DIY Backyard Activities.

There is still plenty of summer fun to be had even if we stay close to home.  You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids.  Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed.  There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.

Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.

hopscotch

https://www.buzzfeed.com/cieravelarde/suns-out-funs-out?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Parents%20614&utm_content=Parents%20614%2BCID_04fc34111fe2dc9b39baa67b7b04ef20&utm_source=BuzzFeed%20Newsletters&utm_term=.poglK3NawX#.cdy5Aw7rVb

summer pic

Happy summer fun!

Whistling Grass

Here is a simple and fun activity everyone can enjoy when you’re outdoors and anywhere near grass.  Just take a wide blade of grass and place it tightly between your thumbs.  Blow onto the small opening and the grass will whistle!

It actually sounds like a turkey call.  Try different blade thicknesses and widths to see if you can change the sound.

 Can you make up a song using this whistle from nature?

National “Go Fishing Day”…Take a Kid Fishing.

Tomorrow, June 18, is NATIONAL GO FISHING DAY.  Fishing has been around as long as man and women have.  It is a major industry that yields billions of dollars worldwide annually. It is also a great recreational activity for everyone, young and old. It’s a way to add food to the table and an opportunity to bond with family and friends.

The benefits of fishing are numerous. Did you know fishing actually boosts your immune system? When you do something you enjoy, your body responds by healing and strengthening itself. Being out in nature helps promote relaxation and is a way to practice calm and patience. It can lower blood pressure and can be done individually or with others. You can fish from the shore, from a boat or by standing in a stream.  However you decide to do it, why not teach a kid, your kid or a friend’s kid, to fish.

Check your local recreational areas for competitions and rules regarding proper fishing etiquette. Even during this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s okay to go fishing. 

kid fishing

When you go fishing, or teach a child to fish, you never know what you might catch.

Here’s a case in point, where eleven-year-old JACK takes his five-year-old sister KATY to fish for the first time from my newest MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston)   WoCCover01

FISH
Katy feels sorry for worms
and won’t fish with them.
I make balls of dough
from the crusts of our sandwiches to
bait her hook.

She breaks every rule about fishing.
Making loud noises, scaring the fish.
She can’t stand in one spot
more than a minute without
dancing
wiggling
spinning
tangling the fishing line,
asking so many questions
my ears are ready to
EXPLODE!!!

When are we going to catch a
FISH!!! she shouts for the
tenth time, dropping her pole to
chase a butterfly.
Fish don’t come around when it’s noisy,
so zzzzip your lips, I say.

She pretends to zip her lip,
humming the tune to
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Good grief.

FRED

After lunch I’m ready to leave.
No fish today, let’s go, I say.
Maybe the fish don’t like worms.
Maybe they’re veterinarians, Katy says.
She means vegetarians because
she hands me a grape and says
put it on the hook, Jack, please?

Can you sit without making a sound,
quiet as a stone?
She puts a finger to her lips, Shhhhh.
I hook the grape, toss the line,
hand the rod to Katy.

Before I settle onto the grass,
the line gives a tug.
Too heavy for me, I can’t do it, Jack.
I grab the rod and pull a fish out,
a fish with one eye.

It’s Fred, I tell her.
Katy strokes Fred’s tail with a pinkie.
A special fish, I say.
Like magic special?
Katy’s two eyes as wide as Fred’s one.
Don’t know, I say.
Katy frowns, so I say,
make a wish, quick before Fred goes back.

Pancakes for supper! she wishes,
kissing Fred on the tail.
Pancakes, I agree. As I slip
Fred into the water, he seems to
wink his eye before he swims away.

While you may not catch a fish that grants wishes, taking a child fishing will be something you’ll both remember for a long time. 

Backyard Camping, Kite Flying and Other Summer Pleasures.

While places are beginning to reopen and we are staring to venture beyond our own backyards, many of us are still worried about summer travel and vacations. Until we are back to a world where we can come and go without worry, why not tap into some of the fun things you may have enjoyed as kids and make some family memories?

CAMPING in the backyard can be as simple as setting up a pup tent and sleeping bags for a night out in nature. But make it a bit more exciting for the kids by packing snacks, roasting hotdogs on a grill or campfire, and bringing flashlights. You can make shadow creatures inside the tent, tell scary stories, capture lightening bugs in a jar, and be the first to wake up and greet the sunrise.

KITE FLYING never gets old. There is a real sense of fun being able to get a kite up into the air and watch it soar. You can buy kites in all prices and from all materials. But, wouldn’t it be fun to try making your own kite?  Here are TWO videos that show you how.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=E165F33EF575A90EE1EAE165F33EF575A90EE1EA&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDVVXX

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=2C48F22FA01A847BAD612C48F22FA01A847BAD61&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDRE

Here are two poems from my MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston) where 11 year-old Jack and his 5 year-old sister Katy get ready for a camp out in their grandparents backyard.

HUGE
Katy makes a huge deal
out of the camp out with Jill.
For me, getting ready is
putting a sleeping bag and pillow in
the tent with a flashlight, canteen of water.

Katy packs like she might be gone for a week,
stuffed animals
every sock she owns
her favorite books
Bouncy, the beachball
All stuffed into the tent that seemed big enough,
but now looks like it might explode!

It’s one night, I say.
This is what I need for one night, Jack.
Where will Jill put her sleeping bag? I ask.
Katy pats a skinny spot next to
the wall of the tent.
Right here, next to me, she beams
like her face is made up of
lightening bug butts.

The idea of a sister,
even a borrowed one,
is too much for a
little kid to hold inside.

PINK

Katy vibrates with excitement,
all three of us in the tent.
There is so much pink,
I feel like I’m stuck
inside a cotton candy machine.

We catch lightning bugs
and take Bouncy for a hop in the dark.
Jill ties fancy knots like sailors do
and has a pocket knife like the one Dad gave me.
She shows us how to blow a whistle,
a blade of grass pressed between our thumbs.

I teach her how to finger snap.
We don’t stop until our fingers get sore.
We take turns reading Katy’s favorite books,
making goofy voices for the characters,
until Katy yawns and closes her eyes.kites

Enjoy some simple summer fun camping, or kite flying, right from your own neighborhood and backyard.

 

 

#BIKEMONTH: Get Out and Ride

You may or may not know that MAY is #BikeMonth. What is a more iconic sign of spring heading into summer than taking a bike ride? During a recent post on this blog featuring the wonderful PB by Teresa Robeson TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING, I asked readers the question about their favorite memory from childhood involving a bike.

Mine involves the one and only bicycle I had as a kid – a turquoise Columbia bike with a white and turquoise vinyl seat, and wire basket in the front for carrying whatever treasures I deemed necessary for a ride. I got the bike for my twelfth birthday. Up until that time, after graduating from a tricycle at 5 or 6, I was bikeless. So, it wasn’t until the ripe old age of twelve, that I learned to ride a two-wheeler.  That’s not something you’re likely to forget. Didn’t take long to master it, and once I did, there was no going back. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere.

I only have one faded black and white photo of the bike. But here is what it looked like…at least this is what I remember it looked like from this internet photo. Pretty sweet, huh?

See the source imageSo now that we are getting back out into the world again post-virus, how about sharing some of your favorite childhood bike adventures?

Here is a share of sorts: the main character from my new MG WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY discovers his Dad’s old bike while he is visiting his grandparents house. Do these next few poems bring back any memories of your childhood biking days?

BIKE

I find a bike, a red Schwinn,
covered in cobwebs in Pops’ shed.
One flat tire and the chain needs oil.
A polish with some of Pops’ car wax
brings back the shine.

A Joe DiMaggio baseball card is clothespinned
to a spoke on the back wheel, like my bike
at home, with a picture of
Mickey Mantle in the same place.

Can I ride it, Pops?
You bet, he says.
Your dad rode that bike everyday until
he got a car.
Pops chuckles when he tells me
the bike has a name.
Flash

Todd rode like a Flash all over town.
I stare at Pops. He can’t see me
because he’s remembering,
watching Todd,
Dad,
ride Flash.

RIDE

I take Flash for a ride,
gliding through the air like
a warm knife glides
through butter. The seat
feels like my butt has been there before.

I pedal until my legs
are
on
fire.
Going everywhere
nowhere
anywhere
but here.

What would happen if I rode forever?
Would I stop thinking about Dad?
Would I stop missing our house
and the fort Dad helped me build
in the backyard?

If I rode backwards
Could I go back in time
to when everything was
boring
dumb
ordinary?
Why did I complain
when things were so good?
 
Why do I only miss something
once it’s gone?

GIRL

I streak past a bike on the side of the road,
pink and purple streamers on
the handlebars. Where’s
the girl who rides?

I stop, look around a field
filled with wildflowers.
In the middle, a girl as wild as a bird
spins
dances
jumps
through the tangle of blooms,
a fistful in one hand. She
stops
waves
shouts hello
as she runs up to me.

My name is Jill.
Jack, I say.
She giggles as she sings
that old rhyme that has our names.

When she’s done singing, she
smiles and says, Don’t
expect me to
tumble
crumble
or fumble.
I’m
not that kind of
girl.

What kind of boy or girl were you when you rode your childhood bike?

Happy #BIKEMONTH.

Nancy Viau Presents:Virtual Beach Activities Because TODAY IS (or Could Be) A BEACH DAY + Chance to Win A Copy!

Today it is my pleasure to feature a great new PB by fellow author friend NANCY VIAU: TODAY IS A BEACH DAY (Albert Whitman & Company, Illustrated by Charlie Adler). Here’s Nancy:

 

Sunny days are for the beach. Pretty pails. There’s one for each.

Who will spy the sea and cheer?

ZIP! ZOOM! STOP!

Hey, we’re here!

TODAY IS A BEACH DAY!

Wait…What? It’s NOT a beach day?

SIGH. Oh, right, the Coronavirus—the scary, horrible disease that is keeping everyone at home. We’ll have to make do with a virtual beach day!

Beach Day cover jpeg

First, read TODAY IS A BEACH DAY! by Nancy Viau, illustrated by Charlie Alder. The book can be ordered via your favorite independent bookseller, Amazon, or any number of places.   https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780807593967

You can also leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Tell us your favorite beach activity and I’ll enter your name in the random drawing. Share this post on social media for a second chance to win.

Next, use your imagination and dream of a warm and sunny beach as you try the following activities.

SCAVENGER HUNT

Get together with your family and race to find the items below. They do not have to be beach-themed. Perhaps it’s something in your garden, garage, bathroom, or closet. Be creative. Take SAND, for example. What could substitute for SAND?

READY, GO!

Sand

Sea

Beach Towel

Pail or Bucket

Shovel

Sunscreen

Umbrella

Beach Ball

Bathing Suit

Flip Flops or Sandals

Snap a photo of the winner and/or the items. Post it in the comments.

 

ACTIVITY 2: MAKERSPACE

Can you build a sandcastle without sand? Try using shoeboxes, toys, blocks, Legos, soup cans, cereal boxes, or books!

Snap a photo of your castle. Post it in the comments.

Beach3

ACTIVITY 3: OCEAN IN A BOTTLE

This science activity is explained in a Teacher Guide produced by Deb Gonzales. It’s FREE to download from Nancy Viau’s website, so give it a try!  https://www.nancyviau.com/teacher-guides/

See you on the beach!

 

Darlene’s Review for TODAY IS A BEACH DAY:

“Come along for a trip to the beach in this lively, sensory story written in alliterative rhyme. Little ones will experience the sights, sounds, textures, tastes, and feelings a day of sand, sun, and surf have to offer. A perfect read-aloud for the youngest beach lovers.”

Nancy Viau

 

Nancy Viau is the award-winning author of Today Is a Beach Day!, First Snow (2019 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Winner), City Street Beat, Storm Song, Look What I Can Do! and Pruett and Soo (forthcoming). Her middle-grade novels include Beauty and Bernice (2018 Foreword INDIES finalist), Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, and Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen. A former teacher and kid-at-heart, she loves to visit schools to share her journey to publication and the writing process. Find her on Twitter or Instagram: @NancyViau1 or her website: www.NancyViau.com.

 

Teresa Robeson Presents: Two Bicycles In Beijing + a Give-away.

Today I am so excited to feature my author friend TERESA ROBESON who will tell us something about her new PB Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman & Company 2020). Here’s Teresa:

bicycles in beijing cover

 

There are times when a happy confluence of somewhat random thoughts and ideas in my brain end up creating something wonderful. Two Bicycles In Beijing was the end result of one of those circumstances.

My father took my family on a trip to China back in 2013. It was something my parents had wanted to do for a while since the last time we went was in 1987 before I was married with kids of my own. They were eager to visit our ancestral homeland again with our expanded family to share our heritage with my kids who are half-Chinese, and my white American husband who had never been.

Sadly, my mom passed away before we could take this trip, but we still had a memorable time. We toured four cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Each of those places had their own unique character and attractions. Perhaps it was because we spent the most time in Beijing, and because it’s the capital of modern China, but my mind kept going back to our time there after our vacation. So that is the first random reoccurring thought.

Great Wall

Another involves one of my favorite photos that I took in Beijing. It features a row of bicycles parked outside of a building, and flanked by colorful flowers and lanterns. I love it so much, I used it online as a header on social media for a while. 

Bicycles

At some point, I had also come across an article about all the bicycles that are in China, in particular Beijing. It really stuck with me as I think about environmental issues a lot with my husband being a climatologist who studies pollution and climate change.

With all these things flitting through my mind, it was only natural that a story involving bikes, and set in Beijing, would suggest itself. I wanted it to be a friendship story because that is a common theme in books, especially kids’ books, and I still, at the age of 55, wrestle with the concept of friendship. I think I had imagined the main characters to be human with bikes being involved, but somewhere along the way, I decided that it would be fun to have bikes take the center stage since they are so important in China.

With China being such a huge country, going from one city to another requires transportation with mechanical power. But within cities and towns, bicycles are the perfect way to travel: they don’t cost much, and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s schedule, like you would with buses or trains. Yet, despite their simple design and inexpensiveness, bikes can help you traverse distances faster and with less effort than on foot. With the addition of a basket or an attached seat, you can also carry cargo that you might not otherwise be able to on foot. It’s no wonder that bicycles are so popular and important in Beijing: what else can give you such speed and independence so inexpensively?  Passenger bike

And when you’re that reliant on your bike, you might start to see it as more than a useful tool…perhaps you might even see it as a friend? *smile*

 

Here is Darlene’s review of this unique story:

A lovely tale of friendship between two bicycles made together in a factory, side-by-side in a store until one day when they are separated. Each is bought by someone different. Will the red bicycle find her yellow friend? The story take us on a ride to the sites and sounds of the bustling city of Beijing past all the yellow that brightens the countryside. The soft and joyful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this story. Told from the point of view of Lunzi…the yellow bicycle who goes out in search of her red friend Huangche…this tale will delight anyone who’s ever loved a bicycle.

Darlene will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite bicycle experience. If you share this post on social media, she will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog sometime in May.

TeresaRobeson photo

TERESA ROBESON was born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and now writes and creates from her mini-homestead in southern Indiana, where she lives with her scientist husband. Visit her online at:

http://www.teresarobeson.com

50 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Earth Day.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day held in 1970. Even though we are “sheltering in place” and most of us have to stay at home because of the Covid19 pandemic, there are many ways to celebrate and honor our collective home, planet earth. Here are 50.

1. The single most important thing you can do is PLANT A TREE. If the world’s people planted 3 billion trees in all the available open spaces (not taking away any farmland), we would eliminate global warming. Learn more about tree planting in your community at  http://www.arborday.org

2. Make your garden POLLINATOR FRIENDLY by planting native bushes and flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies and insects. Find the right blooms for your yard at: http://www.xerces.org

3. Find out how you can help endangered species in your community: http://www.fws.gov/endangered

4. If you see litter, pick it up.

5-9. Collect rainwater for landscaping, compost vegetable scraps, plant a vegetable garden, buy organic, stop using pesticides on your lawn.   lids

10-14. Buy in bulk to use less packaging, stop using single-use plastic bags (reusable and machine-washable ones are available online. (see photo below)  I use them every time I go to the store. You can store the vegetables in them as well. Pack lunches in reusable containers, recycle as often and as much as you can, stop using plastic wrap for food storage. Check out the reusable silicon lids in 6 sizes to fit over every bowl you own. (Photo)

20200419_091932

15. Find uses for old things.

16. Turn off lights when you leave a room.

17. Eat more veggies.

18. Get a library card.

19. Leave only footprints when you travel.

20-25. Wash clothes in cold water, don’t let the sink run when you brush teeth or wash dishes, turn off the dishwasher’s drying cycle and let them air dry, use concentrated soaps/cleaners that use less packaging,use unscented products, Use greener cleaners like baking soda and white vinegar.

26-30. Ride your bike, skip the elevator and take stairs, buy things that will last, try to fix things that break instead of tossing them, eat what’s in season.

31. Buy products made from recycled materials.

32. Use a push lawn mower.

33. Buy Fair Trade: http://www.fairtrade.org

34. Carpool

35-39. Unplug electronics when you aren’t using them, shut your computer down when you leave work, print on both sides of paper, reuse blank paper as scrap paper for notes, use shredded paper for packing instead of styrafoam peanuts.

40. When you finish baking, turn of oven and leave oven door open to heat the home.

41. Eat sustainably harvested fish to protect the ocean : http://www.oceansalive.org

42-45. Give your car a tune-up so it drives more efficiently, drive a hybrid, keep tires inflated to proper pressure for better fuel efficiency, driving under 60MPH saves gas.

46-47. Buy shade grown coffee, switch to reusable coffee filters.

48. Use rechargeable batteries.

49. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to eat local: visit  http://www.localharvest.com

50. Use cloth napkins and towels.

The earth is home for us all. Every little thing we do to honor our home counts.

Stay Safe and have a HAPPY EARTH DAY!

 

 

Hello from Renn Lake: by Michele Weber Hurwitz…Just in Time For Earth Day + Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to feature middle grade author Michele Weber Hurwitz, with her new book HELLO FROM RENN LAKE. I am really excited about this book since it is centered around a cause I’m passionate about: Environmental activism.

 Welcome to RENN LAKE:

Hello From Renn Lake cover

Twelve-year old Annalise Oliver, who was abandoned as a baby in a small Wisconsin town, has a unique bond with Renn Lake because of events that occurred the night she was left. When a small patch of algae quickly becomes a harmful bloom and the lake is closed, Annalise and her friends take a risk to save their beloved lake and the town that depends on it. But this means Annalise must confront her deepest fears and most troubling questions. There are secrets about the night she was left, and the lake was the only witness.  

Three things about Annalise

  • Annalise is grappling with her unknown origins but instead of searching for where she came from, she makes a decision to put down roots in the place she was found. Roots are also part of the possible solution that may help Renn Lake recover. So, both literally and figuratively, roots play a role in the story’s theme.

 

  • Annalise becomes a determined activist in her small town, convincing others to join her crusade to save the lake after authorities take a “wait and see” approach. When she was three, Annalise first discovered she could sense what Renn Lake was thinking and feeling. Renn has always been a source of comfort and calm, so when the lake is covered with the algal bloom and goes silent, Annalise is devastated. Michele said that while she was writing, she kept thinking about the phrase “body of water” – that lakes, rivers, and oceans are living beings as much as plants and animals.

 

  • When Annalise meets Zach, who’s visiting for the summer and staying with his dad in the cabins near the lake, they help each other work through not only their own issues but also the environmental crisis. One aspect Michele loves about this book is while there’s certainly normal tension between Annalise, her friend Maya, her little sister Jess, and Zach, the four kids support and accept each other. There’s no mean girl or backstabbing. And no one is left out.

 

Three things about Renn Lake

  • Renn narrates part of the story. Michele didn’t have the lake as a narrator in her first draft, but as she wrote, she said she realized that the only way to fully tell this story was to include the lake’s perspective. She loved how Ivan narrated in The One and Only Ivan, but wasn’t sure if an element of nature could do the same. But the idea took hold and wouldn’t let go, so she said she took a leap of faith. Once Michele gave Renn a voice, the story flowed (pun intended) from there. She thinks it deepened the narrative to understand how a lake would feel if it was covered with toxic algae and couldn’t breathe.

 

  • Renn is centuries old and has seen many people come and go. Only a few have had the special ability to sense the lake like Annalise can. People have always gravitated to and lived near water – it’s an essential element of life. In this story, readers will really get the sense of the importance of water and how our actions are negatively affecting its viability.

 

  • Renn’s connection with its cousin, the river Tru, is an essential part of the plot. Their relationship is as tender, complex, and believable as any human characters. While they have different personalities and outlooks, their support of each other is strong and enduring.

Michele is the author of four other middle grade novels, from Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – Calli Be Gold, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, and Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark. Her books have been on several state reading award lists, received starred reviews, and have been published in other countries. She lives in the Chicago area and often spends time at nearby lakes. Also, she loves ice cream.    Michele Weber Hurwitz author

Here is a pre-order link on Indie Bound

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781984896322

Here is a quote from Kirkus Reviews

“An earnest and disarming tale of human and environmental caring.”

 

Michele is happy to do a giveaway for readers . Please leave a comment and share some small thing you do to care for the Earth  and reduce your carbon footprint. Names will be entered into a hat and one winner will be drawn at random and announced on this blog. 

micheleweberhurwitz.com

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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:

2

PB Authors Robin Newman and Jodi Moore. 

3

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

4

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

6

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

 

1

YA Author Jeffry W Johnston

8

7