Month: May 2014

Picky Picks: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

tiger lily
          The story of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy Darling, and yes, Tiger Lily is re-imagined with an anything-but-Disney feel in this intriguing YA novel. I picked this book up and wondered if it were possible to make the idea on the book jacket work, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s nothing like any other version of this story, and I love it.
         The ill-fated love between Peter and Tiger Lily and the eventual arrival of Wendy on the island of Neverland is told by Tinkerbell – an unusual and clever choice. She is a mute and endearing, insect-like fairy who is as devoted to Tiger Lily as she is to Peter, and her ability to understand the thoughts of humans give her unique power as narrator. Tiger Lily herself is a sympathetic and often frustrating character. But above all, Peter Pan shines in an enchanting and believable makeover as the brave, yet insecure, leader of a band of lonely, lost boys desperate for both love and safety.
         The writing is poetic and tight, with a very Native-American sensibility to the language. The plot is tightly woven with just the right amount of tension and great pacing. The themes are thoughtful and not overdone: the nature of belief, especially within groups/communities, the nature of love and why sometimes people who love each other can’t stay together, and the unfairness in the laws of nature/time. The effects of forcing beliefs on individuals and bullying are also explored.

King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel


On the morning of his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson eats a very large breakfast, mounts his trusty donkey, Knuckles, and sets out to find adventure. What does he desire? A fight to the uttermost, swordplay with a formidable beast who’ll have ado with him, strength against strength, might against might. But what does he find? A Dragon who blows smoke rings, a Cyclops with one eye perfect for a staring contest, a grim Griffin who pulls out a chess board, and a Leviathan anxious to play games in the roiling sea! He doesn’t end up finding the danger he seeks, but he does find something even better…friendship.

Hilariously verbose and impeccably illustrated, this book will please boys and girls alike with its perfect balance of danger and fun. I have two very sensitive girls (they can’t handle Disney movies yet), and they adore this book, because the terrible beasts turn out to be wonderfully friendly.  But don’t worry, adventurous little boys and girls, like Henry himself, with not be dismayed. Win!




We’re writers. We know we’re a little weird. And hey, we’re really kind of proud of that fact. But other people don’t always get it.

You Know You Are A Writer When….

1. You go through the line of the checkout girl at the grocery store who has the face of your main character and you feel like a total creeper. And yet, you have to restrain yourself from saying, “I love you!” or “Can we have coffee this afternoon? I really just want to make sure I’m getting your reactions right in this scene.”

2. You do a successful character interview in which your character has revealed his most difficult-to-get-to secret (finally!). You verbally thank him, and then you close your notebook and whisper, “It’s alive!”

3. People stopped at red lights see you having a two-sided conversation alone in your car as you work out a difficult section of dialogue. You shrug it off, assuming they’ll think you’re using Bluetooth, and continue laughing,  gesturing angrily, and/or crying appropriately. You promptly type it out before putting your groceries away when you get home.

4. Your sister is tossing around prospective baby names and you’re like, “Oh, no. That name is taken.” “By whom?” “Umm, my protagonist’s love interest, okay? And that would just be awkward for me.”

5.  You don’t get caught singing in the shower. You get caught doing dialogue or untangling a knot in your plot aloud while rinsing out your shampoo. “Mommy, who are you talking to? Is Daddy in there with you?”  “Unfortunately, no.”

I’d love to hear from you!  Embrace your inner weirdo and share…we’ll embrace you, too.

Five For A Little One

Five For a Little One

Five For A Little One by Chris Raschka

There is so much to adore in this artsy little book: Cool, minimalist illustrations, stellar, poetic text full of internal rhyme, alliteration, and surprising word choice. As the little bunny learns about  the amazing possibilities of each of his senses, he finds at the end that there are “Five senses–just enough–to know the love we (Mommy and Daddy Bunny) have for you.”  Artsy, cool, AND sweet!

Teaching Tips: Great for very young readers as they learn about how their body parts work. My two-year-old loves touching her eyes, nose, etc. and talking about how things might feel (feathers are soft). It’s a great conversation starter for little ones! Older readers will love the word choice and expand their vocabulary with words like noble, blessing, scent, and granite, just to name a few.

Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story





“Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story” by Lisa Wheeler, Illustrated by Janie Bynum

What could be more problematic than a porcupine in a petting zoo? As Cushion the lonely porcupine scours the petting zoo at night for a wife, he sings his sad, sad song, hilariously tailored to each potential mate. He finally finds the perfect girl for him – an adorable little hedgehog that doesn’t look like a hedge or a hog. She’s beautiful! And, she doesn’t think he looks much like pork or a pine. In fact, she thinks he’s outstanding. (And she even likes his singing!)

Cute, silly, and oh-so-punny, this book will have you giggling with your kids again and again. My recommendations are to think Green Acres when doing Cushion’s voice, and be sure to sing off-key.

My five-year-old says: “I just love it! The rabbit hutch song is my favorite. It’s just the greatest thing! That’s all.”

Teaching tips: There are lots of great vocabulary words embedded in this funny tale, and lots of opportunities to help young readers’ comprehension along as they think through the puns and jokes throughout the book. It’s also loaded with alliteration, which can get young readers thinking about beginning word sounds. Read through once, then go back again and talk about the wordplay!

Do I Need an Agent? Things to Consider in a Changing Publishing World


By Lindsay Bandy


One of the most important questions writers have when thinking about submissions is: Do I need an agent? It’s a question individual writers ultimately have to answer for themselves, but here are some considerations to get you on the right track. Seasoned writers, please add your wisdom in the comment section! Beginners, feel free to ask questions!

Let’s see what the SCBWI’s The Book has to say:

“Many successful children’s writers and illustrators do not have agents, preferring to control all aspects of their careers. And most editors will tell you that children’s books, unlike adult books, is one area where manuscripts are read whether agented or not.”

This is encouraging, isn’t it? And the good news is, if you do sell your work to an editor without an agent and then become overwhelmed or tired of the “business,” you can acquire an agent to help you…

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The Fault in Our Stars Review


the fault in our stars

This is a classic example of why I am sometimes almost afraid to start reading a book. Sometimes, a story comes along that is so intensely emotional, I live it. It becomes a part of me. It changes me. And that’s a wonderful thing, but it hurts, too. It’s the magic of fiction.

John Green takes an unflinching look at the nature of life and love, senseless suffering and death in this novel. The book comes at the issue mostly from an atheistic perspective, but it takes other views into account: Christians, believers in Something without specifics of what that Something is, Jews, and agnostics. It looks at the nature of love and life in a world that doesn’t work the way we want it to work. It concludes, among other things, that the value of life doesn’t depend on an infinite numbers of years, but the beauty of the infinite moments between those numbered years, that love is worth it even if it and when it hurts, even if it’s short-lived. It was often very funny, quirkily romantic, and unquestionably heartbreaking.

People of various faith perspectives would do well to read this and talk about it, because it raises questions that are hard to answer, but that all of us sooner or later ask. It offers us an opportunity to ask the question WHY together, in a fictional situation, in hopes of arriving at truth and peace in the real world.

One of the most thought-provoking parts of this story for discussion is the Dutch Tulip Man in Hazel’s favorite story, who we are told is a metaphor for God. Is he for real? Is he a scam artist? Does he really love Anna and her mother? Does he really love them, but he just isn’t actually as rich as he says he is? We never get the answer, but we get a lot to think about. Christians in particular, don’t shy away from this book. Don’t discount it. Enter into it. You might not agree with the conclusions that Hazel makes. But the beauty of literature is being able to truly live someone else’s life, to feel their pain, to understand why they believe what they  believe. or why they struggle to believe. You’ll be better for it.