B.C.R. Fegan’s Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where Mr. Nicholas Noo gives his first-ever guests constant reminders to avoid, at all costs, door number 32. Behind each door leading up to 32, guests are treated to many surprises, some creepy and some quite humorous. Entertaining rhymes help light the way through the castle-like establishment as both the readers and the guests of the hotel meet and greet a bevy of characters who have taken up residence behind the first 31 doors. What lies behind Door 32? I’ll never tell!
I really love Fegan’s books for young readers. Lenny Wen, illustrator, creates some of the most vivid and striking images you will find in children’s literature. Wen gives his characters amazingly expressive eyes whether they are screaming in terror at ghosts cooking roasts, doing a double-take at a paintbrush-wielding elf, sneaking peeks at tea-drinking monsters, or (my favorite) marveling at miniature giants.
This particular tale takes on a Halloween feel and serves as a fabulous book to read aloud during October or as part of a monster-themed unit for elementary grades. As a third grade teacher, I can see using this book with my students to study rhyme, compare and contrast the findings behind each door, or as an inspiring writing prompt. The possibilities are as endless as the number of creatures housed behind each of the doors in the Hotel of Hoo.
Fegan does an excellent job of periodically reminding the reader that Door 32 is somewhat of an enigma and, possibly, the most feared of all doors in the Hotel of Hoo. Suspense builds throughout the book as the second-person narrative draws young readers into the different rooms, page by page, and treats them to a fantastic assortment of zombies, ghosts, wizards, and many more creatures of lore.
Fegan and Wen are, book by book, mastering the kiddie lit genre. With each successive book, their plots and accompanying illustrations take on more depth and even more vibrant characters. From the very first pages, this one has the feel of a classic in-the-making.
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B078VSML8V
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From Frights to Flaws, by Sunayna Prasad, is the first in the author’s Magical Missions series and follows the plight of Alyssa McCarthy as she discovers a magical world complete with a talking marble statue and fantastic creatures bent on saving her from a newly-discovered nemesis. Alyssa is a twelve-year-old girl living with her cousin and uncle–a man who cares for her but provides a highly regimented life of homeschooling, chores, and virtual seclusion from the outside world. When Alyssa begins to find peculiar notes around their home addressed to her, she strives to make herself noticed and validated by her uncle. Her life, and the lives of her family and friends, go from humdrum to fantastically frightening in a matter of moments.
As the first book in a series of fantasy stories, From Frights to Flaws has the potential to be a memorable read. However, as a teacher who often uses literature from all genres in my classroom, I can’t help but notice some issues with character and plot development. On several occasions throughout the reading, I felt that unique situations were brought to light too quickly without sufficient background and build-up. The author is aiming at an audience who is still developing a schema as they read, especially in the fantasy genre. It is important to be as descriptive as possible to draw in readers with elaborate explanations. I feel those explanations are missing as the setting moves from the everyday to the land of mythical creatures and magical beings. The author takes for granted that the reader is able to follow quickly and make assumptions.
I was struck early on in the reading with the similarities to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Alyssa, a wonderfully written character, is thoroughly described in the initial chapters, but loses some of her uniqueness as the book progresses.
The setting of the book is one of its more appealing aspects. The author has chosen to set Alyssa’s adventures in present times with references to tablets, iPhones, iPods and GPS navigation. This alone will attract a younger audience. The fantasy element interwoven with this modern-day setting makes for an appealing read for preteen readers. I was impressed with the growing number of fantastic creatures as the story line progressed. From dermaidens to the centidile and from Regulus, the marshakeet, to the ash-breathing adder, the author has laid out a long list of beings who can easily compete with those in any fantasy novel for preteens.
Prasad has the base for a strong work of literature for young readers, but lacks some of the well-developed background and detail I would like to see in this particular genre. Sunayna Prasad has created a story that is enthralling in many ways.
Pages: 216 | ASIN: B00EO8U7O8
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Lucy’s First Christmas, written by Rolynda Tassan and illustrated by Ruby Wheeler, is the heartwarming tale of Lucy the rescue cat’s first Christmas with her adoptive family. Like any other cat, her curiosity wins out, and she becomes entangled, literally, in the preparations for the coming holiday. From present-wrapping to light-stringing, Lucy is allowed to be a part of it all. Lucy is even afforded her first trip into the snowy outdoors and is a part of the family’s Christmas read-aloud. This particular book is the third in a series of stories written about Lucy and her adventures.
Tassan has written a much-needed tale with Lucy’s First Christmas. As a mother, teacher, and adoptive parent of three rescue pets, I don’t see enough of these books on the shelves. There is a joy like no other in watching a shelter pet bloom in a loving home. The author captures this feeling quite well with Lucy’s Christmas experiences. She describes each family member’s patience with the curious cat and demonstrates the various ways in which the family involves the pets in their routines. The love between the family and Lucy is mutual and communicated well throughout the book.
Any parent or teacher choosing this book to read with children will find it touching and true-to-life. The author has included a fair amount of “awwww” moments and lots of snuggling and loving. The pets themselves are no strangers to snuggling. This is an all-around sweet story to share with children who have pets, are wanting pets of their own, or who are in a family who has adopted a pet from a shelter.
Generally a realistic fiction piece, Tassan has managed to work in a bit of fantasy with the pets talking to one another. For the most part, these sections serve to explain some of the things that drive Lucy’s curiosity and, in the conclusion, add to the dearness of the overall plot.
Lucy’s First Christmas is a touching story that hits home for readers of all ages and features delicate illustrations of the pets and their family. Tassan and Wheeler’s precious Christmas story is a must-read for any family with rescue pets. Lucy’s first Christmas with her family will bring a smile to the reader’s face and touch the soul of any animal lover.
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Suzy Has A Secret addresses child abuse and teaches young readers that telling a parent or guardian is always best. Why was this an important topic for you to write about?
One hears about this very thing every day in the media. That simply isn’t enough! As a registered nurse, I have had many children come through the ER and hospital who have been abused. Educating children must be done right as well as educating the parents. Keep in mind that a parent can be the abuser so this must be gently figured out with a one on one with each child.
On a personal level, my son was attacked at the tender age of seven. He was attacked by a large bully/predator who was age 16, in the bathroom of a park directly across the street from out house. The predator thrust his manhood into my son’s mouth and all my son could do was keep his teeth clinched until the 16 year old had enough. Imagine a seven year old, terrified beyond belief, not understanding why this was happening, and knowing his mom was across the street. Long story short, the police decided it was a she said/she said on the parts of the mothers and that nothing could be done. This trauma still affects my son today, at age 35.
My stepdaughter, my bonus daughter, was molested and abused in every way short of rape. She was age 10 or 11 when I noticed a mark on her skin just under the neckline of a shorts set she wore. When I asked what happened, she said her stepfather did it and then she showed me other markings of a sexual nature, and she said that he was “tickling” her and to keep their little secret. I went and got a towel, I had her hold the towel the correct way to keep her privates covered and I took pictures as evidence. Then I took her to Social Services and filed a complaint. They talked with her alone, and they heard me out, and I gave them the pictures. Long story short, my husband sued for custody and he won with my help.
I found the content to be very easy to approach and turns the subject into a discussion. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Hopefully, readers will be more alert to the possibility of a child being abused when they see certain behaviors as noted in the educator section.
What are some common misconceptions you find about child abuse?
Number one is most sexual assaults are committed by strangers ~ not true! Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim’s family. Myth number two ~ the majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison. Very, very few of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted of their crimes. Most convicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision. Myth 3 ~ most sex offenders reoffend ~ they don’t always reoffend. Figuring out a percentage doesn’t really work as most abuse is never reported. The majority simply isn’t reported, therefore the data isn’t there to make a realistic sample size to obtain a give or take percentage.
The book also includes instructions for parents, teachers, and counselors to use in discussions with groups of children. Do you find that group counseling is beneficial for children or are one on one sessions important as well?
First and foremost is one on one for all ages. Little kids are scared and need one on one, teenagers are ashamed that is happened and need one on one. Younger children should never be in a group as they have such immature minds. They might hear a child (maybe three years older) speak of something that happened and the child who overhears most likely won’t comprehend what was said, and this causes more problems and confusion. Teenagers may benefit from group therapy, and this may help them feel less ashamed and be able to cope with their own circumstance more effectively.
This book teaches a child, ages four to eight years-old, about personal safety and body ownership. Children learn how to identify who safe adults are in a child’s life. This book shows in positive and practical ways how parents, and educators, can talk to children about personal safety. Children learn about bad touch and good touch, and how their body belongs to them. Parents and educators can help children learn who the safe people are in their lives, and that they can always tell one of them about anything that may happen, and they aren’t comfortable about. Using little bug fairies and fairy houses, ensures that children aren’t scared when this story is read to them, or they read it on their own.
Posted in Interviews
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Tomorrow is Lucy’s first Christmas. Everyone is busy getting ready for the big day. Lucy wants to help. But when she tries to help Mom wrap presents, she makes a mess. When she tries to help Dad decorate the tree, she tangles the lights. When she tries to help Ben build a snowman, she gets stuck in a snowdrift. Surely there must be a way for an eager kitten to help!
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Henry and the Hidden Treasure is the story of one little boy’s quest to keep his treasure a secret from his sister. How did the initial idea for this story come about and how did it evolve as you wrote?
Imagination. Secrets. Spies. Treasure. These were all the things that I loved to read about when I was a child, so it made sense that I would incorporate these themes into a picture book sooner or later. Probably the very first thought I had when I set about writing Henry and the Hidden Treasure centered on the idea of treasure. What makes the concept of treasure so appealing to children? From there it wasn’t hard to extend this idea and ask the question: What constitutes real treasure within a family?
The story leads the reader on a journey into a child’s imagination and its endless possibilities. What do you hope your readers take away from the story?
Exactly that! I try to write every one of my books to encourage imagination. I think the mark of a great picture book is when children go beyond the written narrative and begin to explore the world of the story for themselves. Of course, it’s important to have positive themes and morals, but I try to make them subtle, or at least secondary to the imaginative qualities of the tale.
I love the brother vs. sister dynamic in this book. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
I think anyone reading Henry and the Hidden Treasure will immediately identify with the dynamic between Henry and his younger sister. Henry has the traits of a child who is perhaps a little possessive and who is certainly suspicious of Lucy’s place in the family. Lucy is a lot more enigmatic throughout the story, but her own qualities end up challenging Henry’s perceptions.
There are a number of morals that can be highlighted in the story. Henry’s possessiveness with his ‘treasure’ not only examines his exclusive approach to playing, but has a valuable lesson in listening to parental advice. His suspicion of Lucy also challenges his ideas of what it is to have a little sister, and what it means to be the big brother. In addition to this, there are other teaching points in the story, such as the use of ordinal numbers, understanding the broad use of financial institutions, and of course, the power of imagination.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book coming out is called Titch the Itch. It centres on the idea of friendship and how this can be difficult when you’re an itch. It will be available on November 30 2017.
Henry and the Hidden Treasure is an imaginative adventure a young child has in defending his pocket money against his little sister. Henry constructs elaborate defensive measures that he is sure will stand up to the clever ambitions of Lucy. Little does he know, Lucy has a few tricks of her own.With a focus on introducing children to the use of ordinal numbers, Henry and the Hidden Treasure also draws out some important qualities of being a kid – such as creativity, the value of listening to parental advice, and of course, being nice to your sister.
Posted in Interviews
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In Lucy Meets the Family a kitten is brought home to meet her new family and has a hard time adjusting. What was your inspiration for this second book in the Lucy’s Tale series?
The reaction our existing pets had to Lucy’s antics when we introduced her to our family, helped bring Lucy Meets the Family to life. The first time Lucy encountered the litter box, she jumped in it and started digging until all the litter was on the floor. She made a huge mess! This appalled our older cat, who watched her with a disgusted look on his face. Later, Lucy jumped up on the kitchen counter, which prompted our Jack Russell to bark until Lucy got down. And then there was the time Lucy decided to take a nap on the dog’s bed. Our Greyhound whined until Lucy finally moved. All our pets play together and even sleep together occasionally now. But there was a period of adjustment for everyone.
What do you think is one of the hardest things to adjust to when bringing home a new pet?
Trying to make the new pet comfortable and feel welcomed in their new home, while remembering to be patient with the established pets. The established pets may exhibit bad behavior and/or need extra attention until all the animals find their place in the family.
I loved the image where Lucy drops drops a doughnut on the floor. What was your favorite image from the book?
That is one of my favorite images too! Another one of my favorite images is towards the end of the book, when all the animals are playing together.
What will book three in the Lucy’s Tales series be about?
Lucy will, once again, finds herself getting into mischief as she tries to help the family prepare for Christmas day. Lucy’s First Christmas will be released later this year.
Lucy is a small kitten who recently found her forever home. But when she is introduced to the family she discovers not everybody is excited to meet her. Lucy finds herself getting into mischief as she tries to figure out her place in her new family.
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Adjusting to change is never easy—even if you’re a cat! In Lucy Meets the Family, Rolynda Tassan’s second book in the Lucy’s Tale series, Ben brings Lucy, a little gray cat, home. Nervous, Lucy meets her new family: a cat, Addy, and two dogs, Sissy and Pippin. When Ben leaves, Lucy tries to make herself at home, but she does everything wrong! She makes a mess of the litter box, gets into food that doesn’t belong to her, and annoys Pippin by sleeping on her bed. Will Lucy ever feel like part of the family?
Dedicated to families who open their homes to animals from the shelter, Lucy Meets the Family is a great way to teach young children how to prepare to bring a new pet home, especially if they have other pets at home already. Like Lucy, a new pet will feel anxiety at her surroundings and make mistakes as she tries to find her way around her home. Readers will learn to anticipate what they can do to prepare their other pets for a new family member. Addy, Sissy, and Pippin already have their own spaces and understand the rules, so they need time to adjust to another animal. On a more practical level, Lucy Meets the Family shows readers what an owner will need to purchase before bringing home a new pet.
For young children just learning to read, Lucy Meets the Family is good practice. The words are simple, and some lines of text are repetitive. The pictures in the book are colorful and have the feel of being hand sketched with watercolor paints. However, the illustrations directly reflect the story and focus on Ben, his pets, and the purchased items for Lucy. Tassan weaves a heartwarming tale about furry friends with tails that animal lovers will enjoy.
Pages: 30 | ASIN: 0998331821
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In order to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion, we need to start with our children. They are the future of this world and if they can learn to love and accept each other regardless of what they look like or act like, then the world will be richer for it. Deborah Hunt takes this idea and uses it in her children’s book Same Inside Different Outside. It’s a lovely short story accompanied by equally wonderful pictures to help bring the message home. The colors are bright and the lines are soft. The story takes place in a school setting which readers should be able to connect with. This makes the message more relevant and easy to understand. It’s a clever way to deliver a sometimes difficult message to such a young audience.
The representation of a medical professional as a woman and the teacher as a man is a nice and subtle way of breaking down gendered stereotypes when it comes to careers. In traditional books teachers are women and any medical or science-related job is played by a man. In a book about acceptance, this is a key idea to get across. The children in the book are aware of their differences from each other, which is a normal discovery at their age. The doctor who is presenting to the children in the book is kind and patient with them as she goes over the parts of our bodies under our skin. As they move through the lesson the children voice their concerns and are answered honestly. This is key for the story because it also teaches readers that it is okay to ask questions and you will receive an appropriate response.
I felt like the children had a vocabulary and an understanding of body parts that were a little beyond kindergarten. But this is a minor concern that does not impact the integrity of the message.
Deborah Hunt is able to deliver a sometimes difficult message with ease in Same Inside Different Outside. The illustrations are very nice and pleasing to look at. The content isn’t difficult to understand and the message is clear and easy to digest without being muddled. Children and adults alike will find that the message this book sends is one we have been trying to share for a long time.
Pages: 32 | ISBN: 1945175702
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Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday, written by S. Jackson and A. Raymond, is a tale of animal friends who are preparing for a very special birthday- the 150th celebration of their town. The animals gather round whilst Big Whitey takes a trip down history lane where he tells his friends about the importance of Ellsworth and how the town was first established. Prepare to be thrown into a wild world of cowboys, railroaders, and sheriffs as you learn the fortunes and misfortunes the town has endured to finally reach its 150th birthday. After the history lesson, the animals then begin the celebrations and re-enactments, songs, and poems will entertain them all.
Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday is a very special children’s book that delves into the history of Fort Ellsworth in an exciting celebration with animals, cowboys, and Indians.
Legendary historical characters of Ellsworth come together in lessons on cattle pens, dusty trails and important landmarks. Authors S. Jackson and A.Raymond are able to beautifully paint a picture of the wild west through incorporating animals and history in a playful and engaging story. The storytellers are dogs and squirrels which give the book an animal twist- something which will be sure to spark the imagination of all children. The animals towards the end of the story throw a fabulous re-enactment of history and will encourage children to consider their own town’s history and how they too could get involved with historical celebrations of their town.
Travel through time as Big Whitey takes you on a history lesson that begins in the 1800’s and finishes in the present day. The once wild cow town starts with Indians and Cowboys that made homes out of bluffs and built their town through supplying to the military. I loved reading the small excerpts of cowboy slang which gave the story more authenticity and character.
I enjoyed how the story had a taste of the old and the new twisted together for a fun-loving plot line. One moment you were in the wild wild west and the next you were taking selfies with animals which are sure to delight both children and adults alike. Even though it is a children’s story, the plot line contains depth and interesting information about life in the old west that will entertain both children and adults. It’s a fun and light-hearted way to explore history and has the perfect mix of education and entertainment.
The illustrations throughout the story were bright and colorful and will be sure to grab the attention of all children as they eagerly learn about the town’s history. I particularly enjoyed the animals dressed up in cowboy outfits and old saloon style dresses and how they rode the buggy. The illustrations will only serve to ignite the imagination of the children reading the story and compliment the history lesson perfectly.
I would recommend this for children who enjoy stories about cowboys and animals.
Pages: 39 | ASIN: B072TPMDRH
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