Children’s Books That Provide Early Halloween Chills, Thrills: By Marilyn Ostermiller

If ghostly capers and heart-stopping high jinks get your juices flowing, here’s a selection of Middle Grade books with nail-biting suspense, chatty ghosts and other, not so sociable apparitions.
Tunnel of Bones, second book in Victoria Schwab’s “City of Ghosts” series.

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) (2)

The plot: Ever since Cassidy Blake almost drowned, she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the spirit world. When her parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, Cass accidentally awakens a frightening young boy ghost who roams the catacombs under Paris’ streets.

What’s to Like: It’s one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

To Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43411972-tunnel-of-bones

The Mystery of Hollow Inn, first of the Samantha Wolf Mysteries, by Tara Ellis

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries Book 1)

The plot: When 12-year-old Samantha arrives in the mountains of Montana, with her best friend, for a summer vacation, they uncover a villainous scheme at Hollow Inn to force Sam’s aunt and uncle out of business.

What’s to Like: It’s set in a mountain retreat so remote there’s no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception. The girls ignore the rules, and suffer the consequences, as they take readers on a fast-paced, contemporary adventure.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21897748-the-mystery-of-hollow-inn

Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon, third book in  Amy Cesari’s “Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully,” series.          Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon

The Plot: Lilac lives in a haunted mansion with a coterie of ghosts and goblins. Lilac longs for the one normal thing she has never experienced, to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Where better to experience it than at the Seaside Fun Park with friends, or so she thought until some really scary villains seem intent on making her vanish forever. 

What’s to Like: It’s a tale of a young girl, who’s led such a sheltered life she’s never been introduced to sweets, not even candy corn until now.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42105981-lilac-skully-and-the-halloween-moon

 

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys sharing her favorite reads.

 

 

 

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17th Annual Collingswood Book Festival…Another Great Year!

On Saturday, October 5, 2019, I had the pleasure of attending the COLLINGSWOOD BOOK FESTIVAL, in downtown Collingswood, NJ.   http://www.collingswoodbookfestival.com/

It’s the festival’s 17th year and I am proud to have been a presenting author for the fifth year. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for all things to do with reading and books. And, each year, I get to talk about books and hang out with fellow authors from all over NJ and beyond. The organizers and volunteers behind the scenes always make members of the KidLIt Authors Club feel welcome.  http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com

Here are some of this year’s highlights in photos:

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PB Authors Robin Newman and Jodi Moore. 

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“Twinning” with fellow MG author and Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Charlotte Bennardo.    

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Members of the KidLit Author’s Club: Jeffry Johnston, me, Charlotte Bennardo, David Neilsen, Jennifer Barr, Kell Andrews, Rob in  Newman, (front:) Jodi Moore, Hallee Adelman

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Middle Grade Panel: What Do Middle Grade Readers Want and Need?

 

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YA Author Jeffry W Johnston

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Kid Lit Author Theresa Julian Walks Into a Bar…and Tells Us How to Write Humor. There will be a give-away!

The Joke Machine: A Creative Writing Tool That’s Disguised as a Joke Book by Theresa Julian

So, two guys walk into a bar…

Wait, that’s not how I meant to start. I meant to start by telling you that I’m the author of The Joke Machine, a new non-fiction book that teaches middle graders how to create their own jokes and become funnier. I’m nervous because my spellcheck mysteriously switched into Hungarian and I can’t tell if words are misspelled.

The Joke Machine: Create Your Own Jokes and Become Instantly Funny! by [Julian, Theresa]

Spelling words wrong is something I do knot want to do. I know the importance of proper spelling, it’s something my feather taught me. If I mix up even two letters, this whole post is urined.

Now you’re probably wondering, is she kidding about the spellchecker? The urined post? And most importantly, what happened to the guys who walked into a bar? Well, the answers are yes, yes, and two guys walked into a bar – the third one ducked.

Apologies for a long introduction, I just wanted to make you laugh.

Making someone laugh is one of the best feelings in the world. Growing up as a shy child, I always wished I was funny. As an adult, I started wondering if being funny is something you’re born with, or if it’s something you can learn. I started doing research and concluded it’s something you can learn, and I was going to learn it!

I figured out that the basis of humor is surprise. It’s leading a thought one way, and then turning it in an unexpected direction. It’s the quick twist that surprises us and makes us laugh.

I worked with that concept and came up with a few lines that – remarkably – were funny! Encouraged, I started studying humorous lines. I tried to figure out what made each one funny, and being a word-loving nerd, I put the quotes into categories such as ones that use contrast, comparison, exaggeration, etc. I started seeing patterns and my book, The Joke Machine, was born!

One of the things I’m proudest of is that the book teaches a difficult, almost mysterious subject using basic tenets of English, such as contrast, comparison, literalness, etc. It teaches in a fun, funny, kid-friendly way, that keeps kids laughing and turning the pages.

Now I’m going to tell you a secret. Lean in, because I’m going to whisper this so kids don’t hear. Though The Joke Machine explains how kids can become funnier, it’s also a book that teaches them how to express themselves more creatively and how to become better, more confident writers.

The Joke Machine teaches basics, such as using similes, metaphors, homonyms, homophones, etc., to punch up sentences, but the real message is deeper. The real message is reaching past the plain “vanilla” and expressing yourself more creatively, confidently, and humorously.

For example, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to create humor by comparing two things that don’t ordinarily go together, by using irony to call out an unusual situation, and by using literalness to respond to someone’s actual words instead of their meaning.

The book explains how to fancy-schmancy it up by using specific details, too. It shows how to change “my shoes smell bad” into “my shoes that smell like they’ve been in my gym locker since second grade”. The book encourages kids to play with words, punch up puns, twist common catchphrases, exaggerate and understate facts, and even invent words that their friends will understand just by their sound.

Finally, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to be more confident writers because being funny is about teasing out your message, having the courage to say something and then pull it back. It’s presenting a thought, then twisting, bending and reversing it. It’s like starting with “two guys walk into a bar” and then admitting that’s not what you want to talk about – but now that I have your attention, stick with me. It’s about thinking outside of the box, playing with a message, and holding your reader’s attention, all the way down to the very last line.

TMJHeadshot2019

Theresa Julian writes humorous children’s fiction, nonfiction, screenplays and teleplays. In addition to The Joke Machine, Theresa has sold dozens of humorous stories to Amazon Rapids which have been consistently listed on the Popular and Funny rows on the Amazon app. She is also the author of a humorous ‘tween TV pilot and two screenplays that have all won or placed in multiple national writing competitions. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications. When she’s not writing, Theresa likes to run, eat chocolate, and lip sync to her favorite songs even though she never knows the lyrics. She always wished she had a superpower, but makes a really mean eggplant parmigiana so…maybe that counts?

 

Theresa will give a signed copy of her book to one lucky winner. Share your favorite one- liner joke and Darlene will put your name in a hat for the drawing. Share this post on Twitter, or FB and receive a second entry. The winner will be announced on this blog. Good Luck!

Beth Ferry Presents: Crows and Scarecrows.

Fall is the perfect time to think about crows and scarecrows. And today’s post is brought to you by best-selling picture book author BETH FERRY. Her latest book, THE SCARECROW, illustrated by the Fan Brothers, is just released.

Scarecrow cover

Here’s Beth:

Crows and ravens are not the same bird, but they are commonly confused. Ravens are larger, shinier, and are more likely to be found in wilder landscapes, whereas crows are smaller and more often found in urban landscapes. Crows make the well-known “caw-caw” call, while ravens make a sound like a “croooak” or a “gronk-gronk”. This will help you see the difference.

crow vs raven

Crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds alive. They have the biggest brain-to-body ratio among all the birds. In 2004, it was determined that they are more intelligent than the Bonobo chimpanzee, which makes them the most intelligent creature after humans. Some scientists call them “feathered apes”. They can communicate, use tools and have great memories.

In Japan, carrion crows use cars to help them crack walnuts. Because they have learned to understand how traffic lights work, they will place a walnut in the road when the light is red and wait for a car to smash it. Then they will swoop down and eat the nut. See it here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvTgRmguSq8

There are two species of crows that have been seen using tools and even making hooks to forage for food.

Crows also have great memories and can even hold a grudge. The University of Washington conducted a study using masks and the crows were able to associate certain behavior with the faces on the masks, remembering who annoyed them and scolding and dive-bombing the people wearing those same masks five years later. You can read more about it here: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/uw-professor-learns-crows-dont-forget-a-face/

Like other intelligent creatures, crows are very social and usually live in pairs and mate for life. They are considered the most family-oriented bird in the world.

And it’s impossible to think about crows without thinking about scarecrows.

The word scarecrow is an aptronym. An aptronym is when a name matches the job of its owner and literally means “an apt name”.

The word scarecrow was first used in literature in 1719 in Robinson Crusoe although scarecrows have been around for much longer.

Scarecrows have existed approximately 3,000 years, designed to do exactly what their name suggests – scare crows. They were first used by the Egyptians to protect their wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. In 2,500 B.C., Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. He was supposedly ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards to ensure a good harvest. At the same time, Japanese farmers made scarecrows called Kakashis, to protect their rice fields. They dressed them in rain coats and round straw hats, but added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening. In Germany, scarecrows were made out of wood and made to look like witches. They were supposed to hasten the coming of spring. In Medieval Britain, young children were used as live scarecrows or “bird scarers” and would patrol fields of crops, waving their arms or throwing stones at the birds to scare them away.

But, as you’ve just read, crows are so smart that scarecrows are basically ineffective and today used mainly as decorations. The 21st century has seen new scarecrow-like inventions, including the California Scarecrow (see below) which is a solar-powered, mechanical device that has 17-foot arms that wave and twirl and flap mylar strips. It is not quite as picturesque as a real scarecrow.

electronic crow

But although scarecrows are no longer effective at scaring crows, they have become a beloved part of the culture and celebrated during autumn as decorations and during Scarecrow and Fall Festivals.

Lastly, here is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost that highlights the lovely crow.

crow poem

Would you like to win a Scarecrow Pin?    Leave a comment and Darlene will enter your name in the give-away and choose one lucky winner at random from those entered.scarecrow

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Beth Ferry is the author of numerous books for young readers, including Stick and Stone, Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish and The Scarecrow. She is inspired by two main things: word play and the sea. Luckily, Beth is an avid reader who lives close to the beach so inspiration is never far away. In addition to picture books, Beth has begun writing graphic novels. When not writing, Beth can be found playing with her bulldog, Chaucer.

 

 

 

 

 

Banned Books Week 2019: Read a Banned Book.

In this modern era, when so much information is viewed through our phones and the internet, we may think little about books. But books are still important to the FREE ACCESS of information and as a symbol of a free society. There are still parts of the world threatened by the written word and the free expression and sharing of  of ideas. There are still people in our own country (USA) who wish to sensor the books they find fault with.

If you still believe in freedom of the press, read a book that’s has been banned this week – National Banned Books Week – and show the world you will decide for yourself what is worth reading.

For a list of frequently banned books check out the titles above or go to:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1360.Best…

453 books and counting…do you want other people to decide what you can and can’t read?

All Colors: by Amalia Hoffman

Today’s blog entry is brought to you by author/illustrator AMALIA HOFFMA, who will talk about her new board book ALL COLORS. Here’s Amalia:

cover

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.

I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors.

After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. I ordered a fine black art sand paper and started playing with colors on top. The colors on the black background appeared much more vibrant than on the white.

I discovered that there were so many interesting textures that I could achieve by rubbing the pastel pencils and chalk on the paper. Also, I liked how spattering with a toothbrush, sponging with bubble wrap and combing paints appeared on the black background.

After two months, I had a whole collection of pieces of papers with different colors and textures. I gathered them all in a shoe box and every once in a while, I just played with them, making different arrangements by assembling pieces together on my art table.

Then, the idea came to me. What if the different colors, textures and shapes could actually make the main character in the book?

So began my book journey for All Colors.

My agent, Anna Olswanger, has been encouraging me to create a board book for very young children.

I decided to make a board book where kids would be introduced to colors and textures as they turned the pages. It ended up being a concept book with a message about friendship and diversity.

3 shirt red patch

Anna sold ALL COLORS to Schiffer Publishing and it will be making its way into the world  October 28, 2019. This is my third board book. The first was Dreidel Day (Kar Ben Publishing, 2018.)  The second was Astro Pea (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.)

Creating board books is challenging because you have to tell the story in only a few pages so the word count must be minimal. Dreidel Day has 8 words, All Colors has 9. The author must rely on the illustrations and the concept has to be very clear and simple so a toddler could understand it. At the same time, there’s got to be a narration and procession so it would be a compelling read for the child and the adult who reads the story. The images have to be simple and bright to catch the attention of a very young child.

This concept board book introduces children ages 2-6 to colors and textures while conveying a message about friendship, diversity, and inclusion.

As the reader turns the pages, colors are introduced, creating the image of a boy.

11 brush medium multi patches

Join in the fun as the boy dips his paintbrush in paint splotches and discovers that friends come in all colors.

friends- last page

Here’s a link to a book trailer where I perform All Colors with a very colorful puppet:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authenticity in Historical Fiction: The Final Chapter.

To conclude this year’s series of posts on writing authentically in historical fiction, I am posting this entry that ran on the blog tour I did in 2014 for the launch of my first book WHEELS OF CHANGE. To celebrate the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the book’s debut, I am giving away a signed copy of the book, and – if a teacher wins – a free classroom SKYPE visit for the 2019-2020 school year. Leave a comment at the end of the post and let me know what grade you teach.  Curriculum guides and other goodies will be included with the book.

WoCCover01

Authenticity in Historical Fiction

To create authenticity or believability in historical fiction is just like setting a scene in any kind of writing.  The writer needs to pay attention to details. As a reader, I’m more likely to immerse myself in a story universe that is believable and accurate.  If I want readers of WHEELS OF CHANGE to follow Emily Soper’s adventures, they have to be grounded in the reality of 1908 Washington DC.

            What was life like in the Nation’s Capital 100 years ago?

It was very rural for one thing.  With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue, the area around the train station, and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce – there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies.  Many goods were still made by hand. Incorporating these details into the story grounds it and fixes the time and place.

Character is another way to create an authentic story. When a story takes place in another era, the writer has to be sure to use language and sentence structure that rings true. In 1908, children spoke in a more formal style, like their parents. Very little slang was used. Children addressed other adults as Mr. or Mrs. and often used “sir” or ‘ma’am” when speaking to their parents.

A character’s actions and behavior was different than it is today. Expectations for males and females were much more divided and specific. Boys had more freedom to explore and be adventurous. They were expected to roughhouse and get into trouble now and then. Girls on the other hand, were expected to be lady-like and exhibit proper behavior at all times. They were encouraged to excel at the “domestic arts” such as sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child rearing.

Here are some of the “Rules of Etiquette” young people were expected to follow at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

General Rules of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen

13 Mannerisms to be avoided by all: 

  1. Whispering or pointing in company.
  2. Giving attention to only one person when more are present.
  3. Contradicting parents, friends, or strangers.
  4. Laughing loudly.
  5. Making noise with hands and feet.
  6. Leaning on the shoulder or chair of another.
  7. Throwing things instead of handing them.
  8. Crowding or bumping elbows.
  9. Contempt in looks, words, or actions.
  10. Drawing attention to self with dress.
  11. Lending a borrowed book.
  12. Reading when there is company, or when others are speaking.
  13. Laughing at the mistakes of others.

Manners appropriate for all:

  1. To be gentle and patient with others.
  2. To remember that while speech is wonderful, it is sometimes better to be silent.
  3. Speak with a gentle tone and never in anger.
  4. Learn to deny yourself and put others first.
  5. Give applause only by clapping hands – not by kicking or stamping feet.
  6. Rise to one’s feet when an older person or dignitary enters the room.

 All this makes me wonder: How many of these rules do any of us consider important today?