It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.
Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.
Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.
While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.
Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8
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Lucy Finds a Home is a short and sweet tale featuring an adorable grey kitten that gets lost and searches for its place in the world. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this lovely children’s story?
Writing has always been a passion of mine. Lucy Finds a Home, came to life for me when my husband and I were enjoying a long weekend in the mountains of WV. One afternoon, while hiking through the mountains (getting my steps in:)) I saw twin fawns, several squirrels, many trout in the river, and even a turtle! That walk inspired me to write about a kitten, we found abandoned earlier that year, and her adventures searching for her forever home.
I love the book’s underlying ideas of perseverance and trying new things. What were some morals you felt were important for this book?
Thank you, I think it is important for children to know that not everything we do works out as planned. But that does not mean we failed. It means we have an opportunity to learn…..it means we have an opportunity to try again. In Lucy’s adventure she finds herself in many situations that don’t work out as she planned. But this gives her the opportunity to make new friends and learn how they live. Accepting them for who they are, but knowing that she has to be herself, she moves on until eventually she finds her forever home. If she had given up she would have missed out on all of that.
The art in this book is very cute. How did the art develop and what decisions went into picking the right scenes?
I have to give this credit to the illustrator, Bryce Westervelt. He has written and illustrated many books, and I have been a fan of his work for years. His pictures are crisp, simple, and clean. I love that! I sent him the manuscript for Lucy Finds a Home and was thrilled when he said he would be interested in illustrating the book. Since Lucy Finds a Home is a first reader, I wanted pictures that enhanced the story, but did not necessarily tell the story. I sent Bryce some pictures of the “real” Lucy. He was able to capture her look and highlight each scenes primary focus with cute vibrant pictures. When he sent me the preliminary drawings, they were exactly what I wanted. Bryce took it from there and brought the book to life!
What is the next book that you are working on?
Lucy Finds a Home is the first book in the Lucy’s Tale series. The second book, Lucy meets the family is in the works! You can expect Lucy to get herself into some predicaments as she adjust to her new family!
“Lost in the woods, Lucy meets a fawn, squirrels, a turtle, and even a trout who all invite her to stay with them. But a kitten can’t eat acorns or live in a river. What Lucy wants most of all is a family to call her own.”
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Lucy Finds a Home by Rolynda Tassan features an adorable little grey kitten who got lost in the forest after climbing out of the basket she shared with her siblings. It is a short and sweet tale about a lost animal searching for it’s place in the world, and comes across many different animals and struggles as it looks for a family and a home to call it’s own. It rings true to classic children’s stories that revolve around discovery and identifying animals, and the kitten Lucy goes through a series of emotions as she tries to find a family with the forest creatures.
This book is good for children because you can show them that hard-work will always bring in good results. Most children books have simple meaning to them, and the story about Lucy is the same. You can teach a lot of different easy to understand life lessons by following Lucy’s quest for finding a home in the world. When the story begins, Lucy is in a basket with her other siblings, and the picture shows that the kittens are free and available to be taken in by a good home. Of course Lucy doesn’t read the sign, and wanders off to go explore.
In her exploration, Lucy comes across animals like turtles and deer, whom all welcome her into their lives. Unfortunately, Lucy finds out that she doesn’t quite belong with the woodland animals as she tries out their different food and living situations. This can be a great way to help children learn more about animals and their habitats, while also encouraging them to be brave and try new things.
The plot of the book is centered around the lost kitten Lucy and her struggles to find a home. You can get your children involved with the storytelling by asking them who they think Lucy should live with and why. As the story gets closer to the end, Lucy has to deal with scary parts of the adventure like a rushing river and losing her dry place to sleep. Remind your children to be brave, just like Lucy was in the story!
This is an adorable, sweet little book that children will love. I liked the adventures that Lucy went on, and how it showed she wasn’t afraid to try new things, but was also brave enough to admit when something didn’t work out. My favorite thing about the story, and that I hope to see featured in the rest of the line of books that Lucy will be featured in, is that she never gave up. This is a great thing to see in children’s books, and as a mom personally, I’m always encouraging my kids to stay strong. Having a kitten like Lucy to remind them of when times get tough is a great thing, and I love that it is shown here!
Pages: 28 | ISBN: 0998331805
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In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse who is being bullied by because his tail is short. Why was bullying an issue you wanted to tackle in this kids book?
I see bullying all the time and it just makes no sense to bully another child, or adult for that matter. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in childhood. Cyber bullies come into play and one reads about another child taking their own life due to being bullied. If I can help children be a little kinder to one another then this book was worth writing. Kindness breeds kindness. Bullying must stop. Children need to take a stand against bullying and their families must do the same, as do the educators in our system. It is bad when ones parent actually cyber bullies another child and that child ends up taking their own life. Parents need to be held accountable.
Do you think children struggle with confirmation of their self worth? How do you think kids seek that out?
Of course they struggle. Self worth and self esteem are huge issues as a child grows up and I, for one, still have self esteem issues at my age (56). Not all children grown up in a loving or supporting home. As a mother, and as a registered nurse, I have seen the dark side of life and it is ugly. Many things are preventable, and if parents aren’t willing to step in and assist in a positive manner then educators need to step in. Kids seek confirmation in many ways and most are a sacrifice, that is, some seek out sex to feel worthy, or eating disorders to help with body image issues they perceive as having or have at that moment/time span in time. Others over medicate and some over dose, others try their hardest to please their parent/parents/adult care provider, etc. and many don’t measure up or they simply give up. They lose hope, and we all need to have hope. Society in general needs top help foster self worth in troubled kids and teens.
There are lots of wonderful images in this story. What was your favorite image to use and write for?
Stubby Mouse is my favorite. The idea for him came about from one of our backyard squirrels who only has half a tail, and partly crippled due to meeting up with a vehicle and living afterward. We named him Stubby (his tail) and he has a different scamper than the other squirrels but he is determined. Stubby is just as wild as all the squirrels are and he loves to play chase. From one little stubby tailed crippled squirrel a book was born. I purposely presented all of the characters to dress the same, and for the girls to have different hairstyles. Stubby is the only one who is different and I knew that his short tail would be noticed by keeping the other characters similar. This worked quite well. Stubby is favorite for the preschoolers and kindergarten kids as well as first graders. The kids latched onto Stubby and they all defended him. Once the kids settle back down after a reading and discussion, then I will point out various differences in the kids in front of me such as hair color, etc. and I explain our uniqueness to all, and how that makes us special.
What are some themes of future books that you would like to write about?
I have many yet my time is limited due to health. I will say that we put out a book last year that speaks about molestation/sex abuse. It’s titled “Suzy Has A Secret” and it includes an adult/educators part in the back of the story. I used characters that do wear different colored clothes but facial expressions are the same. My mantra here is good touch/bad touch and children are innocent/predators are not.
“In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse and his family and friends. We learn that Stubby Mouse has a secret, that he is being bullied by another mouse, simply because his tail is short. Read how Stubby Mouse stood up for himself, and how he ended the bullying, in this delightful story for children. Targeted at ages 4-8, the book is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. Children learn how bad bullying is, and what they can do to help stop bullies! Stubby Mouse encourages children to take a stand against bullies, and always be kind to each other. This story illustrates how everyone is different and unique, and it is a delightful read with cute illustrations for both children and adults. Take a stand against bullying today!”
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There are issues that plague all children as they grow up. Each child struggles with identifying who they are as a person, how they relate to other people and how to find out what they believe in. Children can be cruel to each other while they learn how to navigate the messy world of emotions. This can come out in the form of bullying. In The Big Cheese Festival the authors explore the concept of bullying and how it can impact the life of another. What may seem like funny and harmless words to one can truly hurt another. We’ve got a fantastical world of anthropomorphic mice, one of whom only has half a tail. He is named Stubby and due to the unkind bullying from his brother’s friend worries about whether or not he’ll find any worth in himself.
Bullying is a big issue to tackle. Some children’s books try to address this and drop the ball completely. Jackson and Raymond have bundled up the idea of bullying in their book. They take an obvious difference, like having half of a tail, and use it to illustrate how others might react to something so clearly different from the norm. It’s a cute book with the little mice getting ready for a festival. Cutter Mouse, who is friends with Stubby’s brother, is the perpetuator of the bullying. It is often someone close to the bullied who begins the abuse, which Jackson and Raymond have captured here.
While the story is simple and easy to either read or read to a child, there are a few areas in which it lacks. The mice all look exactly the same, in the same outfits. The girl mice have different hairstyles but the boy mice don’t have anything to separate who they are from each other. Different coloured outfits may have helped with this issue. The mice also don’t seem to express emotion. For a story about bullying and overcoming that, showing joy or sorrow would be necessary.
Stubby does stand up to the person who is making him feel poorly which is an important message to children. He doesn’t do it with violence or by calling Cutter names back. He uses his words. S. Jackson and A. Raymond know that children need to learn these skills to survive in this modern world. The Big Cheese Festival helps to make it less frightening and more relatable by creating a fun and entertaining world.
Pages: 37 | ASIN: B01H3S381O
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
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Oliver and Jumpy is book 4 in your children’s series that follows playful characters as they go on various adventures. Why was it important for you to create a children’s story that focused on kindness, friendship and helping others?
Many picture books have lessons to tell, but can be very obvious. Children don’t really like to be told what to do. A good example is always better and Oliver, although he is quite a character, shows that you can have fun and adventure, and at the same time do good.
The art in this book is wonderful. What was the collaboration like with the illustrators?
I thought a long time about which quality of illustrations I should pursue. I did not want to go cheap with dots for eyes figures. I would have loved to follow the very complex pictures of the fairy-tales books of 100 years ago. Unfortunately, being self-financed, this option would have been far too expensive. I grew up with Walt Disney and decided to follow that style, which is easy enough for most illustrators to create, but with facial expressions possible. I tried out six illustrators. The first one, Marvin Alonso, was outstanding. He did illustrations to about eleven of the stories before finding greener pastures. Then I found Maycee Ann Reyes who works together with her husband. The rest is history. This team was simply fabulous. They needed a minimum of supervision and created the scenes of the stories totally by themselves. I just provided the story and simple instructions. Maycee turned out a picture every 3-4 days. These series has about 500 illustrations. Oliver and Jumpy began 4 years ago and it was a herculean task which is now finished. This is a triumph of self-publishing. No run-of-the-mill publisher would have been able to produce such an elaborate work in that time.
My favorite story is Butterfly Trouble. What is your favorite story in this book and in the series?
I like the Dog story. I wrote this story because every time we have our daily walk through the neighborhood, there is a bored dog barking and my wife is saying that we should knock on the door and see if we can take him for a walk with us. My favorite story of the series is Story 18 called Moon Crystal. Oliver travels to the moon to bring healing crystals back to Sillandia. This book won the Readers Favorite Book Award Gold Medal.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be available?
I have been working and finished the Chinese and Spanish version of the series. I am now working on the German one and other languages will follow. My final goal will be to find a company who is willing to invest in a TV series. I would like to see children all around the world to benefit of the marvelous work of my illustrators.
Picture book: A cat series book for kids riddled with mystery and fantasy.
Oliver is an elegant tuxedo cat, who is full of himself. As a matter of fact he says: “I love myself!”, quite often. Naughty, isn’t he? But his best friend Jumpy, a kangaroo lady, is aware that he has a soft heart and will always want to help others. The great thing is Jumpy’s pouch, which Oliver loves to ride in! He calls her his kangaroo taxi! These little bedtime stories with their lovely illustrations are great for small kids. A parent can read the text and tell the child in his own words. These animal stories have sufficient text to keep early readers happy and provide some educational value. Love you all! Meow! Story 10: Unhappy Dog – The friends help an unhappy dog to escape his boredom. Story 11: Kite High – Flying high is everybody’s dream, but how to get down? Story 12: Butterfly Trouble – Butterflies don’t like to be caught.
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In His Way tells the story of your second marriage to a Deputy Sheriff and being a mother of three; a volunteeraholic and a workaholic living together. What made you want to write about your life and put it out there for the world?
To be completely honest, I’m not a writer. I’m a numbers kinda gal. Back in the days when I worked for a paycheck, I did Bookkeeping or Accounting.
As my husband was dealing with his health issues, God made it clear I was to share with others, through a book, how I was getting through it. I was to write about my transition of no faith in anything, to faith in God Almighty, which brought hope, forgiveness and love into my world.
In His Way is a beautifully written memoir. I felt you left nothing out. Why was it important for you to give a faithful retelling of your life?
It was important for me to be all in when writing this book because ultimately, I desire the reader to feel connected to the story. I believe many people, if not everyone, can relate to something I have shared, because they too have gone through it. It’s important for the reader to feel the pain, relief, distress or joy as I experienced it for that connection to be made.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life to write about?
The hardest part of the book to write about was the relationship with my mom. It took many rewrites and a lot of tears to openly admit how this relationship affected who I am today.
What do you hope readers take away from In His Way?
I hope each reader would know they are never alone in any situation. God is right there beside them, waiting to be invited into their circumstance, to offer His comfort. Also, there is always many who have walked the same road they are on and willing to bring them help and encouragement, but they must first let their pain or difficulty be known.
Are you working on another book? If so, when will that be published?
No, I’m not currently working on another book. I do however, have a blog, inhisway.net, that I write on occasionally.
Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together – it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids.
God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it.
Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.
Posted in Interviews
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The Hungry Monster Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Bean Takes a Walk by Ann Bevans & Matthew Ethan Gray
Mother Athina by Danny Estes
Game Over by Derek Eddington
Beyond Cloud Nine by Greg Spry
The Second Sphere by Peter Banks
Seed of Treachery by C.A. MacLean
Wolves Among Sheep by Steven Pajak
Chaste: A Tale From Perilisc by Jesse Teller
The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana by Katlynn Brooke
“When I look at a book, I see the history of books, old tomes with sacred knowledge. The authorities that controlled the books controlled the people. Books brought the old world to order. My books are how I bring my life and my thoughts to order, the only lasting way I can see to impart wisdom and ask questions.” – Jesse Teller author of Chaste
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