Review of Rebecca Barnhouse’s The coming of the Dragon. A retelling of the last part of the Epic of Beowulf

                THE COMING OF THE DRAGON, by Rebecca Barnhouse, presents the young adult reader with great adventure and realistic emotions. The events of the story take place in Geatland when Beowulf is getting to be an elderly king. After his earlier adventures, Beowulf became the kind of king you would expect him to be. He is beloved by his people, and he loves them like his children and protects them.

                But this story is about a young man, called Rune, who came to Geatland by boat when just a baby (reminiscent of Moses). In the boat are items that suggest the boy’s father might have been a knight: a sword, a shield, a necklace with runic markings.

                The boy is brought up on a farm, in poverty, by a strange woman. In winters, the folk gather at Beowulf’s golden-roofed mead-hall. Growing up, Rune takes sword-fighting lessons along with the other boys, but he’s not very adept.

                When a dragon menaces the countryside, destroying farms (including the one where Rune’s foster mother lives) Rune has a close encounter with it; he actually sees the white spot under its belly that is the only vulnerable place on the dragon. But the dragon burns up his wooden sword. Rune takes his information to King Beowulf, and is chided by some people for not killing the dragon. Beowulf gathers his ten fittest men to go with him to put an end to the perils.

                Rebecca Barnhouse focuses on the heart of medieval Scandinavian society with her emphasis on loyalty and the converse, cowardice. Rune wants to accompany the knights and avenge the death of his foster mother. But he was not one of the chosen ones. Rune is conflicted with a variety of emotions. He fears the dragon, but wants to help his king. With determination, Rune overcomes his fear of the dragon and proves his loyalty to Beowulf. He is greatly rewarded, and now goes by his true name, Wiglaf son of Weohstan (kinsman of Beowulf).

                Aside from the dangers, adventures, and rough life, there is also a touch of romance, with the presence of three young ladies in the story.

                I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of BEOWULF, from the point of view of the young man. Since some of the words are hard for an English speaker to know how to pronounce, I suggest you first go to the back and learn the pronunciation of some of the words.

My congratulations to Rebecca, an old friend and former member of my SCBWI group. She had put her expertise of medieval literature to good use in sharing the great English Epic with another generation of eager readers.

I purchased my copy of the book for my Kindle.

Review of The Warehouse by Joyce Crawford

Joyce Crawford looks at the Earth and the Beauty of Life and sees Gifts from God. Some of the gifts are joy, faith, wisdom, perseverance, hope and the giggles of a little girl. Many people accept these gifts, but some gifts are lost. Joyce imagines that God asks a special group of fairies to locate a good place for a Warehouse for the unclaimed gifts. North Central Florida seems to be a good place. Now for some good people to build such a Warehouse. Who will the fairies choose to build the Warehouse?

Enter Joyce’s ancestors. Her book, THE WAREHOUSE, is chock full of the exciting lives of the various strains of the family, their loves and their losses, and their circuitous routes from different parts of the country to gather in a central place where God’s gifts can be distributed. The wonderful thing about the Warehouse is that the more the gifts are given, the more there are left. “One may be yours.”

Joyce lives in North Central Florida where she heard the family stories told by her Grandmother and her Mother. She wants to share this wisdom with others, not just her own family, but anyone who needs a Gift.

Learn more about Joyce on her Amazon page and about her charming picture book series about Thelma Thistle.

Here is the link to The Warehouse:

The Making of a Master by Kai Strand

                “The Making of a Master” is another of Kai Strand’s exciting middle grade novels in a futuristic fantasy vein. The world she created, or rather “Underworld,” is unique for its topography and variety of beings. Unknown to many people, there is an entire society under Earth’s surface. A blue light comes from the ground, transportation is provided by animal-like beings, and the inhabitants are Nature Spirits.

                Frank, a young Spirit of Security, and his partner, Anna, are tasked with finding out the cause of devastating and deadly landslides in the city of Concord. Is it some natural cause, or is it caused by the actions of some beings? To complicate matters for Frank, his sister, Dawn, insists on being near the collapses because she is a Spirit of Health.

                All of Frank’s training and emotions as a Nature Spirit pour into his headlong rush to save the lives of, not just his sister and partner, but a youngster, Len, who is trapped in a falling building.

                Will Frank lose his life or be recognized as a Master?

In addition to humorous moments, a more subtle, “underground,” aspect of the book touches on modern, human life: bullying, vandalism, diplomatic immunity, and truth telling. Altogether, a worthy read.

Cover art is provided by BRoseDsignz

“The Day of Reckoning” is another book in the Concord Chronical series you might want to check into.

Find Kai Strand at her blog, Strands of Thought.

Review of Jennifer Gladen’s SOULED


Jennifer Gladen created not just a story but a video game in SOULED and draws the reader along with the characters right into it. Ethan, along with his best friends Brody, Jason, and (blush) Alyssa, make up the formidable Team Dynamite to play the game “Seeker.” On a more personal note, Ethan’s dad and a friend, Max, have gone missing. But nothing can come between the Team’s interest in the game, not Ethan’s little sister, his mom, even dinner. Little did Ethan know that his intense interest in the game would lock him into the electronic world along with the Team and others worldwide who are mesmerized by the game, including Ethan’s sister, Maggie. Once inside, the Team is introduced to the Evil Scientist, Ninth, who invented the game and a couple of his helpers. Ninth captures the players’ souls and collects them in his purple orb. Ethan is determined to save his sister, find a way out of the game, and prevent a catastrophe from happening.

Team Dynamite must win their way through the various levels if they are ever going to out-wit and out-play Ninth and his army. There are both frightening and humorous moments in the story, and the various characters are drawn with distinct personalities.

Will all the missing persons find their way home?

Review of Karen Porter’s COUNTDOWN TO NAVIDAD

Countdown to Navidad: A Family Christmas Across Borders

The excitement and anticipation of Christmas is both enhanced and made confusing for ten-year-old Karen by her being transported to a country with different customs than those she is used to back home in Columbus, Ohio. This year, as her family visits old friends in Mexico and El Salvador for most of December, Karen counts down to Christmas (Navidad, in Spanish).

Although she is intrigued by most of her new experiences, her thoughts keep returning to the question: “How will Santa Claus find me and will I get any presents?”

In Mexico, Karen climbs an ancient Aztec pyramid, feels a slight earthquake, eats delicious bananas in cream, and learns that she does not like hot, spicy food. She appreciates the beauty of Mexico and El Salvador and makes a life-long friend, the cute little Marguerite. But witnessing extreme poverty in El Salvador changes her life.

On Christmas Eve, Karen is asked to play a part in the Nativity Scene. It is her honor to place the Baby Jesus in the manger. She comes to realize that the best Christmas presents are not things, but are spiritual.  

Uncommon Scents by Elaine B. Robinson

Uncommon Scents


Elaine Beem Robinson, author of Uncommon Scents, does not disappoint; this book is full of her usual “uncommon” rhymes, made-up words, and other fun word usages. She tells us the lion’s lineage is “full of noble familious scions,” but Marvin’s family tree “was limp as phlox is, Not strong and sturdy like the ox’s.” The story of a bullied individual out-witting his tormentors is cleverly told. Marvin is a poor and lowly muskrat but keeps rebuilding his nest by the bank of the lake even though the other animals keep stomping on it and messing it up. Marvin needs a good dose of self esteem.

This lowliest and poorest of animals finally makes a sensible friend. The skunk praises Marvin for his ability to swim and build and suggests Marvin move his home to the island in the lake. As the skunk says:

“It’s just common sense to do What you do best. Though sense isn’t as common As you might have guessed.”

So Marvin rebuilds on the island. No longer will the bullies be able to stomp on Marvin’s nest. This book has an excellent story, message of friendship and perseverance, and expressive illustrations.

There is great humor in the illustrations. I especially like the metaphorical one of Marvin being shown on the bottom of the totem pole, though as he gains confidence, he moves up a little. Elaine mixes natural elements with fantasy ones, as in the picture of Marvin’s new home with cosy furniture and blazing fireplace.

What Elaine says about being poor takes this book beyond a children’s story to a universal truth.

Mrs. Betsy Fieldmouse Borrows an Egg




Mrs. Betsy Fieldmouse Borrows an Egg is my book published by Guardian Angel Publishing. The delightful illustrations by Elexis King show how Mrs. Betsy goes about getting an egg for a birthday cake for her friend, Mrs. Tillie Beaver. This is a wind-up/wind-down story in the vein of Nonny Hogrogian’s One Fine Day. Each of Mrs. Betsy’s neighbors wants to help, but where will they find an egg? The egg finally gets to Mrs. Betsy and she bakes her cake. All the grownups and kids on Buttercup Crescent enjoyed a smidgen of the wonderful cake.


Review of Judy Nill’s middle grade, TOO BIG





Fifth grade can be hard on a kid,  and I don’t mean the school work. Judy Nill’s middle-grade novel, TOO BIG, covers:  making difficult decisions, accepting responsibility, family relationships, school friendships and school enemyships, and crime.

The protagonist of this story, Shelby, is a smart fifth grader who faces some serious problems. For one thing, she is larger than the average fifth grader. For another, she has to wear glasses, which she considers ugly. These problems make her the butt of jokes by the obnoxious kids. The smart alecs might think it’s funny but it hurts Shelby’s feelings. A possible saving grace might be for her to move up to the sixth grade at mid-year. It’s a decision Shelby vacillates about.

Shelby has one dear friend, Zoe. Zoe is a peace-maker type and welcomes the new boy, Deke, into her circle, realizing that he likes Shelby. Zoe also tames Kenny, the worst of the taunters. But Shelby is jealous and wants Zoe all to herself. In a kind of revenge, Shelby allows herself to be flattered into a false friendship with Marissa, a sixth grader with a mysterious past. Shelby sees Marissa slip some makeup into her pocket at the drug store, but at the counter, Marissa pays for the item. Was it because she knew Shelby saw her take it?

Shelby is very sweet to her little sister, Lindy; she gave her her old stuffed bear, BeeGee, and Lindy really loves him. She even talks in his voice. Their mom works and their dad has an electrical shop next to the house, so he is close by when the girls come home from school. The parents use big words when talking to the girls and the dad always says, “Look it up in the dictionary.”

As Shelby and Zoe draw apart, Shelby becomes involved in the deceitful dealings of Marissa and her friends. She manages to extricate herself from Marissa, or at least she tries to, but Marissa threatens to implicate Shelby if her gang is caught selling stolen goods. Shelby is afraid to tell her family or her teacher the truth.

Shelby’s reactions to her problems and relationships are authentic. She vacillates, she gets angry, she tries to act grown-up, she fakes being sick, and acts normal in other immature ways. There is much here for young readers to relate to.

n Halloween. Although Shelby and Zoe have always gone trick-or-treating together in the past, this year, Shelby decides not to go with Zoe. While hiding in the bushes near Zoe’s house, Shelby and Lindy are kid-napped by Marissa and her gang. They are taken into the woods where Lindy gets her arm fractured. Shelby and Lindy escape, but BeeGee is lost.

Zoe, Deke, and Kenny rescue Shelby and Lindy and find the missing BeeGee. Now Shelby must admit that Zoe was right to include Deke and Kenny in her circle. Shelby takes responsibility for all her mistakes, but Marissa never takes responsibility for her wrong-doings. Her mother lies for her and sends her off to her grandma’s. Feeling secure in a circle of friends, Shelby makes the decision to stay in the fifth grade.


This book was published by Guardian Angel Publishing. You can find more information about the book and ordering information here:

As a licensed mental health counselor, Judy Dearborn Nill endows the characters in her books with real psychology and real human problems. It helps that she remembers her youth vividly, so that her young characters think and feel like REAL people. And her readers can believe in them the same way a youngster like Lindy can believe that the Velveteen Rabbit (and her own stuffy) is REAL.

I enjoyed reading TOO BIG, and I think it will be of help to young readers who have differences that make them the butt of jokes. Nobody is alone in what seems to be an unfriendly environment.



Review of Susan J. Berger’s Mom, Is There a Santa Claus?

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Is there really a Santa Claus? This is an important question for many children. Oftentimes, information comes to a child through a skeptic, as it was to Lucas—who is dismayed by what his friend Clay says as they get off the school bus. Clay scoffs and says, “Like there is really a Santa Claus.”

So Lucas goes to his mom to ask her if there is really a Santa Claus, hoping her answer will reinforce his shaky belief. It seems that Mom also asked the same question of her parents. They explained that it’s the Spirit of Santa Claus that is important and will “enter the hearts and minds of people willing to listen.”

They made her a “Dream Keeper,” and gave her a pendant consisting of a moon and a silver star.

Dream Keepers are those who keep the dream of the Spirit of Santa Claus alive. So it doesn’t matter if the answer is “yes” or “no.”

Lucas carries the necklace in his pocket because now he is a Dream Keeper.

This story is very touching as it goes to the heart of a child’s fears and hopes, and makes him become aware that he is growing out of childish ideas and beliefs and must take on a responsibility that he may not feel ready to accept—but unlike Peter Pan, he must grow up. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Susan has tackled a subject that is very large and couched it in the familiar and loving framework of Christmas.

Kudos to KC Snider for her beautiful depiction of the necklace as well as the North Pole, the snow-covered roof (is that Santa and his sleigh up there?), and other illustrations that give the reader the feeling of winter and Christmas.

Susan J. Berger is an actress in addition to being a writer. She has appeared on “Hannah Montana” and numerous other tv shows.

Link to the book at Guardian Angel Publishing:

I enjoy Susan’s blog posts, as well as those of her fellow-bloggers on The Pen and Ink Blog.

Link to Susan’s blog,

This is Susan’s fourth book with Guardian Angel Publishing.


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Han and the Mysterious Pearl

Han and the Mysterious Pearl

You’ve probably heard of the fishing cormorants on the Li River in China. I included one in my re-telling of this fable as a sort of Kiplinger “just so” explanation.

HAN AND THE MYSTERIOUS PEARL is my fifth picture book with Guardian Angel Publishing. I am very pleased with the illustrations by Carl Kocich, who also illustrated my friend, Jayne Moraski’s, HOW ALLIGTOR GOT HIS SMILE BACK. These pictures will take you right to Ancient China to meet Han, his mother, and his pet cormorant. Also an enigmatic figure.

The story is about a Chinese boy, Han, who goes on his first solo fishing expedition—with his faithful companion—his cormorant, after his father has died. Han inherited his father’s knife with which he hacks down the bamboo poles to build his own raft. His mother provides him with a simple lunch. But before the day is over, Han has the adventure of his life.

On that first evening, Han spies a glow from a cave on the river, and goes to discover what causes it. There he finds a wonderful pearl. He takes  the pearl, but there will be consequences!

Watch out for those river monsters!

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The book is available at Guardian Angel Publishing:

as well as Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Goodreads.

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