In This World of Incivility…

My favorite source of children’s books, Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, is finally up and running. So now I have a regular conduit to what’s going on in the field of children’s literature. And grist for my reviewing mill. Which means now I can blog on reviews again.

 

In this world of incivility, I thought I’d start with books on good behaviors. Just to remind us what to teach our children, and perhaps learn from what we’re teaching them.

 

My mother used to quote poetry to us as a way of teaching morals lessons. I never remember the whole poems, but one line that has stuck with me oh these many years is of a lowly sailor complaining about how harsh his captain was. “…all I ask is a little cee vil i tee!” (That’s civility for those of you who don’t speak “Maury.”)

 

 

The first book mentioned here is a brief introduction into how we all need to work together to make our world stay on course.

 

I Am a Good Citizen: Character Education

Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

Part of the Scholastic Blastoff Readers series, this photography-filled book shows in simple detail how and why to be a good citizen. As a good citizen do you pick up your dog’s poop or do you let somebody else worry about? Do you help take care of your community? Does a good citizen follow the rules and take care of other people’s property? Do you color in a library book, for instance? Do you obey the school crossing guard? The children depicted in the photos run the gamut of race and ethnicity, which is grand to see. The pictures are very good and the children are good actors, but they seem a bit old for kindergarten and first graders. In some spots, the language seems a bit sophisticated for kindergarten and first grade students, especially since there is no pronunciation guide included. The simple, illustrated glossary at the back of the book is good, as is the small bibliography.

BIBLIO: 2019, Bellwether Media/Children’s Press/Scholastic Library Publishing/Scholastic, Ages 5 to 6, $26.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-fiction

ISBN: 978-0-531-13419-1

ISBN: 0-531-13419-9

 

In my opinion, the next book builds on the theme of being a good citizen since it deals with honesty.

 

I Am Honest: Character Education

Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

Part of the Scholastic Blastoff Readers series, this photography-filled book shows in simple detail how and why to be honest. The opening photo spread shows the feet and calves of a small child behind the remains of a shattered ceramic bowl on the floor. Does she fess up to her mistake or does she blame the cat? Is the boy in the next spread being honest when he gets the answers from his fellow student’s paper? Another picture shows two boys with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The message being if you’re honest you’ll be more likeable. The book has photos set side by side asking the reader to choose the correct behavior. The children depicted in the photos run the gamut of race and ethnicity, which is grand to see. The pictures are very good and the children are good actors, but they seem a bit old for kindergarten and first graders. There is a simple, illustrated glossary at the back of the book, as well as a small bibliography.

BIBLIO: 2019, Bellwether Media/Children’s Press/Scholastic Library Publishing/Scholastic, Ages 5 to 6, $26.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-fiction

ISBN: 978-0-531-13421-4

ISBN: 0-531-13421-0

 

Lastly, a book on being responsible, for if we aren’t responsible human beings how will we continue to keep societies functioning? Of course, having said this, my brain is telling to do the breakfast dishes after emptying to dishwasher.

 

I Am Responsible: Character Education

Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

Part of the Scholastic Blastoff Readers series, this photography-filled book shows in simple detail how and why to be a good citizen. Is it responsible to be home when you said you would? Or is it alright to stay out later? Do you feed the dog when it’s your turn? Do you help with household chores? Should you do your work whether you want to or not? The children depicted in the photos run the gamut of race and ethnicity, which is grand to see. Doing the responsible thing means brushing your teeth when you should. When you’re done you can do what you want to do. There are a couple of photos giving the reader a chance to pick what’s the correct thing to do. The pictures are very good and the children are good actors, but they seem a bit old for kindergarten and first graders. In some spots, the language seems a bit sophisticated for kindergarten and first grade students, especially since the is no pronunciation guide included. There is a simple, illustrated glossary at the back of the book, as well as a small bibliography.

BIBLIO: 2019, Bellwether Media/Children’s Press/Scholastic Library Publishing/Scholastic, Ages 5 to 6, $26.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-fiction

ISBN: 978-0-531-13419-1

ISBN: 0-531-13419-9

 

And a little self-promotion announcement. If you happen to be in the New Bern, NC, area on Saturday, May 25th please stop by 323 B Creative art studio to visit with me as I read from my work in progress, tentatively titled “Earthquakes.” The story is a “noirish cozy” mystery set in 1942 Hollywood, California, and has murders and spying going on, along with a bit of teen romance blossoming. The studio is at the back of Bella’s Café on Middle Street in downtown New Bern. I’ll be there from 11a.m. to 2p.m. Another benefit of coming would be seeing what three very talented artist friends of mine, Donna Slade, Vicki Vitale, and Martha Williams, are up to in their new space.

 

All right, all right, I’m doing the dishes next, so stop nagging. Thanks for reading my blog.

 

 

Off Topic Blog

I don’t know about you, but I am beyond tired of all the robo/telemarketer/scam calls we get every day. Why do the business people and scam artists have more rights to invade our privacy than we have to stop them?

The program that was started several years ago by the government where you could sign up onto a “Do Not Call” list doesn’t work for beans. I had one young woman say when I complained about her call, “Oh, that only works for 3 years.”

Well, what good does that do you or me?

Why do businesses have more rights to abuse our privacy than we do to protect it?

And how do we stop this from happening?

I’m telling all candidates who are running to fill recently deceased Congressman Walter B. Jones office that I will vote for the one of them who promises to do something about this while in office.

I’ve also got a petition I’m going to send to Congress asking them to stop people from invading our privacy.

In you’re interested in helping me reach my goal, feel free to sign up here.

 

Revision, Revision and then more Revision

I am in the processes of revising my latest novel. This one is historical fiction with spies and murders and a love interest. Of course, since the main character is a seventeen-year-old boy, there isn’t a whole of mushy love stuff.

The working title is EARTHQUAKES and the main character suffers from nightmares brought on anxieties about earthquakes. I remember having a recurring nightmare about being swallowed up in an earthquake and, to this day, would rather suffer through any other type of natural disaster than ever experience another earthquake. Well, I just as soon not experience a volcanic eruption

I wrote the first draft last November as my NaNoWriMo entry. I’m pleased to say I actually finished the first draft of 50,000 + words four days before the deadline.

Now I’m revising and correcting and trying to get it right. But I’ve realized that my time frame is out of kilter.

If Johnathon is seventeen in 1942 and is the third child in a family of five, he had to have been born in 1925 and his parents had to have been born in the 1890s. Which means they all lived through the Depression. Changes their perspective on the world.

Plus, a number of the secondary characters are Germans living in this country. I originally had two of them being brought to this country as children by Catholic nuns to save them from Hitler’s so-called ethnic purifying. But these characters are in their late thirties and so were born before Hitler came to power or was anything more than an Austrian peasant.

Now I have the make up other reasons for their being in the U.S. The neighbor, who is found stabbed to death, was a PhD geologist and his friend is a Fuller Brush salesman.

Some of the stuff in the book comes from my own childhood, though I was much younger during WWII, having been born May 29th, 1941. But my mother was indeed Lockheed’s first female tool and dye designer and a designated Rosie the Riveter. She did christen several ships.

People keep telling me I should write her story, but I can’t because I don’t consider it my story to tell. Still, I can use my remembrances as grist for the story-telling mill. Things like grieving for the death of my maternal Grandfather and for my own father. And going to the Brown Derby restaurant during its hey-day. And going to ship christenings.

I do remember hearing about my Granny working with the Red Cross to arrange for Hollywood types to visit wounded service members in local hospitals and I do remember stories she and mother told about various movie people and their personalities.

And I do remember that we didn’t feel we should grieve for the loss of our father or grandfather, because that was just the way it was done. One needed to always keep a “stiff upper lip,” and just “carry one.”

Anyway, I still have a long way to go with the revision process, but the story is getting more cohesive every time I work on it. Thanks for spending cyber time with me.

Sarah

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/