Review of Judy Nill’s middle grade, TOO BIG

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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.

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This book was published by Guardian Angel Publishing. You can find more information about the book and ordering information here: http://guardianangelpublishing.com/too-big.htm

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.

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sunshineaward

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Review of Clayton Stone, At Your Service by Ena Jones

Ena Johes, Clayton Stone

There’s a new Secret Agent on the block and his name is Clayton Stone. He is the brain child of Ena Jones, an old friend and former critique-group partner of mine. Clayton turns 13 in the first book of this new Middle Grade series, published by Holiday House.

So, let’s do some sleuthing of our own and find out How this star lacrosse player at a posh private school gets to be an agent for the Special Service.

What criminal intrigue does this hero help the Special Service solve?

Where does all this take place?

Why is Clayton, a twelve-year old boy needed?

Who recruits Clayton to help?

Who is in trouble?

And How does Clayton’s grandmother fit into the whole plot?

It appears that someone is robbing wealthy ladies and their daughters who shop at shopping centers and force them to take money from ATMs. But when the latest family to be involved in this nefarious activity is that of a prominent politician (this is Washington, D.C., after all)things escalate. A Senator’s wife and step-daughter are kidnapped.

Clayton is recruited (after a nudge from the President) to help because what is needed is a kid and he fits the bill. It is assumed Clayton will not arouse suspicion as he gathers information. No one meant for him to get so involved. “They want to use me as ‘bait’? To get the mall napper dude?”

Here’s a sampling:

“Chapter Four: Less than twenty-four hours later, I’m in the underwear section at Macy’s. Shopping. Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead here. Now I might be. Caught dead, that is. I lean over and mutter into my shoe, trying to act like bra-shopping with my fake mom is a regular day in the life of me. ‘Can you hear me? Over.’”

As Clayton spends more and more time in his secret mission, he misses some lacrosse practice and his friends become, not just suspicious, but downright hostile.  He can’t explain. “Real secrets suck.” To complicate matters, the busy-body girl in his class tries to convince Clayton to get involved in campus politics. Then there is the other girl, the one who was kidnapped. There’s a lot going on here.

For instance, there’s the diner his Grandmother owns with the mechanical booth that dumps those in the know into the underground Headquarters.  .  . . A Secret Agent who will risk his life for you would make a great father figure. . . .  I’ll bet you thought Men In Black drove around in inconspicuous cars, not Lamborghinis and BMWs. . . .  Sometimes a Secret Agent must wear a disguise, and Clayton’s involves wearing a wig. “. . . the next team rushes at me with hair clippers and pushes me into my own barber chair. They’re barely finished when another member of the pit crew pounces with shaving cream and a razor while a guy with a Shop-Vac sucks up all my hair from the floor.” . . . .  Why did busy-body girl have to go for pretzels at just the wrong time? . . . You’ll never guess who is the Head of the Special Service.

I recommend this book for both boy and girl middle schoolers who like a bit of danger and adventure in their pleasure reading material.  They will be right at home in the up-to-the-minute lingo and self-confident attitudes. Sample: “Carlos’s (the head cook at the diner) face is set to the serious channel.”

Decoy or not, Clayton is committed to finding and saving the wife and step-daughter of the Senator.

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Review of Two House Lilly by Candace J. Hardy

Two House Lilly

Don’t be fooled by the cover of this book, TWO HOUSE LILLY, written and illustrated by Candace J. Hardy. It isn’t really about witches, although a witch costume plays a prominent part in the story.

Lilly is a nine year old fourth grader whose life has been turned upside down by the divorce of her parents. The story is sad at times, but the age group who will be reading it should be able to handle the honest approach to family problems in this chapbook for tweens published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Lilly’s dad has remarried. His wife came to the marriage with a set of twins and  a special needs daughter, although she seems quite smart to me. Now Dad and his wife have another child, a baby girl.

Lilly lives with both families. Her calendar is divided between Red Weeks with her father and Blue Weeks with her mother (with every other weekend at Grandma’s).

Lilly’s mom has not remarried. She resents the fact that her husband left her and is vocal about her feelings. She also appears to be drinking a bit too much. Her attitude is making Lilly wish she could live full-time with the dad’s family.

When Lilly discovers that her mom has muscular sclerosis, which sometimes mimics drunkenness, and when Mom gets on medication and becomes a calmer and nicer person, Lilly draws closer to her mom.

Complications set in when 1) Dad’s employer is moving him to another state, 2) a boy who is a bully hurts Lilly and they become enemies, 3) Lilly wants to be the witch in the school presentation of HANSEL AND GRETEL but can’t make the rehearsals, (so will she or won’t she get to play the witch?) and 4) Lilly’s step-mother becomes grouchy knowing she has to leave the town that feels like home to her, and 5) the witch costume gets splashed with bleach.

And there are other complications. Some of the problems are out of Lilly’s hands, but Lilly speaks up about honesty and saves the bully from being expelled by defending him against a wrongful charge.

Now about that witch costume. Need I say, it’s Grandma to the rescue?

This book is well written, with a variety of interesting characters, well-meshed sub-plots, suspense, and humor.

Candace Hardy has a great love for all things vintage and enjoysdoing historical research. During her younger years, she taught in her mother’s piano studio, then became a teacher in the former Hebrew Academy of Toledo and a
special education teacher, teaching hearing impaired children. She lives near Toledo, Ohio with her husband
and their two beautiful dalmations.

TWO HOUSE LILLY, with 25 Chapters and 190 pages, is Candace’s second book with GAP.

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I purchased this book in electronic form from Guardian Angel Publishing Bookstore and have presented an honest opinion.

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Review of Helping Herbie Hedgehog by Melissa Abramovitz

I just love hedgehogs. They are so cute. And even though they are described as being spiny, they look so much more cuddly than porcupines. That’s why  I’m happy to present to you today Melissa Abramovitz’s chapter book HELPING HERBIE HEDGEGHOG.

Helping Herbie Hedgehog

You are probably wondering what kind of help a little hedgehog needs.

In this clever rhymed picture book, Melissa presents Herbie with a series of choices. The young reader is given the job of helping Herbie choose the right thing. If the wrong thing is selected, Herbie might end up looking foolish. For instance, should he choose a tutu and ballet shoes to go jogging or sweat pants and track shoes? The young reader will know the answer. Herbie might go hungry if he looks for spaghetti hanging from a tree.  And he would surely make a mess if he tried to cook stew on the TV set. “Or is using the stove a better bet?”

Ch. 1 Helping Herbie Hedgehog

The artist, Robert Lee Beers, has illustrated Herbie to look like a cheerful little fellow who is a bit confused, but wants to know what the right thing to do is.

This book is recommended for children 6-8 and as a read aloud for younger children.

A bit of trivia:

The collective noun for a group of hedgehogs is array or prickle.

Each of the chapters, with titles listed below, contains several conundrums for the reader to help Herbie with.

Chapter 1, Places to Go

Chapter 2, Home Helpers

Chapter 3, Shopping for Clothes

Chapter 4, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Chapter 5, Exercise Time

Chapter 6, Shopping for Food

Chapter 7, Bedtime

Melissa Abramovitz is the author of more than 45 books and hundreds of magazine articles for children, teens, and adults. She specializes in writing educational nonfiction, but enjoys creating all types of fiction and nonfiction that make learning fun. She also enjoys helping other writers achieve their goals with her acclaimed book for writers, A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write and Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines. Her children’s picture book, ABCs of Health and Safety, was also published by Guardian Angel. www.melissaabramovitz.com

Robert Lee Beers is an award-winning artist and illustrator with an extensive artist portfolio. Besides doing the art for this book, he has authored several fantasy novels. Look for more of his illustrations in Guardian Angel books. He currently resides in Green Valley, Nevada. You can see more of his work at Kids Picture Book http://kidspicturebook.com/

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HELPING HERBIE HEDGEHOG is published by Guardian Angel Publishing, Publisher: Lynda S. Burch, from whom I purchased my copy.

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA

http://www.GuardianAngelPublishing.com

Stories a la Mode:

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Introducing Lauri Meyers

I have a new cyber acquaintance I want to introduce you to. Her name is Lauri Meyers.

Lauri is a children’s book writer who is is retraining her brain to be creative after a decade in corporate finance. She blogs about writing for children and her messy children at http://www.laurimeyers.com

Lauri has a charming sense of humor and one that will appeal to the boys on your reading list. You will find good reviews of children’s books at her website.

Thanks, Lauri, for following this blog.

Surprise Guest at the Halloween Party

 

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SURPRISE GUEST AT THE HALLOWEEN PARTY

by

Barbara Bockman

 

 

Tom Turkey looked through the chicken wire fence at the farmhouse. “Wish I could be at the Halloween Party.”

Tom pecked at the lock on the gate. Too hard

He fluttered up against the fence. Too high.

He scratched at the dirt, but the ground was hard as cement.

His wings might be weak, but he had gotten as fat as a pumpkin and he was strong. He pushed a box against the fence. He leaned the broomstick up against the creaky box and climbed up. Over he flew.

Tom was a hit at the party.

“See you at Thanksgiving.”

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Halloween Surprises, two stories by Barbara Bockman

Scarecrow

SURPRISE AT THE HALLOWEEN PARTY

by

Barbara Bockman

Scarecrow stood still and silent on his pole in the corn field. A witch glided in front of the big yellow moon on her broomstick.

                The farmhouse rang with loud laughter as the Halloween party got into full swing. Scarecrow saw kids bobbing for apples, roasting marshmallows, and carving pumpkins.  “I wish I could join in the fun,” muttered Scarecrow.

“Why don’t you?” asked the Thanksgiving Turkey. “I’m going.”

“Me, too,” said the Easter Bunny.

“I’m stuck here.”

The pole creaked as the Easter Bunny and Thanksgiving Turkey helped Scarecrow down.

They sure surprised everyone at the party.

 

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This is my entry to Susanne Leonard Hill’s Halloween story contest of 100 words or less.

These words are required to be in the stories: pumpkin, broomstick, creaky.

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-4th-annual-halloweensie-writing.html
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This is another story for the contest. I will submit this one.
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turkey

SURPRISE GUEST AT THE HALLOWEEN PARTY

by

Barbara Bockman

Tom Turkey looked through the chicken wire fence at the farmhouse. “Wish I could be at the Halloween Party.”

Tom pecked at the lock on the gate. Too hard

He fluttered up against the fence. Too high.

He scratched at the dirt, but the ground was hard as cement.

His wings might be weak, but he had gotten as fat as a pumpkin and he was strong. He pushed a box against the fence. He leaned the broomstick up against the creaky box and climbed up. Over he flew.

Tom was a hit at the party.

“See you at Thanksgiving.”

 

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Words With Wings, my website

logo for website, Elexis King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is to introduce you to my website, Words With Wings.

It has these pages: Home, About Me, My Stories, and My Books, which is the buy page.

You will find links to this blog, Stories a la Mode, and Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Coming soon: a link to the Pens and Brushes critique group blog.

My thanks go to Elexis King for the Logo as well as the banners on the Home Page and the Books page. Thanks to Mike Boehlein, of Alta Systems, the printer of WOUNDS. And thanks and hugs to my granddaughter, Jessica, for all kinds of input and assistance.

The address is:  www.barbarabockman.com

 

Review of Laura Sassi’s GOODNIGHT, ARK

Goodnight, Ark

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you like surprise endings, you will LOVE  Laura Sassi’s picture book, GOODNIGHT, ARK.

This new take on the story of Noah’s ark is written in short, pithy rhymes, beginning with:

Bed are ready.

Food is stored.

Noah hollers,

“All aboard!”

The storm bringing the rain that floats the boat is a bit scary. Some of the animals find it hard to sleep. Now for the surprise: But I’m not telling.

Eventually everyone gets back to bed and

Noah smiles

In the dark.

“Goodnight, friends.”

“Goodnight, Ark.”

Sometimes kids need to know that other people (and critters) have a hard time sleeping, but going to sleep can be fun. This is a special bedtime book.

The illustrations by Jane Chapman add a whimsical aspect to the story with pairs of some of the usual—and some unusual—animals on the ark. The double-spread outside view of the ark in the storm is quite beautiful.

I am happy to share with you that Laura and I are in a critique group together, Pens and Brushes. She is an excellent critiquer and has a beautiful blog, Laura Sassi Tales,   http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

Laura Sassi

 

 

Laura lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She has a facility for telling humorous stories in rhyme. Her work has appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.

I recommend GOODNIGHT, ARK for people aged 3 and up.

It’s published by Zonderkidz and is available at your local bookstore and Amazon.

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sunshineaward

Lift Off to Literacy

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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: http://www.nancystewartbooks.blogspot.com/

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:

http://www.reading.org/Libraries/international-literacy-day/ild-activity-kit.pdf

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.

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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.”

 

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