Eek, the Gift-Giving Holidays Are Here!

Much as I hate to admit it, this year’s almost done. It’s almost time for the gift-giving holidays. So, I thought picture and chapter books would fit the bill. I’ll mention older kids books next week.

 

BUT, I also have to mention that my 2nd novel, Emily’s Ride to Courage is, as of today, live on Kindle! “Over the Moon, Alice,” as Ralph used to say in the Honeymooners TV show. I know, I know, he was threatening her bodily harm, but I’m just going to jump that high. It will be out in paper back next Friday through Amazon.

 

It’s always a pleasure to read one of Mr. Smith’s books. His illustrations are quite charming and intriguing.

 

A Perfect Day

Lane Smith

Illustrated by Lane Smith

Mr. Smith’s beautifully carries along this story about a perfect day. But is the day the same for all the creatures enjoying it? Cat thinks it’s pretty because the sun is shining and the daffodils are blooming. Dog likes the day because it’s warm and he cools off the wading pool that’s been filled for him by Bert. Chickadee is happy because the bird feeder is full, thanks to Bert. Squirrel, on the other hand, is not as happy because his way to the seed is blocked. Never mind, he finds the corn on the cob that’s been dropped for him by Bert. Uh oh! Here comes the bear, who turns everybody’s perfect day into a not so perfect day. He eats the corn left for squirrel, and bends the birdfeeder pole to get to Chickadee’s seed, and dumps Dog’s wading pool water all over his big brown body. Then he rolls through the flower bed and squishes Cat’s daffodils. Which makes it a perfect day for Bear. Inspired by the loss of a friend, and a bear that visits Lane’s back yard, the book is bound to get lots of readings by children and their readers.

BIBLIO: 2017 (orig.,) Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, Ages 3 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978162625362

 

 

I found the information about Ragdoll cats interesting. An ex-sister-in-law has two of them and she had tried to explain them to me, but this is a much better description.

 

Adventures at Tabby Towers: Disappearing Darcy

Shelley Swanson Sateren

Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Part of series about a cat hotel, for cats whose families are going on a trip without them, this story features a Ragdoll cat named Darcy. Ragdolls are large, passive cats that will flop like a ragdoll when held. They are very affectionate and loyal to their humans. Darcy is very unhappy staying at Tabby Towers, because his special friend, Joy, is in the hospital for heart surgery and he’s not allowed to be with her. Joy is unhappy because she’s frightened and doesn’t have Darcy to comfort her. Tabitha Catarina Felinus a.k.a. Tabby Cat is granddaughter to the Tabby Towers owners and loves staying there when she can. She’s worried about Darcy because he won’t stop crying, even though she’s giving him extra attention. Darcy escapes and runs back to his owners’ house in the rain, where Tabby Cat and her grandmother find him. They sneak him in to see Joy and of course the nurses find that Joy’s much calmer holding her beloved Darcy, so they let him stay for a while. There are several lessons about cats and their behaviors gently taught in this book and human behaviors are also hinted at. Nice, sweet read beginning readers will enjoy.

BIBLIO: 2018, Picture Window Books/A Capstone Imprint, Ages 6 to 8, $25.32.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1546-4

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1550-1

ISBN: 978-1-5158-1554-9

 

This a part of series that always starts with “Come Home Already.” The characters are well depicted.

 

Come Home Already!

Jory John

Illustrated by Benji Davies

Duck wakes up to another glorious morning which he plans to enjoy with his friend Bear. But Bear has gone fishing and he didn’t invite Duck! Can’t be! Bear, however, is quite happy to be off by himself for a change. Duck, on the other hand, is not thrilled with the idea. What’s he to do by himself? He doesn’t want read or paint or cook or play his drums or watch a movie. He misses his friend. Bear, on the other hand, is not doing as well as he planned. He can’t set his tent up, and it starts to rain, and he doesn’t catch any fish. In the meantime, Duck decides to look for bear. Bear is now scared how that it’s dark and he hears noises. The noise is, of course, Duck who helps set up his tent and set things right in his camp. Bear is glad to see him and admits he missed him. After a restful night, the two friends head home. But Bear sighs when Duck says he’ll always be by his friend’s side. Sweet story about friends and when to be quiet.

BIBLIO: 2017, Harper Collins Children’s Books/Harper Collins Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-06-237097-6

 

 

 

It’s Almost Here!

Okay, here’s a teaser for you. My next book is due out in about two weeks.

I used CreateSpace this time, because of time and money concerns. For the most part, I’ve been pleased with their work. The editor was extremely thorough and the design team certainly did work to get the horse right. I did have to ask them for one more white hoof. The horse the picked only had three white hooves and Emily’s horse has four, which why Grandpa won’t buy him.

So here’s the cover revel, using my page on SCBWI BookStop. https://www.scbwi.org/scbwibookstop-display/?id=481166

 

 

What’s not to Believe?

Children are fanciful creatures who love delving into what boring adults think is make believe.  But make believe isn’t always fol-de-rol or foolishness. And even if it is, it stretches the reader’s imagination. I, personally, think there might really be fairies and animals can understand more than we think they can. Anyway, this week we’re looking at whimsical stories. Keep believing.

 

If you get your hands on a copy of this first book, be sure to study it carefully.

 

Can You Find My Robot’s Arm?

Chihiro Takeuchi

Illustrated by Chihiro Takeuchi

How’s a robot to get his work done without both of his arms? And where is his arm? It’s not in the house, though there is a fork.  Robot’s friend suggests a broom. Maybe a pencil will do? Nope. A pair of scissors? Nope. And definitely not a broom. Outside they go. But Robot doesn’t think a tree branch is quite the thing. And most decidedly not a leaf. Nothing in the neighboring amusement park is right for the job of an arm. Especially not a lollipop. And in no way, is a fish bone up to the task of being an arm. Eew. Even in the parts factory, the two friends can’t find Robot’s arm or anything to use as a substitute. The arm is not on top of a tower, nor is it in the library. Candy from the candy store is not a good solution to Robot’s problem. Giving up on their search, they head back home and decide that a fork is an okay substitute. The story is very simple, but the drawings, actually made with black paper cutouts, make for crisp visuals. Children will have fine time searching for Robot’s missing arm.

BIBLIO: 2016, Tundra Books/Random House of Canada/Penguin Random House Company, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-91903-3

ISBN: 978-1-101-91904-0

 

 

Every town should have a magical child-teaching, problem-solving person in it,

don’t you think? Especially someone who can solve sticky, almost unsolvable problems. Enter Missy Piggle-Wiggle.

 

 

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Won’t-Walk-the-Dog Cure

Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell

Illustrated by Ben Hatke

This is part of a series designed to carry on the magic of the “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” stories written by Betty MacDonald and Anne MacDonald Canham. The star of this latest series is Missy, great-niece of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who is off on a search for her missing husband. Missy is living in her aunt’s upside-down house which is at the edge of Little Spring Valley. The house is indeed upside-down and has a bit of an attitude. As did her aunt, Missy helps children and, especially their parents, get rid of the bad habits we all pick up. The boy who begs for a pet, which he promises to take care of all by himself, of course soon forgets his promise and lets his new dog go hungry, doesn’t take her for walks or groom her. And most importantly, he forgets about her frequently. Missy puts the dog in charge of the boy until he understands the consequences of bad behavior. Missy deals with whining children similarly. But in the meantime, she is having to deal with physical problems in the upside-down house, which is eating up the money her aunt had left her. Her aunt regularly writes to say she’ll not be home soon and to remind Missy to look for the silver key if she needs more money. The book is delightfully written and will enchant the reader with characters that abound. Who wouldn’t want a pig who acts as butler and cook to the household? And who wouldn’t want a person to teach children not to shout or whine or ignore their pets? The illustrations do a grand job of keeping the humor of the story.

BIBLIO: 2017, A Feiwel and Friends Book/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-250-07170-5

ISBN: 978-1-250-13519-3

 

I think the male sex believes in unicorns as well as we clever females, they’re  just afraid of being called sissies if they admit to such a thing.

 

 

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Brigette Barrager

The Land of Unicorns is deluged with so much rain all the unicorns are sad and feeling very unmagical, except Uni. You see the unicorns gave up believing that little girls are real. Plus, with all the gloomy weather they haven’t seen the golden sun in forever nor have they seen any glorious rainbows. Without sunshine and rainbows and believing, the unicorns can’t make magic. Somewhat far away, a little girl stares at the rain falling outside her window, and, being the clever child she is, she knows the unicorns need her. Then Uni and the little girl hear thunder and see lightning at the same time. They close their eyes, wish the same wish as hard as they can and turn everything white and quiet. Then they rejoice in finding each other. Though they could play together forever, they both know they have to save the other unicorns. Along the way, they feed the forest animals and lift their spirits. They show the other unicorns that Uni was right all along. Little girls are real. The whole herd of unicorns regain their joy and their magic. This story is sweet, but the illustrations are a bit too cloyingly sweet. Still, the children who read this won’t mind.

BIBLIO: 2017, Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 3 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-93659-7

ISBN: 978-1-101-93660-3

ISBN: 978-1-101-93661-0

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

I’ve been working on publishing my second novel and am finally ready. Yay! I had such good luck using Sable Books as the publisher of Terror’s Identity, I was planning to use them again. But, they’re doing so well, the start time was more than I wanted to wait. I know. I know. After waiting all this time, what’s my rush? People who see me at the New Farmers’ Market ask when my next novel is due out. And I’ve been saying “soon,” but that’s wearing thin.

 

So, with the help of my critique partners, I think I’ve got Emily’s Ride to Courage as close to perfection as possible, though I’m sure there will still be errors in it. Which is why I’m having a copy edit added as part of the cost.

 

I have chosen CreateSpace to do this book. I’ve seen good results as far as the quality of the work they’ve produced and, so far, they seem to be easy to deal with. Like sending your first child off for his first solo walk around the block, it’s hard to let go. But the only way to have your child, or your book, grow is to cautiously release it to a wider circle of love. You may shed a few tears and your hand may feel empty, but soon its acceptance in the world will make your heart sing.

 

CreateSpace is yet another Amazon company, of course. Isn’t the whole world an Amazon company? But it seems to be set up as a stand-alone Amazon entity. The corporate ties make it easier to keep the prices lower than independent companies such as Sable Books. This bothers me a bit, because “big box” stores drive out small company competitors. Just look at the collapse of “Main Street America,” which was done in by shopping malls, which were done in by online shopping. For future books I intend to give myself more lead time and go back to Sable Books. Or a combination of Sable Books and CreateSpace, because CreateSpace has more marketing outlets available.

 

Whatever avenue you choose to publish your book, please make sure you take every effort to produce a book that is a joy to read and won’t have the reader constantly stumbling over poor writing and poor editing. But do pat yourself on the back for having reached your goal.

 

The main horse in the story is a “blood bay” with four white legs and four white hooves. My husband always wanted a bay horse and this story came to me because we had to put down a young horse with four white hooves. The day after that I was cleaning our house as part of my grief therapy and Grandpa’s voice came into my head: “Won’t have me no white hooved horse. One white hoof, maybe, but never no four while hooves. They’s weak.” Well what was I going to do with that? Since I write for children, I had to come up with a child as the protagonist—enter Emily. And then of course, I had to add all kinds of wrinkles to the story. Enter Emily being away from her family, and her sister being obnoxious and a bully. Next came Mom being deployed to Afghanistan and disappearing and Dad being on the road too much for the girls to stay with him. Then we have Grandpa’s insisting Emily study math over the summer, and Emily being afraid to make new friends. Emily is worried about riding a horse she doesn’t know. Every possibly perfect horse she and Grandpa go to see as a prospective match shows one of Gemini’s potential problems—a problem Gemini doesn’t show. In the end, Emily solves all her woes, including proving Gemini to be the perfect horse for her.

 

A friend found the perfect picture of a bay horse with four white hooves to use on the cover of my book, but I cannot find out where to get permission to use it.

 

So, make sure you have all your legal issues squared away, like copyrighting your book. I paid $800 to get the official government copyright for Terror’s Identity, but more and more authors are betting on the come that they won’t need to sue anybody over infringements, so I decided not to jump through that hurdle this time.

 

If you’re young and just starting out on this journey, try the trade publishing route, but if you don’t want to go through the heart-aches of rejections, try the self-publishing route. Just remember to not take any shortcuts. Have your manuscript glistening not only in your eye, but those of critique members and professional editors.

 

No matter how you go about publishing you book, good luck with your endeavor and let me know when it’s in print.

 

The Dreams of Young Artists

Our Story Begins

Edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Have you ever wondered when your favorite authors and/or illustrators started writing or doodling? Well, here’s your chance to find out about a number of them, because “they share fun, inspiring, and occasionally ridiculous things they wrote and drew as kids.” Twenty-six artists and writers submitted early works of writing and drawing, some from the age of five. A number of the people in this book were inspired by a teacher or an author or a well-known illustrator. Many of the earliest works were stories or pictures about mythical creatures and events, but others wrote things happening to them. The group included in this book is an eclectic mix of authors and illustrators known for their more polished stories, but the reader will see the nuggets of talent shining through at early ages. The common thread is the prodigious imaginations and drive these artists possess. This is an interesting read and should be very useful for inspiring children to follow their dreams.

At age 5, Dan Santat saw an illustration by Norman Rockwell in Time magazine and was compelled to gather up his paper and crayons to see if he could duplicate the painting. He dreamed of being hailed as an artistic genius until he discovered his painting wasn’t anywhere near as good as the original. When he started to cry, his father informed him that had taken years before he got to the stage of painting that made him famous. When Dan saw that Rockwell was very old, at least a thousand years old, the boy decided there was still time to catch up. And that he did.

  1. J. Palacio started drawing at an early age, but she also wrote stories to go along with her artwork. I’d find her a kindred spirit since she loves horses.

Maria Frazee started on a chapter book series called “June and John.” She got three chapters written, but now she looks back to see how much of the story gives a nod to her favorite authors. Anybody heard of Beverly Cleary and her “Klickitat Street?”

Jarret J. Krosochzka also was in third grade when he wrote and illustrated his first book. He still writes and illustrates books, which now put money in his pocket. He can’t imagine doing anything else.

Thanhha Lại, who left Vietnam when she was ten, as the war was ending. She had to leave all her childhood stories behind. But the poetry of her native language has stayed with her. Poetry, not just in words, but in the rhythm of the language. It still stays with her even in English.

Eric Rohmann made a get well card for his aunt Helen when he was nine. It featured her long dead, but still favorite dog, Butchy. Drawing is part of who he’s always been. He doesn’t remember his aunt response to the card, but he does remember that she kept carefully folded away in her memory box and he found after she died.

Linda Sue Park has always written poems. It’s part of who she is, and she shared two in her remembrance of a younger Linda. Nice poems.

Phyllis Reynold Naylor who credits her love of writing to her parents and her kindergarten teacher. Her parents read to her, and her teacher sat on the floor with her students every afternoon so they could make up stories.

Gordon Korman had to dig deep to remember stories he had written before he was published since his first novel was published during his seventh-grade year. He published four novels before finishing high school.

 Elissa Brent Weissman joins the students who found their niche in third grade. She was inspired by Gordon Korman but didn’t have as easy a start as he. The beginnings of a novel she submitted to publishers when she was in sixth grade did not gain immediate success, but she didn’t stop writing.

Kathi Appelt frequently wrote about horses, which filled up a bit of the empty space in her horse-loving soul. Fortunately, her writer’s soul brings us all good stuff.

 Gail Carson Levine and three friends started the “Scribble Scrabble Club, newsletter when they were ten, and she published her story, “Adventurous Girls.” The newsletter didn’t last long, at least not with Gail as president. Her friends got tired of her pushy ways.

Chris Gall got in trouble for doodling on his desk in second grade. His teacher claimed he might be an artist one day before making him scrub all the desks in the room. All that scrubbing didn’t stop him from drawing.

Rita Williams-Garcia’s friends in elementary school were horrified when one girl signed her scrapbook, “To Rita, an off-beat but nice young lady.” Didn’t bother Rita. She relished her off-beat self.

Cynthia Leitich Smith dreamed of entering her school’s sixth-grade competition fair in language arts. She got a “thanks for participating” white ribbon. She did turn one poem into a Christmas card for her parents. Her mother still has it.

Peter Lerangis says he learned quickly that humor was his way to survive elementary school because he was the object of bullies. Though most of his teachers tried to settle him down, Mr. Shebar encouraged his humor, allowing Peter to use his talents.

Candace Fleming was a “journal girl,” which she started doing in fifth grade. She learned her writing skills by imitating her favorite writers. She discovered in the end that she was developing her writer’s ear.

Brian Selznick was encouraged from an early age to be an artist, which brought him great joy. He took lots of art classes during school and also after school. His portrait of a woman’s face is quite good, especially at age ten. He loved drawing the characters in movies such as Star Wars.

Tom Angleberger tells us about his first story about the world of Yodium. Boring, he says. Starting with not a sword fight, but a detailed description of the world’s government, our author thinks it’s because he “basically never shut up.”

Alex Gino, even as a kid, was set on writing a book, even going so far as finding out about vanity presses, but she discovered she’d have to pay them to publish her book, including having them design a cover for her masterpiece.

Tim Federle at age twelve wanted to be on Broadway. A passion he discovered at summer camp where he played in “Annie.” His mom sent him to camp with a diary which he discovered a wonderful way to write down his thoughts.

Kwame Alexander made his mother cry when he gave her his first poem—framed, no less. He figured he’d better keep at this writing thing if it could get that kind of reaction.

Grace Lin used the basis of her childhood story of a winning poem for her first novel The Year of the Dog, though the winning story in her novel is not the one she wrote back then. The story is the Dandelion Story for which she won fourth place.

 Chris Grabenstein discovered the fun in writing when he started publishing his own comic books in the fifth grade. He was a big fan of newspaper columnist Art Buchwald, a seriously funny guy.

Yuyi Morales shows her artistic talent with a copy of her quite good self-portrait as an eleven-year-old about to enter middle school. No wonder she’s done so well.

The last entry is by Ashely Bryan, another impressive artist, who shares photos of some of his early works. Like most of the talented people in this book, he started young and just kept on drawing

BIBLIO: 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Ages 8+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781481472081

ISBN: 9781481472104

 

 

While I was reviewing this book, I remembered what both my brother Richard Maury and my son Stephen Swan have said about their artistic talent. They don’t know what else they could do. You can check out their work by Googling Richard Bunker Maury and Steve Swan. Have a good week and keep on doing your thing. Sarah

 

 

 

What Good Writing Looks Like

I read a great many books during a year, largely because I review children’s books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, but also because I love to read.

I don’t just read books published by the “trade” and “indie” publishers, but also self-published books that I find at conferences and book-signing events.

Generally speaking, the trade and indie books have some merit, though they may be in need of a more thorough edit.

Sad to say, a large percentage of the self-published books should never have seen the light of day. That may be an arrogant thing to say, since I self-published my first novel, Terror’s Identity, but I did have two professional editors critique and edit the book to a fare-the-well. And I used much of their editing input to improve the story.

Anyway, the two books I’m commenting on this week fall into the trade publisher category and are well worth the money or trip to your library.

It is amazing the number of gifted writers floating around in our universe.

Cherry Money Baby

John M. Cusick, whom I had the pleasure to meet the past August at the SCBWI-Carolinas’ annual conference, has written an interesting book about a teen-aged girl who loves her small town and her family. She has no ambition other than to graduate high school, marry her boyfriend, and live happily ever after. That is until she meets a movie star not much older than she, who is filming an historical-fiction movie in Cherry’s hometown.

The movie star befriends Cherry and turns her upside down by introducing her to drugs and wealth and the playgirl life. All of this causes Cherry to pause and reevaluate who she is and what she should do with her life. The story is well told and intriguing, reminding us that things frequently are not what they seem to be. In the end, Cherry solve the puzzle of who she is and where she wants to end up.

BIBLIO: 2013, Candlewick Press, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-7636-557-0

Orbiting Jupiter

Gary D. Schmidt is not only an astounding teacher, but an exceptional author. This book will stay in your mind and heart for a very long time, filling you with heartbreak and joy. The story is told by Jack, who is the son of a local farmer in a small northern town. His parents take in foster children to give them a loving home, at least for a while.

Their latest foster child is 13-year-old Joseph, who has already fathered a child with the love of his young life. But he’s never seen his daughter and mourns the death of his girlfriend. He is sullen–or so it would seem–angry, but turns out to have a way with cows. He goes to school with Jack, who becomes fond and protective of him.

Joseph hasn’t had a happy life since his mother abandoned him and his father abuses him.

The story blossoms into the bond between the two boys and then Jack’s endeavor to help Joseph find his young daughter, Jupiter, named for Joseph and his girlfriend’s favorite planet. The end of the story is bittersweet, with Joseph dying and Jack’s family adopting Jupiter. Definitely worth reading, if you haven’t already.

BIBLIO: 2015, Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 13 +, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-544-46222-9

ISBN: 978-0-544-93839-7

 

 

 

 

To Be or not to Be

Should we always follow the path seemingly meant for us? I’m not sure I ever had a path meant for me, but I doubt that I followed it. In any event, the characters in these stories took different paths. Hope you enjoy them.

 

Ice Boy

David Ezra Stein

Illustrated by David Ezra Stein

What happens when you don’t want what others expect you to want? How far can you go toward your goals? Ice Boy loves his family, and loves to play with them, though he’s not fond of the tough ice cubes at the back of the freezer. But he doesn’t think his ultimate goal should be providing coolness to somebody’s drink. Nor does he want to be in a cold compress for some injury. Instead he wants to explore the world. He wants to stand in the sun, even though his doctor told not to. He goes to the beach and rolls into the ocean, where, slowly but surely, he becomes water boy. He is part of a wave and then another wave, until finally he washes up onto somebody’s beach towel. The sun slowly turns him into vapor boy and carries him up to the clouds. He goes so high, he becomes a drop of water, but then he is high enough to freeze into an ice cube. A storm drops him out of the sky and into someone’s drink at his very own house.  His parents are in the drink with him, but when the person takes a sip, he tastes Ice Boy first and decides the cube doesn’t taste good. Out on to lawn, Ice Boy and his parents are launched. His parents worry what will become of them, but their son says, “Let’s find out.” This is a clever way to teach children about what can happen to water. The illustrations are playful and appealing.

BIBLIO: 2017, Candlewick Press, Ages 5 to 8, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8203-3

 

The second story was wonderfully done, even though it took me a bit of time to figure we weren’t in modern times. I could easily picture the old comedian with his old poodle.

 

Mort Ziff Is Not Dead

Cary Fagan

In the fall of 1965, Norman Fishbein wins $1000 for guessing the correct number Doozy Dots in a jar. Even his two older brothers are nice to him for a change while he decides what to do with his prize money. In the end, he doesn’t give the money to his folks to repair the roof. Instead, he pays for the whole family to go to Miami Beach, Florida, during the Christmas holiday. At first, the family is stunned, but then they all get into the mood. Mr. and Mrs. Fishbein say they’ll pay for the extras like food and other stuff not included in air travel and hotel rooms expenses. Norman’s brothers are actually a little kinder to him. They are thrilled to be out of wintery Canada for a week. The first day in Miami, the family is enjoying the pool when they spot an elderly gentleman dressed in a black suit, wandering around the deck area carrying a miniature poodle. Turns out he’s a comedian named Mort Ziff.  He was quite the character in his younger days. Norman’s father is thrilled to see him, having thought Mort died years ago. The boys are threatened by three sisters about the same ages as Norman and his brothers swim in the hotel pool. The older two girls and Norman’s brothers challenge each other to duels. But Norman and Amy, the youngest sister, don’t really want to fight. They’d rather just hang out in the ratty old coffee shop drinking milk shakes. They end up saving their new friend, Mort Ziff, from being fired and kicked out of his room at the hotel. The book is amusing, though it wasn’t readily apparent what decade this took place in.

BIBLIO: 2017, Puffin/Penguin Canada Books Inc/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-14-319847-5

ISBN: 978-0-14-319849-9

 

When I was a child, comic books had bodybuilder ads in them. “Don’t be the 90 pound weakling who loses his girlfriend.” Instead become a bodybuilder. There was usually a picture of a skinny guy getting sand kicked into his face by a boorish bully. Then the next picture was of Mr. Skinny looking like Mr. Hulk and all the girls swooning over him. See what you missed out on by being born later than I?

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth

Don Tate

Illustrated by Don Tate

Eugene Sandow was a scrawny, sickly child named Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, but he soon learned what he wanted was to be a body builder. Though his father was not pleased, Friedrich followed his dream. He worked and worked on developing more muscle and finally decided he wanted to become the strongest man on Earth. It wasn’t easy, but he kept at it until he was, indeed, the strongest man on Earth. He decided that he also needed to improve his showmanship and changed his name to Eugene Sandow. He traveled the world showing off his physique. He wrote books and magazine articles on how to be a strong man. He opened a gym and designed his own muscle-building equipment and techniques. After a much-needed rest, Eugene started a competition for bodybuilders. An interesting twist to this story is about the author, Don Tate, who was a bodybuilder in his own right. At the end of the book are illustrations of simple exercises to keep your body strong and flexible, even if you don’t want to be the Strongest Person in the World. This is a very inspiring book and has many opportunities for starting classroom discussions. It’s thought-provoking to note that the illustrations were digitally created using Manga Studio.

BIBLIO: 2017, Charlesbridge, Ages 6 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9781580896283

ISBN: 9781607348863

ISBN: 9781607348870