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.
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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Blindsided opens on a breezy, summery note; twelve-year-old LaTrell attends summer camp where she is thrown into a new group of friends and she wants to make a good impression. But this means defying her father and avoiding his suspicions. Soon it’s clear that she and her family are still dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s death. It shows how the family copes with the changes and react to the events following her death. The book also shows the relationships between LaTrell and her father Luis, and her nine-year-old brother Daryl.
The book is written in a simple way with a positive tone. This allows it to be aimed at families, not just young teenagers. Older children, (like Daryl) would be able to read this book with parents. The book explores a lot of difficult issues, mainly grief, but incorporates cyber-bullying and the general problem of fitting in. The positive tone encourages discussion and leaves the reader with the impression that experiencing these issues is okay.
There are questions at the end of each chapter – such as ‘What would you have done if you were in LaTrell’s shoes?’ These questions are a little unusual in a fictional book, but their purpose is evident. The questions encourage interactive reading. Older children who can read alone may use the questions to reflect on what they have read, or it may allow them to bring thoughts to their parents. For younger children, parents can raise these questions with them to encourage them to discuss their feelings.
The main theme of the book is dealing with grief and it is explored in conjunction with other childhood issues. Throughout the book the children are encouraged to discuss their feelings and any hardships with appropriate adults. This then shows the positive aspects and importance of good family relationships. LaTrell’s friendship with Peaches (who focuses on the relationship with her father) shows how friends can support positive relationships to develop within families, even at a young age and highlights the importance of childhood friends.
Through the strong bond between LaTrell and her father, the importance of mutual respect, compromise and communication is shown. For LaTrell it is important that she has freedom to make her own choices, looks cool and has a good reputation with her friends. So, it is key, that her father listens to her and though he does not always agree, he allows her to express herself in ways appropriate for her age. Through this, it highlights the importance of balance in the parent-child relationship.
Although Blindsided by Chenee’ Gilbert is a book that encourages communication and positive relationships, there is a lot of different events that occur in the book. Each of these is explored but there is room to go into a lot more detail with each one. The book has mostly positive outcomes, but we know that this is not always the case in real life – therefore if each issue was explored in more depth, then perhaps parents would be a little more prepared if their children are not as co-operative as LaTrell. Overall, I thought this was a very good book.
Pages: 206 | ASIN: B077YVWM8C
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The first chapter of Lea Ann Vandygriff’s book, Seasons: Once Upon My Innocence, is entitled “A Quiet Little Town.” That’s exactly what Rhinehart is. Rhinehart is a southern ranching town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business. It is Mayberry-like and seems picture-perfect until things go a little off the rails. A tornado and a few menacing characters sweep through town wreaking havoc on the townspeople and shaking both their homes and their faith. Especially shaken are the town’s younger citizens who can’t reconcile one question in their young minds. “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
Vandygriff takes us through a season of disaster, desperation, hope, and forgiveness within this close-knit community. It seems like every time one thing comes together, something else falls apart. We are introduced to a cast of characters that range from sweet, Godly, and endearing to violent, neglectful, and unstable. Fortunately, there are more former than latter. Most of the book seems to center around 8th grader, Aubree, her brother Randy, and their parents, Clyde and Dolores. A large focus is also placed on a trio of brothers who have been dropped into the lap of their elderly grandmother.
Many parts of the book made me long for a time when neighbors were more than the people we wound up living beside. They were family. They were there at a minute’s notice to help with whatever was needed. Whether it was cleaning up after a tornado, helping an old lady with her groceries, or befriending the new kid with a bad reputation at school, the people of Rhinehart stuck together through it all. Being raised in a small, southern town myself, I found myself identifying with the town and the people. I saw myself and my family in the characters.
Vandygriff weaves a lot of scripture into her writing. Those who have suffered tragedies in the book are directed to the Bible for answers. Every meal in Aubree’s house is blessed. Prayer is always the answer. Church is a big part of the community. Aubree and her middle school friends find it so hard to comprehend why God lets bad things happen. They are always directed to the Bible and particular verses for answers, and reminded that forgiveness is a huge part of being a Christian.
One particular scenario did bother me in the book. Without going into too much detail, a man abused a young girl. There were no consequences for him. He was forgiven with hardly a blink. There was no accountabilty and no amends made, yet he was still allowed to be around the girl and her family as usual. I wouldn’t have been as forgiving. It was explained as the Christian thing to do, but I don’t know if readers will be able to reconcile themselves with this part. I couldn’t.
That being said, there are plenty of breaks thrown in to lessen the weighty themes the book contains. Plenty of comedy is exchanged through family dynamics and middle school friendships and drama. Often, situations in the book start out as tense and serious, but end with characters laughing. This eases the calamities and stress that the characters find themselves in.
There are some parts that are left intentionally unresolved. Some problems reintroduce themselves on the last page of the book. It is left open-ended. It definitely begs for a sequel.
I will say that there were several spelling errors that I think could have been caught with another once-over by an editor. I also had trouble, at times, pinpointing the era it is set in. Party line telephone circuits are mentioned, but other things seem much more modern in the story. Otherwise, the story seemed to flow well. The characters and the messes they find themselves in are interesting. I’d love to see what happens to the townspeople of Rhinehart next!
Pages: 274 | ASIN: B079647HZH
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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…
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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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.
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 Dragon Grammar Book succinctly covers everything from subject and verb agreement to dangling participles and misplaced modifiers in a fun and engaging way. What was your goal when you began this book?
My goal was to create an easy-to-understand and fun grammar book for a wider audience, from middle grades to adults, that would encourage the reader to want to read and learn grammar. As a writer, editor, and publisher, I often come across the same grammar mistakes made by adults, so I wanted the book to be a refresher guide for adults while being a learning guide for children.
What do you find people struggle with the most when learning the English language?
The English language is a complicated language to learn and even confuses seasoned writers on occasions. The thing I see most people struggle with is the proper use of homonyms, like your vs. you’re; and other confusing words, like when to use affect vs. effect. Second to that, punctuation seem to present a lot of problems.
What I liked most about this book was how it distilled ideas down to simple bits of information. What was the hardest part about writing this book so it’s understood by kids and adults?
Most books aren’t written for such a wide audience, so the challenge was in finding that middle ground where the writing would engage the entire group of readers. Personally, I appreciate simple explanations that don’t over explain, which led me to the idea that other adults might too.
Do you plan to create more educational novels like this featuring characters from your fantasy series?
Yes, I have a few ideas brewing, but the idea that keeps coming up front and center is to write my characters into a book about short-story writing. I’d like this book, too, to be for middle grades through adults. The characters are presently voting on the project, so we’ll see where that leads us.
The Dragon Grammar Book is the ideal grammar book for kids, dragons, and adults alike. From multi-award winning children’s fantasy author, Diane Mae Robinson, The Dragon Grammar Book introduces middle grades through adults to the basic rules of the English language with easy grammar lessons. Featuring the zany fantasy characters in the author’s The Pen Pieyu Adventures series, The Dragon Grammar Book is sure to be enjoyed by the whole kingdom.
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The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons, and the Whole Kingdom, by Diane Mae Robinson, is a handy writing tool for kids in one neat, little package. Robinson presents readers with a succinct list of terminology, ten chapters covering everything from subject and verb agreement to dangling participles and misplaced modifiers. Throughout the grammar guide, readers are treated to engaging illustrations of Sir Princess Petra and Snarls, the dragon. From beginning to end, The Dragon Grammar Book, provides readers with everything they need to address those most common questions they encounter as budding writers.
Robinson begins her grammar guide with a very useful and well-organized grammar terminology section. Teachers, students, and parents will find the opening 15 pages of the book an extremely helpful tool for quickly skimming and finding definitions and examples of each of the parts of speech, punctuation, along with a few writing terms tossed in for good measure.
Let’s face it, kids can shut down at lightning speed when a textbook comes into sight. The Dragon Grammar Book provides the perfect amount of information presented in short bursts that don’t overwhelm the reader. Accompanying explanations for each rule are not too wordy, and hold the reader’s attention long enough to make a point. The ongoing dragon theme is tucked into each of the example sentences throughout the book.
As a teacher, I appreciate the wide variety of topics covered in the fairly short text. The author has chosen to include some areas students will encounter as their writing develops over the course of several years. Chapter One’s focus on confusing words was a breath of fresh air to this teacher. Arranged alphabetically and featuring brief, easy-to-understand examples, this portion of the book is simple to navigate and covers each and every roadblock young writers encounter as they learn to proofread and edit their work.
I give The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons, and the Whole Kingdom 5 out of 5 stars. Having a useful resource that engages students and includes a wide variety of grammar rules with short, fun examples is difficult to find. Robinson has produced a winner with this easy-to-navigate, all-inclusive, grammar guide for kids.
Pages: 140 | ASIN: 198871401X
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Titch the Itch, written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen, is the tale of an animated little itch who wants nothing more than to make friends the only way he knows how–by doing his job. When his wayward, “no-reason-at-all” itching isn’t appreciated in the home of one large family, Titch the Itch seeks to make friends outside the home. Trying his luck with a cat, a neighbor, a police officer, and a park full of children, Titch learns that life is hard for an itch of his sort. His journey leads him to the hospital where he soon learns that he has had a bigger impact than he realized.
B.C.R. Fegan has constructed a touching story centered around the personification of a lowly itch. The author has managed to take a difficult concept and design a precious plot surrounding the poor little itch’s desire to be needed and to have lasting friendships. Titch is a memorable character with whom young readers will empathize. As he moves from one character to the next, he experiences rejection and disappointment. Fegan has included some important lessons in this wonderful picture book. In addition to friendship, the author teaches the benefits of being determined and the results of perseverance.
As with any children’s book, it is essential to include those moments of humor. Fegan does not lack in this area. The unforeseen circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the book are whimsical and encourage children to reread the book to find things they may have missed–a wonderful aspect to include to inspire young readers to delve further into the intricacies of text. As a teacher and parent, I more than appreciate those small amounts of mystery which energize readers. Kudos to the author!
The illustrations for Titch the Itch are fantastic. Lenny Wen’s vision of Titch is a cross between a ghost and a friendly dust bunny–exactly how one might visualize an itch. The facial expressions of Titch absolutely make the story. His woeful looks tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The color schemes chosen to brighten the pages make this a beautiful story to read aloud.
B.C.R. Fegan’s story of the needy little itch just looking for friendship is a sweet tale perfect for teaching young readers about the value of friends and loyalty.
Pages: 33 | ASIN: B076342B9D
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Utopia follows Brian who wakes up from a coma to a world very different world. He is given everything, but Brian starts to question this with deadly effects. I always found the idea of Utopia’s ripe with social commentary. What message did you want to convey to readers with this book?
The three things that people invest so much time into finding are a good job, a nice home, and someone to share their life with. It would save a lot of frustration if these things are automatically given to you right from the get go. However, every society has to have some structure to make sure it remains successful. Working in the shadows of this perfect world is a control factor that cannot allow people to reach their full potential. It limits the possibility for humanity to achieve personal achievements because then they are suggesting something is not perfect.
If something is perfect it does not need to be changed; just like if something is at its highest level of operation then it cannot be further advanced or bettered. If everything was perfect then nothing new can ever happen. Sounds like a boring existence.
Do you think Utopia’s can ever be possible for humans? Or do you think hardship is a natural and acceptable part of life?
While it is a nice concept I believe a Utopia can never be successful. People’s lifestyles and goals vary too much to fit into any perfect structure. What might be perfect for one person will be intolerable for someone else.
In Utopia, everyone lives in posh apartments with next to no rent. That may be awesome for a few of us, but then you will have those who like having a yard or a basement, or not living with other people or even may need a garage. There are too many variables to make everyone happy.
Nobody wants to experience hardships, but if you take a look back those hardships taught you what you needed to know to learn and grow. A bad job can motivate you to look for another one or go back to school; your future will now be better because of that bad job. If everything was perfect we would have no need to change anything.
One of my favorite utopian stories is The Island with Ewan McGregor. What is one of your favorite utopian stories that inspired you?
The Demolition Man was a movie that came out in 1993 and depicts a non-violent world with no murder, theft, or crime of any kind; not even a curse word is ever uttered. When a real criminal is let loose in the city the police do not know how to stop him.
In my story the enemy is the government, which is not uncommon. Governments, politics, and conspiracies seem to go hand in hand. Organizations like the Illuminati, Freemasons and The Majestic 13 have been theorized to be the evil puppeteers behind our society for generations. If there is a system or structure set up, there will be a reason to find fault with it; and there is fault with it. Afterall, this is not a perfect world.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book will be written as a regular novel and takes place in a futuristic past. I am trying to merge several genres together. Right now I’ll categorize it as a sci-fi, fantasy, mystery with elements of steampunk, legends and erotica… Give me some time with this one.
Brian Troth is a defense attorney, who after being shot in the head, awakes from a coma thirty years later. He is told that the world is now “perfect” where everything is provided. He is given a new job, a posh apartment and, to his surprise, the perfect romantic match. However, when he questions the sudden disappearance of a colleague and stumbles upon a concealed government secret; he and his loved one become targeted for a swift removal.
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