Do the 2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge with Me!

I decided to do the 2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge this year! I have already started and plan to make YouTube videos each month to update which categories I have completed in the challenge. If you would like to do the challenge with me, please visit the official POPSUGAR page where you can print off a copy of the checklist. Don’t worry about whether you will be able to complete every category or not. This is simply for fun and to get all of us to read books we otherwise might not. You could even do it as a family if you wish!

Check out my first YouTube video for the challenge below!

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!

The most memorable books I read during October 2014

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Starting this month, I am starting a new series of posts where I will list the most memorable books I have read in the past month and why they made such an impact on me. These aren’t necessarily “the best” books, but instead are the ones that really stuck with me for one reason or another. This list may include books for any age group or genre. I read a broad range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you never know what you may find in my monthly list! To get us started, here is my list of the five most memorable books I have read in October 2014!

1. The Flat Rabbit by Barour Oskarsson. This had to be one of the weirdest, least politically correct picture books I have ever read! It had me, my mom and my husband laughing out loud though. It is morbidly hilarious to see a rabbit flattened, then to see his neighbors scrape him off the road, attach him to a kite and fly him in the air. Not sure this is really a great book for kids, but it is hilarious for adults.

2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This middle grade historical novel stuck with me because it is the story of a child who grew up thinking Stalin and communism are the best things in the world, only to see how flawed the system truly is and how he has been led to believe things that aren’t true at all. To me, this idea that it is possible to fight for something you believe is right and then find out later that it is actually wrong is a profound lesson to learn.

3. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. This adult memoir struck a little too close to home, but then again, that is why I picked it up in the first place. Since I have also had a sister commit suicide, I could easily and sometimes painfully relate to much of what this writer had to say. The circumstances and details might be different from case to case, but anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide would likely see much of their own suffering and search for healing reflected in this memoir.

4. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings & Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44 by various authors. As the title states, this nonfiction book is a collection of poems and drawings that were created by children imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. Some of the book is funny and cute, some of it is sad and depressing, but it all shows the innocence and strength of the children who were mistreated during this horrible time. It also shows the loss of life and joy this world suffered due to ignorance and hatred.

5. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This middle grade fantasy novel was a fun and enjoyable read. By the time I finished it, I was wishing to be a night fairy myself. I’ve always been a night owl anyways, so why not? Although the story starts out rather sad (with the fairy losing her wings in a terrible accident), things quickly start to look up and by the end of the novel, the little fairy is better off for the experiences she has had – both good and bad.

“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 🙂

“The Clever Hen” picture book review

I have had the pleasure of reading a couple other children’s books by Saragine Francois, so I was excited to get to review yet another of her illustrated books! This particular title is “The Clever Hen”, written by Saragine Francois and illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka.

As the title suggests, “The Clever Hen” is about an intelligent hen…one who has let her intelligence turn her into a snob. Ms. Cleever, as the hen is called, is a bird who likes to spend her time with intellectual pursuits. She has no time to chat with friends or to help out others in their time of need. She feels that her intelligence puts her above all the other barnyard animals, so she doesn’t think she needs any of them in her life.

Luckily, by the end of the story, our clever little hen learns a lesson. In an unexpected twist, Ms. Cleever finds herself thrust into the position of needing assistance from others. Of course, since she has so rudely turned others down when they needed help, no one is anxious to run to her rescue. The story does have a happy ending, but even more importantly, it teaches an important lesson about kindness and treating others the way you wish to be treated. The illustrations really bring the book to life and complement the storyline perfectly.

This story would be a great pick for children ages 3-9, especially for children who may have difficulties relating to their peers in a healthy manner. Kindness is a virtue that is needed at all ages and in all circumstances, so it is never too early to start teaching children this valuable lesson.

For more information about the book, or how to order it, please visit the author’s website, www.saragine.com.

“Mountain Goats are Kids like You!” Book Review

It’s rare that I review children’s non-fiction, but “Mountain Goats are Kids like You!” is one non-fiction picture book that reads as easily as fiction. The book was written by Rena Jones and uses her professional-quality photos as illustrations. The pictures are absolutely beautiful, which is really no surprise considering that they were all taken within the boundaries of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana.

I must admit that while reading this book, I learned things that I didn’t know about mountain goats! What I like best about the book though is that the author manages to teach important facts about these animals by involving the reader personally. The entire book is interactive, inviting its readers to answer questions and study the photos for various clues.

As the title would suggest, the bulk of the book helps children better understand mountain goats by comparing the similarities between growing up as a goat and growing up as a human. This approach allows children to put themselves in the place of these beautiful animals and imagine what it would really be like to grow up as a ‘kid’ in the wild.

This book would be a great addition to any family or educational library, but I would especially recommend this book for children between the ages of 4 and 8. If your child loves animals, this is a must-read, but even if your children normally stick to fiction, you might be pleasantly surprised by their reaction to this little gem of a book.

To order a copy of “Mountain Goats are Kids like You!” or to find out more about its author, Rena Jones, please visit the author’s website.

 

“The Sandcastle Kids: A Mayan Adventure” review

“The Sandcastle Kids: A Mayan Adventure” picture book, written by Sonya Kimble-Ellis and illustrated by Matthew Hebert, contains an unusual combination of fantasy, history and life lessons.  The storyline of the book revolves around four kids named Rosa, Kamal, Richard and Daisy, who find themselves transported to an ancient Mayan village in Central Peten (now known as Guatemala) thanks to the help of a magical sandcastle.

Once there, the group of kids meet a Mayan native named Chamula, who teaches them more about his culture, including an introduction to Mayan hieroglyphics, local wildlife and all the different aspects of daily life in the village.  Luckily, this information is related in an interesting manner, one that doesn’t slow down or ruin the story being told.

This story was an enjoyable read, not only because I personally like history, but because the story is told through the eyes of children, and likeable children at that.  Rosa, Kamal, Richard and Daisy take what could become a boring history lesson and turn it into something that kids can relate to, something exciting and new.

I would definitely recommend this book for any history or fantasy lovers, but think it would also be a good pick for any child who simply likes a good story.  I will say that this book has quite a bit of text, so it is probably better suited for middle or older elementary age children, perhaps age 7-12 or so.

To find out more about this book, the author or how to order a copy for yourself, please visit The Sandcastle Kids website.

Trick or Treat Blog Adventure Giveaway!

Logo Design by Tammie Gibbs

I want to invite you all to participate in the 1st Annual Trick or Treat Blog Adventure, hosted by the JLB Creatives Blog! To participate, simply visit the JLB Creatives blog between October 28-31st and check out all the freebies that are being given away by other authors and bloggers! My blog will be participating as well, if you visit this website between October 28th-31st and leave a comment on the “My Books” page, you will automatically be entered into a contest to win a signed paperback copy of my latest children’s picture book, “Ode to Icky”!

“Ode to Icky” has already gotten two great reviews and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you don’t win the contest, but would like a signed copy, feel free to contact me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com. The book retails for $9.99, but if you wish to buy a signed copy, the total is $14 with shipping and handling.

UPDATE:  And the winner of the signed paperback copy of “Ode to Icky” is…Sherri-Lee Pressman!  Congrats Sherri!  I will be in contact soon!  I also want to thank all of the participants in my little giveaway.  Thank you so much for supporting me and my writing!

“The Day No One Played Together” Picture Book Review

The new picture book, “The Day No One Played Together (A Story About Compromise)”, written by Donalisa Helsley and illustrated by Sarah Harkey, is a beautiful, funny story about learning to be a good playmate.

As any parent of two or more children could tell you, compromise is not a concept that comes naturally to most kids.  In fact, I wish I had a dime for every time I heard two kids arguing about what they want to play, only to have them both stomp away mad.  Of course, when this happens both kids lose because they miss out on the fun of playing together.  This is the lesson that the main characters in this book, Jadyn and Genesis, learn as they spend a lonely day playing by themselves.

However, there is hope for these sisters when their mother introduces them to the word compromise, teaching them how to play together as a team instead of constantly demanding their own way.  With a little cooperation, Jadyn and Genesis learn that they can both play what they want, but do it in a way that doesn’t exclude the other.

This is a great story for children, especially siblings or friends who lack the skills for cooperative play.  The illustrations are beautifully done, presenting a familiar family setting that children everywhere will be able to relate to.  As a parent, I loved the fact that the author used her own children’s names and likenesses for the main characters.  Knowing that Genesis and Jadyn are real kids adds an element of intimacy to the story.

Overall, this book is one I would recommend for any children who still enjoy a good picture book story.  If you would like to find out more about the book or purchase a copy for yourself, please visit the author’s website, www.wildaboutreading.net.