New Video about My New Children’s Book Release!

Hi everyone! I am excited to share my newest children’s middle grade book release with you all! I have been working on this book for a while now and am definitely proud of the results! “Creepy, Funny & Just Plain Weird: Stories and poems for kids” is goofy, funny and a little bit gross and creepy at times too! It is sure to appeal to kids, even reluctant readers! Make sure you check out my short vlog video about the new book:

If you would like to get a copy of this book for yourself or your kids, you can find the paperback version for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $6.99. There is also a Kindle ebook version available for $2.99! If you do read it or get it for your kids, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads or even just reaching out to tell me personally what you thought of it!

Life Update: Jobs, Kids, Writing & Bernie Sanders!

 

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“YOLO” collage on paper by Maranda Russell

Hello everyone! I’m sorry that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. I hope to start remedying that now. Here is a short list of some of the things that have been going on in my life recently, as well as some of the projects I am looking forward to beginning:

  • For the last 8 months I have been working part-time in an emergency room. During that time I have met some fascinating people, but I have also been witness to a great deal of human suffering. I have always been a sensitive, rather empathic person who feels things deeply and in that way, I feel that this job has affected me greatly. I will be leaving the position soon to pursue other opportunities, but I am grateful for the experience.
  • Recently I have begun to take on more freelance writing gigs, particularly in the field of children’s writing. I have found that one of my true passions is taking the visions of other authors and helping them create great stories for kids. I especially enjoy editing picture books or other types of literature for young readers. Mostly I have been getting clients through online sites, but I am open to offers from other clients, so if you have a children’s book that you would like help editing, feel free to contact me!
  • My husband and I are hoping to start doing respite for kids and young adults with disabilities soon. Ever since we stopped fostering kids, I have missed having children around to play with and care for. I can’t wait to get a chance to have a full house again, even if it is just for short periods of time.
  • My YouTube vlog, Maranda’s Toys & Books, has been growing quickly! Ever since I decided to focus the channel mostly on my nerdy love of toys, books and collectibles, it seems to have found its niche and an audience that is a lot of fun to interact with! For that reason, I will probably be sharing my more serious or personal posts here on my blog from now on.
  • Lastly, this is kind of random…but I’m really rooting for Bernie Sanders! Feel the Bern! Even if he doesn’t end up winning the presidential nomination, I am thankful to see so many younger people step up and show they care deeply about the fate of our country. I think what I love most about Bernie is that he is such a humble, down-to-earth politician. It is truly refreshing to see.

National Young Readers Day – bedtime stories, my favorite childhood storybooks

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In honor of National Readers Day on November 11th, I was inspired by Casper, a new mattress company that makes latex and memory foam mattresses, to put together a collection of my favorite bedtime stories. As a child, I was lucky enough to have several family members who would often read to me. My grandmother probably read to me the most. She instilled a love of the written word in me before I could even write my name. My mother and older sister also took the time to read to me, creating warm memories I will always cherish.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorite storybooks back then:

1. I grew up on Little Golden Books and had quite a collection of them growing up. However, two Little Golden books really stuck with me. “Home for a Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown and “Prayers for Children” by Eloise Wilkin still bring a smile to my face whenever I see them in a bookstore or library. Cracking those books open takes me back to a happy, innocent time I often miss.

2. “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” by Dr. Suess. I had quite a few Dr. Suess books growing up, but this was always my favorite as a kid. I still flip through this book when I see it in my doctor’s waiting room. A couple years ago I even bought some pajamas featuring this Dr. Suess classic.

3. “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” by Arthur S. Maxwell. This was the book series my grandmother read to us over and over. It is a collection of children’s stories that focuses on Christian values. I always liked the stories with miracles in them the most. That was like magic to me.

4. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” by the Brothers Grimm. My sister and I both loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales when we were young. We had an antique book with the entire collection in it. It was not an edited or abridged version, so I grew up listening to the classic dark tales in their entirety. To this day, I much prefer the original stories over the cleaned up Disney versions.

So what were your favorite bedtime stories as a kid? Feel free to comment and let me know!

Book Review – ‘The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe’ middle grade series

Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe

It has been quite a while since I posted a book review, but I just love this new series so much I had to share my thoughts about it! So far, “The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe” book series (written by Gordon McAlpine and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi) consists of two published books. The first volume is entitled “The Tell-Tale Start” and the second is called “Once Upon a Midnight Eerie”. As you can probably tell already, the author loves a good play on words (as do I!).

I was initially drawn to this middle grade (ages 8+) children’s series while browsing the children’s department at Barnes & Noble. The cover and title of the first book immediately captured my attention because I have always loved Edgar Allan Poe. When I studied the book further, I found the premise quite original. To sum it up, the books revolve around Edgar and Allan Poe, twelve-year old identical twins who also happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of the famous horror/mystery author. One thing that makes these twins unusual (and help creates some of the drama) is that the boys have a telepathic communication ability and pretty much function as one person. In both books, there are significant threats to the lives of both main characters, so it is full of action, suspense and a touch of morbid humor for kids who like that kind of thing. Of course, since it is a middle grade series, Edgar & Allan always manage to foil their enemies and survive.

I think the best thing about this book series though are the parts where you get to see Edgar Allan Poe himself in the “great beyond”. It is hilarious to see our poor Poe having to work for the seemingly grumpy and narcissistic William Shakespeare in heaven. Poe constantly finds himself in trouble in heaven because he is always breaking the rules to interfere in the lives of his nephews on earth. Of course, being in trouble is nothing new to Poe, seeing as he was quite used to it during his earthly life. I also love how in the second book, Edgar and Allan are joined by a pair of twin girls named “Em” and “Milly” Dickinson, who happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnieces of the famous spinster poet Emily Dickinson (more name puns there). I look forward to seeing which other literary greats (and their descendants) may be written into the story in the future.

I realize that not all adults like to read children’s books like I do, but I hope that if you have kids in the middle grade age range you will have them check out this series and see if they like it. I am hoping it will become popular enough to go on for quite a while because I want to keep reading it!

Stop the Bullying! Please!

Stop Bullying!

“Stop Bullying” mixed media ACEO art.

I hate bullying. I hated it when I was a kid and I still hate it as an adult. Over my short lifetime of 31 years, I have been bullied for many reasons, among them:

  • Physical looks (been called ugly, fat, big butt, butch, lesbian, etc)
  • Personal interests and personality (been called a nerd, geek, dork, retard, stupid, immature, crybaby, goody goody, weirdo, etc)
  • Social issues and awkwardness (probably due to my Asperger’s)
  • Being too liberal
  • Being too conservative
  • Being a Christian and believing in God
  • Not being the “right” kind of Christian or “Christian enough”
  • Being a woman who speaks her mind and is intelligent (which apparently means you are a “bitch” or are not feminine enough)

Of course, I know there is some argument about what constitutes actual bullying, but I consider bullying to be anything said or done to intentionally hurt another person or to just be plain mean.

Unfortunately, I have also been on the other side of bullying, especially when I was younger. I have called other people names, talked about them behind their back and stood by silently while others tormented a particular person. I am not proud to admit that, but it is the truth. One thing that has shocked me as I have gotten older though is how much bullying still occurs in the adult world. It happens at work, it happens in social circles, it happens in politics, it happens in tabloids and media, it even happens in churches! And of course we all know it happens on Facebook and other social media sites frequently – especially between family members.

So what can we do about the bullying plague? How do we raise kids who won’t bully when even adults act that way at 40 and 50 years old? The only true solution I can see is to change ourselves. If I stop bullying and you stop bullying and then others stop bullying…hopefully someday the problem will be eradicated…or at least greatly reduced. So think twice before you call someone a name or mock them cruelly. Maybe keep your mouth closed when you are tempted to cut someone down behind their back or spread a rumor. Stand up for someone who is being torn down for no real reason. Keep debates and arguments about the actual subject at hand and don’t start personally attacking someone just because their opinion is different than yours. If deep inside you know that you are purposefully being mean or hurting someone…just stop it. It really is that simple.

I was a paranoid kid…is that normal?

Tonight I’ve been thinking about what a paranoid kid I used to be. I started thinking about the subject when 3 of my cats started acting totally crazy tonight. For some reason they are agitated, anxious messes and seem to think there is something scary in one area of the house, even though I see nothing there. It was starting to creep me out a bit since I am the only adult awake in the house right now. So those thoughts brought back childhood fears and paranoid delusions. Now I am wondering is every kid the freaked out mess I was? Here are a few examples:

  • As a kid I firmly believed that Satan lived under my bed. I have no recollection of where this idea came from, but it was firm. If I happened to have an arm or a leg hanging over the edge of the bed at night, I believed that was an invitation to Satan to grab hold of me and pull me under into Hell. Even after all these years, I still find myself unconsciously trying to keep from having an arm or leg dangle off the bed
  • I also believed that at night three witches would meet in my room to brew potions and cast spells. As long as they thought I was asleep, I thought I would be safe, but I knew if they noticed I was awake, they would have to kill me.
  • One of my childhood friends (I can’t remember who) told me that Freddy Krueger could get to you through the bath tub drain. His metal hand would come up and slice you to death right in the tub. For that reason I was super scared to take a bath for a while.
  • Then there were my dreams. One of a group of nuns abducting me, tying me up and sewing my mouth shut so I couldn’t scream. Another of Jesus visiting and turning into Satan right before my eyes. The one where my mom and dad were getting married in my grandparents’ yard and Satan showed up, wrapped his cape around them and took them to Hell in a fiery exit. And last, but not least, the great cosmic dream where God and Satan fought a major battle over my living room coffee table (apparently it was their biggest fight to date for some reason). Can you tell yet, that I seemed to have a childhood obsession with Satan for some reason? Maybe it was because my grandfather was a hellfire and brimstone preacher…honestly, I really don’t remember why I feared Satan so much.

So what do you think? Was I extra-neurotic as a kid or are these pretty common fears among children? What were your weird fears as a kid?

Children’s Book Review, “To the Cider Mill”

Author Danna York holding a copy of “To the Cider Mill”

As you might have noticed, I have been on a bit of an art kick lately, so today’s featured book is a great pick since it is very artistic, as well as literary. It is also very timely because autumn is quickly sneaking up on us, so I know teachers and parents are already looking ahead to plan fall activities and excursions. Now on to the review…

“To the Cider Mill” by Danna York is actually three books in one! That might sound a little crazy, but it is true. For the price of one book, your child gets a coloring book, a sketch book and a rhyming picture book story about the fun childhood experience of visiting a cider mill!

While the book is about the size and shape of a typical children’s coloring book, the setup is a little unusual. For each double-page spread, you have one page with a fun, harvest themed picture to color and a little rhyming verse at the bottom and on the other page you have a mostly blank space for children to create their own pictures with a little suggested drawing exercise. The suggested drawing exercises go along with the rhyme and illustration on the adjoining page and are generally fall-themed as well.

I really liked the concept of this book and think it would be a great gift for creative kids everywhere. I could easily see this book being used in a preschool or elementary classroom, for any kind of artistic group or to bring extra excitement to that annual trip to your own local cider mill. It would also make a great keepsake for parents, grandparents and other loved ones.

If you are interested in more information about “To the Cider Mill” or would like to order a copy, please visit the author’s Facebook page or email her at yorktim@att.net.