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November 2018

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD Inspires Little Readers to Make a Big Difference James Patterson

Down to a Science


I Don’t Want to Be a Dinosaur … or Do I? Teen Changemaker:

Paloma Rambana

Lobbies for Visually-Impaired Children

The Aquabats are Back

with Super New Episodes One to Watch:

Ser’Darius Blain

News Flash:

Darcy Pattison

Pens a Monstrous New Picture Book

High School Muppet Project

Focuses on Diversity and Tolerance

Ruby Jay

to Portray Holly Hobbie in New Tween Series

Dan Wyson

Offers Valuable Lessons in New Children’s Book Series

Teaching Toolbox

Thankful Thinkers

PROMOTE YOUR BOOK IN OUR NEXT ISSUE! Would you like to promote your book, product, or business? Contact Cristy Bertini at or call 413-687-0733 to reserve your space! Discounts available.


Linda F. Radke


Cristy Bertini


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

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

Special ContributorS Judy Newman James Patterson

DESIGN Jeff Yesh

Science & Nature Editor Conrad J. Storad


Web Management Patti Crane


Linda F. Radke Order Story Monsters Ink online at or through subscription services for schools, libraries, and businesses. “Like” us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! @StoryMonsters Follow us on Instagram!

Cristy Bertini

Book Reviewers Darleen Wohlfeil, Diana Perry, Jessica Reino, Tynea Lewis, Sherry Hoffman, Diana Fisher, Dawn Menge, Denise Bloomfield, Macaulay Smith

Cover photo courtesy of Kathie Lee Gifford Story Monsters Ink magazine and are trademarks of Story Monsters, LLC. Copyright ©2018 Story Monsters LLC, ISSN 2374-4413, 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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 | November 2018 |

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

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.”

November 2018

In this issue Features 20 One to Watch: Ser’Darius Blain 24 News Flash: Darcy Pattison

Pens a Monstrous New Picture Book

28 High School Muppet Project

Focuses on Diversity and Tolerance

04 Kathie Lee GIFFORD Inspires Little Readers to Make a Big Difference

32 Ruby Jay

12 Teen Changemaker: Paloma Rambana

Lobbies for Visually-Impaired Children

16 The Aquabats are Back

Columns 10 James Patterson Down to a Science

40 Judy Newman

I Don’t Want to Be a Dinosaur … or Do I?

Offers Valuable Lessons in New Children’s Book Series

New columnist!

48 Monsters at the Movies The House with a Clock in Its Walls

58 TEACHING TOOLBOX Thankful Thinkers

60 Liv on Life

We Have to STOP Bullying!

to Portray Holly Hobbie in New Tween Series

36 Dan Wyson

New columnist!

Resources 44 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 52 Book Reviews

with Super New Episodes

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


Kathie Lee Gifford Inspires Little Readers to Make a Big Difference by Melissa Fales

In her latest children’s book, The Gift That I Can Give, Kathie Lee Gifford teaches little ones that everyone has their own unique gift to share with the world. The TV personality, actress, singer, songwriter, and author says she wants every child to know that they are someone special and even though they may be small, they already have the power to make the world a better place. “It’s a sweet little book,” Gifford says. “All it’s meant to be is a simple message about bringing joy and love to a world that so desperately needs it.”


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

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“If we love our children, we don’t really care whether or not they have a PhD, unless that furthers their dreams. We need to get out of their way and let them do what they love to do, to use the gifts that God gave them.”

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The inspiration for The Gift That I Can Give (Thomas Nelson) grew from one of Gifford’s previous projects. “It came out of a little musical I did called The Little Giant,” she says. “It’s basically an updated, fun, musical version of the old David and Goliath message.” According to Gifford, it’s a concept that everyone, young and old, can understand and empathize with. “We all have our giants we need to face in life,” she says. “And for little kids, well, everything is a giant to them.” One of the original songs Gifford wrote for The Little Giant is “What is Your Stone?” It’s about David vanquishing Goliath with just five stones despite his inferior size. The song asks, “What is your stone? Where will you throw it? What is your gift? How will you know it?” Gifford says she expands on that message in The Gift That I Can Give. “I don’t want children to underestimate themselves,” she says. “They’re given everything they need in their mother’s womb. God gives them everything they need. The message of David and Goliath is that David didn’t have to be physically stronger than Goliath. David had strength beyond himself because of his relationship with God. When we’re facing challenges in life, we can always draw on that strength.”


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Gifford says one the most loving things parents can do is to recognize their children’s “stones” and help them learn how to put them to best use. “Tune into what your kids are drawn to and interested in at a young age,” she says. “It might truly develop into a lifelong passion. Look at me—I was putting on a show from the minute I came out of the womb.” She says when she told her parents that she wanted to leave college and move to L.A. to pursue her dreams, they encouraged her. “They knew I wasn’t going to be happy unless I was following my passion,” she says. “And if you do follow your passion, you’re truly in a position to make the world a better place. If we love our children, we don’t really care whether or not they have a PhD, unless that furthers their dreams. We need to get out of their way and let them do what they love to do, to use the gifts that God gave them.” Just because every child has a special gift to offer the world doesn’t mean that there won’t be bumps in the road, or obstacles along their journey. Gifford cautions against protecting children from every little disappointment or consequence. “My daddy once told me, ‘I love you too much to deny you the privilege of making a mistake,’” she says. “And I made a bunch of

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them. When I did, I would crawl up onto my daddy’s lap and he would tell me that it was okay to make a mistake, but now I needed to apply the lesson I learned from it. That’s how we help our kids to reach their dreams and make the best use of their gifts, whatever they may be.” In November, Gifford will appear in the premiere of A Godwink Christmas on the Hallmark Channel, based on the book by author SQuire Rushnell and his wife, Louise DuArt. “I play the young heroine’s aunt, the one who tells her about Godwinks,” says Gifford. “I truly believe in the idea of Godwinks, that God intercedes on our part and on our behalf. To the naked eye, those incidents might look like a coincidence, but those are the moments when God is winking at us.” In December, look for Gifford’s movie Then Came You. “It’s an original screenplay I wrote for my friend, Craig Ferguson,” she says. Gifford also co-wrote the film’s original music with Brett James. “He’s had over 500 hits,” she says. “I’ve had three, and they were all songs I co-wrote with him.” In Then Came You, Gifford plays a widow. “I wrote this movie for those who don’t yet know that God loves them,” she says. “I wanted to examine what people do with their pain, people who don’t have the place that I do. I’ve taken all that to the Lord since I was 12 years old, but I know so many who don’t have that.”

Clearly, Gifford’s faith is an immense part of her life, but she’s quick to point out a common misconception about her. “People confuse me with a religious person,” she says. “I’m not the least bit interested in religion. What I want is an authentic and organic walk with the living God. Religion is something you practice once a week. I’m interested in a daily relationship.” Whether it’s a song or a screenplay or a children’s book, Gifford says she’s always writing something. “I enjoy the process,” she says. “I value the process whether or not it ever becomes anything the world values. I believe God created each of us for great things. If God is the creator of all that is seen and unseen, and if I believe that I am created in his image, then I’m obviously a creator as well. In fact, I believe that’s what we were made to do—to create, to use our unique talents, our stones, to bring His shalom to the chaos of the world.” For more information about Kathie Lee Gifford or The Gift That I Can Give, visit | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |


A Christmas Gift Full of Joy, Hope, & Faith What did God do before the world was made? Do bad people have a guardian angel too? Why are there not as many miracles anymore?

In Dear Pope Francis, the Pope’s only book for children, he personally responds to 30 questions from children all over the world. With his optimistic heart, Pope Francis writes with an honesty that will impact every reader long after the final page is turned. Illuminating and inspiring, Dear Pope Francis is that rare, lasting book with a universal message for children and adults. HARDCOVER (ENGLISH) | 978-0-8294-4433-9 | $18.95 HARDCOVER (SPANISH) | 978-0-8294-4435-3 | $18.95

Order today! Call 800.621.1008 or visit Also available online and at local booksellers. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


James Patterson

Down to a Science by James Patterson photo by Stephanie Diani

Just last month, Donna Strickland became the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, nearly sixty years after Maria Goeppert Mayer. And in 1903, sixty years prior to Goeppert Mayer’s win, Marie Curie became the first ever woman awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. You can do the math—that’s only three women in nearly 120 years to win an award given out annually! While female scientists have come a long way over the past century (engineer Frances H. Arnold also won the Nobel this year for chemistry), there’s overwhelming evidence that women remain underrepresented in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. 10

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That’s the exact reason I created the character of Maxine “Max” Einstein in my new middle-grade series, Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment. And that’s why I really believe Max Einstein is the most important book I’ve ever done. When the managers of the Albert Einstein Archives, located at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, approached me a while back saying they’d like me to create books that will introduce kids to Einstein’s science, I insisted that the protagonist be a girl. They were very bright—no surprise—and were on board. They also said the books must be entertaining to make a difference, because otherwise young readers won’t pay any attention to them.

James Patterson

So while the book is a fictional adventure, it involves lots of very cool science as part of the story. As a young person, Einstein grew up in a time when technology was rapidly changing the world. His curiosity about the world around him was limitless. He imagined things that even adults had trouble comprehending, and asked questions about the universe that few had even bothered to ask. His only tools were pencil and paper. He was tolerant of many backgrounds and viewpoints, and he had this amazing sense of fairness, and of right and wrong. Max Einstein channels all of these traits, and while she isn’t striving to teach kids science, we hope she gets them excited about Einstein’s discoveries and makes them similarly curious. Did you know that it’s Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity that makes the GPS in your cell phone work? You’d be surprised how science affects your life every day. Those fun “Do It Yourself” slime videos on YouTube kids love? That’s chemistry! Your favorite baseball player uses physics to bat a game-winning homerun. Biologists are working to cure diseases around the world. And another of Einstein’s discoveries helped create solar panels, which are key in

fighting global warming. When they think of science, kids might think of a boring laboratory or memorizing lots of equations. But if they want to be the next Einstein or Strickland, what they really need is a big imagination! And what this world needs is kids with big ideas. Kids like the ones you work with every day! When asked about her reaction to winning the Nobel Prize last month, Strickland noted that she was surprised so few women had won the award. She went on to say, “But, I mean, I do live in a world of mostly men, so seeing mostly men doesn’t really ever surprise me, either.” My hope is that our kids, and then their kids, will grow up seeing as many women as men in whatever field they choose to pursue. And I hope that both young girls and boys will find an inspiriting character who they can identify with in Max. I like to think that when Max is an adult, she’d have a shot at winning the Nobel Prize, with plenty of female trailblazers ahead of her. So for all of your aspiring scientists, mathematicians, doctors, writers, musicians, artists—whatever their passion may be—remind them to dream big! Shoot for the stars, or maybe the Nobel.

The world’s #1 bestselling author has teamed up with the world’s most famous genius to entertain, educate, and inspire a generation of kids with the first and only kids’ book series officially approved by the Albert Einstein Archives. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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Teen Changemaker

Paloma Rambana Lobbies for Visually-Impaired Children by Melissa Fales

She’s only 13 years old, but the efforts of author and activist Paloma Rambana have already improved the lives of hundreds of children in her home state of Florida. Legally blind herself, Rambana is on a mission to help other visually-impaired kids get the tools they need to succeed in school and in life. She’s written about it in her book, Paloma’s Dream: The true story of one girl’s mission to help kids, inspire activism, and survive middle school.

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“Sometimes I get upset because I can’t see as well as other kids, but then I think about how so many other kids can’t see as well as I do, and I want to help them,” she says. Rambana was born with a condition called Peter’s Anomaly, which presents as a cloudiness in the corneas. “It’s kind of like seeing through frosted glass,” she says. In Rambana’s case, doctors had to surgically construct a pupil in each eye. The condition makes Rambana legally blind, although she acknowledges that that term can be misleading. “I’m legally blind, not totally blind,” she says. “There are lots of different branches of blindness. It’s a term that’s kind of like an umbrella.” Like other visually-impaired children in the state of Florida, Rambana received state-funded vision tools from birth to age 5. Unfortunately, once she reached

who are currently within that funding void because of their age. Ultimately, Governor Rick Scott did sign the bill, but for $1 million. While the amount was considerably less than what Rambana had hoped for, it was still a success in that approximately 341 visually-impaired children received the equipment they needed to succeed in school. “It wasn’t the $3 million we were hoping for, but it’s been enough to help 341 kids, so it’s been really beneficial even if it didn’t cover everyone who needs coverage,” Rambana says. But to date, Rambana has raised $1,250,000 for the cause and worked to establish a $500,000 line-item for vision tool funding in the state recurring budget. Rambana pledges to continue to work to see that all children in that age group, approximately 900 boys

“I’ve always felt that we are going to make a difference somehow. You don’t have to be old enough to vote to be politically active and aware. I’m proud of what I’ve already accomplished, but there is still so much to do.” the age of 6 and through age 13, state funding for her visual aids stopped. “In Florida, and other states, not all kids who have serious vision problems get help,” she says. “Enigmatically, once a child reaches the age of 14, the cost of their vision tools is once again covered until they turn 18. Rambana says there’s no clear reason why this gap exists, other than a lack of funding and perhaps a lack of understanding as to how vital those years are to young school children struggling to learn fundamental concepts with severe vision barriers. She recognizes she’s fortunate because her parents can afford to purchase the tools that help her see better in the classroom, but she’s keenly aware that many other children aren’t as fortunate. That’s why, in 2015, Rambana created a campaign called Fund the Gap and began lobbying at the Florida legislature, leading rallies, making speeches, and meeting with key legislators about her concerns. “I was there to ask for $3 million in funding,” she says, enough to provide vision tools for roughly 1,000 kids 14

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and girls, will be given the services they need. With the costs of the equipment at roughly $8,800 per child, the amount the legislature will need to fund is approximately $8 million. Earlier this year, Rambana received a Prudential Spirit of Community Award as one of the top 10 youth volunteers in America in 2018. She flew to Washington for the awards ceremony. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” she says. “It opened my eyes to many different opportunities and led to new friendships and connections. It was totally worth missing three days of final exams.” Rambana was also recognized as an “Oprah Health Hero” in the January 2018 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine. Despite all of the accolades she’s received, Rambana considers her book, Paloma’s Dream, her greatest achievement so far. “It’s really a book for everyone,” she says. “I wanted to capture my life in lobbying and my life as a person in one book. I think I’ve accomplished that.” The book offers Rambana’s suggestions for anyone of any age to affect change. For example, Rambana

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offers practical ways people can help those who are visually impaired, such as holding a drive to collect used eyeglasses or donating used vision tools for someone else to use. However, readers can apply her method to their own personal causes. “If there’s something you’re passionate about, I offer techniques, tips, and tricks as to things you can do to make positive changes,” she says. Looking forward, Rambana said she’s considering a career in politics and law, although she plans to do more writing, too. “I love being able to express myself,” she says. “And I like changing the world.” Rambana believes she and other members of her generation are naturally inclined to be politically active. “I’m a member of Generation Z or, iGen,” she says. “It’s a part of our lives. We grew up with the Internet. We’ve seen a lot of injustice. It’s important for us to stay informed. I’ve always felt that we are going to make a difference somehow. You don’t have to be old enough to vote to be politically active and aware. I’m proud of what I’ve already accomplished, but there is still so much to do.” For more information about Paloma Rambana, visit | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


The Aquabats are Back with Super New Episodes by Melissa Fales

When the Hub Network became the Discovery Family Channel in 2014, subsequent programming changes upset diehard fans of The Aquabats! Super Show! The loss of the unique, intentionally kitschy program about a rock band comprised of superheroes proved almost too much for many of the show’s devotees to bear. In an effort to satisfy the demands of those

behind the #bringbacktheaquabats movement, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise money to fund more shows. “We were really stoked to see people stepping up and saying, ‘We want more Aquabats,’” says Christian Jacobs, aka The MC Bat Commander (and lead vocalist). “It’s been humbling and super cool.”

The Aquabats began in 1994 when Jacobs and his roommate Chad Larson each found themselves in a band—a rock band and a punk band respectively—that was going nowhere fast, musically or commercially. “The rock scene was really dwindling and the punk scene wasn’t much better,” says Jacobs. “However, we couldn’t help but notice that the Ska scene was thriving in Orange County.”

band became known for its over-the-top antics and pageantry as much as if not more than its music.

The two decided to start a Ska band together, more as an adventure than anything else. “We realized we were posers from the beginning,” Jacobs says. “We were just being silly and having fun with it. The lore and all the costumes and battles with rubber monsters were just a natural extension of a bunch of dudes doing something crazy and fun.”

Jacobs, who grew up inside the entertainment industry, has a background in producing skateboarding videos and was dabbling with the idea of other projects. “As our shows got more and more theatrical with every member of the band as a specific character, it seemed to me that the whole thing would be a pretty amazing TV show,” says Jacobs. “I grew up watching Batman and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I thought there could be an Aquabats TV show along those lines.”

One night, a friend who happened to work at a wetsuit factory showed up with some props. “He came with a batch of these weird Buck Rogers-like rubbery helmets,” says Jacobs. “We were like, ‘We’ve got to wear these.’ It was reminiscent of Devo. Over time it morphed into this whole superhero thing.” The 18

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While the troupe’s line-up has changed over time, The Aquabats currently include Jacobs, bassist Larson (“Crash McLarson”), guitarist Ian Fowles (“EagleBones FalconHawk”), drummer Richard Falomir (“Ricky Fitness”), and James Briggs (“Jimmy the Robot”) on the keyboards.

In 2007, while the band toured and continued to gain popularity exponentially, Jacobs co-created a children’s TV show called Yo Gabba Gabba. The show featured host DJ Lance Rock and his magical boom

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Trust him they did and in 2012, The Aquabats! Super Show! was released to an enthusiastic response from adults and kids alike. In 2015, the show won an Emmy. “It’s funny because Yo Gabba Gabba was nominated for so many Emmys but it was always going up against Sesame Street, so it was virtually impossible to win,” says Jacobs. “So to have The Aquabats go from a garage band of wacky surfers to an Emmy Award-winning show is pretty incredible. It’s been a strange journey. A very strange and wonderful journey.” The cancellation of The Aquabats! Super Show! was a major disappointment for everyone involved, especially its loyal fan base, known amongst themselves as the Legion of Righteous Comrades. Ultimately, they flooded the band’s Kickstarter campaign, raising over $600,000 (surpassing the original goal) and thereby ensuring that there will be a whole new season of The Aquabats! Super Show! (a 12-epidsode web series) and two brand new albums of original music to boot, available soon. Jacobs said he was thrilled with the response to the crowdfunding. “In the zeitgeist of superhero stuff, if Marvel is the Bruce Lee, we’re the low-budget Jackie Chan,” says Jacobs. “For us, it’s about the comedy of it all. It’s ridiculous. That’s the spirit we’ve always tried to work with. And now it feels like people are celebrating that ridiculousness with us.”

“We’re so grateful that so many people have expressed their support for us, the nonsmoldering superheroes. Making this show is a dream come true. We promise more monsters and silliness and slapstick to come.” box, a bunch of life-sized toys, and a plethora of guest stars including “Weird Al” Yankovic and Jack Black. “Yo Gabba Gabba’s popularity kept The Aquabats alive,” says Jacobs. “Once it got really big, I got the typical question, ‘What other TV shows do you have?’ So I said, ‘Well, I have this other show called The Aquabats and it’s really good. Trust me.’”

Actor and avid Aquabats supporter Jack Black has signed on to be an executive producer of the new season. “Ever since I met the MC Bat Commander on the set of Yo Gabba Gabba, I knew we were destined to become allies,” Black says. And Jacobs is excited to have Black on board. “He’s a cool guy,” he says. “His kids are fans of The Aquabats and when I asked him to team up with us and become an executive producer for the show, he said, ‘Absolutely.’ He’s super funny and downto-earth. He’s exactly the kind of person you think he is. He fits right in with the other Southern California dudes in the band.” The Aquabats’ next mission will be to begin preparations for the 12 mini-episodes which should be ready for release on YouTube in the spring. “We’re so grateful that so many people have expressed their support for us, the non-smoldering superheroes,” says Jacobs. “Making this show is a dream come true. We promise more monsters and silliness and slapstick to come.” For more information on The Aquabats, visit and follow @TheAquabats on Twitter and Instagram. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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One to Watch

Ser’Darius Blain by Melissa Fales

When Ser’Darius Blain moved to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming an actor, he did so with a deadline. “My mom and I had a deal,” he explains. “If it didn’t work out in five years, I would have to go back to school.” Eleven years later, Blain’s career is thriving. He’s best known for his role as “Young Fridge” in the 2017 blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but he’s appeared in a number of other films, including the 2011 remake of Footloose, and he’s currently appearing as molecular geneticist Galvin Burdette on the CW’s new version of the TV show, Charmed.

Before Blain discovered acting, he eschewed attention, favoring the solitary pursuit of writing. When he was 12, his mother took over as his school’s drama teacher and enlisted Blain’s talent in rewriting parts of the play that would mark her directorial debut. “One day, I was in the kitchen just joking around and reciting all of the lines from the play,” Blain says. Impressed, his mother insisted that Blain try out for a part. “She could have just put me in the play, but she was very fair about it,” Blain says. “That was the very first time I ever had an audition.” Blain got a part as the understudy for the lead. When the lead actor became very ill after the play’s premiere, Blain assumed the role for the remainder of the performances. “When I stepped onto that stage, I felt liberated like I never knew I could be,” he says. “That was my first bite of the acting bug.” After that, Blain 20

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had roles in many plays. “Things happened to me by chance,” he says. “My girlfriend in high school was big into acting and dancing. I’d go to one of her rehearsals and I’d get sucked into a play for a month or two. My destiny was kind of chasing me.” When Blain was 19 years old, he accompanied his girlfriend to Orlando to audition for a modeling, dancing, and acting talent show. “I won every category I entered,” he says. One of 89 finalists from a pool of over 1,000 hopefuls, Blain won a scholarship to the New York Academy for Dramatic Arts. At the time, he was already enrolled at a university as a biology major, but he never questioned his decision to switch gears and move to the Big Apple. “Sometimes you’ve got to meet your destiny halfway,” he says. “I didn’t want to live my life wondering, What if?”

photo by Marc Hom/The CW ©2018 The CW Network, LLC.

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Madeleine Mantock as Macy Vaughn and Ser’Darius Blain as Galvin on the set of Charmed. Photo by Katie Yu/The CW ©2018 The CW Network, LLC.

“We take on some current issues that are very timely. And it’s diverse, which is probably what I’m the most proud of. Everyone deserves to see representations of themselves in the arts. In this show, art really does imitate life and I think that’s important.” Blain has appeared on TV shows such as NCIS, Shameless, and Chicago P.D. He’s also been in movies including Star Trek: Into Darkness. However, his role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which recently took home the 2018 Kids Choice Award for “Best Movie” has taken him to a whole new level of recognition and acclaim. “It’s been life-changing,” he says. In the movie, Blain plays one of four teenagers who are magically transported into the Jumanji video game and find themselves playing for their very lives. In the game, Blain’s avatar is played by Kevin Hart. Other cast members include Jack Black and Dwayne “The 22

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Rock” Johnson. “I’m still trying to wake up from this dream,” says Blain. “I’m still pinching myself. The movie exploded, more than I expected. Now, when I’m in the airport people stop me and ask, ‘What’s up Fridge?’ That’s cool.” Next year, Blain will appear in The Last Full Measure, playing the younger version of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Takoda. “Takoda is unknowingly leading his squad into a trap,” Blain explains. “It’s based on a true story about the bloodiest day of the Vietnam War, in 1966.” The movie is about an Air Force medic named William H. Pitsenbarger Jr. who died after choosing to

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remain on the battlefield and fight with his wounded comrades despite an opportunity to escape. Some 30 years later, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor, the first airman to do so posthumously. Blain says he was proud to be a part of the star-studded cast that includes Christopher Plummer, Diane Ladd, and Ed Harris, in addition to Jackson. “Samuel L. Jackson is someone I looked up to before I even started acting,” says Blain. “He’s iconic. He’s a classic. I’m so honored to share a character name with him.” In 2019, Blain will also appear in Against All Enemies with Kristen Stewart and Vince Vaughn. Like The Last Full Measure, Against All Enemies is also based on a true story. “It’s about the Civil Rights movement,” says Blain. “Kristen Stewart plays Jane Seberg, an actress and political activist. I play a Black Panther leader trying to get things under control during the L.A. Riots.” Blain acknowledges that both films are gritty and heavy hitting, challenging him as an actor. “I’m so grateful to have meaty roles like these that require me to really hunker down and work,” he says.


Fans needn’t wait until next year for more from Blain; they can watch him on the new Charmed every Sunday night. “It’s a reboot, but it stands on its own next to the original,” says Blain. “My character meets Macy Vaughn and shows her around the town. That’s when stuff starts getting a little weird.” Blain says he appreciates the way Charmed promotes the idea of women’s empowerment. “The original ushered in a new much-needed wave of strong female heroines that were willing to go to the end of the world to save it,” he says. “We take that theme and push the envelope. Ours is a little bit darker, but just as funny and witty. We take on some current issues that are very timely. And it’s diverse, which is probably what I’m the most proud of. Everyone deserves to see representations of themselves in the arts. In this show, art really does imitate life and I think that’s important.” For more information about Ser’Darius Blain, follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


November 16 - 18


Children’s Alley is presented by



#MiamiREADS | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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News Flash

Darcy Pattison

Pens a Monstrous New Picture Book by Melissa Fales

Everyone knows about Nessie, the legendary inhabitant of Scotland’s Loch Ness, but fewer have heard about the sea monster spotted off the coast of Nantucket in the summer of 1937. The news quickly spread across AP wires, alarming residents all across the nation. As it turns out, the whole affair was a hoax, a stunt designed to attract tourists to the island and promote the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Darcy Pattison, author of the new children’s book The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story, considers the Nantucket Sea Monster to be one of the most successful publicity stunts ever. “At the time, there was newspaper coverage of this story from Cape Cod to California, and we’re still talking about it today,” she says. The hysteria began on August 7, when Nantucket’s newspaper, The Inquirer and Mirror, published 24

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fisherman Bill Manville’s account of seeing a large sea creature rear its head a full 15 feet out of the water. Soon, other men came forward saying they saw it, too. Then large, unidentifiable footprints were found in the coastal sand. Each new account not only intensified the fears of island inhabitants, but also added credibility to the situation. Plus, adds Pattison, people assumed that if newspapers were printing these articles, the story must be true.

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It was estimated that the interest generated in Nantucket during the frenzy would have cost thousands in advertising dollars. According to Pattison, the sea monster balloon made its lone appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that year, while great pains were taken to prevent any suggestion that Macy’s Department Store had tried to profit from the hoax. Pattison has written a number of other books. Some have a similar, historical bent, such as her book POLLEN: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction, due out next spring. It’s about Charles Darwin and his long-standing theory about how the rare Madagascar Star Orchid is pollinated. The hoax was revealed 11 days later when a 300-pound inflated sea monster balloon was brought ashore on South Beach. The massive balloon was such an attraction and drew such crowds that it was re-inflated the next day so more people would have the chance to see it. The “eyewitnesses” had been in on the gag from the start and had fabricated their stories of a sea monster in the water. The Inquirer and Mirror had known it was a made-up story and had printed it anyway. In The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story, Pattison offers a timeline of events relating to the hoax, beginning with Tony Sarg designing a sea monster balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and discussing parade publicity ideas with the staff at Macy’s Department Store in New York City. “Someone suggested a sea monster sighting,” writes Pattison. Nantucket was the obvious choice for such a sighting because the founder of Macy’s Department Store, R.H. Macy, was born there and maintained a home there while Sarg, a puppeteer, designer, and painter, operated a curiosity shop on the island.

Pattison also delves into the realm of science fiction with her Blue Planets World Series. The premise revolves around an alien species who must relocate because their planet is imploding. Built with both lungs and gills, these aliens ask the humans to allow them to live in Earth’s seas. “At first you think, why would we say no?” says Pattison. “But it turns out, it’s not that easy. The reason they’re leaving their planet is because they messed with Mother Nature too much.” Pattison says the series touches on prominent timely issues. “I think it ties into the immigration situation we’ve seen,” says Pattison. “It also touches on a lot of environmental issues that are extremely relevant today.” However, Pattison sees The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story, as her most germane book to date in terms of today’s political climate and an effective way to teach children about one of the founding principles upon which America was built. “What I like most about this book is that it introduces the issue of freedom of the press,” says Pattison. “That’s something that’s

Pattison’s research shows that in March of 1937, prominent Nantucket citizens formed a publicity committee. “On paper, they were formed in order to take care of some advertising in magazines around the nation, but when you trace the names, most of the people involved in the publicity stunt were on that committee,” she says. For example, Gilbert Manter, the chairman of said publicity committee, was one of the “witnesses” who claimed to have seen the sea monster. Committee members convinced all local news outlets to go along with the elaborate plan. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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“It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or the right, you can still use this book as a tool to talk about the concept of fake news. It’s very neutral, and in today’s political climate, that’s valuable.” very important to me.” Pattison says she was thrilled to work with British illustrator Peter Willis. “He has a very unusual style using a technique called digital collage.” Readers will discover that although the idea of fake news is something often discussed lately, it’s nothing new. It’s always existed as an unfortunate side effect of a free press. Included in the reference materials at the end of the book are quotes by President Thomas Jefferson on the topic, a glossary, some talking points for adults to discuss with children, and links to the original newspaper article. The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story is a Junior Library Guild selection and was named a National Council of Teachers of English 2018 Notable Children’s Book. Pattison says teachers are using the book in classrooms to talk with children about the concept of fake news and how to identify it. Pattison says one of the strongest attributes of the book is that in addition to being very kid-friendly, it’s also non-political. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or the right, you can still use this book as a tool to talk about the concept of fake news,” says Pattison. “It’s very neutral, and in today’s political climate, that’s valuable.” For more information about Darcy Pattison and her books, visit


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High School

Muppet Project Focuses on Diversity and Tolerance by Carol Osman Brown photos courtesy of Stefanie Abbey

It’s amazing the magic a muppet can create when used to reach out with stories that can connect with teens. Visual arts teacher Stefanie Abbey and school librarian Eve Davis worked together on an innovative art program, the Muppet Project, at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety, 28

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located in a low-income area of Queens, NY. This small (less than 600 students), Title 1 public school works in collaboration with the New York City Police Department. “The students come in with very little to no art experience. So everything they do is all new and

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they often amaze themselves,” says Abbey, who was named High School Art Teacher of the Year for New York City in 2016. In addition to teaching the 9th grade required arts credits for graduation, she developed a graphics design class and supervised the yearbook production for six years. Davis, who served as librarian at the school for 15 years, partnered on writing the grant and the curriculum units of the project, as well as teaching lessons focusing on diversity. Their grant proposal produced an Ezra Jack Keats mini-grant that funded the project, whose theme is diversity and tolerance. Abbey says, “Muppets are the perfect vehicle for approaching the topic of diversity.” This ambitious project, held from last January to May, involved 100 students in Abbey’s classes throughout the day. After ordering all of the supplies the students would need for their muppets, Abbey began the project by taking the students on a field trip to the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. Excited teens had an opportunity to see more than 40 puppets, learn about Henson’s career, and see the behind-the-scenes process of producing The Muppet Show. Some of the students were a little apprehensive about the project. “When Ms. Abbey presented the muppet project to my class, I was both anxious and nervous,” says Mariah Williams. “The thought of creating my own muppet and designing it was very exciting, but I didn’t believe I would be able to stitch well or finish it.”

After the teens designed and cut patterns for their muppet, Abbey taught them to sew, which took about 25 days. Surprisingly, most of the students liked the sewing segment and many were surprised to see their muppet changing from its original design. “I began paying more attention to details and the looks of people in stores and on the street,” Seth Lewis recalls. “I saw different shapes of noses, ears, and eyes, so I kept changing things to make my muppet more diverse.”

“It fascinates me when these often troubled kids come to my class, and maybe they resist at first, but then they start to see that it is fun, and new, and they discover their own magic.” The students began to feel deadline pressure in the last 10 days, which were devoted to groups working on their muppet skits and videos. Abbey grouped them to produce skits within their own classes of mixed grade levels 9-12. She let groups choose to do either a small skit about diversity using the muppets and make a recording, or write a muppet rap video about diversity and perform and record it. These were | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


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shown to the other groups and later to the rest of the school population at an art and talent show. The muppets helped teens give voice to their own stories, which reflected their diverse backgrounds. “I was worried about my accent and if people would look at me weird or laugh,” says Danielle Barker, an immigrant who had to learn English. “But when I had my classmates with me working on the skit, it changed because they all accepted me for who I am and the way I speak.” Fifty students from Abbey’s classes completed their muppet project and the entire school embraced it.


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

“I think it’s because sewing the muppets gave the students something positive to focus on and to do with their hands during times of the day when students tend to get in trouble,” says Davis. “As a result, student behavior changed in a positive way.” Abbey says in her experience, she has found that very often, the special education and inclusion students work harder than the general education population, because they have more to prove, to themselves and others. “It fascinates me when these often troubled kids come to my class, and maybe they resist at first, but then they start to see that it is fun, and new, and they discover their own magic.”

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(CNW Group/DHX Television)

Ruby Jay to Portray Holly Hobbie in New Tween Series by Melissa Fales Holly Hobbie has had a major makeover. Forget those drawings of girls wearing long, old-fashioned dresses, aprons, and calico bonnets that appeared on greeting cards, lunchboxes, and toys of all kinds in the 1970s. In the new Hulu series, Holly Hobbie, Holly is a modern-day, 13-year-old singer/songwriter played by actress and singer, Ruby Jay. “The show is all about a young girl’s coming-of-age story,” says Jay. “Holly wants to make a change in the world but hits a few family, friend, and boy problems along the way.” 32

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Due to her age, Jay is unfettered by any memory of the outmoded Holly Hobbie. She says she’s delighted to have the opportunity to play the contemporary character and believes other girls will readily connect with her. “Honestly, I think that the best thing about playing Holly is how relatable she is,” says Jay. “I feel like I relate to her on a huge level because we are both young teens, we both love singing and creating music, and we both come across problems that rock our world a bit, as I’m sure most girls our age do. I feel so blessed and honored to be able to portray this character.”

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Jay has been in show business for almost as long as she can remember. “I have been doing musical theatre my entire life, well … since I was 5 years old,” says Jay. “It has always been my first love.” It all began when Jay first expressed an interest in it. Her mother uploaded a video of Jay singing her heart out in her school’s talent competition, which garnered some interest. “We got a few emails from agents and managers wanting to meet with me,” says Jay. “At first my mom didn’t know how to respond, but eventually I talked her into it.” Following her first stage role portraying an orphan in Annie, Jay honed her talent with roles such as the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz and Oliver Twist in Oliver! and eventually came full circle, starring as Annie in a later production of the beloved musical.

“Fun fact: I actually go pretty much everywhere with my ukulele so that if inspiration ever hits, I am ready. I also write songs. I write every single night before I go to sleep!” Beginning at age 10, Jay began appearing in TV commercials. She’s also acted in TV shows, including roles as Emma on Modern Family and as Winnie on Grey’s Anatomy. Now she’s adding Holly Hobbie to her résumé. “All were very exciting and very different roles,” says Jay. “I can’t wait to see what role I will be able to portray next!” For Jay, it’s a dream come true to get to do something she enjoys so much every day. “I love everything about acting, from the art of it, to the business, to the craft,” she says. “I love how actors have the chance to really put themselves in someone else’s shoes and become this made-up character while bringing it to life.” When she’s not acting, Jay keeps busy with her many other hobbies. “I love listening to songs, songwriting, crocheting, and, this one is going to really make me sound like a nerd but, doing school work and math problems,” she says. “Although, I am very proud to be a nerd.” Jay recognizes that her fame as a singer, actress, and Internet personality makes her a de facto role model for younger girls. “I feel so humbled to have young girls look up to me,” she says. “It’s an amazing honor, but also nerve-wracking to know that so many young

girls out there are possibly looking to me, or the character I am portraying, as a role model. It’s a lot of pressure.” When it comes to people Jay looks up to, she names two who particularly inspire her with the way they live their lives. “I would definitely say that one of my two role models is Hailee Steinfeld because of her work,” says Jay. “She effortlessly transitions from pop star to movie star! My other role model is Todrick Hall because of how comfortable he is in his own skin, and how open he is about expressing himself. Todrick has a huge impact on the music I write.” Jay has parlayed her exceptional musical theatre experience into a successful singing career. She boasts nearly half a million followers on Instagram and fans clamor to hear her covers of today’s latest hits, like Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” Jay says her acting career doesn’t compete with her musical career. In fact, she says, acting has helped to bolster it. “I really got serious with my music after I started acting,” she says. “I posted a 30-second clip of me singing on my Instagram and it went viral! It really made me see that I could take this wonderful gift that God has given me to both expresses myself and have fun!” Jay’s musical talent extends beyond her voice. “I play guitar, cello, and a tiny bit of piano, but my go-to instrument is the ukulele,” says Jay. “Fun fact: I actually go pretty much everywhere with my ukulele so that if inspiration ever hits, I am ready. I also write songs. I write every single night before I go to sleep!” Currently, Jay is putting the finishing touches on four original songs she’s excited to release. “I have two hopefully coming out by the end of October and two coming hopefully by the end of the year,” she says. “I hope people enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed making them.” For more information about Ruby Jay, find her on Instagram @iamRubyJay, Facebook @iamRubyJay, Twitter @iamRubyJay and at YouTube: Ruby Jay. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 | | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Dan Wyson Offers Valuable Lessons in New Children’s Book Series by Melissa Fales Wyson credits his father, Joseph, with instilling in him the valuable life lessons that have allowed him to attain success. After losing both of his parents by the age of five, Joseph was sent to an orphanage where he was provided food, shelter, and clothing, but little in terms of instruction on how to live. According to Wyson, his father never shook the feeling that his own achievement had been hindered by not having parents to teach him the ways of the world. “As an adult, he desired to write books for children that might help them learn some of the lessons of life he had missed out on as an orphan,” says Wyson. Although the children’s books Joseph envisioned were never published, Wyson honors his father’s memory by using the pen name he had chosen, Ule B. Wise.

In the 25 years he’s worked as a financial advisor, Dan Wyson has seen far too many examples of poor fiscal management. “I’ve spent my life teaching grownups how to save and invest money in order to retire responsibly,” he says. “I’ve had so many people come to me in their 40s and 50s after they’ve spent years spending money and having fun who say they want to retire in 10 years but they have no savings. They’re completely unprepared financially. It’s frustrating. So I decided to start reaching out to young people. We need to teach them financial principles that will help them become financially responsible adults. And it’s not just about money. There are basic principles they need to learn in order to be responsible in other areas of their life.” This desire to help younger generations develop the skills to be successful led Wyson to write his first children’s book, The Gold Egg. 36

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Writing The Gold Egg wasn’t too far of a stretch for Wyson, who has penned over 500 financial advice columns for the USA Today/Gannett network over the last 10 years. “I started this book 25 years ago,” says Wyson, adding that the idea came at a time when he was starting his own business in the middle of an economic recession. “A friend asked me why I was trying to start a business under such difficult circumstances,” recalls Wyson. “I told him that the gold eggs in life are usually found in the nest furthest out on the limb. Those who would have them must be willing to climb out after them, knowing that sometimes they may fall, but they’ll dust


themselves off and climb up again. The more I thought about that, the more I thought it would be a great idea for a children’s book. That became The Gold Egg. It’s the story of my life, my climb, and the reward I found when I got to the top of the tree.” The Gold Egg is written for children, but any age will benefit from its message and enjoy the illustrations, which were created by Wyson’s daughter, Jaimee Lee, a graphic artist with a career in the video game industry. The story begins with an old man telling a group of children that there’s a gold egg in a nest at the top of a nearby tree. Most of the kids ignore him. Only one boy, Devan, is determined enough to climb to the top of the tree to see if the story is true. He falls, and his progress is slow, but eventually he reaches the top. “When young Devan gets to the top of the tree, what he finds is not what he expected,” says Wyson. “What he finds is a great secret, known only to those willing to climb.”

big believer in the idea that you don’t teach down to children, you teach up to them. These books are an example of that. They’re designed to get kids thinking and you’ll be amazed with how insightful they can be.” The Gold Egg is the first in a dozen books planned in Wyson’s Ule B. Wise series. He’s recently finished the second, The Magic Violin, which will be released in early 2019. “I have a very long term goal to make a difference in the lives of children, and I have the benefit of not being dependent on financial success from book sales to do so,” says Wyson. Each of the books in the series will focus on a specific, universally-accepted concept, such as honesty, honor, and perseverance. “This series is about teaching good values to young people,” says Wyson. “It’s about giving them the tools they’ll need as they grow.” For more information about Dan Wyson and The Gold Egg, visit

“Kids can certainly read them on their own, but I believe the best education comes when parents, teachers, or another adult sits with a child to read together. My books are designed to create conversation.”

Wyson calls his books, “read with me” books because he hopes parents will take the time to read them with their children. “I write my books to teach,” he says. “Kids can certainly read them on their own, but I believe the best education comes when parents, teachers, or another adult sits with a child to read together. My books are designed to create conversation.” Time and time again, Wyson says he’s been amazed by how perceptive children are. “My books aren’t childish,” he says. “My dad was a | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 | | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Life of a Reader

If dinosaurs inspire kids to read, then I—and David Vozar, my creative partner at Scholastic Book Clubs— want to be dinosaurs.

I Don’t Want to Be a Dinosaur … or Do I? by Judy Newman I received the email I have been dreading. An invitation—and a request for my sweatshirt size—to the Scholastic Annual Dinosaur Luncheon. I love my job. And I truly appreciate that I have been working at Scholastic, in the Book Clubs Division, since 1993. But I have always been skeptical of becoming a member of this very special club, which is open only to Scholastic staff who have been with the company for 25 years! 40

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I don’t have anything against dinosaurs, but I never understood why any active, healthy, stillworking person would want to be a member of club named for an extinct species. I do love the fact that Scholastic celebrates employees with long tenure. It was just the association with extinction—being a dinosaur—that got to me. This all got me thinking … since dinosaurs play such an outsize role and are such vibrant and hugely popular characters in all kinds of children’s books—both

Life of a Reader

fiction and nonfiction—maybe in a way they aren’t truly extinct after all. Some of Scholastic Book Clubs’ most popular, perennial series feature dinosaurs: How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?, the latest book in the How Do Dinosaurs? series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague; Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Velociraptor, a favorite in the Who Would Win? series by Jerry Pallotta (Jerry visits more than 150 schools a year to help turn thousands of kids into avid readers!); What Was the Age of the Dinosaurs?, a nonfiction narrative by Megan Stine, illustrated by Greg Copeland in the What Was…? series. This summer, I was on vacation in Colorado when I met two brothers—Skyler and Jasper. They are two enthusiastic, huge—and I mean truly dino-sized— dinosaur experts. Over lunch, we peeled off from the less interesting adult conversation at the other end of the table, and Skyler and Jasper regaled me with an impressive number of dinosaur “fun facts.” Skyler explained to me that he had created his own dinosaur—the Platapusasussa—and that he continuously develops new findings about this dinosaur’s biology, habits, and habitat. He even drew me a picture of what his creature looks like! Through their parents, I contacted Skyler and Jasper to see if they could help me out with this column. They responded enthusiastically! Here are their Top Five Dinosaur Fun Facts: T. rex had the biggest teeth—they were each the size of a banana; Utah raptors were covered in feathers; Brachiosaurus weighed as much as four elephants; Giganotosaurus could swallow a person whole; Stegosaurus had the smallest brain (the size of a walnut) and they were the dumbest dinosaurs. I asked which dinosaurs were their favorite and Jasper said the raptor because “they were small and sneaky, they run fast, and they hunt in packs, like I would do.” Skyler’s is the Mesosaurus because he “loves the water like me.” When I asked why Jasper and Skyler loved dinosaurs so much, Jasper said, “There is lots of stuff to know about them and I’ve never seen them, and I like to learn about them.” Skyler said, “I like to do discoveries about them and what they looked like and what was strongest about them.” Of course, I also want to know which dinosaur books they love! They really enjoy Dinosaurs Love

Skyler (left) and Jasper (right) dig for fossils

Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort; My Big Dinosaur Book by Roger Priddy; and Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields and Scott Nash. At ages 6 and 4, Jasper and Skyler taught me a lot— much more even than the super Fun Fact that T. rex teeth are the size of bananas. These two brothers also showed me why dinosaurs matter so much: They capture kids’ imaginations in so many ways and inspire learning and creativity and true joy and interest in great books about their favorite subject, and there is nothing extinct about any of that. So Jasper and Skyler—along with Mark Teague and Jane Yolen and Jerry Pallotta and so many other fabulous authors and illustrators who bring dinosaurs to life through books—have adjusted my attitude. I am going to approach the Scholastic Dinosaur Luncheon (being held at our stunning, newly renovated, contemporary Scholastic offices this December) with enthusiasm. I will wear my new Scholastic Dinosaur Club sweatshirt with pride. And I will not worry about being extinct. In a way, we all want to be like dinosaurs: important role models in children’s lives who inspire kids to love to read and read to learn. I’m embracing my new “saurus” err, I mean, status. Because, at the end of the day, I will always be proud to be associated with anything that gets kids excited about reading.

Judy Newman is President and Reader-in-Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs. For more information, visit | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

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Celebrate the


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A Tuba Christmas There is no place for a tuba in the holiday concert, but with a little encouragement Ava finds a place for herself and her tuba in a special holiday celebration.

Hanukkah Hamster During the holidays, Edgar finds a hamster in the back of his cab and forms a new friendship that will tug on readers’ heartstrings. | 480-940-8182 866-918-3956 | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Holiday Gift Guide



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.

C is for Christmas

by Michelle Medlock Adams

A is for Angels, B is for Birthday, C is for Christmas! Celebrate the reason for the season from A to Z! Award-winning and best-selling author Michelle Medlock Adams ties the tale of the very first Christmas to the traditions of today. A new spin on a 2,000-year-old tale, C is for Christmas is a delightful read-aloud that is sure to quickly become a family favorite. 

How Do You Catch a Horned Mangru? by Michael Tenniswood

Young Billy has an amazing story to tell his friends—how he cornered and captured a Horned Mangru. What is a Horned Mangru and where does it live? How did he capture it? And will his friends even believe him? This charming story told in lively rhymes will delight and entertain children and parents alike, and if you want to catch one of those creatures yourself, it turns out, a Horned Mangru may be closer than you think!

Cowgirl Christmas by Rae Rankin

“Tonight we gather to spread Christmas cheer, to family and friends and all we hold dear.” Join your favorite cowgirl, her special horse Duchess, family, and friends as they share the joy and magic of the Christmas season with their community. Cowgirl Christmas is the perfect gift to wrap up and place under your tree for your favorite bookworm. Recommended for ages 2 and up!

Festeva’s Holiday Cheer by Molly McCluskey-Shipman

What happens when the world is overwhelmed and sad? If you’re Eva, a normal dog by day, you turn into Festeva and begin an adventure of spreading holiday cheer! Join Festeva as she makes her way through the day and helps the humans she encounters feel the holiday spirit. Available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Liftbridge Publishing. 44

Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

Holiday Gift Guide

The Adventures of Camellia N.: The Rainforest by Debra L. Wideroe

Journey with pint-size explorer, Camellia N. into the lush rainforest, one of the most important habitats on Earth, filled with wildlife and awesome ecosystems. The Adventures of Camellia N. book series takes children on expeditions to all seven continents, under the sea, and into space where they learn about and gain appreciation for the environment, wildlife, and natural resources. This book series not only educates and entertains, but encourages children to become global ambassadors.

Rosie and Friends: One-Of-A-Kindness by Helen Hipp

In Helen Hipp’s latest adventure, One-Of-A-Kindness, Rosie and friends embark on a new safari with Hornsby the rhino as he comes face-to-face with losing his sense of belonging. No longer accepted by his herd, Hornsby searches for companionship. With the help of his new buddies, Hornsby learns that his life is one of a kind, and that spreading his kindness is a good way to make new friends! Find out what happens here:

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

The anxiety of finding one’s own place and friends in kindergarten without the comfort of having her fraternal twin sister nearby at first overwhelms Dee. Until she realizes even with her twin sister, Dee and her classmates for the most part are in the same boat. Donna McDine writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet of Tappan, NY. Visit McDine at

A Very Squeaky Mystery

by Laura Angelina and Randy Williamson

Is it a mouse … or a bat … or a sandwich-stealing monster? A Very Squeaky Mystery tells the story of the summer vacation of two curious twins, Kevin and Scott. Learn about their creative strategies to solve the mystery of the cabin in the mountains. What is making that squeaky noise? And why are things disappearing from the kitchen? That’s what the twins are going to find out!

Mirror, Mirror

by Barbara J. Freeman

Mirror, Mirror by Barbara J. Freeman, a former educator and counselor, raises the level of self-esteem and promotes levels of confidence for young readers by showing them that beauty comes in all colors! This dynamic, motivating book was awarded a silver medal in the 2018 Moonbeam Awards in the category of Mind, Body, Soul/ Self-Esteem. Mirror, Mirror is the perfect gift for lifting young spirits!

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. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Holiday Gift Guide

If You Don’t Take a Bath by Sally Hutchins Willett

What if a child decided not to bathe? This delightful story of the “serious” consequences of not taking a bath will have you laughing and children giggling! From head to toe, this book with its creative illustrations will clearly demonstrate that bluebirds could nest in your hair and roses that might grow between your toes if bathing is forsaken. It will surely be remembered and quoted during bath time rituals! 2017 Royal Dragonfly Award—First Place for Children’s Picture Books

Spivey’s Web

by Sandra Warren

This holiday story in disguise is sure to delight lovers of the Christmas Nativity Story. Barn spider Spivey is tired of spinning ho-hum barn spider webs, so she retreats to a window high above the barn loft to spin a web of her own design. Even she is surprised when her new web catches the light from the Star of Bethlehem and calms a very special baby lying in a manger far below.

Odonata: The Flying Jewel of Maiden Grass Pond by Barbara Gervais Ciancimino

No one will play with Odonata because he is different. To make matters worse, a humongous Blue Hawker dragonfly has been going out of his way to be cruel to him. Living on the pond hasn’t been going very well for Odonata, until one rainy afternoon, when everything changes... Odonata’s story has encouraged discussions among children and adults about the importance of respecting each other’s differences, and how kindness is a much better alternative to bullying.

Bacon’s Big Smooching Adventure by Olivia Johnson

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

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest: The Diamond Mine by Maggie van Galen

Moms love presents made by their kids! Keeno, a mischievous monkey, learns this lesson in the heartwarming story about two friends navigating life in the jungle. Give the gift of friendship and family values this holiday season! Learn about all of Keeno and Ernest’s adventures in the series and order online at Use the keyword “StoryMonsters” to save 10% on any order placed through the website! Offer valid through December 31, 2017.

Dinosaurs Living in My Hair Holiday Bundle by Jayne M. Rose-Vallee

Dinosaurs Living in My Hair 1 & 2 offers the Holiday Bundle! Both books for $30. Add our educational DLIMH Coloring Book to the Mix for $45. Great Gift for Kids 9 Years and younger. Bundles only available at Single books are available on Amazon and B&N Online. Kids love the imaginative play with dinosaurs living in curly hair, Anni Matsick’s amazing watercolor illustrations, and fun rhymes.


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

Holiday Gift Guide

Ricky and the Grim Wrapper by Allen L. Pier

Ricky is a good boy with a bad habit: he likes to litter. But one day when he throws an empty root beer cup out the car window, he is catapulted into a strange and frightening world where litter comes to life and gathers along the roadside. Will he finally learn that littering is bad for the environment and change his ways and will he ever make it back to the real world? 2018 Story Monster Approved winner!

I See the Sun series by Satya House

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

Dilby R. Dixon’s the Time Dreamer by Tony J. Perri

The second book in the Dilby R. Dixon’s series presents Dilby with all new challenges. He already knows he’s someone special having stood up to Riley Rogers, the school bully. He has also created The Dilbonary, a secret journal of weird words, traveled to many amazing worlds, and he’s finally become a cool kid. Now Dilby will be brought to the ultimate world, to a city called Riseanfall, where he will learn the truth of who he really is and what he can do with the special gifts he has been given.

She Started It All by Sandra Warren

Two eighth-grade students are at odds over a WWII assignment when the boy is assigned U.S. War Bonds & Stamps while the girl is given a WWII Aircraft. Neither could have predicted how these unwanted assignments would bring them together, solve a mystery, and make history in the process. Middle-grade historical fiction based on, We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway.

Dancing With The Pen II Edited by Dallas Woodburn

Dancing With The Pen II features the work of more than 60 young writers in elementary school, middle school, and high school. What makes this book truly unique is it was written entirely by kids and teenagers hailing from all across the United States. The themes and situations explored transcend hometowns, backgrounds, and cultures—they are familiar to us all. This is a one-of-a-kind book for young writers, young readers, and the young at heart.

Secret Scouts and the Lost Leonardo by Dennis Kind, Wendel Kind

Secret Scouts is a new fact-fiction children’s book series about history, friendship, mystery and adventure! When four best friends stumble upon an original manuscript of never before seen writings from Leonardo da Vinci, they are faced with an impossible choice: reveal their secret and become rich or put the extraordinary ideas to the test. Join them on their exciting journey where they risk their lives, and worse, being lost in time.

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. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Monsters at the Movies

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Reviewed by Nick Spake

GRADE: B There was a time when audiences could easily distinguish a G-rated movie from a PG-rated movie. Nowadays, however, it seems like every familyfriendly movie is lazily slapped with a PG rating. Maybe this is a marketing ploy to let older viewers know there’s something more adult in the movie for them. Still, do films like Moana, Coco, and My Little Pony: The Movie really warrant “Parental Guidance,” especially when you stack them up against the likes of Gremlins, The Dark Crystal, or Raiders of the Lost Ark? The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family film that actually warrants its PG rating, though, with a creepy ambiance and gothic visuals. Of course considering that director Eli Roth is best known for making hard-R horror movies, this is easily his most restrained outing. Owen Vaccaro plays Lewis Barnavelt, a precocious misfit who loses his parents against the backdrop of 1955. Jack Black continues his streak of goofy Halloween movies, going from playing R.L. Stine in Goosebumps to playing Lewis’ Uncle Jonathan. Cate Blanchett spends most of the film draped in purple as Florence Zimmerman, Jonathan’s neighbor who insists they merely have a platonic relationship, despite the fact that they speak to each other like an old married couple. When Lewis goes to live with his estranged uncle, it doesn’t take long for him to figure out that Jonathan is a warlock and Mrs. Zimmerman is a witch. They’ve been looking for a clock with 48

Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

extraordinary powers hidden somewhere in the house. Their greatest threat is an evil warlock named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), who might’ve found a way to control the clock from beyond the grave. The chemistry between Vaccaro, Black, and Blanchett is simply wonderful. The family dynamic they share is far from conventional, but that’s part of what makes their rapport so charming and strangely authentic. Blanchett in particular strikes just the right balance of taking her role seriously while still having a ball with the wacky material. The same can be said about her performance as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Perhaps the most engaging character of all is the house itself, which is like Hogwarts if you throw in the living furniture from Beauty and the Beast or Peewee’s Playhouse. This makes leeway for some of the film’s most inventive visual gags, as well as its more menacing imagery. 

Monsters at the Movies

While the performances, production design, and dark sense of humor accumulate to a fun film, The House with a Clock in Its Walls isn’t without a few narrative issues. There’s a moment in the middle of the movie where Lewis makes a decision that comes off as incredibly forced, out of character, and just plain stupid. Although this doesn’t derail the entire story, it’s hard not to grow frustrated with Lewis during this portion of the film. After all, isn’t he supposed to be a smart kid? It doesn’t help that his poor choices inevitably build to a drawn-out sequence where we’re led to believe all hope is lost, but obviously everything is going to work out in the end. As annoying as these clichés can be, the film does regain momentum once we get a good look at MacLachlan in full makeup as Izard. This is where the movie earns its PG rating, producing plenty of spinechilling moments while still maintaining a sense of whimsy. Granted, the creepy factor doesn’t quite reach the heights of ’80s movies like Return to Oz or even some more modern kids’ films like Coraline. There are times where you wish the filmmakers took the more disturbing ideas one step further, but the movie still

has enough of an edge to stand out. For kids who appreciate a good dose of darkness every now and then, The House with a Clock in Its Walls will give them the most pleasant of nightmares.

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:


2018 Bronze Award, Best Series, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards For preschool children ages 2-5 this series helps kids understand unfamiliar situations. Each story is told through the eyes of their best friend, a “lovey” blanket. ISBN: 978-1-943258-33-8 ISBN: 78-1-943258-57-4

Available through Ingram Wholesale Distribution, or with a 43% discount through Warren Publishing.

704.900.0236 | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |


Secret Scouts is an epic new adventure series to get lost in! Four friends discover an incredible secret, one that presents them with an impossible choice… “The season’s coolest children’s book.” —ELLE “A page-turner!” —movie director Jan de Bont (Speed - Lara Croft Tomb Raider - Minority Report) “A Dan Brown for children. Secret Scouts is the kind of gripping adventure every teenager would love to experience.” —Elsevier #1 bestseller in the Children’s & YA category on (Dutch equivalent of Amazon) “Combination of humor and scary… really exciting and REALLY makes you want to read on!” —Lise, 10, Ainsworth Elementary School, Portland, OR

“Kept me on the edge of my seat, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.” —Alex, 11, Sierra Elementary School, Rocklin, CA

The bestselling Dutch series comes to the U.S.

Watch the exciting book trailer on now! Secret Scouts and The Lost Leonardo (part 1) ISBN: 978-9082875607 Pages: 300 / Images: 10 Hardcover: 16.99 / Ebook: 12.99 Ages: 10-16 | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews


What If Dinosaurs Were Pink?

by Jarrett Whitlow, Daniela Dogliani (Warren Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Many great discoveries may have started with those small, but powerful words, “What if?” They are words that provoke thought, stir imagination, and often push us to greatness. Or, maybe just provide us with moments to giggle and wonder. What If Dinosaurs Were Pink? opens possibilities, and encourages us to go beyond the common and wonder. (Ages 2-8)

Made For Me

by Zack Bush, Gregorio De Lauretis (Familius) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This tremendously sweet book will fill every empty space it finds. Love and a sense of belonging flow on every rhythmic word like a cool brook satisfies on a warm summer day. Illustrations by De Lauretis bring this loving father’s heart into full vivid view. It’s simply delightful. The stamp on the inside cover is a very special touch. (Ages 3-5)

The Best Mother

by C. M. Surrisi, Diane Goode (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Julianne Black

Maxine is convinced that the problem is with her mother. The answer is, of course, to find a new mom— one who doesn’t bother her with hair brushing and would let her wear her slippers in the snow. But as she interviews other moms for the position, a funny thing starts to happen … she realizes that her mom just might be the best one after all. Loveable read for all ages. (Ages 3-7)

Nanna’s Button Tin

by Dianne Wolfer, Heather Potter (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Life is captured in moments and held in stories. And who better than Grandma to rehearse them through time? Nanna’s special button tin holds treasures from that past that just may hold the answer to today’s problem. The illustrations of Heather Potter are as heartwarming as the tale of this child and her grandma, sorting through memories and tokens past to refresh childhood treasures of the present. Bonding at its best! (Ages 4-6)

Hello, Monster!

by Clémentine Beauvais, Maisie Paradise Shearring (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a great exercise of imagination! Its creativity and delightful rambling are sure to be a winner. It also carries a humorous and enlightening perspective of child vs. adult playground meetings. It’s quite an entertaining tale. (Ages 4-7)


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

Book Reviews

Thank You, Omu!

by Oge Mora (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

A giving heart is never left lacking. Omu’s stew smells so good! As it cooks, the wonderful aroma fills the air and brings many in search of a taste. Omu’s preparation for her own dinner brings much pleasure to a parade of visitors, leaving her big pot empty at dinnertime. However, as she sits at her table, another knock comes, and all her guests return bearing ample treats to share. A heartwarming story of sharing and community. (Ages 4-7)

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant Of Surprise by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This story is sure to delight ALL its readers! Especially those who have held such wonderfully unforgettable conversations with a child. Chicken has misunderstood her teacher’s comment, “Every good story has an element of surprise,” and she searches for him with pure joy as Papa reads. The illustrations are fun and lively. Whatever stage of life we may occupy, this book is sure to delight! (Ages 4-8)

Lester, The Scared Little Leaf

by Nina Gardner (Certa Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Letting go and fear of the unknown can have crippling effects. Fall has arrived with all its beauty and changes. Chuckles of splendor can be heard in the air as leaves let go of their tree and soar in the breeze. But, Lester clings tighter to his branch with a fear of falling. What if he doesn’t like it on the ground? His friends assure him of the joy that’s ahead of him as he watches them sail with laughter filling the air. Can Lester let go of the life he knows so well? Can he find the excitement of change? This is a great confidence-builder as we follow this tender leaf into the exhilaration of newness. (Ages 4-8)

Super Manny Stands Up!

by Kelly DiPucchio, Stephanie Graegin (Atheneum Books) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Author Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Stephanie Graegin unveil their brilliant picture book with a super-sized lesson, showing a raccoon that remembers he is strong, brave, and powerful at just the right moment. Super Manny Stands Up! is written to let all readers know that they have their own superpower within themselves. Rather than being a bystander when seeing injustice, they can don their invisible cape like Manny the raccoon and remind themselves that their voice can make a huge difference in a difficult situation. This story is a reminder that one person can make a world of difference in the lives of others. (Ages 4-8)   

I Love Kisses

by Sheryl McFarlane, Brenna Vaughan (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

Sheryl McFarlane and Brenna Vaughan shower readers with affection with their story I Love Kisses. This adorable picture book is a sweet story to read with a little one. Kisses from our pets included, youngsters will hear about lots of different kinds of kisses from the ones who love them. Children can gift this book to a parent or grandparent as a reminder that they appreciate having them in their lives. (Ages 4-8)

My Grandfather’s War

by Glyn Harper, Jenny Cooper (EK Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

This story bridges the chasm that separates young and old, and reminds us of the precious sacrifices that secure our freedom, and the aftermath of war. As a young girl innocently seeks answers to her grandfather’s grief, she unknowingly opens old wounds and discovers his sadness is a legacy of the Vietnam War and his experiences there. This is a sensitive exploration of the lingering cost of war and of the PTSD so many returned servicemen experience. (Ages 4-8) | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

A Tuba Christmas

by Helen L. Wilbur, Mary Reaves Uhles (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

There is so much goodness packed in these pages. My delight doesn’t know which one to address. The empowerment of Ava’s self-declaration, the hardships she must overcome to achieve it, the pure joy of success, or the history of a tuba concert and the fun and amazing facts about the tuba itself? There is just so much to enjoy in the story. And the illustrations are just as fun and lively as the content they express. (Ages 5-7)

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich

by Linda Vander Heyden, Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Julianne Black

Hannah’s Tall Order is delicious fun for parents and children alike! Adorable illustrations pull you through the sing-song storytelling at a comfortable pace while your audience is entranced by its goofy details. The mess, the wear and tear on poor Mr. McDougal, and the craziness of the food combinations are wonderfully amusing. This is among my top picks for read-aloud books this school year! (Ages 5-7)

The Things That I Love about Trees

by Chris Butterworth, Charlotte Voake (Candlewick) Reviewer: Julianne Black

Teachers rejoice! Here is a beautiful, fun, and factual book about trees that will be a treasured addition to an art or science room. From spring to winter, The Things I Love about Trees places quiet little tree factoids along the storyline for an information double dose, cleverly wrapped in soft illustration. This showcase of buds to bark makes a wonderful gift for nature lovers of any age. (Ages 5-8)

The Lying King

by Alex Beard (Greenleaf Book Group Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a quality book all the way around. Its large size, bright color, and solid binding gives an assurance it will be around for a while. And its timeless tale we’ll never outgrow. Foundation blocks that build successful lives are often found in childhood stories. This simple, well-rounded story gives full view to the multilayered effects and outcomes of liars, bullies, and those who would misuse privilege and authority, while enforcing the strength of unity sufficient to overthrow it. (Ages 6-9)

The Boy Who Sprouted Antlers

by John Yeoman, Quentin Blake (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This extravagantly fanciful tale brings two conflicting thoughts to mind with great hilarity. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it, but at the same time, be careful what you wish for! Great story for an encouraging good laugh! (Ages 6-9)

EZ and the Intangibles

by Bob Katz (Fitzroy Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Ethan “EZ” Zanay loves the sport of basketball and it’s really unfortunate he’s so darn bad at it. When he makes an embarrassing mistake in front of his teammates, EZ finally decides to call it quits. But he still clings to the fantasy that somehow, he might yet turn into that unheralded player who surprises everyone by coming through in the clutch. His best shot at a comeback is to specialize in those subtle moves and unseen maneuvers that don’t show up in the standard stat sheets. This story will inspire kids like Ethan, who don’t excel at sports and yet want to make their parents proud. I really love how Ethan found a great solution to make himself an important part of the team. (Ages 7-12)


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

Book Reviews

Through the Barbed Wire (A Wild at Heart Mystery)

by Isabella Allen, Cynthia Meadows (Brown Books Kids) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

This new mystery series will be rubbing elbows with some pretty elite writers in this genre. The author’s fresh approach to the story’s wild child heroine brings a fascinating appeal. We are welcomed in to explore the vastness of a sprawling land, and the heart of a young girl who loves it. She knows every inch of it, and every critter and creature she shares it with. It’s there where she feels most alive. And someone wants to take it from her. Can she find out whom? Can she save her land and preserve the beauty of her wildness? It’s worth the read to find out! (Ages 8-12)

The House with Chicken Legs

by Sophie Anderson (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Macaulay Smith, age 7

The House with Chicken Legs is one of the most creative books I have ever read! I can relate to the main character Marinka, even though she is 12 and I am only 7. Like me, Marinka is an only child so she does not have other kids at home to play with. Unlike me, her house has chicken legs that take her all over the world at a moment’s notice, which makes it pretty tough to make friends. In my family, we move every three years; Marinka sometimes moves three times a year! But when Marinka does finally get the chance to make a real-life friend, that is when the book really gets interesting! She must go on a mysterious journey into the afterlife to try and save her grandma, and she will need all the friends she has if she is going to succeed. If you like to use your imagination, then this is the book for you. (Ages 8-12)

The Third Mushroom

by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

The Third Mushroom is a playful book that also teaches important life lessons. Ellie has a passion for science and convinces her grandpa Melvin (a famous scientist in a 14-year-old boy’s body) to do science experiments with her at the county fair. I really liked that the book includes Mellie’s Gallery of Scientists that gives you facts about notable scientists, what they achieved, invented, a little about their childhood as well as a quote. (Ages 8-12)

Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake!

by Deanna F. Cook (Storey Publishing) Reviewers: Sherry and Jocelyn Hoffman

Baking Class is a complete compilation of over 50 child-friendly recipes equipped with stickers, stencils, and gift tags to encourage creativity. Step-by-step instruction with pictures and descriptions make this recipe book user-friendly, especially for beginners and visual learners. The setup is so welcoming, and the helpful advice incorporated throughout seems to elicit a feeling as if a good friend is right there walking the reader through each recipe. Deanna F. Cook has stirred up another delicious recipe of fun with this book. (Ages 8-12)

The Lotterys More or Less

by Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono (Arthur A. Levine Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Sumac Lottery is the keeper of her family’s traditions—from Pow Wow to Holi, Carnival to Hogmanay, Sumac’s on guard to make sure that no Lottery celebration gets forgotten. But this winter all Sumac’s seasonal plans go awry when a Brazilian visitor overstays his welcome. A terrible ice storm grounds all flights, so one of her dads and her favorite brother can’t make it home from India. Can Sumac hang on to the spirit of the season, even if nothing is going like a Lottery holiday should? This is a great lesson that shows sometimes you must try many ideas before you finally find the one that solves your problem. Kids will love this story. (Ages 8-12) | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink


Book Reviews

Short & Skinny

by Mark Tatulli (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Diana Perry

As a middle schooler, Mark finds himself on the smaller side of the physical spectrum and it has really wreaked havoc on his confidence. So to end his bullying woes and get the girl—or at least the confidence to talk to the girl—he starts to explore bulking up by way of the miracle cures in the backs of his comic books. But his obsession with beefing up is soon derailed by a new obsession: Star Wars, the hottest thing to hit the summer of 1977. As he explores his creative outlets as well as his cures to body image woes, Mark sets out to make his own stamp on the film that he loves. This is a wonderful book to inspire kids who feel left out and long to fit in and feel special. It teaches that the answer to this dilemma is closer than you think. (Ages 9-12)

Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee

by Stacie Haas (Melody Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry

As the Civil War rages, 15-year-old Thomas Beck longs to fight for his country. He’s underage, but his brother claims there’s another reason he can’t fight: There’s no such thing as a Chinese Yankee. Assumed a slave because of his odd appearance—including his traditional Chinese queue (long braid), Thomas soon discovers that giving battle with his regiment isn’t enough to shed the Chinese label from his Yankee status. It’s not until Thomas befriends a runaway slave and the war moves toward a pivotal moment in Gettysburg that he begins to understand the true meaning of freedom in America. Young readers need to know this story and how our country, once divided, became the strong nation it is today. (Ages 10+)

The Reckless Club

by Beth Vrabel (Running Kids Press) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11

The Reckless Club is a book about five middle schoolers who spend their last day of summer before school starts volunteering at Northbrook Retirement Village as a punishment from their principal. This very diverse group includes Jason (the nobody), Lilith (the drama queen), Wes (the flirt), Ally (the athlete), and Rex (the rebel), who come together and learn a lot about compassion, the meaning of friendship, the aging process and how to get along. I really loved the letter from the principal in the front of the book as well as the letter from the five kids at the end. The Reckless Club is filled with heart and humor. (Ages 10-14)

Curse of the Komodo

by M. C. Berkhousen (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Luke and Austin Brockway can’t seem to stop arguing. Luke says he’d rather have a grizzly bear for a brother and Austin would prefer a Komodo dragon. While on a school trip to the zoo, a violent storm creates chaos in the atmosphere and their wishes are granted! Luke can’t eat the frozen rats he gets for supper, and Austin is scared of his 700-pound roommates. A mean guard with a temper and a cattle prod adds to their misery. They soon learn that they are victims of an old family curse that can’t be undone until the next violent storm. Until then, they must help each other survive. This is the ultimate field trip nightmare ... and young readers will be most entertained. (Ages 10-14)

Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure by Christine Keleny (CKBooks Publishing) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Set in 1961, during a time of the Cold War and space race. But that isn’t on 12-year-old Agnes’ radar. Her dad has died and during a trip with her grandmother to Istanbul, she accidentally finds out it was under “suspicious” circumstances, but that’s just the beginning. I really enjoyed the letter from Agnes that teaches readers definitions of many of the words and phrases used in the book. True to its title, this book was very intriguing. A great bedtime read. (Ages 10-14)


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

Book Reviews

Nate Expectations

by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster) Reviewer: Diana Perry

When the news hits that E.T.: The Musical wasn’t nominated for a single Tony Award, the show closes, leaving Nate both out of luck and out of a job. And while Nate’s castmates are eager to move on, Nate knows it’s back to square one, also known as Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Where horror—aka high school— awaits. Desperate to turn his life from flop to fabulous, Nate takes on a huge freshman English project: He’s going to make a musical out of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. But he soon realizes the only thing harder than being on Broadway is being a freshman—especially when you’ve got a secret you’re desperate to sing out about. This story teaches young readers how to be problem solvers and to utilize their talents. A very entertaining book. (Ages 10-14)

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

by Cheryl Carpinello (Beyond Today Educator) Reviewer: Diana Perry

Guinevere and Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle. Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle. Renegades—foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess—steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger. Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice? This story has everything a young reader wants: action, adventure, tests of bravery and friendship, magic, and so many twists and turns. It is quite an adventure! (Ages 10-14)

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


Teaching Toolbox

Teaching Toolbox:

Thankful Thinkers by Larissa Juliano

Social Emotional Learning and Gratitude. These are concepts that are becoming more and more prevalent in our schools and in our children’s ears and hearts. Staying in the present moment, practicing gratitude, and soaking in our world and emotions just as they are. Finding coping skills when we are stressed or frustrated while being healthy, uplifting and recharging ourselves mentally, rather than escaping with electronics, bad habits, or built-up resentments is an absolute must. Children need to feel safe, nurtured, and loved in order to put forth their best performance with academics. And many of these children have social and emotional needs that aren’t met at home. As teachers, we have the incredible privilege to tap into these little one’s hearts, teach them life lessons, and provide inspiration to overcome or cope with tough circumstances. The world will always be a better place when we practice kind and caring behavior and gratitude and appreciation for the things in life we do have. How can we show examples of this in our classrooms with our youngest learners? I am not an expert in this area—many professionals are getting trained in exactly this practice of mindfulness for students and bringing their expertise and techniques into the classroom—but I am privy to some wonderful things happening in our school district, my children’s 58

Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

classrooms, and implementing some social emotional lessons and discussions with my sweet kindergartners. In light of our November issue, some of these book recommendations will steer towards thankfulness and gratitude, but are generally wonderful books for tuning into what we have in our lives that feels right and special. There is some wonderful literature that has the theme of gratitude, appreciating people for who they are, and exploring characters’ feelings and habits while they very much do appreciate the moment. These are great conversation starters for kids, and I especially like invoking this conversation during a part of the day called “Peace Circle” or “Caring Sharing Bear Time.” Here are a few books that would be really wonderful read-alouds to spark conversation with students about kindness, taking care of each other, empathy, and feeling grateful for what we have: Trampoline Boy by Nan Forler and Marion Arbona Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes and Cozbi A. Cabrera Otis Gives Thanks by Loren Long Did I ever tell you how lucky you are? by Dr. Seuss Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Teaching Toolbox

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli and Archie Preston Today by Julie Morstad All the World by Liz Garton Scanion and Marla Frazee Oliver by Birgitta Sif A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead Today I Feel… by Madalena Moniz

Sharing Caring Bear is one of my favorite times

of day with my young students (and easily adaptable to any kind of treasured stuffed animal from home with your little ones). We pass this bear around and share our thoughts on different topics, our feelings, responses to stories, weekend plans, and things we are grateful for. Something about holding and squeezing the snuggly bear while they share allows them to feel a bit less vulnerable and more comfortable to talk about what is on their mind. It also reinforces listening and tuning into others’ feelings. This is something I’ve done with many different grade levels. No one is put on the spot, and they can always say, “I’d like to take a pass Mrs. Juliano.” Saying that alone is taking a risk and I’m proud of any kind of participation.

Showing Examples I love holding up student work and talking about what I notice and feel proud about their particular project, picture, or creation. No one feels slighted, because they know that I love and care for each and every one of them and I am simply talking about one student in that

moment. It is a low-key but powerful gesture to show them what I am grateful for in regards to their hard work. Encouragement and appreciation are ignited as students admire their classmates’ work, and try harder with their own writing and coloring tools.

Thankful Feast There are lots of regulations on food sharing and prep due to so many student allergies, but per parent and administration permission, consider having a thankful food feast! Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and more can provide our students with a true family-style eating experience. Plus special memories are made when students clink juice boxes with their classmates while trying new foods, applying their manners, and socializing. I am always very fortunate to have room moms who help in this area—preparing foods that are allergen free and taking photos of our little turkeys sampling their thankful feast potluck. What are your favorite gratitude, thankfulness, and social emotional teaching books? Which stories tug at your students’ heartstrings? Or belong in every teacher’s friendship book box? How do you teach empathy and gratitude during your school day? Share your thoughts using the hashtags #storymonsters #kindnessrocks and #teachingtoolbox.

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


Liv on Life

We Have to STOP Bullying!

Bullying is such a powerful word that has so many meanings. Oftentimes, the most common meaning is when someone is unkind to someone else, and is repeatedly treating someone without respect and regard for their feelings. An example I observed of a bully is as follows: My friend Mimi wore a hat to school that she knitted herself. She was so excited to wear her new hat because it took her hours to make. She got to pick out the exact colors and feel of the yarn she wanted to use. Mimi had told me she was learning to knit and was really excited about it. I got to school and noticed her new hat. I thought it was great. Sarah and her friend just looked at Mimi wearing the hat and they both burst into a fit of giggles. I observed this and was very upset. I was angry about how mean they were and sad about how my friend felt. I started to say something to them, which was, “Why would you do that? “How could you…?” But just then I


Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |

by Olivia Amiri noticed my friend running into the bathroom crying. I ran after her, knowing I would deal with them later. In this situation, there were four people. My friend was the victim. I was the ally. Sarah was the bully and her friend was the bystander. In my opinion being a bystander is the same if not worse than being a bully. An ally is the person who stands up for the person whose feelings are getting hurt. We need more allies in this world. More people who will stand up and help someone who might be afraid, shy, or scared to use their voice. Be an ALLY 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. | November 2018 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | November 2018 |


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Story Monsters Ink November 2018  


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