Friday, December 1, 2017

Not Always Good To Follow Your Heart

It all started when I saw an ad regarding websites.  The more I read,  the more my heart raced. A website that could be constructed in an hour?  Holy Cow!  How fun to have a Blogger site for writing information and a site with the domain name of my choice for reviewing picture books.  By the next day, I had excitedly signed up for it.

Within hours my website and I had developed a serious love-hate relationship.  And by the day after I called the crazy people who had promised me the moon.  (And by the way,  I do think it's possible to have a site up and running in an hour if it's what you do for a living,  otherwise you would never want your name associated with it.) So I began as though I needed to apologize to the voice on the other end of my phone,  "I know I've had this for 2 days,  but I'm still working on it." Then I proceeded to ask my question,  hoping he wouldn't go to my site and see what a failure I was regarding the web-site-in-an-hour promise.

But to keep this long tale short.  It would have helped to provide definitions and a follow the numbers handout for people like me who read the how-to manual on everything that enters this house. 
Drum Roll!  After three weeks I have a completed site.  I will be posting picture book reviews,  to make choosing a book easier for both parents and teachers.  I will have the books in categories as well.  Then on my Blogger site, I will concentrate more on writing and a few book reviews.
If you have the time,  I'd love for you to take a look at my 1hr+ web site.  And if you have feedback that won't make me cry or call the web developers,  that would be appreciated!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bruce's Big Move

Grumpy Bruce seems to be gaining family members when all he thinks he wants is to be left alone. In book one of this series, he ends up adopting geese, something that happened quite by accident. In the second book, three mice who had been renting out Bruce's home (unbeknownst to him) while he was down south with the geese decide that being part of the family works for them. What's a bear to do when guests just won't leave? Bruce packs up his goslings and decides to move, leaving the mice behind, since his current house has become too crowded, loud and chaotic.  But will it be that simple?

The characters are so much fun in Bruce's Big Move, and Ryan T. Higgin's illustrations are bound to make you smile. There's something special about a home, even if it's noisy, chaotic and messy!

Disney . Hyperion 2017
Ages: 5-6

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yet Another Cute Halloween Picture Book

Tis the season for fun Halloween picture books!

Otter is preparing for the season: putting up decorations, picking out pumpkins, and making costumes for Teddy and Giraffe. But it doesn't take long for Otter to discover that the trick-or-treaters who come to the door are scary. Too scary for her to help hand out candy. In fact, she suddenly remembers she has lots of important things to do under the bed upstairs. But the idea is to enjoy the holiday. Will she and Otter Keeper be able to find a way to make Halloween a little less scary? 

The illustrations are bright and kid-friendly. The text is easy to understand and can encourage little ones who might be a bit nervous about Halloween.

Otter Loves Halloween, written and illustrated by Sam Garton, is a great bedtime story or classroom book for this time of year.

Balzer & Bray
An Imprint of Haper Collins Publishers, 2015
Ages: 4 - 8

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Getting Your Writing Critiqued

While writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor, I've found that it can also be helpful to step back from your work and recieve feedback. But here's the tricky part, it has to be constructive feedback, and it can't destroy that part of you that makes the writing uniquely yours. I've found that while having close friends and relatives critique my writing can be fun, it's not always helpful since most aren't familiar with punctuation, character development, and plot, plus they don't want to disappoint me with critical comments. They are usually kind enough that they only encourage and brag on my work. But what you really need is someone a little more qualified to point out your flaws, suggest solutions, and comment favorably on the parts that they like.

I'm only going to suggest critique groups I've used in the past. But I will warn you upfront, not all critiques will be helpful, some might hurt your feelings and have no basis for what they say,  some will be excellent with great suggestions, and I've also received critiques by people who like to read and write, but aren't at the place I'd like them to be as far as writing and critiquing knowledge.


Scribophile is probably my favorite, of the ones I've tried. There are several ways to post your writing.  You can also join a critique group, for instance, a picture book or science fiction group. By doing that you are more likely to receive critiques by people who are more familiar with your genre.

Scribophile also runs contests which can be fun, if that's something that appeals to you.

The way to get your story critiqued is to earn karma. You earn karma points by writing critiques for others and also by having them react positively to your critiques. You can earn more karma for critiquing a story in one of the spotlights. And the longer the critique, the more karma you'll receive. Then you spend your earned karma by posting one of your stories. If your story is short, you will probably post the entire thing, otherwise, you might post chapter by chapter so that it won't exceed their suggested limit of words.

I haven't used this site for some time so you might want to learn more about Scribophile by clicking here.

Critique Circle

Critique Circle is another group I've joined in the past. Like many groups, you earn credits by critiquing other stories. Then with your earned credits, you are able to post your work to be critiqued.  Since only a certain number are posted each week, you may have to get in a queue and wait a little while. Again, like most groups, by critiquing stories that come up each week you will earn credits to use in posting your work.

When you join Critique Circle you get some free credits which you can use toward the cost of posting your first story, which will be in the Newbie group. You then have a choice of specifying who can critique you stories, which is a good thing, since as I mentioned earlier some critiquers enjoy reading but aren't going to be too helpful.

Again, it's been a little while since I've posted here, so you might want to see if any of these facts have changed.


Society of Children's Writers & Illustrators is another great group to join. While this is not a free group, they offer lots of avenues for the writer or illustrator of children's literature. Whether you are interested in meeting critiquers in person or online, you should be able to find a group.

SCBWI is a wonderful place to find an exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. There are currently more than 22,000 members worldwide.

Its members get benefits such as:

- The SCBWI sponsors two annual International Conferences on Writing and Illustrating for Children
- The spectacular SCBWI regions offer dozens of regional conferences and events throughout the world. 
- The quarterly magazine, SCBWI Bulletin, offers thousands of dollars in Awards and Grants for writers and illustrators and provides market information on the craft and business of writing and selling books for young readers.
- SCBWI's The Book provides up-to-the-minute publishing information for children's publishing, including literary agent directories, book reviewer directories, "How-to" articles on query letters, getting started in children's publishing and much more!
- Discounts on literature subscriptions and more.
Check out their site: SCBWI.

I'm sure there are many more critique groups, but I only feel comfortable posting about the ones I've been involved with. I hope if a group is what you're looking for, that this information has been helpful.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Monstore - Great For This Time Of Year

While not a new book, The Monstore written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by James Burks is a fun read for this time of year.

At the back of the candy shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there is a trap door. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms and you may enter the Monstore. A store where only the most useful monsters are sold, ones that do tricky things around the house. Zack checks out the Monstore to find a monster to keep his sister Gracie from snooping around his room.

But there may be one problem: No returns, no exchanges, no exceptions at the Monstore.

The illustrations are bright and fun. There is more text than usual but I think the story will have no problem holding a child's attention. There is no reference to Halloween, but it feels appropriate for this time of year.

Aladdin Publishing
Publication Date: 2013
Ages: 4-7

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Though I was somewhat reluctant to read Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, I'm so glad I went ahead and read it. Otherwise, I would have missed out on a fun series of books.

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is an absolutely wonderful picture book for both adults and kids. As I've mentioned before, if a picture book doesn't appeal to an adult, it makes it pretty hard to keep picking it up and reading it over and over to a child.

After our grumpy Bruce-the-Bear ends up adopting goslings quite by accident in the book Mother Bruce, he is now having to take on parental duties. In this case, it means he needs to take his new charges on their migration to Miami each year. It's a tiring trip and he longs for the peace and quiet of home. Instead, when he returns he finds his den turned into a forest hotel run by a trio of mice. He suffers possum pillow fights, a fox trying to eat their guests and a moose hogging his bed.  Finally, when a bus full of new guests arrive he takes charge of the situation.

The illustrations are extremely well done. The emotions expressed by each animal can't help but make a reader smile. 

I highly recommend this one, and can't wait to read Bruce's Big Move.

Disney - Hyperion
Published 2016
Ages: 4-7

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie

The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie is a cute book with a good lesson. When bear stares at different forest animals they don't like the way it makes them feel. But in time bear learns a better way than staring at animals when he doesn't know what do say. This new method works much better and even gets some positive responses, rather than negative.

This would be a good book for teachers to share with their students.

A Man of His Own by Susan Wilson

With all my writing, picture book reviews, and now helping reclaim a rental property that a tenant mistook for her property to destroy, I've managed to sneak in listening to an adult book: A Man of His Own, by Susan Wilson. Rick Stanton is a baseball player on the verge of a promising career in the major league when he stumbles upon a German Shepherd mix puppy who needs rescuing. Rick names the puppy Pax. This special dog plays a large part in the story, but the book consists of much more than a dog's love for his master. Pearl Harbor and the entry of the USA into WWII changes the course of Rick’s life, which in turn impacts the lives of those surrounding him. This wonderful story about canine devotion and adult relationships has some unexpected twists and great character development. I certainly plan to read, or listen, to more of Susan Wilson's work.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lots of Reading - Lots of Learning

Lately, I feel like I’ve read and reviewed a kazillion picture books, give or take a thousand.  My husband and dog, Bentley, have been very understanding since I've moved from my office to the dining room table where it's easier to spread out and deal with piles and piles of books. (Picture is the latest books to review.) But I’m learning so much by reading all these books. You might think the obvious is that there is no rhyme or reason why certain books get published. And that thought has occurred to me.

But I’m not worried about the few that I  have to shake my head and wonder . . . why?  What I’m finding is that most of the books I’m reviewing are good and they are character driven.

Wendy Silvano describes Character Driven: A character-driven picture book is just what it says—a picture book where the character drives the plot. Think of it this way: In a character-driven picture book the story is more about the character than about the plot. What happens in the story happens because of the attitudes, personality and character traits of the main character.
Below are two books that I love, both good examples of Character Driven.

I probably will be posting a few more picture book reviews, or maybe a kazillion, give or take a thousand. And since I find it pretty hard to hold back my personal thoughts, don't look for cut and dried reviews. As usual, posts will be sprinkled with a little bit of me. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This is NOT a Cat!

At mouse school, the students' first lesson is to recognize danger. And that would mean cat-danger. Different pictures are shown to the students. Each pointing out what a cat is not. The lesson is interrupted by what appears to be a real cat sneaking into the classroom.  But there are a couple of surprise endings to this simple little story.

I can imagine young ones loving this book. There are few words, but not many are necessary. And for a child who is learning to read, all of the words used in the story are the same five words used in the title.

This is Not a Cat by David Larochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka is definitely a book worth your time.

Sterling Children's Books
Sterling Publishing Company 2016
Ages: 3-6