Cadence in Children’s Books

 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.

From the Family Bookshelf

Where has this month gone? I can’t believe July is almost here. The girls have been out of school since Monday. The Lil Princess joined our library’s “Go Green” summer reading program. The Lil Diva has officially declared she hates reading. When I suggested she join the summer reading program, not only did I get the eyes rolling up into her eyelids, I also received the lovely hand on the hip deal. How did I manage to end up with a kid who doesn’t enjoy reading?

In this issue of From the Family Bookshelf, you’ll once again get a glimpse into what our family has been reading lately. I, as usual, have read more books than anyone else; but that should change a bit with the Lil Princess participating in the summer reading program.

I really thought Dad would move right from Prayers for the Assassin  by Robert Ferrigno to the next book in this series, Sins of the Assassin, but he didn’t. After a short reading break, he moved onto the third book in The Zion Chronicles, The Return to Zion, by Bodie and Brock Thoene. This series is Christian historical fiction set aroung WWII. He has already read the first two books in this series, The Gates of Zion and A Daughter of Zion.

May 27th was the last time I updated this column. Sorry about that. With the wedding, the end of the school year, and preparing to leave for North Carolina on July 2nd, I haven’t been blogging as much as I usually do.

During that time I’ve read Ebeneezer’s Cousin, In My Bath, Sully’s Topsy Tale, Grin’s Message, Little Big Wolf, and Glamour Girl, all children’s books.  You can find those reviews on this site. I’ve also read Caves, Cannons and Crinolines, which is YA historical fiction from Beverly Stowe McClure. That review is also posted at this site.

At The Book Connection, I recently posted reviews of: The Wildcat’s Burden (sci-fi/alternative world) by Christopher Hoare, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner (historical fiction), At Home with Laurie Ann by Laurie Ann McMillin Ray (home decorating), and Why God Matters by Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steven Lumbert (Catholic nonfiction). I also read The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Colleen Coble as part of the Amazon Vine program. I am currently reading The Last Operative by Jerry Jenkins. If you want to know my Jerry Jenkins story, just ask!

The Lil Diva moved right from her Katie & Kimble books into reading Junie B. Jones.  I’ll have a separate post coming up about this book soon, but I thought kids were supposed to enjoy reading about those older than them. Junie B. Jones is a few years younger than her, so I wasn’t expecting that one. She read

The Lil Princess has been reading to herself, so I haven’t been privy to what she’s been reading lately. She hides in her room, shuts the door, and wanders off for a while. I know that she recently picked up a copy of The Raindrop by Brian McClure that I had in my office. She always asks before taking off with anything from here, since she never knows if it belongs in the TBR pile, the giveaway pile, or somewhere in between. :)

That’s about it for From the Family Bookshelf. I hope you enjoyed reading along. Until next time, keep reading!

The Secret Origin of Sky Girl by author Joe Sergi

Today’s guest blogger is Joe Sergi, author of Sky Girl and the Superheroic LegacyJoe 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. 

Joe’s publications can be found at www.joesergi.net. For more about Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, visit the book’s website at www.skygirlnovel.com.  

“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.



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Glamour Girl from the Stars by Carlton Scott

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.

Rating:  :) :) :)

  • Publisher:  Ends of the Earth Books
  • ISBN:  0-9636652-4-3
  • SRP:  $9.95
  • 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.



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    Little Big Wolf by Carlton Scott

    Nathan dreams he is exploring the rocky trails of the forest when a large wolf pounces. Suddenly the wolf appears nervous, and Nathan and he stumble upon two hunters. Nathan soon discovers the other source of the wolf’s anxiety, a pup that is too sick to play.  Nathan tends to the pup, then he and the wolf continue their adventure.

    Little Big Wolf by Carlton Scott brings young readers on an adventure into the forest, where a young boy befriends a pack of wolves. Soon, she discovers, however, this is just Nathan’s birthday dream.

    I have to admit to being on the fence over this book.  The storyline is good, though I’m not sure I care for a young boy wandering off into the woods and becoming friends with wild animals. The prose flows relatively smooth, but I guess I’m missing the point of the book. Perhaps the author is going for a subtle humans and animals can easily share the same world and humans should help animals in need type of message, but that isn’t truly clear to me.

    The other thing that stood out to me is the illustrations. In Grin’s Message, the author fully illustrated the book. But in Little Big Wolf, Scott opted to use nature photographs along with his drawings of Nathan, the wolves, and other people or things superimposed (I believe this is the correct term) over them. It gives the book an amateurish feel, besides looking odd.

    It’s a nice story, but after reading Grin’s Message I was hoping for a bit more.

    Rating:  :) :) :)

  • Publisher:  Ends of the Earth Books
  • ISBN:  0-9636652-8-6
  • SRP:  $9.95


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    Grin’s Message by Carlton Scott

    A charming story with an excellent message is what you’ll find in Grin’s Message by Carlton Scott.

    Grin is a bottlenose dolphin who likes to help others. When Ollie the Octopus gets caught in the trash between some stones, Grin helps him get free. He encourages Ollie to spread his message and help others, which Ollie does when he meets Moo Moo and Mee Mee the manatees. But it will take all of them to get Grin out of trouble when the time arrives.

    Grin’s Message is an enjoyable rhyming story that encourages children to help each other. In addition to the more subtle message of protecting our environment, Grin, the manatees, and Ollie show readers how wonderful it can be when we all do what we can to help out.

    Beautifully written and illustrated by Carlton Scott, Grin’s Message is sure to have many young fans.

    Rating:  :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher:  End of the Earth Books
  • ISBN:  0-9636652-7-8
  • SRP:  $9.95
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    Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure

    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.

    Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

    • Publisher:  Twilight Times Books
    • ISBN:  1-60619-112-8
    • SRP:  $14.95



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    In My Bath by Beth Bence Reinke

     Imagination and bath time come together in this delightful book by Beth Bence Reinke.

    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.
     

    Rating:   :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
  • ISBN-10: 0982588666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982588666
  • SRP:  $13.99


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    Sully’s Topsy Tale by Donna J. Shepherd

    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!

    Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 1616330473
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616330477
  • SRP:  $10.95


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    Ebeneezer’s Cousin by 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.

    Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)

  • Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 1616330457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616330453
  • SRP:  $10.95
  • Also available as a PDF download and an eBook CD.



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