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.

 

 

 

 

 

Save Seeds…Save Life…Spread Some Beauty

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the critical importance of SEEDS.  It’s not something we think much about, but our very lives depend on seeds.  Without them, we have no food.  And we all know how important food is.  If you hold seeds in your hand…you hold life.  Monsanto and other companies hold patents on seeds.  Think about this: THEY CAN CONTROL THE WORLD’S FOOD.  If we want to ensure biodiversity and ample food for future generations, we need to preserve seeds and all the abundant varieties of foods they represent.  How can we do it?

Saving seeds was common practice for our ancestors, to ensure that there would be food even during lean times.  As mechanization and hybridization took over farming in the 20th Century, the practice was lost….but thankfully, not forgotten.

SEED BANKS are popping up in an unusual place…your local library.  There are more than 600 seed libraries in North America.  These collections will provide a free packet of seeds, information on gardening and seed saving techniques.  SEED SAVERS is responsible for much of today’s seed library stock.  It has 25,000 varieties – many of them rare or exclusive – dating before WWII. These seeds belong in the public domain and cannot be patented. The goal is to get these seeds into as many people’s hands as possible.  Why not visit your local library and plant some seeds?

seeds

For more information on this important program visit: http://www.seedsavers.org

http://www.libraryseedbank.info

You can spread some beauty in your own backyard by making some wildflower SEED BOMBS. 

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb

For more garden crafts visit:  http://www.redtedart.com/garden-crafts-challenge-get-crafty/

Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:

pittellboysoutsideschool

August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc6/?

3rd TLCB Blooming Annivprizestwittercanva (1)

 

 

 

 

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran three years ago, but I find it so important I am running it again.  I will continue to run it as long as these beautiful creatures continue to decline. Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.      monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world. 90% of the milkweed they depend on is gone from roadsides and fields. Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. 

monarch caterpillar

Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org

Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers

IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOME MILKWEED SEEDS TO START YOUR OWN BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION AND I WILL MAIL YOU SOME WHEN THEY ARE AVAILABLE IN THE FALL.