Research, the Library and Kid’s Books, Oh My!

I spent yesterday morning at the library researching books from one of the literary agencies I want to pitch my next story to. Our local librarian was a huge help. I found most of the books I wanted easily, but she helped me locate what I didn’t see, and even trudged down to the basement to find seasonal titles that were still in storage. By the time I was done, I had a dozen books in  my arms that I brought home to read.

Most of them were fabulous. Some ended up being good comparisons to my next story, others not so much. There were two, however, that really caught my eye.

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melissa Long, and illustrated by David Shannon is hilarious. Jeremy Jacob used to be a pirate, but today he is wondering what he will buy for his mother’s birthday with the twenty-seven cents in his pockets. Mom leaves Jeremy in charge of his sleeping baby sister while she runs to the store for milk.

A knock at the door draws his attention to the peephole. Jeremy’s pirate friends have arrived. Their ship has run aground and they need to dig up the treasure they buried in Jeremy’s backyard. But their yelling wakes up Jeremy’s little sister and they need to calm her before she wakes up her napping father. So, instead of searching for treasure, Jeremy and his pirate friends become babysitters. Diapers and spinach flow freely. When the treasure map disappears, the pirates fear they’ll be marooned.

I haven’t read Long and Shannon’s previous book, How I Became a Pirate, but I need to because this one was so funny. The Lil Diva saw the book on the kitchen table and screeched, “I love that book.” That doesn’t happen too often.  🙂

The other book I thought was really cute is Calvin Can’t Fly by Jennifer Berne, and illustrated by Keight Bendis.  Calvin is a starling born under the eaves of an old barn along with his siblings and thousands of cousins. Calvin is different from the others. Instead of discovering worms and grass, he discovered a book. While the others are dreaming of insects he’s dreaming of stories and legends.

When it comes time to learn to fly, Calvin is too busy reading. When it’s time to migrate, they must find a way to bring Calvin with them. A huge storm comes their way. Maybe Calvin’s reading will be helpful after all.

Between the zany but meaningful story, and the superb illustrations, Calvin Can’t Fly is sure to be a hit with youngsters. It should also help encourage reading.

I’ll be back to the library by tomorrow to pick up more books by this agency if I can. I’m not sure how things will turn out for me, but I’m sure discovering some great books.


Favorite Character Halloween Books for Kids

Yes, I’m a bit early, but I figure if Wal-Mart can have their Christmas lights available for purchase in September, I can talk about Halloween books.

It’s Clifford’s first Halloween, and Emily Elizabeth dresses him up as the cutest little ghost ever. Clifford wants to try everything: trick-or-treating, candy apples, and homemade haunted houses. Discover Halloween with everyone’s favorite red puppy!

Clifford has been a favorite around here since my son was little. The girls are mostly past this stage, but every once in a while, a Clifford book is slid out of the shelf.

Avoiding a lecture from Mama Junebug, the kitty boy slips into his closet…and finds himself in ancient Egypt. His doggy pals, Los Chimichangos, want to visit Under Mundo—the underworld—where mummitos rest in peas. But they need El Skippito’s brains and courage to answer the riddle of the Finx and enter the mummy’s tomb. Our hero is up to the task, and he’s in for another grand and whirlwind adventure.

Skippyjon Jones is another Malandrinos household favorite. We had a Siamese cat for years. Plus, I like the level of imagination involved in this series.


Halloween is here, and Curious George is getting ready for the big night. There are so many costumes to try on, treats to share, and games to play! George has so much Halloween fun picking out the perfect pumpkin, decorating his house, and celebrating with his friends that he’s not sure he’s ready for the day to end. Follow the little monkey through his fun-filled day with this book of poems. Happy Halloween, Curious George is a sweet treat to help Curious George fans of all ages get in the Halloween spirit.

Is there a kid on the face of the planet who doesn’t like Curious George? When I began developing my Beatrice series–which I hope will get picked up soon–I designed her to be a female human Curious George. She’s morphed into something different now, but that curious, accidentally mischievous monkey still holds a place in  my heart.

No one knows Fancy like Nancy . . .

. . . and no one knows Halloween like Nancy!

Nancy has an exciting Halloween party to attend with her friend. Nancy gets fancy in a very special costume for the big event.

Each of the girls went through their Fancy Nancy stage. We bought some of the books for the Lil Diva and others for the Lil Princess. There seems to always be a Fancy Nancy book at the Scholastic Book Fair. They sell this book as part of a four-book series.

When I think of classic children’s books, The Berenstain Bears are right up there with some of the best. My girls never got into them much, but my son loved them. I have them saved in case he wants them for when he has kids. They have more than one spooky, Halloween type book, but Bears in the Night is one I used to read often.

Seven bears sneak out of bed, through the window, and across the dark countryside to investigate the source of a noise.  

Phineas and Ferb is one of my favorite cartoons. The brothers are determined to have an action-filled summer, while the goal of their older sister, Candace, is to get them in trouble with their Mom. They have a pet platypus named, Perry, who unknown to the family is a secret agent out to thwart the evil, Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Talk about a bowl full of imagination!

In Haunted Hayride, Phineas and Ferb have completely transformed their backyard into a giant corn maze for Halloween night. They’ve even built a wagon to take all of their friends on a haunted hayride! But little do they know that the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz has created a giant monster to destroy their town. And when the monster heads for Phineas and Ferb’s house, will Perry the Platypus–aka Agent P–be able to save the day? Or will this Halloween be a total fright night?

I have to admit I don’t understand the appeal of Junie B. Jones. She’s self-centered (not unexpected), loud, obnoxious and her English is atrocious. That said, my girls love her. I like that the series has grown with Junie B. She started out as a kindergartener and is now a first grader. She has new friends added to her old group, a new teacher, and different adversaries.

With Halloween approaching, Junie B. needs to find a costume that will scare off the real witches and ghosts that she believes will be out on the holiday.

The Lil Princess and I read this book together last year. It’s one of the funniest of the series.

I haven’t read any of the Magic Tree House books, but my girls have read them in school. I think the Lil Diva might even own a few. I like the time travel aspect of the books, in addition to the fact that this series is known to encourage reading. The Lil Diva is a reluctant reader, so if she talks about a book, I know it’s captured her attention.

Jack and Annie have traveled all over the world in their magic tree house. But they’ve never been anywhere like this. In the distance, a haunted castle looms dark against the light of the moon. No candles burn in its windows. No laughter rings through its halls.

What has happened to the castle and the people who lived there? Merlin the magician asks Jack and Annie to find out. But are they brave enough to brush the cobwebs aside and step through the creaking doors? And are they smart enough to solve the mystery of how the castle became haunted?

Find out in a story packed to the margins with magic, history, and adventure!

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve, sounds like the perfect Halloween read to me.

Now that we’ve talked about our family’s favorite character Halloween reads, can you share some of your own?

ONCE WE WERE KINGS by Ian Alexander

Be drawn into an epic battle of good versus evil in a world of shape-shifting spirits, deception, and powerful forces in ONCE WE WERE KINGS by Ian Alexander.

Render is a mistreated orphan from the Kingdom of Valdshire Tor. He escapes his life of slavery to seek his true identity and stumbles upon conspiracies.

Ahndien is the sole survivor of a heinous raid on her village in the Eastern Kingdom of Tian Kuo. She sets off in search of her father, who has been captured by Torian troops.

Both discover abilities they never knew existed. Neither realizes their destinies are entwined.

They meet as enemies, but soon discover they have been called to unite their kingdoms against a powerful enemy that threatens to destroy both realms.

I’m not a huge fan of fantasy novels, but I saw this book reviewed at Life in Review in May, and I knew I had to have a copy. Render and his brother Kaine are orphans who live as slaves for different masters; so Render feels alone much of the time. He wants to know more about their parents, but Kaine isn’t too keen on sharing. These boys are plucked out of slavery and brought to the Citadel, where Render finds more than he bargained for: like preternatural powers that allow him to wield the destructive forces of nature.

Ahndien, is a peasant girl living with her family–father, mother, and younger brother. While she is in the woods, her peaceful village is attacked, killing everyone. This pivotal moment will change Ahndein’s life forever. With the help of Lao-Ying, she discovers she can manipulate fire. They make haste to the Sojourners Council, but are hurt and angry by what they find. When Render comes along with his group–his cat, Greifer and Branson, the bratty son of Lord of Argon–Ahndien is quick to assume the worst of those who live in the opposing village.

The influence of C.S. Lewis is clear throughout ONCE WE WERE KINGS. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of Narnia. Not that the stories are so similar, but there were moments as the plot unfolded that reminded me of the feel of these classic novels. Valhandra is like Lewis’s Aslan. As I got to know Branson, he reminded me of the Pevensies’ annoying cousin Eustace. Readers of the Bible will find passages that feel familiar as Valhandra speaks to Render.

My only tiny pet peeve in an otherwise perfect young adult fantasy novel, is the use of a third person omniscient point of view. Now, I’ll admit, this is my personal pet peeve, so it’s nothing to do with the book itself. This is a fast-paced, action-filled adventure story that will draw in older teens and adults alike. Using this point of view, however, pulls me out of the story when the narrator tells the reader something a character doesn’t see or know.

I could easily see ONCE WE WERE KINGS on the silver screen. It’s outstanding! Lovers of this genre won’t want to miss this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Publisher: Dawn Treader Press
SRP:  $3.99

I received a mobi version of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide this review.

Interview with Jacquitta McManus, Author of Talee and the Fallen Object

Joining us today is Jacquitta A. McManus, author of Talee and the Fallen Object. This is a children’s book geared toward ages 4-8.

Thank you for joining us today, Jacquitta. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thank you Cheryl!

I’m the author of two fantasy adventure children’s books, Labyrinth’s Door – Anyia: Dream of a Warrior and Talee and the Fallen Object. I have always been drawn to fantasy stories and I love to be completely immersed in them. 

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I guess it’s been about 3 years now that I decided that I wanted to write children’s books. Before that I had written some scripts but not for children.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

One of the reasons was to write something I thought would excite my daughter’s imagination when she went to sleep at night. I used to read to her every night before bed and I was looking for fantasy adventure books with a female protagonist but couldn’t find any in her age group that intrigued me. The second reason was I really love the genre of fantasy adventure and I think there’s nothing better than writing for children. I believe fantasy adventure stories are a doorway to the imagination. It allows the impossible to happen and dreams to be realized. That enchants me! And who better to go on that journey with than kids.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

I’m not sure if it’s harder or easier since I haven’t attempted to write for adults yet. But I do know that I’m having fun writing for children.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

Creating the worlds and the magic for them to experience.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Talee and the Fallen Object is about an 8-year-old curious girl, Talee, who loves purple, yellow and big puffy muffins. She lives on the planet Gala, which has two moons, and landmasses that float. And yes I said float. And because the landmasses float the only way for the people to get around is by flying on friendly flying animals called Calpas.

Talee and the Fallen Object is a great elementary school-aged children’s book, as it will transport kids to another world through Talee’s telling of her adventure. She creates vivid images from beginning to end, as her curiosity piques when she sees an object fall from the backpack of a mail flyer and journeys out to see what it is.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Hello everyone. My name is Talee. It’s spelled T-A-L-E-E and it is pronounced (TAH-Lee).

I just came in from outside. The sun is out and the air feels warm. Can you feel it?

Today, I want to tell you a story I wrote about one of my GREAT adventures.

It’s a real story. Really!

It happened a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, but first I should tell you about me.

The first thing you should know is that I’m eight.

Yep! Eight and I love to read and write—especially about great adventures. My favorites are treasure hunts.

My favorite colors are purple and yellow and I wear them every day. Right now I’m wearing my purple jumpsuit, yellow socks and purple boots with yellow on them. I love my boots.

My favorite food is wild puffy muffins–the yellow ones with the pink tops as big as my hand.

The puffier, the pinker, the bigger, the better is what I always say.

My mom makes them for me every weekend and they’re the best.


What inspired you to write it?

Well, the story actually started out as a coloring book adventure. It wasn’t going to be a written book. But while I was working on the coloring book I had several people tell me that it would be great to also have a written story about the adventure. That led me to write out the adventure and I’m very glad I did. Talee really comes to life in the book.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The paperback edition is available on my website: and the ebook can be purchased on and Barnes and Nobles.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Yes. Everyone can come an visit me at my website, or the can find me on my Blog or on my Worlds To Discover Facebook Fan Page or my Talee  Faceook Fan Page or Twitter or GoodReads.

What is up next for you?

I’m currently working on my first full-length novel that I hope to have out in a couple of years. I’m also working on some short stories that I hope to have out soon.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yes! First I want to say thank you for the interview. And I would like to share one of my favorite quotes.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. (Joseph Campbell)

Let the adventure begin …

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

Interview with U.L. Harper, Author of In Blackness

Joining us today is U.L. Harper, author of Young Adult/Sci-fi-thriller novel In Blackness.

Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Harper. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Well, I’d like to consider myself having a great sense of humor. I run an after-school program and I’m working on a stand-up routine aimed at probably 4th and 5th graders. We’ll see how that goes. I skateboarded for about twelve years and played in a band for about ten. That almost sounds interesting, but I’ve been authoring for a while now too. And, oh, yeah, I’m a baseball fan. That about covers it.  

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I’ve been sick with writing since I was about, I don’t know, twelve or something. I started out with one-page stories, what we’d call flash fiction nowadays, and then one page turned into two pages, and then three pages. Before I knew it I was writing chapters. At twenty something I had a book written…by hand. I learned to type and never stopped. 

Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?

I didn’t. It just happened that the characters are young when they get started, about nine and ten years old. All the conflict just kind of happens to them and they need to deal with it. It was only by chance that basically all the adult characters die off. It’s not something I tried to do. It just kind of happened that way, which I can appreciate. 

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

I’ll be honest, the challenge is staying relevant to the times because the times seem to change pretty quickly. The other challenge is writing about home life. I don’t normally find it too interesting. What’s very cool about writing for the group is that so many things are new and fresh still. The readers just want someone to relate to and to make it fun. They want creativity. In some other genres, readers are looking for things to ground them in the story, something absolutely normal, and then they want a twist. YA says to just be cool the whole time and we’ll go with your creativity. 

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

I’m going to make this as easy as possible. Years after two kids’ parents are killed, they individually feel an urge to head back to their hometown. They don’t know that they’ve been summoned there and will be captured and tested like nobody has ever been tested before, because those doing the testing have basically nothing to do with this planet. And they’re tall and ugly. 

What inspired you to write it?

I had been writing this story for a very long time. What I mean by that is, the town they have to get back to is mentioned in a few other stories of mine. This is a place I visited as a kid and it was just such a wild place that I have to get it out of my system. Then a bunch of it came out of research. It was originally a thriller story but after doing all the research, well, I switched from looking for the perfect chemical weapon to finding out about aliens instead. 

Where can readers purchase a copy?

You get this book basically anywhere. Go online and you’ll find it. If you go into a bookstore and it’s not there then they can order it for you.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

This is what you’ve got to do. Stop by or drop in to I’ve got it going on there. 

What is up next for you?

Of course, I have the sequels to In Blackness coming up but I’m also writing something with the working title of The Miracles of Arthur Lowe. Arthur can legitimately perform miracles but it’s for a specific reason and the reader is following him not too long after he figures out why. Right now it seems fairly interesting. We’ll see. 

Do you have anything else to add?

Yeah, I’ve got something to add. Buy my books. The ebooks are pretty cheap. I’m talking like .99 cents. Who can’t afford .99 cents?

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


Life of Shouty: Good Habits by NeonSeon

Shouty ignores the advice of a man who encourages him to develop good habits. He doesn’t plan and prioritize. He chills out and relaxes. He doesn’t floss every day. His room is a disaster. He watches too much TV and his lawn is an unmanageable, overgrown mess. Looking in the mirror, he has a great vision of who he could be and begins making changes to find that person.

In this motivational children’s book geared toward ages 7 and up, the reader finds a rhyming story meant to instill good habits in kids early on. Life of Shouty: Good Habits by NeonSeon does mention important traits like setting goals, prioritizing, reading over watching TV, and taking care of your teeth. I’m not certain, however, that a book where an adult avoids paying his bills and lets his lawn grow up to his chin is the most effective for young readers. Overall, I believe the book will go over kids’ heads. While the cover art and interior illustrations are cute and whimsical, kids might not understand things like the “Something for Nothing Currency Exchange” or the “Live for the Moment funeral home.”

The main thing that caught my eye, however, is the quote on the back of the book. Here we have a book that is meant to motivate kids and it has a negative quote from Shouty on the back:

 “I have this great vision of who I could be!

As I look in the mirror, that’s not what I see.”

I would have preferred to see a more standard back cover blurb.

Shouty Mack started out as a comic strip geared toward high school students. It would work well for that market and older, but it misses the mark for younger kids. That said, I also have the second book in this series, Life of Shouty: Food & Fitness, here. I skimmed through it, and it seems much more age appropriate than its predecessor.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:Rixkin
  • ISBN-10:0984206906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984206902
  • SRP: $14.95

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide my review.

Interview with Cathy Mazur, Author of Stanley Seagull

Joining us today is Cathy Mazur, author of Stanley Seagull. This is a children’s book geared toward ages 4-8.  I had a chance to provide an endorsement for this book. I’m especially thrilled to have Cathy with us today.

Thank you for joining us, Cathy. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Scranton, PA. I received a bachelor’s degree in Library Science from Mansfield State College in 1975 and a Reading Specialist Certificate from the University of Scranton in 1978. I was employed as an elementary school librarian for the Mid Valley School District from 1975 until my retirement in 2010. I served on the Board of Directors for the Valley Community Library in Peckville, Pa. for over 20 years acting as president for one year and board secretary for 19 years. I presently serve on the library’s Developmental Committee chairing various fundraising events. I live in Dickson City, Pennsylvania with my husband Frank. We are the parents of two children, Gary, 27 and Gia, 19.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

Working as an elementary school librarian.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I have worked with children all my life and when I would read to them I was amazed at the impact the printed word had on them.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

No, because I believe that younger audiences are vastly more receptive to literature and the written word.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

Having spent most of my life working with young children and seeing the joy and excitement they received from having a story read to them.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

A seagull that gets trapped in a refuse truck that is headed for a landfill and his adventures in finding his way back home to the beach.

What inspired you to write it?

While sitting in my elementary school library I would observe large numbers of seagulls gathering on our football field. Our school is located very close to a landfill hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, and I often wondered how the gulls could adapt to such a foreign environment.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

On line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Tribute Books.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Yes. My website can be found at The book also has a Facebook page at

What is up next for you?

Promoting this book and a few ideas for new books.

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

Stanley Seagull web site:

Stanley Seagull Facebook:

Cathy Mazur Facebook:

Colleen Gedrich Facebook:

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Blog Tours:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

Cathy Mazur’s Bio:

Born in Scranton, Pa., Cathy Mazur is the daughter of Gary and Catherine H. Errico. She was educated in the Dunmore public school system and graduated from Dunmore High School in 1971. She received a bachelor’s degree in Library Science from Mansfield State College in 1975. She received a Reading Specialist Certificate from the University of Scranton in 1978. Cathy was employed as an elementary school librarian for the Mid Valley School District from 1975 until her retirement in 2010. While at Mid Valley, she instituted and coordinated the RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) program for 33 years helping students to develop a love of reading outside the classroom. Cathy served on the Board of Directors for the Valley Community Library in Peckville, Pa. for over 20 years acting as president for one year and board secretary for 19 years. She presently serves on the library’s Developmental Committee chairing various fundraising events. She resides in Dickson City, Pa. with Frank, her husband of 31 years. They are the parents of two children, Gary, 27 and Gia, 19. Now in her retirement, she is focused on writing books for children like Stanley Seagull.

Colleen Gedrich’s Bio:

Colleen Gedrich, a lifelong resident Throop, Pa., earned a BFA in illustration from Marywood University in 2002. She is a freelance illustrator specializing in animal-themed work. She enjoys creating her art using mostly watercolor and pastel. As a dedicated animal rights activist and full-time program coordinator for International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR), Colleen lives her dream of joining her passions for animals and art to promote a more harmonious world with a touch of beauty. Recent works produced by Colleen include t-shirt and invitation designs, children’s book illustrations (A Different Kind of Hero), and book covers (With God There Is Hope). Colleen has also teamed up with her very talented artist mother, Kathy Holmes .

Price: $16.95
ISBN: 9780983741817
Pages: 32
Release: July 2011

Price: $7.95
ISBN: 9780983741800
Pages: 32
Release: July 2011

Hardcover buy link: ($16.95)

Paperback buy link: ($7.95)

Kindle buy link: ($2.99)

Nook buy link: ($4.95)

iPad buy link: ($4.99)