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 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.



Lift Off to Literacy

kids reading









It’s not too late for us to participate in the International Literacy Day, which was yesterday.

Not too late, you say?

No, because part of the program calls for a 60 day extension. It’s called “60 for 60.” The program organizers are asking teachers (and why not parents, grandparents, and kids?) to expand classroom literacy routines and further the mastery of language and literature by pledging to add an extra 60 seconds a day to engaging literacy activities for 60 days. And I’m saying it can be done at home, too.

I must thank Nancy Stewart, a fellow Guardian Angel Publishing colleague, for calling my attention to this program. (And I must apologize for being a few days late in looking at Nancy’s blog, Nancy Stewart Books:

For the “Lift off to Literacy,” the International Reading Association has partnered with NASA and Story Time From Space to make this year’s International Literacy Day fun and challenging. You can download the many suggestions made by different people at this site:

Here is one of the ideas: For a 60-Day Story, the teacher can set a timer for 60 seconds and ask students to write without stopping. The next day, have them continue where they left off. At the end of 60 days, invite students to share their stories. –SW

Other ideas include magnetic letters, images, and poems.

11655623-doodle-sketch-rocket-vector-illustration, rocket












Kjell Lindgren, an astronaut, who will be lifting off to the International Space Station in a few months, is the spokesman for this year’s Literacy Day. He is very enthusiastic and has this to say, “Reading is like rocket fuel. It energizes the mind; it has the ability to propel us to our goals.”

I’ll bet the youngsters who participate in the “60 for 60” activities will come away just as enthusiastic as an astronaut and will make literacy “a lifelong habit.”

As Kjell Lindgren says, “Sixty seconds could change your life.”


Guardian Angel Publishing New Releases


Here is a great selection of books for young children coming from Guardian Angel Publishing. And You Parents will enjoy reading along side your kids, as well. You can count on GAP books to be exciting, wholesome, fun, and informative–with lots of heart.

Guardian Angel August 2013 Releases
Andy & Spirit in Search & Rescue Academic Wings hardcover edition
by Mary Jean Kelso, art KC Snider
Great Gobs of Gustation: The Sum of Our Parts  Book 8 Academic Wings
by Bill Kirk, art by Eugene Ruble
A rhyme which describes the sense of taste and how it works to help you tell what you like to eat and what you don’t. Book 8 of the Sum of our Parts anatomical educational series
Just Too Little  Littlest Angel
by Judith J. Miller, art Sonal Panse
At her grandparents farm Pam is too little to help with the chores.
Michael’s Safari Littlest Angel
by JennaKay Francis art by Craig Howarth
Michael takes an imaginary journey.
The New Puppy Animals & Pets
by Raelene Hall art by Kevin Collier, Gisele LaBlanc
GAP angel logo

knowonder, the literacy magazine


Scheherazade has nothing on knowonder! magazine. You can entertain your children every night with a new story from this magazine that contains 30 new stories each month.

Mommy and child reading

Child and Mommy reading

About knowonder!

Knowonder is a leading publisher of engaging, daily content that drives literacy, the most important factor in a child’s success.

Ultimately, knowonder’s mission is to eradicate illiteracy and improve education success through content that is affordable, accessible, and effective.

Learn more at






Preface: from the featured Author, Holly Stacey

People always ask me how I come up with my stories. The problem has never been what to write next, but which one to write next. With a background in archaeology (digging up ancient stuff is great inspiration) and museums (galleries filled with items; each one a wealth of tales), it’s not difficult to find inspiration. Okay, okay, and BOOKS. Lots and lots of books. It’s what got me interested in history and folklore, dragons, adventure, travel…

Books from my childhood mostly came from the library; a small, ramshackle place called Ruth Bach Library. It was located (kid you not) in a park. Getting there meant walking a bit past a grove of trees, over a bridge, a small field (well, baseball field), up a path and then into those glistening glass doors to where a whole world of adventure awaited. Small booklets, heavy tomes, cooking books, cuddly toy books, archaeology books (my personal favourite), fairytales…

So if, like me, you long for adventure, just sit back, relax, grab your favourite cuddly toy and a warm cocoa. Then pick up your latest knowonder! anthology and step into a portal of magical fun.


Holly Stacey // Staff Writer

knowonder! publishing

Here is a thumbnail sketch of each of the 30 stories in Volume 3:


p. 6. Nerissa’s Celebration, by Holly Stacey (featured author).

Mermaid Nerissa wants pearls for a new gown to wear to the festival. But in her impatience, she encounters an adventure. She rescues the oysters from bad men and the Red Tide. And though the oysters give her their pearls, she finds that it is better to have friends than a new dress.

p. 13. Just Plain Sarah Jane, by Nancy Julien Kopp.

Sarah Jane saves to buy a pretty dish for Ma. But a boy gets it and gives it to Annabelle, who doesn’t really appreciate it. Sarah Jane may be plain, but she plainly deserves the dish. Do you think she gets it?

p. 22. I Want My Own Monster, By Susan Sundwall.

Teena makes a list of qualifications and gets her own monster, Trevor.

p.27. To Be or No To Be a Princess, by Kathy Stattem Rygg.

Jetta Rose is a different princess every day: Like Cinderella she walks with one shoe; like Rapunzel she wears a yellow hair ribbon for hair; like Sleeping Beauty she sleeps all day. But if she were really a princess what are her specialties? Twirling, gliding, bowing.

p. 32. Kabungo and the Pumpkin, Part One, by Rolli.

Quote: “ I actually hadn’t seen too much of Kabungo since she’d fallen in love with Bun, her new kitten. … I’ve noticed that when people are in love they act like they’re in a snow globe. You can shake it as hard as you want and they just go on floating and smiling. Well, it’s the same with cavegirls and kittens….”  Beverly and friend, cave girl Kabungo, go to Miss VeDore’s for pumpkins; both Miss VeDore and Kabungo disappear, so Beverly goes into the house, nervous … to be continued.

p. 39. Dance Walking, by Kevin J. Doyle.

Ella finds she can do something new because her friend Marley stands by her.

p. 46. Roly-Poly Fat Cat, by Rolli.

This Very Funny take on the Gingerbread Boy story is hilarious.

p. 51. Ellie the Zoo, by Tracy Helixon.

Ellie pretends to be different animals, but her brother doesn’t want to play along. Will honey with biscuits lure him into becoming a bear?

p. 55. Bot-in-a-box, by David Welsh.

Alva throws away the directions for Box-E, so what kind of robot will emerge from his impromptu workings?

p. 63. Blackbird and Owl, by Tracey Glasspool.

This is a sweet soft story. Two opposites become friends and find a way to be together.

p. 67. Princess Piggy, by Holly Stacey.

A spoiled princess gets taught a lesson by her fairy godmother. A MOST unexpected ending. Beautifully written.

p. 72. Zora Zooms from Planet Zot, by Teresa DiNicola.

In her anger (that Mumby spends so much time with baby Nog), Zora flies away in her mini-rocket pod, but returns home to Mumby’s loving arms.

p. 75. The Small World, by Rolli.

Life is tough in the Tall World. But the secret is that there’s a Small World, too. And it’s even better.

p. 77. The Boy With the Lead Boots, by David Turnbull.

Finally Mike lets his new friends Marco, Kaz, and Emma, join in the fun of the secret of his lead boots.

p. 86. Mirinda’s Gift, by Holly Stacey.

With only three shells in her mer-purse, Princess Merinda, a mermaid, has to get a job to make her father a new robe.

p. 92. Where are the Ducklings? By Adelaide B. Shaw.

Eleven baby ducklings fall into the story drain. How will frantic Molly Duck get her babies back?

p. 96. A Damselfly in Distress, by Erin Fanning.

(Pretend )Knight Ian rescues a damselfly that got sloshed by water churned by his kayak.

p. 100. The First Snowflake, by Elliot Anderson.

Buford Bear is the slowest animal in the forest. Does he have a chance to catch the first snowflake with so many fast friends competing in the annual contest?

p. 109. A Puzzling Surprise, by Kathy Stattem Rygg.

When Lucy and Alex put their giant floor puzzle together,  Pirate Captain Buzzard, and his parrot, Pickles, step out of it.

p. 114. Martian Cookies, by Tina Holt.

Schoolgirl, Maddie, goes to her sitter’s house after school because her mother has a new job. The day goes nicely for her when she pretends Miss Becky is a Martian and serves her Martian cookies.

p. 118. Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat, by Rolli.

Here is a fanciful way of telling how Dr. Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity. And all because he needed to cure his cat from being staticy.

p. 126. A Dark and Stormy Night, by Christine Collier.

Calla visits her grandmother, and on a dark and stormy night, she solves an old mystery and makes her grandmother very happy.

p. 131. Robert’s Shirt is Gone, by Laurel T. Sheridan.

It’s hard for Robert to admit that his favorite green t-shirt—the one he wears all day, to eat in, to play in, to sleep in—has stretched WAAAY to big.

p. 134. Beware of the Dragon! by Teresa DiNicola.

A LITTLE lizard causes a BIG commotion, but friendships are made in the end.

p. 137. Polly Porcupine’s Prickly Problem, by Max Elliot Anderson.

Polly wants to eat clover, climb trees, and shoot quills like the “other” porcupines. But she eats bugs, cannot climb and her quills are stuck tight. But wait … she’s a —–!

p. 144. Kabungo & the Pumpkin, Part Two, by Rolli.

Remember, we left Beverly as she was just entering Miss VeDore’s house. Once inside, she finds Kabungo having tea with Miss VeDore. After tea, Beverly and Kabungo take their pumpkins home (well, Kabungo’s goes to her cave).

p. 152. Harry, A Prince of a Dog, by Suzanne Purvis.

If one kiss can break one spell what can two kisses do? Read this highly original and heartwarming story to find out.

p. 161. Ellie’s Art Rocks! by Kai Strand.

Check this story out for a fun craft for your kids.

Don’t have enough money to buy a pass to the pool? Ellie paints rocks to sell to earn the money and has fun doing it. Ellie’s art, rocks.

p. 166. Sapphire and Weld, by Holly Stacey.

Another of Holly’s enchanting and enchanted mermaid stories. The good girl is rewarded with pearls and the selfish girl punished by having a frog attached to her head.

p. 174. The Grasshoppers Who Learned to Sings, by Lisa Barrass.

Lots of adventure when Cup Cake Sally sprinkles fairy dust on Polly, Lucas, and Ella when they visit Tickle Belly Alley Cottage.


What is a Read-Aloud story?

knowonder! stories are Read-Aloud stories.

In fact, the whole knowonder! Literacy Program is built up around this core difference.

Read-aloud stories and picture books are very different from each other. Both are needed, but they provide very different benefits. Picture books are a wonderful literacy tool, but consider for a moment how reading stories out loud to your children from a young age can provide these key benefits:

Key Benefits

Consider these key benefits of read-aloud stories:

– Listening skills are built

– Concentration improves as children learn to sit still and focus

– Comprehension and understanding of events (cause and effect relationships) is


– Imagination is actively exercised as children imagine the scenes, characters and

worlds the words create

– Vocabulary is increased as children discover new words

– A child’s ability to guess meanings of new words grows

– Children become more confident because they know they are cared for and loved

and because they can express their thoughts and needs

– Children are better-enabled to make friends and good relationships because their

communication skills are increased

– Learning in all subjects becomes much easier because the brain is literally being

wired to learn and take in new information

– Family bonds are strengthened and reinforced, creating an atmosphere of love, trust

and communication in the home which will last a lifetime

While it can be said that many of these benefits come from picture books, most of them are developed much better, faster, and deeper with read-aloud stories. When you consider the sum-total of all these benefits, it’s easy to see why reading to your child every day from birth is the single-most important thing a parent can do to ensure a child’s success in life, socially, mentally and financially.

to learn more, visit:

Dr. Ronald Dearinger, Doctor of Business Administration

On Wednesday, I flew with my daughter, Jenny, and her husband, Ron, to Phoenix, Arizona, where Ron was to be awarded his Doctorate of Business Administration. We picked up the rental car at Avis and drove to the Sheraton Hotel. What a fabulous penthouse suite! We knew it would be a great place for the celebration party; it was very roomy and had a large patio as well. They took me to Mike and Alva’s (Ron’s sister and her husband), where I was to stay.

On Thursday, the five of us drove to Sedona and had lunch. The scenery through that countryside is awesome. We saw some beautiful geologic formations. Sedona, which had expanded since Jenny and Ron were last there five years ago, is built on a southwestern adobe style architectural plan, and it’s very artsy. The statue of the dancing couple, dressed in 19th century costume, life-size bronze and rotating on a wagon wheel, is on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. For dinner that night we ate sandwiches at home.

Friday was Veterans Day, and it fell on 11-11-11.  Alva wanted to stay home and make Friendship Bread. So Jenny and I went to Tempe. She knew of a street at the Arizona State campus that has lots of restaurants. We chose the Irish pub; we ate shepherd’s pie and bread pudding with Irish whiskey. Then we drove a long way back to the center of Phoenix to the Phoenix Art Museum. We were fortunate enough to be there for a Veteran’s Day Celebration that took place in a small auditorium. First there was a Flag Ceremony, the Honor Guard being veterans. Several veterans in the audience were introduced. There was one man who had been in WW II, a few from Korea and Vietnam, and several from Afghanistan. A docent, who has been with the museum for about 30 years, gave an inspiring presentation of art using slides projected onto a large screen. Her focus was on the Hudson River School, showing the natural treasures of America. Afterward, we joined everyone on the courtyard lawn for refreshments. I met the World War II Veteran. Later in the day, Jenny and I helped Alva arrange the food platters for the next day. Then we went to the hotel to decorate. Jenny, Alva, and I (well, not me, so much) strung crepe paper streamers across the drapery of the windows and arranged the table decorations. Ron and Mike blew up balloons and attached bunches of them to the crepe paper streamers.

Saturday was Ron’s big day. He and Jenny went early to the University of Phoenix’s stadium, which is four times larger than the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center. Alva, Mike, and I joined Jenny in the seats. She chose to be on the front row, and we had a good view of Ron when he came in. The procession was led by a group of bag-pipers and drummers. Jessie, Mike and Alva’s daughter, and her daughter, Kayla, also came to see Ron graduate. The graduates and the speakers were shown on two large video screens. Ron was interviewed, along with lots of others, and Jenny got to see that, but we didn’t arrive until later. But we got to see him file in with the other Doctoral Candidates wearing his impressive robe and red hat. The video gave a really up-close view of each graduate and displayed the name. Our guy: Dr. Ronald Dearinger.

 After the ceremony, we went to the Sheraton Hotel for the party. Jenny displayed Ron’s Disertation and his Diploma (which had been sent to him in August).  A large chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cake served as a tempting centerpiece.  In addition to the seven of us, there were other guests. Ron’s nephew, Willie, and his girlfriend, came from about 30 miles away. And Ron was especially pleased that the wife of the principal of his high school, Alice (88 years young), and her two daughters, Bev and Jean, came. Jean and Alva were good friends during their high school days, and they still get together from time to time. There was lots of reminiscing going on. Jenny showed the rotating 150 pictures of Ron and his friends and family on her lap top computer and she also took lots of pictures of everybody. I enjoyed talking to Alice. Jenny told her that I am a writer and she told us that her cousin is Dav Pilkey who wrote the Captain Underpants books. I said I would have to tell my grandsons about that. Jessie’s daughter, Kayla, is an adorable 4-year old. Jenny gave her a toy and I gave her a book; she was very interested in her gifts and enjoyed playing with them. I sat with her and we lifted the flaps on the book, and I was surprised that she knew so many words; she’s very smart and was well-behaved throughout the long day. We also played toss-the-balloons, the way I had played with my grandsons years ago. Ron was looking forward to a good prime rib, so we all joined up again at a nice restaurant. I enjoyed getting better acquainted with Bev. She had been a neo-natal Nurse Practitioner, but is now retired to ranch work. It was altogether a very satisfying day. We are all so proud of the hard work that Ron put in to achieve his Doctorate.

Jenny will be putting pictures of the event on Facebook.

Then after we came back home, the following Sunday, Jenny threw another party for Ron at the clubhouse at Uptown Village. This was a great opportunity for Ron’s local family, friends, and colleagues to express their pride and congratulations.

Jenny had a special surprise for Ron. She used copies of his Dissertation to make pinwheels which she stuck into pencils and displayed in terra cotta pots. These were the centerpieces for the scattered tables. I helped her make the pinwheels. It was my suggestion to use gold doilies under the pots. She also used pages from the Dissertation–copies, that is–to create a banner that read CONGRATULATIONS.  She displayed the Diploma and Dissertation–which has a humongous title–at the front of the room, along with Ron’s doctoral gown, hood, and red hat. The room looked very festive with the decorations and food.

When Ron came in, he said something like, Should we follow the old tradition and burn the Dissertation. I said we did something better than that. He like the things Jenny had done with the pages.

She also put the automatic picture album on a table and it ran all day. This time there were pictures of the graduation in Phoenix.

It was fun to stretch the celebrations out for a couple of weeks.


Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my blog. Stories a la Mode is one year old today. It is also my birthday.

So far, it’s been great. John took me and  Jenny to lunch at Appleby’s. The waiters sang a birthday song to me and gave me a delicious brownie with vanilla ice cream, which I shared with my kids.

When I got home Steven called to ask me out for ice cream. He and his girl friend, Nikki, and  Andrew want to take me to TCBY for a treat. I’m looking forward to that.

The whole family will celebrate in July when Jessica comes in From Seattle.

Lunching Together

Today my son invited my daughter to lunch. It’s a ritual that’s been going on for several years. It’s one of John’s ways of showing Jenny his gratitude for the gift of her bone marrow when he was in the hospital with leukemia. That was nineteen years ago. Every day, we are all grateful for her love and generosity.

Family News

I want to share the good news about the newest member of the family. Dominic Daniels is a beautiful little boy. He is the son of Chrissy and Jason Daniels. He was born on February 16, weighing in at 8 pounds, 13 ounces. His dad is a U. S. Marine and his mother is my son-in-law, Ron Dearinger’s younger daughter. He has been visited by Jenny and Ron, Lindsey and Michael, and his grandmother, Laura. I hope to get to see him before too long.

And I also want to tell you that Jessica will be doing her Archival/Records Management internship at the University of Washington in Seattle from March through June. Then she will return to Western Washington in Bellingham to finish her Master’s Degree.

Aunt Sue and the Autumn Leaves

Aunt Sue had a green thumb. Her home sat on a hill surrounded by distant Blue Ridge Mountains, an inspiring sight. However, up close, Aunt Sue tended to trees and flowers and vegetables with the same loving care she tended her family. Her home-canned green beans were out of this world and rivaled those of Aunt Mot, but that’s a story for another day.

Near the end of Aunt Sue’s life, she was diagnosed with cancer. She strove to hide her pain with a cheerfulness that bordered on denial. She still invited folks over and sat them down to a table laden with mouth-watering corn bread and butter, fried or baked chicken, stuffing flavored with the sage that grew outside her kitchen door (when I was a little girl, I was her stuffing tester), an array of vegetables, cooked and cru ˊde ˊta, and some wonderful dessert. She always kept friendship bread starter, and that was one of her tastiest offerings.

Once when I visited her with my daughter, Jenny, who is not much younger than Aunt Sue’s daughter, Vanessa, the autumn weather was pleasant enough for us to sit out on the front porch. As we talked, the wind got a little blustery and yellow, brown, and red leaves started falling from the trees at the edge of the lawn.

Among the old superstitions that we mountain folk grew up hearing is the one that states: “If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter.” It might have been Aunt Sue who reminded us of that saying.

It was worth a try. Was each of us secretly hoping there was enough good luck in an autumn leaf to dispel cancer? Jenny and Vanessa led the way as we all clambered down the steps and started trying to catch a falling leaf.

What fun that was! We must have looked like a bunch of kindergarteners, the way we squealed with our arms out-stretched and our faces up-lifted. . . . You’d be surprised how hard it is to catch a falling leaf in the wind.

I can’t remember if any of us caught cold that winter.

I do remember the joy Aunt Sue felt in life and the way she spread that joy to others with her good food and warm hospitality.

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