Review of Penelope Anne Cole’s picture book, Ten Little Tricksters


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Ten Little Tricksters by Penny Cole


















This cute counting book will delight little kids with its colorful illustrations and its rhythm and repetition.

But parents beware: Once the child has mastered its rhythmic chants, you will be hearing them over and over. The Tricksters are pictured by Kevin Scott Collier

to look like kids dressed up for trick or treating. They are more funny looking than scary. Penny says on her blog that Kevin’s artwork is a “special effect” for nighttime.

You can see how well it works in the cover illustration.

Penny has given over a complete page for each of the ten various creatures, starting with ten ghosties and counting down—not up—to  a lone pumpkin.

Let me give you a taste of the book:

Eight little monsters out on Halloween.

Run monsters!

Run monsters!




(The monsters have a family resemblance to Frankenstein). Another fun treat from Kevin is seeing an owl who lives in one of the houses, and of course, there is a spider web.


Penelope Anne Cole has taught and tutored at every grade level. She enjoys writing children’s stories for read aloud time. “Reading to children is the best way to help them love literature.” She has a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and an M.A. in Education.

When not writing stories or reviewing children’s books, Ms. Cole enjoys dog walking, reading, gardening, church and choir activities. Ms. Cole is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Fremont Area Writers of the CA Writers Club, and is a Certified Reading Therapist with Read America. Ms. Cole reviews books on her blog at


TEN LITTLE TRICKSTERS is recommended for readers ages 4-7. It is available at Amazon.

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Stories a la Mode

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Review of Jayne Moraski’s pb How Alligator Got His Smile Back

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First I want to welcome Jayne Moraski to the the Guardian Angel Publishing Family.

Congratulations, Jayne, on publishing your first picture book.


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What made alligator lose his smile in the first place? For the answer, we must take a look at this “just so” story made up by Jayne Moraski and illustrated by Carl Kocich.

HOW ALLIGATOR GOT HIS SMILE BACK begins in the murky past when Tadpole Frog and Alligator had no feet, only flippers. They lived in the water and Alligator smiled a lot. These two were friends and loved to play together until the Tadpole Frog became too boastful. He thought so highly of himself he didn’t realize Alligator let him win the race. Then eventually, Frog developed legs and hopped onto land, and his pride really took off. He sang, “Frogs are special. We are grand. We live in water and on land.”

This hurt Alligator’s feelings and Alligator cried and cried salty tears. He cried so much he turned the fresh-water swamp salty. The cypress trees had to pull away from the salty water.

Alligator’s friends, the little plover birds, asked the Great Spirit for help. The Great Spirit granted Alligator one wish. Alligator simply wanted to have legs. The wish was granted.

Now Alligator walks on land the same as Frog. And he SMILES! Frog wonders about that smile. And when he sees Alligator smiling that mysterious smile, he stops his loud croaking. There’s no boasting in Alligator’s presence.

The pictures by illustrator Carl Kocich are too pleasant to scare a little child. The early ones of the distant past give a dreamy cast to the atmosphere. And when Alligator cries, the reader feels sympathy for him. The bordering around each page is a bonus that adds to the beauty of the book.

Some of this story is made up, but the book also has interesting facts that make learning about swamps and amphibians (that’s what Frog is) and reptiles (Alligator is one) lots of fun. There are also suggestions for activities in which kids compare and contrast the two species in the book using textual clues. Some students in classrooms have already enjoyed doing the activities.

(A note about “just so” stories. That is the term Rudyard Kipling used when he made up pretend ways that animals changed from some original form to the one we know today. “The Elephant’s Child” or “How the Elephant Got its Trunk” is one of the best. I love this kind of story). Jayne calls her story a modern myth with a science twist.

HOW ALLIGATOR GOT HIS SMILE BACK is published by Guardian Angel Publishing and is available here:

go ANGELS           and       go GATORS!



Review of The Caterpillar and the Stone by Erec Stebbins

What sadness could be so great that it could wring tears from a stone?

Erec Stebbins has written a “love storybook for not-quite grown-ups” that delves into love, separation, and change. Yes, even deep love sometimes goes through devastating changes. And this applies not only to stones and caterpillars but to people as well.

The stone in question here was deeply in love with a caterpillar. She returned his love. The stone and the caterpillar lived a harmonious life in a beautiful garden. “. . . the stone loved the times when she (the caterpillar) rested on his back, because he liked to hold her high, and thought sometimes that she was the Queen of all the Garden.” The relationship was frowned on by the other stones and caterpillars; it just did not seem right to them.  But it felt right to the caterpillar and the stone.

Then trouble came into their paradise.

The stone had to go to work, filling a hole in the fence which the dog next door was digging bigger so he could come into the garden. When the stone was at work, the caterpillar visited with other caterpillars.

Gradually the caterpillar grew cold toward the stone. When she built a cocoon in a pine tree he asked to come with her. But she refused to allow him to go with her on her mysterious journey. She knew what she was doing was right for her. Even so, the stone was sad and promised to wait for her. But when she returned, she had changed. She was a butterfly and no longer desired the ways of before.

The butterfly flew with the others butterflies and for many years the stone mourned. Despair wrung tears from the stone.

He went to the Old Stone with questions. His old friend had no answers. He said, “On some, a great burden is placed, that they may grow wise, if they bear the weight.”

“For how long? Can I bear the weight, and not crack into lesser stones?”

“Who can tell? Have courage, young Stone, and seek to carry it to the end.”


There is a lot of truth in this “fairy tale for not-quite adults”  and even, we must add, adults .

About the author/illustrator:

Erec Stebbins was born in the Midwest, spent his adolescence in the Deep South, and was educated in the Northeast. He received a degree in physics from Oberlin College in 1992, and a Ph. D in biochemistry from Cornell University in 1999. Presently, he lives and works in New York City as a scientist and professor in biomedical research at the Rockefeller University.

The beautiful illustrations in this book give the appearance of out-of-focus watery water colors. They do not follow the story line as in a picture book for young children, but give impressions of the garden that even the other gardens agreed was “the most beautiful of them all.”


Kindle or paperback:

Hard back:

Twice Pi Press

contact information:


Narrated iBook from Apple


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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:

Review of Barbara Cairns’ Gatsby’s Grand Adventure

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I’m happy to present a recent addition to the Guardian Angel Publishing family, Barbara Cairns, whose picture book is illustrated by a familiar GAP illustrator, Eugene Ruble.

In Gatsby’s Grand Adventure we get a double helping of artistic fare. No—make that a triple helping. We have Barbara’s colorful, energetic writing, Eugene’s amusing illustrations, and Winslow Homer’s realistic, homey Americana paintings.


Barbara presents the problem right up front. “Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery. At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings. When he remembered to jump out before sunrise, everything was fine. But sometimes, Gatsby forgot.”

Ut, oh. Did you see the word “WHEN”? I think we have one of those “when”s coming up.

And what more fun painting for Gatsby to jump into than Winslow Homer’s “Crack the Whip”!

In the painting, eight boys are playing crack the whip in front of a small one-room schoolhouse. Homer captures the spirit of fun and freedom of children of the 1870s (check out those clothes).

If you or your child, grandchild, or school class don’t know how to play crack the whip—you must take a look at this painting. Kids used to have hilarious fun without gadgetry—just friends.

Eugene not only had to reproduce Homer’s subjects, but add Cairns’ characters as well. And they are Gatsby the cat, his Mistress Miss Annabelle, and a mouse and a dog. He even goes inside the schoolhouse. And he does it smoothly and convincingly, integrating past and present.

Barbara’s main character, Gatsby, has a penchant for entering the paintings in the gallery. But when he enters “Crack the Whip,” he causes a minor problem. It’s funny the way one problem leads to another until Gatsby finally sets things right.

Gatsby’s now looking forward to more adventures with the new paintings set to arrive soon. But that’s another story.

This entertaining and educational book is available at Guardian Angel Publishing bookstore and other fine book stores .

My review copy was provided by the author. I enjoyed reading it and reviewing it.

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literary classics GOLD AWARD SEAL


Spotlight on Maggie Lyons, author

The World of Ink Tours is spotlighting Maggie Lyons, author of the middle grade novel, VIN AND THE DORKY DUET.

Maggie Lyons was born in Wales and brought up in England before gravitating west to Virginia’s coast. She zigzagged her way through a motley variety of careers from orchestral management to law-firm media relations to academic editing. Writing and editing nonfiction for adults brought plenty of satisfaction but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book have been published in the children’s magazines Stories for Children Magazine andknowonder!


For many years I gave private piano lessons to children of all ages, which probably influenced my writing for children in an indirect way. Writing program notes for concerts of the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, DC and other orchestras in the USA and UK provided the basis for a career of writing in other business fields—yes, the performing arts is a business.  All that nonfiction writing helped my efforts to become a better writer of both nonfiction and fiction, though I’m far from fluent in the art. That’s still an aspiration.  My middle-grade adventure story Vin and the Dorky Duet is directly inspired by my love of music, which found an outlet in my work in performing arts.


In terms of formal training, one summer, centuries ago, I attended a short creative writing course at Georgetown University. Informally, all those years of writing business-related nonfiction certainly helped, as have countless pieces of advice from members of my critique group and articles on writing, and reading the works of master writers.




Magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths and other disasters erupt when an inventive seventh-grader meets a challenge to win a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey if he can befriend an unsociable nerd and introduce his sister to the nerd’s hunky brother, whose initials just happen to be BS.

The story is about the disasters that pile up when a seventh-grader’s brilliant plan to meet his sister’s challenge takes more than one wrong turn. Life tosses challenges at all of us. It would be incredibly boring if it didn’t. What matters is what we learn from them.



(this is an example of the dry humor:

Although we were in the same seventh-grade homeroom and the same classrooms for a couple of periods, we didn’t sit close to each other and telepathy wasn’t an option.

(and a bit of exaggeration, when the liquid-filled key chain gets broken:

 “Eeuw! What’s that?” Eyeballs squinted at the page through the glass bricks on his nose.

(this episode shows more of Vin’s exaggeration and  Eyeball’s nerdiness:

The ball had cracked, spilling the whales’ ocean. Eyeballs picked up the key chain with a paper napkin, dropped it on the floor, and dabbed at the page with another clean napkin. Who else but Eyeballs would have had paper napkins in his pocket?

“You’ve stained my library book.”

It surprised me that a nerdy person like Eyeballs could say anything so obvious. He looked at me as if I’d totally destroyed a sacred object, blown up a statue of Einstein or something.

“You could try using bleach. My mom swears by it.” I knew as soon as I’d spoken I shouldn’t have said that.

“First, perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I don’t have any bleach.” Eyeballs’s voice hit me

colder than the gym shower. “Second, you can’t use it on paper. When I get home, I can try to get it out with French chalk and an iron.”

(this bit about Vin’s in-class note shows “boy appeal”:

“Not really, Ms. Foote, but I didn’t write it.” Snitch turned to look directly at me, wrinkled

his nose, and shot out his tongue. He looked like a constipated iguana.

Ms. Foote took the note from Snitch and glared at me.




Follow Maggie Lyons at


Twitter @maggielyons66

You can find out more about Maggie Lyons’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit


Full Media Kit, Photos and more are available upon request electronically.

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