Interview with Melissa Abramovitz, author of ‘Helping Herbie Hedgehog’

0799Melissa Abramovitz has been a freelance writer/author for 30 years and specializes in writing nonfiction magazine articles and books for all age groups. She is the author of hundreds of magazine articles, more than 40 educational books for children and teenagers, numerous poems and short stories, several children’s picture books, and a book for writers titled A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write and Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines.  Melissa graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in psychology and is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of SCBWI, NABE, and The Working Writer’s Club. Visit her website at www.melissaabramovitz.com  

Thank you for joining us today, Melissa. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself? I’ve been writing professionally for about thirty years and love being a writer. Most of the work I do is writing books for educational book publishers, but I also write magazine articles for all age groups, some fiction, poetry, and children’s picture books. So I’m what you call an eclectic writer since I don’t stick to one type of writing or one genre. In addition to working full-time as a writer, I enjoy volunteering regularly at my local animal shelter – yes, I’m an animal lover and really enjoy doing something that makes a tiny positive difference in the world. And I spend as much time as possible with my family. I have two grown sons and three beautiful grandchildren! 

When did you first get bit by the writing bug? I have enjoyed writing all my life. As a child I used to write stories and poems all the time, and the first thing I ever had published was a poem I wrote when I was in high school. The poem won some sort of competition and was featured in a local school district publication. Believe it or not, I even enjoyed writing term papers in high school and college because I liked finding new ways to express myself through writing. But I never envisioned having a career as a writer until later on. I got my degree in psychology and planned to become a clinical psychologist, but that never came to be. When my children were small, I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, and I decided to take a writing class to explore the possibility of starting a part-time career in writing that I could fit in around my main role as a mom/homemaker. I sold the first magazine article I submitted to a publisher, and I was on my way! But it wasn’t all smooth sailing – like all writers, I received and still receive lots of rejections. But being a writer has proven to be a perfect career for me. 

HHH9x150Why did you decide to write stories for children? The first writing course I took was through the Institute of Children’s Literature, so I learned a lot about writing for children through that class. I also write for adults, and enjoy that too, but there is something very special about writing for kids. Not only do I like creating stories and books that kids will want to read, but writing for children has restored my child-like wonder about the world because it helps me see the world through childrens’ eyes. 

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience? Absolutely. Some people think it’s easy to write for children, but it’s much more difficult than writing for adults is. Every word and idea must be age-appropriate for children. The word counts for childrens’ books and magazine articles are typically much more stringent than for adults, and this is also challenging. It is incredibly difficult to present a story or nonfiction piece in 100 to 500 words, which is a typical length for young children. 

What is your favorite part of writing for young people? I really like knowing that something I wrote has the potential to get kids excited about reading or that it can motivate them to become better people or do something good in the world. 

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? Helping Herbie Hedgehog is an interactive picture book/early chapter book about a clueless hedgehog who needs help figuring out how to get places and go about doing other things in his day like chores, shopping, exercising, and other activities. Amusing rhymes invite kids to help Herbie make decisions such as whether to ride his bicycle or take a sailing ship across the ocean, or whether he should buy a hat or a shoe to wear on his head. As the book blurb states, “Herbie has places to go and things to do. But he needs some help ‘cause he hasn’t a clue! If you’ll help Herbie decide what’s right and wrong, he’ll be busy and happy the whole day long!”  Recommended for children ages 2 to 7, Helping Herbie Hedgehog helps kids learn about everyday things while having fun.

What inspired you to write it? : Most of the books, poems, and magazine articles I write are educational in some way. I’m always looking for ways to make learning about concepts or other ideas fun for kids.  Many years ago, knowing how much small children enjoy being right, I got the idea to write a series of funny poems about animal characters that need to figure out how to get places and do other things. I decided to engage young readers in helping the characters decide what to do, given some silly choices. I ended up incorporating all the poems into a book that featured a single character, Herbie Hedgehog. 

Where can readers purchase a copy? It’s available at Amazon www.amazon.com/Helping-Herbie-Hedgehog-Melissa-Abramovitz/

and at the Guardian Angel Publishing website: www.guardianangelpublishing.com/herbie-hedgehog.htm 

What is up next for you? I’m always working on new educational books, and plan to continue to do that. I’ve also completed several more picture books and hope to find publishers for these books. I’ve been thinking that the best way to go about this may be to hire an agent, even though I’ve never used an agent before.  So many publishers have closed their doors to unagented submissions these days. So I need to invest some serious time in finding the right agent. And of course I’m looking forward to doing more promotions for Helping Herbie Hedgehog!

Do you have anything else to add? Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share information about Herbie Hedgehog and myself. I’ve been thrilled by the positive reviews and feedback I’ve received about Helping Herbie Hedgehog since it was released, and hope this book continues to be a source of laughter and fun for those who read it.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Melissa. We wish you much success.

 

Book Review: ‘Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids’ by Whitney Stewart

Meditation is an Open Sky banner (1)Title: Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids
Author: Whitney Stewart
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Format: Hardcover/Kindle

Meditation is an Open Sky 3Book Description: Feeling mindful is feeling good! You know when you’re having a bad day, you have that wobbly feeling inside and nothing seems to go right? Find a quiet place, sit down, and meditate! In this daily companion, kids of any age will learn simple exercises to help manage stress and emotions, find focus, and face challenges. They’ll discover how to feel safe when scared, relax when anxious, spread kindness, and calm anger when frustrated. Simple, secular, and mainstream, this mindfulness book is an excellent tool for helping kids deal with the stresses of everyday life.

My Thoughts…

Wow, this is a wonderful book for kids to introduce them to the art–and habit–of meditation. So many skills are taught in school…yet I wish this important one could be taught as well. The author has done an amazing job at explaining not only what meditation is, but also provided instructions on how to meditate depending on the child’s various moods–all in simple, straightforward language. The illustrations match the content beautifully, with soft pastel colors that are calming to the mind. I can’t say enough good things about this important book. If you’re a parent or a grandparent, I urge you to buy it for your little ones. If you’re a teacher, this would be a wonderful book to have a class meditation as a group. Highly recommended!

New Release: Something Like Grace by Anelise Farris

grace

Two sisters—Noah Blank and her younger sister Cali, both live in Middletown, Maryland with their parents. The story begins just as summer is starting, and the girls are ending school.

Noah has a dark secret.

Cali, who prefers to view life through the lens of her camera, neat and contained, documents the changes in her sister—hoping to bring help to Noah before it is too late.

In the midst of this, a stranger arrives in Middletown—a mysterious, young, vagabond—determined to help Cali overcome her fear of the world around her.

While Cali is learning to love, Noah is struggling just to live. This is a story of grace, of survival, and of the all-too-familiar struggles of an average, beautifully dysfunctional American family.

 

File Size: 500 KB
Print Length: 188 pages
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press (April 8, 2015)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00UPFP7UI

Purchase at Amazon!

Anelise Farris was born in the Deep South, and she continues to reside in the Lesser South area of Northern Virginia. Anelise is currently an Adjunct Professor of English at a few local colleges and a part-time bookseller at The Winchester Book Gallery. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from George Mason University with a concentration in Folklore, Mythology, and Literature, as well as a Masters from Mason in English Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Folklore Studies. Her research interests include children’s literature, folklore, horror and monster theory, disability studies, mythology, fantasy and science fiction, and major writers of Modernism, Existentialism, and the Beat Generation.

Anelise intends to begin working towards her PhD in English in the near future, but for now she satisfies her desire to be a student again by living vicariously through each of her students. Anelise lives with her husband and three beautiful children: a dog and a cat, Mulder and Scully respectively, and a kitten named Loki —all are aptly named, for the most part. When she is not teaching or being a student, she enjoys writing and reading (naturally), hiking, traveling (especially to literary sites), music of all kinds (playing and listening), and cooking vegetarian concoctions that she forces on her poor husband. Growing up in a family of eight and marrying a husband who grew up in a family of twelve, Anelise is continually inspired by the lives of people around her, the power of memory, and the quirkiness of daily life.

First Chapter Review: Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

 

1st Chapter Review TC&TBC

BLURB:  Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics’ accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but didn’t stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho. At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift taunts Savi because of her injury.

When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water river rafting adventure, Savi refuses to get in the same raft with Conner. Unfortunately, the director will not reassign her.

A fun expedition down the river turns into a nightmare when their raft slams into a huge rock and their adult guide disappears down the river.

Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “last chance” marker and enter the larger rapids. With Jade pinned between the raft and a rock, and Rico clinging to a lifeline, Savi must cut the raft free.

When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified.

Savi becomes the unlikely leader who tries to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who Savi fears is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome adversity.

Escape Through the Wilderness coverCOVER: I find this cover fascinating. The author has toured with this book before. I loved it then. I love it now. The dark colors with the glowing yellow eyes make it a tiny bit creepy, but it is a stunning cover.

FIRST CHAPTER: Savannah Evans, also called Savi, makes quick friends with Jade at Camp Arrowhead. Savi’s run in with Connor Swift doesn’t go quite as smoothly.

KEEP READING: I am on Chapter 12, so I’ll let you be the judge. :) The opening chapter mostly introduces the characters, but it also sets up the conflict that we will see later on. In addition, it actually opens with a news blurb about the disappearance of the four teens and then goes back in time two days to when they all met, so it’s a neat way to drop the reader right into the action, followed by a tiny bit of backstory. I look forward to more.

 

For More Information

I received this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

 

Escape Through the Wilderness banner

Coming in April: One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart

stolen

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination, and the salvation of love.

5 5/8 x 8 1/8 in; 280 pp;
Hardcover
April 2015
ISBN 9781452128313

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of books for both adults and young readers, includingGoing Over, You Are My Only, Small Damages, and Handling the Truth. She lives in Devon, Pennsylvania.

Guest Book Review: Rosabelle by Linda Harrington

rosabelle

Print Length: 208 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00M1TIJKG
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, animal stories

Rating: 4 stars
Rosabelle by Linda Harrington is a delightful children’s book set in rural New Zealand, in the 1970s. The main focus of the story falls upon 11-year-old Jane Williams, and their father’s racehorse, the titular Rosabelle. When Jane’s father has a suspicious accident at the racing stables, he is unable to work for a good while; this wreaks havoc upon the family’s finances, as well as family relationships since Jim Williams is a proud man, not used to accepting help from people. Rosabelle is the family’s last hope because she is such a good racer. However, finances are so tight that Jim even considers selling Rosabelle to his so-called friend and associate, Don O’Leary. But things are going wrong all round with various farmers’ sheep being stolen from farms. When Jane overhears O’Leary making sinister remarks about her father and Rosabelle, she is on the alert to his motives. Sadly, no one believes her until disaster strikes again and more sheep go missing. With the help of her friend Marta, and with information helpfully supplied by her teacher, Mr. Dunkerton, and with surprising assistance from Rosabelle herself, Jane sets out to expose Don O’Leary and get back those sheep. But it’s not going to be as easy as she thought!

The story unfolds slowly, and this enables young readers to really get to know Jane, her family and her friends, and also to learn about Rosabelle. The pace of living several decades ago was very different as well, and the author has a delightful way of describing rural life, as well as deftly inserting interesting snippets of historical information to place readers in the ’70s context. Readers also learn more about Jane’s family history (which has an interesting outcome), and might be keen to dig into their own family backgrounds as a result. There is enough horse detail to satisfy equine fans, without overpowering readers not as familiar with saddle soap and stables! I enjoyed this book very much; the author painted the entire story with loving strokes, imbuing it with a whimsical charm that seeps right through each page, making the ambiance, the era, the characters and their lives come to life. I especially enjoyed Jane’s Scottish teacher, the eccentric Mr. Dunkerton, and his bagpipes. The author includes a front map and a back glossary of unfamiliar words and terms which young readers will also enjoy, enabling them to place the location of the story and to understand the colloquial words and terms. This book will appeal to young readers and those who enjoy family oriented stories.

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.