Selling my Book and Dealing with Amazon

Okay, I’m trying to do all the right things to make my book a success, but it ain’t easy.

I signed up with the Advantage Amazon program, where I can have Amazon list my book and give me a Author’s page.  Fine.  Then I got my first order for a book, but the way the order graph is formatted, I couldn’t tell whether they wanted me to send them a carton of 20 books, or just one book.  Since Amazon takes 55% of the book’s price, it seemed to me more cost effective to send them a carton of books.  Then they’d have some in stock and I would have paid only 1 shipping fee for 20 books.

Nope, they want me to store the books at my house and send them 1 at time.  Seriously?  That means I would get $2.83 total for each of my books priced at $12.95.  Hardly worth the effort. So I’m going to quit Advantage Amazon and go for a different marketing strategy they have.  If only I could find how to get access to it.

Anyway, enough whining. I also am developing an Author’s page at Goodreads.  We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I did sell some books during our musical house concert last night.  Better than nothing, huh?

Okay, so this post is about getting from point A to point Z.


Adele! Singing Sensation

Ally Azzarelli

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is living proof to believe your mother when she says you can be whatever you want to be.  Born into a poor family in a not-so-nice part of London, England, the aspiring singer grew up knowing that singing was her thing.  She listened to musicians as diverse as the Spice Girls, Etta James, Pink, and Shingai Shoniwa.  By the time Adele was fourteen, she knew that singing and performing were what she’d do as her career.  Her big break came when she was still in school.  A friend posted on MySpace three songs Adele had recorded for a class project. About a year later a big U.K. record label signed her as a client. Her music career was quickly on its way.  She’s won many awards in her young life, including an Academy Award for the theme song for the recent James Bond movie, Skyfall.  It’s hard to tell for what age range this book is intended, because the language reads like a chapter book, but the discussion of Adele’s private life and loves seems to target middle-graders.  Though it’s a bit pricey, teachers may find it a good beginning for discussing careers and passions.  It does appear to be the first of a series entitled “Sizzling Celebrities.”

BIBLIO: 2014, Enslow Publishers, Inc., Ages ?, $23.93

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-7660-4172-1

ISBN: 978-0-4644-0283-8

ISBN: 978-0-4645-1178-0

ISBN: 978-0-7660-5807-1


PB & J Hooray!

Janet Nolan

Illustrated by Julia Patton

Unless you come up from another country, you’ve probably had at least a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during your life.  But where did the ingredients come from?  The grocery store, yes, but how did they get there?  By truck, yes, but where did the trucks get them?  From bakeries and factories, of course, but how did they get there?  From farms, naturally, but how did they get there? Farmers grew the crops that give us peanuts, grain for flour, and vines with grapes to make the jelly.  After all that time and effort, what do you get?  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made with stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth smooth or crunch-with-your-teeth chunky p b and sweet jelly, is just the best, especially with a cold glass of milk.  Told with simple, but fun, language this is a good book for introducing children to where we get our food from.  And the illustrations add to the cheeriness.  Teachers could use this book to discuss what goes into growing and processing food.

BIBLIO:  2014, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 5 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6397-7




Gordon Korman

Griffin Bing, The Man with the Plan, and his buddies have yet another problem to solve, well make that at least three problems to solve.  But they’ve solved other problems which are told in other volumes of this series, “The Swindle Mysteries.” This time they must figure out how to sneak around their snarly new neighbor’s fence that blocks off their shortcut to school.  Then they need to help friend Savannah stop her Doberman, Luther, from chasing a backfiring truck that makes it’s rounds two or three times a week.  Finally, they need to come up with a science project for school.  Griffin usually comes up with the ideas for the group, but this time shy Melissa comes up with her own plan.  Melissa’s plan successfully stops Luther from running after the truck, but Griffin’s plan continually has a troublesome side effect. As intended it does dampen the noise of a vacuum cleaner, but it also shuts down the power for all nearby machinery.  In the meantime, Griffin’s arch rival has come up with a foolproof device to continually supply prepared food.  Along the way, the friends discover their new neighbor is afraid the Government is after him and when he learns Melissa’s device is missing, he becomes an ally. Lots of silly fun in this book as it shows that cooperation is a good thing.  At the end of the book everybody discovers that Luther is not chasing the truck, just the mouse hood ornament.

BIBLIO: 2015, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 10, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-70935-4

So follow your dreams and eventually the right things will happen.  Or at least we all hope so.






In Honor of Scotty Andersen and his lovely Wife, Linda


After a well-fought battle to concur lung problems, Linda Martin Andersen’s beloved husband Scotty “shuffled off this mortal coil” and is now breathing easily.  So, sad as the topic may be, I thought I would talk about three stellar books written on the subject of dealing with death. I do hope you readers and your families are doing well.


The first book is a well-deserved reprinting of Lois Lowry’s book, based in part on the death of her own sister.

A Summer to Die

Lois Lowry

Sometimes reading or rereading a well told story from years ago is so much better than reading a new story.  This book is indeed such a joy. Meg and her sister, Molly, move from their comfortable home in town where each has her own bedroom to a small cottage in the country where they must share a bedroom so their dad can finish the book he’s writing.  Neither girl is happy with the move at first, but then pretty Molly finds a boyfriend at her school and Meg meets an old man, Will Banks,  down the road who helps her find her way.  The family dynamic changes when Molly gets seriously ill and has to spend time in a hospital.  When she comes back, Molly is not the same and Meg doesn’t know why.  In the meantime Meg begins to take her photography more seriously, encouraged by Will Banks, who gives her his still good, German camera that he bought in WWII.  Will owns the three houses on his farm: the cabin he lives in; the cottage he rents to Meg’s family; and the large house he grew up in.  Unfortunately, his only living relative wants to sell the farm for a profit, saying Will can live his life out there.  When Will sells the large house to a nice young couple, Maria and Ben, his nephew threatens to sue him.  Will is key to Meg’s dealing with Molly’s impending death.  Plus, Maria and Ben want Meg to take pictures of the birth of their child.  Though she and her parents move back to their house in town after Meg’s dad finishes his book, Meg does keep in touch with Will, visiting him when the blue gentian blooms.  The book will make your heart sad and happy.

BIBLIO: 2016 (orig. 1977,) Houghton Mifflin Books for Children /Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12, $8.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-395-25338-0

ISBN: 978-0-544-66841-6


This book has so much going for it; I struggled to relate all the nuances. And, of course, having horses be a big part of the story certainly made me more enthusiastic.  I could envision the Cornwall area of England with much clarity and sympathized with not just the protagonists, but the lesser players.


One Silver Summer

Rachel Hickman

Alexander is a dreading the party downstairs on his secondary school’s ballroom floor.  He knows he’s going to be the center to attention, because, as future heir to the English throne, he always is.  But now his parents are divorcing and the news is spreading all over the British Isles, actually, the world.  Worst of all he learned of the pending divorce not through his parents, but a rapacious, gossip-mongering reporter. All he wants to do is to escape to his grandmother’s house in Cornwall and hide. However, when he does, he discovers a girl there who seems to be hiding also.  But Alex is so used to strangers, especially pretty young girls, wanted something from him—like be his queen—he is quite suspicious of the newcomer to his village.  And finding her trespassing on his grandmother, the Countess of Tremayne’s, estate makes him even more suspicious. Saskia, a.k.a. Sass, recently orphaned, is now living in the village with her uncle and recovering from her mother’s awful death in Brooklyn, NY.  Alex is attracted to her anyway, because she seems so innocent and appears to be ignorant of who he is.  Sass thinks he’s the stable boy because he’s always out riding horses or cleaning up after them.  He teaches her to ride and they spend more and more time together.  Sass meets Alex’s grandmother, but doesn’t know who she is or that she and Alex are related.  The plot is nicely convoluted and both Sass and Alex grow emotionally.  Though there’s a bit of a fairy tale quality, it’s more about understanding oneself.  It is a delightful read with a lovely feel for the Cornwall countryside.

BIBLIO: 2016, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 13+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-080893-4


And what can be more heart wrenching than reading about a child realizing how soon she’s going to be an orphan?  (Sorry, but from my perspective of 75 years, even a teenager is a child.  I have trouble thinking of my 50s something children as anything but my children.)


Positively Beautiful

Wendy Mills

Erin Bailey’s father dies in a plane crash when she is six, leaving her afraid of the dark.  Now, ten years later, her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. What’s a teenager to do when she sees her future as an orphan?  Especially since she tests positive for the BRCA gene mutation?  To make her more alone, she and her best friend aren’t as tight anymore because her friend has her first serious boyfriend. Erin meets a young woman, Ashley, in an online BRCA chat group who gives Erin courage and hope, and she decides to learn to fly.  Of course she doesn’t want to upset her mother, so she keeps lots of secrets.  Then she really messes up when she “borrows” her instructor’s plane to fly from Georgia to Florida to go visit Ashley, who has secrets.  Things get messier, as any good book should, before they get better, but even though her mother does die just before Erin’s graduation from high school, she has taught her daughter how to understand this mutant gene and lots more about life.  The book is nicely written and gives a great deal of information about dealing with breast cancer, including encouraging girls when to get tested and whom to confide in. The love story woven into the narrative isn’t too shabby either. There’s plenty of food for classroom discussion in the book, including why the BRCA gene mutation should be of concern to men.

BIBLIO: 2015, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Plc, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-61963-341-4

ISBN: 978-1-61963-342-1


The thing that ties these books together is the comfort they bring by assuring us that there is hope after all is said and done.  Enjoy.  Sarah

The Good, Not so Good, but never the Ugly

I couldn’t think of a theme for this week’s blog, but I did want send one out.  I picked three of the books I reviewed in March.  They are an eclectic mix, so pick the one that suits you best.  Although I named this blog The Good, Not so Good, but never the Ugly, the books all have merit, I’m just so over dystopia and fantasy.


Children will love this story, but so will their parents, especially the bit about organizing chaos.

Bears in a Band

Shirley Parenteau

Illustrated by David Walker

This is a sweet rhyming story about little bears playing musical instrument and making a horrible racket, until Big Brown Bear helps them out.  Yellow Bear likes the bells and Calico Bear picks the golden horn.  Floppy Bear beats the drum and Fuzzy Bear clangs the cymbals.  They make so much noise they wake Big Brown Bear, but, instead being angry, he picks up a soup ladle to conduct.  He reminds Floppy Bear to not beat the drum so loudly and asks Yellow Bear to the ring the bells more loudly. Soon all the bears are happily pounding, clanging, dinging and tootling in rhythm as they march around the room.  Their harmony is spot on. At the end of their performance, they all take a bow. This story has lots of energy and cute drawings and will probably be a bedtime favorite for lots of children whether or not they are musically inclined. It is part of a series on bears doing various activities.

BIBLIO: 2016, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 8, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8147-0


I must admit that I’m tired of this never ending craze promoting fantasy and dystopia.  There are plenty of good real life stories to write about.  But that’s just my private opinion.


Deceptive: An Illusive Novel    

Emily Lloyd-Jones

Generally a second or third novel in a series should build on the beginning novel, which this novel, in theory, does.  But the reader needs to have enough back story if she picks up the books out of sequence.  There is not enough coherent back story in this second novel for the reader to understand what the whole set is about.  Why are the people with special powers considered outcasts and why were they vaccinated in the first place?  Is it only the United States that’s having this problem?  Ciere, Alan, Devon and Daniel all have superhuman abilities.  Ciere can make things vanish from view, even though they are physically still there.  She’s called an Illusive. Alan is an Eidos, who has a perfect memory, including the formula that changed America. Devon and Daniel are differently special, but it’s hard to keep everyone straight and figure what their agendas are.  There is a lot of well-written action in the book, but no real sense of who the characters are and what they feel.  The other characters in the book are no more clearly drawn, making it confusing to figure who are the bad guys and who are the good guys.  Perhaps everybody is good and bad.  It’s possible there’s going to be a third novel in the series, but that may not matter.

BIBLIO: 2015, Little, Brown and Company, Ages 14 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-316-25464-9

ISBN: 978-0-316-25460-1

ISBN: 978-0-316-25462-5


And speaking of real life stories, this last one will knock your socks off, so be sure to wear a pair while you read the book.


The Truth about Alice

Jennifer Mathieu

What an excellent story.  Pretty much all the students in her high school—perhaps the whole town—brand Alice a slut. She has only one friend, having been ditched by her best friend. The story is about Alice, but told from the perspectives of other students.  The main person to spread the rumors is Brandon, a football star, whom everybody worships.  So when, presumably as a joke, he says Alice had sex with him and another guy at an “end of summer” party, everyone believes him.  Then a month and half later, Brandon dies in a car crash.  Josh, Brandon’s best friend, tells the police that Alice was “sexting” Brandon while he was driving.  Josh doesn’t tell the truth until the end of the book, when the reader finally hears from Alice herself.  The book is a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and following the supposed “In Crowd,” who, for the most part, are just trying not to be found out for the frauds they think they are.  The characters are well drawn, with different voices and personalities.  The story lends itself to discussions about spreading and believing rumors, and being yourself, instead of being a sycophant.

BIBLIO: 2014, Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrink Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-59643-909-2

ISBN: 978-1-59643-910-8




If I Could I Surely Would


My husband spent his career as an economist—first as a professor and then with his own firm devising ways to save money for consumers of electrical power.

But what soothes his soul is playing his guitar and writing songs.  The title of this blog is about what he would do to make our world a better place if he could.  He now also plays the fiddle, mandolin, harmonicas and a penny whistle.

So my blog this week is about children learning what is special about them.


The first story is about a girl who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps, but also find a way to keep him close in her mind while he travels for his job.

A Photo for Greta

Anna Alter

Illustrated by Anna Alter

Greta loves to spend as much time as possible with her dad, who travels all over the world taking photographs of famous people and events.  She really misses him when he’s gone and wishes she could do something photo worthy so her dad will take her picture.  When he goes to the circus, Greta dresses in circus clothes and when he comes home he takes her picture.  The next day she wears her tutu because her dad is photographing a ballet.  Again he takes her picture.  On the nights she goes to bed before her dad gets home, Greta’s mom shows her the photo album.  The book is a sweet story of the daughter/father bond reflecting the author’s time with her own father.  The suggestions at the end of the book about projects a child can do related to photography are nice, but a bit old for the intended audience; although probably doable with the help of an adult or older sibling.  The exercises and the book itself might help a child expand her visual horizons.

BIBLIO: 2011, Read to a Child!/Borzoi Book/Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 3 to 5, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-375-85618-1

ISBN: 978-0-375-95618-8


Errol doesn’t think he’s special until his dad helps him understand his uniqueness.

Errol and His Extraordinary Nose

David Conway

Illustrated by Roberta Angaramo

All the other animals at Errol’s school seem to have a talent, but nobody, including Errol, thinks the little elephant does.  He can’t swallow lots of stuff as the anaconda can or change color as the chameleons can or hide in plain sight as the zebra can. He falls down with a bump when he tries to dance.  So when the students are to participate in a talent show, Errol is very sad; after all what can he do?  But his father gives him a book about elephants and he discovers there’s lots he can do—especially with his very useful nose.  In the talent show, Errol picks up a feather, snorkels in a tank of water and gives a water and light show, astounding and amazing the whole audience.  He wins the talent contest with his extraordinary nose!  And, along with the other students, he learns he has a great talent for making friends.  The obvious theme of finding one’s talents is sweetly told and the drawings are cute.

BIBLIO: 2010 (orig. 2009), Holiday House, Ages 5 to 7, $16.95

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2262-3


The last book has a moral, as do most books.  But the moral of this one is stop sitting inside playing a video game when you could be outside getting exercise playing a real game.

Surprise Kick

Tad Kershner

Illustrated by Andrés Martinez Ricci

Written under the pen name of Zach Riley, the message of this book is to have confidence in yourself and to try real sports rather than just video games.  Cody is the champ at video soccer, regularly beating his best friend, Mud.  But when Cody’s parents take away his video game and insist he actually play soccer in a field, with real opponents, the protesting champ discovers real soccer is a different game entirely.  He feels his teammates don’t have his back and even Mud sort of abandons him, he thinks.  Even worse, he’s an awful player.  He keeps feeling sorry for himself and jealous of how well Mud is doing. But after hearing his grandfather tell stories of crashing in the jungles of Vietnam, Cody decides to stop complaining and start practicing.  Things start to get better for him and his team, eventually heading to the league championship game.  Of course Cody makes the winning goal, thrilled with the trophy he gets to take home.  His parents have a party for the team.  His mother says Cody and his teammates may play a soccer video game, but Cody opts for a real game of soccer.  Nice story, with lots of energy, but I find it strange for parents to be called by their given names when the action is from the child’s point-of-view.

BIBLIO: 2013, SportsZone/ABDO Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 12, $27.07.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT:  Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-61783-536-0


Please leave me your comments and remember that we are all special in our own ways.