Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Special Edition -- Picture books

Thought for the Day:
 “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and
the thought has found words.” 
~Robert Frost~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Showing vs. Telling is always something to watch for in your writing. Janice Hardy has another great post HERE on that topic with links to more great posts. It will take a bit of time to get through all of it, but it’s well worth it. 

I love words. Most of we writers do. Sometimes our love of words can create problematic purple prose. HERE is a post by K. M. Weiland that can help you with that. 

I have have attended three writer’s conferences this year. I really, really want to find a writer’s retreat to attend sometime this fall/winter. The article HERE takes a look at the pros and cons of retreats, conferences, and workshops. Maybe it will help you decide on what works for you. 

I don't talk about picture books on my blog very often, but I read massive numbers of them, and I have written several picture book manuscripts that still need polish and homes. I think the picture book is an incredible art form, a form that is extremely difficult to create, to do well, and to bring to market. I am always in awe of people who manage to do it. I have some friends who have made that leap recently, and I want to tell you about their wonderful works. I'm a little tardy on one, right on time with one, and early on the last, but with holiday shopping coming up, these are all good to keep in mind.


Grandma's Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood is an absolutely enchanting rhyming picture book about about the wondrous things that happen when a large, extended family gathers for some time together. As in most families, there is usually one house that is the natural gathering place. In the case of this family, it is Grandma's tiny little house, and this is a very large family. Everyone shows up with food to make this family feast just right, but soon the house is bulging at the seams. It takes one bright little grandchild to come up with a solution. While all this is going on, young listeners will be learning counting lessons without ever being aware teaching is going on. They will only be aware of a fun story and charming illustrations by Priscilla Burris.


Elizabeth Varadan has just had her first picture book published. Dragonella is a bright and funny story about a little dragon who is attending a new school. Of course she is hoping to fit in with the ogres, trolls, and others, but Dragonella is the only one who breathes fire, and she is young and still not quite in control of those pesky flames. Needless this to say, it's hard to make friends when you have flames shooting out of your mouth when you laugh. She is feeling pretty left out when a special treat for the class is about to be lost, and the only one who can save the day turns out to be Dragonella. Brian Belanger's cute illustrations just add to the fun of this sweet book about friendship.










You will have to wait until January to get your hands on the third picture book I will talk about, but it will be worth the wait. Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters is a book of the most amazing poems that shine a light on the different experience children have in school when race affects them.  Irene Latham is white and Charles Waters is black. Each is firmly in touch with her and his inner child and both are incredible poets. The poems of classroom and playground experiences are rich, profound, and exquisite. Not one page, not one line, not one word disappoints in this amazing book. Illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selena Alko complement these terrific poems of friendship, race, and the uncertainty of being a child.

I don't have a giveaway for this post. There are certain books I just can't give away! But I hope you will choose some of these as gifts for others and gifts for yourselves. Every one of these is a real keeper and, if you are a picture book writer, you can learn a great deal about the craft by having these in your life.

It's not too late to leave a comment on Sunday's post to enter the giveaway for Ashes to Asheville. Click HERE to do so. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ashes to Asheville -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes 
into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day 
give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” 
~ Brenda Ueland ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
MentalFloss has a post HERE that will give you 38 Word Usage Mistakes Even Smart People Make. There were a couple on the list I know I’ve used incorrectly a time or two. 

Choosing the correct point of view is pretty critical to the success of your story. HERE K. M. Weiland gives you some great hints to find the right point of view. 

Writers in the Storm has a good post HERE to help you manage your chapters. 

I took my exchange student, Amandine, to Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park this weekend. It has been years since I have visited these wonderful places, and it was a treat to see them through the eyes of someone who had never been there before. As we were driving out of Sequoia, a California Black Bear ran alongside our car for several hundred feet. It was a real thrill to see him up close. In Yosemite, we saw several mule deer and lots of small animals. Amandine was obsessed with Yosemite and declared it was just not fair that there is nothing like it in Belgium. We sure are lucky to live in such a wonderful place.

Last week I offered a gently-read ARC of Jabber-Walking by Juan Filipe Herrera to one of my readers. The winner this week is our temporary host of MMGM, Greg Pattridge. Congratulations, Greg! To keep up on MMGM and to read wonderful book reviews, hop on over to Greg's fabulous blog, Always in the Middle. Don't miss an episode. It's so good. HERE is the link. Greg, I will get your book out to you this week. For the rest of you, please keep reading for another terrific giveaway.

I read about a book a couple months ago called Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley that sounded really good, so I requested a copy from the Seattle Book Review and was not disappointed. Here is the review I wrote for them. 

Fella lost so much when Mama Lacy died. It was bad enough to lose her mother, but to be separated from her sister, Zany, and her other mother, Mama Shannon, as well was so hard. But living with her grandmother had its upside. She had a nice room and wanted for nothing — except the rest of her family. When Zany shows up one night insisting Mama Lacy’s wishes must be respected and her ashes spread in Asheville, the two girls find themselves on an amazing journey. These two girls, four years apart in age, agree on very little as they work their way toward Asheville. They have little money, the urn of ashes is stolen along with Zany’s purse, they have grandmother’s dog along, and they have no map. It’s complicated.


Author Sarah Dooley has written a heart-rending story of the time before there
Sarah Dooley
were protections for same-sex couples and their families and how the lack of those protections could rip families apart and steal so much from those left behind. The characters are compelling and, for the most part, believable and the writing strong. The story is an important reminder of why the new laws are so important.


I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. He has graciously agreed to take over temporarily for Shannon Messenger while she is running around promoting her latest book. Thanks, Greg, and good luck, Shannon!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jabber-Walking -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” 
~ Henry Ford ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Steven Pressfield always has something important to say. The post HERE on resistance is no exception.  

I recently came through the mother of all writer blocks, and I have a critique partner who has been having that problem lately. Sure wish I had had the post HERE from Ramey Channell guest posting on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University a couple years ago. 

Having trouble coming up with ideas? Anne R. Allen’s post HERE will help you with that. 

My trip to New York was fabulous. The opening of Maggie's show, Red Roses
Green Gold, was amazing. It was an invitation-only event, and I really wished I had facial-recognition software on my phone. There were lots of people from the music and theatre industries, and I was sure if I had a better memory, I would have recognized a whole lot of people. I did recognize Edie Falco in the audience, but that was all my poor brain could manage. The cast was incredible -- eight terrific singers who all played multiple instruments. Maggie plays eight instruments -- piano, accordion, stand-up bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin,  and box drum. And she got a nice photo in the NYTimes on-line review. You can check it out HERE. And a little interview with her HERE that has a really funny story in it. 

Last time I wrote, I offered a gently-read paperback copy of Welcome to Wonderland Home Sweet Home by Chris Grabenstein. I mistyped. It's a hardback copy! Anyway, the winner this time is Natalie Aguirre. Congratulations, Natalie! If you don't know Natalie, she is a writer and runs the exceptional blog, Literary Rambles. Check it out HERE. There is so much good stuff there. Don't miss it. Natalie, I will get your book out to you soon. For the rest of you, another book, another giveaway.


I occasionally get emails from publishing companies offering me books for review. I'm pretty picky about what I accept, but when I saw one written by Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2015-2017, I thought I had better check it out. The book is Jabber-Walking and it is unlike any other book I've seen. It is a middle-grade book that seems designed to help kids open up their minds, to allow their thoughts to flow freely onto the page, and start them on the road to writing poetry. Basically the idea is to walk around, notebook in hand, and free-write about all the many things that might stimulate their creative side. Mr. Herrera seems to have an unusual fascination with blue cheese, and he often refers to Jabber-Walkers as Burrito-Heads. He has a strange sense of humor, but one that I think the younger set will really appreciate. There are funny sketches throughout the book and a tremendous use of type as graphics, if that makes sense. You will know what I mean if you get a gander at the book. I must admit, I had some problems picturing kids in cities walking around writing in
Juan Felipe Herrera
notebooks. Yikes! There is traffic and curbs and dog poop and other things in the city that, to me, seem to require watching where one is going, but that's just me. And there is a frenetic quality to the writing that made it hard for me to read (I actually got a headache), but I am not the target audience, and I imagine kids might well just eat this up. 


I have a gently-read ARC for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. He has graciously agreed to take over temporarily for Shannon Messenger while she is running around promoting her latest book. Thanks, Greg, and good luck, Shannon!




Sunday, October 22, 2017

Welcome to Wonderland Home Sweet Motel -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with 
successive difficult deliveries.” 
~ J.B. Priestley, author ~ 
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Gail Radley’s article HERE in The Writer Magazine on getting rid of the “be” verb from your writing. Worth a look. 

Michael Mazza writes a guest post HERE for Writer’s Digest that can help you write a protagonist very unlike yourself. 

Alex Limberg of Ride the Pen has a terrific post HERE regarding using body language instead of dialogue tags. 

First of all, I won't be here next week. I will be in New York for the opening of Red Roses Green Gold at the Minetta Lane Theatre starring my daughter Maggie Hollinbeck. Very excited. The official opening is Sunday evening, so I won't be anywhere near my computer. You can find more info HERE and see a cast photo. Maggie is on the top right. I will be back the week after with a full report.

Last week I offered a gently-read copy of Esme Dooley and the Kirkkomaki Circus by Jane Donovan and Holly Trechter to one of you. This week's winner is Suzanne Warr. Congratulations, Suzanne! I will get the book out to you this week. If you don't know Suzanne, check out her blog, Tales from the Raven,  HERE. She's a middle-grade writer from North Carolina and has great reviews on her blog. For the rest of you, please keep reading. I have a really funny book for you this time.

I got a Chris Grabenstein book for review and just after I read it and was getting ready to write the review, I discovered I had been given the wrong Chris Grabenstein book. So I will have another book in this funny series to write about in a few weeks. This one is called Welcome to WonderLand Home Sweet Motel

P. T. Wilkie lives in the best place ever -- the WonderLand Motel. It has snacks and ice cream and a frog slide and all kinds of great stuff. The only thing the WonderLand doesn't have is enough customers to keep the lights on very long. P. T.'s grandfather owns the motel and his mother runs it. A girl named Gloria, P. T.'s age, moves into the motel with her dad, a local sportscaster. P. T. and Gloria become fast friends and brainstorm ideas to get customers in the motel. It's a good thing Gloria showed up when she did. She has a great business sense. The two of them cook up some terrific ideas and things get better, but the problem is much larger than either of them can imagine. They will have to pull out all the stops and have some tremendous luck to get the motel back on its feet.

Author Chris Grabenstein has a wicked sense of humor and a fabulous
Chris Grabenstein
imagination and, I suspect, a 
twelve-eyer-old boy somewhere inside of him. His voice is pitch perfect for the middle-grade set, and the fast-paced action and wacky ideas will keep the pages turning. 

I have a gently-read paperback of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Esme Dooley and the Kirkkomaki Circus -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” 
~ Bill Gates ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Feeling overwhelmed by writing? Anne R. Allen’s post HERE will help you set up process goals to make your writing more manageable. 

Searching for words? The new Merriam-Webster has added 250 new words HERE this year. This is pretty fun. 

Agent Joyce Holland has written an excellent essay HERE on what NOT to do when finding an agent. 

I had a wonderful experience recently. I don't know how many of you write in rhyme, but I have some picture book manuscripts in rhyme and some story poems I work on now and again. I've even had some success with these. Sometimes things just demand to be written in rhyme, but try as I might, I never seem to solve all the problems of meter on my own. I read about a service somewhere -- can't remember where -- but I gave it a try. The service is called Rhyme Solutions and woman who runs it is Jess Carroll. Her service is so affordable, it was a no-brainer for me to try it. My manuscript came back quickly with exactly the help I needed on it. I sent her another, and got the same great, fast service and a big BONUS! On my email signature, I have the link to my daughter Maggie's crowdfunding campaign for her cancer treatments. Jess Carroll went to the link and not only made a donation (Thank you, Jess!) but also committed to donating a portion of every contract she gets for her rhyme service until Maggie's campaign is fulfilled. How cool is that? So if you have anything that rhymes that you need a little help with, please check out Jess's service HERE. I have used her twice and will be sending more work her way soon. This community of children's writers is really fantastic.

If you are anywhere near New York City, Maggie's show will open off-Broadway the end of the month. They are in previews now. I won't be here blogging two weeks from now because I am flying out for the opening. HERE is the link to more info about the wonderful new musical. 

Last week I offered a double giveaway -- a signed copy of Caleb's Lighthouse by Tracy Schuldt Helixon and They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School by Simone Lia. Our winner this week is cschwanke2013. Congratulations to you! I will get your books out to you soon. For the rest of you, I have another giveaway this week, so please keep reading.

This week's offering is Esme Dooley and the Kirkkomaki Circus by Jane Donovan and Holly Trechter. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review

Esme Dooley is only eleven years old, but that doesn’t mean she can’t solve mysteries. She and her cousin, Tommy, are best friends as well as cousins, and Tommy stays with Esme through thick and thin as she follows clues and tries new, daring ventures. Their grandmother, Papuza, announces she is going to take the two of them with her as she goes on a journey to find someone she thought was dead long ago. Papuza tells them how, when they were children, Arthur was Papuza’s cousin and best friend, just as Esme and Tommy are now, but Arthur has been gone for sixty years. At least that’s what Papuza thought. Her adventurous childhood had included working as a miner and in a logging camp, where she had become friends with a girl named Katrina Kirkkomaki. Katrina always wanted to have a circus. When Papuza sees a newspaper ad for a Kirkkomaki Circus, she sends a telegram and discovers it is her old friend who runs the circus, and Katrina had been contacted by a detective looking for Papuza. The detective has news of Arthur. Papuza, Esme, and Tommy embark on a journey to meet the circus, see Katrina, and get in touch with the detective.

Complicating everything is old Aunt Hatch, a hateful relative who seems to want Esme dead. The three travelers leave town quickly after an incident with Hatch. They travel in a gypsy wagon and have lots of adventures along the way. They run across animals that seem to have escaped from a circus, and when they finally arrive there, they discover there are all kinds of strange and dangerous things happening at Katrina’s circus. It seems someone is trying to destroy the circus. Esme decides it will be up to her and her self-proclaimed sleuthing skills to find out just who the culprit is. This is no easy task. People are being injured, and some injuries are life-threatening. Every time she turns around, Esme seems to find a new suspect, and Tommy is finding just as many. There are enough red herrings in this mystery to populate a town.

Co-authors Jane Donovan and Holly Trechter have written a fast-paced, episodic adventure with an amazing cast of characters who are quirky and perfect to populate an old-time circus. From a snake charmer to a bearded lady to a sage, an old fortune teller to a mermaid and more, there is something for everyone in this book. There are so many characters that it would have been a welcome addition to have a character list to refer to, because some characters disappear for longish periods and the book is much longer than is ordinary for the middle-grade audience for which it is intended. It will take focused, robust readers to complete reading this one. The charming silhouette illustrations by Jane Donovan add nicely to the story.

I have a gently-read paperback of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Caleb's Lighthouse & They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School -- Double Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, 
I can appreciate patience.”
~ Hal Borland ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Here’s another old one I found in my email, but it’s terrific. I don’t know of any one-character books, although Hatchet by Gary Paulsen comes close. For the rest of us, we need secondary characters. The post HERE discusses how to do secondary characters well. 

C. S. Lakin has a good post HERE on Writers Helping Writers that is critical for beginning writers and good reminders for more experienced writers on the 10 Key Scenes You Need to Frame Up Your Novel. 

 Jenny Hansen has a guest post HERE on Writers in the Storm that is not to be missed. There are links in it that might change a lot of things for you and in a good way. 

I was MIA last week because I was in New York for the weekend on a family trip. I expected to post anyway, but I took a terrible fall on Saturday evening while boarding the Circle Line boat for the Harbor Lights tour. Try to never faceplant on a steel deck. It's not fun. I'm still having headaches and my face looks like I went a couple rounds with Mike Tyson, but nothing was broken and I'm better every day. That said, I just wasn't up to posting last Sunday. Other than the faceplant, I had a really nice trip that included a Broadway show (Waitress) with a backstage tour compliments of a friend of Maggie who is in that show and the last regular season Yankees game of the year with my grandson, Gehrig. Even the boat ride was nice once the bleeding stopped. 😂

I promised a hardcover of Heartwood Hotel Book 2 The Greatest Gift by Kallie George to one of you. It's such a sweet book. The winner this time is Carol Baldwin. Congratulations, Carol! I will get the book out to you soon. If you don't know Carol, she is a North Carolina writer who blogs at the aptly-named Carol Baldwin's Blog which you can find HERE. There is always a lot to learn at Carol's blog. For the rest of you, please keep reading. I have a special, double giveaway this week.

Caleb's Lighthouse by Tracy Schuldt Helixon is an early middle grade book that is about as sweet as they come. Caleb is the youngest of seven boys. When the family moves to a lighthouse where Father is to be the new lighthouse keeper, the older boys claim the beds and Caleb doesn't seem to have a place. But the house seems to speak to Caleb, welcoming him and helping him find a place to fit in. Through the years, the story tells what it was like to grow up in this environment, the house giving comfort and solace to Caleb. The family moves away after the lighthouse is automated, and the house falls into ruin, but the story comes full circle when Caleb returns to help restore the house. This is a sweet story kids and lighthouse lovers (like me) will enjoy, especially when they find out it's based on a real place. Both writing and illustrations are lovely.

grade readers and is about as silly a story as one can find. It tells the tale of a worm named Marcus who tricks a chicken named Laurence into not eating him and, in doing so, triggers an amazing journey and an even more amazing friendship. Laurence, it turns out, believes he is really a Flamingo and should be living in Africa. His problem is he can't read a map or navigate to get there. Marcus is Laurence's only hope of getting there. The book just gets sillier as it goes on with lots of funny characters wandering in and out of the story, making for lots of nonsensical tension and wacky situations. Cute illustrations throughout help to keep those pages turning. This will be a big hit with the young middle-grade crowd.

I have gently-read paperbacks of both of these for one of you. Caleb's Lighthouse is a signed copy. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Heartwood Hotel Book 2 The Greatest Gift -- Review & Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“My stories run up and bite me in the leg -- I respond by writing them down -- everything that 
goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.” 
~ Ray Bradbury ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
I have started clearing out my email. It’s been a while. I ran across this post from Janice Hardy from 2015 that I had bookmarked in my email. It’s so good (and timeless) that I decided to post the link HERE in spite of the age. 

A great villain is hard to beat and so necessary to a story. Kristin Lamb has a post HERE that will help you create just such a character. And, BONUS, her posts are always fun to read. 

This is just for fun. Folks at the University of York have uncovered 30 words lost from the English language that should maybe make a comeback HERE. That said, I might be put off if anyone referred to me as being snout-fair. 

Now and then I have time to read a book for actual adults. The book I recently read is Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate I really loved it and want to recommend it to any other adult readers. It's a terrific story with great writing. 

Last week I offered a copy of A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini to one of you. This week's winner is Paddy Lawton. Congratulations, Paddy! I will get your book out to you soon. For the rest of you, another wonderful giveaway in the offing. Please stay tuned.

This week's book is Heartwood Hotel, Book 2, The Greatest Gift, a sweet book by Kallie George for early middle-graders. Here is my review for the San Francisco Book Review.

Mona the mouse has recently joined the staff at the Heartwood Hotel, and it is a very busy time of year until they get all the hibernating animals settled in. The staff celebrates with a St. Slumber supper and gifts are exchanged. Mona, an orphan mouse, had no idea she should have gifts for anyone and feels terrible that she doesn’t. Duchess Haveline, a demanding, wealthy rabbit, arrives unannounced and insists on being in the penthouse and having the lobby carpet installed in her room. Mona decides she will make a new carpet as a gift for everyone. She goes to the storage room to get twine and discovers a thief who is stealing food. Since a days-long blizzard is happening, this could be a disaster for all.

Author Kallie George has created a charming world populated by an enchanting
Kallie George
group of animal characters for younger middle-grade readers. Her writing is lovely and lyrical, and her story has a little mystery and a lot of delight. Illustrations by Stephanie Graegin complete this endearing story with perfectly adorable depictions of the characters and actions. This second book in the series will keep young readers captivated.

I have a gently-read hardback of this book to share with one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting -- Review & Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
~ Thomas A. Edison ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
M. L. Keller has a terrific post HERE on Authorial Intrusion. This is something we all do now and again. It can be effective if done right, but one must be careful. 

Laurence McNaughton has a guest post HERE on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University that will help you make your characters irresistable to readers. 

It’s always nice to get tips from the masters. HERE are 11 writing tips from George R.R. Martin. He does know how. 

I would like to take a moment to be serious here. My daughter Maggie is in the fight of her life and needs some help. I would appreciate it if you could view her short video and help out by sharing her link on Facebook, Twitter, or any other way to get the word out. Here is the link: https://www.youcaring.com/maggiehollinbeck-946234

Last week, I offered a copy of Brave Red, Smart Frog by Emily Jenkins to one of you. It was a popular choice, I think. This week, not one person said to leave them out of the drawing, and I heard from some folks who seldom leave a comment. My granddaughter picked the winner this week, and it is John Smith. Congratulations, John! I'll get the book out to you soon. For the rest of you, I have a really fun book for a giveaway this week.

When my grandkids and I took our trip to Colorado this summer, Greg Pattridge, who blogs at Always in the Middle, gave my granddaughter a book that I had coincidently chosen for review. We both simply loved A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini and can hardly wait for the next one to come out. So much fun! Anyway, here is my review.

Kelly Ferguson has terrific Halloween plans. She and her best friend are going to a party where all the cool kids will be, including Victor, the guy who Kelly crushes on. But when Kelly’s mother’s boss calls and says her babysitter has fallen through for the night, Kelly’s mother blithely offers Kelly’s services. The kid, Jacob,  turns out to be a real handful — manipulative, smart, and scared of monsters. But when the monsters turn out to be real and when they steal Jacob away, everything changes for Kelly. She has to find a way to get Jacob back or her mother will lose her job. She makes an emergency phone call to Jacob’s regular babysitter and finds herself allied with a few monster-hunting babysitters with skills and knowledge Kelly never dreamed of.

"So much candy was given out that the air was dusted with sugar, 
and the breeze tasted sweet. Days after inhaling so much candy, 
a trick-or-treater could pick his nose, eat it, and swear he was 
eating a grape-flavored jelly bean."

Author Joe Ballarini has written an absolute romp of a book that will have kids
Joe Ballarini
everywhere howling for more. Fortunately, it looks like this will be only the first of a terrific series. The writing is crisp and absolutely pitch perfect for the middle-grade set. The story is exciting, funny, and very, very smart. This deserves, and will probably receive, readership beyond the target audience.



I have a gently-read ARC of this book to share with one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.


Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.