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February 2019

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents


Taylor MOxey Inspires Kids to Dream Big

Rachael MacFarlane Breaks Gender Barriers with New Picture Book


Scott and Laura Jordan ONE TO WATCH

Paxton Booth Jim Petipas

Creates an Udderly Entertaining Book Series

James Patterson

Teach Kids Kindness

Alan Silberberg Introduces Little Readers to Some Silly Spuds

Angela DiTerlizzi Adds a Sparkle to the KidLit Scene

Ashshahid Muhammad Motivates Students to Stay on Track

Judy Newman

Chapter and Versus

Teaching Toolbox

Alphabet Fun Q&A

Middle Grade Explained

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Linda F. Radke


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

Special ContributorS Judy Newman James Patterson


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Cover and interior images of Taylor Moxey courtesy of Taylor Moxey LLC Story Monsters Ink magazine and are trademarks of Story Monsters, LLC. Copyright ©2019 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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 | February 2019 |

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Honor Roll Gold Award Recipient, Mom’s Choice Awards. 2018 Irwin Award winner for “Best Magazine Writer of the Year.” 2016 Irwin Award winner for “Best Publisher of a Literary Magazine” and “Best Editorial Director.”


in this issue ... Features 24 Ashshahid Muhammad

Motivates Students to Stay on Track

34 Ones to Read: Scott and Laura Jordan

Columns 14 James Patterson Teach Kids Kindness

30 Judy Newman

Chapter and Versus


52 Monsters at the Movies

38 One to Watch: Paxton Booth

04 Taylor Moxey

Inspires Kids to Dream Big

Breaks Gender Barriers with New Picture Book

16 Alan Silberberg

54 Liv on Life

What is Your Favorite Chore?

42 Jim Petipas

Creates an Udderly Entertaining Book Series

10 Rachael MacFarlane

The Kid Who Would Be King

46 Q&A: Middle Grade Explained

Resources 56 WINTER Reading GUIDE 62 Book Reviews

Introduces Little Readers to Some Silly Spuds Want to read even more?

20 Angela DiTerlizzi Adds a Sparkle to the KidLit Scene

Check out our Book Briefs page at to keep up with the latest news, interviews, and happenings at Story Monsters!

Tell us what you think of this issue! Email your comments to | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


Taylor Moxey Inspires Kids to Dream Big by Melissa Fales

Taylor Moxey is only 12 years old, but she’s already launched a successful business, written a book, created a foundation through which she runs her philanthropic endeavors, and was even named Black Soulutions’ 2018 Woman of the Year. “When I look back at everything that I’ve accomplished, it’s something that 7-year-old me could never have imagined,” Moxey says. “And to think that it all happened just because I wanted a Barbie doll.”



As a young girl, Moxey enjoyed a special weekly tradition with her parents. “After church every Sunday, we’d go to Target to shop and I would get a Barbie doll,” she says. “One Sunday, I saw this Barbie doll I really, really wanted but when I asked my father if I could have it, he said no. He told me that I would have to buy it for myself.” Moxey says her parents thought she was ready for a life lesson about earning money to buy the things she wanted instead of depending on her parents, or anyone else, to buy them for her. Moxey’s parents helped her think about her talents and her passions as a way to determine how she could make enough money to purchase the doll. “I had an Easy Bake Oven and I really liked baking, so I thought I’d sell baked goods,” Moxey says. Her parents gave her a $40 loan to buy the supplies she would need. “We signed a contract written on a napkin saying that once I had reached X amount of money, I would have to pay them back the $40,” says Moxey. “I just wanted 6

Story Monsters Ink | February 2019 |

to make enough money to pay them back and get the Barbie.” Moxey baked and brought the finished products to her church. “I told everyone what I was doing and that all proceeds would be going towards my Barbie doll fund,” says Moxey. “I ended up selling out of everything within 15 minutes and I made $175. I was not expecting that. It was so exciting.” After paying back her parents, Moxey still had a considerable sum of money. “I had a moment where I had to make a decision,” she says. “I could spend a lot of the money, buying the Barbie doll and other things. Or, I could put it back into the business and use it to make more money.” Moxey says it didn’t take long for her to decide to reinvest the money in herself. “My parents are entrepreneurs and that spirit was always around me when I was growing up,” she says. “I guess I had that spark in me, too.”



part of a life lesson and it evolved into a full-fledged business,” says Moxey. “I’m proud of that aspect of my life. Right now I’m more focused on the Taylor Moxey Foundation, which I started in order to educate, empower, and encourage literacy and community service for people worldwide.” One program of the Taylor Moxey Foundation is the Taylor Moxey Library Project, which creates pop-up libraries in low-income areas. The idea came to Moxey during a trip to the Bahamas. “We were in Moxey Town, which is named after my ancestors,” she says. “My parents were working on some property they own there and I was bored out of my mind.” She asked her mother if she could go to a movie theater, but there weren’t any. There wasn’t even a public library for her to visit. “When I learned that, I knew I wanted to change it,” Moxey says. Moxey used some of her profits to get custom-made business cards for her burgeoning baking business. “I handed them out to my friends, family, teachers, and complete strangers,” she says. “It was before I had a phone, so the cards had my dad’s number on them. He’s a teacher and he started getting all these calls during class from random people wanting to buy cupcakes and brownies and cookies.”

Back home in Florida, Moxey and her parents got to work, purchasing and transforming a lawnmower truck into a small portable library that could travel from place to place. “That was important because I knew there were other towns in the Bahamas that needed a library,” she says. Moxey received donations of books for the library from all over the world. The

Demand only went up once Moxey entered her classic, buttery, southern cornbread into a local cook-off and won. “Some of the other contestants were professional chefs who owned restaurants and they were all a lot older than me,” she recalls. Moxey received a check and a billboard advertising her business. When a news reporter saw the billboard, she set up an interview with Moxey that later aired on TV. “When I got home from school that day, I could tell my parents were excited,” Moxey says. “They said, ‘We have good news for you,’ and I thought I was getting a dog. But when I found out I was going to be on TV, I was off-the-walls excited.” While her baking skills put Moxey on the map, she’s begun focusing her energy on some of her other initiatives. “It went from something I was doing as | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




truck-turned-library and books were shipped to the Bahamas where they are still being used today. The Taylor Moxey Foundation recently opened a second library in downtown Miami’s Omni Park, this one made out of a former shipping container. Again, book donations poured in. “There’s no age range,” says Moxey. “We wanted to have a variety of books for all ages.” A third library, destined for Colombia, is in the works. Two years ago, Moxey authored her own book, The Adventures of Taylor the Chef. “It’s basically my story,” she says. “It was easy to write but when I tried to illustrate the book, it was bad. It was basically just stick figures, so we had to have an illustrator do that part.” As a spin-off from the book, Moxey also created “Moxivation” cards, which offer positive affirmations. “They’re designed to help motivate people to be the best they can be,” she says. “They’re little notes with

sayings that you can put in a lunch box or wallet or purse and when you need motivation, you just look at it. You read the message, think about it, and hopefully say, ‘I can do this.’ It’s a little pick-me-up. One of my favorites is ‘Dreams don’t work unless you do.’” Moxey says she hopes young people who hear about the work she’s doing will be inspired to start their own business or to do something that will make a positive change in the world. “My message for other kids is to keep on working towards your dreams,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to work hard for what you want. It would have been a lot easier for me not to start a business when I was 8 years old. I didn’t have to do any of the work I did, but then I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” For more information about Taylor Moxey, visit, or find her on Instagram @Taylor_Moxey.

“When I look back at everything that I’ve accomplished, it’s something that 7-year-old me could never have imagined. And to think that it all happened just because I wanted a Barbie doll.”


Story Monsters Ink | February 2019 |

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Rachael MacFarlane

Rachael MacFarlane Breaks Gender Barriers with New Picture Book by Melissa Fales

Rachael MacFarlane


At age five, Rachael MacFarlane’s eldest daughter wasn’t drawn to dolls or any type of play typically associated with girls. Eschewing socially-prescribed gender roles during playtime at preschool earned her some pushback from the other kids. MacFarlane searched for a children’s book about gender-neutral play to read to her daughter, to show her that there was no right or wrong way to play. When she couldn’t find one, the highly in-demand voice actress decided to write one. Her first book, Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate, is a tribute to all kids who are like her daughter.

“I don’t like to use labels like ‘tomboy,’” says MacFarlane. “She’s just an individual, a kid, whose play is driven primarily by her imagination, not her gender.” In the book, a little girl named Eleanor Wyatt vacillates between wanting to dress up as a princess and a pirate, letting her imagination and her moods decide how she wants to play each day. The message, says MacFarlane, is that kids should be allowed to try on all different types of roles as a way to learn about themselves and the world around them. “Our oldest daughter was Darth Vader for Halloween,” she says. “She always wanted to be the prince, not the princess. Our younger daughter couldn’t be more of a girly-girl. It’s comedic how different they are. Every day, our girls are a lesson in letting people be themselves. We always tell them, ‘You do you and you’re going to be ok.’”

Writing Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate, came naturally to MacFarlane. “It didn’t take me a long time because I knew so clearly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it,” she says. Her husband, | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Rachael MacFarlane

Spencer Laudiero, provided the book’s illustrations. Laudiero has an extensive animation career, including work on Brickleberry and Family Guy, but this is his first children’s book. “My husband and I have a joke,” says MacFarlane. “He’ll say, ‘Be a writer, kids,’ because it only took me a few days to write the book, but it took him months to illustrate it.” The two collaborated easily. “He and I work very differently, but fundamentally we had the same story to tell,” says MacFarlane. “This is a message we both believe in so strongly. He took my words and ran with them and turned it into something so much better than anything I could have imagined.” MacFarlane says she was especially impressed with the way he brought inclusiveness into the story. “He brought diversity with varying skin tones and by featuring children with disabilities,” she says. “He made it a celebration of our differences and it’s so beautiful.” The couple’s next book, Harrison Dwight, Ballerina and Knight, is due out in May. “It’s also in the vein of being true to yourself and playing however you want to play,” says MacFarlane. “This one delves into the double-standard of how we allow little girls to feel things and be sensitive while we discourage little boys from showing their emotions. It’s about letting boys feel their feelings with pride and not keeping things bottled up. It’s also timely with the #metoo movement and looking at a lot of the issues coming up with men

“Our oldest daughter was Darth Vader for Halloween. She always wanted to be the prince, not the princess. Our younger daughter couldn’t be more of a girly-girl. It’s comedic how different they are. Every day, our girls are a lesson in letting people be themselves.” now. You can trace a lot of the violence and anger back to having to squelch their emotions when they were little boys.” MacFarlane says she never envisioned writing children’s books. Instead, she had dreams of being on stage and had moved to New York City to pursue a career in musical theater before realizing it wasn’t the life she wanted for herself. Fortuitously, this revelation occurred right around the time her big brother, Seth, had moved to Los Angeles and created the TV show Family Guy. When McFarlane visited him, she sought out his advice. “I was 22 and I didn’t know where I wanted my career to go,” she says. “I was feeling kind of lost.” Seth encouraged her to try voice acting and she agreed to give it a try. Her first voice role was on the TV show Johnny Bravo. “I fell in love it with it the first time I did it,” she says. “That was 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back.” Since then, MacFarlane has lent her voice to characters on TV shows such as The Tom and Jerry Show and Disney’s Sofia the First, but is probably best-known for voicing Hayley Smith on Seth’s popular show, American Dad. “This past year was my busiest year by a mile,” she says. “I consider myself lucky to be able to


Story Monsters Ink | February 2019 |

Rachael MacFarlane


Knowing that her book is helping parents adopt a different approach to gender and play has been immensely satisfying for MacFarlane. “One father told me that when his son asked for a dollhouse for Christmas, his first reaction was to say no,” she says. “But then he thought about Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate and wondered why he was resisting the idea so much. It’s a toy. Let him have a dollhouse. It’s lovely to see children not being judged for just being who they are.” MacFarlane is keenly aware that her book touches on a very timely subject. “I wrote it when my eldest daughter was five and now she’s nine,” she says. “It was timely then, too. This idea of gender-neutral play has just gotten more and more pertinent. It’s an issue that comes up so often nowadays.”

do something I adore and to have been on a few shows that have lasted for such a long time. But I’m smart enough to know it’s not going to last forever and that’s another reason I thought I’d explore some different career avenues, like writing children’s books.” MacFarlane has found that being a children’s author has its perks. “The voice acting community is terrific but I haven’t found anything, careerwise, as rewarding as writing this book,” she says. “My experience the last few months has been so overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been talking to kids and doing school visits and hearing parents say how Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate has impacted their child. It’s been great.”

MacFarlane believes that Harrison Dwight, Ballerina and Knight might have even more of an impact on the way parents think about the gender roles they’re teaching their kids. “I hope it will help move the narrative forward,” she says. “For whatever reason, I feel we’re much more comfortable with our girls gender-bending than our boys. I think it’s time we allowed little boys to be themselves and not confined to these macho roles. I’m curious to see how people will react to our main character who is a boy but wants to be a ballerina and paint his nails pink. I think it’s going to be an interesting journey.” For more information about Rachael MacFarlane and Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate, visit | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




Teach Kids Kindness Even though I’ve been writing books for kids for some years now, I always feel just a bit of a thrill calling myself a children’s author. For a long time, I wrote only adult mysteries and thrillers—stories that are pulse-pounding, fast-paced, compulsive reads. One of the biggest challenges I’d faced when I started to write for children was remembering what it was like to actually be a kid. I grew up in Newburgh, New York. My mom was a teacher, and my dad worked in insurance. My family was working class—we didn’t have all the money in the world, but I found ways to keep myself entertained. I have three sisters—three!— which would’ve made life for any little kid difficult. I tried not to get roped into their girly stuff too often. Instead, I liked to be outside, riding my bike. I played with the kids who lived on my street. I was a great student, but I wasn’t a big reader. Back then, reading books for fun was oftentimes a way to distance yourself from the other kids. Not to say I was so concerned with my social standing when I was 10 years old, but when you’re that age, all you want to do is fit in. I already got called out for being the son of a teacher, and I had pretty wild, curly hair that people just loved to make 14

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fun of. I wasn’t going to do anything that might make that worse. Flash forward many years, and I’m sitting down to pen my first book for children: Maximum Ride. Of all of the characters I’ve ever written, Max Ride is still one of my favorites. And the reason I love her so much, and have so much respect for her, is that she’s different—and she owns it. She isn’t afraid of what people say about her, because she’s above that. She’s in a class of her own making. She doesn’t let the bullies get her down. When you’re a kid, life is hard. Adults expect you to understand difficult subjects like money, and work ethic, and family responsibilities. They expect you to act like an adult, but you don’t know how to do that when you’re 8 years old. My kid characters know how hard it is to be a kid, and they know that there’s usually nothing worse than coming head to head with your peers when all you want to do is fit in. Humans are social creatures; we crave acceptance. But when sometimes all we get instead is derisiveness, cruelty, and mean names, it can really bring you down. I think we’ve all had experiences with bullying in our childhoods. It’s a singularly shareable human condition.


Since Max, I’ve written many other kids books, and I’m lucky enough that they’ve all been so popular with young readers. And I think that’s because kids can really see themselves in these characters. The star of my Middle School series, Rafe Khatchadorian, is always going up against his school’s resident bully, Miller the Killer. Jamie Grimm finds a lot to laugh about, even though his life has been tough—but he consistently struggles to maintain a civil relationship with his cousin, Stevie, who’s pretty much a jerk. Jacky Hart has a terrible stutter, and the kids at school have branded her with the embarrassing nickname “Jacky Ha-Ha.” Unbelievably Boring Bart is pushed around in the hallways and has his things stolen by his bullies.

As long as I write kids books, I’ll make it my mission to show kids that one of our greatest superpowers is empathy.

Reading reveals to us the perspectives of those around us. Books teach us that there are other worldviews. Everyone has their own story—everybody is dealing with their own issues and challenges. Everyone faces their own kind of adversity. It’s easy to forget this, especially in these times, when it seems so difficult to care about others at the threat of harming our own well-being. But that’s what stories are for—they’re here to remind us we aren’t living on this planet just for ourselves. If you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you’re a lot less likely to judge them for who they are, because you’ll be able to understand where they’ve come from. Bullying is one of the most important subjects I’ve written about. And as long as I write kids books, I’ll make it my mission to show kids that one of our greatest superpowers is empathy. If we can teach kids kindness, if we can teach them to express themselves in healthy, considerate ways, we’re going to leave the world a much better place.

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller with one unwavering goal: to turn kids into lifelong readers.

David and Michael, the stars of my book Pottymouth and Stoopid, have been called horrible nicknames since preschool, and it really messes with their sense of selfworth. Norbert Riddle’s whole life—his whole world, in fact—has been dictated by earth’s greatest bully ever, Loving Leader. Even now, I remember the terrible names bullies used to call me. Mean words can stick with us for a long time. Word bullying is insidious and constantly prevalent. And even now, we see how difficult it is for some of us—even those in the highest echelons of power—to be kind and considerate and careful with what we say. I think if we can show kids the power of bullying early on, prove to them that there are other ways to treat each other, we can stop it from happening. That’s why I think establishing a lifelong habit of reading in children is so important. One of the greatest lessons we learn from reading books is that of empathy.

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. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Alan Silberberg

Alan Silberberg Introduces Little Readers to Some Silly Spuds by Melissa Fales

Author and cartoonist Alan Silberberg wrote his latest book to fill a particular void in the children’s book market. “When my son was growing up, we read a lot of Hanukkah books together,” he says. “There were some really dark but wonderful ones and there were some really, really light ones but there weren’t any silly ones. I’m a really silly guy and I wanted to add to the cannon by creating something that would make people laugh. Meet the Latkes is what I came up with.” In Meet the Latkes, Silberberg introduces a family of potato pancakes, each with a distinct personality. The story begins as the patriarch tries to tell the story of Hanukkah, but something about his version seems a little off. The family’s dog, Applesauce, (who is also a potato pancake) eventually shares the true story of the Festival of Lights with readers. 16

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The book was inspired by an animated greeting Silberberg created and sent to his friends during a bout of procrastination. “I used to make these flash animation cartoons,” he says. “I made one of this really silly little family of latkes wishing people happy holidays. I didn’t really think much about it until some of the people I sent it to suggested that it might make a funny kids’ book.” Silberberg had a successful career in children’s television long before he started writing books. “I knew I wanted to do TV shows from a young age,” he says. “My adolescence was very TV-centric. I think it was partly due to the loss of my mom when I was 9.” He attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and earned a unique bachelor’s degree in CartoonCommunication Education. “At that time, as long as


Alan Silberberg

you could get an advisor, you could create your own program,” he says. “I think I can honestly claim I’m the only one with that degree.” Fresh out of college, Silberberg worked for an interactive TV network in Columbus, Ohio making shows for kids. “This was before there were PCs in the home,” he says. “It was a two-way TV system where people in their homes would touch buttons to answer questions. It was totally cutting edge at the time.” He left that job to go to graduate school, earning a degree in Education from Harvard University with a concentration in interactive technology. “It was at a time when lots of software development was happening,” he says. “Ironically, I didn’t continue working with interactive technology after graduation.” Instead, Silberberg hounded Nickelodeon until they gave him a job and was later hired by Disney to work on the Mickey Mouse Club show. Eventually, Silberberg moved to Montreal, where he currently resides, to work on a TV show with some former Nickelodeon co-workers. Silberberg only began thinking about writing children’s books after experiencing how special 18

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“Learning that cartoons can be serious helped me grow as a human. To understand that cartoons can be heavy, to mix it up that way, really helped my art grow and I’m very excited to see where this goes.” reading time was for him and his young son, Zachary. “Picking out books to read together was such a joy,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of that world.” An invitation to swim in a neighbor’s pond led to Silberberg’s first book, Pond Scum. “He told me to watch out for pond scum and I thought, Wow. That

Alan Silberberg


more from a personal place. The process was extremely emotional but also very cathartic.” Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze won the 2011 Sid Fleischman Humor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Silberberg credits Liesa Abrams at Simon and Schuster for being his champion for getting Milo published in the first place. “Today it’s a pitch that would be accepted more readily, but almost 10 years ago she really took a chance on something like that for a kids’ book.”

would make a great title,” Silberberg says. While writing was underway, Zachary was so proud of his dad, he told his second grade teacher his father was working on a book. “The teacher asked if I wanted to come in and read it to the class,” says Silberberg. “But I only had two chapters completed.” When he went to the school to share what he had written so far, Silberberg had a life-changing moment. “I experienced this magical feeling of reading to 20 kids and having them staring up at me,” he says. “When I finished, they asked me, ‘Then what happened?’” Two weeks later, Silberberg returned with an ending and promised each of the students an official copy once the book was published. “I thought getting an agent was going to be easy,” he says. “By the time they were in sixth grade, we finally had our book release party.” Silberberg is perhaps best-known for his semiautobiographical book, Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, which he wrote at the suggestion of Alison Morris of Wellesley Booksmith. “After Pond Scum, she asked me, ‘Why not do something like a Wimpy Kid book?’” he says. “I liked the idea of writing a silly, cartoony, junior high book.” As Silberberg delved deeper into his past, the cartoons remained but the story morphed from silly to serious. “After the first chapter, when I started having to remember a lot about being 12, I found it was hard to dredge through my life,” he says. “My mom had died when I was 9, so all of my memories from that time were colored by the huge loss I had experienced. I tried to stay funny, but I realized I wanted to write

Silberberg is currently collaborating with author Erica Perl on a modern retelling of the Chelm stories. “These are old Jewish folktales that derive from the idea that God wanted to put a foolish person in every town, but the angel tripped and they all ended up in one place,” he says. The two met last year, both among the 20 authors and illustrators selected for a trip to Israel sponsored by the PJ Library. “The idea behind the trip is about feeding the mind and heart to write more books that have Jewish content,” Silberberg says. He’s also currently working on a sequel to Meet the Latkes, this time with a Passover theme. Additionally, Silberberg is involved in creating an animated series based on Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze. “I’m working with people who want the same things I do for it,” he says. “I want it to be an emotional, funny series, not just something cute. Learning that cartoons can be serious helped me grow as a human. To understand that cartoons can be heavy, to mix it up that way, really helped my art grow and I’m very excited to see where this goes.” For more information about Alan Silberberg and his books, visit

Angela DiTerlizzi Adds a Sparkle to the KidLit Scene by Melissa Fales

One never knows when inspiration might strike. When children’s author Angela DiTerlizzi sent her editor Allyn Johnson a thank-you note for the gift of a sparkly napkin and tablecloth set, she included a short poem she had composed about the joys of glitter. It began, “Has the rainy day got you down? Not feeling fancy in your gown? Want some shine upon your crown? Just add glitter!” Johnson thought the poem had potential to become a book in its own right and encouraged DiTerlizzi to keep writing. “So I did,” says DiTerlizzi.



The book’s illustrations feature unique, threedimensional sets handcrafted by illustrator Samantha Cotterill. “Usually in children’s books, you see images that are drawn or painted or digitally created,” says DiTerlizzi. “But Samantha had these full sets she made and she poured real glitter into them. They are amazing! But now she says she’s never working with anything smaller than a Lego again.” DiTerlizzi’s next collaboration will be with illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton on a book called Just Right. “It’s about embracing and celebrating our differences,” says DiTerlizzi. She’s also working on a book called Where They Once Flew. “It’s a whole different direction for me,” DiTerlizzi says. “It’s a bit more serious. It’s about conservation, bird migration, and my love of nature.” Growing up in Southern Florida, DiTerlizzi never imagined she would become a children’s author. “I was challenged in the sense that I still wanted to read books that had pictures in them, even when I was growing beyond that level,” she says. “I found that very frustrating and when the pleasure of reading went away, I wasn’t as excited to read.” The term “reluctant reader” hadn’t been coined yet when DiTerlizzi was a kid, but she says it’s an apt description of how she felt about the books her schoolwork required. “If I had access to the graphic novels that are so popular today, I would have been thrilled,” she says. “I remember wanting to read the 22

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im yJ

In Just Add Glitter, a little girl receives a package of glitter and uses it to turn her home into a sparkling showplace. She’s having a glorious time until she almost loses her cat in the stuff and realizes that she may have gone a bit overboard with the bling. “I think, as we learn in the book, there can be a tipping point,” says DiTerlizzi. “As with anything we love, there is such a thing as too much of it.”


“Seven years and 10 drafts later, those few lines evolved into what would become the final manuscript for Just Add Glitter. The most common question I get from kids is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ I love being able to respond with, ‘It all began with a sparkly napkin.’”





“Usually in children’s books, you see images that are drawn or painted or digitally created. But Samantha had these full sets she made and she poured real glitter into them. They are amazing! But now she says she’s never working with anything smaller than a Lego again.”

Archie comics, but, of course, you can’t write book reports on them.” DiTerlizzi came to write children’s books after a successful, 15-year career as a makeup artist. “I grew


up doing a lot of theater and I had always been drawn to the makeup industry,” she says. “I moved to New York City with the hope and dream of working for Saturday Night Live.” DiTerlizzi accomplished that dream and more, working for productions such as The Today Show, bands like Metallica, and people like President Bill Clinton. Twenty-five years ago, while working in New York City, DiTerlizzi met bestselling author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, who would become her husband. “Here he was, this adult guy, with a bookshelf full of picture books,” she says. “I thought it was so funny. I remember pulling out Jon Scieska’s The Frog Prince and reading it out loud. Seeing his collection drew me back into my love of picture books.” After 9/11, the couple started thinking about moving out of the city and starting a family. When they paid a visit to their former neighbors who had moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, the couple felt at home. “We loved Amherst,” says DiTerlizzi. “We said it was like Brooklyn meets Norman Rockwell. But what really sealed the deal for us was The Eric Carle Museum. We thought anywhere that has a museum of picture book art is where we want to be.”


Say What was selected for a Cheerios promotion, and was included as a prize in cereal boxes. “It was exciting for me to think that many kids who might not have their own books would receive my book in their cereal box,” DiTerlizzi says. Other books followed, including Some Bugs, Baby Love, and I Want to Be a Cowgirl which is dedicated to none other than Dolly Parton. “As a kid, I wanted to be Dolly Parton when I grew up,” says DiTerlizzi. “She told stories in rhyme. Emotional, fascinating stories. I always felt a deep connection to her music, but what I didn’t realize was that my connection was to the stories themselves that were being told through the music. I’ve always liked a good story.” For more information about Angela DiTerlizzi, visit

It wasn’t until their daughter, Sophia, was born that DiTerlizzi started writing children’s books. “People tell new mothers, ‘You’ll know what your baby wants,’ but when my daughter was crying and cooing and gooing, it was hard for me to figure out what she wanted,” she says. “At the time, we lived near a horse farm and I remember hearing a horse neigh and wondering, ‘Does it want hay?’ and it got me thinking about how we try to translate what human babies and animal babies are trying to say. Eventually, that turned into Say What, a book about animals and the noises they make.” | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


Ashshahid Muhammad Motivates Students to Stay on Track by Melissa Fales

“I want my books to help kids learn about the reality of the streets. The whole goal of these books is to let them know that we’re talking about real life. It’s not a video game. If you mess up, you can’t hit replay. You can’t start over.”


Ashshahid Muhammad

The unlikely happy ending to Ashshahid Muhammad’s story speaks to the transformative power of art. At various points in his life, Muhammad has been homeless, jailed, a drug dealer and an addict, but he’s turned his life around and is using his artistic talents to help deter young people from falling into the same violent lifestyle he once led. Today, at age 42, Muhammad creates comic books that tell the story of his life, sharing his message about gangs and drugs and guns with today’s youth. “I want my books to help kids learn about the reality of the streets,” he said. “The whole goal of these books is to let them know that we’re talking about real life. It’s not a video game. If you mess up, you can’t hit replay. You can’t start over.”

school. “That’s when I noticed the different lifestyles,” he says. “I saw other dads picking up their kids but my dad was missing. I started noticing homeless people on the streets walking home from school. That’s when I first understood I was living in a poor environment.”

Muhammad was raised in South Memphis by a single mom. He didn’t realize they were poor until he entered

When Muhammad was around age 10, his mother moved the family to North Memphis. “I started


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During his childhood, Muhammad was surrounded by people who were creative and talented but too dependent on drugs to do anything with their gifts. “My whole family is artistic,” says Muhammad. “My uncle was an alcoholic and a drug addict but he could draw. I remember watching him when I was four or five and thinking it was magic how he could take a blank piece of paper and pencil and make something come to life.”

Ashshahid Muhammad


rather not go to class than to have people find out I couldn’t read.” He also started drawing while he was confined to a cell. “It was an escape for me,” he says.

playing baseball and little league and I liked it,” he says. “The coaches were sort of like dads to me. But the older I got, the more I noticed things, like how much people respected drug dealers. I didn’t know they were selling drugs at the time, but I wondered why everyone was treating them like gods, almost worshipping them. I wanted to be like they were. Their images replaced the coaches as my father figures.” Instead of playing sports, Muhammad started hanging out on the streets, watching his new idols, and mimicking their behavior.

Muhammad was 19 when he was released. “I didn’t know how to survive on the outside,” he says. “I didn’t know how to get a job. In jail I lived rent-free. They fed me and clothed me. Outside, I was lost. My friends had babies and apartments and cars and I was still riding a bike. I was lost in time. To make a long story short, I went back to the streets and I became the drug dealer I had wanted to be.” One night when he was 21, Muhammad and a friend were shot by a rival gang. “I lost my right eye and suffered a lot of nerve damage,” he says. “I had to go to therapy to get my right arm moving again.” His friend,

When Muhammad was 12, his mother made another upwardly mobile move to a house in Whitehaven. Despite their better living conditions, Muhammad felt insecure about the gap between the material things he had and what his classmates had. “I thought they were better than me,” he says. “I wanted to be like them. I didn’t want to be me.” So he started skipping classes. While his mother attended nursing school at night, Muhammad was breaking into cars and stealing from stores. He was in and out of juvenile court. “By the time I was 13, my friends started to die,” he says. That year, Muhammad committed a robbery and was tried as an adult because of the violent nature of the crime. He received an eight-year sentence. “I served six,” he says. Muhammad finally learned how to read when he was behind bars. “That was another reason I never liked going to school,” he says. “I wanted to avoid sitting in the class and waiting for my turn to read. I’d | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Ashshahid Muhammad

a promising basketball star with a college scholarship waiting for him, was paralyzed on one side. “That’s when I realized that money isn’t everything. All this money and jewelry and fancy cars couldn’t get me my eye back or get my friend the use of his body back. I lost the desire to ever sell drugs again.” Muhammad struggled with PTSD and depression for years. “At 24, I was still trying to face the reality of the shooting,” he says. He worked up the courage to visit his paralyzed friend. “Seeing him sitting in that wheelchair, it was worse than I thought it was going to be,” he says. For the first time, Muhammad started doing hard drugs. “I was doing crack and heroin every day,” he says. “I was living on the street, traveling from state to state. I was trying to run away from myself.” Eventually, Muhammad realized he had to stop running. He started going to rehab and recovery groups. “I had to deal with the core issues of who I really was,” he says. Muhammad was floored when one recovery group member, a 50-year-old man, went back to school to get his GED. “When I saw that he did it, I wanted to do it,” he says. “That carved out a new way of life for me.” After earning his GED, Muhammad went to Nossi College of Arts in Nashville, Tennessee to learn how to write, design, and publish books. Muhammad admits he had some doubts about starting college at age 38. “It was terrifying to sit in that classroom and raise my hand and say I didn’t understand something,” he says. “When I was younger, that would have made me drop out. But I was so happy to be there, I raised my hand.” Muhammad tells his story through a series of comic books called Graffiti University. “I chose comics because when I was young I didn’t know how to read, but I liked books with lots of pictures,” he says. To date, he’s published six comic books about the gangs and the guns and the drugs that took so much from his own life in the hopes that readers will learn from his example. He’s even served as an example for his mother, Christine Malone, who has published three of her own books. Muhammad is also publishing a new series of books called North Park, which is about what it’s like to be in rehab and detox, but all of the characters happen to be animals. He also hopes to start a clothing line 28

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featuring the characters from the series on t-shirts. “All of my books are about drugs because I feel that society doesn’t educate youth seriously enough about what drugs can do,” he says. “I hope that people reading them are inspired to know a former addict and alcoholic made this book.” A portion of the proceeds from his books goes towards feeding the homeless. “I remember standing on the corners and panhandling and how it feels,” Muhammad says. “I try to give back because I know what that’s like. It’s hell on earth. I want to give them hope. And for anyone who’s addicted, I want to plant a seed in them and let them know that they can change.” Ashshahid Muhammad’s books are available at, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




Chapter and Versus When I was a kid, it was definitely not okay to say the word “suck” out loud or in any kind of writing for school (or at home for that matter). It was considered a curse word, one letter away from the really bad one. These days, I see the word used freely in schools, in books that librarians and teachers and parents recommend and feature on library shelves, and on authors’ and educators’ public social media. When I hear someone say “verse” as opposed to “versus”—as in Brown “verse” Board of Education or New England Patriots “verse” New York Giants—I wonder if a similar acceptability shift happened. Even though it sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me, is it now considered okay to say “verse” instead of “versus”? I consider myself a big thinker. My day job as President and Reader in Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs is to work with lots of smart and talented people at Scholastic to develop strategies for getting 800,000 classroom teachers across the country and their students connected to brand-new and favorite books. We want to help inspire all kids to see themselves as readers. But I also sweat the small stuff, particularly when it comes to word usage and grammar. I was born what we would now call a “word person.” In addition to not using the word “suck” in school, we didn’t really have “word persons” back in the day. 30

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We didn’t refer to someone as a “people person” or an “animal person” or an “instant-coffee person.” You just liked people, or animals, or Sanka—or you did not. I didn’t have many hobbies, but I read and loved words and word games and puzzles and quiz shows. I used my precious TV allowance to watch word-based game shows such as College Bowl and Password. I started playing Scrabble as a kid on a flat playing board. It was exciting when the turntable was introduced so you could rotate the board and see the letters upright no matter where you were sitting. I got one for my 11th birthday. With my babysitting money, I bought stacks of Dell crossword puzzle and word-search books. Years later, when I first came to New York, it was a special thrill to be employed by Dell Publishing’s then-Director of Publicity, Isabel Geffner, to work in the publicity department—just one floor away from the staff who created and marketed my beloved Dell crossword puzzles! In addition to hiring me to work so close to the “puzzle people,” Isabel sharpened my writing. She edited my work on press releases and The Dell Dateline, our weekly newsletter for booksellers. Isabel insisted on excellent copyediting and grammar. Forty years after she first explained to me when to use “between” versus “among,” it is a real thrill to report that Isabel, who is

Later, I graduated to the New York Times crossword puzzle, which I still depend on solving to feel as if I’ve had a successful day.

Junior High. I had to defend eminent domain. At the time, I was outraged both by the concept of eminent domain and by the fact that I had to defend something I didn’t think I believed in. In any event, I learned a whole new set of words to support my reluctant argument: appropriate, just compensation, inverse condemnation.

Growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, I looked forward to our Friday spelling bees at the John Ward School and being on a class debate team at Weeks

All these childhood experiences were language-rich for me, featuring deep fountains of words. They enhanced the vocabulary I had been absorbing

now the Advancement Director of Book Harvest, and I are reconnected and working on an incredible early childhood literacy partnership project. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




since birth, all day long at home and at each meal; during story time and bedtime; and from the books and magazines and music in our home. Those experiences—coupled with being surrounded by my immediate and extended family and family friends, all of whom used extensive vocabularies to

communicate with me and each other—meant I had a word-rich childhood. Not all children start life with such word wealth. As publishers and writers and educators and parents, we have to work together to fix that: to level the playing field for all children and eliminate the word gap. If children start life with a word deficit, it’s hard to catch up. Without words, children cannot make sense of the world they live in or express themselves and make their ideas understood. There’s a massive word gap between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. This past summer at the International Literacy Association Conference in Austin, Texas, I— along with 20 teachers—attended a wonderful, word-filled dinner celebrating Peter H. Reynolds and his new book, The Word Collector.


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Near the end of the dinner, Peter asked all of us seated around the long dinner table to each write our favorite word on a placard and share it with the group. That night, the word I chose to share was “collaborate.” To me, that’s what we—publishers and authors and educators—are all doing every day: collaborating to help all children find books to read and connect with. To discover books they see themselves reflected in. To embrace books that open new worlds. The singleminded goal of our collaboration is to have all children see themselves as readers. Peter dedicated The Word Collector to Dick Robinson, Scholastic’s Chairman, President, and CEO—and the son of Scholastic’s founder, Robbie Robinson. Dick has inspired all of us who work at Scholastic to dedicate ourselves to partnering with teachers and educators and book creators and publishers to make sure all children have access to great books so they


can learn to love to read and make sense of the world they live in. As we head toward Scholastic’s 100th anniversary in 2020, we want to make sure as many children as possible have access to The Word Collector. It is a rare and timeless and accessible picture book that has universal appeal to kids … and future “word persons” of all ages.

Judy Newman is President and Reader-in-Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs. For more information, visit | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Ones to Read: Scott and Laura Jordan

Ones to Read:

Scott and Laura Jordan by Melissa Fales For the first eight years of her life, Scott and Laura Jordan’s beloved pet poodle, Margaux, was perfectly healthy. When a series of autoimmune diseases ravaged her body and caused Margaux to lose both her sight and her hearing, the Jordans were amazed at how their dog met her many daily challenges with the same positive spirit she had always demonstrated. Now, this husband and wife team have turned Margaux’s inspiring tale into a children’s book series. The first book, The Incredible Adventures of the Awesome and Amazing Margaux: Waggy Tail One: Yay Margaux!, was released in October. “Margaux could do anything and we want children to believe they can do anything, too,” says Laura. Margaux came into the Jordans’ lives as a birthday present for Laura, becoming their fourth dog in this 34

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poodle-loving pair’s brood. “We don’t have children, so we started collecting poodles,” Scott jokes. “We’ve reached the municipal limit of four dogs for our household. We’re contemplating getting divorced so we can have four more.” Shortly before her ninth birthday, Margaux started exhibiting mysterious symptoms. Her hair started falling out, her eyes swelled up, and she began limping. “No one knew what was wrong with her,” says Scott. “The vet thought she had been bitten by a snake.” They later learned that Margaux was afflicted with various autoimmune diseases. “Her body was basically attacking itself,” says Scott. Three years into Margaux’s illness, one of her eyes had become so damaged, a canine ophthalmologist suggested that it be removed. “That wasn’t such a

Ones to Read: Scott and Laura Jordan


big deal, but then the other eye had to go, too,” says Laura. Coincidentally, two days before she lost her second eye, Margaux lost her sense of hearing. Scott acknowledges that many owners would have had their dog put down under such extreme circumstances. Not the Jordans. “We weren’t going to do that,” he says. “We thought, as long as she can sit with us and eat, we’ll be ok.” However, Margaux made it clear that her physical challenges weren’t going to get in her way and that she intended to remain as active as the three other dogs in the house. “We decided to treat all four dogs the same way,” says Scott. “We went on seven-mile hikes every day. Margaux loved it. We used a harness to help guide her and she kept up with us. She never | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Ones to Read: Scott and Laura Jordan

“The message to our readers is that with the right attitude, you can do anything. You might have to do it differently, but you can do it, just like Margaux did.”

gave up.” The tagline, “Yay Margaux!” came from the Jordans’ almost involuntary response to Margaux’s extraordinary abilities and determination. “Every time she’d do something amazing, we’d say ‘Yay Margaux!’” says Laura. It stuck. Scott, a digital camera buff, had always recorded his dogs’ activities but Margaux’s daily life gave him extra


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fodder for his hobby. He started live streaming their animal adventures on Facebook and found that people couldn’t help but root for this resilient pup. “Margaux built up a fan base,” says Scott. “People would tune in to watch her going about her daily life. They’d watch as she’d bump into stuff, fall, smile, and get up again.” Last July, at age 14, Margaux passed away from agerelated kidney disease. When her followers learned about her death, the tributes came pouring in. “We got to learn more about the people who had been following her and what she had meant in their lives,” says Laura. They learned that her fans included people who were fighting their own battles, including those struggling with cancer, recovering from accidents, and grieving the loss of loved ones. All of them had been inspired and encouraged by Margaux and her can-do spirit in some way. “We couldn’t believe how many lives Margaux had touched,” says Scott. “We realized that we wanted to continue to spread that inspirational feeling Margaux gave to so many people.”

Ones to Read: Scott and Laura Jordan

It was one of Margaux’s social media followers who first suggested that the Jordans pen a kids’ book about her. Although the couple had never written a book before and already ran a successful online clothing company called SCOTTeVEST, Inc., they decided to give it a try. “We knew that the lessons she could teach to children through a book would be pretty phenomenal,” says Scott. The books are set at the Jordan’s Poodle Resort and Spa, and feature the five poodles they’ve loved and cared for in real life: Chloe, Lucy, Rhonda, Susie, and of course, Margaux. The initial release of the book sold out almost immediately. “We’re already working on book two of what’s going to be a series of at least 20,” says Scott. “They’re all going to be based on the true stories of Margaux and her sisters.” The Jordans have taken Margaux’s story beyond just a book and created a movement celebrating her ability to triumph over adversity. In addition to the books


planned for the series, their Yay Margaux! Initiative includes apparel, items for dogs, puzzles, stickers and even an animated version of the book which is available on YouTube. A portion of the proceeds of the book benefit Idaho’s Mountain Humane no-kill animal shelter. The Yay Margaux! movement the Jordans have created is designed to help children, and adults, learn the importance of keeping a positive attitude, no matter what challenges they may face in life. “The message to our readers is that with the right attitude, you can do anything,” says Laura. “You might have to do it differently, but you can do it, just like Margaux did.” To learn more about the Jordans and Margaux, visit and check out the Yay Margaux! page on Facebook. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



One to Watch: Paxton Booth

One to Watch:

Paxton Booth Paxton Booth plays the role of Ollie Wrather on the new Disney Channel show Coop & Cami Ask the World. According to Booth, one of the reasons he has so much fun playing the character is because Ollie’s personality is so fundamentally different from his own. “Ollie will say absolutely anything that’s on his mind,” says Booth. “He has no filter whatsoever. I like to think things over before I just blurt something out. Also, Ollie likes to get really, really messy. Me? I’m the type who likes to grab a hand wipe.” Booth, who’s currently 8 years old, grew up in Ventura, California and has been acting since the age of two. “It’s kind of funny how I got started,” he says. “My mom and dad said I could speak at a very young age. Once I started talking, I never really stopped. So they thought it would be a good idea for me to try acting and everything just kind of snowballed from there.” Booth says he took to acting right away. “I love that feeling of getting in front of the camera,” he says. “To me, there’s nothing like that feeling. And I love to play pretend. I play pretend for a living. How awesome is that?” Initially working in commercials, Booth appeared in dozens that received national airplay. He’s also appeared on TV shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Real O’Neals, and served as a judge on The Toy Box. “Whether you’re filming a commercial or a TV show, there’s the same number of crew on set and the same number of cameras,” says Booth. “The only real difference is time. A commercial might take one or two days. With Coop & Cami Ask the World, we were filming for seven months. That’s a huge difference.” Booth describes Coop & Cami Ask the World as “A family show about a mom and four siblings in today’s 38

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Internet-filled world.” The show features Dakota Lotus as Coop Wrather and Ruby Rose Turner as his sister, Cami, who regularly use their online channel, Would You Wrather, to ask questions of their multitude of followers requiring a choice between two equally bad scenarios. “It’s a very modern idea for a show,” says Booth. “It’s not a show that could have existed before the Internet.” The show premiered in October and already Booth has developed a strong bond with his cast members. Booth, an only child, says he’s truly enjoying the chance to portray a character with two older sisters and an older brother. “My cast members are kind of like siblings to me,” he says. For Booth, the best part of playing Ollie is that he gets to do so many crazy stunts. For example, Booth spent part of one episode suspended in the air. “It was awesome to get in that harness and have that weird feeling of being nine feet up in the air,” he says. “I don’t ever get nervous or afraid. I just do it. It’s always fun for me.” One stunt in particular stands out as Booth’s favorite for the show, so far, “I don’t want to give too much away, but it involved me wearing a


One to Watch: Paxton Booth

Looking ahead, Booth says he can see himself choosing acting as a career. “For sure I want to continue with acting, but I’m not ruling out other things, too,” he says. “Someday I’d like to have my own fashion line. I like clothes. I love fashion. I love to dress nicely. One of the people I look up to is David Bowie. He was such a fashion icon. The make-up, the hair, the clothes. All that crazy stuff. He wore whatever he wanted. He was true to himself.” That’s a credo Booth tries to live by and a message he sends out to his fans. “The best advice I have is to be yourself,” he says. “Don’t worry about what everybody else thinks. Wear what you want to wear. Do what you want to do. Just be yourself.” For more information about Paxton Booth, check out his Instagram page @PaxtonBooth.

“I love that feeling of getting in front of the camera. To me, there’s nothing like that feeling. And I love to play pretend. I play pretend for a living. How awesome is that?”

wing suit,” he says. “I got to fly. It felt so weird. I was going backwards. I felt kind of like a flying squirrel.” Not surprisingly, Booth is a daredevil off-camera, too. He enjoys riding BMX bikes, a passion he shares with his father. Booth says he looks up to a lot of people in the entertainment industry, especially director Tim Burton. “He takes stories and twists them in a way no one else would ever think of doing,” Booth says. “He has such a creative mind. He’s such an individual. It would be a dream for me to work with him.” Booth also says he wants to be in a horror movie someday. “I can’t wait to sit in the make-up chair for five hours while they put all the make-up and special effects on me,” he says. “I think that would be so cool.” 40

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Jim Petipas

Jim Petipas Creates an Udderly Entertaining Book Series by Melissa Fales

When author/illustrator Jim Petipas was in high school, he and some friends wrote a silly song about cows which they performed for skit night at their summer camp. “We came up with some funny lyrics and a pretty catchy tune,” Petipas recalls. “Years later, when I sang it for my daughters, they said, ‘Dad, you should turn that song into a children’s picture book.’ I thought that was a pretty good idea.” The result is The Cows Go Moo!, Petipas’s first children’s book, and the first installment in what will be a three-book bovine series. Petipas started drawing at a young age and studied drafting in high school in hopes of becoming an architect. “When I was a kid, my parents brought me to the library often,” he says. “I can still picture the spot in the corner where all the how-to-draw books were. His parents also encouraged his love of music. His father bought him a mismatched drum set when Petipas was in the eighth grade, and he played in various bands throughout college and beyond. “I still play drums almost every day and I’ve started begging my wife to let me start up a band in the near future,” he says. With the expectation that he would work in his stepfather’s appliance store, Petipas went to college and earned a degree in business. He worked at the store first as a janitor, then an installer, working 42

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his way up to a sales position. “They were going to make me the manager of my own store, but I felt very unfulfilled doing that type of work,” he says. Instead, Petipas followed a calling to earn a degree in youth ministry and spent 15 years working as a youth pastor. He loved the job, but since his wife had a high-powered job in Boston, it meant that a nanny was raising their two young girls. “It wasn’t right for our family to continue in that mode,” Petipas says. “We weren’t parenting our kids the way we wanted to be. We decided that I’d stay home with the kids.” Later, Petipas earned a master’s degree in family counseling and nine years ago, he began counseling adolescents. It’s a job he continues to do part-time. “My passion for helping teenagers navigate their lives is right up there with my passion for art,” he says. Over the course of these different careers, Petipas hadn’t been keeping up with his drawing. Once he decided that he was going to translate the cow song into a children’s book, Petipas struggled to get beyond a few sketches. “I didn’t have a process, so I didn’t get anywhere with it,” he says. “Six years went by and I hadn’t done much. That’s when I heard about a class at MassArt. It took me through the process of creating a book dummy for The Cows Go Moo! It was awesome. I was so happy to have completed it.” | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Jim Petipas

The Cows Go Moo! was released by Boardwalk Books, Petipas’s own indie publishing company, in May 2018. It’s a raucous, rhyming book that parents will enjoy as much as their children. It follows the adventures of nine musical cows whose band travels the world on the Udderly Crazy World Tour. Accompanying the book is the song that started it all, performed by Petipas himself, which is available as a free download from his website. He’s currently working on a The Cows Go Moo! coloring and activity book. Petipas has already begun working on the second book, The Cows Go Moo Shuffle, and yes, it will have an accompanying song, too. In fact, it’s based on a song Petipas and his college roommate wrote when Petipas was first learning how to play the guitar and it’s designed to lead people through a series of dance moves. “It’s a song I’ve sang quite often with youth groups over the years,” he says. For this version, Petipas’s lyrics reference familiar nursery rhymes

“My passion for helping teenagers navigate their lives is right up there with my passion for art.”


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Jim Petipas

about cows, such as Hey Diddle, Diddle and Old McDonald Had a Farm. “The kids are already familiar with these stories and they love learning the dance moves,” Petipas says. “I’ve tested it out at some of the school visits I’ve done and it’s been a big hit.” Petipas is still brainstorming for the third book in the series, but it’s tentatively called The Cows Go Metal and would be accompanied by a much heavier rock song. Eventually, Petipas wants to illustrate a graphic novel he plans to call Jimmy Bojangles: The Prodigal Dad relating his father’s troubled life. After his parents got divorced, Petipas’s father bounced around from job to job, in and out of jail and on and off the wagon with drugs and alcohol. The two reconnected towards the end of Petipas’s father’s life and had the chance to rekindle their relationship. “It’s a message of hope I want to share with children and adult children who may be distant from their fathers for various reasons,” Petipas says. “My goal is that my story of reconciliation with my father would help bring other estranged families together.”


money, Heifer International gives these families a cow and teaches them how to start their own cow milking business so they sell the milk and use the money to support their families.” One thing that Petipas hopes people will take from his story is a “You’re never too old” attitude. “I hope they’ll be encouraged to follow their passions, no matter whether they’re 8 or 18 or 54, like I am,” he says. And as strongly as Petipas feels about being able to use his book for positive change, he mainly hopes that people will enjoy it. “I’m a big proponent of joy and laughter and families having fun together.” For more information about Jim Petipas, visit or find The Cows Go Moo! on YouTube.

After reading Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes, Petipas was inspired to donate 10 percents of the profits from his books and “moo merchandise” to Heifer International. “I wanted to do something that mattered with my books, so I started the Buy-A-Book, Give-A-Cow Project,” he says. “With every book or item purchased, readers are helping to provide real cows for families living in poverty. Each cow requires a $500 donation. With that | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




Middle Grade Explained by Julianne Black

Remember the days of just walking into a bookstore and picking something that looked interesting? I miss that. In my quest to navigate my kiddo’s 12-page Scholastic Book Club form, I found a panic-attack-worthy maze of options and suggestions. Does one look for a new favorite series by grade? Guided Reading Level? Lexile? Age group? Word count? And how does one know when their reader is going to be happy with Early Leveled Readers, First Chapter books, Middle Grade books or beyond into Young Adult? And how much do the lines between each overlap? Seriously, at what point is a child ready to evolve their social and reading skills above Henry and Mudge? I knew I needed help if I was going to be able to keep making supermom picks, so I went to the source: the authors. And I started with the incredibly elusive Middle Grade category.  My team of Middle Grade authors were excited to jump aboard and help me demystify where chapter books end and a middle grade world begins. Below are just a few of the responses I received on my quest from Vijaya Bodach, Marcia Strykowski, Debbie Vilardi, Melody Delgado, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Connie Kingrey Anderson, and Jan Coates. 46

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Q: Has anyone ever described the Middle Grade bracket to you in a way that stuck or was easily relatable?

Vijaya Bodach: Yes, the library shelves. MG books are those meant for 8- to 12-year-olds. MG is truly referring to the middle years, encompassing the time between when children first become independent readers until their teen years. It has the most diversity in the type of books from family and school stories to stories about saving the world. The main characters needn’t even be human!  Marcia Strykowski: I work in a public library where we label all MG as J (for juvenile) which lies between chapter books and young adult. The reading level is above chapter books and the situations are younger than YA. Melody Delgado: When someone described MG as the middle grades in elementary school, so 3rd and 4th graders, it made sense to me. I use writing lexiles to make sure I am staying on the reading level for that age group. The challenge is to not use a huge vocabulary, but not to speak down to readers, either. I wanted to get some perspective on how the book sets out to connect with the kid so I knew how the kid would connect with the book. How does the author learn “what’s the what” in that age bracket to make the book not only cool and relevant, but to expand their reading skills as well? Q: When you set out to create an MG novel, what goes into that mindset? Do you have a real-life person you draw from or situation you place yourself in to reach that preteen audience?

Vicky Alvear Shecter: I once had a middle-grader come up to me after a school presentation and say, “You know what I love about your book? It sounds like you’re talking to me!” Middle grade fiction and nonfiction, in my view, should be full of personality and voice in a way that reflects this age group’s exuberance. Anubis Speaks! straddles the genre, which is sometimes referred to as creative or narrative nonfiction, because while all the facts about ancient Egyptian beliefs, rites, and practices are true and established (I had the work vetted by an Egyptologist), Anubis’s personality as narrator is pure fiction. I try to make the copy feel


like I’ve pulled a kid aside, and whispered, “OMG, you won’t believe how they took the brains out of a body they were mummifying!” or “Pssst, I swear, I’m not making this up—King Tut engraved images of Egypt’s enemies on the bottom of his golden sandals so he could grind them into the ground all day long!” In giving school presentations over the years, I’ve learned that by the time kids enter middle school (usually by 7th grade), they feel they have to hide their passion for learning because it’s considered “uncool.” I think they fear being labeled nerds for getting excited about a subject. But 3rd, 4th, 5th (and sometimes 6th, depending on the kid) graders go ALL OUT with their enthusiasm about learning. I try to mirror that energy before it gets subsumed by encroaching hormones. Connie Kingrey Anderson: When I dive into a middle grade novel, I think first about the main character as if he’s onstage. Does he bounce when he walks? Does he have raised eyebrows and an expectant grin as if he’s always ready to hear the punch line of a joke? Since my background is theatre, I think of all the ways I can acquaint the audience (reader) with my middle grade character in the most active way possible. What does he look like? How does he move? What does he say? What do other characters say about him? Then I try to make him, his world, and his problem so intriguing that my reader won’t change the channel for the next 200 pages.

Q: The term “Middle Grade” can be tricky to understand as parents and also to explain as authors. How do you create your own guidelines for writing style, voice, content moderation, and/or vocabulary?

Vijaya Bodach: I write a lot of nonfiction for MG readers and one of the things I love about this age is that kids are reading independently so I don’t have to control the vocabulary. Also, as the world is opening up for them, they enjoy learning about new and fascinating things apart from their own experiences. I keep in mind that kids are natural scientists and strive to bring clarity and wonder in my writing. Marcia Strykowski: For some reason, my main characters often end up to be 13 years old, which is fine since kids usually like to read about children a bit older them themselves. I keep the characters on the young side of 13 (no teenage angst or romance beyond a kiss on the cheek) and I make sure their hopes, desires, and situations are relatable to the middle grade range of 8 to 12. Vocabulary is clean, but certainly not dumbed down at all. Debbie Vilardi: I think the easiest thing for me was just to know it wasn’t the same as middle school. It comes before. Ages 8 (fluent readers) through 12. My writing guidelines are to stick with the voice of the character or age group. If the main character sounds authentic, the rest will follow, especially when using a first-person or close third-person point of view. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Jan Coates: What I love about being a middle grade author is that kids that age are on the brink; they’re still kids, although in today’s crazy always-withyou world, there’s a lot of pressure for them to grow up too quickly. I find I’m always channeling my 11-year-old self while writing, and it seems first-person, presenttense works best for me in MG. When I visit schools, I always come away thinking that kids are still kids, with the same feelings, worries, and silliness they’ve always had, which I love! Q: What do you find the hardest about sticking to that narrow 8-12ish age group?

Vijaya Bodach: I write the gamut from pre-K to YA and the hardest stories are the ones that fall in between MG and YA. If I even find myself in that spot, I skew the content so it fits firmly in one category or the other so that there’s no confusion where it should be shelved.  Marcia Strykowski: I don’t find it difficult to stick to that age group. I enjoy writing for various age groups and don’t find it difficult at all to stick to the middle grade level once I have my character and storyline plotted out.  I also needed suggestions! Who better to answer that than a bunch of folks who have spent some serious time in the field sifting through what makes a successful 48

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book different from a snore? For my final question, I asked my authors… Q: So … aside from your own books, which MG authors would you suggest?

Vijaya Bodach: Karen Cushman, Eoin Colfer, Kate DiCamillo, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, Richard Peck, Rick Riordan, JK Rowling, Louis Sachar, Laura Amy Schlitz, EB White, Jacqueline Woodson, and so many more! Marcia Strykowski: I adore Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life, as well as its sequel.  Melody Delgado: Kate DiCamillo is an author I admire.

Some helpful explanations for the terms mentioned above Guided Reading Level: Also called the Fountas and Pinnell Levels after its founders and is used by schools to track learning levels from “A” (kindergarten) through “Z” (Grade 6). Lexile: A reading comprehension level measurement from 5L (Beginning Reader) to 2000L.


Jan Coates is the Canadian author of over 25 books for young readers, including middle grade novels, picture books and leveled readers. Marcia Strykowski works at a public library and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her middle grade titles have been chosen for Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books and shortlisted for the Crystal Kite Award. Melody Delgado loves writing humor for children. OOPS-A-DAISY is loosely based on her own experiences in the world of the performing arts when she had to dress up as a clown and hop across the stage while tooting a toy bugle.

Early Leveled Readers: Usually seen in a collection, you’ll see Level 1 through Level 3 or sometimes higher. Sets of books sold as leveled readers are helpful for parents because once the child has mastered Level 1 in a series, it’s a no-brainer to pick up Level 2. First Chapter Books: Generally large fonts, lots of illustrations, and under 150 pages. Young Adult: Think heavy protagonist-driven tales steeped in friendship, relationships, and identity designed for ages 12 to 18.

Debbie Vilardi is a freelance author and editor. Her published works include poems and leveled readers for children from preschool through sixth grade.

Julianne DiBlasi Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book.

About the authors Connie Kingrey Anderson is the author of the Creepers Mysteries series. Kids read the book in the front, then act out the story using the script in the back.  Vicky Alvear Shecter is the award-winning author of young adult fiction, middle grade biographies and mythologies, and adult historical fiction Vijaya Bodach is the author of over 60 books for children and just as many stories, poems and articles in magazines. Bound is her first young-adult novel. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Teaching Toolbox:

Alphabet Fun by Larissa Juliano

As a reading specialist and kindergarten teacher (former library teacher as well!), I have had the privilege and opportunity to delve into so many different alphabet learning activities through my school district, fellow teachers, graduate studies, professional development, and most of all, seeing what works with my students. After phonemic awareness (being aware of the spoken word and what it sounds like, differentiating sounds, etc) learning our letter names is one of the very next fundamental stepping stones in our literacy acquisition. I have gained a true appreciation for how much time must be spent with children in learning the letter names, recognizing the upper and lower case “in a snap,” and then moving onto learning the sounds. Along with wonderful, well-researched reading 50

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curriculum being implemented in classrooms, there is so much ABC literature, games, and activities to support this learning! Here are a few of my favorite activities to truly teach and enhance the letter name instruction. Books! A quick Internet search and/or trip to your local library will provide dozens of engaging and beautifully written and illustrated alphabet books to share with your precious readers. I love reading the book first, in a very animated way of course, and then re-reading and talking about a few key points. Depending on the child and their letter knowledge, I will be very explicit when I show them letters in a book or on a flashcard. “This is uppercase A. Say uppercase A.” The child repeats. Continue this process until you


feel confident they can say some letters by themselves (this may take weeks, months, etc., depending on age, of course). I also focus on making sure they know the letters in their own name first. A favorite saying of mine is “When you know your letters and you know the sounds they make, you can blend these sounds to read words and stories!” This makes sense to children as their learning develops with age and time. After thoughtful instruction with the names, my questioning will become more open-ended. Such as, What letter is on this page? Which one is lowercase? Uppercase? What is the picture clue on the page? What picture word begins with A? What do you notice about this page? Which letter is your favorite? Here are a few of my favorite ABC books. They are mostly classics, but there are so many amazing, fresh new ones that are absolutely worth checking out: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault; The Alphabet Book by P.D Eastman; Richard Scarry’s Trucks from A to Z; The Alphabet by Monique Felix; LMNO Peas by Keith Baker; Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert; and so many more! Activities! I love puzzles and this year, with the insight of a wonderful special education teacher, I learned the beautiful process of doing a simple ABC puzzle with a child, step-by-step! For example, if it is an uppercase/lowercase match, I will give the child only five letters at a time, and I will have the matching five uppercase letters. We will go through this process slowly and deliberately, naming the letters as we click them together. Of course, there will be lots of time for exploration on their own, but this modeling time

became some of my most meaningful reading group warm-up minutes. Hiding letter tiles in mini sandboxes (I love the Jurassic Sand) and having them sort through the sand to find the letters and match them on an accompanying mat is an absolute favorite in my classroom. Children love the sensory process of dragging their fingers through the coarse sand and naming the letters as they find them. Play-Doh, wiki sticks, and shaving cream to shape those letters and get those fingers warmed up for writing their letters is top priority as well! I am amazed at how finger strength and pencil grip has matured within months because of finger exercise and exploration with fun manipulatives. Learning is messy! That’s what makes it fun! Look for more ideas and activities in future Teaching Toolbox columns! What are your favorite alphabet books and activities? Is there a particular curriculum that encompasses all these things? There are also wonderful apps and technology that support this instruction as well. I am in awe of the brilliant and creative teachers who also create their own fantastic resources and make them available to us in the classroom! Please share ideas with us at Story Monsters Ink using the #teachingtoolbox!

Larissa Juliano is an elementary school teacher, reading specialist, and children’s book author. Follow her on Twitter @larissasjuliano or visit | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



The Kid Who Would Be King reviewed by Nick Spake • grade: B

The Kid Who Would Be King is a modern take on the Arthurian legend, although it has more in common with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Of course, both of those young adult franchises were clearly influenced by the story of King Arthur. In that sense, you could argue that Joe Cornish’s movie brings matters full circle. That’s not to say this is the first film to combine Camelot and contemporary times. We’ve seen this done before in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court and Avalon High, although neither of those films set the bar especially high. As far as family-friendly versions of the Arthurian legend go, The Kind Who Would Be King is one of the better ones, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. Andy Serkis broke out as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he passes the torch to his youngest son in this fantasy adventure. Louis Ashbourne Serkis plays Alex Elliot, an everyday lad who spends his days talking about magic with his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) while dodging a couple bullies named Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris). If you’re up to date on the King Arthur mythos, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these four are destined to become the new Knights of the Round Table. Upon pulling Excalibur out of a construction site, Alex is paid a visit from the one and only Merlin, who informs him that the evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) is set to return in the wake of humanity’s darkest hour. Having previously directed Attack the Block and cowritten Ant-Man, Cornish does a solid job at balancing effects and humor. The most amusing character in the film is Merlin, who looks like Patrick Stewart 52

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back in his heyday. Since the wizard ages backwards like Benjamin Button, though, he appears to Alex as a teenager played by Angus Imrie, who talks like a “D&D” fan who takes his role as Dungeon Master extremely seriously. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the film: goofy while still having an element of gravitas. At times it’s even reminiscent of ‘80s


kid classics like The Goonies, The Monster Squad, or Explorers, although it lacks the edge that really made those films stand out.   From a production standpoint, The Kid Who Would Be King is mostly well-crafted with sharp editing, cinematography, and art direction. Whenever the filmmakers solely rely on computer-generation, however, the action becomes a bit too cartoony for its own good. The effects can especially distract from Ferguson’s performance as Morgana, who’s draped in CGI a majority of the time. The film’s greatest drawback is in the pacing department with the runtime that stretches just over two hours. The story begins to lag a bit in the middle and eventually works up to not just one, but two climaxes. That being said, the final showdown is an inventive one that makes impeccable use of its suburban setting. 

Occasionally, The Kid Who Would Be King runs the risk of blending in with so many other YA fantasy stories, but it ultimately sets itself apart with a capable young cast, a self-aware tone, and even a few surprisingly adult messages. Without giving too much away, Alex’s relationship with his estranged father is a central theme of the story. It would’ve been easy for the filmmakers to simplify this subplot, but they actually tackle issues like abandonment and alcoholism in a respectful way without pulling punches. This also puts a welcome spin on the “chosen one” trope, demonstrating that greatness can truly come from anywhere.

Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for ten years reviewing movies on his website: | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


Livon Life

What is Your Favorite Chore?

Chores may not be the most fun things in the world, but they are certainly a productive way to help out. If I had to choose my favorite chore, it would be walking my dog with my mom. This chore doesn’t even feel like a chore because of how much I love it! My favorite time to walk is between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. because it’s really quiet and calm in our neighborhood. The best part is sometimes we are lucky and get to see a beautiful pink and orange sunset. For fun, I will bring my scooter or bike and have a blast speeding down the sidewalk. Now you might think this walk is for me but when I’m speeding I am also holding my dogs leash to give him some running exercise. Usually, when we walk we bring our phone but we have a rule that we aren’t allowed to use it for talking. Instead we play and sing to a bunch of our favorite songs! Of course, my favorite songs are not my mom’s favorite but we do like each other’s music. Overall, my


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by Olivia Amiri

most favorite thing about our walks is spending time with my mom. We get a chance to chat, giggle, and sometimes she will even join in dancing with me to my music. Chores are only chores if we make them out to be work. Pick a chore that you can do with a family member or friend and make it fun!

Olivia Amiri 12-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. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



GUIDE Spencer’s Adventure: An Unexpected Friend

by Jacquelyn K. Francis Spencer is going to his first day of school and thinks all the little boys and girls are just like him. However, he is in for a surprise when he realizes that each and every person is an individual and special in his or her own way. A book that explores ethnicities and cultural backgrounds in a fun and wholesome way. Sure to be fun for the whole family.

No Head Fred Said: Get Healthy

by Stephanie Keegan No Head Fred said stay safe. No Head Fred said help others. No Head Fred said send thanks. Choose the correct decision in each situation. The No Head Fred books are interactive and parents and teachers can read with children. They promote and reinforce issues that kids have in today’s society. They teach important life lessons. They are available on,, and

Firefly Cave: The Tunnel to China

by Janet Tlachac-Toonen Sidney the Bear and Simon the Duck are on their way to adventure in the new series Firefly Cave. Meet the colorful fireflies that live in the bear cave. Follow them through the first tunnel of the cave that leads Sidney and Simon to the amazing country of China! Lin the Panda gives them fun facts about the country he calls home. Great for ages up to 9 years old.


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Paisley’s Last Quill

by Deborah Weed Paisley’s Last Quill is a wildly imaginative picture book that shares the POWER of SELF-WORTH in a FUN and VIBRANT way! “This story of a young porcupine’s dream to be a fashion designer is squashed at every turn by a fashion bully. The eye-popping color and detail of each illustration is a delight to behold.” - Deborah Hutchison, Founder Gutsy Gals Inspire Me Visit for details! ISBN 978-1-946101-82-2

Tickle Plenty and the Bubblegum Tree

by George Minkoff George Minkoff charms with his imaginative children’s audiobook trilogy. The beautiful writing of the Tickle Plenty series is full of wit that will delight children. In the stories, Tickle and her friends—a talking magic wand, a bear, an energetic bird, and a giant cub—battle evil wizards. Join them on their amazing adventures to the Ice Cream Volcano and the Lollipop Garden. Created for children ages 6-10, read by award-winning narrator, Alison Larkin.

Bacon’s Big Smooching Adventure

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


I See the Sun series

by Satya House Explore the world! Life in different countries told from a child’s point of view. I See the Sun books are an award-winning series of bilingual picture books, each focused on one country and one day in the life of one child with a story told from the child’s perspective. Every book introduces the culture, family life, and language of one particular country in a way that is sensitive to each culture. Includes 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).

Gracie Lou

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

The Kingdom of What Is

by Karl Petersen Thirteen-year-old Kate struggles to adjust after her parents split up. A crow visits and draws her into Time Out Woods, a land of uncommon beauty and love. But this enchanting land has troubles—a plague and people with vanishing limbs—all under the influence of a cunning villain. Kate and her three companions join the rightful Prince on a perilous quest to take back the Kingdom. Fans of Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles will love this novel. 

Rosie and Friends: OneOf-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:

The Three Witty Goats Gruff

by Lora Rozler Three hungry goats need to cross a bridge to get to a luscious field of green grass. But a greedy old troll stands in their way and threatens to devour anything that sets foot on its path. So how can the goats safely cross the bridge? They must get clever, of course! With plenty of repetition and exciting dialogue, The Three Witty Goats Gruff is perfect for shared reading at home or in the classroom. To learn more, visit

Mega Awesome Notebook

by Kevin Minor A boy’s notebook becomes radioactive and the drawings in it come to life. Now he has to make it through a typical teenage day of schoolwork, bullies, and general awkwardness while trying to hold on to his sanity. As he goes through his school day, his interactions with the drawings in the notebook become more hilarious and more personal. | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Emmojean’s Tale

by Margaret Rose MacLellan Emmojean’s Tale begins with a trip to spend the summer with her grandma. She loves her grandma, but Emmojean is quite troubled. Things haven’t gone well for her, especially at school. They say some things happen for a reason, even magical things. Something magical does happen when Emmojean encounters a faerie-tale creature deep in grandma’s garden down by the pond. Will the encounter change her feelings? Step inside and with her, learn to love yourself. Winner, 2018 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards.

The Heath Cousins and the Moonstone Cave

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

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.

The Clues to Kusachuma

by Adam B. Ford While vacationing, twins Allan and Allison discover a complex treasure hunt in their uncle’s big, mysterious house. As the the treasure hunt progresses, each clue brings challenges and danger. The kids make friends and enemies, learn secrets about their family’s past, and discover strange new places and a world that they never knew existed. Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal winner: Pre-teen Fiction – Mystery!

Tucks and Me: Crispus Attucks and America 17661773

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

A Whirlwind of Discovery

by Darleen Wohlfeil Gram and Jackson are knocked off their feet by a loud explosion and land in the most unusual place. Equipped with only housecleaning utensils, they set out to survey their strange new surroundings. It isn’t long before they discover they are not alone, but are tracked by a mysterious presence. Together, they experience wonder, tackle fears, explore solutions to puzzling predicaments, and make memorable friendships. Earned 2014 Story Monster Approved designation.

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. 58

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In honor of African American History Month, we celebrate our authors. .COM, AMAZON N O E L B A OM, AVAIL DNOBLE.C N A S E N R BA GRAM OUGH IN AND THR UTION. IB E DISTR L A S E L O WH


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New Year, New Savings! Connect with schools and the media for possible speaking engagements, interviews, and book sales. A one-year membership is now just $24.99 or $39.99 for two years. Plus, new members receive one FREE digital issue of Story Monsters Ink. Join today! | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Bigger! Bigger!

by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano Stories with bold colors and blocks on the cover immediately catch my interest and this action-packed building adventure will become a fast favorite for our littlest story monsters. We have a strong little constructor building a masterpiece, with one word (sometimes two words) of text on each page. The book gets better! better! as you turn each page and readers will also love the sweet (and surprise) ending when a sibling gets hands on little builders’ blocks. Leslie Patricelli definitely deserves a spot in an author study rotation for elementary students! (Ages 2-5)

The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs

by Mark Sperring, Maddie Frost (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This soft and cozy read will bring a loving close to every day. A great bedtime, or anytime reminder that little ones are just perfect when they give their very best hug! (Ages 3-6)

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

by Daisy Hirst (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil The adorable monster siblings, Natalie and Alphonse are back with great expectations for the fun that awaits them when Natalie learns to read. But, see what happens when it is not as easy as Natalie thought it would be. The struggles of learning to read are real, and sometimes the words can look like birds’ feet across the page. Oh, but the window of wonder that opens when those little birds fly free! (Ages 3-7)


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Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

by Janet Lawler, Olivia Chin Mueller (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This sweet story is so full of encouragement. What a great comfort it is to know that even in our smallest, shyest moments, we can bring joy to others! Mirabel is so shy that a simple act of exchanging Valentines with her class causes her great concern. But, in her faithfulness to meet the situation, she discovers her simple act not only brings happiness unexpectedly, but carries a joyous reciprocity as well. The illustrations by Olivia Chin Mueller are as sweet and enjoyable as the story itself. (Ages 3-7)

Hide and Seek

by Anthony Browne (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This simple story gives a young sister and brother a childhood peek into the fear and joy of being lost and found! The illustrations are amazing, and provide for multiple visits to the pages in a challenging search of hidden objects. (Ages 3-7)

Angry Cookie

by Laura Dockrill, Maria Karipidou (Walker Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Cookie is mad, and he just wants everyone to go away so he can sulk. When we keep turning the pages and Cookie realizes we are not leaving, he begins to tell us what has him in such a mood. It seems that all he really needed was for someone to listen to him. To be able to voice his feelings, and as he hears his own voice, he begins to realize it’s not really that bad after all. Sometimes we just need a friend to listen, and to care about our feelings. An insightful tool for a caring look into those troublesome, grumpy encounters. (Ages 3-7)


Superhero Mom

by Timothy Knapman, Joe Berger (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil  A tribute to moms everywhere! Playmate, friend, protector, and keeper, she is the most underrated superhero on the scene. She doesn’t wear a cape or fly around, but she runs for the bus so fast it feels like flying; uses her super strength to carry her daughter’s boots, coat, bag, and scooter; and can make bumps and bruises better with just a kiss. A great reminder for all the loving help she brings. (Ages 3-7)

Grumpy Duck

by Joyce Dunbar, Petr Horacek (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil  Have you ever had that little black cloud hover over your head? Somehow, nothing can lift it till it spreads so big it’s covering everyone with you. The pond is dry, and it seems Duck is not happy about it. She doesn’t want to roll in the mud with Pig, sing with Rooster, doze with Tortoise, eat laundry with Goat, or join any of the other animals in their pastimes. What will make Duck happy again? (Ages 3-7)

Even Superheroes Make Mistakes

by Shelly Baker, Eda Kaban (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano This super sweet rhyming story takes us through various mistakes that a superhero might make—and how they remedy it! Waking up late for superhero camp? Make a new alarm clock! Mess up the choir? Work together and sing better and higher! The story goes back and forth between excuses we could provide and ways we can learn from them. Problem-solving theme packed with colorful, modern, and fresh illustrations will remind students of lovable superhero characters they have seen in the movies. A fun story with a great message for readers of all ages. (Ages 3-9)

Little Fox in the Snow

by Jonathan London, Daniel Miyares (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil An early peek into the circle of life. Little Fox sets out for adventure. He feels the thrill of the hunt and the quickening of breath in being the hunted. All in a day of the wild, he carries the knowledge of both. Once again safe in his hole, he contemplates better things. The tender tone of the story accompanies the soft illustrations perfectly, making this an enjoyable read. (Ages 4-8)

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

by Jonathan London, Andrew Joyner (Two Lions) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil  Duck and Hippo are back! This unlikely pair shows the true power and magic of friendship. The sincerity of their actions continually brings their small community closer, and Valentine’s Day is no different. Duck understands the heart of love and the excitement of having a secret admirer, so he plans a surprise for them all. Duck, Hippo, and their friends are good examples of sharing, caring and belonging. They may be odd matches on the outside, but on the inside, they are what friendship is all about. (Ages 3-7)

The Dress and the Girl

by Camille Andros, Julie Morstad (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman An extraordinary story about the power of association with items we hold dear to us. Strong memories can be elicited from those special objects that were with us during special times in our lives. In this story, a mother gifts a handmade dress to her daughter. The dress stays with the daughter during her childhood until she parts ways with it as she enters a new chapter of her life, moving from Greece to America. Though the dress and the girl part ways, the story is weaved together beautifully as the dress is reunited with the girl during her adult years. A sweet reminder that our lives are filled with unexpected adventures. (Ages 4-8) | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



There’s A Dinosaur on the 13th Floor

by Wade Bradford, Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge Poor Mr. Snore needs to sleep and he can’t find any peace. The room on the first floor is too noisy. The room on the second floor is too crowded. The room on the third floor is too damp. Mr. Snore finally makes it to the 13th floor. He finds a giant, empty bed that looks very inviting, so he curls up and tucks himself in and begins to snore. The bellhop soon receives a call from the 13th floor. “Someone is in my bed and I can’t go to sleep.” This delightfully illustrated book will keep your child entertained as Mr. Snore tries very hard to find a room to catch up on his sleep. (Ages 4-8)

The Bossy Pirate

by John Steven Gurney (Schiffer) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Fun and friendship have a lot in common. They both require a lot of give and take. Jack and his friends share in imaginary play, and his bedroom quickly becomes an amazing pirate’s ship. All are having fun, until Jack takes his part as Captain a little too seriously, and barks out orders till there is mutiny on the high seas. So you see, in order for friendships and fun to really be, it can’t become all about me. (Ages 5-6)

The Infamous Ratsos: Project Fluffy

by Kara LaReau, Matt Myers (Candlewick) Reviewer: Macaulay Smith, age 7 Ralphie Ratso’s brother Louie Ratso is shocked when the most popular kid in school, Chuck Wood, asks him for help to win over the heart of his crush, Fluffy. Unfortunately, she’s only interested in one thing: Her garden. Meanwhile, Ralphie feels left out and sad that his brother Louie isn’t spending time with him, when they’re supposed to be working together on a poem for the poetry contest! While Louie and Chuck work on Project Fluffy, Ralphie tries to tell Louie how much he misses him. This is a good book, with some great lessons in it! (Ages 5-8)


Story Monsters Ink | February 2019 |

Did Dinosaurs Have Dentists?

by Patrick O’Donnell, Erik Mehlen (Schiffer) Reviewer: Julianne Black This adorable sing-song project has just enough dinosaurs to make it fun and just enough dentistry to calm a worried young mind. With this bright, lighthearted, and fast-paced book, O’Donnell and Mehlen accomplish exactly what they set out to do: create a connection that softens the stress of a first dentist visit. Plus, they get extra points for taking the time to add a comprehensive educational list/overview of the dinosaurs mentioned and the dentistry terms touched upon. (Ages 5-8)

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, LeUyen Pham (Candlewick) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 12 It’s mayhem at the science fair! A squishy goo monster is a challenge for the Princess in Black—but luckily some science-loving princesses are on hand to help. It’s a fast, fun read with colorful illustrations. (Ages 5-8)

Baxter’s Corner series

by L.S.V. Baker, M.E.B Stottmann (Baxter’s Corner) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This is a great series for early childhood character building. Each adorable animal becomes relatable, and offers solutions and means to equip us to make good choices. Covering such topics as Respect for Others, Compassion, Resilience and Cooperation, plus so much more. Each story encourages us to accept ourselves, and to be the best we can be. Every book provides fun facts about the main animal characterized in the story. Along with helpful hints on how to maximize the stories learning potential, and make it personal to each reading audience. (Ages 5-9)


We Were Made For Each Other!

by Jiu Er, Julie Nesrallah (The Secret Mountain) Reviewer: Julianne Black Sweet and gentle moments of illustrated mindfulness. With friendship, gratitude, kindness, and patience … the characters Little Sun, Miss Rabbit, and Little Mouse have a timeless Winnie the Pooh feel. Partnered with beautiful, heartfelt pictures by author and artist Jiu Er, this work is a lovely presentation. (Ages 7-9)

Dog Diaries: A Middle School Story

by James Patterson, Richard Watson, Steven Butler (jimmy patterson) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 12 Dog Diaries: A Middle School Story is a fun book told from the point of view of Junior, Rafe’s dog. Rafe rescued Junior from a dog shelter. Junior tells us what his life as a dog is like and what it’s like being Rafe’s dog. Unfortunately, Junior is misbehaving and has to go to dog obedience school. Will he be the Best Trained Dog? Read the book to find out! (Ages 7-11)

Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts

by Katie and Kevin Tsang (Sterling Children’s Books). Reviewer: Macaulay Smith, age 7 Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts is a really great book. I loved it! The main character, Sam Wu is taunted by the school bully Ralph Philip Zinkerman the Third. Ralph says that Sam is a scaredy-cat and calls him ‘Sam Wuzer,’ and laughs that he can rhyme Sam’s name with loser. After a trip to the space museum and a dare that went embarrassingly wrong, Sam Wu channels his favorite TV show characters, and tries to prove that he is brave and definitely not afraid of ghosts … even though he actually is! I couldn’t put this book down, and I also liked how fun all of the pages in the book are! There’s so much to like about this book! I highly recommend it! (Ages 7-12)

Class Pets: Fuzzy’s Great Escape

by Bruce Hale (Scholastic) Reviewer: Diana Perry Fuzzy is the ambitious and unfortunately named guinea pig of class 5B. He has big plans for this year—namely, to be president of the Class Pets Club. Then the cutest, most charming new bunny shows up and spins Fuzzy’s plan like a hamster wheel. There’s only one way to topple the adorable new club president: Fuzzy is taking the pets on a field trip! This is a great book for young readers. Full of adventure and fun. (Ages 8-12)


by Sarah Weeks (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry All her life, Aurora has heard stories about Heidi and all the good luck she brought Aurora’s family. Aurora, though, doesn’t feel very lucky. The kids at school think she’s weird. And she’s starting to think her mom thinks she’s weird, too. Especially compared to Heidi. On the eve of a visit from Heidi, more bad luck hits Aurora’s family. There’s a fire in their attic, destroying a good part of their house. And, even worse, Aurora’s beloved dog goes missing. Young readers will bond with Aurora and parents may find this book a valuable teachable tool. A wonderful bedtime reading book. (Ages 8-12)

The Light Jar

by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry Nate and his mother are running away. Fleeing from an emotionally abusive situation, they hide out in an abandoned cottage in the middle of a forest. Though it’s old and run-down, at least it’s a place of their own. Then Nate’s mother heads off for groceries and doesn’t return. Has she run into trouble, or simply abandoned him? He is left alone and afraid, but comfort can come from the most unexpected places, like a strange girl trying to solve the mystery of a treasure hunt, and the reappearance of a friend from his past. Young readers will enjoy trying to solve the two mysteries—finding out what happened to Nate’s mom, and following the clues to find Kitty’s treasure. (Ages 8-12) | February 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



A Promise Stitched in Time

by Colleen Rowan Kosinski (Schiffer) Reviewer: Diana Perry Promises can be hard to keep, but Maggie McConnell is determined to keep the promise she made to her father before he died. She must win a scholarship to a prestigious art program, but her grief gets in the way as she struggles to find her artistic vision. When Maggie purchases an old tweed coat as inspiration, she never guesses this special coat will forever change the way she views life and her place in it. There is a mystery to this tale that connects the coat to someone dear to Maggie’s heart. With a brilliant plot, readers will love how all the different parts weave together to become one complete story. (Ages 8-12)

The Witching Hours: The Vampire Knife

by Jack Henseleit (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Macaulay Smith, age 7 This book is spooky! Siblings Anna and Max love scary stories, but things get too real while staying at a hotel in Transylvania. Both kids catch a mysterious white-eyed figure looking at them, who turns out to be a vampire! When Anna wakes up from an awful nightmare, she finds that Max was replaced with a bear, and the vampire had taken him. Anna has to enlist the help of the innkeeper’s daughter Isabella to help rescue Max. If you like books like Goosebumps, you’ll love this book! (Ages 9-12)

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind

by Darlene Foster (Central Avenue Publishing) Reviewer: Diana Perry Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb on a field trip as they visit an ancient landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels. This was a fun book to read. I think young readers will enjoy the discussion questions at the end. Fun and educational! (Ages 9-12)


Story Monsters Ink | February 2019 |

90% Human

by M.C. Berkhousen (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC) Reviewer: Diana Perry Luke Brockway has a secret. As a result of an old family curse, he has tiny eagle feathers under his arms. No one knows, not even his brother, Austin. Now Luke and Austin are at camp, and it’s a challenge to keep the feathers hidden. As the days go by, Luke, Austin, and their friend Megan face even greater perils. When disaster looms, Luke must choose between saving his friends and facing life as an eagle. Will he find a way to become 100% human again? I found much excitement, adventure, danger and several delightful mysteries to solve in this book. Young readers will love how the mysteries unravel, and parents will find this book a great way to get their kids to read more. I couldn’t put it down. (Ages 10-14)

The Unspeakable Unknown

by Eliot Sappingfield (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) Reviewer: Diana Perry In this sequel to A Problematic Paradox, Nikola Kross has battled aliens and won. But her father, who was kidnapped by evil extraterrestrials, is still missing, and now it’s up to Nikola and her friends to find and rescue him before it’s too late. I believe that kids will find this book thrilling with its use of technology. Young readers will love trying to figure out how to help Nikola. I loved the surprise ending. (Ages 10+)

To submit your book for review, email Cristy Bertini at for submission guidelines.

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Story Monsters Ink - February 2019