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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“In this children’s picture book and seventh book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday, two dogs and a family of squirrels decide to help Ellsworth celebrate the 150th birthday of the town’s history. This book coincides with the actual 150th birthday of Ellsworth in the summer of 2017. Illustrations are found on each page, most of them painted. Big Whitey tells the history of Ellsworth, and Fort Harker, with historical buildings, notable landmarks, and scenes painted by the author. At the end of this story, Little Whitey asks his father if they can re-enact the old west, dress like cowboys, and do a pretend cattle drive just like Ellsworth, KS. The squirrels dress in cowboy and cowgirl gear, and they even have a chuck wagon cook. They herd longhorn cattle, sing the state song of Kansas, and have lots of fun during their re-enactment. At the end of the story, they enjoyed a barn dance, celebrated the 150th birthday of Ellsworth, and Uncle Stubby took pictures and ‘selfies’. Children will love seeing the old west come alive with two dogs and a family of squirrels dressed in western attire, and using a small amount of cowboy slang. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-8, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. The story illustrates how cattle drives worked, the long dusty trails, life in the old west, and illustrations that produce pure imagination in children. Note: Actual gunfights and ‘adult type’ history were left out in this wild western history of Ellsworth, KS.”
Pages: 39 | ASIN: B072TPMDRH
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B.C.R. Fegan’s Henry and the Hidden Treasure is the story of one little boy’s quest to keep his “treasure” a secret from one person in particular. Henry’s tale of overwhelming desire to keep his treasure box from his sister’s clutches leads the reader on a journey into a child’s imagination and its endless possibilities. The threat posed by his baby sister is the driving force behind a long string of scenarios designed to trick, intimidate, and trap his sister as he shields his beloved treasure from her greedy hands. Henry, for all his planning, learns a valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions in the process.
Henry and the Hidden Treasure is a delight in both text and illustrations. As a third grader teacher and parent and one who has read more than my share of picture books to Kindergarten through 5th grade students, I can say Fegan has written a real gem. Children of all ages love a surprise ending, and the author has more than provided such a conclusion with a fantastic build-up and an added bonus on the last page. Teachers appreciate the opportunity to have students predict endings, and Fegan and Wen’s last page of text allows us to do just that with the simple yet powerful lone illustration of Lucy stealthily peeking at Henry.
The author/illustrator team of Fegan and Wen has created a story for both families and classrooms. The older brother versus baby sister dynamic is addressed via detailed, colorful illustrations which demonstrate the intensity of a child’s imagination. Each subsequent illustration adds a sense of drama children find appealing. My personal favorite of all the illustrations, as a mother, is the one depicting the reality of Henry’s room.
Teachers looking to create text sets for their students will find Henry and the Hidden Treasure a delightful addition to sets alongside books like Charlie McButton Lost Power where sibling rivalry is the theme. With the open-ended conclusion given by Fegan and Wen, I certainly hope there is a sequel to the saga of Henry and Lucy.
Pages: 32 | ASIN: B0719JXRRT
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Fifteen-year-old Munna lives with his Ma and sisters in a small town in India. Determined to end his family’s misfortunes, he is lured into a dream job in the Middle East, only to be sold. He must work at the Sheikh’s camel farm in the desert and train young boys as jockeys in camel races. The boys, smuggled from poor countries, have lost their families and homes. Munna must starve these boys so that they remain light on the camels’ backs, and he must win the Gold Sword race for the Sheikh. In despair, he realizes that he is trapped and there is no escape.
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The Essence of Neverland is a bold and imaginative tale of pirate battles, formidable fairies, territorial conquests, and unexpectedly, the power of community. In this continuation to the timeless fable of Peter Pan, author Juna Jinsei thoughtfully ushers the Lost Boys into their darkest era yet – the death of Peter Pan. The painful absence of the infamously green-tighted trickster is being felt all across Neverland, leaving friends and foes alike grimly fearing for the future of the lands. As the disruption of harmony begins to threaten all walks of life, age-old enemies must contemplate rewriting their own roles in history, lest all of Neverland become a fairytale entirely.
I feel obligated to admit that Peter Pan was a staple bedtime story in my childhood home. While my father enjoyed boastfully voicing out the comical mischief between Peter and the pirates, I personally always loved the popular legend for its emotional tone. There was something whimsical and charming to the tale, always gently reminding me to appreciate my youth and my family. Even as a child, I recognized that the adventure was steeped in wisdom and parables. In this particular imagining of life in Neverland, author Jinsei beautifully explores many of those same wisdoms, delving into the emotional grips of desiring a place to belong, and missing a home you may never return to. Jinsei ponders these perennial truths through her work with such charm that I read several passages aloud to my partner, wanting to share the touching eloquence of the lessons.
Even with its strong repertoire of life lessons, this novel is admittedly a little dark at times. Jinsei unapologetically crafts the characters to feel authentic to their human nature, respectively. Captain Hook’s surly, albeit loyal, band of pirates are burdened by grief, consumed by thoughts of revenge. The once crafty and playful Lost Boys have grown old and jaded, nostalgically wishing in vain for the return of their impish flying companion. Even the council of magical fairies, as hopeful a creature as one could imagine, have become nervous for the future and harmony of Neverland. In the beginning chapter, Peter Pan’s unexpected death is a severe moment, paving the way for a few other harsh and unfortunate occurrences throughout The Essence of Neverland. Jinsei has an undeniably natural hand for the “twisted fairytale” style, and I loved the boldness of this rendition.
Still, despite the reoccurring macabre tones, The Essence of Neverland remains persistently hopeful and surprisingly lighthearted. Jinsei’s illustrative writing style really shines through the four brave children that serve as the main protagonists. Hailing from various backgrounds and regions, they each find themselves being summoned to the Mother Fairy, the eternal essence and spirit of Neverland. Although they’ve each suffered great losses at tender ages, they bravely begin their journey of growth with such earnesty and ambition that it’s impossible not to root for them whole-heartedly. My kudos to Juna Jinsei for such sincere writing!
Pages: 377 | ASIN: B015QV5C3M
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The Grumpface is a charming children’s book about a grumpy old man in a forest and Dan who needs to find a flower for his love. What was the inspiration for this charming kid’s book?
What inspired me to write The Grumpface was seeing that particular grumpy face a child pulls when things aren’t going their way. I have witnessed it on so many occasions, and each time I find it hilarious. What makes it so funny is that quite often parents will naturally try and make the young child smile or laugh. Sometimes this is all it takes to break the curse, yet often this only serves to make them more determined to remain grumpy. The Grumpface himself is the character that embodies this determination to remain grumpy and resist anything positive or amusing. In this sense, he goes beyond the grumpiness of a child and becomes the identity of the pessimist or those caught up in negativity.
Dan on the other hand is the natural antithesis to the Grumpface’s outlook on life. He is optimistic and hopeful even when things aren’t working out for him. His quest for love actually provides the setting for negativity and positivity to meet head on.
I felt that this book was good at teaching morals of persistence, compassion, and friendship. What themes did you try to use when creating this book?
First and foremost I wanted to create an enjoyable tale that excited the imagination. Rather than beginning with a theme, I started with the desire to inspire the imagination. I remember as a child reading some books that were enjoyable, and others that held such intrigue, that they challenged your perception about life. This is really where I tried to begin. I wanted to forge a tale that was memorable, inspiring and filled with adventure. What better way to do this, than to write a new kind of fairy tale.
The morals that were subsequently woven into the story though were intentionally light and simple. It has unfortunately become common for children’s books these days to be so distracted by the message, the tale itself seems to be an afterthought. As you have already mentioned, there are a number of morals such as persistence, compassion and friendship that come up in The Grumpface. Yet for the most part these morals simply arise naturally through the considered development and interaction of characters. As mentioned previously, perhaps the most overarching theme in the book is simply the power of positivity over negativity.
The art in this book is lovely. What was the art direction like and what decisions went into choosing the right images?
The art direction for The Grumpface was a little unique and certainly experimental. Every other children’s book has been briefed with an overarching ambience and emotion that I’m hoping to convey. Each page of text is then detailed down to the perspective of the scene, the emotional response of the characters and any unique aspects to the setting. I am still open to any deviation from the brief if the illustrator is compelled to try something different, but the brief provides a place to begin.
For The Grumpface, I wanted the illustrator to try something different. Instead of providing strict direction, I wanted Daniela to simply draw the scene that the text conjured in her mind. As a fairy tale, it was important to that the text carried enough depth and richness, so that even without pictures, it would still capture the mind. Daniela was very open to this and would send a short summery of her thoughts for each page (which would be approved or slightly amended) before providing a draft. At this point there might be some minor adjustments. When all the drafts had been complete, there was a final check to ensure that everything flowed smoothly before the final drafts were created.
This particular process meant that the illustrations took considerable time to complete and get right, but in the end it worked out well. The book has received numerous comments on the artwork and the impact they have on the tale itself. I think Daniela did a great job!
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book will be available on the 3rd of August 2017 (so not long now). The title is Henry and the Hidden Treasure, and it is about a child who attempts to defend his pocket money from his little sister. Henry is convinced that Lucy is a secret ninja spy who has been sent to steal his treasure and he therefore constructs some elaborate defences to try and stop her.
The book highlights some important themes such as listening to parents, being nice to your siblings and carefully considers what constitutes real treasure within the family context. Henry and the Hidden Treasure also introduces children to ordinal numbers in a subtle and imaginative way.
Like The Grumpface, my first priority with this coming title was constructing an exciting and imaginative tale that children will find themselves thinking about long after it has been put down. It is my hope that the many tales to come will continue to provide that magic and inspiration for children young and old.
Dan is a young inventor in love. He ventures into a forest looking for a rose but instead finds the mysterious Grumpface who threatens to hold him captive unless he passes some difficult challenges. What follows is a humorous adventure that neither Dan nor the Grumpface could have anticipated.
The Grumpface is a tale in the spirit of any grand adventure. It is about a clumsy young inventor’s quest for love, and the challenges he must face to find it. But it is also a tale of bravery, absurdity and happiness, and the power of these qualities over negativity and sheer grumpiness.
Every parent will be acquainted with their own little ‘grumpface’ now and then. This story stands as a small piece of hope – that no matter how ingrained the grump, there will always remain in every one of us a smile or a laugh just waiting to come out.
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A World of Wonder is designed to help parents and children build a sense of wonder about the world. I think it does this expertly. What was your inspiration for wanting to create such an engaging kids book?
My co-author and I are long-time educators currently working to bring high-quality, science curricula to primary schools across the country. In primary grades, science instruction often takes a back seat to other subjects and it is our goal to change that by creating resources that integrate science with reading (in this case poetry), writing and mathematics. Young children are natural-born scientists – always inquisitive of the world around them – so we are working to create materials that parents and teachers can use to foster and promote that innate interest. We also want to help parents and teachers inspire children to appreciate, and care for, our world as well as to provide opportunities to engage children in thinking and talking about science.
The art in this book is spectacular. What decisions went into the art direction for this book?
That is an interesting question because we had to think about so many things at the same time! We wanted to include all different types of science; we wanted to include some of those classic poems that many of us grew up with as well as some new ones; and we wanted to include topics that allowed for interesting extension activities that kids would want to come back to over and over again. So we had to weave all of those elements together at same time. We couldn’t just pick the best pictures or just use classic children’s poetry; everything had to work toward the larger goal of building that sense of wonder about the world and be really engaging to kids.
The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation between parents and children. What poem and photo is your favorite and why?
Thank you – that was certainly our goal! My favorite combination is probably the poem about the eagle – the king of the daytime sky – along with that magnificent image of the eagle fishing – talons extended – above a partially frozen lake. That image is inspiring all by itself, but then the extension activity includes a link to a webcam of an eagle’s nest high in the tree tops above a field, with a stream in the distance. The webcam is always on and you can go back to it often throughout the year to see just about anything – from eggs, to hatchlings, to juvenile eagles just beginning to fly, to Mom and Dad eagle keeping warm through the winter – it’s always fascinating to watch. (It can also a bit graphic at times, so parents need to be careful with very young children.)
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Our science teaching units all use children’s literature as a foundation for the unit and we are in the process of releasing those books now on Amazon and iBooks – both as eBooks and as paperbacks. Several of the books, like When I Grow Up, include spectacular photography similar to this book, while others are fun storybooks. My favorite storybook is When We Were Young, which is a sweet story about Dr. Dolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou and includes really beautiful watercolor illustrations by an illustrator from London. That was a really fun project to work on!
A World of Wonder is a book designed to help children develop a wonder for, and an appreciation of, the world in which we all live. The book combines spectacular images with a variety of poetry and verse…from time-honored and classic to new and sometimes humorous.
This is not the type of book typically read in one session. We encourage readers to come and go as children ask questions about the world. Children can certainly experience the book on their own, but we also encourage parents and teachers to engage with children – ask questions to tease out their understanding of the world and provide guidance where and when it seems appropriate. We also encourage you to follow children’s leads to encourage their interests in our magnificent world.
The authors, both educators and researchers with many years of experience, ensure that each facet of the experience is scientifically and pedagogically appropriate for young children.
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Howie Tootalot in Yellowstone: The Legend in Lake Isa is a fun children’s book that talks about conservation and respecting the wilderness. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this children’s book?
I’ve written somewhat serious books and articles about nature and science previously, but when I’m with the family– we are often goofy. We visited Yellowstone and my son asked me about Lake Isa, which sits atop the continental divide and therefore drains in two different directions. I began crafting and telling the story during our visit there. Our son enjoyed the story and laughed at the character names.
We also had several bear encounters on the trip. I had lived in Alaska, so I was weary of Grizzly bears, but less careful with the black bears. Once I even got out of the car in Yellowstone to get a better look at a bear and cub in the woods. That was not a smart move.
So our story about Howie Tootalot deals with the intoxicating grandeur of wild places like Yellowstone and the care we must use in how we love and appreciate them. I finally suppressed my MFA-serious ego enough to have fun with the story in print. I did publish under the name Lou Jenkins, which I now use for all my children’s work.
This story takes place in Yellowstone National Park and portrays the natural beauty of the land. What draws you to Yellowstone and why do you think it’s perfect for a kids story?
Kids feel the connection to wilderness. I’d written about the connections possible in Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting under my name Amy Lou Jenkins. We all need to foster a connection to natural spaces, because there are so few opportunities to escape the pressures of consumerism. We and our children are bombarded with the notion that we need to buy something new. We are told that we need to consume because we and our possessions are somehow flawed. Instead of purchasing something to fix our problems, nature allows us to experience source. We are natural beings. We can have independent thought while not bombarded with proprietary messages. Studies say that the number one way to build a love for wild places is to take kids to wild places. That’s a strong promise and scientific finding: take kids to wild places and they will build a connection to something real and unadulterated. While a book is second best to visiting Yellowstone, it is another way to make and support that connection.
The art in this book I felt was very creative. What was the art direction like and how did you make the decision on what went into the pictures?
Thank you for noticing that the artwork was not standard. We wanted to support the connection to Yellowstone, so we had actual photographs of the National Park cartoonized. Children who are lucky enough to visit Yellowstone will recognize actual landmarks, animals and plants from the book. Since the main portion of the book took place before the park existed, some of our illustrations came from national archives in the public domain. Children who never visit Yellowstone, will still recognize landmarks in images that are iconic in our culture. Children can begin to build a connection to National treasures such as Old Faithful, Mammoth Springs, The Grand Prismatic Spring, and Lake Isa. We hope that connection is based in fun, awe, and the sense of original identity that is nurtured in wild places.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Thank you for asking. We have just finished the artwork for more paper puppet characters in the Tootalot series. As you know, we include links in the books that allow readers to download and assemble articulated paper puppets. Many children enjoy a hands on experience as a part of play. Children who are not drawn to books, might be able to access the fun and play of reading with a character from the book in their hand. Yet even voracious readers, might extend their own imagination from reading to other play time.
I’m also a Registered Nurse and have worked in community health. I used to tell my children a story about the “magic mark” based on my experience in school nursing. My daughter used to ask me to tell her this story over and over. Many children have differences, and this story is about a girl with a port-wine stain. We include a student in a wheel chair, and work to represent a wide-range of children in this tale with a magical element. At its core, is a cheer for all who learn how to love each other and accept differences. Look for this new book, the third in theTootalot series, by the end of the year.
Why does the water of Isa Lake drain in two different directions? Follow Howie Tootalot to the wild land we now call Yellowstone as he and his new bear friend explore the wild geysers, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and more. Danger surrounds them, yet lessons from the wild and the wilderness itself will save them. Learn the Tootalot family legend. Children may download and assemble their own free puppets—just like the ones in the story. Great fun for reading and play at home or in the car. Howie Tootalot in Yellowstoneis the second in The Tootalots series. Award-winning parenting author, dons a pen name and introduces Howie Tootalot in this fun legend that offers giggles and some important ways to deal with respecting the danger and wildness of natural wonders such as Yellowstone National Park.
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One of the joys of childhood is sitting with someone and reading a favorite story over and over again. The kind of story that sticks with you, and works it’s way into your heart. The Grumpface is that kind of story. It is about a grumpy old man that is cursed and lives in the forest of Ho. He captures unsuspecting travelers that get lost in the forest and they must complete a challenge to earn their freedom. If they cannot complete any of the three challenges they are trapped in the forest forever. In this story an inventor named Daffy Dan is looking for a rose to win the love of a girl named Bella. Bella sells flowers in the village but longs for a rose that she cannot grow. Dan thinks that if he can bring Bella a rose, he will have the courage to finally speak to her and win her heart. As he searches the forest of Ho, he gets caught by Grumpface and must find a way to escape or he will never have the chance to see Bella and tell her how he feels.
The first thing that grabbed me about this book, was the amazing illustrations. Grumpface at his worst is still funny enough to not frighten my four-year-old daughter. She fell in love with this book the first time she saw me reading it and saw the bright pink bird in the first challenge. The images throughout are all done with detail and colors that draw you into the story more. They complement the text in an artistic way as well as helping convey the emotions. The rhythm of the rhyming makes the story entertaining and flow smoothly. It is perfect for young readers, but not too silly that it will make parents want to hide the book after a week. One of the great morals of the story is to find the humor in life even when things don’t go your way. Daffy Dan is clumsy and riddled with bad luck it seems, it makes him relatable to young readers that are often clumsy themselves. Dan’s creative inventions all sound like great ideas and spark the imagination of readers as well. Grumpface is like the teacher or parent that just stares in disbelief at the crazy things Dan does. Together the pair make a memorable story that will leave you laughing.
B.C.R. Fegan and D. Frongia have created a beautiful and enchanting tale with The Grumpface. They manage to convey the fear and concern of Dan throughout the story, the disappointment he feels as things don’t go his way, and the joy he feels as he thinks he finally got it. The story touches the hearts of adults and keeps children entertained. It the teaches morals of persistence, compassion, and friendship. This is a book you will want to keep on hand to read for years to come.
Pages: 34 | ASIN: B06XFFK7VZ
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Cassie’s Marvelous Music Lessons is a charming children’s story about a lively puppy and her love of music. Where did the idea for this fun story come from?
I run a music school. My own miniature white Schnauzer, Cassie, gave me the idea by smacking my hands off the piano.
This seems like a very relateable story for anyone that has a pet. Did you put anything from your own life into the story?
Just ideas from my dog, Cassie. I have three sequels based on her that will come out.
The art in the book has an interesting artistic flare. What decisions went into choosing the art direction?
It was all decided by the publishing companies illustrator, Doris Wenzel.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
My first sequel, “Cassie Pup Takes the Cake??” will be out towards fall.
“In this delightful story, Cassie is welcomed to a new home filled with music, but when Mrs. Applebaum doesn’t seem to understand what Cassie is saying, or how talented she is, the happy little dog becomes an unhappy little dog. Fortunately, with a good ear and a kind heart, Mrs. Applebaum finds the perfect solution to Cassie’s problem, proving once again that music is the universal language.”
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