Story Monsters Ink - March 2019

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March 2019

The Literary Resource for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Lisa Graff Offers an Up-Close Look at New Middle Grade Novel

Rhett Miller

John Martz

Illustrates a Hilarious How-to on Cat Bathing

Lisa Shawver

Pens a Poetic Collection of Parenthood Dilemmas

Releases the First Tale of New Children’s Book Series


Kathleen Cummings

Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld Kelly Starling Lyons Sparks Interest in Science with Popular Chapter Books

Writes a Heartfelt Story Based on a Special Sibling Bond

James Patterson

Humor Helps the Medicine Go Down

Judy Newman

FABIEN Cousteau Shares His Aquatic Adventures in New Graphic Novel Series

A First Name Basis

Teaching Toolbox

A Digital Classroom Q&A

To Swipe or Not To Swipe?

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Linda F. Radke


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Cristy Bertini

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

Special ContributorS Judy Newman James Patterson


Jeff Yesh

Science & Nature Editor Conrad J. Storad

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Linda F. Radke Cristy Bertini

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

Cover photo by Carrie Vonderhaar Photography 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 Contents may not be published in whole or in part without the express written consent of the bylined author and publisher.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 | March 2019 |

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MARCH 2019

in this issue ... Features


24 Kelly Starling LYONS

Sparks Interest in Science with Popular Chapter Books

A First Name Basis

Illustrates a Hilarious How-to on Cat Bathing

44 TEACHING TOOLBOX A Digital Classroom

32 Lisa Shawver

Shares His Aquatic Adventures in New Graphic Novel Series

10 Lisa Graff

Offers an Up-Close Look at New Middle Grade Novel

Releases the First Tale of New Children’s Book Series

36 Kathleen Cummings

46 Monsters at the Movies

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

48 Liv on Life

What is Writing to Me?

Writes a Heartfelt Story Based on a Special Sibling Bond

62 Q&A: To Swipe or Not To Swipe?

Humor Helps the Medicine Go Down

40 Judy Newman

28 John Martz

04 Fabien Cousteau

14 James Patterson

Resources 50 SPRING Reading LIST 56 Book Reviews

16 Rhett Miller

Pens a Poetic Collection of Parenthood Dilemmas

20 One to Watch: Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

Want to read even more? 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 | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


Fabien Cousteau Shares His Aquatic Adventures in New Graphic Novel Series by Melissa Fales

Fabien Cousteau


Who better to launch a graphic novel series for children about daring sea expeditions than Fabien Cousteau, grandson of revered oceanographer Jacques Cousteau? In the new series, Fabien Cousteau Expeditions, he shares his own real-life experiences with a new generation, inviting them to discover the mystery and beauty of the ocean and the animals that live in it. The first book is Great White Shark Adventure (Simon & Schuster). “My grandfather always told me, ‘When one person has the chance to lead an extraordinary life, he or she has no right to keep it to themselves,’” says Cousteau. “That’s why I want to share my stories. Many of these young readers will never be a scuba diver. They will never see a shark in person. But I hope that I can get them thinking about the ocean and the amazing world itself.” Cousteau, who sailed with his grandfather on the famed Calypso and learned how to scuba dive on his 4th birthday, is proud to be a third-generation ocean explorer and documentary filmmaker. He insists he upholds his family’s oceanographic legacy not out of obligation, but out of necessity. “For me the magic of exploration, especially within the aquatic realm, has always been a tantalizing one I can’t live without,” he says. “It’s like an addiction.” According to Cousteau, he’s always wanted to create children’s books about his adventures. He says he and co-author James Fraioli connected on an earlier project and he’s thrilled to have the chance to work with him again. The books will loosely follow Cousteau’s oceanic exploits. “In many ways, they are based on the real-life stories I’ve had growing up and into my adult years,” he says. “It’s part fantasy and a lot of reality. The adventures, as wild as they may seem, are all based on fact.” Great White Shark Adventure introduces readers to young explorers Bella and Marcus who are lucky enough to be on a boat with Cousteau and his research team off the coast of South Africa, where Great White sharks are common. In addition to enjoying an engaging storyline and eye-catching, comic-book style illustrations by Joe St. Pierre, readers will learn key facts about sharks, including the conservation efforts that are underway to protect this fascinating species. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Fabien Cousteau

Cousteau says he wanted the book to read like one of the comic books he enjoyed as a youth. “As a kid, it was not easy to keep my attention, but comic books always did,” he says. In particular, Cousteau remembers reading The Adventures of Tintin by Herge. “I think these are the types of books that kids want to read today,” he says. “I know kids have their technology, and I have always loved technology, too, but there is nothing better than holding paper with images on it to tantalize your imagination.” Other books in the series will delve deeper into Cousteau’s more daring feats, including immersing himself inside a shark-shaped submarine called “Troy” in order to get a close-up view of sharks in action. The stunt was the subject of his 2006 documentary Mind of

a Demon. Cousteau also famously completed “Mission 31” in 2014, spending 31 days underwater with a team of other marine scientists in a unique, underwater laboratory. “Being in an extreme alien environment is extremely risky and dangerous, but when you accomplish something like that, it’s all worth it,” he says. “You get to see things that no one else gets to see because no one stays down there that long.” Cousteau says these types of activities aren’t about garnering attention for him. “It’s about engaging people’s imaginations,” he says. “With Mission 31, I was able to reach more than 100,000 kids who were following me in their classrooms. It’s about sneaking the science in through the back door and getting them interested however you can.”

“My grandfather always told me, ‘When one person has the chance to lead an extraordinary life, he or she has no right to keep it to themselves.’ That’s why I want to share my stories.”


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

Fabien Cousteau

COVER FEATURE | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Fabien Cousteau

For Cousteau, engaging with children, particularly on matters of the environment, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. “The short version is that I love kids,” he says. “My non-profit organization, the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center caters to the young, and the young at heart.” Cousteau says the Ocean Learning Center encourages people, especially kids, to participate in initiatives such as beach clean-ups, oyster restoration, and releasing baby sea turtles. “It’s meant to connect people with our ocean world,” he says. “It’s a way to do a symbolic give-back. It’s always a true reward for me, a recompense, to see children with their interest peaking and to see their eyes light up as the thought process happens. The unbridled enthusiasm of children recharges my batteries in a way that nothing else does. I’m a kid at heart. I may not look like it, but I feel it.” When Cousteau isn’t exploring the ocean, working on programs for his Ocean Learning Center, or making documentaries, he is a coveted public speaker. “I especially like to talk to the kids,” he says. “I tell them about the fantastic creepy, crawly creatures I’ve seen. It’s amazing when you think we’ve only explored five


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

percent of this spectral realm. When I mention that number, it always gets them thinking. I hope they’re wondering, What else is out there?” He also has a new television series premiering this month. Cousteau says all of his efforts, films, public speaking engagements, the Ocean Learning Center, and the new Fabien Cousteau Expeditions book series are all part of an effort to help people forge a stronger bond with the natural world. “It all stems from something my grandfather used to tell me all the time,” says Cousteau. “‘People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they’re taught.’ The crux of what I do is to give people that sense of understanding. I hope it sparks their imagination and their passion, even if they never set foot in the ocean. I want to make them a little more adventurous, a little more curious, and connect more deeply with this little blue bubble we all depend on.” For more information about Fabien Cousteau and his projects, visit and

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Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff

Offers an Up-Close Look at New Middle Grade Novel by Melissa Fales

It took a long time for Lisa Graff to conjure up the plot for her new middle grade book, Far Away (Philomel Books). It follows a 12-year-old girl named C.J. who is traveling the country with her Aunt Nic, a renowned psychic medium who uses her supernatural gifts to connect people with their loved ones in the spirit world. C.J. empathizes with those who flock to Aunt Nic’s shows. After all, Aunt Nic has served as her sole means of communication with her mother, who died shortly after C.J. was born. “I had the idea that it would be interesting to write about a parent or a kid 10

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who is a medium and what that would be like,” says Graff. “It festered in my head for 10 or 15 years before I figured out what the story would be.” Graff started writing as a fun pastime when she was a young girl. “I really liked it and so I kept doing it,” she says. “In high school, I joined the writing club. It was the first time I ever had people read my stories and tell me what they liked and didn’t like about my work. I enjoyed it, but I never took it that seriously. At that time, I never considered it as a possible career path.”

Lisa Graff

FEATURE | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Lisa Graff

It wasn’t until Graff was a senior at UCLA, majoring in linguistics, that she started seriously contemplating what kind of career she would pursue. “I liked studying linguistics, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it,” she says. “I started thinking about my favorite things to do and writing was the first thing that popped into my head.” Following that lead, Graff began looking into graduate schools where she could study writing for the first time. “I had never taken any creative writing courses,” she says. “I thought if I could get into grad school, maybe it meant that I did have what it takes to be a writer. Maybe I could learn more about this thing which I already had such a passion for.”

“I’m really excited about this book. I think it’s got a suspenseful plot that really keeps you on your toes. You don’t know where it’s going to go next.”

Graff was accepted at the New School in New York City where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing for Children. “It was a good thing I got in because I had absolutely no backup plan,” she says. During grad school, Graff began working as an associate editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers. Five years later, she left that job in order to write full time. Her first book, The Thing About Georgie, was published in 2006.

write in a genre that requires more effort on her part. “It went pretty well,” she says modestly of the book which went on to become a 2013 National Book Award nominee. “It’s a very twisty-turny story,” she says. “There are multiple plot lines that intersect and readers have to keep track of all of these varied threads. I think that’s the aspect people particularly enjoyed.” A sequel, Clatter of Jars, followed in 2016.

In the years and many books that have followed, including Absolutely Almost which was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014 and Lost in the Sun, named an ALA Notable Children’s Book in 2016, Graff has watched her writing evolve and mature. “It’s become much more personal,” she says. “I feel like I also take more risks on things that I’m not as comfortable with.” For example, Graff wrote A Tangle of Knots, her first fantasy novel, to intentionally challenge herself to

Graff says she challenged herself when writing Far Away, too. “That’s why it took so long for me to sort it out. It relies very heavily on plot, which doesn’t always come naturally to me. I think my strength lies more in realistic character development.” In Far Away, Graff deftly utilizes both aspects of storytelling as C.J. seeks out the source of the mysterious, anonymous messages she starts receiving on her 12th birthday. “She has to find out where they’re coming from,” says


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

Lisa Graff

Graff. “She takes a road trip to find out. The story is her journey.” Graff is currently working on a picture book, due out next year, called Waiting for You. “It’s a sweet story about expecting a new baby,” she says. “I think people are always surprised to hear how challenging it is to write picture books. They’re so short, and contain so few words. If you change just one word, it can change the whole story. It can be hard to get the story just right when words hold so much weight.” This is Graff’s second picture book. Her first was It is Not Time for Sleeping, released in 2016. “I think I worked on that book, off and on, for six years,” she says. “I ripped the whole thing apart and rewrote it several times.”


revisions as part of her writing process. “I would say it’s normal for me to have only about a quarter of a rough draft that ends up in the final draft,” she says. “I usually make at least one major change in the story.” Far Away was no exception. “One of the biggest characters in the story is 16-year-old Jax, who goes on the road trip with C.J.,” says Graff. “In the first draft, he was a 6-year-old girl named Heidi. That’s a pretty big change. I’m really excited about this book. I think it’s got a suspenseful plot that really keeps you on your toes. You don’t know where it’s going to go next.” For more information about Lisa Graff and her books, visit

Graff admits she has a tendency to abandon large portions of her first draft and undertake extensive

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Humor Helps the Medicine Go Down When my son Jack was a kid, my wife Sue and I had a hard time getting him to read. Even though we were giving him books that had been lauded by kids and critics since the day they were published, he couldn’t find a way to connect with the characters, the plot, or the writing. Admittedly, I was the same when I was a kid. I wasn’t super into books or literature. I didn’t really get into reading until I was in college and had my first job, working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts. It was called McLean Hospital, and it was one of the top private psychiatric hospitals in the US. I used to work the night shift. Long hours in quiet hallways used to bore me to death, until I started bringing reading material to work with me. I found that I was in a frame of mind to seek literature that spoke to me on a human level, that taught me about the human experience, in a way that countered what I was seeing at the hospital. I needed a balm for the stress of that job. I remembered those experiences when my wife and I discussed how to get Jack to read. We realized something that I think is a vital message for all parents: Jack didn’t love to read because he was reading the wrong books. He was reading books that didn’t speak to him in the moment—he was a middle schooler, dealing with friend drama, school drama. The awkwardness of pre-teen life. Middle school is a really tough time in any kid’s life. As adults, we may think 14

Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

back and laugh about the silly things that stressed us out. But in that moment, those things were our lives. A bad grade, a terrible fight with a best friend, a bully poking fun at the way our hair looked. I firmly believe that one of the best ways to cope with the stress of being alive is through laughter. I think humor is one of the best ways we can relate to each other. Making someone laugh is a great way to make a friend. It’s a way to forget that you’re sad, or mad, or frustrated. Humor gives us the strength to keep moving even when the circumstances feel impossible. So we started giving Jack funny books about being in middle school. We gave him Roald Dahl, Harriet the Spy, Shel Silverstein, Beverly Cleary. And, to our delight, he loved them. He had finally found books that he connected with, specifically because the humor appealed to him. He was a funny kid; he liked to tell jokes. He liked to make people laugh, and he liked to laugh. And I’m very happy to report that those funny books turned my kid into a lifelong reader. My experiences getting my son to love books are what motivated me to write my own kids’ books. Many of them are laugh-out-loud funny. And a lot of them deal with some pretty heavy issues. My books deal with tragic circumstances that teach kids valuable lessons— but I always take care to mask them in humor, so kids won’t get turned off by the material. The jokes keep kids reading.


I’m a firm believer that humor helps the medicine go down. That’s why I think being a comedian is one of the hardest jobs on earth. It’s near impossible to teach people important lessons about society and humanity and how we behave using a few pithy comments that end in a punchline. It takes a lot of guts and a lot of smarts—but sometimes that’s the only way to make us learn, by disguising the lesson in something a lot more palatable. So if you find that you’re having a hard time getting your kids to read, put something funny in front of

them. There are plenty of humorous books for middle schoolers that deal with important topics relevant to what kids are experiencing. And in the meantime, I hope you have a good laugh today. Sometimes, a good laugh is all we need to keep us going.

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Rhett Miller Pens a Poetic Collection of Parenthood Dilemmas by Melissa Fales By all accounts, Rhett Miller is a pretty cool guy. He is the lead singer of the rock band, Old 97’s (who recently celebrated their 25th anniversary), hosts a podcast where guests expound their ideas about creativity, and has just released his first children’s book, a collection of 23 alternative poems called No More Poems! A Book in Verse that Just Gets Worse (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). To his two children, however, Miller is just plain old dad and no matter how much he missed them while he was away on tour, their interest in communicating with him via phone or video chat tended to wane after a few minutes. In an effort to 16

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capture their attention, Miller wrote goofy poems under the guise of writing a children’s book and asked them for their feedback. “They’re such good kids,” he says. “I didn’t want to force them to talk to me; I wanted to trick them into talking to me. Really, No More Poems! was born out of a labor of love—trying to get my kids to engage with me as they entered adolescence and their teenage years.” Typically, Miller spends between 150 to 200 days a year on the road, whether touring with the band or as a solo act. “I love my job, but it necessitates me not being able

Alan Silberberg

FEATURE | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




to put my kids to bed,” he says, adding that bedtime usually includes reading a story or poem together, often works by Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl. “That’s a sweet way to bond when I’m home, but it just wasn’t working over FaceTime,” says Miller. What did keep his kids’ digital interest, Miller found, was asking for feedback on the poems he was writing. Miller’s kids— a tween and a teen—are older than the target audience for the poems and they reveled in being asked for their input and the opportunity to give their father some constructive criticism. “They

loved to be able to tell me what I got wrong,” he says. “They immediately got the idea of the way these kinds of poems should feel: a bit snarky but with some heat in the middle of them.” Eventually, Miller realized that thanks to his children’s help, he actually did have the material to publish a book. Mostly, says Miller, the poems in No More Poems! are based on things his children have said or done. For example, one about a child threatening to run away if the family doesn’t get a dog was inspired by his daughter’s incessant pleas to get one, complete with a

“Really, No More Poems! was born out of a labor of love—trying to get my kids to engage with me as they entered adolescence and their teenage years.”

PowerPoint presentation outlining the reasons why it was a good idea. “Now we have a black-haired poodle named Ziggy,” he says. “We took the leap. She wore us down.” Families will readily relate to topics such as cell phone dependencies and sibling discord. Miller says he finds writing poems and stories very similar to writing songs. He’s always had a way with words. “I got a scholarship to study creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, and I still harbor the dream of becoming a novelist, but I chose to pursue my music career instead 18

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because time was of the essence,” he says. “Now I wish I could go back.” In addition to countless songs, Miller has written short stories and articles for publications such as Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and Sports Illustrated. According to Miller, he’s always gravitated to poetry and has noticed a resurgence of interest in the genre since the recent passing of Mary Oliver, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner in January. “Her death has thrust poetry in the national spotlight in a new way,” he says. “It’s sweet to see everyone so excited about her and her legacy. The messages in her poems were so beautiful. It’s sad to have lost her, but it’s nice to see kids having poetry popping up on their social media accounts.” While Miller admires Oliver’s style, his differs greatly from hers. “The poems I like to write the most tend to be the ones with unlikable or unreliable narrators,” he says. If No More Poems! has an overarching theme, it’s that many people are glaringly, comically non-selfaware. “It’s one thing I wish I had learned as a kid,” says Miller. “We’re never able to see ourselves honestly or clearly. We see some version of ourselves, whether it’s one we’re judging too harshly or one that builds ourselves up. I think it will be fun for the kids reading these poems to point to the narrator of the poem who is getting it all wrong and say, ‘I see the way you really are.’ I hope that they’ll learn from that and then apply the lesson to themselves.”

When Miller started searching for an illustrator for No More Poems! he wasn’t sure where to start. “I don’t know this world,” he says. “I don’t know who I should be impressed with or scared by.” Miller happened to hear a podcast of someone interviewing Santat and liked what he heard. “The interview was so low-key and funny and thoughtful,” says Miller. “I immediately mentioned his name to my editor, naively asking if she had ever heard of him.” After working together on the book, the two dads have become good friends. “We have very similar sensibilities,” says Miller. “We’re very much alike in terms of the music we like, the way we go about raising our kids, and the things that make us laugh.” Miller hopes to host Santat on his brand new podcast series called “Wheels Off.” “It’s made up of 30-minute conversations with creative people about the creative life and the creative process,” says Miller. Some of his guests to date include Roseanne Cash, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Fred Armisen, and Will Forte. “What’s so interesting to me is seeing how the creative process is so similar across disparate disciplines,” says Miller. “I find that infinitely fascinating.” For more information about Rhett Miller, visit or follow him on Instagram @rhettmiller.

No More Poems! is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist and New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Dan Santat. Santat is perhaps best known for his book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend and for his collaborations with authors, including the Crankenstein books by Samantha Berger. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


Ones to Read:

Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld by Melissa Fales

The new book by author Beth Ferry and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld is a guidebook, of sorts, about one of the highlights of any child’s year, the all-important birthday celebration. Together, Ferry and Lichtenheld spell out the proper, prescribed way for civilized beings to mark the occasion in Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), but readers soon discover that there are some glaringly obvious exceptions to the rules. “It has a dynamic of some craziness and silliness, but then the tonality changes and it becomes sweet,” says Lichtenheld. “I really like the shift from silly to sweet.” The talented twosome first collaborated on Stick and Stone in 2015, which went on to become a New York Times bestseller. “It’s always been my goal to have another book with Tom,” says Ferry. “It’s harder than it sounds.” Ferry said she didn’t set out to write about birthdays. Instead, she was thinking about the idea of rules and how children respond to them differently. “Some kids hate them, some kids love them,” she says. “I sent it to Tom as soon as I finished writing the first decent draft. His agent said he might be interested. I was waiting with baited breath.” 20

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As it turns out, Lichtenheld was interested. “After that, it became a true collaboration,” Ferry says. “We changed a few things, even changed the ending. I felt we really worked on this book together.” Lichtenheld says his first suggestion was to make it shorter. “It’s actually still longer than the normal picture book, but in my opinion, if it doesn’t feel too long when you’re reading it, then it’s not too long.” Lichtenheld says he enjoyed working with Ferry on all of the little details that combine to make such a difference in a picture book. “It was just the pure pleasure of getting in there and playing together,” he says. “We both had a lot of ideas and we had a joyful collaborative process sending them back and forth, exploring little alleys and dead ends until we discovered the very best.” According to Lichtenheld, this fruitful partnership yielded far more ideas than Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish could hold, with the remainder saved as fodder for future projects. “I’ve learned after doing a number of books that very little is ever wasted,” he says. “Even if it takes eight versions to come up


Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

on the same day. You’re just one of many. But on your birthday, you get to be the star of the show. It’s your birthday and you’re important. For that one day out of the whole year, it can be all about you. Everyone likes that idea—adults and kids.” The duo found that how to end the book posed their biggest challenge. “It’s about a birthday wish, and naturally a child is going to wish for a gift,” says Lichtenheld. “We wanted to avoid giving children the notion that a wish for material things would be granted, because that’s not always the case. So we had a little gymnastics to do there.” with the right one, well, then that’s the path it took. Inevitably, something that doesn’t get used in a book will pop up somewhere else. In fact, I’m constantly using up what I call leftovers—ideas I borrowed from another book.” Lichtenheld has a new book on the horizon that didn’t utilize any of the remnants from past projects. It’s a book about a little girl eagerly waiting for her older brother to get off the school bus so she can play with him. “The funny thing is the whole thing came to me from something I saw,” he says. “I saw a little kid, maybe 3 or 4 years old, standing on the sidewalk looking down the street. So I looked, and here comes a school bus. The whole thing wrote itself.” Lichtenheld is also working on a book about a teddy bear that gets tired of being cuddled and runs away from home. Ferry will release The Scarecrow in September. “It’s about a scarecrow who befriends a cow,” she says. “It’s a warm, sweet friendship story.” For Ferry, the hardest part of working with Lichtenheld was selecting which of his illustrations to use. “The problem was that I loved every one of them,” she says. “Normally, you just see the sketch the illustrator has decided upon. There’s no choice. But with Tom, I had this bounty of choices and we’d say this one works well, but then again, so does that one. It was almost impossible to pick from the plethora of choices.” Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish includes the key elements of any typical birthday celebration, including making a wish and blowing out the candles. “It’s just a fun book that kids will relate to,” says Ferry. “Everyone celebrates holidays like Christmas 22

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This isn’t the first time Ferry has written about birthdays. Her 2015 book Land Shark is about a little boy who asks for a pet shark for his birthday. She says her school visits to read Land Shark have prepared her for what she believes will be students’ inevitable response to Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish. “I was such a newbie then,” says Ferry. “I’d read the book and every kid would raise their hand. I thought they were going to have these great questions for me, but all they wanted to do was tell me when their

Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld


“Everyone celebrates holidays like Christmas on the same day. You’re just one of many. But on your birthday, you get to be the star of the show. It’s your birthday and you’re important. For that one day out of the whole year, it can be all about you. Everyone likes that idea—adults and kids.” birthday was. It’s a universal truth that when you mention birthdays to kids, they want to tell you when theirs is. I find it charming that they want to share something with me. It’s like they’re sharing a piece of themselves because it’s something so intrinsically important in their life.” For more information about Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld, visit and | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons Sparks Interest in Science with Popular Chapter Book by Melissa Fales

Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist (Penguin Workshop) is the third book in Kelly Starling Lyons’ popular series about a bubbly girl with a penchant for science. Lyons says she drew her inspiration for Jada from her own daughter and other children like her. “When I do author visits at schools, I see a lot of kids who should be able to see themselves in the stars of the stories they read,” Lyons says.


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Kelly Starling Lyons


“When my daughter was in elementary school, it was hard to find books about girls who looked like her. I started to wonder if there was a story I could tell that would better reflect her and other girls like her. Jada Jones represents kids who are smart, with big hearts, who push through their fears and dare to be brave. They inspire me when I meet them, and I thought they might inspire others, too.” Lyons grew up in a family of readers and storytellers. “We had books in every room,” she says. Some of her fondest childhood memories are of being curled up by the radiator, reading on cold Pittsburgh winter nights. Lyons’ mother, an accomplished playwright, regaled her children with the most delightful yarns. “When it was bedtime, it wasn’t storybook time, it was imagination time,” says Lyons. “She would make up stories for us and we were riveted.” When Lyons spent time with her grandparents, they’d pass on their own treasured tales. “They grounded me in our family history,” she says. “They told me funny stories about our roots in the south and those stories became a part of who I am.” While in elementary school, Lyons saw a copy of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. It was the first time she had seen a book with a picture of a black girl on its cover. “I connected with it immediately,” says Lyons. “I didn’t even need to

read it or know what the story was about. Years went by, more than a decade, before I saw the second one.” It was Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. “The girl on the cover possessed a smile full of wonder and hope,” says Lyons. “Even though I was a grown-up by then, I felt like I was seeing a part of me. When I opened the book, I found deep themes about empowerment and change presented in a lyrical, powerful way. That was the book that made me want to write for kids.”

Coming in June | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Kelly Starling Lyons

By then, Lyons was writing feature articles for publications such as Ebony and The Christian Science Monitor. She had attended Syracuse University, majoring in Magazine Journalism and African American Studies. “I loved writing features,” she says. “It was always the storytelling part I connected with, especially telling the stories of people who had never had their stories told.” Eager to explore a new genre, Lyons joined the SCBWI, started taking classes, and tried to pick the brains of every published children’s author she knew. When she sent a picture book manuscript to Just Us Books, they turned it down, but suggested she might write the next book in a chapter series they were producing. “I had in my mind that I wanted to write picture books, but when you get an opportunity like that, you take it,” she says. Just Us Books published her first book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal, in 2004. Three years later, Just Us Books published Lyons’ first picture book, One Million Men and Me. Lyons was at the Million Man March in 1995, interviewing young men about what the event meant to them. “I saw a little girl there holding her daddy’s hand,” says Lyons. “She had these big, wide eyes and that image stayed in my head. I had been thinking about how I could tell stories about history that would interest kids and I thought that I could talk about that moment in time as seen through her eyes.” Since then, Lyons has written a number of books, including Tea Cakes for Tosh, Hope’s Gift, and Ellen’s Broom, which won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award in 2013. Most of Lyons’ books are historical fiction, with one notable departure, One More Dino on the Floor. “It’s written in rhyme and it’s really silly and just fun,” says Lyons. Lyons debuted her contemporary Jada Jones chapter book series in 2017. Its heroine happens to be a huge science buff, just as Lyons was as a child. “My favorite present ever was a chemistry set,” she admits. In Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist, Jada is planning her first sleepover and she can’t wait to do all kinds of scientific experiments with her friend. “She learns that not everyone likes science as much as she does,” 26

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“Jada Jones represents kids who are smart, with big hearts, who push through their fears and dare to be brave. They inspire me when I meet them, and I thought they might inspire others, too.”

says Lyons. “Things don’t go quite as she planned.” The fourth book in the series, Jada Jones: Dancing Queen, will be out in June. In April, Lyons will release Going Down Home with Daddy. “It’s about celebrating roots and connections to generations of your family,” she says. The book marks a reunion with illustrator Daniel Minter, who worked with Lyons on Ellen’s Broom. “His illustrations are wonderful,” says Lyons. “They’re full of symbolism and meaning. I love the way he uses such warm shades of brown and how he is able to show emotion in such powerful ways.” Lyons’ book Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations will premiere in August. It’s about the song commonly referred to as “The black national anthem,” which debuted in 1900 at an event commemorating Lincoln’s birthday. “The kids who learned that song passed it down to their children and they passed it down to their children,” Lyons says. “It’s a song that has a lot of meaning within the African American community. I’m honored to shine a light on the children who held onto it and made it a lasting part of who we are.”

Kelly Starling Lyons

When she’s not writing children’s books, Lyons helps other African American children’s authors disseminate their messages about the culture and the history she treasures so deeply through a blog called The Brown Bookshelf. “We’re a team of 10 black authors and illustrators,” she says. “Our mission is to raise awareness of black children’s book creators.” For the past 12 years, the blog’s “28 Days Later” initiative has used each of the 28 days in February— Black History Month—to herald an individual contributing to the catalog of black children’s books. The blog has amassed a significant archive. “We want to make sure that parents and educators know


about these wonderful creators who too often fly under the radar,” Lyons says. “People don’t realize the richness of black children’s literature and all of these outstanding people who are creating this wonderful body of work. We don’t just focus on the books, but on the person. We want people to know about them. We want people to know about their journeys.” For more information about Kelly Starling Lyons and for teachers’ guides and kids’ activity sheets to accompany her books, visit and | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


John Martz Illustrates a Hilarious How-to on Cat Bathing by Melissa Fales

John Martz


Acclaimed Canadian illustrator John Martz has a new picture book, written by Nicola Winstanley, called How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps (Tundra Books). As the title suggests, the book is presented as a simple how-to guide. However, things don’t go quite as planned for the little girl trying to bathe her cat and Martz’s drawings cleverly convey the escalating chaos that accompanies each step, much to the delight of readers. “It’s a meta book in that the narrator of the book is the voice of the instruction manual,” says Martz. “As the child who’s featured in the book finds that things are not quite working out, she negotiates a new plan and begins to talk back to the narrator.” Although he was a voracious reader, Martz was especially drawn to illustrations of all kinds during his childhood. “Comic strips, Saturday morning cartoons, anything that had pictures I was interested in,” he says. In high school, he honed his skills, drawing comics for the school newspaper. He studied graphic design in college and later worked at a TV station designing logos and other images as needed. He was earning a good paycheck at that job, but although his bills were paid, his heart wasn’t completely in it. “Illustrations and comics remained my calling,” he says. Martz felt compelled to make a change. “I decided one day, I’m going to see if I can do this,” he says, leading


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to a 12-year stretch where he worked as a freelance artist and cartoonist. “It was hard work, trying to make a name for myself, but I was finally able to do what it was I wanted to do all along,” he says. Several years ago, Martz took his first job illustrating picture books. His first book, Dear Flyary, was written by Dianne Young. “It’s the story of a little alien who gets a new spaceship for his birthday and it gradually


John Martz

begins to break down,” he says. “I love science fiction, so it was a perfect entry for me into the picture book world.” Since then, Martz has collaborated with a number of authors and has also written and illustrated books of his own, including Evie and the Truth About Witches, Burt’s Way Home, and Destination X. His 2014 book, A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories was shortlisted for Canada’s Governor General’s Award. “It’s an award given out by the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in our government,” Martz explains. “It’s as close to getting recognition from the Queen as you can get. It’s the most prestigious literary award in the country.” Martz says he enjoys both working solo and working with an author, but he appreciates the freedom that comes from creating his own storylines. “When I’m illustrating something someone else wrote, I’m at the mercy of their text,” he says. “If I’m writing for myself, it’s quite easy to avoid putting things in the story that I don’t want to draw.” According to Martz, automobiles and horses are two of the things that fall into that undesirable category. “I don’t enjoy drawing things with lots of precision,” he says. “I don’t like anything too complex. I value simplicity and efficiency in the work I do in design and images. I think it comes out of my

graphic design background. If a text calls for very busy images, that goes against my natural instinct.” How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps marks the first collaboration between Winstanley and Martz. “We’ve tried to find a book project to work on together for some time,” says Martz. “For whatever reason, it never worked out until this one came along. When it did, we both said ‘Let’s do it!’” Martz found | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink


John Martz

“I’m learning something new every day. Like a lot of other illustrators there, I didn’t have any formal education in picture books. I’ve learned from my own experience and have gleaned as much as I can from other illustrators’ efforts. Having a ‘backstage pass’ where I can learn so much from so many others has been quite valuable.”

the manuscript appealing in its simplicity. “By its very nature, a pastiche of an instruction manual, it appealed to my design sensibilities,” he says. “I was attracted to the idea of a book that could be designed as much as illustrated.”


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Don’t let the subjects of his books fool you. Although cats are the subject of two of his books, Martz doesn’t have any cats and shares his home in Toronto with his dog, Gary. “There is something quite satisfying about drawing a cat, though,” he says. “If you can draw a circle and two triangles, you can draw a cat.” Martz has held the position of art director at Tundra/ Penguin Random House Canada for just over one year. That makes him an illustrator who edits the work of other illustrators. As it so happened, the first book he worked on in his new job was How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps. “I was contracted to illustrate the book before I had the role,” Martz explains. “It was a nice way to ease into my new position.” Martz says working as an art director has been an incredible opportunity for him at this point in his career. “I’m learning something new every day,” he says. “Like a lot of other illustrators there, I didn’t have any formal education in picture books. I’ve learned from my own experience and have gleaned as much as I can from other illustrators’ efforts. Having a ‘backstage pass’ where I can learn so much from so many others has been quite valuable.” For more information about John Martz and his books, visit

Lisa Shawver Releases the First Tale of New Children’s Book Series by Melissa Fales

When Lisa Shawver first met her dog Max, a Chihuahua-American Staffordshire Terrier-Australian Cattle Dog mix with one ear that is always up and one that is always down, she was only planning to foster him at her home temporarily until she could find him a forever family. After spending just one weekend together, however, they had formed a dissoluble bond.


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Lisa Shawver


“By Monday, that was it,” Shawver says. “He was mine. There was no way I was going to be able to give him up.” Over the course of their almost eight years together, Shawver had already grown a large social media presence for Max with over 50,000 followers on Instagram and over 80,000 on Facebook. Now, this precious pup is gaining an even larger audience as the star of Shawver’s new children’s book series: Adventures of One Up Max: Runic and the Crystal Cave (Paradigm Impact Group). Max and Shawver have become nearly inseparable since she adopted him in 2011. “Even though I technically rescued him, I think it’s more accurate to say that he rescued me,” says Shawver. Everywhere they go together, whether driving through town or walking in the park, Shawver says Max causes a chain reaction of happiness, leaving people smiling in their wake. “People recognize him,” she says. “They wave and they come up to talk to him. He’s so friendly and he always makes people laugh. People are just drawn to him and he loves all of the attention.” When she read an article about a dog with an overbite who boasted 2 million followers on social media, Shawver decided to create social media accounts for Max. “He brings me so much joy, I just knew I had to share him,” she says.

The enthusiastic reception Max receives on social media continues to inspire Shawver. “It gets all of my creative juices going,” she says. Shawver has created a number of funny memes featuring Max for people to share and adorable photos of him taken in all different seasonal settings. “You really have to post something every day if you want to keep your audience engaged,” she explains. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Lisa Shawver

“I started thinking about different stories about Max, just little adventures I created in my head. And that’s how I came up with the idea of writing a children’s book series about him. I have so many ideas for Max because he’s so much fun.” In Adventures of One Up Max: Runic and the Crystal Cave, Max teams up with a dragon named Runic. “My agility trainer has a big dog named Runic and I’ve always thought Runic looked a little like a dragon,” says Shawver. In the book, Max discovers a strange creature and follows him into a wormhole that transports them both into another world ruled by strange, scary animals. It’s an action-packed journey that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. It’s no surprise that Shawver’s first foray into writing is in the fantasy genre. “I’ve always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy books,” she says. “I find that they are great ways to escape because they are so different from reality.” She is currently working on the second book in the series, The Underworld Portal. “I don’t know how many books there will ultimately be in the series,” she says. “I think it will depend on wherever

“Even though I technically rescued him, I think it’s more accurate to say that he rescued me.”

my imagination takes me. I know that I have a lot of ideas already, and with Max, there’s always going to be more inspiration for a new story. He’s always doing something funny.” Shawver is a former Olympic athlete, playing softball for the Puerto Rican team in 1996 and played professional baseball for the all-female Colorado Silver Bullets. She’s worked as a school administrator, a financial planner, is the co-creator of Hula Girl Beverages, and has taught for 17 years, first at the elementary and middle school levels, and is currently teaching at-risk high school students. She’s also worked as a life coach and says she strives to incorporate the strategies and the advice she would give to her coaching clients into her own life. “I would tell people to seize whatever opportunities that may come their way,” she says. “That’s what I’ve done with Max, first with social media and now with Adventures of One Up Max: Runic and the Crystal Cave. I didn’t plan on doing any of this, but I’ve chosen to welcome the opportunities as they presented themselves to me and it’s all been very rewarding.” Now, says Shawver, she wants to be around Max as much as possible. “I want to be with him all the time,” she says. “It’s one of the big motivators for me to write. He is such a special dog. He’s my passion and I want to help other people find their passion. You should love what you do, whatever that may be. You have to follow your heart. Listen to your heart. When you love what you do, your life has that certain sparkle.” For more information about Max and Lisa, visit and Also, be sure to follow One Up Max on Facebook and his Instagram page, @oneupmax.


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El Papa Francisco dice... Spanish-language Board Book Filled with the Wisdom of Pope Francis

El Papa Francisco dice... El Papa Francisco dice. . .

El Papa Francisco dice… contains 34 illustrated pages, with designs to fully engage children. The messages among the pages are taken directly from Pope Francis’ own writings to the children of the world. • Ideal for families who pray in Spanish or are learning Spanish together. • Teaches young children about their personal value and that God is present always.

Papa Francisco

• Depicts children from around the world to introduce children to different cultures of the Christian faith. SPANISH: HC | 9780829446555 | $8.95 | 800.621.1008 | Order direct from publisher or your local bookseller. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Kathleen Cummings

Kathleen Cummings Writes a Heartfelt Story Based on a Special Sibling Bond by Melissa Fales

Kathleen Cummings’ first children’s book, You Call Everybody George, is about the universal thrill of receiving a present. The story introduces a girl named Kacey who is counting down the days until her birthday, when she can finally open the large, wrapped gift her brother Max has waiting for her. The days pass slowly and the anticipation builds until Kacey finally opens the present and receives a delightful surprise. “It’s a fun and educational book, but there’s a mystery to it and a suspense that I think young readers will really enjoy,” she says. Cummings, a piano teacher by profession, is a mother of five and a grandmother to nine. “I always wanted to 36

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write,” she says. “When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher told me, ‘You are going to write a book someday,’ and that has stayed with me all these years.” In particular, says Cummings, she wanted to write for young people. “I think one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book is because when I was a young child, we didn’t have a lot of books,” she says. “When I got to first grade, I discovered first readers and I just fell in love with them. I remember in school when we got to walk to the town’s small local library. I would sit on the floor and read, just enthralled with all of the books that could take me on

Kathleen Cummings


adventures all over the world. I want to help children today experience that feeling and that joy.” You Call Everybody George is based on a real-life interaction between Cummings’ son and daughter that took place over 30 years ago. Cummings has changed the names of the characters but the gift itself, a stuffed panda bear, and the emotions behind it remain unaltered. “This story explores the powerful bond between a brother and a sister,” Cummings says. “I wanted to write something original and this is definitely original and personal. It was my daughter’s attachment to that gift that inspired me to write this book.” In You Call Everybody George (edited by Book Bridge Press), Max is heading off to college. He knows his 5-year-old sister, Kacey, will miss him terribly and he wants to give her a special treat to cheer her up while he’s away. Max brings home a gift in a sealed box and asks Kacey to help him wrap it. “He tells her that it’s for a very good friend of his,” says Cummings. “She’s very excited to help him, and picks out just the right wrapping paper.” Then, Max asks Kacey to help him with writing out the gift tag, spelling out the name of the recipient letter by letter, while Kacey dutifully writes each one in her best penmanship. “My 5-year-old granddaughter actually wrote out the name tag shown in the book,” says Cummings. When Kacey realizes she’s written her own name on the tag, Max explains that the gift is for

her, for her birthday. “However, her birthday is a week away, so she’s going to have to wait a whole week to open it,” says Cummings. That’s when Kacey begins waiting and counting the days. “I looked at every children’s book I could find and didn’t find any that talked about the days of the week,” says Cummings. “This one introduces that concept. Kacey has a calendar in her room and checks off each day.” Each page is dedicated to one day of the week and with each day, Kacey engages in an activity that young readers will want to join in. For example, one day, she passes time by pointing to all of the orange dots on the wrapping paper. “I think kids can really relate to that kind of endless anticipation, wondering if the big day is ever really going to come, especially for things like Christmas and their birthdays,” says Cummings. The artwork in the book features many details, carefully drawn by Cummings’ eldest daughter, Colleen Jaeb. “Before Kacey opens the present, each page of the book has the panda bear hiding somewhere on it, so kids will enjoy trying to find him,” says Cummings. However, the panda’s face is never shown until Kacey opens the present and he comes out of the box. Kacey immediately names the panda George, based on Max’s predilection to call everybody George, which explains the book’s title. “My son really did call everybody George and it always made my daughter laugh,” says Cummings. Cummings says her daughter treasures the stuffed panda. “It’s amazing how much joy a special gift can give to a child,” says Cummings. “My college-bound son did just that when he chose the perfect gift for his | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Kathleen Cummings

little sister. I thought children would be able to relate to that aspect since so many of them have a favorite stuffed animal that provides them with security and friendship.” She says she hopes the book will help families deal with temporary separations of all types. “I think that military families will find this book especially appropriate to their situation because of the fact that so many moms or dads have to leave for a time,” says Cummings. “Children in those situations will understand how that feels and what it’s like to count down the days, until a special occasion arrives or a loved one returns home.” The book, first published in 2005, has been recently rereleased. “You Call Everybody George is now a memorial to our son,” says Cummings. Her son passed away from cancer, but not before he got to see a version of the book based on his heartfelt gift to his sister. Cummings’ daughter is now married and has a child of her own. “She still has George, the stuffed panda bear,” says Cummings. “He’s a bit worn and grungy now, but he is still so very loved.” You Call Everybody George is available on Amazon and at 38

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“I think that military families will find this book especially appropriate to their situation because of the fact that so many moms or dads have to leave for a time. Children in those situations will understand how that feels and what it’s like to count down the days, until a special occasion arrives or a loved one returns home.” | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




A First Name Basis On the eve of Women’s History Month, I started thinking about the role of women in my reading life and realized that when I was a kid, most of the books I read and loved were by—and about—women and girls. I grew up in an era of disruptive feminism. As an adult, I read and appreciate the work of the now-called “second wave” feminists that began in the 1960s: Gloria, Betty, Angela, and Erica. But as a kid, set against the frightening backdrop of Kent State, the Vietnam War on the TV in the kitchen each night, and the threat of a world leader pushing the dreaded “red button” and sending us all into oblivion—I was pretty terrified. Before I understood the role of activism in society, I was scared by these loud feminist voices. My mother worked as a teacher, then as a social worker. My grandmother worked as a piano teacher. My own teachers were women. Miss Bartel was the principal of

Marching for women’s liberation. © Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images


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the John Ward School I attended, and even though she “went to hell” in an underground school anthem, she had real power and was revered and respected. I didn’t see any limits to what I could accomplish. Obviously, I didn’t get it. But now decades later, I realize something. While I was too young to be out protesting (I felt so self-conscious even trying on a bra in Filene’s dressing room, let alone burn one in public!) and while at the time I didn’t see what “women’s lib” had to do with me, I must have internalized these feminist messages and expressed my interest and concern in my own way. Looking back, I recognize virtually all of the books I read and loved as a kid featured two types of feminist heroes: real-life women who were the subjects of the Childhood of Famous Americans biographies; and a group of outspoken, self-determined characters who were usually around my age and fictional.

I loved reading books by these women—Beverly Cleary, Louisa May Alcott, Astrid Lindgren, E.L. Konigsburg, and Louise Fitzhugh. From left to right: © Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images;© Culture Club/Getty Images; © ullsteinbild/ullsteinbild/Getty Images; © AP Photo/Florida Times-Union, Jon Fletcher; © John Cech/Recess


I went through a period in third grade when I would read and reread the biographies of women who had made their mark in American history. I was inspired by the paths of Amelia, Betsy, Florence, Clara, Harriet, and Sacagawea. I really wanted to fly around the world, make flags, volunteer for the Red Cross, abolish slavery, become a translator and a naturalist, and help others. Beginning in fourth grade, other than the gorgeous National Geographic magazine that came to our house every month, I read mostly fiction. And the authors of those books—Beverly, Louisa, Astrid, Elaine, Louise, and Virginia—were mostly women I adored. And their characters—those outspoken, fierce girls— Beezus; Jo, Beth, Meg, and Amy; Pippi; Claudia, Harriet; and Zeely—were my role models for girls who could do anything. They inspired me. I consider them my friends for life. Now that I am (mostly) a grown-up, I still believe in the unparalleled power of female characters in books to show how strong and self-determined and worldchanging women can be. My bookshelves always make room for new role models and friends who came into


the world after me in life: Ha, Lanesha, Esperanza, Hermione, Katniss, and Stargirl, and so many others. In the world we live in, many heroes—real and fictional—don’t live up to their hype. They disappoint in some big or small way or fall out of style and become irrelevant. But not my girls: they are forever indomitable, fearless, and above reproach. They are equal-opportunity entertainers. They are generous and enthusiastic about each new generation of readers who comes their way. They often live in a man’s world, but they push through and around it. They take on boys and men and injustice in the neighborhood and in the world. They own their own stories. They don’t pass the buck or place blame. For them, every month is Women’s History Month. We are on a first name basis and they set the bar high for me.

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



Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 | | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Teaching Toolbox:

A Digital Classroom by Larissa Juliano

More and more teachers and librarians are utilizing digital magazines in their classrooms, including me! Now that Story Monsters Ink has gone digital, let’s explore all the different ways you can make the most out of each issue! Be sure to head to your library and do a “book hunt” after learning about your students’ favorite authors, newly released books in the Book Reviews section, and dozens of books and authors featured across the colorful pages of each and every issue. Most have active links so you can hover your mouse over the text and you will quickly see what links are available to you. 44

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When I open a new issue or look through a back issue, my first stop is the table of contents to see which articles and books are being featured, and how I can incorporate them into my class:

Do an author study Every issue will have someone for you and your students to meet. Jeff Kinney, Sandra Boynton, James Patterson, Lauren Child, Tomie DePaola, Kate DiCamillo, and so many others have all graced the covers. Choose one to research further and follow along in their writing journey, or have your students write the author a letter.


True life inspiration Learning more about real-life heroes with wisdom and insight into life’s challenges (big and small) will certainly motivate and personally connect with readers.

Feeling nostalgic When Mister Rogers’ and Levar Burton’s familiar faces pop up on your screen, take that opportunity to share some of their magical and inspirational shows, find books about friendship and kindness, and even act out some puppet shows!

Fresh ideas for tweens Ann M. Martin’s Babysitters Club is featured on the August 2018 issue and will surely generate interest for a whole new generation of Kristy, Mary Ann, Stacey, and Dawn followers. Stars like Kelly Clarkson, Ruby Jay, Danica McKellar, and more can be real role models for girls learning to find their voice and navigate through the complexities and challenges of middle school relationships and academics.

Classroom projection devices Bring up your magazine on your Smartboard, Prometheum, or other computer/projector device and ask questions for children to come up and click, or circle with computer pens, to get them moving and interacting! There are extra fun and interactive pages to bring up on your projection device, such as the reading guide, book reviews, author websites after reading the article, videos, and movie reviews. With so many districts using computer projection technology, many classrooms will have the ability to project this literary resource for all students to see.

Nonfiction scavenger hunt Focus in on the magazine for a high-interest resource to begin a nonfiction feature scavenger hunt (prep ahead of time). Explicitly teach what nonfiction text features are (they are to nonfiction what story elements are to fiction) and what purpose each one serves (this can be open-ended). Text feature examples: captions, table of contents, headings, photographs, quotation marks, bold words, graphs, charts, glossary, index, and more.

Bonus things to ask children/tweens/teens as you flip through the magazine… *What genre of books are featured in this section? *What is the theme of this author’s work? What is their inspiration? Find out if the author Skypes and set up a visit with your class! I have done this multiple times in my school district and in my graduate studies. Same with real-life heroes. *Follow Story Monsters’ social media pages to stay upto-date of upcoming articles and writing contests

Explore the Monster’s website The Story Monsters team is constantly updating their site with so many features and tools for teachers and students to access on their own. Teaching guides are available as PDFs to go along with each issue. Questions in the teaching guide can be modified depending on the child’s age—use your teaching experience and love of literature to make the magazine come alive in the hands of your students!

Student writers One of my favorite links on the website is “Student Writers Wanted” which gives our readers monthly opportunities to feature their own writing pieces— book reviews, articles, essays, poems, and drawings! This would be a dream come true for me as a middle schooler in love with writing!

Share with us! Send us pictures or comments of how your classroom and children are using the digital version of Story Monsters Ink! Tag us on Facebook or Twitter @ StoryMonsters and use the hashtag #teachingtoolbox. We would love to feature them in future Teaching Toolbox columns and/or Story Monsters social media! Let’s learn and grow together with this literary resource at our fingertips!

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



The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part reviewed by Nick Spake • grade: B+

The Lego Movie was proof that you can’t judge a book— or a brick—by its cover. What seemed like a featurelength commercial wound up being a poignant, humorous, and visually stunning treasure that was shockingly robbed of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination. The Lego Batman Movie was not only a worthy spinoff, but one of the Dark Knight’s best outings on the silver screen to date. The Lego Ninjago Movie might’ve been a mixed bag overall, but everything is thankfully awesome again in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. While it doesn’t exceed the original classic, the filmmakers have broken out the big blocks to build upon the franchise’s lore, comedy, and characters with splendid results. Picking up immediately after the first part, our yellow heroes find themselves in the midst of a DUPLO invasion. Fast-forward five years and their world has been transformed into a more adorable version of Mad Max: Fury Road. This drastic shift has caused everybody to adapt to their harsher environment, except for Chris Pratt’s Emmet, who’s as optimistically naïve as ever. Emmet is forced to toughen up, however, when Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), and Benny the spaceman (Charlie Day) are taken hostage. Their captor is the shapeshifting Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who claims she comes in peace, but something more devious may be unfolding behind the curtain. The race is on for Emmet to rescue his friends before a wedding that may cause their entire universe to crumble. On his travels, Emmet finds a kindred spirit in Rex Dangervest, an intergalactic cowboy who operates 46

Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

a spaceship with a crew of raptors. The character is basically a parody of Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, Owen from Jurassic World, and the other action heroes Pratt has portrayed in recent years. This creates a hilarious dynamic between Rex and Emmet, who has more in common with Andy Dwyer and the overly lovable goofballs Pratt rose to fame playing. It’s just one of the many ingenious touches from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who handed directorial duties to Mike Mitchell


this time around, but did return to craft the screenplay. Their story doesn’t exactly run on logic and at times feels as if the writers are making it up as they go along. Since this universe runs on the imagination of children, though, that’s kind of the point. Speaking of which, the film does contain another twist regarding Finn (Jadon Sand), the little boy who appeared in the original film’s live-action segments. The bridge the filmmakers created between the human world and the Lego world was not only an unexpected revelation, but also an emotional highlight. In The Lego Movie 2, however, we can see the big revelation coming based on our knowledge of the first film. Because of this, the final act doesn’t pack quite as much of a punch this time around. That being said, the film still builds to a touching conclusion with a valuable message about family and growing up that feels truly earned.

While The Lego Movie 2 can feel familiar, it never comes off as redundant. It gives us exactly what we want out of a sequel: more self-aware cameos, more visual gags, and more immensely likable characters. What’s especially impressive is that the filmmakers aren’t afraid to be unapologetically goofy, but this never comes at the expense of legitimate character development. Even at its silliest, we sincerely care about the yellow bricks at the center of this tale. Whether it’s being childish or mature, The Lego Movie 2 always has a big heart to offer.

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


Livon Life

What is Writing to Me?

I believe that writing is one of the best ways we communicate as people. Writing to me is a great form of self-expression. I love to write both fictional and nonfictional literature. Someone can say so much in just a few words. A sentence can literally change someone’s entire life. A rather dramatic example of this is when in Hawaii, the Emergency Management released a written statement: “Please evacuate immediately due to ballistic missile launch—Civil Danger Warning Message.” Can you imagine getting a text like this or seeing this on a billboard?! This would cause possible danger to everyone rushing out of town, with all the fear and chaos. The impact of written words is long lasting and forever changes the world. In this case, State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, validated with the U.S. Pacific Command and confirmed there was no missile launch. It was just a false alarm. On a more positive note, let’s say you had put up flyers around the neighborhood with cute photos of


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

by Olivia Amiri

your lost boxer, Doggie. Days went by and you were losing hope, but you got a text saying: “We found your dog by the south side of the park.” That written communication would make your heart race with joy. These are examples of how impactful writing is. Today you can say so much, because of the nouns, verbs, and wonderful, powerful literature people created. You can basically say anything with words and go in so many directions and have so many possibilities. Reading written words in a book or in a letter at night before you go to bed with a flashlight is just heaven on earth. Try it sometime!

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. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



LIST The Present is a Gift

by Elchanan Ogorek The Present is a Gift is a children’s picture book that takes us on a journey to achieve mindfulness. Readers are transported from a classroom out into nature to observe animals in yoga poses and practicing mindfulness. Children will enjoy the illustrations and learn to live in the moment, reduce stress, and build confidence. Included in the book is a kid-friendly mindfulness guide that learners of all ages will love.

The Amazing Adventures of Little Right Sock

by Brintha J. Gardner Oh no! A little girl is missing her right sock! It may have fallen off somewhere along the way ... or could it have gone on an exciting elephant ride? Perhaps it’s hiding among sparkling jewels in a treasure chest! If you lost your very own little right sock, where do you think it would go? What would it do? Share this whimsical story of imaginative sequences and thrilling adventures with the children in your life!

Muffin’s Shadow: A Muffin “Tail”

by Laura W. Eckroat When Dad pulled into the parking lot, Muffin became a little nervous, because this was somewhere new. The place was big, like a giant maze, and her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the bright lights. Then suddenly, she saw it, for the very first time ... her SHADOW! It seemed to follow her everywhere. She kept moving, but the shadow chased her! What was the shadow, and will Muffin get free of it? Just right for ages 5-8, the book is wonderful for classroom and humane education, too.


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

With the Courage of a Mouse (The Superhero School Series)

by Donna Sager Cowan Catt wants a home and friends she can count on, but suddenly lands in Sweet Meadows and discovers she can talk. Is she asleep or dead? This was Simon Cheddar’s worst day. Instead of celebrating his first day at Superhero School, he’s on the breakfast menu! The hawk wants an easy meal—a quick snip and trim changes that. But another predator waits. So long destiny. Armed with a matchstick, Simon speeds toward certain death.

No Head Fred Said: Send Thanks

by Stephanie Keegan The fourth book in the No Head Fred Said series promotes thanking those who serve others. Children learn to write letters of thanks to teachers, police, fire fighters, medical workers, and the military. It spurs conversation and promotes passion and gratitude for these selfless and sacrificing careers. It also teaches and promotes letter writing. Books are available at,, and

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 seen from a child’s point of view. Each bilingual picture book in this award-winning series focuses on one country and one day in the life of one child with a story told from the child’s perspective. Learn about different cultures, family life, and language in a way that is sensitive to each culture. Age-appropriate (5+) country facts and a glossary for extended learning are included in each book. NEW in 2019: I See the Sun in India. Other titles are I See the Sun in. . .USA, Mexico, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkey, and Myanmar (Burma).

No One Mocks a Panda

by Paolo Mazzucato Take a rollicking, rhyming ride through the animal kingdom to discover that no matter how different we may be, it takes all kinds, shapes, colors, and sizes to make the world a special, wondrous place. Celebrate diversity and “whatever kind of beast you are, smile in the world’s embrace.” Ages 3 to 8 - Publisher, BepiBooks - $14.95 hardcover

Freshly Baked Pie

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.

by Lora Rozler Playful. Mischievous. Impatient. What will 5-year-old Emily do when she is told to stay away from a cooling pie? Will she do what’s right, or will she give in to temptation? Follow Emily’s imaginary battle with an irresistible pie. Never has examining rules and consequences been so much fun. With exciting dialogue and a suspenseful narrative, Freshly Baked Pie is perfect for shared reading at home or in the classroom. To learn more, visit

The Kingdom of What Is

Very First book series

by Brett Lindsay Murphy The Very First book series is literature dedicated to helping beginners prepare for a variety of daunting, new experiences. Throughout the series, GiGi encounters many Very First experiences. Each time, she learns different ways to prepare as a novice and conquer beginners’ anxiety. The series emphasizes the importance of preparation to minimize the potentially crippling effects of nervousness and anxiety. Like GiGi, readers learn that new experiences are less unnerving when you prepare.

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. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Adventures in Boogieland

by A.R. Bey Arcadia seemed to be an ordinary town for Simon X, who wanted nothing more than to become the best trumpeter ever. After auditioning for the prestigious Bartholomew Performing Arts Academy, he and his classmates: Lulu DeBarge, the harpist, Krupa Patel, the violinist, and Maxwell Winehouse, the saxophonist, find themselves in Boogieland. Lead by the eccentric Madame Charisma Divine and the wonder of her ways. Will the children overcome their fears to unleash the music within?

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.

My Real Name is Hanna

by Tara Lynn Masih Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of 14 when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant, award-winning debut novel is a powerful coming-ofage story that’s been described as “a brilliantly rendered memorial to survivors of the Holocaust” (School Library Journal). An extensive, free Reader’s/Teacher’s Guide is available at


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

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.

Tucks and Me: Crispus Attucks and America 1766-1773

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.

The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim

by Paolo Mazzucato Fantina arrives in 1902 Venice, Italy, in search of fortune and glory, but uncovers, instead, a secret plot to destroy the city. Now she must join a mysterious guild of gondoliers and harness the unseen power of Glim to defeat the evil forces at work. With elements of Italian folklore, steampunk fantasy, and actual Venetian history, The Gondoliers will welcome young readers into an enchanting new world of wondrous adventure. Ages 8 and up - Publisher, BepiBooks - $18.95 hardcover


Confessions of a Tween Superheroine: The Dunk’N Divaz (PlayBook 1)

by J.M. Guy Jazmin Gillette is a crafty middle schooler with big dreams and a wild imagination. She’s searching for a big break for her singing group, The Divaz Five. Dr. Billion “Dolla Billz” Norruson is a retired pro basketball player turned video game scientist. He’s searching for basketball players to transform into slam-dunking superheroes. When these two missions collide, the game of basketball and the world of sports and music will never be the same again.

Summer the Firefly

by Vikki Lynn Smith Summer the Firefly is a delightful story that shares the excitement surrounding the arrival of the first firefly of summer. King Deer, Sequoia, and Little Squirrelin join with the animals of the woods as they learn the importance of the little glow bug, and what it means to have her shine her light for all to see. This science-based tale is full of whimsical dialogue and stunning illustrations that will capture the minds of its readers.

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. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 | | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Peppa Pig and the Career Day

by Candlewick Press Reviewer: Larissa Juliano It’s Career Day with Miss Gazelle and her students! Peppa and her curious friends are privy to special classroom visitors sharing their careers and how they help people. Lovers of the television show will recognize all the characters and love that Miss Rabbit is in charge of several jobs and keeps making Peppa and her friends smile with her numerous class presentations. The illustrations are delightful and fresh, the text is easy to follow with the perfect Peppa Pig charm that we love, and lots of giggles in between. A must-read for early elementary parents and teachers as they teach our littlest ones about helping hands in the community. (Ages 2-5)

I’m in Charge!

by Jeanne Willis, Jarvis (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Julianne Black Winning pair Willis and Jarvis give us a fun lesson on what it means to be in charge! Little rhino is ready to be his own master. He’s not going to share, he’s not going to listen, and he’s not going to take orders from anyone … that is, until he has an afternoon that changes his perspective completely! Great tale for kiddos who know it all, or are testing those boundaries. Beautiful illustrations cap the feeling tone of the African landscape and the adventure from little rhino’s point of view. (Ages 2-5)


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Good Night, Forest

by Denise Brennan-Nelson, Marco Bucci (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano Beautifully illustrated in watercolor, Good Night, Forest is going to be a staple on every sleepy reader’s bookshelf or nighttable. The story takes readers on a day-long adventure in a beautiful forest, filled with critter friends and majestic trees. Halfway through the book, illustrator Marco Bucci creates a beautiful sunset and we start bidding each animal and element of nature, goodnight. The rhyming in this story is simple, with a sing-song quality, and readers will feel a sense of peace (and hopefully sleepiness) as the creatures curl up for slumber. (Ages 2-7)

Little Owl’s Snow

by Divya Srinivasan (Viking) Reviewer: Julianne Black As the forest creatures all bed down to sleep through the cold, Little Owl feels like the forest is empty. But when the snow falls and the winter animals come out to play, Owl discovers a winter wonderland! Excellent fall to winter expression for a child’s understanding about what happens in nature when the temperature drops, but beyond the lesson on hibernation, there is something about Srinivasan’s illustrations that make these books magical. The colors and distilled imagery really land the feeling of a silent forest as well as lively playtime in a fresh snowfall. A wonderful follow-up to Little Owl’s Night and Little Owl’s Day. (Ages 3-5)


Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: Classic Folk SingAlong Songs

by Sin and Swoon, Sophie Casson (The Secret Mountain) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil I’ve often heard it said that there is a story behind every action. The reading of this little book, of a well-known nursery rhyme, reveals such a story. Beyond the visual interpretation of the lyrics lies interesting facts and details of the evolvement of this sweet song. (Ages 3-5)

Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets: An Unusual Alphabet

by Sara O’Leary, Jacob Grant (Random House) Reviewer: Diana Fisher This unique alphabet book is so enchanting and sweet, I actually teared up a few times reading it. The whimsical illustrations are a perfect foil for the endearing alphabet animals and their little stories—all mirroring concerns or aspects of life as a small child. Charming, imaginative, silly, funny, and relatable—it’s a delightfully fresh look at a much-done subject. It’s so engaging and cute, your child may even forget it’s about the alphabet … while reinforcing it nonetheless. (Ages 3-7)

Misunderstood Shark: Friends Don’t Eat Friends

by Ame Dyckman, Scott Magoon (Orchard Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Friendship rests on a tender balance of not giving or taking offense. Shark and Bob still seem to be at odds over an incident where Shark ATE Bob! Bob feels wounded in the friendship due to Shark’s lack of self-control, and obvious lack of respect for him, while Shark feels terribly misunderstood. Can they ever resolve the hurt feelings their friendship has stumbled upon? Lots of shark fun facts to be learned while the waters bubble with emotions. (Ages 3-5)

The Boy Who Went to Mars

by Simon James (Candlewick) Reviewer: Julianne Black Stanley was replaced by a Martian when his mom left for a work trip. Thankfully, it was just an overnight trip, because the Martian did not do well with Earth’s rules and customs. He wouldn’t wash up at night. He complained about dinner. He even got in trouble at school. It was a great relief because once mom got home, the Martian went back to Mars and Stanley came back—just in time for hugs. Handling change in his own special way, Stanley is relatable to the kid in us all. Sweet, unusual, and full of love, The Boy Who Went to Mars is a beautiful read. (Ages 3-7)

Ten Days Till My Summer Vacation

by Carine Roch, Jeff Gomez (Ten Days Till Series) Reviewer: Julianne Black Super fun countdown book designed to teach time, counting, memory, and color through repetition. The growing list of vacation items are relevant and adorable to the age group Carine Roch is targeting. There is an excellent summary at the end of the lesson where the viewer is able to color in the blocks and main character to cement the string of memorizations. Definitely a series to read! (Ages 3-7)

Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl

by Susin Nielsen, Olivia Chin Mueller (Tundra Books) Reviewer: Diana Fisher In this delightful book, a pet cat— Princess Puffybottom—has the “purrfect” life until it’s turned upsidedown by the addition of a second pet—a dog named Darryl. Princess Puffybottom schemes to get rid of Darryl, while Darryl just wants to be friends. The story is adorable, and a humorous allegory for children who have siblings on the way, or to simply address getting along with others. The illustrations are really cute—especially Princess Puffybottom, whose expressions are priceless. (Ages 3-7) | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




by Noah Klocek (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This darling book takes us on that magical journey when sometimes we’re caught awake while searching for sleep. The illustrations are as sweet and tender as Amelie, as she forges the night until she stumbles upon slumber and finds her favorite dream. (Ages 3-7)

Designed to Shine! Read Aloud Rhymes for Any Size Heart

by Joy Resor, Lauren Connell (Joy on Your Shoulders) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Children love to rhyme! Whether singing or reciting, it’s so much fun when it rhymes. Poetry is lively and captivating, and the sooner we introduce it, the more joy it brings. The topics skip through laughter and fun, to awaken and discover new things. Illustrations by Connell are whimsical and delightful. (Ages 3-12)


by Ame Dyckman, Charles Santoso (Little, Brown) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Truly a tribute to dads! A dad and his lawn have a special relationship. That is, until a little girl wins hands down in the great war on Dandelions! The illustrations bring a lively visual aid to the story that every family can relate to with giggles and chuckles! (Ages 4-7)

Chicks Rule!

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Renée Kruilla (Abrams) Reviewer: Diana Fisher Don’t give up, work together, and you can accomplish anything, is what all sorts of different chicks do when they learn there are “no chicks allowed” in the Rocket Club. Left out but not deterred from participating on their own terms, the chicks succeed fabulously as a team, with each one contributing something important. The illustrations are cute and colorful, and the story is set to rhyme, making it a fun and inspirational read. (Ages 4-8)


Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

Franklin and Luna Go to the Moon

by Jen Campbell, Katie Harnett (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Time and circumstances can broaden the distances between family and friends. Luna and her best friend Franklin the dragon set out on a great adventure to find Franklin’s family. It’s been a very long time since he has been home, and he’s forgotten the way. Together they soar the skies until at last Franklin is reunited, and great fun is had by all. (Ages 4-8)

No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies

by Robin Newman, Chris Ewald (Sky Pony) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Tired of the daily sunflower seeds they are fed from the staff at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Phil, Jim, and Harry decide they want to try something new, so they make a break for it in search of pizza or Chinese takeout. But everywhere they go, they’re told “No peacocks!” With some stolen disguises and help from students, they devise a plan to sneak into a school cafeteria to try some mac and cheese! These silly peacocks are penned after the real celebrity birds of St. John’s. A truly fun story. Includes a comprehensive curriculum guide. (Ages 4-8)

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

by Lisa Papp (Peachtree Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This is truly a heartfelt story that will linger far beyond its reading. The illustrations capture every delightful word, and tucks it ever so lovingly into the heart. Sweet little Madeline Finn will win you over with her sincere efforts to love and comfort the many waiting animals that fill our shelters. A tender seed worth planting into every child’s fresh soil. A kindness expressed, and multiplied. (Ages 4-8)


Good Egg and Bad Apple

by Henry Herz, Luke Graber (Schiffer Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil It’s fun to learn quips and sayings. Those clever plays on words that always seem to bring a chuckle or two. They lighten up this heavy subject of bullying, while still giving helpful insight on a very relatable subject. While giggling through vegetables humor, Good Egg shows us there are positive ways to turn an enemy into a friend. Herz also provides fun notes that explain the familiar idioms and puns he uses. (Ages 5-8)

H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z

by Sydell Rosenberg, Sawsan Chalabi (Penny Candy Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This warmhearted memorial to Sydell Rosenberg brings us to a very important message with Haiku. It’s a sweet remembrance to stop, draw in the wide angle, and focus in on the small points. Poetry is a language of imagery. It creatively flows through the emotions, bringing form and thought to the beauty it finds there. Haiku is a form of poetry originating in Japan, that seeks to draw the attention away from the whole to capture the smaller parts that could be overlooked. Drawing the reader to a keener awareness of the small joys and wonders of life that may contribute to the whole. (Ages 5-11)

Astrid the Unstoppable

by Maria Parr (Candlewick) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 12 Astrid the Unstoppable is a heartwarming story about family and friendship. Astrid, whose nickname is “The Little Thunderbolt,” is the only child living in the village of Glimmerdal. Her best friend is her godfather, Gunnvald, a grumpy 74-year-old man. But soon Astrid’s world is turned upside down by two startling arrivals to Glimmerdal: first a new family, then a mysterious, towering woman who everyone seems to know but Astrid. It turns out that Gunnvald has been keeping a big secret from his goddaughter. (Ages 7-10)


by Anh Do (Scholastic) Reviewer: Diana Perry Weir Do is the new kid in school. With an unforgettable name, a crazy family, and some seriously weird habits, fitting in won’t be easy … but it will be funny! Young readers will surely relate to Weir. Everybody has something they feel is weird about themselves. This book is a funny lesson to teach kids to learn more about each other—they will surely find that they have surprising things in common. (Ages 7-10)

Middle School Misadventures

by Jason Platt (Middle School Misadventures) Reviewer: Diana Perry In Jason Platt’s vvdebut graphic novel, Ferris Bueller meets Calvin and Hobbes in this hilarious and embarrassing middle school caper that asks the important questions—like how long can one kid vamp before he embarrasses himself in front of his whole school? The illustrations perfectly capture the action and the emotions of each character. Except for a few, most kids find Middle School terrifying on a daily basis and will really enjoy seeing how Newell handles his disasters. A great read. (Ages 8-11)

A Drop of Hope

by Keith Calabrese (Scholastic) Reviewer: Diana Perry Times are tough, jobs are scarce, and miracles are in short supply. But something strange is happening in If Only, Ohio. An old well has suddenly, impossibly, begun to grant wishes. And three sixth graders are the only ones who know why. Ernest, Ryan, and Lizzy know they can’t fix the world. But in their own little corner of it, they can give everyone a little hope ... one wish at a time. I see this wonderful book as a teaching tool for young readers to put themselves into the shoes of others. Each child’s life story weaves together to one great ending in this heartwarming book. (Ages 8-12) | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Wicked Nix

by Lena Coakley, Jaime Zollars (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 12 Wicked Nix is a story filled with imagination, tricks, and mischievous behavior by Nix, a fairy. Nix doesn’t like humans, especially since he was put in charge of protecting the forest. Nix tries to chase a human man out of the forest by threatening him with his curses and spells, but the man fights back. (Ages 8-12)

The Potter’s Boy

by Tony Mitton (David Fickling Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry Ryo was born the son of a potter, a fate that he is unsure of once a mysterious wanderer and trained fighter comes to his small village and protects them from a band of thieves. Inspired by the events, Ryo embarks on both a hero’s quest and a quest to be a hero. Through his adventures, Ryo trains in the art of both fighting and mindfulness under the elusive Hermit of Cold Mountain. But when tragedy strikes, Ryo knows he must use what he’s learned to do what is right for himself and his future. This book serves as advice to each of us that we must find our own path in life and that sometimes you must go far away from home to find your way back again. (Ages 8-12)

Super Sons: The PolarShield Project

by Ridley Pearson, Ile Gonzalez (DC Zoom) Reviewer: Diana Perry In this graphic novel book, Superman’s son Jon and Batman’s son Ian want to be just like their dads. Jon Kent and Damian “Ian” Wayne are opposite in every way except one—they are the sons of the World’s Greatest Heroes! To uncover a global conspiracy, this unlikely dynamic duo will need to learn to trust each other and work together to save the Earth. But who is the mysterious Candace, and what secrets does she hold that could be the key to everything? This book has it all: action, adventure, mystery, and plenty of obstacles for our next generation superheroes to overcome. (Ages 8-12)

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest: The Banana Tree

by Maggie van Galen, Joanna Lundeen (Outskirts Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil Rules can feel restricting, and sometimes just don’t make sense. But Keeno learns a very important lesson, the hard way! His parents made their rules with great consideration, and concern for his safety. Sometimes, when our desires outweigh common sense, it’s a good thing to have a faithful friend like Ernest close by. This story is a great opportunity to open discussions on why rules and structure play such an important part in our lives, and how obedience is often necessary for our survival. (Ages 8-12)

Seed Savers: Treasure

by Sandra Smith (Seed Savers) Reviewer: Diana Perry It’s 2077. There’s no apocalypse, but some things are different. Things like the weather, the Internet, and food. In 12-year-old Clare’s world, blueberry is just a flavor and apples are found only in fairy tales. Then one day Clare meets a woman who teaches her about seeds and real food. With Ana’s guidance, Clare and her friends learn about gardening. When the authorities discover the children’s forbidden tomato plant and arrest their mother, Clare and her brother begin a lonely cross-country journey that tests them both physically and spiritually. Can they help change the world? What a fun-to-read series that teaches the importance of growing our own food. It leaves young readers excited to read the next one. (Ages 9-12)

Catch Me When I Fall

by Bonnie Graves (Regal House Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil This is truly an interesting tale. Readers will find a friendly gentle pace that keeps the pages turning. So many feel the push of quest, and stumble at the mystery of identity. Emma Monroe’s heart was tangled in just such a journey. Trying to solve the mystery of her absent father, she is lead into the amazing world of circus life. Will she find what she’s looking for? And will it be worth the cost? Truly an engaging story! (Ages 9-12)

To submit your book for review, email Cristy Bertini at for submission guidelines. 60

Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

Award-winning multicultural children’s books

The Adventures of Keeno & Ernest Series Adventure, Action, Friendship & Life Lessons ISBN: 978-1935874355

ISBN: 978-1935874362

ISBN: 978-1935874348




ISBN: 978-1935874140

ISBN: 978-1935874201



“…a must have for every child’s library…”

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest

A New Friend

Maggie van Galen

ISBN: 978-0981872087 English/Dari (Afghan Farsi)

Illustrations by Joanna Lundeen Gallant

“…a romping good read…” “…plan to use this book as a mentor text when teaching story structure…” ISBN: 978-1935874089


ISBN: 978-1935874270 ISBN: 978-0981872056 English/Nepalese (Devanagari) English/Mandarin Chinese

For ages 5 and up - $12.95 Available wherever books are sold

Satya House Publications | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink




To Swipe or Not To Swipe? by Julianne Black

As a parent, I shop online a lot—not just because it’s an easy way to simply “add to cart” things I recognize we are out of around the house, but also because reviews are so important to my final selections. Books are no exception. Very rarely do I bring a book into the house without having checked out the author and the reviews. However, shopping online for books also presents an interesting conundrum as I must decide: In what format do I want this? Gone are the days of agonizing over simply hardcover or paperback. Now we see the same book in audio formats, digital downloads, interactive apps, and augmented read-alongs. I’m totally guilty of laughing out loud while my then-4year-old played with Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance! app on the iPad. But really, when is a digital book a good thing and when does it take away from the traditional picture book experience? Is there an age, genre, or reading level that turns the corner from paper to digital, or is it all mix-and-match based on your child and how you feel about technology? I reached out to a few of my favorite children’s picture book authors—Elizabeth Dale, Sue Fliess, and Bethanie Murguia—for their thoughts.

Elizabeth Dale: I am for MG (middle grade) and older children’s books going digital as I feel they can work alongside standard books in engaging children in 62

Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

reading and appreciating the joy to be found in stories in books. I feel that children of this age will already be very used to screens and need to be encouraged to use books as much as possible, so that they become part of their lives. It is never too early to learn the sheer joy of turning the pages of a book. Oh yes, middle grade readers will easily make a digital transition, especially when their homework and testing is already on screen. You have also made a great point about encouraging companion paper books simply for that traditional, tactile experience. Sue Fliess: I am for books going digital. As a picture book author I would always advocate for a parent or caregiver sitting down with a child with an actual book to create that bond and promote language and literacy, but that may not always be financially possible. Digital versions of my books allow for convenience, but also affordability. At the end of the day, the child is reading or at least absorbing a book, so I don’t see the harm if it’s presented in the right way. Well, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about the overall cost of the books, and yes, a downloaded copy is certainly cheaper in many cases. Also, an entire library can be carried under one arm if need be. So what are the drawbacks of going digital? When would an author not want their books represented in digital formats and why? Elizabeth Dale: I am definitely NOT for producing digital versions of picture books. For young picture book readers, a physical book is probably their first proper encounter with any kind of book and will be a good way to introduce them to the concept of reading across the page and then turning the page. For young ones, the pleasure lies not only in reading the book and seeing the beautiful big pictures (which are naturally diminished on the screen) but also in sharing the physical book with a parent, holding it between them and really exploring the pictures together and pointing out the funny bits! It’s amazing what children see in illustrations that adults just don’t pick up on, and how the same picture can be interpreted quite differently. And of course, for a tactile text or one with paper engineering of some kind there is the physical


interactivity, such as pulling a tab or lifting the flap which will help to improve dexterity. Then there is the fun of sharing the anticipation as the young child or their adult reader slowly turns the page to find out what happens next—especially if, as often with picture books, there is a real cliff-hanger at the end of a double-page spread. When I read my book Nothing Can Frighten a Bear to a group of children, it is great for us all to anticipate what has happened to the other bears or what Daddy and Baby Bear can see. There is also great fun to be had in quickly looking back to see what was really going on and what clues had been missed in a previous picture. Of course that can be done on the screen but it is just so much more fun on the page! Oh yes! As a kid I loved flap books, turning them upside-down for hidden answers or pop-up experiences. I know you can tap and shake interactive apps, but do kids really get the same experience? Does a digital “pop-up” stay with a 5-year-old as much as I can still remember my first paper pop-up Star Wars book with Luke reaching for the light saber across the frozen

Hoth cave to free himself? I had that book well over 30 years ago and I still remember sliding the paper wheel to make it float across the page. Will kids remember moments found in these apps 30 years from now? But besides choosing digital-based for enjoyment, does it serve a purpose? Elizabeth Dale: I do think digital technology can help children read their Early Readers. One of my publishers, Maverick (Lerner Publishing in the States), has cleverly set up a website for their Early Readers ( where the reader holds the physical book and reads along with the audio, and there is a video with the written words on the screen that match the words in the book. And the reader is prompted to turn the page at the right time. So this is an example of digital and physical books working together to enhance the reading experience. Of course the book has the extra fun of the pictures which really add to understanding the story and provide a prompt as to what the words might be. | March 2019 | Story Monsters Ink



Bethanie Murguia: I think the optimal picture book experience requires a physical book. Turning pages, feeling the details of a cover, smelling the paper—these all give readers sensory experiences that don’t happen with digital books. That said, I’m not opposed to digital versions in situations where carrying physical books isn’t practical. I find it sort of magical that I can log into an app (through my library) and have thousands of digital books available to me. I feel strongly, though, that digital versions should mimic the reading experience as much as possible. Interactive bells and whistles just distract from the story and move away from the beautiful simplicity of the picture book—a clear beginning, middle, and end in one sitting. Again, a great point about accessibility and how a simple log-in opens an epic amount of content, and right there in our own homes. But how early is too early to introduce digital books? Sue Fliess: A pediatrician once told me an 18-monthold baby picked up a physical book and tried to swipe

the cover. While I have mixed feelings about that, I think that not only is the next generation ready … they are going to own and reinvent the digital age. Sue Fliess is the author of Tons of Trucks, The Hug Book, and Ninja Camp! Bethanie Murguia is the author of Do You Believe in Unicorns, The Too-Scary Story, I Feel Five, and more! Elizabeth Dale is the author of My Treasury of Teddy Tales, Scrumpy, How Long, and Nothing Can Frighten a Bear.

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

Grab your hat and read with the cat on March 2! 64

Story Monsters Ink | March 2019 |

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