Author Spotlight: Zack Bush


From a child’s first uttered “Dada” to his or her first unsteady steps, nothing can adequately convey the joy and awe of watching the birth and growth of a new child. Filled with adorable illustrations and the refrain, “You are the one made just for me,” Made for Me is a winning presentation of tender moments that tie a father and his new child together … forever.

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Where did you grow up?
Miami, Florida

Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes—always loved reading.

What were some of your favorite authors and books?
Growing up I loved Judy Blume (who doesn’t?) and Roald Dahl, but my absolute favorite was Shel Silverstein.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew I wanted to surround myself with live music. The traditional path never interested me too much. As a bar owner and a writer, I can say my career dreams have really come true!

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
I spent many years working with my family in the waste/recycling business. I also spent a great deal of time promoting/marketing events as well. And of course, as co-owner of Ball & Chain (located in Miami)—I spend a great many days and nights listening to jazz, salsa, and Afro-Cuban funk.

How did you get started writing?
I always enjoyed writing. However, life kind of “takes off” and often times we, myself included, lose site of hobbies. In my case, my passion and zest for writing came back when my first child was born. I was overcome by emotion and KNEW I had to find the words that matched the feelings in my heart.

Why do you write books?
Besides being overcome with emotion and wanting to give words to the feelings in my heart, I really wanted to show that it is ok—and should be encouraged—for a dad to coo over his baby (just as we often see moms doing). My wife and I began reading to our children and I found no books that truly captured what I was trying to capture.

What do you like best about writing?
The challenge. When writing a children’s picture book (especially one that rhymes)—every word has to be perfect. As long as I can remember I always wanted to be published—it just took my kids being born to remind me of this lifetime goal.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?
For me, I have to be inspired and this inspiration comes at any and all times—and sometimes not at all. I find I do my best work when I am focused on finding words to match my very own feelings.

What do you think makes a good story?
For me there is something very powerful when a story evokes emotion. This is what I tried to do with Made For Me.

Where do you get your inspiration?
My incredible children and my superhero wife. The best inspiration comes from real-life experiences. Each day is an adventure and I find myself constantly jotting things down on paper or in my phone. With infants and now toddlers —I am inspired each and every day.

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Tell us about your latest book.
Made For Me is a story about a father’s love for his little one. It captures the everyday moments that I experienced (and believe most dads do as well). These moments are beyond precious and I found myself both excited and emotional on a daily basis.

What’s next for you?
I am continuing to write (many new projects in the works)—and of course I am continuing with my passion for the hospitality industry. Besides Ball & Chain (www.BallAndChainMiami.com), I have a Mexican restaurant and bar opening within the next two months and a hotel food and beverage program that will roll out before the end of 2018.

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?
I have been overwhelmed by the support and feedback from Made For Me. I never in my wildest dreams imagined becoming a Publishers Weekly bestseller. More than that, I am blown away by the comments on the Made For Me Facebook page and Amazon review page. I read and reply to each and every one of the comments and they keep me smiling from the inside out.


For more information about Zack Bush and his books, visit facebook.com/MadeForMeBook

Visit Zack Bush at the Miami Book Fair! November 11-18, 2018 at Miami Dade College.




Story Monsters Approved Books Announced


Kid-tested, Story Monster Approved! 
Congratulations to our newest approved authors!

Picture Books (Ages 3-8)

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Piccadilly and the Jolly Raindrops
Lisa Anne Novelline, Nicola Hwang

The third installment in the Piccadilly and her Magical World picture book series, Piccadilly learns to reframe her gloomy and rainy afternoon into one of the most fantastic days of her life! Piccadilly and the Jolly Raindrops is a tale of joy and wonder wrapped around what is perhaps one of the mightiest messages of all... children possess the power to choose a positive view of challenges. And when they exercise that power, the most magical of possibilities await!

 

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Gillie Can Share
by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Learn about sharing with friends and family in this colorful and charming story following a little rabbit called Gillie! The Gillie Can series can form a great basis for all kinds of learning.

 

Early Reader (Ages 5-9)

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Ricky and the Grim Wrapper
by Allen L. Pier, James Koenig

Ricky is a good boy with one very bad habit: he likes to litter. But one day while on a drive in the country with his parents, Ricky throws an empty root beer cup out the car window and in a blinding flash, he is catapulted into a strange and frightening world where litter comes to life and gathers along the roadside. Will he finally learn that littering is bad for the environment and change his ways? 

 

Middle Grade Fiction (Ages 8–12)

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Stormy Summers Fifth Grade Detective: Museum Mayhem
by Erin Danko, Clarizza Tumpap

Stormy Summers and her two friends thought it was going to be a field trip like any other. That was until the museum was robbed. Now the three girls are on the case to discover who the thief is. Can they find out before the thief finds them?

 

Young Adult Novels (Ages 13 and up)

 

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The Uncontrolled
by Zachary Astrowsky

From 14-year-old author Zachary Astrowsky comes the story of three teenage friends, John, Chase, and Hazel, who join together in the aftermath of a striking revelation and attempt to fight back against the majority around them that has been secretly implanted with a tracking and brainwashing device. The fight seems hopeless until John realizes that he has the ability to see the future, and the kids devise a plan to outwit the leader of The Controlled. 

 

Green Living/Environmental Issues

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Ricky and the Grim Wrapper
by Allen L. Pier, James Koenig

Ricky is a good boy with one very bad habit: he likes to litter. But one day while on a drive in the country with his parents, Ricky throws an empty root beer cup out the car window and in a blinding flash, he is catapulted into a strange and frightening world where litter comes to life and gathers along the roadside. Will he finally learn that littering is bad for the environment and change his ways? 

 

Family Matters

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Dinner on the Doorstep
by Elizabeth Cummings, Bronte Goodieson

Mikey and Simon are missing their mom who is in hospital. Friends and neighbors want to help and so they take turns to bring a dinner to the family. Each day Mikey and Simon look forward to coming home and finding out what is on the doorstep. This heart-warming story celebrates community spirit while touching on a deeper conversation of coping with illness and the emotions that go with it. 

 

Education/Reference

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Deputy Paws and the Puppy Mill Cause
by Peggy Race, Mike Motz

Deputy Paws was born in a puppy mill. He didn’t have any freedom to run and play like other dogs get. He was stuck in a small cage and not looked after properly. This fully illustrated children’s book follows his story from a sad and unhappy pup to one full of life in his new home where he is loved. Deputy Paws carries a message of hope for one young dog and an important lesson for us all about the dangers of puppy mills and how to avoid buying dogs that are sold through them.

 

First Time Author

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Ricky and the Grim Wrapper
by Allen L. Pier, James Koenig

Ricky is a good boy with one very bad habit: he likes to litter. But one day while on a drive in the country with his parents, Ricky throws an empty root beer cup out the car window and in a blinding flash, he is catapulted into a strange and frightening world where litter comes to life and gathers along the roadside. Will he finally learn that littering is bad for the environment and change his ways? 

 

Making a Difference

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Dinner on the Doorstep
by Elizabeth Cummings, Bronte Goodieson

Mikey and Simon are missing their mom who is in hospital. Friends and neighbors want to help and so they take turns to bring a dinner to the family. Each day Mikey and Simon look forward to coming home and finding out what is on the doorstep. This heart-warming story celebrates community spirit while touching on a deeper conversation of coping with illness and the emotions that go with it. 

 

 

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Is your book Story Monsters Approved?
Enter today at www.DragonflyBookAwards.com!

James Patterson Joins Story Monsters Ink as Monthly Columnist

 

James Patterson has a way with words. Best known for his suspenseful thrillers and middle grade book series, his titles have sold over 375 million copies and he holds the record for the most New York Times bestsellers. With a generosity as endless as his imagination, he has donated millions of dollars to school libraries over the years through his partnership with Scholastic with one simple goal: To get kids reading. From his vantage point as a literary lion, Patterson knows as well as anyone the power that words can wield.

 photo by Stephanie Diani

photo by Stephanie Diani

Not only does Patterson write for kids, he will now be writing directly to them and their teachers and parents in a monthly column with Story Monsters Ink magazine. His column will debut in the October 2018 issue of the popular magazine. 

With content kids can relate to, Story Monsters Ink is the go-to literacy resource for K-12 teachers and librarians. Each issue offers the latest book news, reviews, author interviews, reading lists, and more. In their efforts to get more students reading and writing, the editors also work with teachers and parents to publish student-written articles and book reviews in each issue.

“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading,” Patterson says. “There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books. If we can put the right book in their hands, the story will do the rest.”

To learn more about Story Monsters Ink, visit www.StoryMonsters.com, email info@storymonsters.com or call 480-940-8182.

Author Spotlight: Anne Mason

As an explorer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and author, Anne Mason’s life reads like an extraordinary adventure book. Her journey began as a young girl traveling and studying throughout Europe, where she developed her love of teddy bears. In the following years, she took to exploring new heights, literally, as she scaled the frigid ascent to Mt. Everest’s Base Camp (17,600 ft). Today, she continues to write the Mr. Biddle book series and has formed a nonprofit, Biddle’s Scholarly Explorers. 

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Where did you grow up? 
I grew up in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area of Southeastern Michigan.

Did you read a lot as a child? 
I loved to read as a child, especially at night before going to bed.

What were some of your favorite authors and books? 
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; Swallows and the Amazons by Arthur Ransome and The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 
I always had aspirations to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 
After graduating from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, I commenced work in Boston in the investment industry, primarily composing interoffice brochures and correspondence. In the ensuing years, I travelled back to my home state of Michigan and worked for Automatic Data Processing, where I successfully developed, proofread, and edited training manuals for online databases. Still in Michigan, I developed marketing materials for a related automobile business.

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How did you get started writing? 
One of the fondest memories of my childhood was spending time with my parents and reading classic picture books together. Sharing stories with your children is a valuable way to get them on the path to loving books. This concept is what inspires me to write—creating engaging and edifying stories that families can enjoy reading amongst one another and re-telling throughout the years.  

Why do you write books? 
I enjoy sharing my imagination, creativity and positive expressions. These elements allow me to write naturally and unhindered.

What do you like best about writing? 
The best thing about writing is when a story catches fire and comes to life on the page. Suddenly, it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and what the characters are saying and doing—you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is instantaneously both obvious and surprising ... it’s magical and wonderful. When I sit down to write, I have the opportunity to revisit the many fond memories of my childhood. 

What do you find the most challenging about writing? 
The most difficult thing I find about writing is refining an idea into only a few potent words to say the most important and entertaining things.

What do you think makes a good children’s story?
Children want to be challenged, made to think and reconsider; they want to learn and grow and become wiser. Young readers will always like a book with a wonderful story. However, they will only love a book that makes them see the world in a new way. 

Where do you get your inspiration?
I find my inspiration by observing the everyday interactions of wildlife in various settings. With a notepad in hand, I jot down my observations and ponder where these interplays could lead and where they could go. I think of a story. 

Tell us about your latest book.
I have recently completed a new Mr. Biddle book entitled,  A Very Good Christmas Indeed. This is a delightful English story about the spirit of the holiday season and the subtle importance of hope, love, and charity. 

What’s next for you?
I will always continue to pen the Mr. Biddle series of books. In addition, I have formed a nonprofit, Biddle’s Scholarly Explorers. This organization strives to promote literacy and environmental stewardship on a global level through access to reading materials, environmental guides and activities and compassionate educational services. 

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Is there anything that we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you or your books? 
My current book, Mr. Biddle and the Squirrel’s Tale may be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and mrbiddle.com.

A cinematic book trailer may be viewed in Nigel’s Nook on mrbiddle.com.

Spotlight Book: Penny the Pink Nose Poodle

 

The things that make us different are the things that make us wonderful... 

            ISBN: 978-1-68401-257-2

Penny the Pink Nose Poodle is a children’s book based on the real life story of Penny, who was rescued from an animal shelter by Norina, who later introduced the poodle to the rest of her family. 

The story follows Penny on her journey from the New Castle Pound to find her perfect forever home. Penny the Pink Nose Poodle is a reminder of the importance of showing kindness to others in need. 

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2nd Place winner, Animals/Pets category, 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards

Five star review: "I love this book. I read it to my grandkids and they were not only delighted, but my 5-year-old granddaughter told her parents, "being different makes you more loveable and hugable." - CDNon, Amazon Reviewer

 

Available for purchase at Amazon, BarnesandNoble, and Mascot Books 

ISBN: 978-1-68401-257-2

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In the Garden: Scarecrows

by Rita Campbell

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I could while away the hours
Conferring with the flowers
Consulting with the rain
And my head I'll be scratching
While my thoughts were busy hatching
If I only had a brain...

- Ray Bolger, The Wizard of Oz

Scarecrows throughout time have taught us lessons on thinking before you speak, generosity, loneliness, and feelings. They have been written about in songs, plays, and children’s books. Throughout history, scarecrows have been used to help farmers save their crops. The Egyptians used the first scarecrows along the Nile River to protect wheat crops from flocks of quail. Wooden scarecrows were used by Greek farmers in 2,500 B.C. These wooden scarecrows were painted purple and had a club in one hand to scare the birds from the vineyards and a sickle in the other to ensure a good harvest. Romans copied the Greek and Japanese farmers created scarecrows to protect their rice fields. In Germany, scarecrows were wooden-shaped witches while in Britain, young boys and girls were used as live scarecrows.

In the United States, immigrant German farmers created “bogeymen” or human-looking scarecrows dressed in old clothes with large, red handkerchiefs around their necks. From these, the straw-filled, human-like men with gourd faces developed. Many other types were used by Native American Indians and Pilgrims to protect their crops. Today, technological scarecrows have reflective film ribbons tied on plants to glimmer in the sunlight. We actually have some motion-powered recorded devices set in our garden to steer away deer.

Scarecrows have evolved over the years and many gardens have scarecrow festivals with competitions for creating the most original scarecrows. These scarecrows can be very creative from childlike scarecrows to adults ones. In the fall, scarecrows can also make fun decorations for your porch or Halloween.

Making a scarecrow to me is akin to creating a snowman and there are so many ways you can attempt this. At the end of the summer, you can decorate your sunflowers with hats, sunglasses, scarves, and old eye-glasses. Paper plate scarecrows are fun to make too. Using buttons for eyes, felt or construction paper for hats, yarn for hair, old shirts and pants stuffed with straw and old boots can be a fun activity to introduce a preschooler or elementary student to scarecrows.

For a garden scarecrow, you will need to create a T-shaped frame for his body and arms. You can drive a fencepost into the ground in the garden where you want to position your scarecrow. Fasten the frame to this post with wire or plastic fasteners. His/her head will need to sit on the top of this frame. An old pillow case stuffed or an old flower pot or lampshade will make a cute head.

Now you need to dress your scarecrow. Use an old shirt and pants or dress. The clothing will need to be stuffed with straw, old rags, leaves or newspaper and tied off with string. Using garbage bags to hold and shape your stuffing material is helpful and the plastic will keep it dry and from falling apart. Use safety pins, hot glue or yarn stitches to hold everything together. Adding gloves, shoes, hats, and scarves just add to the human qualities. Make your scarecrow part of the family.

Birds, rabbits and deer are adaptable. They will stay away from anything that looks suspicious. However, if it stays put for a while, they will get use to it and eventually will think it is there for them as a perch. A scarecrow that stays still in a garden will only be effective for a few days. It is important to make it as life like as you can and moving it around will help to fool the animals. He should be positioned everywhere in the garden meaning that you move him often. Make him lifelike by giving him a job with some tools or sitting on a fence. Simply changing his hat might be a way to fool the birds into thinking he is real.

While scarecrows are helpful in the garden to scare animals and birds away, there have been many stories written about them that can also teach your children about feelings. There is a beautiful story about a scarecrow who longs for the company of the creatures he scares away and in the winter he becomes a snowman that the animals play with. Once again working in the garden can also present many beautiful learning opportunities.

 Bloom Sunflower Flower Yellow Flower Yellow Nature

Plant of the Month: Sunflowers

Sunflowers come in a wide assortment of sizes. Some cultivars grow as tall as 15 feet with flower heads as wide as 1 foot across; dwarf types, however, measure only a foot or two tall. There are also early, medium-height sunflowers that stand 5 to 8 feet tall with heads 8 to 10 inches across. Some cultivars produce a single large flower; others form several heads. Choose a site in full sun on the north side of the garden so the tall plants won't shade your other vegetables once they're grown. The seeds feed countless people, animals, and birds. Sunflower oil is used in cooking, soaps, and cosmetics. In the garden, you can grow sunflowers not only as beautiful aesthetic additions, but as windbreaks, privacy screens, or living supports for pole beans.

Rita Campbell is a master gardener. The Moonbeam-Award winning author has combined her love of gardening and teaching to create an educational series of books for children ... with a touch of magic. For more information, visit spritealights.com.

Story Monsters Ink September Book Reviews


Check out our newest book reviews!

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Bear Moves
by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz (Candlewick Entertainment) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Well, put on the music and move over, cause Bear’s got some moves and he doesn’t mind sharing them. This is a fun, feel-good read. Bear introduces the reader to music and dance, and the illustrations are sure to add laughter to the beat. (Ages 2-5)

Stick
by Irene Dickson (Nosy Crow) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
The simplest of things can often bring the greatest rewards. Following all the joys a boy and his dog can share with a simple stick. You can throw it, balance with it, float it down a stream, and draw pictures in the sand. And we agree, building friendships is the very best of all. (Ages 2-5)

Try a Little Kindness
by Henry Cole (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
The sweet, rhythmic flow of the text, and soft, easy appeal of the illustrations make this a great feel-good reading experience that can linger for a lifetime. Each page features a different way to be a good person, like using proper manners, telling someone they are special, or sharing a treat! The opening page will catch the heart and quickly become a childhood mantra. (Ages 3-5)

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Mae’s First Day Of School
by Kate Berube (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
I bet we all remember our first day of school. Oh, we may not remember the details, but that cold clammy feeling that stirs every time we face a new venture, reminds us. Life is never as hard when we encounter it with a friend. Mae is afraid to go to school. Riddled by the monstrous “what if” thoughts, she hides and determines not to go. But, lucky for Mae, she meets others who are just as frightened as she is. And together, they are able to overcome. A great reminder for all of us. Let’s grab a hand and do all those wonderful things we wish we could do! The illustrations are simple and sweet, and capture the heart. (Ages 3-7)

Storm
by Sam Usher (Templar) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano
Wind and thunderstorms can be cozy, exciting, and evoke lots of adventures—inside and outside of the house! A little boy and his grandpa go searching for a kite to fly on a windy, stormy day and throughout their search, reminisce about other experiences they had together as they bump into special mementos. A beautiful story that will inspire children to look for adventures in nooks and crannies, and most importantly, with their families. (Ages 3-7)

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I Am Actually a Penguin
by Sean Taylor, Kasia Matyjaszek (Templar) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano
Playing dress-up is a childhood experience that will never get old and this is a funny, sweet, and
completely relatable story about a little girl who loves this pastime. Her imagination, creativity, and perseverance is adorable (and admirable) as she really embraces becoming her costume—in this case, a penguin. The illustrations are vibrant, fun, and different with the use of mixed media and multiple picture and plot points on each page. Readers will enjoy reading this delightful story and then quickly running to their own dress-up box. (Ages 3-7)

Duck Gets a Job
by Sonny Ross (Templar) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman
This is a story about being yourself and not a carbon copy of the vast majority. Sonny Ross creates a combo of creative words and illustrations to entertain young readers with his tale. Children will delight in the silliness of Duck as he takes readers through the steps of getting a job in a big city. Duck soon discovers that spreadsheets are not his cup of tea, so he opts for a job that fits his special gifts and passion. A perfect read-aloud for discussing sequencing and introducing job skills and goals, this picture book really fits the bill! (Ages 3-7)

Little Robot Alone
by Patricia MacLachlan, Emily MacLachlan Charest, Matt Phelan (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman
Little Robot Alone is a story about a robot curing boredom by using his imagination, technical skills, and some elbow grease. The authors and illustrator have created a story that showcases the importance of friendship. The occasional rhyming text intermixed with the imagery produced from the descriptive wording allows readers to purely enjoy the robot’s surroundings and appreciate the soft, dreamlike illustrations. What a wonderful text to use with young children to bring up the topic of befriending others and discussing what it feels like to be alone. This profound story is more than the superficial idea of a robot creating a friend; digging deeper, teachers and parents can easily help readers have text connections by incorporating this story into lessons about having positive character traits and finding them in others. (Ages 3-7)

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Rock What Ya Got
by Samantha Berger, Kerascoet (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
I love the opening of this story! It opens wide the imagination and excitement rushes in. Carrying a powerful message, each page delights with its endearing illustrations. For anyone who has ever whispered, or shouted, “If only....” Happiness comes when we own who we are, and success follows when you can rock what ya got. This is a fun presentation for kids who are finding, and claiming their own unique spot in this iffy world. (Ages 4-7)

Snail Mail
by Samantha Berger, Julia Patton (Running Press Kids) Reviewer: Larissa Juliano
We’ve all heard and used the term “snail mail” for ages now, but Samantha Berger and Julia Patton have adorably and brilliantly put pictures and a story to this cute term. Snails actually delivering mail! Berger captures our heart from the beginning with a little girl mailing a letter across the country, and the long and exhausting trek the determined snails must make to get it to her recipient. The story also takes the reader on a journey through special landmarks of America with sunsets and rainbows in every backdrop. Snail Mail will teach many, and remind more, of how exciting it feels to run to the mailbox and have a special delivery waiting inside. (Ages 4-8)

Energy: Physical Science for Kids
by Andi Diehn, Hui Li (Nomad Press) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge
Energy, energy everywhere! This is an educational book to help young readers learn about the many forms of energy. The illustrations bring to life the concepts to engage visual learning and processing. The author has also included STEM activities to help further solidify the concepts. Energy races through your feet and is fueled by food and rest. What happens when your energy runs out? Do you get cranky, tired, or thrash about? Have a snack! Take a snooze! Keep your energy up and you’ll never lose! Energy is everywhere, you just need to look. One thing for sure, you’ll find it in this book. (Ages 4-8) 

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Matter: Physical Science for Kids
by Andi Diehn, Hui Li (Nomad Press) Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge
Let’s begin to learn about matter in this science educational book. ”Birds in the sky and rocks on the ground. Things made of matter are all around! Solids and liquids and gasses, too. Make up the world including you. Matter is everything, everywhere you look. Does matter, matter? Learn how important matter is as you read through this book. The illustrations are vibrant and will keep your child’s attention as they take their first steps into science experiments. Be sure to try the STEM activities included to reinforce the learning of the science concepts. (Ages 4-8)

Ted the Friendly Frog and the Tale of the Diamond
by Scott Mcall (Brown Books Kids) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Learning can be tough, and some lessons can last a lifetime. We have much to learn growing up, and our parental guidance far outlasts that of the animal kingdom, but both share the wisdom of the aged and the benefit of a listening heart. Ted the frog learns the importance of obedience the hard way. And we the readers learn, the choice is always ours. (Ages 5-6)

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Bully
by Jennifer Sattler (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Bully’s middle name might just be Greedy. He thinks the pond and its beautiful lilies are all for his own private enjoyment. Running off all those who pass by to share in the pond’s beauty, Bully finds himself quite content all alone. Can anyone stop Bully and his bullying ways? Using humor and whimsy, authorillustrator Jennifer Sattler masterfully shows young readers that standing up together can make all the difference in the world. (Ages 5-7)

Dino
by Diego Vaisberg (Templar) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This is a cute lighthearted story about a mysterious find. A large egg appears in the backyard. Is it a giant canary? A large lizard? A huge turtle? Life changes when the egg hatches. It’s sure to bring giggles to little readers and maybe even secret hopes that they, too, might find such wondrous things in their own backyard. (Ages 5-8)

Squiffy and the Vine Street Boys in Shiver Me Timbers
by Steve Stinson (Muddy Boots) Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield
This is a really fun story about Squiffy, who builds a pirate ship on a tree and invites the Vine Street boys to come aboard. The boys learn “Pirate talk” with a hilarious and predictable ending. I loved the characters, creativity, and imagination of this story. The illustrations bring the story to life. This is a fun and laugh-out-loud type of story. (Ages 5-8)

Howl Like a Wolf!
by Kathleen Yale, Kaley McKean (Storey Publishing) Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield
This book has so many educational and fun activities for young children! They can learn to howl like a wolf, see like a bat, and even dance like a honey bee! You didn’t know that a honey bee can dance? Well, you better get reading! This is a wonderful book for children and they will have lots of fun while learning. Also includes a link to download animal masks. A must-read! (Ages 6-9)

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Big Foot and Little Foot
by Ellen Potter, Felicita Sala (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
Big Foot and Little Foot is a fun, adventurous book about seeing each other’s differences and overcoming fear to become friends. Hugo, the main character, is a young curious Sasquatch who wants to adventure in the Big Wide World, but that’s off limits. The most important Sasquatch rule is to never be seen by a human. But Hugo breaks that rule when he meets a human and they become pen pals. (Ages 6-9)

Love for Logan
by Lori DeMonia, Monique Turchan (Halo Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
These two darling sisters return with another story of love and inspiration. Logan’s older sister has trouble processing sensory signals, and that can make life challenging. When one member of a family struggles, it affects them all. Leah’s family supports her with understanding and awareness and learning, but most of all with a love that can overcome those difficult obstacles most of us will never face. This story of love and compassion will inspire us all to become aware of the struggles of others, and be a positive influence with understanding. (Ages 6-12)

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System
by Bethany Ehlmann, Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Children’s Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This one is sure to thrill any kid with their head in the clouds, and beyond! Packed with amazing facts, awesome photographs and diagrams, famous scientists, and so much more, it is sure to please. Whether just-for-fun reading, information for reports or projects, it will fill many interests. Science is fun! (Ages 8+)

My First Book Of Quantum Physics
by Kaid-Sala Ferrón Sheddad, Eduard Altarriba (Button Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
When I hear terms like elementary particles, my mind runs to the massive crumbs left in the middle school lunchroom. Or quantum entanglements fills my mind with visions of playground altercations needing attention. But, what if the concepts of quantum physics were introduced in an easier and more entertaining way? These authors have lifted the gray haze, and brought the quantum world to our fingertips. Children (and adults) will enjoy pushing the boundaries of what we call reality, and stepping into the quantum world! (Ages 8+)

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24 Hours in Nowhere
by Dusti Bowling (Sterling Children’s Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Welcome to Nowhere, Arizona, the least livable town in the United States. For Gus, a bright 13-year-old with dreams of getting out and going to college, life there is made even worse by Bo Taylor, Nowhere’s biggest, baddest bully. When Bo tries to force Gus to eat a dangerously spiny cactus, Rossi Scott comes to his rescue by giving Bo her prized dirt bike. Determined to buy it back, Gus and his friends decide to go searching for gold in Dead Frenchman Mine. As they hunt for treasure, narrowly surviving one disaster after another, they realize this adventure just might lead them somewhere. A great, actionpacked story. (Ages 8-12)

A Long Line of Cakes
by Deborah Wiles (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Emma Lane Cake has five brothers, four dogs, and a family that can’t stay put. The Cake family travels from place to place, setting up bakeries in communities that need them. Then, just when Emma feels settled in with new friends … they move again. Now the Cakes have come to Aurora County, and Emma has vowed that this time she is NOT going to get attached to anyone. Why bother, if her father’s only going to uproot her again? But fate has different plans. And so does Ruby Lavender, who is going to show Emma a thing or two about making friendships last. This is a perfect story for young readers with a very sweet ending. (Ages 8-12)

Daring Dreamers Club: Milla Takes Charge
by Erin Soderberg, Anoosha Syed (RH/Disney) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla’s fear that her moms won’t let her go. Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she’s ready for this real grand adventure? Kids will particularly love how the book ideally ends, then leads into a sample of the next book. I found this to be a perfect fifth grade story. (Ages 8-12)

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Kid Scientists: True Tales of Childhood from Science Superstars
by David Stabler, Anoosha Syed (Quirk Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry
What a delightful way for young readers to take more of an interest in science—by learning about our famous scientists’ childhoods. Did you know that there is one famous scientist who also invented the first pair of swim fins? Another scientist was also a genius mathematician whose calculations helped astronaut Neil Armstrong to be able to walk on the moon. Who are these people? You’ll have to read the book to find out. This is a brilliant book that will inspire and enlighten our budding future scientists. It proves to young readers that they, too, should dare to reach for the stars. (Ages 9-12)

Everything I Know About You
by Barbara Dee (Aladdin) Reviewer: Diana Perry
During a class trip to DC, 12-year-old Tally and her best friends, Sonnet and Caleb are less than thrilled when they are assigned roommates and are paired with kids who are essentially their sworn enemies. For Tally, rooming with “clonegirl” Ava Seely feels like punishment, rather than potential for fun, but Tally soon discovers several surprising things about her roommate—including the possibility of an eating disorder. This is a must-read for parents and teachers and a perfect lesson on bullying and another less-talked-about problem facing young girls today. (Ages 9-13)

The De La Cruz Diaries: Oops-A-Daisy
by Melody Delgado (Clean Reads) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
The De La Cruz Diaries: Oops-A-Daisy is a fun and captivating book. Daisy De La Cruz is a 12-year-old girl with dreams of becoming a famous singer. I liked that the book dealt with real issues including family issues, bullies, and how hard you have to work to accomplish something. This is a good book for anyone facing these life challenges. (Ages 12+)

The Crow Child
by Sherrie Todd-Beshore (CreateSpace) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Twelve-year-old Elijah Day Clearwater is not your average child. Since the death of his parents when he was three years old, he has been living with his paternal grandfather. He struggles every day with Cystic Fibrosis. What sets Elijah apart from everyone else is something … magical. Thirteen days before his 13th birthday, Elijah begins to have vivid dreams. Perhaps the dreams are just an outlet from the stress of a bully at school, or maybe they hint at a destiny that was foretold prior to his birth under the firesign. This story teaches young readers how their very lives today were formed by others who came before them. It is easy to bond with the well-developed characters. A great read. (Ages 12+)
 

To submit your book for review, email cristy@storymonsters.com for submission guidelines.

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Closing the Gap: A Student Project

by Keith Brayman
AP Macroeconomics, River Bluff High School

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In March 2017, I sat down with my principal, Dr. Luke Clamp and said, “I want my kids to write a book and I want them to present their findings to the United Nations.” His reply is what all educators pray for. “Let’s make it happen. Let me know what I can do to help you get there.” That conversation was exactly what I needed and gave me the energy to embark on a journey with my students that would span a calendar year and include a nearly 400-page publication.

I assigned the first of many tasks to be completed over the summer break. I really wanted my students to select a country that they had personal ties to because that would give them ownership over their work, as this would be a long process. In fact, one piece of feedback that I got from a student was that they wished they had chosen a country more dear to them. Having that connection would also make this case study a labor of love and not merely labor. 

Once they had chosen their country of interest, they were to visit the United Nations site regarding developing nations and the Human Development Index. I chose this index as our starting place so that students would not only have a basis of comparison against other developing nations, but also to have sound data that they could refer back to over time. I had them compile their country’s data onto a spreadsheet, which we aggregated on the first day of school. It was very important to me that they realized the gap between industrialized nations and the developing world. Needless to say, it didn’t take long.

After that stage, it became a process of “we,” and not “I.” I thought that I had planned for every contingency possible, but I was wrong. Like, really, really wrong. The stage between compiling data and writing the first part of their research had some significant speed bumps. My students began to show that they had taken ownership of their research and were quickly becoming more knowledgeable about their specific countries than I was and I was constantly playing catch-up. Honestly, this was a great problem to have. 

Their first piece of writing was due just before the Christmas break—the history of the government and economic system for each country. I was blown away. The writing was fantastic. There was a definite realization from me that moving forward was going to be challenging. But, I feel the need to back up a bit. Closing in on the due date for their research, students began to come to me to express concerns about the clarity of what I wanted in their writing. I was taken aback. Hadn’t I explained it well? It was written clearly, or so I thought. 

What I had excluded from my planning was to ensure that there were enough checkpoints for my students to ask questions and gain the clarity that they needed. So we talked, a lot. Again, my students surprised me with their maturity and their ability to approach me with questions and concerns. There was even a point that I considered ending the case study with the research papers. Another testament to the level of students is that they shot that idea down nearly before I finished explaining my reasoning. They wanted to continue. I am so happy that they did. We worked together to ensure that they had all of the information that they needed to move forward and we were set for, in my opinion, one of the most meaningful semesters of their school careers.

Once back from the break, we shifted our focus to finding ways for our countries to move forward, to enhance the standard of living, and/or to generally make life more manageable for business to be successful. To be clear, my students were tasked with developing economic plans to move their countries further toward development. I had hoped that we would follow the rules and laws that are in my curriculum for our AP Macroeconomics class. We quickly outgrew them. The entry-level Economics formulas that we planned on using weren’t equipped to handle the data that my students wanted to adjust in their plans. This was the ninth or tenth time that I found myself on the struggle bus. Luckily, my students are brilliant and we were able to work together to ensure that we were using the correct formulas and that their calculations were correct. Difficulty came in situations where a country was in financial crisis and the news and data were changing by the minute. It truly was amazing to watch them work within very specific parameters while still thinking outside the box. 

Nearing the conclusion of the school term, it was a mad dash to finalize ideas and calculations. I became clear that the students weren’t procrastinating, but that they wanted their best work published. They owned their writing. They owned their work. They want you to read their best piece. Hopefully you will have the opportunity to read their findings and their plans for development. It is an amazing piece of student writing.

A message to any teachers who are contemplating publishing their students’ work: Do it! It will be one of the most meaningful pieces of work they will ever complete. 

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Author Spotlight: Brian Wray


Brian Wray has been writing professionally since 2003, when he was awarded the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since then, he has written for Walt Disney Studios and has earned a variety of television producing and writing credits. Inspired by his work at Disney and the bottomless imagination of his daughters, Brian focuses on storytelling for children, including a heartwarming story about an adorable little stuffed bunny with a very relatable problem.

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Where did you grow up? 
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I moved away in in 1990, but still go back as often as I can to see family, and enjoy my favorite local food spots. 

Did you read a lot as a child? 
I was read to a lot when I was younger, and that definitely encouraged me to read as I got older. It also inspired me to tell stories at an early age.

What were some of your favorite authors and books? 
I was a big Shel Silverstein fan. There was a copy of The Giving Tree in my 3rd grade classroom, and I was totally intrigued. I also loved Maurice Sendak’s books, and Judy Blume’s as I got older. I thoroughly wore out my copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

What did you want to be when you grew up? 
I definitely wanted to be a storyteller, but I wasn’t always sure what kind. I started writing little stories in elementary school, then making short films as a young teenager. My first professional writing experience was writing screenplays. The goal was always telling stories. 

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 
Oh, my. Let’s see… I worked in a movie theater while I was in high school. Did some telemarketing work, too. My apologies if I called you during dinner. I was the person who made donuts at a donut shop, which was a constant temptation for someone who enjoys donuts as much as I do. I’ve done everything from working as a short order cook while I was in college to working on film sets, once I graduated. There’s been a lot of variety.

How did you get started writing? 
The real start was in the fourth grade. My teacher took notice of a story that I wrote for an assignment, and didn’t just praise the work (which would have been fantastic enough), she took the time to encourage me to do more. Not only did she speak to me about my stories one-on-one, but praised the work in front of the entire class, citing things that stood out to her. That might not sound like such a big deal, but for a young boy who may have been feeling just a bit self-conscious, it meant the world. I’ve never forgotten what an impact that had on me, and it makes me so happy to know that there are teachers like that in the world. 

Why do you write books? 
For multiple reasons. I can’t seem to stop, for one. There is something very fulfilling about having an idea fall into your head, sometimes from nowhere, then taking the time to develop it, and craft it on paper. I really do enjoy the process. The greater joy then comes when you’re sharing that story with a child and you can see that they’re engaged in what’s happening. 

What do you like best about writing? 
I like the connections that form when you write. I had the opportunity to write a screenplay for Disney early in my career. It was the first time since writing stories as a child, that I was writing stories intended for children. And I loved it. It reminded me of a story’s possibility to inspire wonder, to transport, and also to discover in it a little bit of ourselves. Those are some of the most wonderful moments of childhood; imagination, exploration, and discovery. When I write, I get to connect back to those moments. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!

What do you find the most challenging about writing? 
The biggest challenge for me when I write is not overthinking it; to just relax and let my natural voice come through. I have to remind myself that I can always go back and tune up what’s there.

What do you think makes a good story? 
That’s a tough question. Different stories speak to people for different reasons. I know that when I was a child, I was most drawn to stories that seemed to be working on two levels; the story that was happening on the surface, but also had a sense that there was a deeper meaning to what was going on. I might not have always known what that deeper meaning was, but it intrigued me, and made me want to find out. So, for me, a good story is a catalyst for a larger thought or discussion, that allows a child’s imagination to wander a bit.

Where do you get your inspiration? 
There is constant inspiration from my family, friends, and now children I meet from readings. I have two amazing, creative, vibrant daughters who provide a steady stream of fun and ideas. I’m very fortunate.

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Tell us about your latest book. 
My latest book is called Unraveling Rose. Rose is a stuffed bunny who loves having fun with the little boy she lives with, until she discovers a loose thread dangling from her arm, and it’s all she can think about. In the end, she learns that things don’t always have to be perfect. I hoped that the story would have a broad appeal, but could also be used by parents to talk to children about obsessive thoughts, which is an issue that impacts an estimated 3 percent of children in the United States alone. Unraveling Rose allows children having those feelings to know they’re not alone.

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What’s next for you? 
My illustrator, Shiloh Penfield, and I are very excited about our next book! It’s scheduled for a 2019 release, and focuses on how to cope with feelings in a healthy way, and what can happen when you try to stuff them down. It’s a story that we hope many children will be able to identify with, and maybe parents, too. 

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books? 
On top of the effort needed to a write a story, having a book published requires a lot of support, and much faith. I’ve had the good luck to be surrounded by both. I am very grateful to work with an amazing artist like Shiloh Penfield. I am also fortunate to work with a publisher (Schiffer Publishing/Pixel Mouse House) that believes in the work, and does a great job getting it out into the world. Books don’t just provide education, but transportation, and opportunity for reflection. I am so happy to be a small part of that. 

Unraveling Rose is available at Amazon.com.

Author Spotlight: Sherry L. Hoffman

A teacher, reading specialist, book reviewer, and author whose educational and inspiring books have earned the Story Monsters Seal of Approval, Eric Hoffer Award, Mom’s Choice Award, Royal Dragonfly Book Award, Purple Dragonfly Book Award, and most recently, Book of the Year for Creative Child Magazine, today’s author spotlight is Sherry L. Hoffman.

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Where did you grow up? 
I grew up on Forest St. in Franklin Township, which is part of Carbon County in Northeast PA. My parents’ ranch home was located directly across from my grandparents’ campground, providing endless summer memories of swimming, volleyball, campfires, riding golf carts, and playing cards with friends and family. Being nestled in the foothills of the Poconos near the borough of Lehighton allowed me to witness all four seasons in beautiful landscapes of mountains, valleys, fields, and lakes. Changing of the seasons always seemed to elicit a feeling of peacefulness, yet excitement of what was to come. There is something about the beauty of nature that inspires me to reflect and want to capture it in pictures or in words.

I still remain in Franklin Township, a few miles from my childhood home. I love that my children could enjoy the area where I grew up and even attend the same elementary school as I did years ago.    

Did you read a lot as a child? 
Reading was and still remains a huge part of my world. My mom was one of my first teachers. She knew how to capture my attention and teach new words by doing crafts like creating a picture book about my family. As a child I enjoyed pop-up books and books like Hop on Pop, Ten Apples Up on Top, Are You My Mother?, There is a Monster at the End of this Book, and Amelia Bedelia. Later on, trips to the grocery store typically yielded new additions to our library with Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books, as well as Bop! and Teen Beat! magazines. 

What are some of your favorite literary memories? 
Some of my favorite literary memories were snuggling next to my mom as she read picture books. She always showed an interest in my reading and learning. I loved when we would set up the Fisher Price record player to listen to books on records while reading along to the stories. The narrators and characters speaking in the stories grabbed my attention and made me want to continue reading more and more. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 
Around the time I was 10 years old, my friends Dorinda, Alicia, and I formed the Gals’ Club, in which we were the sole creators, writers, and editors of our own neighborhood newspaper entitled Whippoorwill Lake Newspaper; the newspaper was named after my grandparents’ campground located directly across the street from my house. We used a typewriter and set up our shop in our clubhouse, the tent camper in my family’s backyard. We sold our newspapers for 10 cents each and delivered the papers via our bikes and sometimes by my friends’ little red Radio Flyer wagon. Our newspaper captured the attention of a reporter from the local newspaper. Our story was featured in the Times News, and we were invited to visit and tour the Times News building. Seeing the whole process of creating the local newspaper was fascinating. I began to think that one day I would love to be a writer or reporter, as well as being a teacher. 

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 
I grew up helping with office work in my family’s fuel oil delivery business R.F. Ohl Fuel Oil located in Lehighton, PA. My older brother Brad delivered fuel oil with my dad, while my mom, big brother Steve, and I worked in the office. Seeing the business grow through the family’s hard work and perseverance was inspiring to me. I knew I would have to do the same to reach my life goals. 

I went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Kutztown University and a master of education degree from East Stroudsburg University. I worked in my hometown school district for 17 years. I substituted grades K – 12 for two years until I was hired as a full-time classroom teacher at Lehighton Area Middle School in 2002. While a middle school teacher, I taught science and reading to 6th graders for 10 years, and I was a grade 5 to 8 reading specialist for three years. Later, I transferred within the district to Mahoning Elementary and Shull-David Elementary schools as a Title 1 reading specialist for grades 1 to 4. 

Recently, I joined my husband at our towing and repair business All-Points Towing, Recovery, and Service Center to work as the office manager, concentrate on my writing, and having a flexible schedule to raise our three children Megan, age 13, Jocelyn, age 10, and Sawyer, age 9. 
  
How did you get started writing? 
As soon as I could hold a crayon, I grew an interest in writing. I recall watching my parents write at the kitchen table as I tried to copy what they wrote in my best handwriting. Although others may have seen scribbles and swirls on my paper, I saw letters and words making up my name and stories. My parents entertained my ideas by listening and encouraging. 

As previously mentioned, my best friends and I had our own newspaper. Their parents and mine supported our endeavors, as well as our neighbors. One next-door neighbor in particular, Mary Miller, enjoyed writing letters to our column “Dear Gals.” She asked us questions about the baby deer that were spotted in the neighborhood, sent us recipes for our newspaper, and even requested answers for our crossword puzzles to be printed in our following newspaper. If we sold lemonade to raise funds for our paper or other endeavors, she was there as a solid customer and supporter. 

As I continued school, my teachers were influential in my writing. From Mrs. Snowberger and Miss Cox teaching how to write the ABCs, form my first words, and rhyme to Mrs. Sowden and Miss Mulligan teaching me how to write in my neatest cursive writing, teachers were some of my biggest supporters and influences along my literary journey. I can recall Mr. Gimble and Mr. Eisenhower teaching me about the classics and introducing me to literary greats in stories as well as building upon the fundamentals of writing, enabling an expansion of vocabulary and stretching my mind to new levels. 

Mr. Novey in high school provided opportunities for projects and life lessons as my friends Misty, Mike, Brett, and I learned the value of researching, preparing, creating, and presenting a project about the decade of the 1940s. Through this, we collectively learned that sometimes we can have the best laid plans fall through, and at times we just need to use our research and knowledge to “wing it” to get the desired results. That concept has been applied to my writing and in life on many occasions; sometimes the best pieces of writing happen when you take a different direction and let go of anything holding you back.

College professors like Professor Harkins at Lehigh Carbon Community College expressed with animated gestures that “Variety is the spice of life.” Dr. Chambers at Kutztown University opened my eyes to new literature by Patricia Polacco and her love of Harry Potter was contagious. I found myself immersed in children’s books during the summer of 2000 while studying to become an elementary school teacher. I wrote reviews to create a book log of 40 books as assigned, and she encouraged me to one day write children’s book reviews. Though I did not pursue that at the time due to a busy school schedule, I kept that positive remark in the back of my mind. Years later, I joined with Story Monsters Ink to do just that. Dr. McLaughlin, Dr. Ramano, and Dr. Moore from East Stroudsburg University challenged me to research, read, and reflect, all while finding creative ways to reach the different learning styles of my students. 

Dr. R and the Colonial Association of Reading Educators (CARE) championed my writing efforts by connecting opportunities to present at the Keystone State Reading Conference in State College, PA and educator receptions and book signings at Barnes and Noble stores. 

Together the teachers in my life taught me that writing can be fun, entertaining, and a learning tool. Because of that, I used my love of poetry and songwriting to create songs about character, science, and reading for my middle school students and later turned them into books for others to enjoy.

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Why do you write books? 
One of the most pivotal moments of my writing career happened in 2011 as my daughter Megan stepped off of the bus as a kindergartner. We chatted as we walked down the driveway to our house. I asked her about her day and she told me it was “Good.” I said, “What did you learn about?” and she said, “Buckets.” Intrigued by this comment, I had to learn more. It turned out that her principal at the time Gretchen Laviolette had just read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? to her class. My daughter continued to tell me all about how everyone has a bucket and if we do something nice we fill that person’s bucket and our own. If we don’t do something nice we dip into that person’s bucket. 

I thought it was such a great concept and couldn’t wait to find the book. I searched online and found the bucket books. I wrote many poems to teach this concept to my students and own kids, eventually sending the poems to the author, Carol McCloud. She encouraged me to write my own book of bucket filling poems. It took me a year to write my book, and then she said I could send it to her publisher. I did just that. Nine months later, I was holding my book with a new title from the publisher: A to Z Character Education for the Classroom

The publishing process was a learning experience and so much fun. It made me want to continue writing for my students and kids. I went on to write Be the Best Version of You: A Teacher’s Poem for Her Students, which was a letter I wrote to my middle school students for their last day of classes. Because two students excitedly asked me for a copy of the poem, I decided to turn it into a book for them. Later, I penned Can You Dig It? All About the Temperate Soil Profile because former students every year would come back and visit me in my classroom, asking for a copy of the “Soil Song.”  

Every book had a purpose, and Driver Dad: Towman to the Rescue came to be because my tow truck driver husband had a close call one night while towing a car alongside the highway. I wanted to spread the message about the “Slow Down, Move Over” law, hoping to make drivers aware of the need to slow down and move over when emergency vehicles are alongside the road. 

Elf Olaf, Santa’s Magical Gift was a promise that my longtime friend and pet photographer Dietra DeRose decided to create when we were in Mr. Miller’s Art class in seventh grade in 1990. We always talked about how one day we were going to create a book together. Our book showcases her love of pet photography and includes adorable ferrets and cocker spaniels in Christmas settings. Through her pictures, I pieced together a story about a magical ferret elf named Olaf who learns about the importance of giving and bringing smiles to others.

Forever Thankful, Good Night was the result of a long winter snowstorm and snow day vacations from school. It is a story about being thankful for the many reasons in our life. It led me to write my latest book Grateful for You, Good Night!

What do you like best about writing? 
Writing is therapeutic and helps me to relax, create, and reach goals. However, my favorite part is weaving words together that hopefully will help to put positive vibes into the world. I hope to make a difference and help others find their gifts through writing and inspiring. 

What do you find the most challenging about writing?
The most challenging part of writing is concentrating on one project at a time. I usually have many stories going at once. I pick the story I want to work on, depending on my mood. 

What makes a good story? 
A good story is like meeting a new friend. It has character, captivates, and inspires.

Tell us about your latest book. 
Grateful for You, Good Night! is a sweet, relaxing bedtime story, which develops a routine of responsibility, prayers, and gratefulness. This story has a poetic quality with soothing illustrations and design by Jacqueline Challiss Hill. It allows readers to take their own special journey of making memories with their families. Together, the poetic nature of the story and the illustrations reflect how saying good night and being thankful are two important parts of a loving bedtime routine.

Families play a vital role in building and supporting children’s sense of security and comfort. Through the sequencing of events, of which children can expect to follow every night, parents help to develop a feeling of relaxation, transitioning their children to a night of restful sleep. 

This is the second book Jacqueline has illustrated and designed for me; the first book was a character curriculum book as previously mentioned A to Z Character Education for the Classroom

What’s next for you? 
I am super excited for my next book, which has a working title of How the Farm Wakes Up. This children’s story will feature illustrations and design by my dear illustrator friend Jacqueline Challiss Hill. Young readers will enjoy reading a rhyming story about animals waking up in the morning on a farm.

Where do you get your inspiration? 
Inspiration for my stories comes from my children, teaching, and life experiences. I feel that words of encouragement can go a long way. From a principal reading a story, to my oldest daughter retelling the story, to a children’s author responding to my enthusiastic email, to students expressing interest in my songs and poems, to the support of my teachers, family, and friends, words matter. I am thankful for the people in my life and the words of encouragement offered along my literary journey. They made me feel empowered to continue to write and reach my dreams. 


For more information about Sherry L. Hoffman and her books, visit SherryLHoffman.com.