Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough

little author“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.”  This sentence opens Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first in a series of children’s books that gave middle grade readers a glimpse into the life of America’s pioneer families. And for some–like myself–this would be the start of a lifelong desire to learn more about the real life of Laura, her sisters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, and her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

In a style similar to the  Little House books, author Yona Zeldis McDonough has created a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder aimed toward middle grade readers that not only helps point out the fact and the fiction behind Wilder’s classic children’s books, but also celebrates the independent mind of the Quiner and Ingalls women along the way.

McDonough’s book opens not with Wilder, but with a brief prologue discussing the life of Caroline Lake Quiner, who would one day become Caroline Ingalls. This sets the tone for the rest of this biography, as it highlights how Caroline’s mother, Charlotte, believed in higher education for girls; something Ma Ingalls also wanted for her daughters.

Told in chronological order, Little Author in the Big Woods follows Wilder’s life and the journeys she took not only with her family, but later with her husband Almanzo and daughter Rose. It talks about the hardships the Wilders faced as a young married couple and of their leaving De Smet, South Dakota to settle in Mansfield, Missouri. Readers learn about the building of the dream house on Rocky Ridge Farm and Wilder’s early career writing for the Missouri Ruralist, before moving on to the creation of the Little House series. McDonough ends with an epilogue that discusses the longevity of Wilder’s work and Michael Landon’s classic television show, Little House on the Prairie, which is based upon the books. Readers are also treated to quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder, details on some of the games that Laura played, crafts, and recipes. Also included is a list of other writings by Wilder and a list with some of the other books about her.

While I have to admit I learned little new about Laura Ingalls Wilder as a result, I believe middle grade readers will enjoy getting to know more about her real life and the independent nature of the women in the Quiner, Ingalls, and Wilder families. With a similar writing style and design to the Little House series, readers will feel right at home with this book. Jennifer Thermes did an excellent job in capturing the essence of McDonough’s book and Wilder’s life with her beautiful illustrations. I’m thrilled to add Little Author in the Big Woods to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.


Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Series: Christy Ottaviano Books
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 16, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080509542X
ISBN-13: 978-0805095425

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

In My TBR Pile


Is the land of Asia a mystery to your kids? Do they know who lives there? Do they know how to pray for them? Asia is home to more than fifty countries and territories and roughly three-fifths of the world’s population. Could you use some help introducing your family to this vast land? This sixteen-week course presents a brief picture of six nations. It is by no means all encompassing. Its purpose is to introduce your students to the people of Asia, share their stories, and spark curiosity.

I pray that the course does much more than that, however. I pray that through meeting just a few of our brothers and sisters who live in cities and villages with names that are hard to pronounce that your children feel more connected with those who are suffering for their faith in Christ. Through stories and activities, we’ll meet the people of Laos, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Iran, and Vietnam. We’ll get to know the children of these lands and hear about their experiences. Most of all, we’ll pray for them and their families. Won’t you join us?

This book is designed with children ages 8-12 in mind but can easily be used with older students as well.



Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings is an essential guidebook for adults in helping children identify and understand their emotions. Each of the eight emotions is clearly defined thorough vignettes and illustrations, keeping both adult and child captivated, thus creating an opportune time for discussion. By recognizing that all humans experience these emotions throughout their lives, the book provides a true sense of comfort. Emotions are not to be shunned, but rather embraced and explained to provide a positive development environment for all children.


Escape Through the Wilderness cover

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.

Prairie Memories Now Available!

Prairie Memories
Magazine – 68 pages – Glossy Coated Paper – 8.5 x 11 Inches – English Language –
Published July 2014

  • Exclusive in-depth interviews with four actors from Little House on the Prairie: Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls), 14 pages; Richard Bull (Nels Oleson), 14 pages; Dabbs Greer (Reverend Alden), 14 pages; Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson), 21 pages.
  • The interviews with Richard Bull and Dabbs Greer were made shortly before their death.
  • All pictures published in the magazine are courtesy of the actors. Most of them are very rare and previously unpublished.

Magazine available only through Can be dedicated by the author upon request.

Payment by Paypal or check.

Patrick  Loubatière is a French writer, stage director and high school teacher. He is the author of the book “Little House on the Prairie from A to Z”, which accompanied the complete series on DVD, in 2006. He also interviewed the actors on the bonus segments, plus created the trivia quizzes. 
Since 2006, he has co-starred with Alison Arngrim in France in two comedic, interactive shows based on Little House on the Prairie. 

Aside from Little House, he has published interviews with most of the actors on the series Lost, NCIS, The Mentalist, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds, Revenge, Castle, Dallas, etc.


Interview with Kelly Preston, Author of Real Dogs Don’t Whisper

10571045568926640590Award winning author, Kelly Preston is, first and foremost, an animal lover.

Meet her family like no other: herself, Mr. MaGoo, Buffy, Carla Mae, and Betty Boop. A girl, her two Lhasa Apsos, one Cocker Spaniel, and one adorable mutt – each with their own challenging set of difficulties to overcome. One puppy has serious neurological disorders and is blind. Two were severely abused. All are on a journey of discovery. Together, learning love and patience along the way, they have grown and thrived. Perhaps none so much as Kelly. Raised on a ten-acre property in a small town in Pennsylvania, she grew up with horses, rabbits, and – of course – dogs. When she left home after college, she acquired Gizmo, an irresistible Lhasa Apso that started her on a journey full of joys and sorrows, hopes and tribulations, frustrations, endless lessons in patience, and above all else, love. All of this has come at the hands (more precisely the paws) of Gizmo, Betty Boop, Buffy, Carla Mae, and the inimitable Mr. MaGoo.

Her co-author, Mr. MaGoo, keeps their readers and fans up to date through the use of their Facebook page (; as well as Mr MaGoo is quite the blogger (  His blog, Mr MaGoo’s Shenanigans is updated once a week with healthy recipes, nutrition, exercise and much more tips for pet parents.
Learn more both about Kelly and Mr MaGoo at 
Where did you grow up?
I was born in a very small town in PA, Brogue, growing up there for my adult years along with my two younger siblings, Colleen and Shawn.  My mother was a homemaker and encouraged us to follow our passion, which I did; I loved animals as a child.  I grew up riding and showing horses; studied Dressage, foxhunting, trail riding, assisted riding programs, and even did horse judging competition.  Upon college years, the horses I had to put aside for studies, and I filled my college years to present with dogs.  After college, I went into business for myself, opening an aerobic studio in York, PA; and, I fell in love with an adorable Lhasa Apso, Gizmo.  Gizmo is a cast member of Real Dogs Don’t Whisper and I do not want to share too much, otherwise, it would be a “spoiler alert.”
When did you begin writing?

This is my first book; the idea came to me December of 2010. I wanted to share my life and experiences around special needs pets and how it was they that taught me so much about life and myself.  I began to journal my life, experiences and what I learned during that particular time. 

Since I published Real Dogs Don’t Whisper, I also have published a children’s picture book, Mister Spunky and His Friends.  I have taken the concept and messages of Real Dogs Don’t Whisper, placing the material in a format that children (5 years and older) will enjoy.

What is this book about?
Real Dogs Don’t Whisper is my life story about having special needs in my life; only to realize in my adult years, how truly blessed I was even as a child.  My journey began early on when my late brother, Shawn, was born with Down’s Syndrome.  As I grew and matured into adulthood, special need pets entered my life at random times.  These series of events led me to a path of self-discovery; I share the lessons that I learned along the way, both personally and professionally.
What inspired you to write it?
Having four special needs dogs that were rescued, there were times in my life that people in my life just didn’t understand why I needed to leave a party early, or why I wasn’t able to travel.  I wanted to share my rewarding experience; wanted to raise awareness for rescue pets, especially those with special needs.  I felt the need to share my experiences to help, inspire and motivate others.
How is it similar to other books in its genre? How is it different?
There are great books in this genre and we all share one thing in common; our passion to raise awareness about our cause, pets in need.  Or, is it us humans that are needy? 
What makes Real Dogs Don’t Whisper stand out from the rest? Mr. MaGoo.  I kid you not! Mr. MaGoo not only shares his perspective from a dog’s point of view; he will take you through any given day, adding humor along the way and, of course, reminding everyone that us girls in the house can not survive without him.  Mr. MaGoo will let you know that I am a “crazy lady” and him being the only male in the house is over the top very difficult for him to manage.  After all, what is a guy to do with a house of girls and one “crazy lady?”
What is the most important thing readers can learn from your book?
The goal was to inspire the audience. No matter what may face us, with determination, unconditional love and support from others and, opening your heart to allow love in when not expected, amazing and priceless outcomes will occur.  
Where can readers purchase a copy? – Mr. MaGoo paw prints each book purchased from here

Amazon: and Kindle)

Barnes and Noble: and (Nook)

Bookshop Santa Cruz:

KOBO (digital): 
What is up next for you?
With the recent release of Mister Spunky and His Friends, working on reaching parents and teachers about my new children’s picture book. 
Additionally, I recently rescued a 2-year-old Shih Tzu, named him Mini Me, as I foresee him following in Mr. MaGoo’s paw prints; in fact, he already is on so many levels.  Perhaps there will be a sequel to Real Dogs Don’t Whisper with Mr. MaGoo and Mini Me authoring? 
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you for having me stop by to increase awareness for special needs pets. It is amazing how much our pets can teach us about life; special needs pets teach us much more than about love and friendship.  They teach us about the meaning of second chances and miracles.  They teach us about life.  

Funny Faces: A Big Book of Face Painting by Charlotte Verrecas


Want to bring face painting to your next event? You can learn how with this step-by-step guide from makeup artist Charlotte Verrecas.

A Big Book of Face Painting includes instructions for more than a dozen fun designs from animals to fairies to monsters and more. Stunning photography will help you see each step of the way through your design. The book opens with a list of products and tips for certain techniques.  From silly to zany to spooky, you’ll be able to create tons of looks for your child. I’m thinking I can modify the “Zombie Kid” one for my daughter on Halloween. I believe the age range on this book is for the designs themselves, because this is a book parents will want to read.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 2

Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Clavis Publishing (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1605371734
ISBN-13: 978-1605371733

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Soccer Dreams by Clare Hodgson Meeker

soccer-dreams-book-coverSoccer Dreams by Clare Hodgson Meeker is the perfect blend of entertainment and education.

Todo moves from Kenya, Africa to Seattle, Washington where his soccer skills catch the eye of Coach Dan who invites him to join his team. With tons of spirit, Todo helps Coach Dan build a winning team that works together.

I don’t know how the Lil’ Princess discovered soccer, but she did. She continues to work hard to develop her skills, spending a week at a British soccer camp visiting our area over the summer, and practicing at home whenever she can. It’s been a good season for her so far. This is why I requested to review Soccer Dreams. It ended up being a great source of inspiration for her.

This book blends the fictional story of Todo moving from Africa to America and getting a chance to play on a soccer team with profiles of the current MLS Seattle Sounders FC, in addition to strategy and teamwork tips. It’s a wonderful book. Numerous color photographs are included, along with black and white drawings for the fictional portion of the story. Some Sounders share their favorite warm-ups, the coach talks about developing players’ strengths, and the goalkeeper shares what goalies think about and offers his advice.

I’m sure Soccer Dreams will hold a special place in the Lil’ Princess’ bookshelf.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Hardcover: 48 pages
Ages 7 to 12
Publisher: Creating One, LLC; 1st edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615432360
ISBN-13: 978-0615432366
Available in digital format

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

From the Family Bookshelf – September


Hard to believe the summer came and went so quickly. Between vacation, sports camps, and vacation Bible school, it seemed summer was over before it got started. Suddenly, though, my girls have decided they would rather read on their own than together at night. Part of me is hurt, but the Lil’ Diva turned 12 last month and the Lil’ Princess switched to a new school where expectations are even higher, so it’s to be expected. They can’t remain babies forever.

We had started Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and Storyteller by Patricia Reilly, but now they are off reading other books, so not sure whether we will complete these or they will read them alone. The Lil’ Princess finished Falling in by Frances O’Roark Dowell this week. She loved it. The Lil’ Diva is reading Witchlanders by Lena Coakley. Dad has given up on reading lately. Other than his daily paper, his work hours have not allowed him to read for leisure.

I’m also reading a lot less than usual this year. It can’t be helped. My schedule is nuts. I try to read a tiny bit in the tub each night, but I’m also trying to make sure I get enough sleep now that I am getting up early with the girls. Here’s what I’ve read since my last post:

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land (thriller)
Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar (coming of age mystery)
Designed for Relationship by T.J. MacLeslie (Christian living)
Murder by Syllabub by Kathleen Delaney (cozy mystery)
Who I Be by Annie Brown (Christian living)

I’m currently reading the inspirational travel adventure memoir, Two Are Better by Tim and Debbie Bishop, and the historical novel, The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner.

What have you been reading lately? Any favorites?

That’s it for this edition of From the Family Bookshelf. Keep reading!