Tags: cadence in children's book, Junie B. Jones, writing questions
As I mentioned in this week’s From the Family Bookshelf, before the Lil Diva officially declared she hated reading, she was engrossed in Junie B. Jones is (almost) a Flower Girl by Barbara Park. Now, until this book, I had no exposure to any of the Junie B. Jones books, but I know that the Lil Diva has mentioned how much she loved them on more than one occasion–prior to her announce hatred of reading, of course.
Every Monday through Thursday in school the students are required to read 20 minutes a night and log it. One night, she was feeling a bit lazy and asked me to read. I agreed to do it and we sat down to read the next several pages in June B. Jones is (almost) a Flower Girl.
Imagine my horror when Junie B. Jones said, “‘zactly” instead of “exactly”, “worstest” instead of “worst”, and “runned” instead of “ran”. Now, I’m not claiming that five-year-old children don’t speak that way, but if these books are going to be used in schools, shouldn’t the grammar be more accurate?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love in this book too: it’s hilarious, Junie B. Jones and her friends are adorable, and all the characters act exactly the way I imagine they would. I just get to wondering if cadence and the need to create unique characters becomes more important than proper English sometimes.
In my middle grade novel, Amelia’s Mission, I’m struggling with cadence too. I don’t want all the African Americans sounding the same, but I want their manner of speaking to help paint a picture for my readers. Ralph is a Negro teenage boy who has lived most of his life up north. Bertha, however, lived in the south, escaped slavery, and is now Aunt Martha’s paid servant. Aunt Martha, Ronald, and many of the residents of my fictional New England town, Westwood, have spent their entire lives there. Amelia, grew up in Pennsylvania, but moves to Westwood after the death of her parents. Their geographical locations will influence their manner of speaking, but I don’t want that to be so prominent the reader finds it distracting.
What are your feelings on cadence in children’s books? Should it be limited? Is it okay for characters to use age-appropriate language? What is more important to you: that your child reads or that the author uses proper english?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Tags: books for girls, children's fantasy, comic book heroes, Joe Sergi, Middle Grade books, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, superhero books, Teen fiction, Tween fiction, virtual book tour, Young Adult fiction
Today’s guest blogger is Joe Sergi, author of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy. Joe Sergi is an author who lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife, Yee, and daughter, Elizabeth. He has published short prose stories and articles in the horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Joe has also written for comics in the romance, horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy is his first novel. In 2008, Joe was selected as a semi-finalist in the Who Wants to Create a Superheroine contest sponsored by the Shadowline Imprint of Image Comics. When not writing, Joe works for an unnamed government agency.
“The Secret Origin of Sky Girl” by Joe Sergi
Stan Lee once said that he created Spider-Man because he saw a spider on the wall of his studio. Frankenstein’s Monster was dreamed up over a rainy weekend in 1816. The lead character of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy was conceived in a comic’s podcast forum project and born out of a father’s love for his daughter.
The Comic Geek Speak Podcast is made up of a bunch of great guys that love comics. I have listened to them for several years and am still an active member of their forums. It was on those forums that I learned about a proposed prose anthology, which would be written by the listeners of the podcast. I wrote a story called the Return of Power Boy, a story about a middle aged accountant, who may or may not be a superhero. (The anthology was never produced and the story was later featured in A Thousand Faces, the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction.) The story was a very dark tale of what happens when a super villain wins. One of the very minor characters was the accountant’s four year-old daughter, CeeCee.
Sometimes writers don’t create their characters, they channel them and that’s what happened with CeeCee. After the story was finished, I kept coming back to that little girl. What kind of life would she live, would she develop her father’s powers, and what would she do if she did? Well, CeeCee became DeDe, and the character of Sky Girl was born.
By this time, I had a daughter of my own, Elizabeth. And I can’t help but think that this is what converted the very dark Powerboy story into the light hearted story of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy. It is also why DeDe is a strong teenager and not defined by the men in her life. Don’t get me wrong, she is not your typical one-dimensional stereotype. Like most of us, DeDe is bold and confident when she is with her best friend and family, yet she is shy and insecure in public, especially when it comes to her crush, Adam, and rival, Nicole. This first book is really about DeDe’s journey to find herself and she makes a lot of good decisions, but she also makes some bad and selfish ones. But, she ends up in the right place. I hope she inspires my daughter to make good decisions.
At one point in the evolution of the story, someone had suggested that I make the main character into a boy (because comic readers are predominantly male). That idea never caught on because I think women and men handle conflict differently. This concept is explored more fully in the second book, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures. For example, there is a cliché in comics that when two heroes meet, there is always a misunderstanding that requires the two superheroes to fight before they can team up. DeDe handles this type of conflict very differently when she goes up against another costumed heroine in the second book. Similarly, comics frequently feature the grudge match, where a villain challenges a hero to a fight where the only goal is for the villain to beat the hero senseless (usually culminating in a new costume for the hero and a rematch). In my opinion, a superheroine would not engage in this mindless violence and would instead respond with a polite “no thank you” before flying away. Does that make women better heroes–absolutely not–but it does allow an outlet for more creative storytelling.
At the end of the day, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, and the character of Sky Girl is the culmination of reading far too many great comics, finding far too few strong female characters and loving my daughter just enough. I would like to thank The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection for letting to talk about the secret origin of Sky Girl.
Tags: book reviews, books for young readers, books that teach a lesson, books that teach children a lesson, Carlton Scott, children's books, Children's picture books, children's books that teach a lesson, children's fantasy, Fantasy, Glamour Girl from the Stars, Rhyming books
Glamour Girl from the Stars by Carlton Scott is the story of PleeDee, an alien girl who borrows her father’s spaceship to come to earth for the Miss Universe Pageant. After traveling around earth and experiencing different cultures, PleeDee soon discovers she feels good about herself without entering any beauty pageants.
Scott is back with a new book, one that seeks to teach girls about self-esteem. A very important message, but one, that seems a tiny bit lost to me in this story until the last two pages. PleeDee decides to leave her planet to enter the Miss Universe Pageant. She ends up in the land of dinosuars before making it to Las Vegas in 2010. She then travels to Waikiki, China, Africa, and Rome before reaching her destination, all to find ”two skinny women…tugging the same Zero Size Gown…” There are no girls from other planets at the pageant, “Only tall hungry females…”
I couldn’t quite connect the dots to see how PleeDee’s experiences in each of these places translated into her feeling good about herself. Yes, she surfs, meets some lovely animals, walks through Roman ruins, and becomes quickly disillusioned once she reached LA, but how could a young reader figure out those things impacted her self-esteem?
The artwork in this book, however, is wonderful. I love the scenes that Scott created of each place PleeDee stopped, and of PleeDee. She’s one hip looking alien.
Kids will enjoy the space travel and the nifty things PleeDee gets a chance to do on her journey to earth. I would like to see a more focused message.
For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/05/13/blog-tour-carlton-scotts-glamour-girl-from-the-stars/ You can learn more about this author and purchase his books at http://www.carltonsbooks.com/index.html.
Tags: American Civil War, Beverly Stowe McClure, book reviews, books that teach a lesson, Caves Cannons and Crinolines, Historical fiction, Just Breeze, North and South, Rebel in Blue Jeans, YA historical, Yankees and Rebels, Young Adult fiction
Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure is a fascinating story for teens that will bring them up close to the American Civil War and the seige of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The year is 1863. Young Elizabeth (Lizzie) Stamford is fourteen years old, but has already lived a lifetime of troubles. Vicksburg is under siege by the Union Army. Shells fly overhead, damaging their beautiful home. The family is forced, like many in Vicksburg, to seek shelter in a nearby cave. Lizzie’s mother has some of their belongings brought down to the cave, but no matter how many things from the house are placed inside, for Lizzie, it’s still ony a cave.
Lizzie’s father tends to the wounded at the hospital, while her brothers Willie and Joseph fight for the Confederacy on the front lines. Lizzie’s heart aches with worry over her brothers, being kept from her home, and rarely seeing her father.
Torn between living the life of a proper young lady during a time where nothing seems proper anymore, and her need to do her part, Lizzie disguises herself as a boy and decides to enlist in the Confederate Army. She quickly discovers the horrors of war. An encounter with a Yankee soldier places everything she knows about the North and the South in jeopardy. Is it possible the Yankees and the Rebels have more in common than she thinks?
Every time I read a book by Beverly Stowe McClure, I am astounded by how much better her newest book is than the last. All of her books for teens that I’ve read have strong female leads, but the addition of her younger brother, Nat, in this book will also allow it to appeal to young men. While Rebel in Blue Jeans and Just Breeze were contemporary stories, with Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, McClure shows she can write an excellent historical. I absolutely loved this book!
Having studied the American Civil War for many years now, I can say without a doubt that McClure did her research and used it well. I felt I was right in the middle of Vicksburg alongside Lizzie. In an age where we teach our children so much about tolerance and acceptance of others, this book could be helpful in relaying that message. Students studying the Civil War would also get a great deal out of reading Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, as it would open up room for discussion on a variety of topics surrounding this period of American history.
Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines is a thought-provoking, emotion-filled read. While targeted for young adults, don’t be surprised if a parent ends up enjoying this one as well. Readers who appreciate strong female characters, those with an interest in American history, and anyone who likes books you just can’t put down, will want to pick up a copy of this one.
- Publisher: Twilight Times Books
- ISBN: 1-60619-112-8
- SRP: $14.95
Tags: 4RV Publishing, animal lovers books, bath time books, Beth Bence Reinke, book reviews, books for healthy bodies, books for young readers, books that encourage good hygiene, books that teach a lesson, books that teach children a lesson, children's books, Children's picture books, children's books that foster imagination, children's books that teach a lesson, Ginger Nielson, In My Bath
In my Bath takes the reader on a fun adventure with a boy who imagines he is jumping waves, floating on the tide, jumping from lily pad to lily pad, and so much more.
I wonder if Reinke has the heart of a child to capture the delight of pretending you’re something much different than you are in this wonderful story that could help encourage regular bath time.
I don’t know how your children are, but each of my kids went through a stage where bathing was akin to torture. Getting them into the tub was such a struggle I sometimes ended up just washing them in the sink. Where was this book then?
Ginger Nielson provided the illustrations for In My Bath. I couldn’t help but think of our vacations to the Outer Banks of North Carolina as I read the book. The colors she used, the marine wildlife depicted, and everything from water foam to the sheer enjoyment seen in the boy’s eyes, remind me of our times at the beach.
And once bath time is over, the boy’s toys get picked up, we see him in his pajamas with his toothbrush in his hand, and he’s thinking of new adventures he’ll have in his bath the next time.
In My Bath by Beth Bence Rienke would make excellent reading right before starting your nightly routine of winding the kids down and preparing them for bed. But don’t be surprised if they ask to read this one throughout the day. With this much fun and adventure, it won’t be on the shelf long.
Tags: animal lovers books, book reviews, books for young readers, books that teach a lesson, books that teach children a lesson, children's books, Children's picture books, children's books that teach a lesson, Donna J. Shepherd, Guardian Angel Publishing, Kevin Collier, kid's books with animals as main characters, Rhyming books, Sully's Topsy Tale, Topsy Tales trilogy
What is a snake who only sings solo supposed to do when he gets laryngitis? You’ll find out when you pick up a copy of Sully’s Topsy Tale by Donna J. Shepherd.
In this final book in the Topsy Tales trilogy, Sully the Snake is so used to singing solo that when he gets laryngitis, he and the other animals aren’t sure how to deal with the silence. One by one, Sully’s friends take a turn at livening up the jungle, giving Sully time to rest his sore throat and teaching him a wonderful lesson in the process.
This is the first book in the series I’ve read. Now, I want to buy the other two. This is a fun, rhyming tale of friendship that teaches children to appreciate each other’s talents–an excellent lesson at any age.
Having also read Shepherd’s Poodle & Doodle, I can tell you this book is just as enjoyable as the story of that prissy little poodle who became upset when a mangy mutt was brought home. I’ve always enjoyed stories that assigned human characteristics to animals and used them to gently teach children important life lessons. Shepherd’s books accomplish this task well.
Kevin Collier is the illustrator for this one, which kind of surprised me. I can usually pick out Kevin’s work easily. While you can still see his style of wide, round eyes and bright colors, the lines coming more to a point, the jagged edges, and the color selection all blend together with this jazzy story to create a lovely compliment to the words.
Sully’s Topsy Tale is a story many youngsters are sure to enjoy!
Tags: animal lovers books, book reviews, books that teach a lesson, books that teach children a lesson, children's books, Children's picture books, children's books that teach a lesson, Ebeneezer's Cousin, Guardian Angel Publishing, Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell, Kristen Zajac
A moving story of helping those we love is what you’ll find in Ebeneezer’s Cousin by Kristen Zajac.
Maria brings in pictures for show and tell of the many interesting places her military father has visited. But one day, she no longer has pictures to bring. Her father has been wounded and will no longer be visiting those interesting places. When her father struggles to deal with losing his independence, Maria is determined to help him, so that he can begin to smile again.
What a timely and beautiful book from Guardian Angel Publishing and Kristen Zajac! A touching story of how we can help our military men and women who return with injuries, Zajac handles this sensitive topic well.
While Ebeneezer’s Cousin shares how lonely Maria’s dad felt while he was away and the struggles he goes through after he is injured, this is truly Maria’s story of trying to help her Dad regain his spirit and his independence, just as she helped him cope with his loneliness by sharing her beloved stuffed monkey.
I can’t remember the last time a children’s book has touched my heart in such a meaningful way.
The illustrations by Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell are as lovely as the story. The bright colors capture your eye and the emotions displayed on the characters’ faces will capture your heart.
You can purchase a printed copy of Ebeneezer’s Cousin for wounded veterans and families at a military hospital, through the Friends of Ebeenezer Program. You’ll find details on the book’s page found at the publisher’s website.
I highly recommend this family story to everyone. Many families will be touched by this one.
Also available as a PDF download and an eBook CD.