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The Greatest Gift

Diane Hull Author Interview

Diane Hull Author Interview

Be Happy to Be You is a cute children’s story about being happy with who you are. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?

Children are the inspiration for my stories; the children I have taught and my three grandchildren. Joe (6 years), Harry (4 years) and George (10 months). Children are individuals and they are all different with their own characteristics and strengths. I strongly believe that they should be happy to be themselves.

The art in this book is well done and very cute. What was the art direction and collaboration like between you and Jan Dolby?

Having submitted my book to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, I was introduced to Jan Dolby as a possible illustrator for my work. I was delighted with her drawings; her pictures were a perfect match for my story and her designs for my Baby bird were exactly as I imagined them. I hope that she and I will continue to work together on future Baby bird books.

This story did an exceptional job of driving home the idea of being happy with yourself. Why was this an important book for you to write?

As an Early Years teacher, I understand how important it is that young children are instilled with a sense of their own worth. A positive sense of self is, in my opinion, the greatest gift we can give any child. They need to be proud of their own unique achievements and embrace their strengths. This message is at the heart of my book. Using picture books, we can provide children with strategies to cope with possible problems they may face and offer them opportunities to discuss their feelings with a trusted adult.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My second book, “On Our Way to School,” is due to be published later this year by MacLaren-Cochrane. This is the story of Joe’s journey to school with his mother. Unfortunately for Joe, he forgets things that he will need for the day; his bag, his book, his coat etc. Each time he realises that he has forgotten something, he has to return to his house and set off for school again.

I have recently completed a second book featuring Baby bird, “The Lonely Bird”. In this story, Baby bird is lonely and he sets out to find a friend. Baby bird is unsuccessful it seems…. or is he? I have written quite a few stories but these have not yet been submitted for publication.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Baby bird wasn’t happy.
He longed to be like other animals.
He wanted to swim and run and jump.
But he had to learn to be happy as he was…
He had to learn just to be himself!

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Be Happy To Be You

The title of the book itself is encouraging enough for one to start reading. Be Happy To Be You takes a simple idea and drives it home with a lovable character, cute art, and an entertaining story.

The art in this book is beautiful. The images are appealing and match the tone of the story. The very first sentence in the book reads “Baby bird wanted to swim. He looked at the fish in the river.” “I wish I could swim in the river like the fish,” says the bird. “You can fly high in the sky,” replies the bird’s mother. This is a good example of the message this story carries throughout the book. Even with everything the bird wishes for, he is always reminded of the things that he does have.

Reading on, one can conclude that the bird feels inadequate with the things he has. Just like humans, the bird wishes for more. The bird’s mother plays a big role in making the bird understand that he can’t have everything he wants. I think kids will be able to make the connection with the animals on the page and easily see the parallels in their own life.

The bird keeps wishing for more throughout the book. He sees the horses and wants to run around the field like they do. He sees the frogs on the lily pad and wants to jump like the reptiles. In every situation though, mother bird shows how caring she is and reminds the bird of the things he can do, that other animals can’t.

Like most guardians, mother bird was always concerned with the bird and tried to make him feel better any time he felt low. A loving and caring mother is what every offspring wishes to have. I appreciate the author’s use of animal characters to bring out habits that are often seen in people. I think this is an important lesson that children of any age should learn.

Be Happy To Be You is not only entertaining, but also informative. The coloring and stunning drawings make the book both entertaining and fun to read. The images of the frogs were my absolute favorite. I wish I could put them in a frame. Every young person who struggles with not being satisfied with what they have will find this book educational.

Pages: 32 | ASIN: 1387596985

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The Day That A Ran Away

The Day That A Ran Away by [Fegan, B.C.R.]The Day that A Ran Away is an adorably witty story about the letters of the alphabet just deciding not to report for duty one day. Master Jet is trying to write the alphabet and he just can’t do it with all the letters on holiday. Each letter has either decided not to show up or has had something that prevented it from showing up. Understandably, it’s hard to write the alphabet without even one of the letters. Master Jet may think he is fooling his teacher, but Mrs. May is way too smart to fall for his creative tricks.

My kids are much older now, but they would have loved this book when they were little. The writing is catchy and flows well for reading aloud. The rhymes are cute. The colors are bright and eye-catching. This was especially always a hit with my own children. The illustrations are beautiful. It is very visually pleasing. It is also funny. It made me laugh a couple of times. I actually think it would be fun to read aloud. Any parent who has had to read the same book one hundred times can tell you how important it is to have a story that flows well verbally.

My favorite part of the book is the beautiful illustrations. They are by Lenny Wen. As with most children’s books, the illustrations are a huge part of whether the book is a hit or not. Since most kids are being read to at this stage, the illustrations have to really appeal to them. A nice touch was adding a few “hidden” images within each letter’s page—having the kids match the letter with the object. My kids would have loved trying to find these little gems. Overall, the artwork is beautifully done.

Together B.C.R. Fegan and Lenny Wen have created a catchy, appealing story for little kids and their parents. I really enjoyed it. I believe kids and parents everywhere would enjoy it as well.

Pages: 33 | ASIN: B07DMN4VVP

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Faithful to Egyptian Style

George Neeb Author Interview

George Neeb Author Interview

Pharaoh’s Arrow is a picture book that tells a fascinating story using authentic hieroglyphics and historic papyrus paintings. What was the inspiration that made you want to put this book together?

I have taught elementary school for over 25 years. I have always found that using picture books is a great way to teach subjects like history and art to students. Picture books bring history alive. I found in teaching about Early Societies that there was an abundance of information books but not picture book narratives. I wanted to create a resource that teachers or any Egyptology fan could use and enjoy that included factual information but was also entertaining. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt, so I thought this would be a great way to break into writing and illustrating picture books.

Each piece of artwork in the book was done by you on papayri. What was that process like?

The illustrations are actually done on paper to replicate the look of papyrus. I included directions in the back of the book, so readers can create similar drawings. The secret is to colour with pencil crayon, as this medium will resist paint. Then I painted over the coloured illustration using brown and yellow tempera paint. I used a large paint brush and painted both directions leaving the brush strokes showing. Last, I covered the wet paint with a disposable cloth and rubbed the cloth then removed the cloth. That is how the look of papyrus is achieved. It is simple yet works. I hope readers will try it out. I made a Youtube video to demonstrate the technique and colouring pages are found on my website https”//georgeneeb.ca

I felt that you did a great job of getting the facts of ancient Egypt correct. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

I spent months researching how the Egyptian drew everything. I looked through lots of information books about Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians had a distinct way of drawing. Their style is simple yet graceful. I’ve heard the Egyptians described as the first graphic artists. People were drawn in profile but with forward facing eyes and shoulders. It is almost a contorted look. I also researched how trees, homes, palaces and animals were drawn. Egyptians didn’t uses perspective and size differences were usually due to importance, so sometimes the Pharaoh was drawn larger than everyone else. This made illustrating the book challenging because I couldn’t draw a lot of varied perspectives, such as a bird’s eye or an ant’s eye point of view. I really could only do some close ups in order to keep faithful to Egyptian style.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is totally different. It is a story about an overweight girl that longs to be a super hero, but her mother and aunt really pressure her to act like the other girls and try to be pretty and popular. When some bullies befriend her, she has to decide if this is the person she wants to be. I did the illustrations using cut paper and also dyed paper backgrounds. The book is in the editing stage, so I hope it will be ready by late summer. I am also writing a book about an Emperor and a dragon in Ancient China. It will be illustrated to look like Chinese silk paintings have come to life to tell the story.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebook | Website

Pharaoh's Arrow by [Neeb, George]Akia loves living in an oasis far from the Nile River with her father. But when she is faced with another family tragedy, Akia embarks on a plan of revenge that takes her to the ancient capital of Memphis and to meet Almighty Pharaoh. She quickly learns that vengeance isn’t as easy as it may seem! Come visit Ancient Egypt through a tale told in rhyming couplets, authentic hieroglyphics and historic papyrus paintings come to life. Ages 8 – 11 or any Egyptology fan!

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Pharaoh’s Arrow

Pharaoh's Arrow by [Neeb, George]

If you’re shopping for a picture book, George Neeb’s Pharaoh’s Arrow should be high on your list of choices. This unique book is an experience like you haven’t seen before – a whole book written and illustrated in the style of ancient Egypt! Neeb took the time to paint all the pages by hand and tell us a story of revenge set in the times of a bygone era. He studied Egyptian art and it shows on every page.. Every page is an individual work of art, bringing the artistic style of the Land of the pyramids into the modern format.

While set in ancient times of the pharaohs, Neeb came up with the story himself. As he explained, he tried to get the facts correct. The style of clothing and the makeup match the era the story is set in and he spent a considerable amount of time giving his book the feel of an old papayri. He didn’t just stop at the characters, whom he painted in the drawing style of the ancient Egypt, but went as far to match the authentic hieroglyphics that appear throughout the story with the text!

Pharaoh’s Arrow excels in the themes it takes us through. While picture books usually don’t trouble themselves with big moral questions, George Neeb had other ideas for his characters. What starts like a story of revenge ends up differently than you would expect. Without giving the details, you will be surprised with the decision the main character decided to go with. And while odd, the decision is very practical. Considering the times the story is happening the decision is quite fitting. I felt that Neeb’s poetry was not his strong suit and were not lyrically challenging, but he is still able to tell an interesting story.

Many odds and ends of the life of ancient Egypt show throughout the book. The story starts in quite an unusual way – the mother of Akia, our heroine, is killed by a crocodile which makes her father decide to live in the desert. Crocodiles where a predator on the Nile back in the day and the situation gives us a glimpse of life thousands of years ago. Burial rites of the ancient Egypt are also referenced and Neeb also talks about the spirituality that the people of those times were observing. His reference of “ba”, roughly translated as the modern concept of the soul, is something you will not find in many books that deal with this long gone civilization!

The illustrations are unique and make it an unforgettable work of art. At the end of the book Neeb even explains how to accomplish the style yourself, making the Pharaoh’s Arrow a perfect choice for anyone interested in painting and history.

Pages: 18 | ASIN: B07DV1XL2M

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A Curious Journey

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where they’re introduced to many strange guests. What served as your inspiration for this imaginative hotel and its occupants? 

The concept was really born from the title. I had wanted to write a counting book for a while but one that carried a stronger narrative than many others in this particular category. After I had the title, everything else just came together. I think that there is something about doors that sparks a natural curiosity, particularly in young children. I wanted to extend that curiosity by placing the story in a setting that would really compound the mystery. A magical castle, to me, holds a lot of intrigue and seemed like an excellent place to begin a curious journey.

There are a lot of interesting creatures behind each door. My favorite was the miniature giants. What was your favorite to write and animate?

I have so many! For most of the characters there is a fascinating juxtaposition between the general perception of their stereotype and a characteristic they embody in the story. Some of the other creatures are simply a play on popular culture. However a few of them are just plain cute. If I had to choose only one favourite, I think it would be from this last category – the big-headed monkeys.

While I was writing this character, I had in my mind something so adorable that it would make a great stuffed toy. What’s exciting about working with Lenny is that we both think similarly. She was able to take my thoughts for this idea and really bring it to life with brilliant expression. They may not be a typical mythical creature, but I think they nevertheless compliment the overall enjoyment of exploring this hotel by diffusing the expectation that each character needs to have some kind of creepy characteristic.

The story is told in rhyme and each door has a theme which, I think, makes this book great for the classroom. Was it challenging to write the story in this way or was it natural?

After I had the idea, the story itself flowed quite naturally. The fantastical nature of the castle meant that each door wasn’t restricted to a single concept or any established rules. I think this is (in part) what both pulls you along in the story and tempts you to linger – every door is a portal to its own unique and perhaps unexpected theme.

I don’t want it to send like I’m begging, but please tell me this story is going to be expanded on in future books? 

Ooh, now that’s an interesting question. It was definitely a fun story to write so I wouldn’t rule out a sequel. I’ll let you know…

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

The magical Hotel of Hoo is a mysterious place with some very unusual occupants. As our guests explore the strange hotel, they are invited to experience everything it has to offer with just one warning… don’t ever look behind door 32.

This imaginative picture book aims to take children beyond the first ten cardinal numbers, and introduces them to the patterns of counting in a fun and accessible way. With rooms to explore and unique objects to count, children will enjoy lingering on each page as they make their way closer to the forbidden door.

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A Metaphor for a Butt Whipping

Patrice Brown Author Interview

Patrice Brown Author Interview

The Day Momma Made Me Dance is a colorful children’s book depicting the consequences of childrens misbehavior. What was your inspiration for this book?

My inspiration was my very own childhood experience. I myself was a mischevious child and my sister was also so growing up in a home where consequences were learned about through whoopings. I decided to write about it and this book is in no way to excuse about but to simply talk about my story and how I learned right from wrong. Not all people will see this book as acceptable but in many black homes that are my culture, it is accepted.

The story follows a young girl who is constantly up to mischief. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in this story?

The themes that were displayed was the experience of going to school and misbehaving, treating my sibling badly and being disrespectful by not listening to my parent. These themes were important because everyone has had a bad moment in their life either in the home or school as a kid.

The story draws a line between punishment and abuse. What is a common misconception you find people have about this subject?

People find that any form of punishment with an object is abuse. I have to disagree with that opinion because we all have to measure the level of discipline with what object and for how long. I believe that it is ok to whoop your child, talk to them and do time out. However, what happens when all of your interventions fail and the child still continues to misbehave. My book was a simple representation of punishment was in my home and the yes the girl learned her lesson in the end. The girl talked with her mom and stated that she understands the rules of the home and school. I had the same similar experience in my life. So this book was a short story about that time.

What do you hope readers take away from your story?

Readers should take away that punishment is not all bad no matter the form of it. It just depends on the level and frequency of the punishment. This book is not only about punishment but it has a bit of humor in it. The day momma made me dance is simply a metaphor for a butt whipping. The girl understands her faults and is thankful for her punishment because without it she would not understand the rules of home and school.

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The Day Momma Made Me Dance by [Brown, Patrice]As a mom, we continuously tell our children the rules of the house. Not only this, we are constantly cleaning and prompting them to do their chores and homework. Until one day, Momma has had enough. Find out what happens when enough is enough in this home.

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The Day Momma Made Me Dance

The Day Momma Made Me Dance by [Brown, Patrice]

The Day Momma Made Me Dance, written by Patrice Brown, is a colourful children’s book depicting the consequences of what happens when children misbehave. The story follows a young girl who is constantly up to mischief, whether it’s in the form of skipping chores, fighting with her brother or doing cartwheels in the hallway. Her momma ignores her naughtiness, and it seems like the little girl will continue with her mischievous ways. Finally, momma has had enough of her daughter’s behaviour and decides to inflict some interesting forms of punishment.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance is a short story that takes a look at children’s behaviour and using physical punishment as a result of “naughty” or “bad” behaviour.

The story begins with a touching dedication which gives credit to mothers and the strength they carry through motherhood. In particular, it dedicates the story to her mother who has sadly passed and the strength they have had raising their children as a single parent. It sets the tone for the story and provides relevance to the types of punishment used for the children.

It then goes on to continue with a forward and preface section where the author outlines the love for her family and her daughter. It’s clear to see that Patrice has a strong love and bond for her children and family and values the childhood that her mother was able to provide for her. It also indicates how similar punishments of “making her dance” were used on her and her siblings and how she understood and accepted the reasoning behind the particular types of punishment.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance appears to be targeted towards children, however, the underlying message is created for adults as it pushes towards building an understanding of what constitutes abuse and discipline. The choice of punishment is a form of corporal punishment where the child experiences being whipped for her misbehaviour.

The Day Momma Made Me Dance could be used as a talking point of what parents may consider appropriate punishment for their children. At the end of the novel, Patrice Brown discusses what she believes to be abuse and what she feels is discipline. Patrice also goes into depth on the importance of not using sexual abuse as a form of punishment and how abuse can occur in many ways- emotionally, physically and mentally. There are questions you can use to discuss with your children on how they feel about being disciplined and how you can better your relationship with your child. These questions put a positive spin on the story and open up the passage of discussion of what you consider to be unfair or inappropriate discipline.

I would recommend this to parents who were comfortable in the use of corporal punishment or were looking for a storybook to open up the conversation of what family members considered to be abuse or discipline.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B075KLRNLQ

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Literary Titan Book Awards February 2018

The Literary Titan 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 we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

Neutral Space by [Tran, Rebecca]Braxton Snow P.I. (The Snow Adventures Book 1) by [Estes, Danny C]Phoenix by [Chugpai, Arti]

The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger: Volume 1 by [Hayes, Misty]The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons, and the Whole Kingdom by [Robinson, Diane Mae]

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery (Jack Donegal Mysteries Book 1) by [Clark, Susan Joy]Empyrean (The Brin Chronicles Book 3) by [Cronin, Jim]Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Award Winners

Serial K Returns by [Gallagher, Brian]The Fall of Lilith (Fantasy Angels Series) by [Quiroz Vega, Vashti]

Grandma's Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by [JohnEgreek]

Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet by [Martek, Igor]The Victory Perspective by [Kellett, E.J.]

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

Don't Ever Look Behind Door 32 by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

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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