Friday, December 16, 2011

Sweet Christmas Stories

Dixie Phillips is a talented author who has written several children's books that are lovely, entertaining, and provide valuable lessons for children about Jesus.  Two of them are especially appropriate for this time of year. 

One of these sweet stories is Baby Jesus is Missing! It is the story of a boy who discovers that baby Jesus is missing from the manger scene in his home. He is understandably upset because, after all, what is Christmas without Jesus? His parents, however, are too caught up in trying to win a Christmas decoration contest to pay attention. It takes the love and simple faith of a child to help them realize the true meaning of Christmas. The lovely illustrations by K.C. Snider add a special touch to the story as well.

Angel eyes is the story of Jesus coming to earth at Christmas as seen by two young angels. It is told in a creative and imaginative way that will capture children's attention and help them learn about the Christmas story and the life of Jesus and what it means, not only to the whole world, but to them as well. The bright, sweet illustrations by Kim Sponaugle help draw the reader in along with the story.

These books are both published by Guardian Angel Publishing and are available from there and Amazon - Baby Jesus is Missing and Angel Eyes. Read more from Dixie on her blog, "From the Heart of Dixie."

Sharing books like these with children is a great way to help them learn what Christmas is really about. May we regain a childlike faith as shown in these stories, and rejoice in the special blessing that Christmas brings.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gunther, the Underwater Elephant

Doesn't that name grab your attention? And look at that sweet little elephant floating under the water! Ginger Neilson has written and illustrated an adorable children's book about a small elephant named Gunther who discovers he can float and swim underwater, holding his trunk up like a snorkel to breathe. He has been playing with his bigger cousins, and when they are distracted he floats away. Gunther is pleasantly surprised at how he can swim and breathe, and also at all he sees under the water as he floats along. Children will be delighted along with Gunther as they enjoy the beautifully illustrated, colorful pages of undersea scenes.

When night comes, Gunther falls asleep and wakes up washed up on what seems to be an island, surrounded by water. He is feeling frightened and alone until he meets a surprising new friend, who comes to his aid and leads him on a new adventure.

Gunther, the Underwater Elephant is filled with page after page of lovely underwater areas and creatures that will capture children's imaginations along with the creative story. And although it is a fun story, it also has a couple of important lessons to impart.

Published by 4RV Publishing, Gunther, the Underwater Elephant is also available from Amazon. You can visit Ginger at her blog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Sister is My Best Friend

Do you have a sister? I do, and although we live far apart, we remain close friends and talk or email often. 

Author Nicole Weaver has sisters and has written a lovely book about two sisters who are also best friends. It's a sweet story about twins girls who enjoy doing things together. They do the types of fun things that young girls like to do, such as play with dolls and their dog, ride on a seesaw,  and help their mother with the flower garden. The best thing about what they are doing is that they are spending time with each other. Although children sometimes have disagreements and fight with each other, this story focuses on the positive aspects of being sisters and friends. The bright illustrations by Clara Batton Smith display the colorful clothing and the girls' surroundings in a pleasing and attractive way.

An added bonus to this book is that each page is written in three languages. The first is English, then the same thing is repeated it Spanish and again in French. It's an excellent opportunity to be exposed to different languages and learn new words, for children and adults as well.

My Sister is My Best Friend is available from Guardian Angel Publishing and Amazon. You can learn more about Nicole on her website and visit her blog, Melange of Cultures.

Please feel free to share about your siblings and your relationship with them!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ferdinand Frog's Flight

Since I enjoy rhymes so much and like reading rhyming books to my grandsons, I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to review a new picture book written by Marvin Mayer, illustrated by Stephen Macquignon and published by 4RV Publishing. Ferdinand Frog's Flight fills all the qualifications of what I'm looking for in a fun picture book!

Ferdinand is a sad frog. He doesn't like having to stay on the ground but has always wanted to fly. He is jealous of birds, who can soar above the trees. Although the birds try to convince Ferdinand that frogs belong on the ground and that things are not always fun for them, he remains unconvinced. When Ferdinand meets a helpful eagle, it appears his wish will come true. He is in for a surprise when he takes the big leap.

The flowing rhythm, catchy rhymes and expressive illustrations are added attractions to this delightful tale that soars with anticipation and suspense. Children can relate to Ferdinand with his dream and learn along with him on his adventure.

Ferdinand Frog's Flight can be purchased from 4RV or Amazon.

Don't you agree this is a fun book for young children? The bonus is that it's also fun to read!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Giving Meadow

The Giving Meadow by Stephanie Burkhart is an adorable book about the cute little caterpillar shown on the cover above. Now, I'm not a big fan of bugs, in fact I tend to take off in the opposite direction when I see one. But look at that sweet face! There is nothing disgusting about this bug, and the story is as friendly as the caterpillar is.

This new little fellow has emerged from his egg hungry and hunting something to eat. He makes his way across a meadow, looking for something to eat each day since he is growing rapidly and getting hungrier and hungrier. As he inches along, the caterpillar encounters several different creatures and requests something to eat each time. None of them has much food but all have a generous spirit. He fills his tummy and makes new friends until one day he disappears into a cocoon.

Children will be drawn into the suspense and the surprise along with the caterpillar's friends, waiting to see what happens to him as they enjoy the bright and colorful illustrations by Stephen Macquignon along the way.

Often children are fascinated by insects, especially ones like this little fellow who has such a transforming experience! This is a good book for helping young children learn about how caterpillars change as well as a gentle lesson about sharing and caring.

The Giving Meadow is available from 4RV Publishing and Amazon. You can learn more about Stephanie and her books on her website.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November is Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month, a time to celebrate picture books and their importance in a child's life. Since this is the 11th month, I'd like to share with you recommendations for 11 children's books, with links to my review of each book and to the author's and artist's sites. First though, I'd like to share a poem with you!

Reading a book to a child is great fun,
a short one, a long one,
a rhyming, sing-song one,
one that has colorful, nice pictures, too
of animals, scenery,
earth, sky or sea, 
to offer enjoyment to your child and you!

illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier
 illustrated by Jack Foster

Horatio Humble Beats the Big D by Margot Finke
illustrated by Ellen Gurak

Klutzy Kantor by J. Aday Kennedy
 illustrated by Jack Foster

A Wish and a Prayer by Beth Bence Reinke
illustrated by Ginger Nielson

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep by Kathy Stemke
illustrated by Jack Foster

Mr. Topper, the Potbellied Pig by Liam Maher
illustrated by Vanda Lavar

Where is Salami by Donna J. Shepherd
illustrated by Jack Foster

Trouble on Earth Day by Kathy Stemke

I Spy a Dragonfly by Carla Burke

And for the 11th picture book on the list, I couldn't forget  
Animal Sound Mix-up by Connie Arnold
illustrated by Kit Grady

Many more quality children's picture books can be found at Guardian Angel Publishing, 4RV Publishing, and Amazon.

Hope you find many opportunities to read picture books with a child this month and every month! What do you think are some of the advantages of sharing picture books with children at an early age?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trouble on Earth Day


Author Kathy Stemke's new book, Trouble on Earth Day, has just been released  It's a great way to help children learn about recycling and conserving the Earth's natural resources.  

The story begins as Shelby the squirrel comes home excitedly waving a first place ribbon she won in the Earth Day poster contest. She told her parents that the poster was to remind people to help the earth by finding ways to recycle. They began searching for things they had which could be reused in some way. 

Shelby hears crying outside and follows the sound to a small bluebird, who needs to find materials to make a new nest after losing his. This provides a great opportunity for Shelby to recycle some things her family has found and help out her new friend.

This colorful and beautifully illustrated book also includes activities, a song, game, things to make using recycled items, and information about Earth Day. It is a wonderful tool for teaching about environmental responsibility in a fun way.

Kathy’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next two picture books, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and Trouble on Earth Day, from Wild Plains Press, were released in 2011.  Visit her book blog at

Mrs.Stemke offers great teaching tips and children’s book reviews as well as a monthly newsletter titled, MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM, on her blog.

Trouble on Earth Day is available from Amazon and Author's Den.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Exercise is Cool!

Run so fast,
have a blast,
skip and jump and play.
Have some fun
in the sun,
get moving every day.
 Kick a ball,
big or small,
throw it to a friend.
Move around,
touch the ground,
stretch and twist and bend.
 Ride a bike,
take a hike,
jump into a pool.
Swing and slide,
play outside,
exercise is cool!
Connie Arnold, 2011

Summer is nearing an end and schools are starting up again. We still need to encourage children to get exercise, stressing the fun in it while keeping their bodies healthy. 

Hope you enjoy this little poem and the photos of my grandsons having fun and getting exercise! If you'd like to read another poem I shared earlier with this same theme, see Get Moving!

What are some of your favorite active children's games?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

National Book Lovers Day

August 9 is National Book Lovers Day. I think we should extend that and make it at least Book Lovers Week, or maybe have August be Book Lovers Month! What do you think?

There definitely should be time set aside for children to read if they can, or be read to if they are too young to read, each day. It's so important for children to develop that love of reading when they are young.

Take time to read some books today,
a restful break from work and play.
Books are great for learning and fun,
so be a book lover and grab a good one!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun with Animal Sounds

Hope you enjoy the fun of the mixed up animals!

Congratulations to Rena, the winner of a copy of A Wish and a Prayer by Beth Reinke from my previous post.

If you know of a little one who would enjoy it, Animal Sound Mix-up is available from Guardian Angel Publishing, Amazon or an autographed copy from my website.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Wish and a Prayer

A Wish and a Prayer by Beth Reinke is the story of Jason, a boy whose pet parakeet, Sonny, flies out his window after being startled by a siren from an ambulance speeding down the street. Jason is upset about the loss of his little friend and wants to get him back. His friends encourage him with different ways to make a wish, including tossing a penny in a fountain and wishing on a star. He tries these wishes for a week, but Sonny doesn't return. Jason's mother asks him who hears his wishes, and what is the difference between a wish and a prayer. This causes Jason to do some serious thinking and realize that wishes are made on objects that can't hear or act, but prayers are heard by God, who has the power to answer those prayers.  This lovely book, beautifully illustrated by Ginger Nielson, provides a valuable lesson to children about the importance of prayer.

Beth is also the author of In My Bath, a cute story about a child's imaginative play in the bathtub, also illustrated by Ginger Nielson. Her newest book is Carla's Cloud Catastrophe, which releases this summer. All three books are published by 4RV Publishing. You can find Beth's books at 4RV Publishing 
(A Wish and a Prayer is on page 4)
Visit Beth on her website and Ginger at
Beth will be giving away a copy of A Wish and a Prayer and a sheet of 12 stickers with illustrations from the book, designed by Ginger. Leave a comment to enter, tweet about this post or share on facebook and let us know for extra entries! The contest is open to US residents only.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brother Sister Poetry

It is my pleasure to share this post for Day 4 of Kathy Stemke's Book Tour for her new picture book, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep, published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Be sure to visit Kathy's blog to learn more about her tour and some exciting contests and prizes. Remember to leave a comment to enter the prize drawings! Here is my review of the book, followed by Kathy's poems and more information about her.

In Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep, Kathy Stemke tells a story that children, especially those who have younger siblings, can relate to. Zachary's life takes a drastic change when a baby sister enters it. He puts on his special glasses and uses his creative imagination to become a superhero and quiet all the wild and noisy commotions that disturb her sleep. Each page of this delightful book is filled with bold, colorful illustrations by Jack Foster and has cute rhymes, which add to the fun. As an added bonus, there are games, word puzzles, a song, and rhymes at the end of the book. It's a great book for home and the classroom.

Brother and Sister Poems

Author, Kathy Stemke, and illustrator, Jack Foster, team up to bring Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep to life. Kathy includes adorable rhymes for each consonant blend that’s featured in the book; sh, br, th, ch, and gr.
This darling story illuminates the love between brothers and sisters as Zachary learns to accept this new member of his family. 

Here are some poems which express the special love found only between siblings.

My Sister, Layla

I'm really glad now that we're part
of the same family
You probably know I wasn't so at first.
I guess I was just afraid...

Afraid that there wasn't enough room
for both of us in the same family...
Afraid that I would be forgotten or
loved a little less than before you came along.
But somehow we've managed to weather all that
and grow closer too.
Now I realize how much
you've added to this family...
How much you've added to my life.

I just want to thank you
for being such a loving,
kind and patient sister….Layla.

Brothers and Sisters

As Kids, We Lived Together
We Fought, We Laughed, We Cried
We Did Not Always Show The Love
That We Both Felt Inside
We Shared Our Dreams And Plans
And Some Secrets Too
All The Memories We Share
Is What Bonds Me Now To You
We Grew To Find We Have A Love
That Is Very Strong Today
It's A Love Shared By Our Family
That Will Never Fade Away
You Are My Sister Not By Choice
But By Nature Of Our Birth
I Could Not Have Chosen A Better One
You Are The Best On Earth!

My Special Sister

I served the cake, you poured the tea
We built a house under the tree
In grown up clothes we played all parts
Secrets told, we crossed our hearts
Through all the years, the smiles and tears
First true loves ... and football cheers
I’ve never found a friend so true
I’ll love you Sis, my whole life through.

Can you think of any brother and sister poems? Can you make one up?

Kathy Stemke has a passion for writing, the arts and all things creative. She has Bachelor degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and Covenant Life Seminary, as well as graduate coursework from New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Hanging her hat in the North Georgia Mountains, she has been a teacher, tutor, and writer for many years.

As a freelance writer and ghostwriter, Kathy has published hundreds of articles in directories, websites and magazines. She is a contributing editor for The National Writing for Children's Center and a reviewer for Sylvan Dell Publishing. As a retired teacher, Kathy has several activities published with Gryphon House Publishing. Kathy is also part of the team at DKV Writing 4 U.

Kathy’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next picture book, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, was released in May of 2011. Her third picture book, Trouble on Earth Day is scheduled for release in June of 2011.

Mrs. Stemke offers great teaching tips and children’s book reviews as well as a monthly newsletter titled, MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM, on her blog,

Be sure to visit Kathy's blog to learn more about the tour and the contests.
*     Which comic character is big, green and you would not want to make him angry?

Description: is the real name of The Atom?

ANSWER: Ray Palmer. With a Doctorate in Physics, Ray Palmer harnessed the power of a fragment of a white dwarf star by exposing it to ultraviolet light frequencies. He can shrink himself and clothing to microscopic size. He can shrink to 6 inches while keeping his weight at 180 lbs. This makes him super-dense and able to pack quite a wallop to his foes.
Remember; Every answer or comment you make during this book tour puts your name in the hat for a fantastic prize, which includes amazon gift certificates, books, superhero figurines, and much more.

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep can be found:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where is Salami?

My friend, Donna Shepherd, is the author of many delightful picture books. A new one has recently been published by Guardian Angel Publishing, Where is Salami? It is another fun book done in rhyme that Donna does so well, and is filled with Jack Foster's energetic and expressive illustrations. The little boy telling the story can't understand why his sister, Beth, keeps getting so excited. Just because his pet snake, Salami, is loose in the house! She may very well have more reasons than that to be excited since there seems to be a mouse, spider and various other pets slipping around the house and adding to Beth's fright. As if the adorable rhymes, dynamic illustrations and various pets weren't enough to keep a child's interest, there is also a hidden picture on each page to be discovered.

Among the places Where is Salami? can be found are Guardian Angel Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You can visit Donna at Topsy Turvy Land and be sure to check out the video of her many fun books. Jack Foster's great art can be viewed at Jacktoons.

If you would be interested in reading a recent interview I did, please feel free to pop over to Write What Inspires You after you leave a comment for Donna here!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lenny Lee Fest

My post today is to honor a special young blogging friend, Lenny Lee of Lenny's World. I'm joining with many other blogging friends to spread Lenny Lee sunshine. He's a terrific kid, and I hope you will hop over and visit his blog when you get a chance. You'll be glad you did!

Lenny Lee is a friend of mine
who loves to blog and write.
It's always fun to visit him
at his sunny, cheerful site.

Lenny's posts are really cool,
informative and well done.
You should visit him today,
read his posts and enjoy each one.

It's great to get a comment
from my bloggy friend, Lenny Lee.
God bless you always, Lenny,
you are very special to me!

I'm sure Lenny would love to hear from you if you'd care to leave a comment. That's how I met him, and he faithfully visits my blog and leaves comments that warm my heart. Thank you, Lenny, for the sunshine you spread. You are much loved and appreciated by so many!

Here's looking at you, Lenny. Hugs!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Animal Fun Trivia

Since my children's book, Animal Sound Mix-up, is about animals and the sounds they make getting mixed up, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of animal trivia I could discover and share with you. Here are a few I didn't know about, did you? The illustrations are by Kit Grady and can be found in Animal Sound Mix-up.
Illustration © Kit Grady
  • Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, dogs only have about ten. 
  • Roosters can't crow unless they can fully extend their necks. 
  • A duck's quack doesn't echo.
  • A dolphin's hearing is so acute it can pick up underwater sounds from fifteen miles away.
  • Crickets hear through their knees.
  • Giraffes don't have vocal cords. (I'm glad to know that one since no one I've asked has been able to come up with the sound a giraffe makes!)
Illustration © Kit Grady 

  • The fingerprints of koala bears are almost indistinguishable from those of humans, enough that they could be confused at a crime scene.
  • The bottom of a horse's hoof is called a frog. 
  • A donkey's eyes are placed in its head so that it can see all four feet at all times.
 Illustration © Kit Grady

  • Camels have three eyelids for protection from blowing sand.
  • Kiwi birds are blind and hunt by smell. 
  • When opossums are playing opossum, they aren't "playing" but actually pass out from sheer terror.
  • An elephant can be pregnant for up to two years. Elephants walk on tip-toe because the back part of their feet is made up of all fat and has no bones.
 Illustration © Kit Grady

  • The giant squid has the largest eyes in the world. 
  • The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers.
  • Camel hair brushes are made from squirrel hair.
  • Bees have to collect nectar from 2,000 flowers to make one tablespoonful of honey.
You can read these and many other bits of animal trivia on Animal Trivia and Useless Facts.

I don't think the animals in Animal Sound Mix-up know these facts either. They can't even get the sounds they make right! Do you know any other interesting animal facts?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mr. Topper and Golden Daffodils

Today I'd like to share with you about two delightful new children's books by Liam Maher, published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Mr. Topper is a pot-bellied pig who is looking for someone to give him a good home and take care of him. He meets several people, telling each one, "If you give me a good home, pet and pamper me, and feed me whenever I go Oink!Oink! you shall have lots of very good luck.” Now, this seems rather hard to believe, and not surprisingly, people don't believe Mr. Topper. Just when he is wondering if there are any kind people in the world, his luck begins to change. Can his promise of good luck come true? Vanda Lavar provides the fun, colorful illustrations on the cover and in the book.

Paddy, the gardener, grows some beautiful golden daffodils in his garden. He is wondering if they could win first prize in the Spring Garden Show. His friend, a little bird named Tupo Hoopoe, wants to help her dear friend win first prize for his daffodils. She spots a fairy as she drops a bag which spills some shimmering gold dust. Tupo gathers up the spilled fairy dust and sprinkles it on Paddy's daffodils. The flowers turn a beautiful golden shade that Tupo is sure will cause them to win the prize. But it's not that simple. The morning of the show the golden daffodils are gone, vanished! The adventures begin as Tupo tries to find them. Will Tupo be able to find the daffodils in time? Will Paddy win first prize? The cover art and illustrations are beautifully done by Marina Movshina.

Mr. Topper, the Potbellied Pig and Golden Daffodils are available from Guardian Angel Publishing and Amazon. They are recommended for ages 4-8.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Watching the Animals

     Do you like visiting the zoo? If you have children, I'm sure you do that when you can. I don't think we ever outgrow the pleasure of watching animals though. When we get to take our grandchildren to the zoo, it's fun to not only watch the animals, but also to watch the children enjoying the animals!

     Hope you enjoy my little poem. If you'd like to read more, please visit my children's website and the poetry for children's page of my inspirational website.

     Which are your favorite animals?

A monkey was playing in a tree,
Swinging from limb to limb.
The things he did were fun to see,
And I liked watching him.
 A mighty lion was lying around,
Resting out in the sun,
Then giving a roar, got off the ground
And suddenly started to run.
An elephant who was big and gray
Lifted her trunk up high,
Wanting others to keep away
Since her baby was sleeping nearby.
I like the animals, large and small,
And you can enjoy them too,
Together where you can see them all
Whenever you visit the zoo.
© Connie Arnold

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Gift

Remember Easter’s not just about bunnies
and the colored eggs they hide,

 or the pretty Easter baskets
with plenty of treats inside,

a day for families being together
with fun for each girl and boy, 

but there is a very special reason
for so much Easter joy.

Jesus, God’s son, came from Heaven
where He had lived before,
 died because of all the sin,
then rose to life once more.

That’s the reason for Easter joy,
the gift God sent from above,
the gift of life that Jesus gives
and the wonderful gift of love.
 Connie Arnold, 2011
Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Klutzy Kantor Fun with J. Aday Kennedy

It's my pleasure to share with you a little about author J. Aday Kennedy and Klutzy Kantor, the star of one of her children's books, and his theme song, "Go Me!"

Aday describes herself as a "differently-abled" writer and speaker. Being a ventilator dependent quadriplegic doesn't stop her from being an accomplished author, motivational and inspirational speaker, and a whiz at creative marketing ideas, which she shares with other authors. I never cease to be amazed at what she can accomplish and her quick wit and wonderful sense of humor.

That great sense of humor is evident in Klutzy Kantor, a fun story about a clumsy flying horse who is, as you might guess, a complete klutz! He is also quite clever and must come up with the answer to a riddle to get a leprechaun to grant his wish to stop being so clumsy. Klutzy, like his author, teaches a good lesson about dealing with life's challenges. Delightful and colorful illustrations by Jack Foster add to the great appeal of this book, which is published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

You can visit to learn more about Aday's writing and books on her website and blog.

Here is a video for your enjoyment featuring Klutzy Kantor and his song, followed by a dance activity. Have fun!

Story Time Stomp Activity
Divide the students into three groups.
¨ Group 1 – Begin chanting the rhyme and snapping their fingers on each syllable.
¨ Group 2 – Begin chanting after Group 1 completes the first sentence then group 2 can begin to chant and clap each syllable.
¨ Group 3 – Begin chanting after Group 2 completes the first sentence then group 3 can begin to chant and stomp each syllable.

Do you have ants in your pants?
Do the Klutzy Kantor dance.
Come along and follow me,
But watch out for that big tree.
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
My hooves are like four left feet.
I fly and splat into trees.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview with Author Margot Finke

I'm pleased to share with you an interview with a special lady, Margot Finke. She is the author of many great books for children, including her two recent releases, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D and Taconi and Claude - Double Trouble.
Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, though not interested in children's books . Their three children are now grown and doing very well.

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs.  You are my heroes! "

Margot, how long have you been writing for children, and what encouraged you to begin doing so?
I have always written “stuff,” but it was my stint as a teacher’s aide that encouraged me write down the stories I told the different classes about Australia, and their weird and wonderful animals.  However, it wasn’t until our youngest went off to college that I buckled down and became a serious writer. 
When we first arrived in Oregon from Australia, I didn’t want our children to forget their Down-under heritage. I put a map showing Aussie animals on our kid’s bedroom wall. Every night I told them a story about a different critter.  These are the stories I told the school kids too, only sometimes I changed them around, and the children noticed the different endings. A teacher suggested I write them down. I did, and  they became my  “Wild and Wonderful” series: 7 rhyming picture books about animals from the US and Australia.
Those sound like some fun and exciting stories, Margot! You have several books published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Would you tell us a little about these and your reasons for writing them?
My two latest rhyming picture books, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D, and Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind, have  sneaky hidden agendas.  They were both born due to what I learned as a teacher’s aide.
Many kids suffer deeply due to big changes in their lives. Changes they have no control over: like a death, a divorce, a move far from friends and family etc. “Ruthie” is such a child, and she reacts with snotty behavior and tantrums her parent find hard to manage. Finally, something wonderful happens to change her back to a sweet and loving girl.  Kid friendly and fun to read, the parent/teacher guide offers a helpful Q and A plus links to more serious help.
It seems that Dyslexia and other learning problems beset many of today’s children – especially boys. “Horatio Humble” is a smart boy, yet he can’t read.  He thinks going to Special Ed classes will brand him dumb. However, go he does, with amazing results.  The story encourages these kids that they CAN learn to read. The parent-teacher guide suggests early diagnosis + links to helpful websites and advice.
Like a lot of boys these days, my son was a reluctant reader. This prompted me to write books with a WOW factor that grab their attention. I wrote  “Taconi and Claude– Double Trouble“ with boys (and tomboys) in mind.  Plenty of action, fast pace, an Aussie outback setting, + the surprise and mystery of an aboriginal tribe and its Dreamtime beliefs.  This historical novel, set in the early 1950’s, would make a great home school or class history project using the help in my Teacher’s Guide:  

I also include a glossary of fun and interesting Aussie sayings, words and names.
It's a wonderful thing to encourage children to read and enjoy books. Do you think it will make it easier for them with the growing popularity of e-books?
I think anything that encourages children to quit watching junk TV, and playing mindless and often violent computer games, is absolutely wonderful!  And kids today are computer savvy – unlike many of their parents.  They jump at the chance of books read on an eReader,  PC or laptop.  These books are cheaper, greener, and you can carry dozens around in a lightweight and very cool reader.  Computers and all their adjacent technology are the future – like it or not.  And the youth of today are ready to jump on it.
This isn’t to say that paper books are defunct.  NO WAY.  It just means there is room for more than one way to enjoy reading books, magazines, newspapers, or technical data for college or school.

I shared some e-books on my new e-reader with my grandsons on a recent visit, and they loved it! I notice on your website that you provide helpful information and critique service for other authors. Would you tell us something about that?
Manuscript Critiques are something I love doing.  When I started out, I was lucky enough to be mentored by several wonderful writers in an online list.  I have never forgotten the time they took to guide me, point out my strengths and weaknesses, and help me tighten and improve my writing skills.  Later I did critiques for free.  I felt it was a way to pay back the tutoring I had received.  When many more writers approached me for help, I started to charge a fee.  These days, I sometimes have so many critique clients it’s often hard to find time for my own writing, not to mention promoting my latest books.  Yet the thrill of hearing that a book I helped polish has been published never fades.  This is always a YIPPE moment for me.
If there is one thing I would advise new writers to do it’s join a really good critique group.  Then read lots-and-lots of books.  This will give you a feel for the genre.  Write, rewrite, and then rework it again until it is as good as you can make it. The two things I see most often in manuscripts is wordiness (overwriting) and weak, verbs.  Make your writing as tight as granny’s new girdle, and dig deep for active and powerful verbs.  Follow this with a fast pace and rich characters that readers can identify with.  Finally put the manuscript aside for a month or so.  When you reread it again, with fresh eyes, you will be amazed at what jumps out at you needing attention.
 And always remember that two small things often play a big part in your success – luck and patience.  Those who have the patience to stick with it, no matter how large the flood of rejections, are the writers who finally become published.  LUCK?  That’s sending the right book, at the right time, to the right publisher.  Or, meeting the right editor at a conference you almost didn’t attend, with exactly the MS she was looking for.
I benefited from one of your workshops at the Muse Online Conference where you helped me polish up Animal Sound Mix-up and encouraged me to submit it to Guardian Angel Publishing. Since it was accepted and published, you can have one of those YIPPEE moments over it! What led you to submit to GAP, and what has been your experience there?
I knew one of their Illustrators, Kevin Scott Collier, who has since won several illustrating awards, and now has his own children’s animated TV show.  He recommended me to the CEO, Lynda Burch.  He also illustrated “Rattlesnake Jam,” my first book with them. This is a fun rhyming romp, with a crazy Gran cooking up rattlesnake jam, and Pa, who caught the rattlers and longed for Rattlesnake Pie.  A great book for boys – all that yuck!!
As a publisher, GAP is very hands on, eager to find new ways to promote our books, and new outlets where they can be sold.  They encourage the writers and illustrators to share promotional ideas,  and team up to do book signings and virtual book tours.  They are growing fast, yet maintain that personal touch.

Thank you, Margot, for sharing with us. It has been delightful! Readers, please hop in with your comments and questions for Margot! Here are some links where you can see more about Margot and her books: 

Margot’s Magic Carpet:
Taconi Sample Chapter

Taconi Reviews:
Down-under Fun – information about the Aussie animals in my books:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Rejuvenates the Soul

This is a news release from Donna McDine, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine
 Spring Rejuvenates the Soul: Get Healthy with the Guardian Angel Kids April 2011 Issue
 Spring is beginning to awaken and what better time to get your body moving and grooving than through the April 2011 issue of Guardian Angel Kids Ezine. Healthy living and eating is always important to one’s well being for both mind and body so come along and spring on over to Guardian Angel Kids and find out what is in store for you this month
Without further ado we invite you to come explore the April 2011 issue of Guardian Angel Kids Ezine through poetry, short stories, non-fiction, and a parent/teacher article. To add to your child’s learning enjoyment be sure to partake in the interactive activities, games, and videos.
Featured Books:
Ouch! Sunburn, by Donna J. Shepherd, snappy rhymes along with the 15 colorful and fun illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier helps children see the need to protect their skin in the sun.
Sarah’s Socks My World of Autism, by Litsa Kamateros and Nia Morfonios. Sarah has autism and hates socks. Thanks to an understanding teacher and her helpful classmates she is better able to cope...until she's asked to wear socks.
Children poetry, stories, and articleS:

“The Runner,” by Debra Mayhew provides insights to what makes a runner tick.

“Does Noah Wash His Hands,” by Connie Arnold – the day in the life of a young boy.

“The Sleepover,” by Jennifer Gladen – the biggest spoiler of all, a cold before a sleepover. Jack Foster brings to life with his delightful illustration the fun of a girl’s sleepover.

“Finding Ideas,” by Cathy C. Hall – inspiration can be found in the ideas around us. We need to take the time to notice the simplicity of life around us. Samantha Bell’s charming illustration catches the essence of the imagination.

“Yum in the Tum,” by Jennifer Buchet - your mouth will water with these delicious and healthy recipes for the young and old to enjoy.

“Teach Your Child to Eat Healthy,” by Jacqueline Seewald – important tips to guide you to a healthy way of eating not only for your child, but for the whole family.

We look forward to your visit. Thank you for your time and interest.