A Little Non-Fiction

Hello again, my friends. Do you know how to equate heights of natural critters to buildings? I sure don’t, but these books might help you see the bigger picture. The series is called “Animals Measure Up,” and each book discusses a different ecosystem.

How High in the Sky: Flying Animals

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

This book focuses on flying creatures. First up is the enchanting ladybug whose gossamer wings come out from under the ladybug’s shell on her back. Next up is the Monarch butterfly which “rides” the wind and flies even higher than the ladybug. Like a scale, the creatures in this book each fly higher than the last. Next is the funny looking Frigate with its red sac hanging down from its throat. But the Andean condor has it beat, until the common place Mallard flies above it. And the bar-head goose can fly over the Himalayas. These critters all have something in common. They all take to the skies with the greatest of ease. Though stylized, the illustrations are a charming addition to the words. It would have been nice to have the Frigate bird’s red sac explained. And some of the comparison might have been made a bit clearer. Would a child be able to visualize how high a building is or high a helicopter can fly?

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-388-1

How High in the Rainforest? Rainforest Animal Habitat

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

This book focuses on rainforest creatures. Starting below ground level, in the dark, fertile soil, you can find all kinds of critters. Centipedes, slugs, beetles, and termites “recycle” dead leaves and fertilize the soil with their waste. The bugs provide food for the forest floor animals. Armadillos dig up the below ground critters for a tasty meal, as do wild pigs and small rodents. In the understory, where smaller trees grow in what sunlight they can find by spreading their broad leaves. Squirrels, red-eyed tree frogs, birds, snakes, and jaguars makes their homes here. Way up above these creatures, is the “roof” of the forest, made up of tree branches woven together to make the canopy. Bigger animals, such as sloths and monkeys and birds, call this area home. But above them, where plenty of sun beams down, live the biggest inhabitants of all. The harpy eagle makes its home up here, as does the spider monkey. And the tree leaves here are small and waxy to capture moisture. Look closely at the illustrations in this book to see all the differences in surroundings and creatures that live there. Teachers should use more images to help their students understand the various concepts of height.

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-387-4

 

How High up the Mountain? Mountain Animal Habitat

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

The mountains are the backdrop in this book. The story starts at the lowest level, called the “grasslands” and mentions creatures such as coyotes, jackrabbits and burrowing owls that roam around the bunchgrasses and cactuses. In the foothills, a visitor will run across scrub jays which live in smaller trees capable of living in more gravelly soil. Next is the “montane” zone where rain and snow fall copiously. Shy “Albert’s” squirrels build their nests in the Ponderosa pines. Aspen trees provide food and shelter for the Rocky Mountain elk, which are especially fond of aspen bark. In the subalpine zone, you can build a snowman most of the year, but it is wet and cold so only plants like spruce and fir trees grow here. Other plants grow close to the ground and the animals are hardy. Look for snowshoe hares and boreal owls here, along with well hidden mice. At the highest level, believe it or not, some plants grow even with all the snow and cold. Here the explorer will find tiny pikas and bighorn sheep. As with the other books in this series, a bit more reference to relatable sizes would be a help. Not all children are spatially adept at imagining height differences. Still, a talented teacher can help her students understand the concepts. The illustrations, though stylized, are charming.

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-389-8

 

Murder and Mayhem!

Oh boy, I’ve discovered a new writer of children’s books, and not only that, I’m now a member of her critique group!

Her name is Sheila Turnage and she a delightful person as well as being an outstanding writer. She lives in Farmville, NC, and has historical ties to Washington, NC, which is affectionally known as “Little Washington,” so as not to confuse it with the capital of our country.

In Little Washington, there is a grand theater which is used for all manner of events and it is named after Sheila’s grandfather who was a big-time mover and shaker there. If you get a chance, do check it out. The town, itself, is worth the trip.

Anyway, Sheila writes mysteries that take place in “Tupelo Landing” starring Miss Moses LoBeau, with her sidekick, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III.

Moses LoBeau is known far and wide as Mo, because her foster father and savior, The Colonel, thought she was a boy when he rescued her as new born from the local river during a hurricane. So, he’d given her an apt name for a boy found in the water.

Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, was so named because his father is a big fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who had just won his third racing title.

The first mystery and murder are about the death of the local curmudgeon, and Ms. Turnage neatly keeps us guessing as to who the real killers are.

Dale’s father is the prime suspect because he’s so often the culprit of bad things happening in the town.

But the books aren’t just about mysteries, they also introduce us to life in Tupelo Landing and most all 143 members of the town. And boy are there a lot of characters, including Mo’s arch enemy, Anna Celeste Simpson, a.k.a. Attila. Dale’s dog, Queen Elizabeth has a significant role in the stories.

In the hopes that one day she’ll meet her birth mother, Mo sends notes in bottles to her, calling her “Upstream Mother.” All the towns people help her in the endeavor, by dropping the bottles anytime they go upstream. Sometimes Mo gets answers but never one from her mother.

The books are Three Times Lucky (2012, ISBN: 97800-8037-3670-2) The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, (2014,) The Odds of Getting Even (2015, ISBN 978-0-8037-3961-1) The Law of Finders Keepers (2018.)

 

Borrow from your local library or order them from Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group/Penguin Random House or Amazon.

Also check Ms. Turnage out on her website: http://www.sheilaturnage.com

Happy 2019!

 

          For some of us 2018 was not a wonderful ride, what with bad health and bad weather. But we survived and even had moments of great happiness. I hope for you it was a fulfilling year.

But now we have the bright shining adventure called 2019 before us, where the plans we’ve made and the plans we will make still have the potential to be fulfilled.

For me, it’s the joyful grind of revising and polishing the rough draft of a novel that I wrote during the month of November. All 50,829 words of it. Revising is hard work, but so fulfilling because what I end up with is much better, shiny with promise. I can improve the flow. I can check to make sure I got the facts correct. Yes, even in a novel, the facts have to be right.

For instance, one of my critique partners pointed out to me that bananas would not be readily available for a teen-aged boy to eat in 1942 Los Angeles. So, I had to see what would be available. I “googled” availability of bananas in L.A. and found a photo of a big white blob in a night sky with thick streaks of light appearing to emanate from it.   Well, if you use your imagination, you might think this looks like a bunch of bananas. But if you’re imagination is this good, why aren’t you writing stories? Turns out it’s not bananas, nor is it a UFO. But the big white blob in the middle is a weather balloon being spotlighted because somebody thought it was a Japanese war plane come to bomb the city in February 1942.

Careful, Sarah. Finish this novel before you start another.

Anyway, now Johnathon eats a handful of strawberries grown in his own yard.

I also have to make sure the experiment he does in chemistry class is actually a believable experiment. The one I put down at first was having him slowly heat up powdered potassium until it melts and then add vinegar to see what happens. Well, I can’t find that such an experiment is possible. From what I can find out, potassium would just burn, rather than melt. So now I have to find an experiment that will work.

Isn’t that fun? Already, I’ve learned two new things.

I’m pleased to say my “beta” readers are enjoying reading my story, which is tentatively named “Earthquakes.”

What are you reading while you await my latest book?

 

By Sarah Maury Swan

 

 

 

Hot Diggety Dog

I sure am glad somebody knows how to do computer stuff easily, because I sure don’t.

My new best buddies, Liz Bemis and April Reed, have developed a website for me. Please check it out. And let me know what needs tweaking.

And soon I plan to put out my first newsletter, but you’ll have to sign up to receive it. Which means you won’t be innundated with messages from me.

Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Sarah.

ttp://sarahmauryswanlovesbooks.com/

To the Conference I Shall Go!

The Wonders of a Good Conference

Every year I look forward to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator’s Conference. Before we moved to North Carolina, I loved going to the conferences in Maryland or Virginia. But now I look forward to the Carolinas conference.

 

I’ve made a lot of friends who always greet me as I’m a long lost sister. And they always encourage me. But the faculty for each conference also treat me with great encouragement and respect. They also teach me a great deal

 

This year, the enthusiastic and bubbly Tammi Sauer gave us good tips on how to write dynamite picture books. And I was lucky enough to win a copy of her yet to be released book, Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants, which was delightfully illustrated by Dave Mottran. One of the things Ms. Sauer emphasized was that the author should leave plenty of room in the story for the illustrator’s input.

 

Since I’m now trying my hand at writing chapter books, I took in Kelly Starling Lyons and Vanessa Brantley Newton’s energetic and informative session on writing chapter books. I also had a critique session with Stacy McAnulty on my chapter book. I ended my time with Stacy realizing my one chapter book should actually be four chapter books. Eek!

 

In the bookstore, I bought three chapter books to study the form. Less is more in this format. Since you want to encourage the reader to go it alone, the text should be engaging, but simple. Little description, but lots of action and dialog are the key. Ms. Lyons’ Jada Jones: Class Act very simply, but with much tension, tells the story of Jada Jones running for class representative.

 

Bridgett Bell-Langston’s story Finding Home, My Arf-O-Biography, tells the story of a puppy learning to live away from his dog family and behave in his new home.

 

Goldie Blox and the Haunted Hacks! is part of Stacy McAnulty’s series about Goldie Blox. All three books helped me understand a bit more about how to write chapter books.

 

I’ll go into more detail on these books and the others I bought. Plus more about the conference in next week’s post.

 

And my brag of the day is that I sold 7 copies of my book, Emily’s Ride to Courage. I’m proud of that considering the competition from other authors.

 

See you next week.

Here I am again

Hello everyone, I do hope you’re having a good summer and looking for new adventures, not to mention nicer weather, in the fall.

For me, most of the summer has been trying not to melt or grow moss between my toes. Here in New Bern, NC, it’s been entirely too hot for my redhead’s body to thrive, so I’ve stayed inside a great deal, reading copious numbers of books. Let me tell you, bears hibernating in the winter have no edge on me hibernating in the summer.

I haven’t stuck to reading just children’s books, and, instead I’ve read a number of “grown-up” books. One that comes to mind is The Maze at Windermere, by Gregory Blake Smith. What makes it most intriguing is the author’s ability to intertwine stories taking place in Newport, RI, but in different centuries. He writes so well, that each set of characters is written in the idiom of the era. Definitely worth reading, with lots of plot intrigue within each story.

I’ve also read a number of murder mysteries including the Tracy Crosswhite series by Robert Dugoni. Though you can read them as standalones, it would probably be best to start with the first in the series, My Sister’s Grave.

I also read a delightful fantasy about a boy who moves to a new town with his mother, and with help of a fox, learns to navigate his new world. The book is the first in a series, but I didn’t like the second one as well. My Fox Ate my Homework is the name of the story and David Blaze is the author.

Also in the children section is  The Secret Zoo, by Bryan Chick, which tells the story of children trying to rescue a club member  who has gone missing in a special zoo run by people intent on saving animals from going extinct. Lots of adventure in this one and amazing characters.

The final book is the first novel by Laura Bradford, who is well known for her cozy mysteries set in Amish country. Portrait of a Sister is about Amish twin sister who chose separate paths. One sister choses to be “English” and the other choses to stay Amish. Ms. Bradford knows her subject well, though her connection to Amish folk is through research for her mystries.

All these books, with exception of The Maze at Windermere, I read on my Kindle. The Maze I read on a copy my handsome devil had borrowed from our library.  It is also available via Kindle.

So, if you get caught by a hurricane or some other untoward occurrence, try reading some of these books.

Hope to see you next week at my blog.  And, soon, I hope you will be able to visit me on my in-the-works website. Sarah

Spring Time Is Here, at least According to the Calendar

Baseball spring training games are almost over and teams are readying their stadiums for their opening games. Golf clubs are ready for league play, if only it would stop raining or snowing. In southern states, people are sailing and doing other sports outside. So, I thought I’d review a couple of sports books to get us in the spirit of spring.

 

 

I never played much volleyball as a child, but I enjoy the game. And I love stories that emphasize believing in one’s self. If you add in teaching sports skills, any sport book has plenty to intrigue young readers.

 

 

Back Row Dynamo

Jake Maddox and Leigh McDonald

Ellie loves playing volleyball and she believes she’s good at it. So, she’s super excited that the season is about to start, sure that she will make the team. But when she makes mistakes, she begins to doubt her ability. Her friends and coach encourage her, saying that everybody messes up. She and her best friend, Isabella, walk by the community’s park and see some younger girls trying to play volleyball with a rope tied between two posts on an old sand-lot court. They’re using a soccer ball, instead of a volleyball. Ellie and Isabella go over to see what they’re doing and discover the girls’ volunteer coach quit. Ellie and Isabella offer to help teach the younger girls a few drills for practice. Later they talk to their coach who agrees that it would be good practice for the whole team to coach younger girls. Through this experience Ellie learns more about playing the game herself. The story is not told in an exciting manner, but the basic message of believing in oneself and striving to improve is a good one. The lesson is easily transmitted to other parts of one’s life. The book is part of the Jake Maddox series of sports-themed books published by Capstone.

BIBLIO: 2018, Jake Maddox JV Girls/Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Ages 8 to 12, $25.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4965-4926-6

ISBN: 978-1-4965-4928-0

ISBN: 978-1-4965-4930-3

 

When I was a girl, I lived in Maryland, one of the few states that had soccer as part of its sports program. I loved playing the game, even though I wasn’t very good. But girls’ version of the game was different than boys’. We were considered too weak to play as strongly as the boys. Poppycock!

 

Soccer Time!

Brendon Flynn

Part of the Bumba books—Sports Time, this book gives a brief overview of the game of soccer for young children. The photos are inspiring, with plenty of shots of children concentrating on joyfully playing soccer. There are explanations of what the game is about and who is allowed to touch the ball with her hands during a game. Interspersed throughout the book are several “critical thinking” questions, such as why players pass the ball and why the goalie can use his hands. A picture glossary gives clear images and definitions of various soccer terms. And both boys and girls are shown playing the game, with much enthusiasm. Be sure to look closely at the pictures of the children concentrating on kicking the ball. One girl has her right thumb and forefinger loosely forming a circle while her mouth is pursed in concentration. One little boy is gleefully concentrating on running.

BIBLIO: 2017, Bumba Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 4 to 8, $25.32.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9781512414349

ISBN: 9781512415438

ISBN: 9781512415445

 

Here’s hoping nice weather comes soon and it only rains when we don’t want to be outside.