompany the book and make the content really stick. How was it writing the theatrical version of Pluto and is that something you’ll consider for your upcoming books? A: The Reader’s Theater for Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation (also available for free on my

website) was a hit with teachers across the country. I received many letters about how much the students enjoyed it and I even had the chance to see a school assembly where a fifth grade class performed it. So when Pluto is Peeved! came out, I knew right away I wanted to do a Reader’s Theater. It was a little tricky to condense the essence of Pluto is Peeved! and make the scenes flow. I had to include a narrator, something the book does not have. I also had to change the dialogue in a few places. The Pluto is Peeved! Reader’s Theater provides a taste of the book along with an opportunity for interactive reading practice. I hope students will have fun with it. Q: Your website is overflowing with activities, all of your books, and your school visit information. What kind of sneak peeks can you offer into upcoming projects for which we should watch? A: The seventh book in the Zapato Power series, Freddie Ramos Hears It All, will be released in the fall. In this adventure, Freddie Ramos has a new Zapato Power— super hearing! He can listen in on conversations and find hero jobs. But soon Freddie realizes the temptation to eavesdrop on everyone is too great. Can Freddie find a way to use his super hearing without snooping? Q: Now, you are the author of over 40 books, have appeared in over 100 publications, and have won multiple awards. Any tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way? Any advice nuggets that stick out in your mind that you’d be willing to share? | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



“I often tell students that writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You turn the words around and around until they fit together to make the picture you want.” A: My first nugget of advice for aspiring authors is to READ, READ, READ. Go to the library and be familiar with not only the classics in children’s literature but the trends. Examine how stories are constructed. Identify the beginning, middle, and end. Note the details which create a character as a unique being. Think about what hooks you as a reader on the first page. Learn from that and use it in your writing. My second nugget of advice for aspiring authors is to REVISE, REVISE, REVISE. Don’t be afraid to turn your story inside out and try it from a different


Story Monsters Ink | September 2018 |

perspective. Most of my work goes through at least 20 drafts if not 50. Good writing is only re-writing. Put each word on trial. Does it express what you want to say? Could you do better? I love rewriting. First drafts are hard for me. But I absolutely adore rearranging the words and saying the same thing, only better. I often tell students that writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You turn the words around and around until they fit together to make the picture you want.

You can learn more on Jacqueline Jules at and even download her PDF Writing for Kids! You can also check out her blog there, Pencil Tips Writing Workshop, complete with writing prompts and ideas on a bi-weekly basis. Julianne DiBlasi Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Teaching Toolbox

Teaching Toolbox:

Back to School by Larissa Juliano Yes, I am excited for school to begin! Back-to-school season is filled with so many new experiences: new friends, new classroom, and new teachers, books, and routines. Yes, we love the sunny days of summer family time, slow mornings sipping coffee and kids still in jammies as we plan the day. Some of us are working different jobs, or carpooling all day, but it is wonderful to have some extended time outside of the classroom. However, as August nears, I begin to think of my future students (and parents) eagerly waiting for the back to school letter stating who their teacher is! I want them to be excited when they open that envelope and see their teacher’s name. I think of my own children starting to enter school … hoping they have teachers excited to meet them, teach 64

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new things, and truly recognize the deep impression and imprint they will have on my child’s heart for years and years to come. So yes, summer is an awesome reprieve and mental refresher, but meeting new treasures who may be anxious or apprehensive to try something new this fall—that is wonderful, too because they are going to be so loved! Here are a few fun ways to kick off the school year at home and at school: Literature Study Every Month: I love having my read-aloud connect with a certain theme or author. Of course, if it’s just an awesome book or has a great message, I’ll share it regardless if it fits the “topic” but it really keeps me accountable to reading every day, multiple times, with my students if we have a

Teaching Toolbox

certain author we keep coming back to. This is where I rely heavily on my library team and ask them to pull various books every month either by author or topic. For example, one month I did a showcase with Kevin Henkes, and also asked my library team to check out some nonfiction mouse books, since so many of his characters are mice! December is my Jan Brett month, and I’ll tie in lots of fun, nonfiction cooking books to go along with her Gingerbread characters. My goal this year is to incorporate some more science-related books, along with authors who have a social-emotional message to their stories. Simply reading and discussing the books is all it takes. It doesn’t have to be something that is overly involved or planned! Start Writing, Right Away: Whether it’s pictures and invented spelling, or lengthier pieces that start from a prompt, have your students write every single day. Make it completely part of the routine from the getgo, and they will become so familiar with the process, that it just comes naturally. With my kindergarten students, I will give them some ideas (literature response, a favorite something, a memory or moment they want to share) but I do not dictate what they must write about—writing brains don’t work that way! For younger writers, it’s helpful to give a couple “tricky” words for them to spell (board or chart paper) so they don’t get bogged down on making sure it’s perfect, but rather just getting their ideas on paper. I always said I was coming around with my special teaching pen to give them some feedback in their writing journals and they loved it. Keep it light and fun and write every single day. I understand curriculum-packed days, assemblies, field trips, etc, but having a classroom of writers will benefit their academics and learning in so many ways. Learn About your Community: I teach in a rural district in Upstate New York and there is SO much history here! We have acres and acres of apple orchards and family farms, Underground Railroad connections, buildings from the 1800’s and family-owned businesses that have been around for decades. This is fascinating to me and I would really love to have my students learn the history about their own community and truly feel a sense of ownership and pride about where they live.

the table of contents and the Story Monsters website as your guide as you determine lesson ideas for your child/student. Featured authors and celebrities can be such an inspiration for our most precious readers and really spark a love of writing and new book series. The issues are archived on the website for easy access to the magazine contents, plus there are so many opportunities for kids to publish their own work, and a teaching guide that goes along with each issue. Questions in the teaching guide can be modified depending on the child’s age—use your teaching experience and love of literature to make the magazine come alive in the hands of your students! Try Something New: Challenge yourself to try something totally new and out of the box this year. So often, I hear teachers say, “Well they are too young to do that.” or “They do not have the attention span for that activity.” Maybe they do! Experience teaches us many things, but so do children and each child that enters your classroom can change your perception of what we thought we knew to something different. Some things that I am going to try this year are more science experiments and “messy” activities for my kinesthetic learners, have extra playtime in the morning and afternoon, and facilitate more parent involvement opportunities in my classroom, like an author’s tea! I will continue to reach out to my colleagues and embrace their creativity and out-of-thebox thinking. It really does take a village! Share with Us: This year for Teaching Toolbox, I invite you to share your experiences in the classroom with me. Post on the Story Monsters Facebook page, connect on the website, find me on Twitter, or visit my author’s page. I would love to feature different teacher’s ideas in the Teaching Toolbox column. It is going to be a fantastic year with so many wonderful books, articles, and resources for you and your students!

Larissa Juliano is an award-winning children’s book author, elementary school teacher, and reading specialist. Follow her on Twitter @larissasjuliano or visit

Explore Story Monsters Ink and its website: Check out the features in the table of contents. There are usually 1-2 articles that reference specific lessons and ideas for teachers to implement in their classroom. Use | September 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



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