“Bess the Book Bus” picture book review

“Bess the Book Bus”, written by Concetta M. Payne and Freda Roberts is a book that I was excited to read before I even opened it to the first page. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the library bookmobile that used to visit our school every week. “Bess the Book Bus” takes this great concept and goes even further with it.

Like the bookmobile that many of us are familiar with, Bess is a real-life bus that delivers books and joy to children. However, Bess is unique as well. For one thing, Bess was created by a woman named Jennifer E. Frances. Jennifer named Bess after her late grandmother, Bess O’Keefe, who taught Jennifer how much fun reading could be.

Another characteristic that sets Bess apart from the traditional bookmobile is the the children who visit Bess actually get to keep the book they pick out! I don’t know about you, but that would have made my day when I was a kid! Free books would still put a big smile on my face today! Reading this book made me wish that every town had their own version of “Bess the Book Bus”.

As for the story itself, it is told in a charming, personal manner that kids will find easy to relate to. Bess is personified during the story, making her more accessible and exciting to kids. You feel like you really get to know her. The illustrations that accompany the text, which were done by Andrieanna Barnes, are colorful and visually appealing, with a hand-drawn flair to them. I feel that is is also important to emphasize that a portion of the proceeds received from the sales of this book go to support Jennifer Frances’ cause so that Bess can continue to deliver books to children.

I would definitely recommend this book for any school or library system and also think it would make a great gift for any child ages 3-9. For more information about this book and how to order it, please visit the “Bess the Book Bus” page on MagicBlox, http://magicblox.com/books/bess-book-bus.

“Ode to Icky” featured on Storytime with Starfish!

If you have thought about buying my funny picture book “Ode to Icky”, but wanted to hear the story first, please feel free click on the following link and watch Storytime with Starfish read the entire book on youtube! I love how Natalie Starfish giggles throughout the reading, it is awesome to know that even adults find your book funny!

Even if you have no interest in buying the book, I still hope you will check out the video. I am most grateful to Storytime with Starfish for featuring my first published picture book, and would also encourage you all to check out her other videos. She reads some awesome books for children, both classics and creative new titles!

By the way, if you do want to purchase a copy of “Ode to Icky”, it is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and many other fine retailers! Or feel free to ask your local library to order it! Most libraries will order books if patrons request it 🙂

Review of “Bob Beetle Book Bug” Picture Book

Today I am excited to have the pleasure of discussing a book that carries a great message and supports a wonderful cause. “Bob Beetle Book Bug” is a picture book written by my fellow Mirror Publishing author Phyllis Griggs and illustrated by Carlos Lemos.

Before I get into the actual review of the book itself, I want to first commend the author for all the hard work she does to help spread the important message about childhood literacy. Through her Bob Beetle Book Bug non-profit organization, she reaches out to children everywhere to encourage them to explore the wonderful world of reading. I should also note that all of the proceeds from the sale of her “Bob Beetle Book Bug” picture book will be donated to the cause of children’s literacy.

Now, on to the story! The premise of “Bob Beetle Book Bug” is simple but powerful. The book stars a cute little green “book bug” who is excited to share his passion for books in all of their wonderful forms. As he says, he loves “little books, big books, old books and new…red books, white books and yellow books too…blue books, brown books, short books and tall…fat books, skinny books, he loves them all!”

As you can probably tell from that small excerpt, this book is funny, cute and well-written. It is also interactive, with Bob Beetle talking directly to the reader and inviting them to join him in his wonderful world of books. The book poses some great questions that could easily serve as discussion starters with kids. Perhaps best of all, Bob Beetle encourages the whole family to get involved and find the time to read together as a family.

Overall, this is simply a wonderful book built around a much-needed concept. Books like this carry the potential to turn even the most reluctant young readers into book lovers. This is a great pick for families, schools, libraries and community organizations devoted to literacy. If you would like to purchase a copy, please visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


“Sasha and the Magic Pen” Children’s Book Review

I’m sure you have all read reviews that claim a book’s characters truly ‘come to life before your eyes’, well, I can say that literally happens in this book! “Sasha and the Magic Pen” is an illustrated children’s book written by Saragine Francois and illustrated by Javier Duarte. Although “Sasha and the Magic Pen” is published by Mirror Publishing (the same publisher that released my book “Ode to Icky“), I can promise you that the following review is completely honest and true to my opinion.

Before I go into specifics about the book, I wanted to first say that the main characters’ names (Sasha and Malia) had me thinking about President Obama’s daughters the whole time I read the book. I don’t know if the author purposefully gave the girls in the story the same name as our President’s kids, but the illustrations kind of cemented the idea in my head, because I thought they kind of looked like Sasha and Malia Obama.

Now on to the actual story. The plot of “Sasha and the Magic Pen” is as follows: Sasha is a ten-year-old girl who feels like she doesn’t have any ‘real’ friends. She makes a wish to find a friend to play with and then later finds a magic pen on her school playground. While she is working on a school project, she traces a picture of a book character named Ursa and finds that when she blows on the picture, Ursa actually comes to life! Soon Sasha and her older sister Malia have brought Ursa’s dog to life as well. After that, mayhem ensues as the girls try to hide their new friends and find a way to return them to their storybook before it is too late.

Personally, I really liked this book. I found the premise imaginative and could easily relate to all of the characters. I like how the emphasis is on friendship and the importance of stories. Even though Ursa and her dog decide they don’t want to return to their storybook life, the other characters work to convince her that if she doesn’t return that no one will get to read the story again, which would be a real tragedy. It made me think about how important fictional characters can be, especially to children.

The story is entertaining as well. There are plenty of humor, mystery and fantasy elements available to keep even the most reluctant readers engaged. Technically “Sasha and the Magic Pen” is recommended for ages 8 & up, but I personally think that younger children would enjoy the story as well, they just might need help reading it if they aren’t reading independently yet. The story is longer than your average picture book, but still lends itself well to reading aloud, you just might have to split it into several readings.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to children ages 6-12. Girls would probably be more likely to give it a try, but I think boys would enjoy it as well if they could get past the fact that the main characters are girls. If you would like to find out more about this book, its author or order a copy for your child, please visit the author’s website, http://www.saragine.com/index.php.


Interview with Children’s Author Katie Stewart

It’s been a while since I did an author interview, so I was excited to get the chance to post this new interview with Katie Stewart. Katie is a children’s and young adult author from Northam, Western Australia. Katie’s preferred genre is fantasy, which shows clearly in her latest release, “The Dragon Box”, an ebook that is currently available on Amazon.

Now, on to the interview questions:

1. When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?

I’ve always loved writing, but I loved art, too. As a young child I wanted to be the next Beatrix Potter and spent hours copying her illustrations. As I got older I moved away from the writing and more towards the illustrating, but I still had stories in my head and actually wrote a ‘novel’ when I was sixteen – which I disposed of when I reread it years later! I didn’t start writing seriously until about 12 years ago when I took a writing course as ‘something to do’.

2. Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

My favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Ursula Le Guin, CS Lewis and Juliet Marillier. I’d like to be able to say I write like any one of them, but I can’t. I love the magical way Coelho uses words, the fantastic world-building of Le Guin, the imagination of CS Lewis and the brilliant characterisation of Marillier.

As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on. I had a book called ‘The Sam Pig Story Book’ which I adored, partly because it had been given to me by a favourite aunt and partly because it involved fantasy and nature, still two of my favourite things. I also loved ‘Peter Pan’ (JM Barrie) and all the ‘Katy’ books (Susan Coolidge). In my teenage years I loved books by Hester Burton and Australian author, HF Brinsmead, as well as devouring every Charles Dickens book I could find. So quite a mix really.

3. Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

Yes, which is why I finally decided to epublish. There are not many publishers in Australia who publish fantasy anyway, but I just didn’t seem to be able to quite fit anyone’s list. The feedback I’d had, though, suggested that my writing was good enough, so I took the plunge and ventured out on my own.

4. Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?

I was originally a teacher. Literacy and art were my favourite areas to teach. I firmly believe that a lively imagination is the greatest gift anyone can have. My own childhood was very happy, with a large family and a life filled with books, laughter and music. So yes, I’m still very much in touch with my inner child. In fact, some people might think I never grew up!

5. What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

As I’ve said, I love art, especially working with pastels. I’ve done a lot of pet portraits and paintings of wildlife. I’ve illustrated a few books. Apart from that, I love reading and listening to music as well as playing my celtic harp.

6. Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?

Read, read, read. Anything and everything, especially in the genre you want to write. Also, if you’re writing for children, you need a sense of humour (that’s Aussie spelling). Kid’s love humour even in a serious story.

7. Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?

I work three days a week as a school library officer and IT support. Being around children and children’s books all day does give me a good idea of what works as a writer, but there are times, I must admit, when I’d rather just be home writing those books.

8. If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I’d love to meet CS Lewis. As I said earlier, his imagination was just wonderful and I’d love to talk with him about how he got his ideas and how he so carefully weaved his philosophy into his stories without preaching.

9. Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?

Website: www.katiewstewart.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Treespeaker

Amazon: www.amazon.com/The-Dragon-Box-ebook/dp/B005FWQ296

“The White Gorilla and the Three Chimpanzees…a day from the zoo!” Review

The new picture book, “The White Gorilla and the Three Chimpanzees…a day from the zoo!”, written by Saragine Francois and illustrated by Brian Rice, is an adventurous book featuring four animals who have decided to leave the safety of the zoo and find out what lies beyond.  Curious about the human world, Chef, the white gorilla, and his three chimpanzee friends, Dancer, Brainless and Smarty find both trouble and fun while they investigate the oddities of human life.

During their trek, Chef and his friends share many new experiences, such as attending a birthday party, driving a car and grocery shopping.  Told with humor and wit, the story is sure to draw a chuckle from both parents and children as they watch these primates acting silly and finding themselves in the most unusual circumstances.

As for the illustrations, they are extremely colorful and express perfectly the scenes from the text.  You could almost follow the storyline without the words since the illustrations do such a good job of telling the story.  You can clearly see the personalities of each character, even if their names didn’t give you clues.  Your little one will have no trouble pointing out which chimps are Dancer, Brainless and Smarty…and they will probably do it while giggling.

The story itself is written in a simple fashion that is easy for children to follow, but manages to introduce new words that your child may not be familiar with yet.  This gives parents the opportunity to use reading time not only for pleasure, but as a learning experience as well.  The first time I read through this story I did feel like it ended rather abruptly, but upon my second reading I realized that this may have been intentional on the author’s part.  By ending the story where she does, she really makes you think about the ending and asks you to consider that maybe what we fear isn’t really a threat, but is simply new and currently outside of our comfort zone.  A thought that is as true for us adults as it is for children.

If you would like to find out more about “The White Gorilla and the Three Chimpanzees” for yourself, you can watch the book trailer on YouTube, or read some of the other book reviews on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com.  The book is currently available as a traditional paperback or eBook.