About darlenebeckjacobson

I am a freelance writer and Children's Author. I've also worked in the field of education for over thirty years.

Middle Grade Books For Summer Reading Part 1.

With another school year over and a long stretch of summer ahead, we all want our kids to enjoy some fun and relaxation away from the demands of school. But, we also want our kids to be occupied in activities that encourage growth and engage the imagination. Why not head to the library for some great summer reading?

This post features some of the recent MIDDLE GRADE books I’ve had the pleasure of reading and want to recommend for kids. Each one is accompanied with my review. My first MG historical is also in the mix.  I will feature more middle grade in later posts as well as picture books.

Bob by [Mass, Wendy, Stead, Rebecca]  BOB by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

A magical and whimsical tale full of hope, friendship, and finding your way back home. Put on a chicken suit, grab a flashlight and some licorice and prepare to be transported to a place of wonder, courage, and kindness. A delightful read for the young, and young at heart.

GRANTED by John David Anderson Granted

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a fairy in the Haven. She, and the rest of the fairies have one purpose in life – to grant wishes. As Ophelia embarks on her first mission as a Granter – a fairy who makes a wish come true – a simple wish turns into anything but. Everything about this story delighted me: the clever names of the fairies, the descriptions of their world, how wishes get granted, Ophelia’s struggles to make the wish come true, the relatable characters, and Ophelia’s new-found friendship with an unlikely critter named Sam – also known as a dog. It’s funny, heartfelt, original, hard to put down, and one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. I hope we get to hear from Ophelia Fidgets and her Haven friends again.

WoCCover01  WHEELS OF CHANGE by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

Gr 4–6—Emily Soper is a 12-year-old who lives in a time of transformation. She sees big changes coming in Washington, DC in 1908—from women’s suffrage to the invention of the automobile. She is even going through a time of personal transition, as her mother and father begin pushing her to spend less time in her father’s barn and more time learning to be a proper lady. Resistant to amending her ways at first, Emily begins to see that it is important to have the courage to change when her father’s carriage making business is threatened by racial intolerance and the invention of the automobile. This superb work of historical fiction features a delightful protagonist and a likable cast of supporting characters. Jacobson’s writing is simple, elegant, and clever. The story’s pacing helps build to an exciting conclusion, and gives a great window into an important time in American history. Using a word game between Emily and her father, Jacobson smartly weaves in vocabulary and their definitions, without taking away from the story. The back matter also features an author’s note and recipes.—Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL

 

A Box of Bones by [Cohen, Marina] A BOX OF BONES by Marina Cohen

Twelve-year-old Kallie is a strong protagonist who confronts life with logic, order, and no nonsense.  Stories are lies, and magic and make-believe have no place in the ordered life she and her father have carved out after Kallie’s mother’s death. This ordered life turns upside down when Kallie receives a puzzle box. By solving the puzzle and opening the box, Kallie discovers a set of intricately carved bones.  Something else escapes from the box, something that defies logic and order. This fast-paced page turner alternates between Kallie and Liah – a young bone carver from back in the time when the box’s contents were carved. As Liah’s life begins to intertwine with Kallie’s, everything Kallie knows and believes is shattered. For the first time in her life, logic and order are of no use to her. How will she solve the mystery of the box that is messing up her life?

This is a story of suspense, secrets, and lies that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Jagger Jones and the Mummy's Ankh JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH by Malayna Evans

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”. Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?  Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

These are all fast-paced and exciting stories that should interest even reluctant kids.

Remember, if you and your children enjoy a book, one of the best ways to show the author your love is to write a review about the book on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s a wonderful way to spread the word about great literature for children.

HAPPY READING!

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Go Treasure Hunting!

If you’re looking for a different family trip or activity this summer, why not give LETTERBOXING a try? Never heard of it? Letterboxing combines hiking with treasure hunting for a fun and unique experience for the entire family.

Letterboxers put small, weatherproof boxes in public places like city parks, campgrounds, state forests, and the like. Then they post clues online for adventurers to follow. The whole family can get involved in puzzling through the directions while visiting new places.

All you need to get started: a notebook, pen, ink pad, and rubber stamp.

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1. Visit http://www.letterboxing.org  or  http://www.atlasquest.com for tips on how to find a hike near you. Then crack the code or follow clues to find the letterbox.

2. When you discover a box, there will be a logbook and a Rubber Stamp. MARK YOUR BOOK WITH THE BOX’S STAMP, SIGN THE BOX’S BOOK, AND STAMP IT WITH YOUR OWN STAMP to prove your family found the treasure.

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3. KEEP IT GOING by looking for letterboxes on trips and vacations or by making your own letterbox for  to find.

Happy Treasure Hunting!

Let’s Talk Book Titles.

A few months ago, I took an informal survey of fellow children’s book authors asking them if their original titles were the ones used on the published book. I was surprised that most were able to keep their titles at publication. Those that ended up with different titles decided they were better choices for the book. Only one hated the final title chosen for their book.

In my case, BOTH my middle grade historicals ended up with different titles than I’d started with. When I submitted the manuscript for WHEELS OF CHANGE, it had the title THE CARRIAGE MAKER’S DAUGHTER, which is what the story is about. But, the editor thought we would be in danger of excluding boys from reading this book with that title. Boys and girls love the book, so the editor was spot on for that choice.

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My soon-to-be-published second historical had the working title of FISH, WISH AND OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS.  This was the title I woke up from a dream with and it helped guide me through the poems that make up this novel-in-verse. Many of the entries were indeed four letter words.  But, we all know that kids would see that title and come up with all the WRONG four-letter words!  So, it was no surprise that the title was changed, and is now WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY.  (Cover reveal to come soon…)

For those of us who lament and wonder why our editors seem to want to change titles, take heart.  Be thankful that someone is looking out for you and wants your book to be well received. That isn’t always the case as you can see in these awful titles of actual children’s books:

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The-20-Worst-Childrens-Book-Titles-Ever-014-550x579

Bad-Childrens-Book-Chicken

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Here is a link to the Worst Book Titles Ever.   

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=worst+children%27s+book+titles&id=51473B7FE15F5112ED55100AB788D3D8656A8D32&FORM=IQFRBA

 WHAT’S THE WORST TITLE YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Share it here and enter to win a signed copy of WHEELS OF CHANGE.

I’ll let you decide which one is the worst. Makes me grateful that the changes editors have made for most of the children’s books out in the world are for the better.

 

How to Keep on Writing When the Going Gets Tough by Wendy Greenley

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat on your blog!

After publication of my debut picture book, LOLA SHAPES THE SKY people began asking about my writing journey and tips to success. The best tip I know is to keep writing and seeking feedback.

It can be HARD to keep writing. The perfect sentence you wrote? Sometimes no one likes it. The fantastic idea you had? Being published next year, by someone else. In the spirit of keeping everyone writing, I’m sharing a list of ten things I embrace. Perhaps it will help other writers keep going when bad stories turn into bad days, turn into bad months (yup, had those!).

  1. Connecting with like-minded people
  2. Feeling pride in achieving my goals and joy in celebrating other people’s successes
  3. The thrill of finding the perfect image or word
  4. Being an example of bravery to my children in the face of rejection
  5. Finding a way to share my heart with the world
  6. Getting stories out of my head (am I the only one who hears “voices”?!)
  7. Having an excuse to daydream
  8. Learning about myself by embracing vulnerability and peeling back emotions
  9. Creating a vision of better lives, better places
  10. Having a reason to go to writing conferences and meet amazing authors I admire

Actual sales of my materials and publication aren’t on this list. I can’t control that, so while it’s fantastic when it happens, I can’t hang my happiness hat on those items. Publication is my ultimate objective, but thinking about it doesn’t always make me happy!

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“In this lyrical origin story Thor wants all the clouds to make weather, but Lola only makes shapes. LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with the timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique. Be who you are—who you need to be!”

Kirkus Reviews: “Lola’s attitude inspires confidence in one’s imaginative abilities to pursue life’s aspirations.”

 

The achievable goals that I can take pride in are things like—doing another revision. Finding the heart of a story that went in too many directions. Rewording the opening to a story. It may have to be rewritten ten more times, but the immediate goal is giving it one more try.

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Enjoy the process! Happy writing everyone!

If anyone is in MD area this weekend, I’ll be one of the authors at the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in Easton, MD. Stop by and say hi! http://chesapeakechildrensbookfestival.com/

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Bio: Wendy Greenley has been an ice cream scooper, night security guard, microbiologist, attorney, Cub Scout leader, Art Goes to School Volunteer, and public relations for a dog rescue. She enjoys being a critique group leader for the Eastern PA SCBWI. Connect with her at wendy@wendygreenley.com and Twitter @wendygreenley. A current list of events and appearances is on Lola Shapes the Sky’s Facebook page.

NJSCBWI Conference Rocks it Again!

This past weekend I attended my umpteeth conference with the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ. It was fun and inspiring to spend the weekend with fellow authors and illustrators talking shop and re-igniting the writing spark thanks to workshops and critiques. Keynote addresses by PB Author Laurie Wallmark and MG Author Bruce Coville inspired us to keep on writing and reminded us that our stories have an impact and make a difference.

There were agents and editors looking for projects and plenty of attendees hoping to make a connection. I enjoyed seeing old friends again and making some new ones.

Here are some of the highlights in photos:

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Keynote Address by Award-winning author BRUCE COVILLE.

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With Author/Illustrators Patricia Keeler and Barbara DiLorenzo

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Illustrator Awards

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Enjoying cocktail hour with Marina Cohen, Kathy Temean, Johanna Staton

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Had a copy of WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by award-winning Author/Illustrator  Vesper Stamper

Many thanks to Kim Pfennigwerth, Trisha Hamilton, Roseanne Kurstedt, Barbara DiLorenzo, Laurie Wallmark, Super agent Liza Flessig, all the other agents and editors who kindly shared their expertise, as well as everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make the weekend memorable.

If you missed the festivities, mark your calendar for next year’s event on June 20-21-2020.

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Fellow attendee Eileen Holden

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Agent Liza Fleissig with some of her NJSCBWI clients. So happy to be part of this distinguished group.

Outdoors Just May Be The Best Medicine.

I recently read an article in the newspaper (You know…that word-covered thing that gets delivered to your doorstep) about NATURE becoming a form of medicine.

Under a new initiative, doctors in western Michigan are prescribing visits to local parks along with traditional medicine to boost the health of their patients. The non-profit organization, PARK RX AMERICA, is hoping to spread the practice throughout the nation. Nature as a healer has become a hot topic for many folks looking for ways to stay healthy and reduce dependency on drugs for chronic conditions such as stress, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

A study, led by the Michigan doctors found that at least 20- 30 minutes of physical activity OUTSIDE OR INTERACTING WITH NATURE can reduce these health issues and make patients feel better, be happier.

Anyone can visit the Park Rx website and view over 8,000 parks in 34 states. Physicians can register through the website to prescribe parks for their patients.

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http://www.parkrxamerica.org