Guest Blogger: Katherine L. Holmes, Author of The Swan Bonnet

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Unknown to Dawn, her grandfather has shot an old swan out of mercy. In their coastal Alaskan town, her father buys the swan pelt, preventing her Uncle Alex, a fur trader, from selling it for export. Dawn’s father surprises her part-Aleut mother with a hat she helped to make and also with an idea to catch poachers. Shooting swans has become illegal but Alaska is a territory and Prohibition occupies the Sheriff. Dawn and her mother become involved with suspicious responses to the swan bonnet besides its haunting effect. Because Dawn’s grandparents see the swans first, Dawn agrees to secretly watch the migration with the Deputy Sheriff’s son. But after she and her mother encounter women from a ship and find out about a hunting party, they ride to the inlet. There are also townspeople roving the shore but who is the vigilante and who is the poacher?

The Swan Bonnet Herstory by Katherine L. Holmes

We tend to absorb the history of our environment. As it was for many, Alaska was romantic to me as a frontier, romantic while living in the city. All of a sudden someone would leave Minneapolis for Alaska. My brother went there to do legal work after he had worked with Indian Legal Aid in Duluth. While he was on the south coast, I thought of moving. I read up on the state and became caught up in its history. The near extinction of swans in the United States had me thinking about settings, and soon I was planning a story.

Learning about Alaska was like learning grammar through a foreign language. I’ve never read a history book about Minnesota, though I have Midwestern ancestry going back to the mid-1800s. Mining hopes in Alaska were very similar to those on Minnesota’s Iron Range in the early 20th century. The influx of people in Northern Minnesota had similarities to Alaska’s new population. Sometimes they were the same people. Like Alaska, the fur trade began Minnesota history. I’d heard much about the 1920s on the Iron Range from my mother. Boomtowns and sudden wealth mapped the region.

After being fascinated with two books of Alaskan history, I researched swans. I read how warehouses with thousands of swan pelts were discovered, more than 10,000 at a time. Eventually hunting laws were enforced and a successful environmental chronicle was documented. I began my Alaska story as a shorter fiction about an Irish immigrant couple who bought shore property where swans migrated. But soon the story led to a coastal town and characters emerged.

When I thought of the swans being killed in masses, I knew that few women were part of such a money-making venture. How much did women help such an environmental campaign in a lone setting when a particular species were illegal to hunt? It is known how women responded to Prohibition then.

I posted the book at Authonomy.com in 2009, while I began to re-work the historical detail. I was afraid the swan hat would seem far-fetched. But it wasn’t historically. The West established its own dress. I actually hadn’t seen Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and later, when I watched the VHS, the women’s fur hats were part of the entertainment.

Not until I was rewriting the book did I realize the inspiration for the swan hat. Of course, it was meant to be the white hat of the western. But I remembered from my grade

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school years the pheasant pelts one of my brothers brought home after hunting. He hung the pheasant pelts on the wall of his room and then in the basement. These pelts fit neatly on the head so that, with my friends, I wore a pheasant hat – until my mother found out and scared us about lice. There is some kind of method to storytelling after all.

Published by Enigma Press

ISBN:  978-0615794570

172 pages

Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Swan-Bonnet-Katherine-Holmes/dp/0615794572/

Katherine L. Holmes’s first published novel, The House in Windward Leaves, was an E-book Fiction Finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Book Awards and also a Juvenile Fiction Finalist in the 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards. Her short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, was published by Hollywood Books International. In 2013, The Wide Awake Loons was published by Silver Knight Publishing and The Swan Bonnet was published by Enigma Press. Katherine lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where besides writing, she works with used books.

Visit the author online at  https://sites.google.com/site/katherinelholmesauthorprofile/

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Don’t Be Afraid to Say No by Ilona Lammertink

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Don’t Be Afraid to Say No by Ilona Lammertink will help your child realize the importance of when and how to say the word, “no.”

Poor Jill is afraid to say no to her friends because she doesn’t want them to stop liking her. But with the help of her mother, Jill learns saying no isn’t so bad.

This is a wonderful book. Lammertink has created a sympathetic character in Jill, who wishes she said no to her friends more often. It makes her sad and angry that going along with her friends can lead to bad things. With her mother’s help, Jill realizes by saying yes to her friends all the time, she’s actually saying no to her very best friend–herself.  While this can be a difficult thing to teach children, it’s also very important. We want our children to stand up for themselves without being bullies. We want them to share without feeling like they must give up their favorite toys.  We want to slowly make them independent while listening to our direction. I would recommend this book to kids and parents everywhere.

A review of a picture book isn’t complete without some mention of the artwork. I loved Lucie Georger’s style. The variety in the characters’ faces, the details on each page, and the nice combination of colors makes for a lovely book.

The last two pages of Don’t Be Afraid to Say No include information for parents and teachers, a discussion on self-confidence and how we can increase it, and a series of tips to try. You can tell Lammertink has put her experience as a child therapist to work with this book.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Clavis Publishing; Reprint edition (July 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1605371483
ISBN-13: 978-1605371481

I received a copy of this book from the author’s publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Get Well Soon, Grandpa by An Swerts

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A touching, beautifully illustrated book can be found in Get Well Soon, Grandpa! by An Swerts.

Faye is devastated when Grandpa Bert has a stroke. After many months in the hospital, he comes home to stay with Faye and her mother. Though Grandpa Bert is a bit slower at doing things, Faye soon discovers he loves her just the same.

The gentle words of An Swerts’ touching story and the lovely artwork of Jenny Bakker come together to tell the emotional story of a young girl distraught over her grandfather’s sudden impairment from a stroke. Teaching children how to cope with the health issues that plague their loved ones can be difficult to do. Here, Swerts and Bakker offer a charming story with pictures that will make your heart squeeze. Not only does Faye visit Grandpa Bert in the hospital, but she helps him with his speech and physical therapy by performing exercises right along with him. And most important, this story shows that while physical abilities can change, love doesn’t.

I was a bit hesitant about this book at first because it tackles such a tough topic. I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s a lovely story that could help many kids in the same situation.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 5 – 7 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Clavis Publishing; Reprint edition (July 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1605371556
ISBN-13: 978-1605371559

I received a copy of this book from the author’s publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Odd One Out Big and Small and In, Out, and All Around by Guido Van Genechten

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Two new books come your way from Clavis Books and Guido van Genechten. The Odd One Out series is a unique seek-and-find set of books geared toward ages 3 to 5. With van Genechten’s stunning artwork, young readers are asked to find the one that doesn’t belong.

I’ve been a fan of van Genechten’s work for some time. This talented author/illustrator gets right to the heart of the matter with children. But in this adorable new series, he’s lighten things up a bit. Kids will learn how to sort and identify differences along with a neat twist at the end. In Big and Small the questions revolve around size, but in the book In, Out, and All Around, children are looking for location and direction.

These sturdy board books will hold up to plenty of wear and tear, which is good because your child will be picking them up often. Highly recommended.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Big and Small

  • Age Range: 3 – 5 years
  • Board book: 18 pages
  • Publisher: Clavis Publishing; Brdbk edition (April 1, 2013)in out
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605371491
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605371498

In, Out, and All Around

  • Age Range: 3 – 5 years
  • Board book: 18 pages
  • Publisher: Clavis Publishing; Brdbk edition (April 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605371505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605371504

I received a free copy of each book from the author’s publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Mary Cunningham’s Blog Hop Interview

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Mary Cunningham is the author of time travel Cynthia’s Attic series–which we have discussed here at TC&TBC–and Ghost of Pine Mountain, the first book in The Adventures of Max and Maddie.

What are you working on, now?

Ghost of Pine Mountain: Adventures of Max and Maddie was released in April, 2013. I’m working on a new middle-grade series. Ghost of Pine Mountain is the first Max and Maddie adventure, with 4 more to follow. The first four stories will be released as Ebooks until the final. Then, all five stories will be combined in print.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

The whole Max and Maddie series combines supernatural elements with historical fact and fiction. The thirteen-year-old best friends travel back in time and have adventures with Native Americans and gold miners (Ghost of Pine Mountain), along with pioneers settling regions east and west of the Mississippi River.

What experiences have influenced you?ghost_of_pine_mountain-web

The biggest influence in my life was my dad. He was a journalist for a large city newspaper for forty years, and he also nurtured my love of fantasy. When he ran out of typical bedtime stories, he made up one of his own. He was an amazing writer, and I would sometimes go with him when he interviewed a subject for his human-interest column, Around Indiana, for The Louisville Courier Journal. Seeing the story process from beginning to publication had a great impact. Unfortunately, he died before I started writing my series, but, on occasion, I feel him looking over my shoulder as I write.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always been a time-travel buff beginning with H.G. Wells and “The Time Machine.” Nothing would make me happier than to be able to travel back in time and meet some of my characters. A previous series, Cynthia’s Attic, sends main characters, Cynthia and Gus, back in time where they meet and solve mysteries with many of their (my) ancestors.

How does your writing process work?

I wake up and have some coffee. Turn on my computer. Have another cup of coffee. Open my e-mails. Hit delete 75 times, or so. Have another cup of coffee…well, you get the idea. I try to write every day. I don’t like to force it, though. If the words aren’t flowing, I do something else and then go back to it. I love writing when my brain is working so fast, my fingers can barely keep up. I guess my only ritual is that (oh, this is going to sound really weird) I must have my shower and be dressed before I can write. I have a friend who writes in her jammies. Not me! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have to be in black dress slacks and white cashmere sweater! Jeans and a t-shirt will do quite nicely. Just so I’m dressed.

What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part, for me, is to stay focused and disciplined. I simply don’t have the ability to write every day whether I want to, or not. I’d much rather be in the mood to write “good stuff” than waste my time when I’m simply not feeling creative.

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What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?

I’ve started an adult mystery that I really want to finish. Writing for adults is a little more “freeing” than writing for younger readers, although no more challenging.

Who are the authors you most admire?

I’m a big Tolkien fan and have great respect for J. K. Rowling. In fact, it was Rowling who gave me permission to “write outside the box.” My favorite book: To Kill A Mockingbird. Perfect story, perfect characters, perfect writing. That’s the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned.

What scares you?

Since I’d have to write a book about extremists at both ends of the spectrum threatening world peace, I’ll make it simple and say, snakes.

Visit Mary online at http://marycunninghambooks.com/ and her blog at http://cynthiasattic.blogspot.com/

Guest Book Review: Brave. A Book about Courage by Sophie Campbell

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Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 6, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1478270845
Genre: Juvenile/Poetry
5 Stars

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Poetry is an artistic expression unlike any other. Some research suggests that poetry predates literature, starting out as songs and oral traditions of storytelling. Why poetry? The art of a few simple, well-chosen words teaches us to look at the smallest moments and details of life and learn from them. Alas, for many people the last time they read a poem was at school or university. It’s wonderful to find a book like Brave. A Book about Courage geared specifically for kids. Readers of all ages will delight in a variety of themes in this compilation of constructive acrostic, witty alliteration, haiku, alphabet, and free verse poetry. The book offers an endearing perspective about the various interests and feelings of a child in relation to hopes and aspirations, family relationships and friendships, the five senses, self and a sense of identity, animals, and life in general.

A book of poems is a gem, something to be savored and relished for each word of wisdom and awakening it offers the reader, regardless of age. In this book, many poems explore the fun, boisterous, sunny side of life, and others plunge deeper into the fearful aspects of being small in a big world. Bravery is having the courage to go out every day and tackle what comes, no matter what comes. These creatively structured poems explore what it means to cultivate respect for self and others, the meaning of good qualities, and to hold fast to the maxim that ‘anything is possible.’

Because Brave. A Book about Courage is authored by a 12-year-old child, other children will more thoroughly comprehend the content at hand and develop a better appreciation for literature. For children to read a child-authored book not only encourages more kids to get involved with reading books, but will possibly inspire them to write one of their own. This is a fabulous little book for parents and teachers to introduce children to the enchantment and magicality found in words. Highly recommended.

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.

Guest Book Review: Escape From the Forbidden Planet by Julie Ann Grasso

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Print Length: 173 pages
Publisher: Julie Anne Grasso (September 23, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B009FXC42A
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Ages: 9+

Meet Caramel Cinnamon, an elf who lives in Cardeville on the planet Cardamom. Caramel’s bad accident when she was little has left her with a gammy leg, but that doesn’t stop her doing all kinds of things an elf of her age would do—such as spending two weeks visiting her friend Jemm Jasmine in the tree canopy village and having loads of fun. But treachery and tragedy lie in store for the unsuspecting inhabitants of Cardamom. The villainous Alexander222, an off-world explorer, along with his sidekick clone, Lex, arrive from the planet Isqwartz. His planet resource is crystal, but supplies are dwindling. They need a renewable resource to trade with other members of the Intergalactic Council. Cardamom is just perfect, especially when the properties of this amazing plant become evident. Alexander222 is desperate to impress the Clone Council and get back into favor. The elves are betrayed by someone close to them, and things turn ugly. Caramel’s grandparents (the King and Queen of Cardamom) are kidnapped and Caramel recognizes their attacker. Before she can make trouble for him, Alexander222 dumps Caramel and her parents on the forbidden planet (Earth) that the Alexanders desperately try to avoid after a bad incident there (Roswell!). Although Earth isn’t as technologically advanced as Cardamom, Caramel and her parents make plans to rescue the King and Queen … until things go horribly awry! Now it’s up to Caramel to do it all on her own, with some help from her new Earth friends.

This is an enchanting fantasy tale to delight readers of all ages. Cardamom’s elves are not your ordinary fairytale elves. Science and technology rub shoulders comfortably with a twist of fantasy in this magical world. These elves have telepathic skills as well as healing talents. Caramel is not just an elf, she’s a princess, and she rises to meet the responsibilities thrust upon her with new-found inner strength and determination. Author Julie Anne Grasso has woven a wonderful story with all the elements to intrigue young readers and keep them turning those pages. There’s danger, a test of our heroine’s courage and resourcefulness, intergalactic travel, super-science, geek talk, and a mission to accomplish. Caramel is a lovely, real character, and touches such as her limp emphasize the importance of believing in yourself and being … well, yourself! Family relationships and friendships are also precious to the elves. There are some humorous touches parents will enjoy such as references to modern culture. Mentions of delicious food abound and one wonders why the author did NOT include the recipe for sticky date and chocolate cake with caramel cardamom syrup. (Pass the pudding please!)

Julie Anne Grasso is an Australian author with a background in paediatric nursing. She spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed great courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories about a little girl elf just like them. Add in some very funky technology, her love of science fiction and desire to impart great values through her little girl elf named Caramel and there you have it, the Adventures of Caramel Cardamom Trilogy was the result. Julie lives in Melbourne with her husband Danny and their little elf Giselle. Most days she can be found sipping chai lattes, chasing a toddler, and dreaming up wonderful worlds that often involve consumption of cupcakes. Visit her blog and book site for details of upcoming books.

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.