Who Are You? And Why Does that Matter?

Each of us is the same as the other, but each of us is also different. The differences may make us shy or may embolden us. How we deal with our sameness and our differences is what makes us unique.

If you have strong desires and an independent spirit, it’s hard to follow the rules. And you can be ridiculed for it, even if you aren’t shy.

A Pinch of Magic

Michelle Harrison

Three sisters live in a place called Crowstone which has three small islands just off its coast. On one end of the area is a misty, moisty marsh which perhaps harbors sprites and other scary beings. The townspeople are frightened of the area, but Betty, the middle sister, wants to go on adventures including going across the marsh. The girls have been told they will die if they leave the confines of Crowstone, but Betty thinks it’s malarky. That it’s just stories Granny tells to keep the girls in check. Granny tells them of the curse they live under and gives them each a magical object. Betty thinks that if they combine their magic, they can break the curse and be free to roam wherever they wish. Not as easy as it might seem she discovers, especially when they accidentally set free an evil convict from the island prison. The story is told in an endearing style, though the writer and editors could have paid a bit closer attention to correct grammar. Betty and her sisters Felicity and Charlie, using their native wits and bravery, overcome many obstacles and end up in a better place than they could have imagined. Teachers can use the book to inspire discussion of overcoming difficult problems.

BIBLIO: 2020, Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 9780358193319

ISBN: 9780358272921

The second book has an excellent story arc of how we deal with parents and their dreams and how they differ from yours. How you can still love someone even if you don’t agree with the person’s ideas.

Running

Natalia Sylvester

Mariana Ruiz’s life has turned into an ongoing drama in which she no longer has any privacy. Anything she says or does comes out in the national news because her father is running for president in the national primaries. He and Mami spend all of their time—at    least it seems that way to fifteen-year-old Mari—writing speeches and traveling on the campaign trail. Mari and her younger brother, Ricky, are made to participate in local Miami events and it’s wearing on her. She feels she lost her parents and their support. That she and Ricky don’t really matter anymore except as campaign photo-op props. But then she discovers Papi’s biggest contributor is a less than scrupulous real estate developer who is polluting the water and destroying neighborhoods. Not only that Papi helped make it possible when he passed legislation as a state senator that allowed sewage to be dumped into the aquifer. Now Mariana has to come to grips with the fact that her father is not who she thought he was. With the help of friends, she gets involved in a student movement demanding that water pollution stop and that big developers are called to account for the damage they’ve done. She grows during the story, learning that she can speak out and that she can challenge her father. This is quite a compelling story with a great deal of relevance in modern American life. Teachers can have a field day choosing topics with which to encourage their students to think for themselves. Plus, the reader gets to learn some Spanish along the way.

BIBLIO: 2020, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978035124351

ISBN: 978035830806

Shyness in children is an ongoing problem. The main character is the previous story is shy, but learns to blossom. In a different way, the main character in next story learns to overcome her shyness.

Vivaldi

Helge Torvund

Illustrated by Mari Kandstad Johnsen

Translated by Jeanie Shaterian and Thilo Reinhard

Tyra is shy and doesn’t know how to communicate with others, but begins to blossom when she gets a kitten. Though she may not be able in interact with other people, she can talk to her new cat. And she can interact with the world when playing her piano. She names the cat Vivaldi. At school, Tyra doesn’t play with other children and doesn’t participate in her class so her classmates whisper behind her back and tease her. With the help of Vivaldi, Tyra begins to come out of her shell. This lovely story is told in poetic form and should be read in a gentle, quiet voice that will comfort children and make them understand that lots of people are shy. And that lots of people feel as they do. The illustrations are simplistic in a way, but fit the style of the story quite well.

BIBLIO: 2019 (orig. 2011,) New York Review of Books, Ages 4 to 7, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68137-374-4

Here’s hoping you all have a jolly and loving holiday, whether it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, or the meaning of Hanuka or just warmth of having family and friends around. And here’s hoping for a good new year, with a more inclusive and cooperative world. See you in 2020. Sarah

Indians, Native Americans, American Indians, or First People

The first people of the continent go by many names. Grouped together, white people have called them various names and lumped the various tribes and nations under some ugly titles. But as a whole, Native Americans are quite diverse. Some are settled farmers, some are wanderers, some are bellicose and some are peaceful, just like the rest of humanity. As a group the first people have always fascinated me. Maybe in part because my paternal grandmother told me we had Cherokee blood flowing in our veins. Looking at her, you could well believe that, since she was a raven-haired beauty with a mischievous sparkle in her eye. My fair-skinned, red-haired visage doesn’t really conjure up a connection. However, people do comment that I have high cheekbones, indicating a possibility. I’d like to think so, especially since I’ve always felt a connection to the rest of nature.

I selected a series entitled “First Peoples” to review. The series is diverse, not just concentrating on some of the Plains group, but also talking about Eastern groups. Perhaps the Western tribes and the Canadian and Central/South American tribes will be talked about in future books, along with the rest of the Plains and Eastern Groups.

I like that the series is called “First People,” since that’s how most think of themselves. Like the rest of humanity, the tribes have creations myths just as complex as more modern religions and most have similar elements in them. The Cheyenne are a Plains group, or at least when white people descended upon them. They may have migrated from somewhere else.

First Peoples: Cheyenne

Valerie Bodden

American Indians or Native Americans or First Peoples, no matter how someone describes them, these peoples were the first known human dwellers of North and South America, so it’s nice to have books describing them to the new generations now living in this hemisphere. Never a singular group of people going by different names, the groups had different cultures and systems of government. Some of the groups carried on wars, or at least skirmishes with other tribes. The focus of this book is about the Cheyenne, who are Plains Indians, from the middle of what is now the United States of America.  Their name, Shawnee, is from a Sioux word meaning “people of a different speech.” But the Cheyenne call themselves Tsitsistas, which means simply “the people.”  Originally, they were farmers before they moved to the plains. They lived in bands and had four chiefs. They had tepees, which they packed up and moved from place to place. The book has many such facts and doesn’t shy away from the damage white settlers did to them and their way of life. Again, the photographs are spectacular. Teachers will find many ways to incorporate the simple text into their lessons. Be sure to pick up the whole series, “Peoples of the Land.”

BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, Ages 6 +, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Nonfiction Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-64026-223-2

Judging from the translation of their tribal name, the Comanche have a reputation for being belligerent, though they think of themselves simply as “our people.” But even though they were wanderers, they had concise rules and government.

First Peoples: Comanche

Valerie Bodden

American Indians or Native Americans or First Peoples, no matter how someone describes them, these peoples were the first known human dwellers of North and South America, so it’s nice to have books describing them to the new generations now living in this hemisphere. Never a singular group of people going by different names, the groups had different cultures and systems of government. Some of the groups carried on wars, or at least skirmishes with other tribes. The focus of this book is the Comanche, who are Plains Indians, from the middle of what is now the United States of America.  Their name, Comanche, is from a Ute word meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time..” But the Comanche call themselves Nermernuh, which means simply “our people.”  They lived in small bands run by a head chief and a council. Like the Cheyenne, they had tepees, which they packed up and moved from place to place. They had many horses and moved frequently to give the animals good pasture. They hunted on horseback. The book has many such facts and doesn’t shy away from the damage white settlers did to them and their way of life. Again, the photographs are spectacular. Teachers will find many ways to incorporate the simple text into their lessons. Be sure to pick up the whole series, “Peoples of the Land.”

BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, Ages 6 +, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Nonfiction Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-64026-224-9

The third book in the series describes a more sedentary group from the southwest who lived in pueblos and are, to this day, farmers and herders.

First Peoples: Hopi

Valerie Bodden

American Indians or Native Americans or First Peoples, no matter how someone describes them, these peoples were the first known human dwellers of North and South America, so it’s nice to have books describing them to the new generations now living in this hemisphere. This was never a singular group of people going by different names. The groups had different cultures and systems of government.  This book in this series is about the Hopi who live in the North American southwest. Their name means “peaceful people,” and they are considered by other tribes to be “the oldest of the people.” They are farmers and artisans who have lived at the edge of the Painted Desert for more than 1,000 years. The photos of the people and the area they live in a breathtaking. The photos of their weavings, pottery and textiles are quite appealing. The harm that Spanish priest did to these cultures and then the harm the other white cultures did is horrifying and it’s nice to see it mentioned in these books. Teachers will find many ways to incorporate the simple text into their lessons. Be sure to pick up the whole series, “Peoples of the Land.”

BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, Ages 6 +, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Nonfiction Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-64026-225-6

And the final book in the series that I’ve reviewed is about an Eastern group. They, like so many of the East Coast groups, were farmers and hunters. Any kid who was a girl scout or boy scout probably went to a summer camp where the cabins were named after various tribes. I’d like to think that my cabin was called the Shawnee, but I sure don’t remember.

First Peoples: Shawnee

Valerie Bodden

American Indians or Native Americans or First Peoples, no matter how someone describes them, these peoples were the first known human dwellers of North and South America, so it’s nice to have books describing them to the new generations now living in this hemisphere. Never a singular group of people going by different names, the groups had different cultures and systems of government. Some of the groups carried on wars, or at least skirmishes with other tribes. The focus of this book is about the Shawnee, who were originally from the eastern part of what is now the United States. Their name, Shawnee, is from a word meaning “southerners.” They lived south of other tribes speaking similar languages. Their homes were amongst forests and close to rivers or other inland water sources. They lived in villages protected by two chiefs and a religious leader called a shaman. Each family lived in a wigwam, some of which were made of logs and animal hides. But they also had traveling wigwams that the families could take on hunting expeditions. These consisted of massive pieces of tree bark, some of which were warped to curve toward the top, and held together by a system of limbs curved to stabilize the structure. The Shawnee soldiers painted their bodies in elaborate designs before they went into battle. The women farmed during the growing season and they gathered wild fruits and nuts. Their clothing was usually decorated with beadwork or feathers. Teachers will find many ways to incorporate the simple text into their lessons. Be sure to pick up the whole series, “Peoples of the Land.”

BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, Ages 6 +, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Nonfiction Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-64026-228-7

As a couple of final notes, I try to put in photos as was suggested, but sometimes I can’t do it. This is one of those times, sorry. Also, I’m trying very hard to get my new website up and running, but don’t know how much success I’ve had. Please let me know if you can get on it and what you think. Thanks, Sarah

How Not to Write a Book if You’re Manic

My usual way of writing a book is to think out the blot in my head and then write it down, editing as I go. That way I have the skeleton of the story already to roll. Then as I write down what I’m thinking I go back and catch as many errors as I can.

That’s how I wrote my first two novels, Terror’s Identity and Emily’s Ride to Courage. The process took several years each, but I had pretty clean copy to send to the publisher. Keep in mind that nobody’s perfect and errors do slip in.

As I was writing those books, I had my critique partners look at each chapter and give me ways to improve the story. Since my husband and I moved half way through the writing time, I not only had my Maryland critique group help me, but then my North Carolina group weighed in. Thanks to them all.

Also, while I was writing the stories, I did the research to make sure the stories rang true. What? You didn’t realize that fiction authors have to do research? With my first published novel, Terror’s Identity, I had the main character move from very-high-scale Lake Forest, Illinois, to not-even-close-to-high-scale Dundalk, Maryland, because I follow the old adage of get your main character into trouble and then make the trouble worse. I also had to research whether the U.S. Secret Service had anything to do with investigating terrorists groups in our country. Fortunately, one of my neighbors worked in the Secret Service and was very helpful.

For Emily’s Ride to Courage I had to research more than I already knew about horses; easier, in a way, because we were living on our horse farm and I have studied about horse almost my whole life. Still, I had to make sure I had the medical parts correct. (Thank goodness for a friendly vet.) I also had to research American medical services being provided by Army personnel in Afghanistan where Emily’s mother goes missing.

Now on to how I wrote my third novel, Earthquakes. In November of 2018 I decided to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November as part of that year’s NaNoWriMo contest. Not something a manic person should ever do. Especially someone like me who likes to edit as she goes. But I put my editing aside and plowed ahead, writing 50,235 words by November 26th. (Good thing my handsome devil knows how to cook and is very supportive of my writing endeavors.)

Then I took a couple of days to bask in the glow of having accomplished my goal and to get my heart rate down to normal. Plus getting some much-needed sleep.

The next challenge was to see how much of the story made sense, where I needed to do research. Since the story takes place in 1942 Hollywood, CA, and though I was indeed alive and living there, I was only a bit older than one year. The people in my birth family couldn’t be of much help, being either dead or extremely forgetful, I had to go to history books and the internet. I also unearthed the family photo albums.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you think. Sarah

Then my critique groups and said Handsome Devil, told me what was working and what wasn’t. When it was done and people had given feedback, I sent the manuscript off to my favorite editor, Teresa Crumpton of AuthorSpark. She’s never steered me wrong and is a font of advice and information.

Fast forward to October 2019 and I sent the manuscript to a small indie publishing house that promptly turned me down. In part, they turned me down because I hadn’t edited the book as carefully as I should have. Though they kindly said it was too intense for their house.

Then I sent it to Jera Publishing and they expertly formatted the story for publication and designed a dynamite cover. But the editor there has the patience of Job, since she has cheerfully made the changes I found each time I looked at the manuscript and hasn’t charged me a dime more. Even when the manuscript was sent to IngramSpark for printing, I found more errors. Now I think I’ve caught them all and the book will be a physical presence in hard copy and eBook formats on January 30th. But I will never write a book that way again. It’s best for me to plod along correcting as I go, so I’ll go back to plodding and keep the manic part at rest.

A Special Book for Us All

You Call This Democracy?

Elizabeth Rusch

The subtitle of this thought-provoking book is “How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People”. Whatever your political bent this book will make you think carefully about how our system of government works and whether things could or should be changed to make it better. For instance, should we continue to have an Electoral College decide who wins a presidential race? Or should we go with just the popular vote? Would that leave the smaller states without a vote. Hope about the way we hold primaries? Do the states that hold primaries later in the election cycle without a say? Should we lower the voting age to 16 or 17? The book is full of statistics and graphs and other visuals. The various gradations of grey on the maps will be, hopefully, better defined in the final copy of the book. It’s a bit hard to discern the various gradations of gray in this advance reading copy. Take your time reading this book and be prepared to research some of her statements.  It’s the kind of book that the reader will want to tell friends and others about. It’s especially important for young people and people applying for citizenship to read, but everyone else would benefit from reading it.

BIBLIO: March 2020, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 10+, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 9780358387428

Did That Really Happen?

The new owners of Children’s Literature Database distribute books for review differently. The reviewer gets to pick the books. The old owners just randomly sent out the books. I enjoyed that because it was always a surprise. On the other hand, now that I can pick the books I want, I can make sure I get intriguing books—at least judging by the titles. The books below loosely fall into the Sci-Fi genre, or at least have some connection to other times in our human history and the stars. Well, not really, but you’ll see what I mean. At least I hope you will.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now here’s a concept for you. Dinosaurs alive during the American Civil War; who knew. An interesting twist to learning United States history don’t you think?

Dactyl-Hill Squad: Book Two Freedom Fire

Daniel Jos Older

Illustrated by Nilah Magruder

Dinosaurs are alive and well during the American Civil War and Magdalys Roca knows how to communicate with them through mental telepathy. The series is historical fantasy and points out the horrible disparities amongst the American population. White people rule the country. African and Native American populations pay the price. It was nice to see an author bringing in the horrible treatment of Native Americans, who still are mistreated more than any other population. The author’s ability to paint a word picture is masterful, but it’s quite possible that he should have researched the historical part of the story. Was General Grant part of the takeover of New Orleans? Was he ever in that part of the country during the war? And were any roads paved with cement? It would have been nice for readers who’ve not read the first book in the series to be able to comprehend how people sit on the backs of pterodactyls using flat-sided saddles and still be able to move forward and backward off the saddle without sliding off the creature. For those who’ve ridden horses, it’s hard to visualize this. Still, it was fun to have the creatures in the book, and will probably entice children not thrilled with reading about history. Teachers can use the information in the book to discuss all manner of things. It would be nice to have the maps on the end pages a bit more accurate.

BIBLIO: 2019, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., Ages 10 to 14, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-338-26884-3

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tarnished Are the Stars

Rosiee Thor

Anna lives with her grandfather in a part of the new planet world that is supposed to become the replacement for Earth. Earth is no longer habitable, but the replacement seems to have a fatal flaw. Something in the soil or the atmosphere causes babies to be born with bad hearts. Anna has a mechanical one which her grandfather implanted when she was very young. And when we meet her, she’s just encountered another teenager with the same type of heart. Anna was supposed to take over the surgeries, but after having irreparably injured a friend’s young child during surgery, she will no longer perform operations. She does, on the other hand, have quite the knack for building and repairing machines. The problem is the ruling class has outlawed anything mechanical because of the irrepable damage machines did to planet Earth. Of course, this class uses machines to make their lives better when it suits their purpose. The other issue in the story is the power struggle between Alternative Earth’s Commissioner and his mother who is Queen of Everything and the harshness the commissioner levies on his son. The story is complex and intriguing, with many comparisons to how we’ve treated Earth and each other. An interesting read that has many points of discussion to bring up with students.

BIBLO: 2019, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 14+, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-338-31227-0

Although this book isn’t actually Sci-Fi or Fantasy, it does have a lot about the stars and the universe. And made the New York Times bestseller list,as well it should.

The Year We Fell from Space

Amy Sarig King

Nina Goffi: Interior Art Designer

Liberty Johansen loves looking at the stars and drawing new constellations, but that is before her father leaves and her parents file for divorce. Now, she can’t see new patterns in the stars, in fact she can’t see any patterns in the stars. She’s being bullied by a classmate who orders the entire sixth to shun Liberty and they do. One evening, while she’s up on a hill in the woods behind her house, meteorite falls out of the sky, landing a short distance away from her. Pre-divorce time, she would have called her dad out to look at it, but now she keeps it a secret. As the story progresses, Liberty gets into more trouble and edges toward depression. She has to deal with her father’s live-in girlfriend and the fact that he’d cheated on Liberty’s mother. The story is beautifully written and very compelling. Teachers will have a field day discussing the issues raised in the story, ranging from dealing with divorce and depression and bullies and inappropriate responses to distressing news. And then there’s talking about astronomy. There are excellent descriptions of how to read a night sky. This book is a winner.

BIBLIO: 2019, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $??.

FORMAT: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-338-23636-1

And Boo to You too!

AND BOO TO YOU TOO!

Halloween is creeping up on us yet again. And you’re experiencing the changes Autumn brings to us. Cooler weather, greyer skies, and colorful leaves floating to the ground. Make a big pile of them and jump on in.

I love spooky stories, don’t you? Especially if I’m tucked under at comforter with a mug of something hot. The stories in this first review are just the right amount of scary and silly.

Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories

Max Brallier

Illustrated by Letizia Rubegni

Mister Shivers receives a box wrapped in brown paper and containing a tree branch, a doll’s eye, a piece of an old quilt, and a toy’s rusty head. Beside the box is a dead rat. The note that he finds in the box asks Mister Shivers to share the stories. Since he loves scary stories. Here’s what he wrote. In the first story, a boy is challenged to spend the night in the town’s haunted house. He finally convinces his sister to go with him. They search house and find nothing scary until they get to the attic bedroom. Underneath is something staring at them. Read to the story to find out what’s there. In the second story a girl ends up with a hair stuck in her throat all the way to her stomach. Since it doesn’t go away after several days her mom takes her to the doctor who pulls it out, only to discover that it’s not a hair. What is it? The third story tells of a boy who doesn’t heed a warning to leave on the ratty quilt wrapped around an ugly statue his mom bought. Guess what he does? In the third story, Oliver always forgets to bring his toys in from outside. One night during a fierce storm, the toys get even. The final story is about something scratching on a girl’s window. Her parents keep telling her to just go to sleep because it’s only a tree branch. Is it? Funny scary stories make this a good fit for a beginning reader who likes to be given the shivers. The illustrations are just right for the book. Teachers will have fun sharing these stories with their reading level 1 students.

BIBLIO: 2019, Acorn/Scholastic, Ages 5 to 7, $4.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Readers

ISBN: 978-1-338-31853-1

The next story is a bit more sophisticated, but still fits the bill of being scary and sweet.

Midnight Beauties

Megan Shepherd

Fantasy lovers won’t be able to put this book down. The sequel to Grim Lovelies is full of intrigue, danger, romance whether welcomed or not. The main character, Anouk, is a beastie, the lowest form of entity in this world. She can be switched from her owl form to that of a human. Other of her beastie friends are a mouse, a wolf, and a cuddly dog. Though beasties do seem to have specific special powers, Anouk is rare in that she possesses the ability to perform magic. Other creatures in this world are humans or pretties, goblins, and the “haute,” a.k.a. “shadow rulers” who control the others and possess magic. Then there are the “snow children,” who only appear when it snows. They also are magical, but it’s best not to kiss them. And let’s not forget the witches, because they’ve made a mess of things, which means that evil forces are taking over the world, killing everything they touch. Anouk sets off to save everybody by going through the trials it takes to become a witch, but before she goes, she turns down a prince who rules the world. He thinks that as a married couple they can save everybody, but Anouk doesn’t trust him. Lots of trials and tribulations later, our heroine and her stalwart friends contain the evil power, but not without much peril and damage. There are a number of parallels to the current state of our world to be inferred from this delightful book.

BIBLIO: 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-328-81190-5

Yeah, yeah, I know I said these stories would all be scary, but I figured I’d scared you enough. So, we’re finishing with something sweet.

Poppleton

Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

Part of the Scholastic/Acorn series for early readers, the audience follows the plights of Poppleton, the pig. In the first story the reader learns ways to be a good neighbor, helpful, but not overbearing. Poppleton moves from the city to a less densely populated suburb. He meets his new neighbor, Cherry Sue, who brings him flowers as a welcome present. Then she invites him over for oatmeal and later for cheese toast and later still for spaghetti and sauce. This is very nice at first but even kindness can be overdone. Finally, Poppleton gets so tired of having the spend so much time with Cherry Sue, he squirts her with his hose. She’s horrified until Poppleton apologizes and explains he likes to be by himself every once in a while. Cherry Sue, it turns out, is delighted. She likes quiet time herself. Poppleton’s next adventure is at the town library, his favorite place to go on Mondays. Here he spends the day quietly reading a book. It might be an engrossing book. Or a sad book, for which he’s glad he brought tissues. Whatever he reads, he stays there all Monday and is happy as a hog in slop.

Poppleton’s last adventure for this book is about the pig helping his friend Filmore who’s sick in bed. The only way Filmore will take his pill is if it’s hidden in one of Cherry Sue’s delicious cakes. But Filmore can’t know what slice of cake the pill is in. His friend drive Poppleton to distraction until they’re both sick in bed. Guess how many cakes they go through until they feel better? Beginning readers will find these stories charming.

BIBLIO: 2019 (orig. 1997,) Scholastic, Ages 5 to 8, $4.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Reader

ISBN: 97813386566673

ISBN: 97813386566680

ISBN: 97813386566796

Outlining a New Story

To see if I could do it and have students feel they’ve learned something about writing their own stories, I’m leading a class at the Pamlico Community College in their “Cultural Enrichment Program.” At the first session, I asked my students to tell me what they wanted out of the class. Several of them wanted to learn how to structure a story.

So, even though I’m a “seat of the pants” style of writer, I set about doing an outline for them. Actually, I’ve done two different outlines. This is the second one. Please let me know what you think.

Plotting Structure outline:

First off you need to have at least have an idea in your head of what you’re writing about.  A memoir? A short story? A poem? History? A scientific treatise? A blog? A play?

The structure of your story is the same whether you’re writing a scene or a book. So, I’m using a scene as a more succinct example of making an outline.

  1. Purpose of the Scene: First scene should set up who the main character is and what’s happening.

A: Physical description:

  1. Age
  2. Sex
  3. Location (In the kitchen? In a car? In the woods? On a boat?)
  4. Is the person alone?

B: Action:

1.Waking up? (Why?)

2. Cooking? (What? And Why?)

3.Driving? (Where? And Why?)

4.Walking? (Where? And Why?)

  • Character’s thoughts. (Anxious? Calm? Frightened? Angry?)

C: Reason for the scene:

1.Going to work?

 2.Meeting someone for dinner?

 3.Grieving?

4.Getting married?

5. About to murder someone?

  1. Arc of scene: Every scene should have a beginning, middle and end.

A: Beginning:

1. Does the alarm go off?

a. Does this awaken the character?

b. Or was he already awake? (Why?)

2.What’s her reaction?

  1. Does she pop out of bed? (Why?)
  2. Does she groan? (Why?)

B: Middle:

1. Character takes a shower:

a.She shampoos her hair, but as she starts to rinse it, the water goes cold or quits running

  • How does she deal with this?
  • She’s finally out of her bathroom.

C:  End:

1.Dressed and fed, she leaves her abode

a.What’s she thinking about?

b. Does she stride out the door with bold, confident steps?

b. Does she pause and listen?

2. What happens when she heads toward where she’s going?

                      a.  Car won’t start?

b. Or the bus is late?

c. Or the heel breaks off her

                          shoe?

d. The bad guy shoots at her?

  b. (Here you leave your reader hanging and solve the    

                          problem in the next scene. Or keep building toward the story climax.)

If this is the end of your book, of course you do complete the scene. The main character rides off into the sunset on his favorite horse.

In the next scene, conclude the immediate problem—She jump-starts her car, calls a cab, etc.—then give your reader time to breathe and cogitate on what’s going, however make sure your scene ends on a compelling note, with a hook at the end.