Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Author's Show Interview about The Crypto-Capers Series

Hello Everyone,
I am going to be on The Children's Author Show with Don McCauley on December 21st and 22nd to talk about my Crypto-Capers Series which is perfect for children 8 and up. Feel free to check it out and learn more about me and my new series. The link is, then click the link for the Children's Author Show and I am there. Also check out my website at

Renee Hand

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Virtual Advent Blog Tour Favorite Christmas Memory

Everyone has traditions, even if they know it or not. Something they do every year that is special to them, or maybe just habit. For years, ever since I could remember, on Christmas Eve, we would go to church, the sermon usually filling me with hope. We would spend time together with family. I would always take the time to look up into the sky at the blanket of stars and wonder what life had in store for us. We would go to bed early and on Christmas morning my brother, sister and I would line up like a train and work our way to the living room where presents and glorious Christmas music awaited. We would all have our eyes closed until we were all in position, then my parents would tell us when to open them, and we would uncover our eyes and see the wondrous sight before us. Then chaos ensued and wrapping paper would be everywhere.

The train tradition stopped when we had our children, at least for us anyway. Our children now continue with the tradition. On Christmas Eve all of our families arrive and spend the next few days over at my parent's house together. Which can make for a full house of 14 people. We watch Christmas movies and make cookies for Santa, leaving carrots for the reindeer. Each child has to write a note to Santa. We read The Night Before Christmas. We answer any questions they may have and tuck them into bed. Before church the guys get together and go last minute shopping. They can say what they want about finding last minute deals and so on, but we all know that they really just want to spend time together, laughing and having fun, which they do every year. It's that male bonding thing. At night, we snack on cookies and play Euchre.

On Christmas morning, my chest is a flutter. The children line up from oldest to youngest and with eyes closed, make their way to the living room. When we tell them to open them, their eyes and ears a filled with the sight of presents and the sound of Christmas music. Then chaos breaks loose as everyone sits and gets into position. We always wear our Santa hats and then we begin to pass out the gifts. I honestly could not care if I receive a gift, it is more important for me to watch the looks on my children's faces as they open theirs. That is priceless. Then we all hug and thank each other, our hearts filling with love and appreciation. Family is what Christmas is about for me. I am thankful everyday for them. I usually sit down with my children and play with them. Then help prepare Christmas dinner. I am responsible for desserts. The day is a relaxing and happy one. Then we have dinner, which usually consists of ham or turkey, city chicken, pierogi's, deviled eggs (which I make), polish sausage, and various other foods. The day after Christmas is family time, and we will either go to relative's houses to visit or do something fun together with all of us and the kids. After that we just relax and enjoy time together. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, but for me, the feeling lasts all yearlong.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Review for When Santa Turned Green

Today is a review for When Santa Turned Green by Victoria Perla.


A creative holiday story that introduces kids to environmental awareness with ways that they can make a big difference.
It's November up in the North Pole. Everything's going along smoothly at Santa's workshop until he discovers a leak in his roof. Santa soon learns that this little leak is connected to a far bigger problem. The North Pole is melting because of something called global warming! Faced with the reality of what this could mean for Christmas, not to mention the planet and the future, Santa is determined to turn things around. To do so, he calls upon the people he knows better than any other-the children. Much to Santa's joy, they respond in a way that makes all the difference . . . in the world.


This is another great story that puts a different light on Christmas but also brings attention to global warming and the changes to our environment. The great thing is that the story shows children how they can make a big impact right from their corner of the world just by making a few simple changes in their lives. Such as recycling, composting, changing light bulbs, planting a tree, and so on...This is a great way to get children involved and into thinking more environmentally friendly. Which is something everyone needs to do. most importantly the story brings hope and the idea that we can make a difference. The artwork is delightful and explains thoroughly what Santa is discovering. As the elves work busily trying to get ready for Christmas Santa discovers a leak in his roof. As he discovers why this is happening, he finds that the snowmen are melting as well as the polar ice caps. From there he ponders what to do, then it hits him. He needs to bring the information to the children for they are our future. The story brings attention to the issue of global warming without being political and confusing. A good story that can be used on various levels.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 14, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400313848
ISBN-13: 978-1400313846

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Review for The Story of Christmas

Today is another wonderful christmas story. This one is called Read and Share The Story of Christmas by Gwen Ellis and illustrated by Steve Smallman.


The Story of Christmas from the Read and Share™ Bible is a colorful retelling of the birth of Christ and the events surrounding it.

Based on the International Children's Bible, this book begins with the birth of John the Baptist. Next comes the angel appearing first to Mary, then to Joseph, the trip to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angel's announcement to the shepherds, the wise men and their gifts, fleeing to Egypt, and at last heading home to Nazareth. The "Can You Retell the Story" activity at the end of the book is a fun way for children to learn to tell the story themselves.


This wonderfully illustrated picture book is a great addition to any Christmas library. The author uses sections of the bible to retell the story of the birth of Jesus. At the bottom of each page the reader is asked questions based on the text so the reader can understand the content better. I really like this because it makes the reader think. This book can be used in a matter of ways for children of all ages to understand the birth of Jesus. The text is simple to understand and the retelling section at the back of the book was a great idea to test the child's comprehension. My children and I enjoyed reading this Christmas story.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400314682
ISBN-13: 978-1400314683

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Book Review for Merry Creature Christmas

In honor of Christmas, everyday I am going to post a new Christmas book my children and I have read. This one is the first. I hope everyone enjoys this collection of books as much as we have enjoyed reading them.

Here is a summary and review for Merry Creature Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Gene Barretta.


It's Christmas Eve, and all the animals in the forest are decorating the trees, hanging icicles, and building a nativity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Star, a wild colt, is too joyful to be still. In his excitment, he decides to be brave and wake up Big Bear, who is sleeping soundly in his cave. Soon all the animals are dancing together on the night of the Creature Christmas.


This time of the year should not only be about gift giving, but about remembering the birth of Jesus. This is a delightful book that expresses the true meaning of Christmas through some of the woodland creatures. As the animals prepare for Christmas, they are filled with excitement of the season as they build a nativity scene. However, not everyone is awake. There is a bear nearby who the animals are trying not to wake. The wild colt, Star, cannot help himself as he wanders close to the cave. Why should any animal be left out at such a wonderful time as this? Star yells to the bear, not thinking that he shouldn't, and the bear wakes up. As the other animals fear the bear's wrath for being woken up in the winter time instead of spring, they are pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Instead of running away, Star stands firm and wishes bear a merry Christmas, and in return they are given a heartfelt merry Christmas as well. In the end, the animals rejoice and celebrate together.

My boys and I enjoyed the story very much. This is a board book and fits nicely into a small childs hands. The art work is beautiful, giving lots of room for discussion as the story unfolds. There is also a read along activity CD included with the book which we have listened to many times all ready in the car. This is a story all children will love and enjoy for many years to come.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (October 7, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400303907
ISBN-13: 978-1400303908
Product Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 0.4 inches

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Review and Interview for Sadie the Skunk

Today I am reviewing Sadie the Skunk by Meaghan Fisher, a new picture for children.


Sadie the Skunk is a wonderfully written story of a skunk and her journey to find her family. Sadie lived in the woods with a family of black cats, so naturally she thought she was a cat. However, one day one of her siblings commented on how different she looked in comparison to the others. It concerned her, so she went straight to her parents who told her that they had taken her in and cared for her as one of their own when she was younger, but as to what kind of animal she was, they could not answer, so they took her to Mr. Groundhog. Mr. Groundhog, who the cats thought was all knowing, wasn't really sure what she was so sent her on several wild goose chases. Each time it produced no results as to what kind of animal Sadie was, but then "Poof" Sadie sprayed a foul stench into the air. Mr. Groundhog began to realize what she was and took her to see her real family. They were so happy to see her.


Overall, my children and I liked Sadie the Skunk. The story talks about finding ourselves and discovering who we really are. With family and friends to help her on her journey, Sadie finds out where she really belongs. However, it was also comforting to know that the family she had been living with all this time was willing to accept her for who she was and love her unconditionally.


Joining us today is Meaghan Fisher, author of Sadie the Skunk. We’re going to talk to Meaghan about her new picture book.

Welcome, Meaghan. It’s great to have you with us.

Q: Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

A: I am a former nanny and currently a substitute teacher for Troy City schools. I have a BS in Psychology and a Minor in Women’s Studies. I live in Troy, Ohio with my husband, Tim, and two collies, Sadie and Lexi.

Q: How did your writing career begin?

A: I had been contemplating a story about a little bunny that lived in the forest and finally decided to sit down and write it when I was on a business trip with my husband in Reno. I sat down and wrote four hours straight until I couldn’t see anymore. When my husband got back to the hotel, I told him about the silly thing I had done. I thought he would laugh but he asked to see it. So I let him read it and to my surprise he loved it. I know my husband is a tough critic and if he liked it, I thought that maybe I stood a chance. That is how it all began. I had been writing poetry for years and I had been published many times before, but I never thought that I would write for children. However, after this story came to me, others followed, and now I write a story or two every week.

Tell us about Sadie the Skunk.

Q: What age group is this book for?

A: Ages 2-11.

Q: This is a beautiful picture book. What inspired you to write it?

A: My dog, Sadie. She is a tri-colored collie and my inspiration in life. She is my best friend and the most beautiful dog I have ever seen, but of course I am biased because I love her so much. After I completed my first book which turned into a series of four books, I decided I needed something completely different, but traditional, and thought of a skunk because I have always loved skunks and think that they are really beautiful. Then I thought of my dog and the name, “Sadie the Skunk”, flowed together. After that the story just popped into my head.

Q: In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?

A: It is only available in paperback.

Q: Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.

A: I have about fourteen children’s books that are not published yet but I am working on it and I am always writing more. My next book that is coming out next April is about a little monkey named Lars. It’s called, “Lars the Monkey Flies a WACO Airplane.” It’s about a little monkey who is a Pitts Special pilot who is learning to fly a WACO Airplane so that he may take children on flights. Lars loved flying in a WACO Airplane when he was a child and now he wants to show kids how fun flying can be.

I also have a book about a little fish that lives in one of our great lakes, a mouse that loves to steal dog food, two book series, and much more. My first series is about a little bunny named Taila who lives in the forest and meets a new friend and learns an important moral lesson in every book. That series has four books and is coming out next November.

The second series I have is about a donkey named Edwin and a dog named Mazy, who live on a farm in Ohio. Together they teach each other how important supporting the ones you love can be. That is a series of three books so far, but I plan to write more.

Q: I have read that you also write short stories and poetry. Tell us about that and where readers can see some of your work.

A: I have been writing short stories for over a year now about personal experiences that have happened to me in my life but they are currently unpublished. I also have been writing poetry since 2001 and some of my work can be found on if you type my name into the Authors Search on the website.

My poetry is mainly about relationships, feelings, and trying to fit in. I don’t really write much poetry anymore because I like to concentrate on children’s stories and I have been working on my first novel called, “Witch”. It’s geared toward young adults and it’s about a young witch whose family gets killed and she must run all her life from people who try to put her on trial or find out she is a witch and kill her.

Q: Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

A: I have a popular children’s blog at: You can also check out more information about me or my illustrator, Marla Fair, on: or and you can order my personally autographed book there.

Q: Are there any activities on there for children to be involved in?

A: I don’t have any games or activities yet, just my stories that you can read online or print to read later. I think they make great bedtime stories and they can be a very useful tool for parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents, nannies, babysitters, uncles, and aunts. And if anyone has any comments or suggestions, they can be put in the comment areas.

Q: Where can readers purchase your books and how much do they cost?

A: Readers can buy through my website, or and I will personally autograph the book. My book is also available in the Troy, Ohio, area. You can find it at: Around About Books in Troy, Ohio; Jay and Mary’s Book Center in Troy, Ohio; Browse Awhile Books in Tipp City, Ohio; Readmore’s Hallmark in Piqua, Ohio; Readers Delight in Vandalia, Ohio; and New & Olde Pages Book Shoppe, in Englewood, Ohio.

Q: What lesson can children learn after reading Sadie the Skunk?

A: I think it teaches children that if they stay true to themselves they will eventually find where they are supposed to be and make good friends.

Q: What's next for you? Is there anything else that you are involved in or working on?
A: I plan on putting out “Lars the Monkey Flies a WACO Airplane” next April and focus on my blog, and I hope to bring out my first series: “Taila and Mr. Farmer’s Forbidden Forest” next November, 2010. In addition, I hope to continue to work on my first novel, “Witch”, in the meantime.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add or share?

A: I would like to thank Renee for reviewing my book and allowing me this experience. I am truly grateful! I would also like to thank everyone for all the support, great comments, and all of my readers for supporting me, and especially my editor, Linda Gallagher, for all her hard work and inspiration. I hope to continue writing more stories for years to come.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out this picture book by Meaghan. I know everyone will enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Signing Event for the Holidays

I am going to be at Chesaning Middle School for their 26th annual Chesaning Music Boosters Christmas Art and Crafts Show, which is going to be held on November 27th and 28th. The show will be in two areas, Chesaning Middle School at 431 N. 4th street and the High School 850N. 4th street. The show times are Friday 10-5pm and Saturday 10-4pm. I look forward to seeing you there for great holiday shopping. I will be signing my children's mystery series, which makes great gifts for the holidays.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Signing Event for The Crypto-Capers Series

Saturday November 21st is going to be a busy day for me. Starting from 9am-3pm, I will be at the MBT Expo Center at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Monroe Michigan for their Craft Show signing my Crypto-Capers Series. From 4-6pm I am going to be at Barnes and Nobles in Ann Arbor also signing my children's series. Please stop by and say hello and get your copies of the series.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review for Too Many Visitors for One Little House

Too Many Visitors for One Little House

The crabby neighbors of El Camino Street do not like kids, do not like pets, and do not like big happy families. When a new family on the block moves in — a mom, a dad, three kids and a fish, the neighbors are NOT very happy. And as cousins, aunts, uncles, nannies and grannies arrive for a big family reunion, the neighbors are in for quite a surprise.

Booksicals, the Children’s Book Division of State of the Art — Bringing Stories to Life, was founded by Susan Chodakiewitz in 2008. Susan is the author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House, her debut children’s book.

Booksicals founder Susan Chodakiewitz believes that children learn best when you engage their imagination: “I believe you can develop a child’s love for reading by expanding the world of a book beyond its pages. Bring the characters to life and bring reading to life. ” And this is precisely what inspired her to create Booksicals.


Too Many Visitors for One Little House is a cute and wonderfully illustrated picture book that talks of family and the love that holds them together. The neighbors of El Camino Street do not like visitors of any kind, so when a new family moves onto the street, they are very curious to know more about them. Life on El Camino remains the same, lifeless and boring, until the visitors start to arrive at the new family's home. With each new family member comes more noise and more disruption to the neightbors, but for the family inside, it fills their hearts with joy. Just when the neighbors have enough of the chaos, the new neighbors come over and offer them friendship in the way of some apple streudel. From that point on, the neighbors begin to accept their new neighbors by coming over and joining the gathering. This book talks of acceptance and love, not only of neighbors but of family members. Family gatherings, though chaotic at times, are worth having in the end. The time you spend together are moments that last a life time. Great picture book!

Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (February 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419654705
ISBN-13: 978-1419654701

Price: $13.99
Book can be found on

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview and Review for The Birth to Five Book

Brenda Nixon 's The Birth to Five Book


When should we start our baby on solids? What do I do if my toddler bites another child? Will the "why" questions ever end? Ask any parenting question and you're sure to get lots of answers--from magazines, your in-laws, your sister, even complete strangers! But with all the conflicting advice, what's a busy parent to do? The Birth to Five Book gives you practical, down-to-earth help and success strategies for this big res
ponsibility. Forget the ivory tower childrearing theories and the old wives' tales. Whether raising an infant, toddler, or preschooler--or all of them at once!--you'll love this collection of commonsense advice from a parenting expert. From feeding and reading to discipline, toilet training, and play, it's all here in simple terms that any parent can put to work immediately. "Child problems need parent solutions. That is exactly what Brenda Nixon helps you create for your child. Her easy-to-read style calms you as you learn to guide and support your child."--Sally Goldberg, PhD, early childhood author, educator, speaker, coach "Brenda's practical and wise advice will give great peace and knowledge to every parent."--Kathy Collard Miller, speaker, author "Nixon cuts to the core of exactly what parents need to know in a balanced way that is rooted in wisdom."--Debra White Smith, author, speaker, mom Brenda Nixon, MA, is a frequent media guest sharing childrearing insights and encouragement, and a popular speaker to parents and professionals who work with children. She has spoken at MOPS International and Hearts at Home national conventions, AEYC conferences, and citywide parent expos. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and a CLASS graduate, Nixon is a contributing author to dozens of books and has extensive training in child development and parent empowerment.


The Birth to Five Book is a must have for all parents. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. I have young children so I can relate to the book and the information in it perfectly. Many times I found myself nodding my head in agreement. The book was informative and interesting. The information listed in each chapter is there to encourage, help and support parents. Brenda does a wonderful job incorporating the parent into the parenting process instead of making them an outsider of it. She guides parents through each step of a child’s early development, helping them to be the best parent and child they can be. Every parent has questions and it is nice to know there is a book out there that has the answers.


Welcome, Brenda. It’s great to have you with us.

Thanks for the invite, Renee, and for reading The Birth to Five Book.

Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Here's what one press release says; As the former Kansas City FOX TV4 parenting expert, Brenda is the author of the award-winning The Birth to Five Book. Recently quoted in Parenting and Good Housekeeping magazines, she is a frequent media guest and popular speaker to parents and childcare professionals. From schools to synagogues, businesses to bookstores, conferences to churches, audiences rave that Brenda "engages, educates, and encourages!" As a writer, Brenda is a contributing author to 25 titles, is co-author on A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, and a freelance writer for family publications. She often instructs at writers conferences. In September, Brenda was named "Mom of the Week" by Lifetime Entertainment. She lives in Ohio with her husband and near her two grown daughters.
Quickly, I’m a mom, an educator, and it’s my passion to build stronger families through parent empowerment. I fulfill this passion through my writing and speaking coast-to-coast. If you want more info you can go to

How did your writing career begin?
In 1996, as I was speaking to audiences I realized the marriage between speaking and writing. People wanted something beyond the platform. That's when I went to work writing my first book for parents.

Tell us about The Birth to Five Book and what inspired you to write it.

When I was starting my parenting career, I felt dumb as a doorknob. I had questions and doubts. We can have all the academic, book knowledge in the world but, that "Mom" confidence comes from experience and support from others. Well, since I speak to and work with parents, I know many feel vulnerable to doubt. So I gathered the most common issues in raising a tot from the crib to kindergarten and wrote The Birth to Five Book. The subtitle, Confident Childrearing Right from the Start, is my goal. Hopefully it will inform and inspire parents, giving them not only knowledge about child development but practical solutions and guidance in childrearing right from the start.

In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?

Funny, you should ask; a friend of mine just told me she saw it on her Australian friend's bookshelf. There is a kindle version. The paperback edition is available at bookstores nationwide, online, and anyone can order an autographed copy by contacting me off My publisher also tells me that there's a contract for a Korean-language edition of The Birth to Five Book. Translation is in progress. I'm grateful this book is making its rounds internationally.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.

Yes. The easiest way to answer your question, Renee, is to invite people to "Brenda's Bookstore" To date, I've contributed to 28 books and am contributing to another one now. Although, I love to speak and write to parents, I try to expand my craft to writing in other genres. For example, I'm co-author on a popular holiday giftbook, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, and to several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, and women's devotional books.

Parents often doubt that they’re doing a good enough job in raising their children. What do you say about that?

Join the club. LOL Seriously, trust your gut. Even though parenting is a doubt-producing profession, usually what you feel is the best for your child really is.

Parents often have a hard time getting small children to mind. Why is that?

Youngsters are egocentric, they hate it when adults thwart their agenda, and curiosity driven. These two combine factors combine to produce most of the discipline battles. Although their behavior may be normal, it's not always pleasant. For anyone who wants discipline encouragement I offer a free Discipline Tip each week via email. To subscribe send your email address to

How can parents encourage their children to love reading?

A couple ways; be a good role model by reading in view of your kids, and begin reading to your children even when they're babies to nurture their love of literature. In my presentation, "Read to Me!" I talk about the multiple benefits of reading aloud to children and suggest ways to make reading more fun. Often parents think they must sit down every day for 20 minutes to read to their kids, but that becomes work and loses it's luster. Parents can read aloud when they receive mail, their recipes as they cook, read the road signs as they drive. Basically, by reading everything aloud it shows to kids that being literate is a key to success and functionality in our society.

What role do fathers play in their child’s development? How can they make sure that they’re involved and their children know that they love them?

Thanks for asking this question Renee. It's amazing how and how much of an impact fathers make on their children. I encourage several ways to be involved in a child's daily care (plus it gives Mom a break) and reveal the research on pages 71-73 of The Birth to Five Book. I've found that men never regret being involved in their child's life.

What aspects of a child’s behavior may parents not be aware of are completely normal?

Oh my, usually all the behaviors that drive us nuts are normal - the tattling, thumb-sucking, biting, tantrums, whining, back-talk, power struggles. However, that doesn't mean we sit idly by and allow the behavior. It is our job - our responsibility - as parents to teach our children appropriate ways to gain satisfaction and how to be self-disciplined.

For any parent, raising a child is stressful, what can parents do to relieve some of that stress so they don’t take it out on their children?

Just as no human parent is perfect, so no child is perfect. We need to remember that kids have bad days just like us. One way to relieve stress is to give yourself and your kids permission to mess-up. Humor is another way to relieve so stress - find the humor in a situation, or at least tell yourself, "When they're teens this'll make a great story." Speaking of humor, on page 185, I write about the "Am I a normal parent?" syndrome and list comical ways we're all pretty much the same. On a more serious note, I list ways to be a "successful" parent on pages 183-184.

How do you suggest parents teach their children to be grateful, rather than greedy?

An attitude of gratitude starts with the parent. I encourage moms and dads to demonstrate thankfulness to others - including their kids - by saying "thanks," and by commenting on how blessed they feel. There's something to be thankful for in every situation. Also, parents can teach children to share excess clothes and toys by donating to a shelter. And the big one is to remember that a birthday or Christmas list is a suggestion only list - never a Mommy-do list! Don't get kids everything their little heart desires; it isn't healthy nor realistic.

How long did it take you to write The Birth to Five Book and how much research did you have to do?

I gave "birth" to this book in 2000 when I wrote a similar book (now sold-out). My agent learned that I wanted to revised, update, and refresh that book, For about a year, I reviewed my information, research, and statistics plus added more chapters and we sold this manuscript to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The Birth to Five Book released in January 2009 to strong reviews and sales. In October, it was awarded the 2009 Good Parenting Seal. I bring it with me on speaking engagements so I can autograph copies for audiences.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out this amazing book by Brenda Nixon.

Thank you Renee, it's a pleasure chatting with you. Continued good wishes on your service to readers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Interview on Blog Talk Radio

The interview was fabulous! I hope that everyone was able to hear it, if they wanted too. I had such a good time and Barry was such a great host. If anyone gets a chance to be on his show, he is a lot of fun and full of such charisma. He is the host of Across the Pond.

You can listen to the show at

Direct location you can link to is:

or on Barry's "new radio show blog" blog at

Or there is an mp3 file which can be downloaded or linked to

Thank you again Barry for the wonderful interview experience. You are the greatest!

Coming tomorrow is an interview and review for Brenda Nixon's A Birth to Five Book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Book Review for Legend of the Golden Monkey

Come and check out a new review for book 3 of my Crypto-Capers Series-The Legend of the Golden Monkey by the Children's and Teens Book Connection blog. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview on Blog Talk Radio with Renee Hand

Hello everyone,
I am going to be on "A Book and a Chat" with Barry Eva on November 10th at 6:30pm EST

Please listen in if you would like.


Thank you!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Come see me at Huckleberry Railroad! Book Signing Event!

Come and join me at Huckleberry Railroad in Flint Michigan for Ladies Night Out. I will be signing all three of my children's books for The Crypto-Capers Series at this special event.

Shopping and a Sneak Peek at Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic
Monday, November 16, 2009
Time: 5 – 9 pm • Cost: $5
Come and experience Ladies’ Night Out for a shopping experience that cannot be duplicated in a mall or big box store! Your shopping experience will take you throughout the Village to experience:
• Food samples
• Free ride on the 1912 Parker Carousel
• Demonstrations
• Free gifts
• Craft demonstrations
• Free and low cost make-it-and-take-it craft projects
• Reindeer photo opportunity
Admission is just $5.00 (per person for all ages)
AND, if you spend $25.00 or more in one of their stores, they will apply that $5.00 toward your purchase (does not include tax).

More information can be found at


Visitors coming from the North, head south on I-75/US-23 toward Flint. Merge onto I-475 exit 125 toward downtown Flint. Take the Saginaw Street exit 13 toward Mt. Morris. Turn left onto N. Saginaw. Proceed 1/4 mile morth to the corner of Saginaw and Stanley Road, turn right. Take Stanley Road 2 miles to Bray Road. Turn right on Bray Road; Village is 1/2 mile south on left-hand side.

Visitors coming from the West, head east on I-69 toward Flint. Merge onto I-475 exit 137 toward Saginaw. Take the Saginaw Street exit 13 toward Mt. Morris. Turn right onto N. Saginaw. Proceed 1/4 mile north to the corner of Saginaw and Stanley Road, turn right. Take Stanley Road 2 miles to Bray Road. Turn right on Bray Road; Village is 1/2 mile south on left-hand side.

Visitors coming from the South, head north on I-75 toward Flint. Merge onto I-475 exit 111 toward downtown Flint. Take the Saginaw Street exit 13 toward Mt. Morris. Turn right onto N. Saginaw. Proceed 1/4 mile north to the corner of Saginaw and Stanley Road, turn right. Take Stanley Road 2 miles to Bray Road. Turn right on Bray Road; Village is 1/2 mile south on left-hand side.

Visitors coming from the East, head west on I-69 toward Flint. Merge onto I-475 exit 137 toward Saginaw. Take the Saginaw Street exit 13 toward Mt. Morris. Turn right onto N. Saginaw. Proceed 1/4 mile north to the corner of Saginaw and Stanley Road, turn right. Take Stanley Road 2 miles to Bray Road. Turn right on Bray Road; Village is 1/2 mile south on left-hand side.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review for Charlie and Mama Kyna

The Summary:

I had the pleasure of reviewing Charlie and Mama Kyna by Diana Rumjahn. This story reminds me, to a degree, of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Charlie is a cute little frog who accidentally breaks his mama’s favorite vase. Believing that his mama (Mama Kyna) would be very upset, and fearing the consequences for what he had done, Charlie decides to run away. On his journey he meets two other animals, Leo the lion and Joe the giraffe, who are also without a family and a home. They make their new home in a tent outside of Mrs. Cupcake’s Bakery, instantly becoming best friends who rely on each other.

After some time passes, Charlie begins to miss his mama and realizes that he had made a mistake in running away. Charlie decides to return home, bringing his new friends with him. Not quite sure what to expect upon his return, and yet willing to face the consequences for his actions, he knocks on his mama’s door with flowers in hand, ready to beg for forgiveness. Instead of being upset, or punishing Charlie for breaking the vase, Mama Kyna wraps her loving arms around her son, assuring him that he was terribly missed, and forgiven. Mama Kyna expresses to Charlie that losing a vase was not important, but losing him, was devastating. Charlie realizes how much he is loved and that he should have believed in that love to guide him when he had broken the vase. He never should have run away from home.

Mama Kyna accepts Charlie’s new friends into her home and invites them to stay forever. As time goes by, Charlie, Joe and Leo revel in the warmth of being a part of a family, and feeling the strong bond of love that only family and friendship can provide. Charlie promises to never run away from home again.

The Review:

Overall, this was a wonderful picture book. The illustrations were delightful, enhancing the words of the story beautifully. My younger son has a zoo of stuffed animals in his room so he really enjoyed the pictures. The downside was that the story didn’t read as smoothly as I would have liked, but it does have wonderful meaning that children can relate too. The bonds of friendship, family and love are unbreakable. Sometimes children don’t see just how important they are to their parents and why parents go to the lengths they to protect their children. Children are very important in every parents lives and forgiveness is something every parent is willing to give, regardless of the circumstances. What a great moral!
The Author:
Diana Rumjahn is an international award winning filmmaker and author of imaginative films and children's picture book who is driven by an incredible passion for self-expression through creative mediums. Her works are often noted for their unique style, elegance, and technique. Diana has developed an innovative style that blends film, art, realism and social themes. Her use of vibrant colors and strong lines make her work unforgettable. Her films have been shown worldwide and her latest book is receiving acclaim everywhere.
Paperback: 38 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (January 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419656872
ISBN-13: 978-1419656873

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review for Aurora of the Northern Lights

Here is the book review for Aurora of the Northern Lights.


The story begins with a maid named Mistletoe who lived in the cold and ice. She meets a man and they fall in love. However, William could not live in the cold like Mistletoe, so they move away, which is hard for Mistletoe because she will be away from her family and the people who care about her, but she makes the sacrifice for love. As time passes, they have a child, Aurora, and she grows up with the comforting warmth of love surrounding her. But, her parents become ill and die, and it leaves Aurora with no one to take care of her or to even want to associate with her because she is different than everyone else. This of course saddens the little girl and causes her to roam the land looking for her own kind. Along the way Aurora meets friends who help her find her way home.

My Review:

Overall, I really enjoyed Aurora of the Northern Lights. The illustrations were whimsical and delightful, taking the reader to the world that reminds me of Candy Land. The words that were written in rhyme were fun to read and understand. The moral of acceptance and understanding regardless of where one comes from, is evident throughout the story. I love reading books that have a meaning to them, and this is a good one for children to be able to relate too. This is definetly going to be a christmas favorite for children.

The Interview:

Joining us today is Holly Hardin, author of Aurora of the Northern Lights. We’re going to talk to Holly about her new picture book.

Welcome, Holly. It’s great to have you with us.

How did your writing career begin?

I wrote my first play, Peter Rabbit and Missing Easter Egg Mystery, when I was nine and have been writing ever since.

Tell us about Aurora of the Northern Lights.

Aurora of the Northern Lights is a holiday story of adventure, sprites and magical charms with a subtle message of tolerance.

The book follows the journey of Aurora, who is left alone and friendless after losing her parents. But Aurora isn’t the same as everybody else, and as she sets out alone, she finds it hard to find anyone who cares about her story¾even at Christmastime¾because of her differences.

As her trek continues, Aurora receives three special gifts to keep her safe, along with important clues about her true home. Before it’s over, she’ll encounter a host of bizarre-looking creatures until she winds up at the location of the world’s most famous bearded man.

What age group is this book for?

This book is geared for kids aged 8-12

This is a beautiful picture book. What inspired you to write it?

Thank you. After 9/11, I wanted to write a story to teach my nieces to not judge people by their differences.

In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?

Aurora of the Northern Lights is available in e-book, soft cover and kindle.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.

I have two other picture books coming out next year. Be on the look out for Wendy Wrydwitch and the Sunflower Pumpkin and The Smallest Kid in the Choir.

I have read that you have written various articles. What are those about?

Most of my articles deal with spirituality and meditation.

What kind of research did you have to do for this story, if any?

I researched the different legends of Santa Claus and his elves. I also studied various forms of poetry.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Readers and fans can learn more about me or contact me through my website.

Where can readers purchase your books and how much do they cost?

My book is available at, Barnes &, and Ripple Reader.

I have read that your story is compared to The Night Before Christmas. What lesson can children learn after reading it?

Hopefully, kids will learn perseverance and tolerance for other cultures.

What's next for you? Is there anything else that you are involved in or working on?

I have three adult novels, Clipped, Return to the Grove, and Truce, which will be out in 2011.

Has writing always been a passion for you?

Yes, I love creating other worlds for my readers.

Is there anything else that you would like to add or share?

I will be on book tour during this holiday season.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out this picture book by Holly.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book Review for the Chickadee Series

Today I am reviewing a delightful series by author Carol Zelaya called the Emily Chickadee Series. This is a three-part series written in easy-reading rhyme.

Book 1-Emily Waits for her Family- Follow this true story of the special bond between a tiny bird and a little girl, from first meeting to leaving, from new life to old friends.

The first book begins in spring with the arrival of a Chickadee who is soon to become a mommy. The Chickadees name is Emily. The girl watches the changes the Chickadee goes through, from laying her eggs, to them hatching and watching the babies grow, all from her window. Then in her backyard these birds begin to make a home.

Book 2-Caring for Emily's Family-is a continuation of the Chickadee series.
Enjoy this tale of Emily and her new Chickadee family as they settle into their permanent home in the little girl’s yard.

The second book goes into summer, with the Chickadees returning to the little girls yard. The story then proceeds to inform the reader of all the things birds need in order to live in someone's backyard, which I thought was very interesting and informative.

Book 3-Emily's New Home-Is the final installment of the Emily Chickadee series, follow Emily as she travels to join her life-long friend at her new home. Emily’s New Home is a powerful tale of love, loyalty and the bond between a special bird and her little girl.

The third book begins in the fall when the little girl moves from her home into another far away. Worried that she will never see her Emily again, the little girl begins to become very sad. Then one day, she sees the building of a nest and realizes that her Chickadee Emily has found her and is prepared to begin another family, wanting to be with her again.

The Author:

Carol Zelaya lives and writes in the Portland, OR area. She has written Emily’s story in hope of educating children about nature’s precious gifts. The wonder of nature is all around us, even in our own backyard, when we take the time to notice.

Zelaya is touring the Pacific Northwest in 2008 and is donating signed copies of her book to several low-income neighborhood schools and libraries to share her love of reading and nature.

My Review:

Overall these books were very good. They are the perfect size for children. My boys were carrying them around and reading them everywhere. The story was well thought out being in three books. It was interesting to see the journey of Emily and the life of a Chickadee throughout the seasons, as well as the devotion of birds and the connection they have with people. I am a nature girl and I love learning about animals and nature. These books were informative and entertaining, really showing a child, as well as parents, how special the connection can be between nature and people. Please check out Carol's website for more information about the series as well as to learn more about Chickadees. Also, at the end of each book there is a Chickadee log. Children can record information they observe when they see a Chickadee. It is a great learning tool and gets kids excited about bird watching.

Published by Richlee Publishing
Children's book/Nature
Appropriate for ages 4 and up

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New interviews and/or Reviews

Please check out Froggie Review for reviews about book 2 and 3 in the series. They are wonderful reviews.

Also, Katie Hines has done a wonderful interview about me and my series. Check that out as well at

I will also be at Erie Apple Orchards in Michigan this weekend signing all three books in my series. Feel free to stop by and say hello. More info will be available on my blog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review for Travels To Fahdamin-Ra

Here is a new review for Travels To Fahdamin-Ra which is a fantasy story for children.

The lives of fourteen and twelve year old Celestine and Joel Bridges change forever when they uncover a family secret. They are descendants of “Creators” who were given a world to rule with superhuman powers. The siblings travel to the world of Fahdamin-Ra and use their newfound abilities. Making friends among the three tribes, the Harun, the Masamba, and the Jabulani, they joyfully use their powers to cure, fly, and create animals. However, their fun soon turns to serious work when the Fahdamins are threatened by the evil Shadow Men, who have unusual abilities of their own. Can they triumph over this group of brutal men, or will they be expelled from Fahdamin-Ra forever?

Travels to Fahdamin-Ra is a well developed and creative story that keeps the readers interest right to the very end. The suspense and the intensity of the story forces the reader into wanting to know every detail of what is going on so they can imagine themselves in the same world as the characters, wanting to do their good work. Celestine and Joel discover a secret stone necklace that was passed down from generation to generation. Though no family member knows exactly what it does, the curiosities of the children soon uncover the mystery. While reading a verse found with the necklace they are transported to a world that is quite different from their own where they discover many interesting things about what the necklace is and who they are. They go back and forth between the worlds to get their father and mother so they can also see the wondrous place.

Upon talking with many people from the Harun tribe, they soon discover that they are almost like royalty. There was a prophecy many years ago, where a man and his two children would come and bring peace throughout the land. Celestine, Joel and their Father, are known as, “Creators” who supposedly created the world of Fahdamin-Ra. As the trio explore they soon come upon information that talks of past “Creators” and what they could do and what they believed. They learn that they have superhuman powers where they can heal the sick, fly, talk with animals, read minds, and so on. Determined to do what is right, they use their powers wisely, making lots of friends and in the process healing some of the problems between the tribes creating a peace that we wish our world could learn from. And yet with this new found friendship comes a problem that all the tribes seem to have—Shadow Men. These Shadow Men are run by the Sun Lord, who wants the power of the stone for himself. Because of his greed he hurts, deceives, and kills the people of Fahdamin-Ra, damaging everything in his path regardless of the consequences. This story is thick with compassion, understanding, friendship and love, and the knowledge that all things do not have to end in war and distrust. With a little bit of compromise and with the determination and strength to face the things we most fear, we can solve any problem. The ending also leads the reader into believing that there might be another adventure to Fahdamin-Ra coming soon, I hope I am correct. Overall, this story was well written and I hope that many people enjoy it as much as I have.

About the Author:
Chaz Young lives in Bath, Maine, with her husband Arnold and her two children, Callista and Toliver. Though born and raised in Maine, Chaz has lived in California, Virgina, and Puerto Rico.
Chaz wrote her book, "Travels to Fahdamin-Ra" for her children because they wanted a fantasy adventure story where brown kids like them were the heros. She is fascinated by Africa, especially West Africa and Nigeria in particular. She supports "Working Villages, International," donating part of the proceeds from her book sales to help them..

Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Eloquent Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606933701
ISBN-13: 978-1606933701

Book can be bought through by the following link:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book Review-A Horse Of Course by Shari Lyle-Soffe

Today I am reviewing a picture book by Shari Lyle-Soffe called A Horse Of Course.

The book is illustrated by Eugene Ruble
Publisher is Guardian Angel Publishing
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-83-2
ISBN 10: 1-935137-83-2


A Horse Of Course is a delightful tale about a little boy named Aaron and his new pet. On Aaron’s birthday his Grandpa Roy, who lives on a farm, gives to him the very best gift ever— a horse. Aaron was more than happy to accept the gift because a horse is something he always wanted. However, Aaron didn’t realize how much of a responsibility Horace was going to be, especially when Aaron wanted Horace to live with him in his house. As you can imagine, a horse in a house can mean only one thing— a terrible mess. In fact, there are so many messes that Aaron’s mom refuses to clean up and makes Aaron do it. Aaron has a hard time adjusting with his new situation when Horace takes over the things that he enjoys. For example, when Horace eats his birthday cake, takes a bath in his tub, sits in his spot on the couch and sleeps in his bed while he is left sleeping on the floor. What a disaster! What will Aaron do to solve his new problem? Should he keep Horace and lay down some rules? Or should he think of a better place for Horace to stay where he will be happier? You will have to find out for yourself.

Overall my children and I liked the story. It was funny and well told. The illustrations are unique and full of character. They express to the reader exactly what is going on and portrays the story very well. The illustrations bring the story to life while causing the reader to laugh and share in the silliness of Horace and his actions. Shari and Eugene combine together to make a very cute tale and to teach children that before getting a pet, you must know how to take care of that pet so both owner and pet will be happy.


Joining us today is Shari Lyle-Soffe, author of A Horse Of Course. We’re going to talk to Shari about her new picture book.

Welcome, Shari. It’s great to have you with us.
Thank you, Renee. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I have been writing for a little over ten years. I live in the woods of Southern Oregon with wildlife everywhere.

How did your writing career begin?
Like most writers my career began with a lot of rejection slips. In the beginning I wrote for children’s magazines. I started out with puzzles, games, crafts, poems, and eventually short stories. I have had the good fortune to be published in many of the better known children’s magazines.

Tell us about A Horse Of Course.
A Horse Of Course is my fifth book to be published. It is a humorous story of Aaron and the horse he receives for his birthday. Aaron thinks Horace, the horse, should live in the house with him. Father agrees but Mother isn’t so sure that is a good idea. Eventually Aaron begins to question the wisdom of this decision and must think of what is best for Horace.

What age group is this book for?
I think it would be good for children from 3 to age 9.

This is a very cute picture book. What inspired you to write it?
I was talking to a little boy once and he told me he wanted a horse. When I asked him where he would keep the horse he answered, “In my house.” The story grew out of that comment.

In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?
My book is available in e-book formats and paperback. They are available from ,, , Barnes and Noble, etc. and most brick and mortar book stores.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.
I have a picture storybook series about brother raccoons: The Misadventures of Rooter and Snuffle, On the Go With Rooter and Snuffle, and Trouble Finds Rooter and Snuffle and I’m working on a new book for this series. Each book contains 3 independent stories.
I also have a picture book titled Nothing Stops Noah. A little boy is determined to earn money to buy a gift for his mother. He secures a job in a pet store owned by his grandfather. Before the store opens Grandpa leaves Noah in charge and asks him to feed the animals. Chaos prevails when all of the animals escape and Noah must find a way to return the unruly animals to their cages.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
To learn more about my books readers can go to

What kinds of activities will children find when visiting your website and blog?
On the left-hand side of my blog is a site directory with separate links for my series and each picture book. They will find book trailers, the Rooter and Snuffle theme song, games, puzzles, coloring pages, recipes, etc.

I have read that you have written for various magazines. Can you tell us a little more about that?
It was a great way to build up my confidence. I think you need to start with what you know. I loved crossword puzzles, poems, and crafts and I had been a professional crafter for four years. It was an easy way for me to get started, although it didn’t seem so easy at the time. All of my training to become a writer came from books. After I had some success I started writing short stories for children and writing articles for children’s writers.

I have heard that you live in the woods in Oregon. Does this help with developing your characters?
It gives me pleasure and often inspires my writing. Wildlife is such fun to watch. I have always loved animals. I think they have so much in common with children. They are mischievous yet innocent. Part of my youth was spent in the Redwoods of Northern California. My characters really come from my childhood and the lives of children I know.

Tell us about some of your favorite animals and why?
I love raccoons. I used to watch them when they visited our garbage cans on the back porch. I’m also fond of Stellars Jays because they are so sassy and bold. I enjoy the skunks, opossum, rabbits, deer, whatever we have I enjoy.

Where can readers purchase your books and how much do they cost?
The Rooter and Snuffle books are $9.95 each and the picture books are $10.95 each. They are available everywhere. If your store doesn’t have it in stock they can order it.

What's next for you? Is there anything else that you are involved in or working on?
I have a new picture book under contract called Shoo Cat! I am working on a new Rooter and Snuffle book, and I hope to write a tween novel soon.

Has writing always been a passion for you?
I have always written my thoughts and feelings down just for me not for anyone else to read. I have written poems just for fun and had a couple read on the weather report in San Diego years ago. I often thought of being a writer but didn’t feel qualified.

Is there anything else that you would like to add or share?
A while ago I came across my first book. It was a grade school assignment. It consisted of folded and stapled construction paper. The title was The Pink Pony. I wrote one sentence, “I have a pink pony”, and thought that was a book. I also illustrated that book. My father was a professional writer. He must have been mortified when he saw it. Hopefully my writing has improved.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out this picture book by Shari Lyle-Soffe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Fascinating Picture Books. One about Davy Crockett and the other about Trade

Today I am reviewing and interviewing Bobbi Miller about her two funny and well illustrated picture books. I hope you all enjoy.

Book 1-One Fine Trade illustrated by Will Hillenbrand is a wonderful story about teaching the concepts of barter and trade. Georgy Piney Woods “the finest peddler who ever lived,” has a problem. His daughter wants to get married and would like to trade her skinny horse for a silver dollar so she can buy a wedding dress. Georgy, being the devoted father, rides the horse up and down hills and through the woods in search of people who would like to do a trade. He ends up making several trades but none of them are for the item he desperately seeks. Then he comes upon the right person who has the need for what he has to offer. This is a great story that introduces children to the concept of trade. The amusing and well developed illustrations helps the reader understand the concepts clearly while making predictions about what Georgy is going to be encountering next. The concept of trade is one that has been used for years. More and more people, especially now when money is tight for so many, are trading their services to save money. These are lessons that children will learn in elementary school but will use throughout their lives. It is great to teach children the benefits of voluntary trade and this is a great children’s book to do it.
ISBN# 9780823418367 32 pages

Book 2-Davy Crockett Gets Hitched illustrated by Megan Lloyd is a wondiferous tale about Davy Crockett and Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind. Davy, being the amazing outdoorsman, hears about a dance that is being held in honor of Miss Sally Ann. Always in the mood for good dancing and free food, he decides to attend. On his way, he encounters a thornbush, which causes a problem. When he gets to the dance he catches the attention of Miss Sally Ann, but not in the way that he would have liked too. The dancing then takes a more competitive turn and Miss Sally Ann and Davy end up having a dance battle for who can last the longest. This was a great tall tale about how Davy Crockett and Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind first met and wed. It’s great to read children’s books that are entertaining and fun. Some of the words of the story are silly to say and the illustrations make you giggle with delight. This is a great book to use when covering the topic of Davy Crockett.
ISBN# 9780823418374 32 pages

Overall my children and I liked these books very much. They were unique and different, and yet informative and fun.

Joining us today is Bobbi Miller, author of Davy Crockett Gets Hitched and One Fine Trade. We’re going to talk to Bobbi about her new picture books.

Welcome, Bobbi. It’s great to have you with us.

Thank you for having me!

Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

One would think this is a simple question to answer. I am a storycollector, and storyteller, and a writer who teaches writing. And a college professor who teaches reading. I’m an old lady who lives in the woods. I have way too many cats.
I have always been a nerd, and have finally come to appreciate it.

How did your writing career begin?

Isn’t this true of every writer: I’ve always written stories, from elementary classes through high school. I was also a heavy reader, and read everything. I was reading Charles Dickens in the fourth grade, and just loved Oliver Twist. So much so, that I copied the book, making it into a play: “Please, sir. I want some more!” No kidding. It wasn’t a very good script. But I just loved that Artful Dodger character and thought he deserved more space. I read Robin Hood stories, and wrote about the daughter of Robin Hood. I read about pirates – and you know it, I wrote about the Pirate Queen!

I wrote stories about my favorite characters in my favorite books! I wrote about being Alex Ramsey’s friend in the Black Stallion (by Walter Farley). Another favorite book was Wild Animals I have Known, by Ernest Seton, so I wrote stories about my dog Dixie. I thought Huckleberry Finn was just the coolest kid, although not very bright. But I loved Mark Twain.

So, yes, I was a nerd. But, underneath that nerdy exterior was a real pirate queen–cowboy- musketeer –soldier--adventurer. I didn’t ever want to be Queen Elizabeth, or the fairy Princess, or Mary from Peter Pan. I wanted to be Sir Walter Raleigh, the dragon, or Peter Pan! It seemed they had more fun, went to more interesting places, and did more interesting things. So those were the books that I read. And those ultimately became the books that I like to write.

I also liked school, and I also liked to research. (I did warn you: I am a nerd). I wanted to find out what else was out there. I wanted to find out how to write the stories.

So I went to school. My first degree was in writing fiction, more like a certificate of completion from a local writing two year (or was it eighteen months?) program. I remember nothing about those two years except that I was SO disappointed, because I knew still knew nothing about writing. So I went to a community college. I took every writing class, and ultimately majored in journalism. BUT, I also took every anthropology class, having discovered folklore. I was a full time student, working full time, who was also a single mother. Life was busy.

But now I felt like I was learning something! I went onto a four year program, this time majoring in Mass Media Communications, and minoring in anthropology. I took every course about writing and anthropology I could get into, including those classes that my degree didn’t necessarily require. After graduation, I began working as a freelance writer and editor. I wrote short stories. My first editor was Marion Zimmer Bradley (Mists of Avalon), and I sold two short stories to her.

I also continued my studies in folklore. I realized that many of the best adventures are on our own landscape! The western frontier, the Mississippi, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, New York, the Midwest and the Southwest, the coming together of many cultures, many languages and many stories — why, we have the BEST stories in our own front yard! So that’s what I began studying.

But, nerd that I am, I still felt like there must be more to learn. So I went to Simmons College, the Masters of Children’s Literature Program, where I studied the folklore process in children’s literature. I investigated voice and perspective, and most of all, the language of the storytelling process! It was a very good experience.

But – don’t you know it – I still felt there was more to learn. So I went to Vermont College (now the Vermont College of Fine Arts) MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Program. To tell you the truth, I think everything I learned up to that moment was preparing me for this experience. I worked hard to hone my skills, and I studied under true masters. Eric Kimmel and Marion Dane Bauer, I owe them for my life, true enough. It sounds sappy, yes. But when everything – every moment, experience, understanding – comes together to finally make sense and direction, it does becomes a sappy life-altering moment. I continue to call Eric my Guru, and Marion my ultimate Mentor. I also call them dear friends. That’s the experience of Vermont College, and I sense that everyone who attends the program walks away with a similar sappy moment.
I still carry that feeling that I don’t know enough, and I’m still learning more about the craft, and the stories. I’m thinking, I will never know enough – and that’s okay.

Tell us about Davy Crockett Gets Hitched and One Fine Trade.

These books were a part of my creative thesis while I was attending Vermont College. I studied under Eric Kimmel and Marion Dane Bauer, the focus of my study was voice and perspective, and language. I LOVE the organic nature of language.

For Davy Crockett, I researched both the myth and the man. I researched the historical context, including gender roles, so I have a feel for Miss Sally Ann. I also read his books to get a sense of his language and personality. My story is a combination of many tales, some of which he told, and some of which were told by others. I highlighted the recurring motifs, engaged in the language, and then created a story from that.

Stories tend to be organic, and sometimes outlines, research, and all the ‘great plans of mice and men’ need to be tossed as characters take over. In which case, I tag along for the ride. Miss Sally Ann is not your typical gal, as Davy Crockett discovered, and you’ll discover more about her in my next book, also illustrated by Megan Lloyd and will be published by Holiday House. She demanded to whoop it up, and I whooped right along with her.

What age group are these two books for?

While these stories are geared for ages two to eight, I hope all ages find them worthy.

These are two beautifully illustrated picture books. What inspired you to write them?

The language that creates these stories is as big and grand as the landscape itself. It is this audacious, bodacious, just splendiferous landscape and language that inspire me to write, these books and all my books.

In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?

Only hard cover, at the moment.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.

Davy Crockett and One Fine Trade are my first published hardcovers. Two others are coming out soon, including another story of Miss Sally Ann, and one really humorous southern tale about a talking turtle and a rather slow fellow named Jasper.

I’m a prolific writer, however. There’s so many stories, and I want to tell them all. My mind is cluttered with all these characters stomping around. When I’m not teaching, I spend my time exploring the American landscape and the grand voices that make up the American story. I have three picturebooks out and about now, one of which is an adaption of an old Celtic Tale, The Children of Lir. Two others are original tall tales, including an original fable about a fox who gets outfoxed. In my fable, I don’t supply a moral, but rather ask the reader to make his/her moral of the tale. I can hear those discussions now!

Two big projects out currently under consideration includes a character driven story about a force of nature called Bruce. That’s also the title of the book. There’s a lot of stories out there about dragons, from fantasy to magical realism, to adaptations of old legends. When I read them, being the nerd that I am, I wanted to know the basics: dragons are big, which means they eat a lot and then poop a lot. Where does the food come from, and what happens to all that poop? How does one hide a dragon, literally? Why can’t we see dragons? Magic didn’t cut it for me, and that all knowing “Just because” also didn’t cut it. If there are dragons, are there dragon-hunters? If there were so many dragons in prehistoric and ancient times, where are all the bones? What would these bones look like? If dragons are so fierce and smart, how come they died out?

Another project I just finished, a middle grade about the battle of Gettysburg, called Mam’s Wisdom, as told through the perspective of the female experience, including a girl disguised as a Confederate soldier, the daughter of a middle class shop keep, a daughter of a freeman, and two enslaved . While there has been many books written on the battle of Gettysburg, few have taken on the female perspective, and none have included in their story the very significant perspective of the free African American experience or of the enslaved in Gettysburg. Gettysburg was a prominent location in the underground railroad. Many of the scenes in my book, including Picket's Charge, the wounded gathering at Weikart's farm, and the collapse of the cellar, are based on true happenings. I travelled to the area, and walked the entire battlefield several times to get a feeling of these places. Another thing I tried to do with this book is to bring these different perspectives and experiences together to show how these experiences did not happen in a vacuum, separate from one another, but were in relationship to everyone’s experience.
I also used this approach –bringing together the experience, rather than separating, or segregating, them – in my middle grade creative nonfiction, We Are Soldiers: The Story of Women’s Call to Arms. Extensive research, and somewhat overwhelming! There have been more than a few books about the female soldiering -- girls disguising themselves as men and taking up arms – during the Civil War. While my story began with this focus, I found myself asking more questions as I did more research. I had the help of a splendid editor with this process, and even went to Rutgers One on One Conference that furthered this investigation. Finally, I realized the story I wanted to tell: I expanded my story to look at all the wars, from colonial times through the Spanish American War, and included the African-American experience and the Native American experience.

And, this coming together of experience is also reflected in my current project, the re-imagining of the Annie Christmas story, a middle grade novel that blends tall tale with history. There’s pirates, and buried treasure, and riverboats, the War of 1812, New Orleans culture – and all its implications -- and the beginnings of the underground railroad. Some characters are based on real people, and some events happened. So research is extensive.
But Annie Christmas is stomping in my head, demanding to be cut loose.

For homeschool parents, such as myself, we are always looking for the best curriculums, workbooks, supplements and subjects to best teach our children. How can these books be used in the classroom?

This is an important element, and I address this very thing on my website. Because I also teach reading, one of my goals is to expand the reading experience. I offer additional resources, including links to lesson plans on how to use folktales in the classroom, and how to use my books in the classroom. I offer additional resources into my characters, to help expand the reading experience. I have a teacher currently working on more lesson plans, and will include these as soon as she is finished.

One Fine Trade can also be a tool in introducing children about trade and barter. These concepts are among the first economics lessons introduced to children in elementary school and in their own daily lives.

Also, I want to show how folktales help us to understand experiences and events not our own. For example, I include a website about folk tales, poems, and letters from Peace Corps Volunteers. In this site, volunteers expand and enrich the lives of students by allowing them to see the world as Peace Corps Volunteers do. A very different perspective!
Another website I highlight comes from The Fetzer Institute, in collaboration with the Institute's Generosity of Spirit project team. This program, Learning to Give , creates an interesting resource that helps foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community: “From earliest childhood we are captivated by the sounds of the human voice telling a story. There is an elemental, magnetic pull to hear the myths, fables and parables that are a part of our varied cultures. We learn early life lessons from these wise folktales with their colorful characters and episodes.”
My website is still new, and I continue to work on it to include more that hat further our understanding of our place in the world, exploring voice, perspective and experience.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more? Designed by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys. What a wonderful designer!

Where can readers purchase your books and how much do they cost?

You can purchase them at,, Barnes and Noble online, and independent bookstores. In fact, I have a list of links to these areas on my website.

I have read that your house was an inspiration for Davy Crockett Gets Hitched. How so?

I live in the woods, in a 1830s reproduction log cabin, a perfect place to explore larger than life characters! I write in two places: in my loft, which overlooks my gardens, and in my living room, which is a grand room with skylights and big windows. So, I am surrounded by landscape, literally. There’s a picture of it on my website. Very cool.
Final news: Nancy Polette, Director of the Laboratory School at Lindenwood University, MO and Director of the Library/Media and Gifted Programs in St Louis County Schools, lists ONE FINE TRADE as one of "the best picture books of Summer/Fall 2009 “.

So, life is good. Life is still busy. I’m still a nerd. But life is good.
Do feel free to stop by my website, just to see what you can see, and feel free to offer any insights, recommendations, and questions.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out these wonderful book

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Wonderful Picture Book About Rhymes, Songs And Activities To Stay Connected With Our Young Children. Also A Book Give-Away.

I had the pleasure of reviewing and interviewing Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy by Martine Groeneveld. The author is also doing a book give-away for the readers of my blog. To enter you can e-mail the author. Her e-mail is given at the end of the interview—so keep reading till the end. I hope everyone enjoys.

Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy, is a wonderful book filled with delightful pictures and memorable words. The rhyme mixed into the stories and then incorporating massage along with them, is relaxing and fun for children. This book shows positive and healthy ways to massage and touch our children. Nurturing touch creates family bonding and are key components for encouraging healthy physical, mental and emotional development in children. Massage helps communicate love and helps any child relax. Think of how we feel after a good massage from a spa. We feel relaxed and calm, right? So do children.

My children are affectionate. They love to hug, snuggle, and of course, be massaged. I am the massage queen at my house, massaging shoulders, feet and backs on a daily basis. So when I sat down with my children and read the book, massaging their legs and backs and arms as the rhymes, songs and stories suggested, they loved it. However, my children are also ticklish so some of the time was spent on taking moments for a tickle fest, which of course led to laughter and spending memorable moments with my children.

Martine created an amazing book that I feel will bring parents some good quality time with their children, which is sometimes forgotten in a busy world. Sometimes we as parents forget that no matter what the age, our children need to feel loved. My boys are affectionate boys, and it is amazing to me that my oldest, after playing with his friends, will sometimes give them hugs thanking them for playing with him. Some will hug back and some will look at him strangely, but I am proud of him for feeling comfortable and secure enough with himself that he can hug someone else and show them how he feels, instead of saying words that he may or may not mean. Adults are no different. Many times I have talked with someone who was so excited or thankful at something I did, that they hugged me showing me their appreciation. How did that feel? Wonderful! Everyone needs to have that connection in their lives.

The research Martine did on this book was extensive. In the back of the book is a section which is about the benefits of nurturing touch. It was very informative. Overall, I must say that I really enjoyed the book and thought Martine did a wonderful job creating something that is very important to have in everyone’s lives. How did I know my children enjoyed the book? When I was in the grocery store and my youngest son was hugging me, he was singing one of the rhymes. Great job, Martine!

Joining us today is Martine Groeneveld, author of Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy. We’re going to talk to Martine about her new picture book.

Welcome, Martine. It’s great to have you with us.

Thank you very much for having me.

Please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

I’m a native of Holland and have been living in Los Angeles for almost five years. My background is in nursing, psychology and massage therapy and I have found my passion in advocating nurturing touch during early childhood. My daughters, Wies and Sara, are six and four years old and a great inspiration in my life.
Living in the US has been a wonderful experience so far. It has given me the opportunity to write my first book and will therefore always hold a special place.

How did your writing career begin?

I was looking for a book that combined nurturing touch with rhymes and illustrations. When I couldn’t find it, I decided to write it myself. I figured I wasn’t the only mom who was looking for fun and loving ways to connect with my children.

Tell us about Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy.

Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy combines nurturing touch, storytelling and beautiful illustrations in a way that allows parents and children to slow down, focus on each other and enjoy a close, personal relationship.
It contains a series of bedtime, naptime or playtime stories ranging from the familiar Itsy Bitsy Spider and This Little Piggy Went To Market to original stores and games like Magic Body Painting and Guess the Letter. Each story contains massage instructions for the parent, which guide hand and fingers to draw shapes on the child’s body. The child is asked to guess the shape as the story unfolds. The fun and enjoyment that derives from touch play stimulates the child and encourages creativity and cognitive abilities in a playful and nurturing way.

What age group is this series for?

For 0-6 years old. The rhymes and games in the book can be adjusted to the child’s developmental stage.

This is a beautiful picture book. What inspired you to write it?

When I trained to become an infant massage instructor a few years ago, we played around with the lyrics of a song so it could be incorporated into the massage routine. When I later introduced it to my daughter, who was almost two at the time, it was an instant hit. She loved it. From than on I created different rhymes, songs and games to go along with hand routines for massage. When I started thinking about putting it into a book form, I knew it had to be combined with beautiful pictures to enhance the whole experience. The book needed to be playful, loving and warm in appearance, just like the content.

In what forms is your book available? Is it available in e-book, hard cover or traditional paperback, or all?

It’s available in hardcover only. I believe in the magic of holding a beautiful book in your hands. It gets me excited to open and read it and I think this is all part of ‘experiencing’ the book. The theme of Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy, connection and closeness between parent and child, is all about experiencing and a beautiful looking book enhances that whole experience.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us about them.

Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy is my first book and I really enjoyed the writing process. It has sparked some ideas for new books and I’m excited to start working these out.

For homeschool parents, such as myself, we are always looking for the best curriculums, workbooks, supplements and subjects to best teach our children. How can this book help children in school and help parents?

The rhymes and games in this book have fill-in-the blanks that can be adjusted to the child’s developmental stage. The alphabet and numbers are practiced in a playful way and facts about the body are learned, encouraging the development of a healthy body image.
Nurturing touch and touching is all about respect and this is the underlying teaching in the activities. The child is the owner of his/her body, and the parent follows the child’s lead. This not only makes the child feel respected, it also teaches respect for their own and other people’s bodies. This book is also helpful in a dialog with your child about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch.

I have read that you teach massage classes. Tell us more about that and how massage can help children.

In my classes I teach a combination of massage and massage-touch-play activities. Parents learn how to give their baby or child a full-body massage, but what is more important to me is teaching them to be creative and to follow their intuition with the simplicity, and fun, of nurturing touch. You can nurture your child with loving touch anywhere and at anytime, that’s the message I want to pass along.

Massage and nurturing touch is a wonderful way to enhance physical, emotional and cognitive development in a child. It stimulates relaxation, circulation, the immune system, brain growth, self-respect and confidence, a healthy body image and a parent-child relationship based on love and respect. It has also proven to reduce aggression in children, which in turn can lead to a more peaceful environment once these children grow into adults.

What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

I had to study rhyme and meter (rhythm) for children’s rhymes. What sounded good to me sometimes turned out to be completely “off” in regards to the rhythm. I found this really interesting. To make a rhyme go easy and smoothly requires a lot of complicated crafting with words.

Mommy, Draw Stars on My Tummy is not released yet in stores. When is the release date and can readers pre-order your book?

The book will be released November 1st 2009, but is already available for pre-order on Amazon and on the website Shipping is free within the USA till November 1st.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Yes, I have a website and a blog. My book website is and has sample pages of the book, reader and exert reviews and a research page on the benefits of touch for children.
In my blog http://www.mommydrawstarsonmytummy/blog/ I focus on nurturing touch during early childhood, massage and ways to encourage closeness in the relationship with your child.
I also have a Twitter account and a facebook group page The latter is for everyone with the hope for all children to grow up in a nurturing touch environment. Please join!

Where can readers purchase your books and how much do they cost?

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon and on the website It is $19.95 and shipping is free within the USA till November 1st.
After the release date, November 1st, it’ll be available in book and retail stores as well.

What's next for you? Is there anything else that you are involved in or working on?

I’m in the process of researching body image development in early childhood and it’s relation to the development of eating disorders in adolescence. This might be food for another book.
I’m also conducting research on the link between nurturing touch and temper tantrums. I’m collecting the last data and will publish results once they’re processed.

Has writing always been a passion for you?

I’ve always loved books, but never thought I would write one myself. I wished I could, but thought it was only for professional writers. It took me a few months into the writing of this book, before I felt comfortable telling others about it without the need to apologize for that ridiculous idea.

Is there anything else that you would like to add or share?

I have reserved two books for readers of this blog. If you’d like to enter for this giveaway, please email me at

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to our readers today. Good luck in all of your future endeavors. Please check out this picture book by Martine Groeneveld.

Thank you so much for having me and giving me the opportunity to introduce my book.