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Mylee in the Mirror

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Mylee is experiencing one of the most trying times in her young life. Not only is she watching solemnly as her parents’ marriage hits its rockiest stretch to date, she is unable to convince her mother that she is happier and more productive not being a cheerleader. To top it off, Mylee should be having the time of her life as she seems to have caught the eye of the school’s most desired boy–real homecoming king material. Mylee just can’t seem to catch a break. When her beloved Grammy, her confidante, moves into a new apartment farther from Mylee’s home, the struggle becomes even more real.

Ellie Collins’s second book in her Greek mythology series, Mylee in the Mirror, is a fantastic follow up to her first, Daisy Bold and Beautiful. This young adult fiction series is shaping up to be an artfully designed set of books with well-developed characters and engrossing plot lines. Collins is a master at incorporating current teen culture and dialogue. Her writing flows smoothly, and her characters seems to jump off the page–especially her main characters. Mylee and Ty are an adorable pair and their friendship leaves the reader rooting for them from their very first interaction. Collins seems to have a knack for drawing a thoroughly detestable antagonist. Sam is clearly sketched as the villain, and the dialogue she has given him keeps readers focused on exactly how wonderful Ty is for Mylee–writing perfection.

Collins manages to tap into complex relationships quite easily whether it be the parent-child relationship or the ever-evolving relationships between teen friends. She pinpoints the drama that so easily arises between girls over potential love interests while at the same time highlighting how easily true friends are able to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I am, again, intrigued by Collin’s use of Greek mythology in her plots. She pulls the story of her grandmother’s mirror and the tale of Aphrodite almost effortlessly into what, otherwise, reads as young adult fiction. The fact that Mylee is able to keep her experiences to herself and use what she learns from her encounters with the mirror is a truly unique approach in this genre.

Collins is an author to be watched in the coming years. The ease with which the words flow from her mind to the paper is to be envied indeed. Her writing is phenomenally engaging, and I look forward to seeing more from her series in the future. I highly recommend her writing to any parent of young teens looking to engage their children in well-written and timely books.

Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07JZKV317

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Cascarones

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.

This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.

As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.

I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.

My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.

Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889

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Lillee Can Be

Lillee Can Be by [Joseph, Adam Zebediah]
Adam Zebediah Joseph’s Lillee Can Be delivers a sugary sweet children’s book with a punchy, poetic pace and solid sense of cohesion overall. The book focuses on the school and extracurricular lives of two young twins in an unspecified setting, making it an allegory of sorts. Specifically, the twins provide a totally relatable dynamic for any reader with a sibling, as the book directly confronts feelings of inferiority, unequal recognition, and other relevant issues that many children experience.

Likewise, the author is perfectly on trend with the wave of subtle social justice and advocacy messages within children’s and young adult literature currently. For example, Joseph boldly tackles sexism, gender identity, equal pay, and other concepts beyond merely familial themes, yet he does it with humility, honesty, and ease, without any preachy or condescending tones. Although the male character is unnamed, the female character (or mini SHE-RO!) offers an affirmative, fun, feisty, and feminist protagonist for readers to emulate. Lillee, the main character, demonstrates resilience and displays fearless fortitude as she faces gender boundaries and revolutions about our world, social norms, and cultural mores in this vibrant but also bold, bubbly book.

As far as the pros and cons, I love that the book perceptively resonates with girl power. I also applaud how his writing cleverly employs a rhythmical quality that makes you want to sing or rap each page aloud-of course with a fist pump, too! I further appreciate the teachable lessons in this book beyond character education and tolerance, since Adam Zebediah Joseph also cites many careers for young children to pursue. Occupational terms in this book and illustrations make it suitable for a teacher, counselor, parent, or family member and embed superb context clues for the definitions. However, I was a bit dismayed that the male twin character remained nameless throughout the entire piece. This anonymity seemed to counter the equity themes that this book so adamantly advocated. While I also liked the pictures, I wanted a bit more multicultural depictions to truly illuminate the themes that book defends: equality, respect, inclusion, etc.

In sum, this book provides a mirror for young readers to assess not only themselves and their personal relationships around them, but also a path for sociopolitical awareness. Read it yourself to see if a fairy godmother emerges or if other lessons enlighten these characters as they grow and mature. The author shows empathy and wisdom to tackle themes with such poise and poetic power!

Pages: 50 | ASIN: B07F7XCTLV

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Lamellia: The Wicked Queen – Trailer

Can a human baby possibly be a mushroom?

When King Polipoli, the ruler of Lamellia, finds a human baby in his mushroom kingdom, he adopts it immediately to satisfy his wife’s desire to be a mother.

But when the baby mysteriously grows weaker and weaker under the queens care, suspicions start to arise.

What is the queen doing to the baby? How did the baby get there? Will it survive and fulfill its purpose before its too late?

Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness, following the rules, and understanding consequences.

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Merle the Traveling Girl – Trailer

What would you do if you found a magic wand?

Thats what Merle asks herself when she finds a magic wand after falling from her bike. But while some kids might ask for gifts, Merle decides to use it to help others. This is a story of a little girl who turns into a superhero, zooming around the world to help children stay clean and healthy.

In an entertaining way, Merle teaches kids how important it is to wash your hands. Kids dont always listen when parents tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing.

Its a message worth repeatinghand washing is the best way to prevent germs from spreading and to keep kids from getting sick.

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103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person

With a collection of singular point of view narratives the author, Mayne Leitzer, offers his first complete book of poetry; 103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person. The book is sectioned into chapters outlining the types of poems that follow, what those writings mean to the author, and how they came to be. The title is indicative of the style of writing, not the writer, as the poetry is fairly simple; using straight forward thoughts and uncomplicated prose to reflect on life’s complications. The story arc is more of a summation of personal perspective and reflection than a journey forward or illustration of action.

In penning “103 Simple Poems” Mayne Leitzer offers up self reflection, self deprecation, a heavy dollop of fundamentalist religious dogma, and more than a little bit of sadness and remorse, with a glimmer of joy and hope.

Many of his poems are jargon one could find on a motivational poster or greeting card, but that is not at all bad. Life can get messy and sometimes people need soft, plushy words to find comfort and solace. The reader will find many situations that they can relate to; lost love, death, pursuing success, loneliness, finding your destiny, conflict of conviction, etc.

However, there are many poems that can be divisive. Sex before marriage, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, Heaven and Hell, those types of things. The thoughts Leitzer lays out are organic in nature and not derived of a need to be quoted for inspirational prose or to start a deep conversation, but rather, just as he states; a need to express his soul at different stages in life.

Some poems showcase the more complex layers of his humanity that struggle to shine under the dominance of a narrow vision.  The Promised Land poem is thoughtful and embraceable. Not a Bad Day and One Moonlit Night lets out his optimistic side which he admits is not in his nature. Leitzer is honest about his mistakes and his struggle with alcoholism. His love poems are truly good; especially Seasons, A Smile and Rock A-bye.

There are a few grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, which are distracting as is his zealous religious fervor, but his writings let the reader feel his authenticity and the last few poems wrap up nicely to summarize his goal and wishes for success.

This book uses simple and fluid style to expand peoples emotional depths but seemed content to keep its voice generalized. The individual writings have value no matter your religious leanings. At the end the reader will come away with some reflections of their own and maybe, quote a few lines for their own stages of life.

Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1425979149

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Tilly and Torg – New Kids At School

Tilly and Torg - New Kids At School by [Crawley, Connie Goyette]

Tilly and Torg New Kids at School is a wonderful children story about two monsters that are intrigued by a yellow school bus out their window and decide to find out where it’s taking all the children. They soon find out that the bus is going to a place called school. Tilly and Torg meet many nice people at school learn all about the things that go on there.

This is a wonderful children’s story to read to any child that is starting school and worried, or interested in, what happens there. As Tilly and Torg go through a full day of school they, like many kindergarteners, find themselves surprised and confused at some of the things that go on, but all the while they are open minded and ask questions. The art in this book is cute and filled with hidden gems, like the book Tilly and Torg carry around “Monster Rule Book For Living With Humans”, that beg for a second read through. The books is suitable for new readers or for parents to read to children as the art will keep the kids plenty busy as parents read them the story.

Although the art was cute and fitting, I thought the text could have been bigger or bold, which would have helped it stand out more when the text was on top of the images. This story offers so many opportunities for parents to discuss the different aspects of school with their kids. I didn’t realize that going to school comes with its own lingo; like ‘lost and found’ or ‘time for the bell’, and this book helps explain what these terms mean. At the end of the book is a little quiz that helps with reading comprehension and there is also a vocabulary list that is helpful for kids to review.

With beautiful art, cute monsters, and an easy to understand story, I think this book is a must read for any child that is about to start school.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B07H52WP2V

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A Trail of Honesty – Trailer

Summertime is vacation time for the Angelino family, and the two Angelino boys are excited about their upcoming camping trip. They’re going to the local state park, where they can swim, go fishing, and look for wildlife!

Being on vacation doesn’t mean the boys have to be careful. An encounter with a sneezing deer provides their father with an opportunity to teach the boys about respecting wildlife and staying alert for danger. Knowing more about the park’s wildlife helps the boys have more fun while staying safe. They discover staying quiet and moving slowly makes it easier to see the animals and birds that call the park home.

At the camp, the boys have responsibilities like the rest of the family. When they neglect one of these responsibilities and lie about it, they wind up in trouble—and learn an important lesson.

Beautifully illustrated, A Trail of Honesty teaches children about honesty while explaining actions have consequences. J. A. Angelo’s delightful story is an ideal way for parents to use consequences to teach children how to be better people—not simply to punish them.

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Something Spectacular

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

B.C.R. Fegan Author Interview

The Day that A Ran Away is an adorably witty story about the letters of the alphabet deciding not to show up. Do you write your stories with children in mind first, or parents and teachers?

I always write my stories to be enjoyed by children first. Even though the book has a primary purpose of teaching the alphabet to children, I wanted it to be fun – something they would enjoy reading.

This is a very cute idea, how did this idea develop and change as you were developing the story?

I really began the story with the idea of making a simple concept picture book into something more of an adventure. Thankfully the first few lines of the book came together quite quickly which made the presentation of the alphabet a bit more straightforward. Essentially, Jet is caught by his teacher without his homework – something that students are prone to do at some point of their school life. However Jet’s excuse is quite imaginative as he talks about each letter’s frustrating escape.

It may sound strange, but with the trajectory of the story in place, the story actually flowed quite well. In the end there weren’t any major changes required. I know – bit of a boring story!

The art, as always, is very good. What was the art direction you wanted in this book?

I think my biggest priority was having all the scenes linked together as Jet walks to school. So each page connects with the last and foreshadows the one to come. In addition, I wanted each character to be made up of a color that begins with its respective letter (ever heard of Xanadu Gray), and for there to be a number of objects in the illustration that begins with the same letter for children to find.

Overall, I described each scene to Lenny and she turned them into something spectacular. She even added a few of her own Easter eggs which was fantastic! I’m very lucky to have an illustrator that not only understands my thinking, but knows my entire approach.

I loved how each letter has its own look and feel. Was this something that you brainstormed with Lenny Wen or did you already have ideas for each letter?

I agree, the letters came out looking great! No, all credit belongs to Lenny for the look and personalities of each letter. The only direction I had in this respect was the color of each letter and the basic anthropomorphic requirement. Lenny came back with the idea of giving each letter a connection to something children could identify (i.e. ‘A’ being an astronaut), as well as an emotion (‘arrogant’).

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

The Day That A Ran Away by [Fegan, B.C.R.]Master Jet has forgotten to complete his homework… or has he? Jet’s teacher is surprised to find that instead of the alphabet, his page is completely blank. Jet tries to explain that it really isn’t his fault. After all, how can he help it, if none of his letters want to stay on the page!

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Because…come on…they’re AWESOME!

Ellie Collins Author Interview

Ellie Collins Author Interview

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful follows young Daisy as she struggles to fit in at school and finds help from an unlikely friend. What was your inspiration for this story?

Well, Persephone is my favorite Greek goddess, so I knew I wanted a story featuring her. And, to me, Persephone’s story is all about standing up for yourself. I wanted the moral of my story to match the moral of Persephone’s story, so I came up with D.J. I didn’t want it to be mistaken for a book about bullying, though, so I wanted to put D.J. in a situation where she needed to stand up for herself, but not because she was going up against a “bad guy”.

There is a unique infusion of Greek mythology in this book. Why did you want to use that theme throughout the book?

Like I said, I knew I wanted to write books about the Greek gods, because…come on…they’re AWESOME! I didn’t want my books to feel like historical stories, though, so I came up with a way to bring up the stories of the Greek gods while actually writing about kids living today.

I liked Daisy’s character, and I felt she was relatable. Did you plan her character before writing or did she develop organically while writing?

So, the first thing I did was come up with a god to write about: Persephone. Then I wrote an outline to the story. THEN I wrote up character descriptions for all the characters. A lot of my characters share names with people I know in my real life. Some of the character personalities match those of the people they’re named after and some are different than the real people. D.J. wasn’t named after anybody I know; she’s just made up. I would say all the characters developed a little more as I wrote the story, but they all started off with pretty detailed character descriptions. That was actually the hardest part of writing the book – coming up with the back story and personalities for everyone. I tried to include at least one fact about each character that the readers never find out – just to try to make them really real, know what I mean?

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

Funny that you should ask that! The second book in the series is Mylee In The Mirror, and it’s available AS OF TODAY! This book is about Aphrodite. I’m really excited about this book because it has TWO main characters, Mylee and one of her best friends and teammates, Ty (Tyson). I was nervous about writing about older kids (the main characters are in the ninth grade, and I’ve obviously never been in the ninth grade before – it was easier with Daisy, Bold & Beautiful, because I was the same age as D.J. when I wrote it). I was also nervous about writing from the perspective of a guy, but writing about Ty was super fun and I might even make my next main character a guy!

Author Links: GoodReads | Ellie’s Mom’s Twitter Account | FacebookWebsite

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful by [Collins, Ellie]D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she’s starting middle school in the city with kids she’s never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she’ll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can’t possibly be real—and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is the debut novel of middle-schooler Ellie Collins, daughter of award-winning author Stephanie Collins. Boys and girls alike will appreciate Ellie’s keen eye for the challenges of growing up that she and her friends must face. Discover the wonderful writing of Ellie now, then follow her to learn about her writing and more books to come.

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