Titan Gabrielse is Recruiting Heroes for a Special Club


by Melissa Fales
photos by Crystal Kneeland Photography
Story Monsters Ink, August 2019 issue

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Titan Gabrielse may be a little boy, but he has big plans. Recently diagnosed with dyslexia, this 7-year-old has taken his struggles with reading and writing, the extra school work he needs to do, and the weekly private tutoring he requires all in stride. One day, Titan casually told his mother, Tiffanie about an idea he had. “He said, ‘I want to create an army of friends with dyslexia so we can beat up dyslexia together,’” says Tiffanie, who came up with the idea of turning that army into an afterschool club. Thus, the idea for Read with the Titans was born. Now Titan and his family are working to make his vision a reality. “With any luck, Read with the Titans will be functioning by the next new school year,” Tiffanie says. 

Titan will be entering second grade at Swansboro Elementary School in North Carolina. Tiffanie recalls the anguish she felt last year watching him struggle to read. “You could tell it was painful for him,” she says. Tiffanie says she was confused but not surprised when she got called into his classroom to talk to the teacher about his below-grade level reading skills.

Fortunately, Titan was diagnosed with dyslexia early. Too often, says Tiffanie, dyslexia is not diagnosed until third grade. “By then, you’re so far behind,” she says. Titan is currently reading at a Kindergarten level, but he’s also participating in an extended school year so he won’t lose any of his progress over the summer. Every week, Titan travels over an hour each way for his lesson with a private tutor who specializes in dyslexia. “He gets motion sickness,” says Tiffanie. “But he doesn’t complain.” 

Once the Gabrielse family had the word, “dyslexia,” to describe why Titan was having such a hard time with reading and writing, they started using it often. “I wanted him to own it,” Tiffanie says. “I have dwarfism. I own that. I’m small. The grass is green. The sky is blue. By owning it, you take the shame away from it.” The fact that dyslexia is an invisible learning disability made it a little harder for Titan to understand. “My son doesn’t have a physical disability like I do,” says Tiffanie. “Wrapping your head around something when you can’t see it is hard.” 

In stories, titans are strong. They have superpowers and they help people. They are heroes. They have to work hard to be a hero just like other kids like me with dyslexia have to work hard to read and write.

Titan is already compiling a list of things he’d like to do with his “army” after school, including playing word games and practicing reading and writing through activities such as sending letters to pen pals. Titan has also recently started talking about having his Read with the Titans club create graphic novels since the image-heavy genre helps give the words context for dyslexic readers.

A key component of Read with the Titans will be to encourage self-acceptance among these young people. Dyslexia is hereditary, and Titan’s father, Marine Ssgt. Eric Gabrielse, endured it without ever knowing that there was a word for the issues he was experiencing. "I struggled with my own dyslexia for years as a child,” he says. “I still struggle with it. It's not just the reading and writing, but the thoughts that there's something wrong with you. I saw everyone else read and write easily and I figured I was just stupid.”

Perhaps most importantly, says Tiffanie, she and Titan hope Read with the Titans will spread the word about dyslexia. “October is dyslexia awareness month,” Tiffanie says. “That seems like a good place for us to start.” She believes that even a simple, inexpensive campaign can be effective. “Things like wearing t-shirts,” she says. “Wristbands. Talking about it. Confronting it. Embracing it. You can't have an army if you don't have recruits.”

Titan has expressed concern about dyslexic kids who don’t have the type of loving, supportive family and friends that he has been blessed with. “He said, ‘I don’t want them to be alone and dyslexic,” says Tiffanie. “He is the most sensitive, loving little boy. He’s come so far and he’s worked so hard.”

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Titan didn’t choose the name “Read with the Titans” for his club because it’s his name, but because of what it means. “In stories, titans are strong. They have superpowers and they help people,” Titan says. “They are heroes. They have to work hard to be a hero just like other kids like me with dyslexia have to work hard to read and write.” 

Tiffanie is beyond proud of her son and all he has gone through. “I think I named Ty correctly,” she says. “He is a true titan because of his ability to persevere … I’m not shocked he wants to help others. It’s who he is. That’s why I want to help his idea come to life any way I can. Especially if that means by doing so, he'll see being dyslexic is nothing to be ashamed of. It's nothing to be embarrassed over. Everyone has something. And dyslexia is certainly nothing that will ever hold him back.”

For more information about Read with the Titans, contact titanreads@hotmail.com, and follow on Instagram @titanreads or Facebook at Titan Reads.

Alzheimer’s Disease: The Importance of Minimizing Change


by Patricia M. McClure-Chessier

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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—a time for people of all ages to get involved to fight against the disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 95. One of the important facts that should be highlighted this month for anyone that is impacted by this disease is how change can have a tremendous impact on a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The more prepared the family/caregiver is, the better.

The main underlying cause of memory loss and confusion is the progressive damage to brain cells caused by the disease. Sometimes your loved one may remember an important date about one person and not the other. Sometimes they may remember something significant about someone who they aren’t close to, but can’t remember something significant about the caregiver. There is no rhyme or reason in most cases. The human brain is very complicated, and the condition presents other challenges that scientists still cannot fully answer.

Your loved one may even lash out at the person taking care of them for no apparent reason, and the caregiver may not understand the precipitating factors. The person may get upset easily, use bad language, scream, or hurl insults. Your loved one might even throw things, or resist your care by pushing and/or hitting you. This behavior could be a symptom of the disease, or just a response to them feeling confused. Aggressive behaviors can be verbal or physical, occur suddenly, and could be the result of anxiety and/or confusion. While aggression can be very difficult to cope with, it’s important for you as the caregiver to understand that your loved one is not behaving this way on purpose. Behavior is a form of communication. Aggression can be caused by many factors, including physical discomfort, environmental factors, and poor communication.

Environmental factors play a huge role, but are often overlooked. Caregivers have to be careful with making changes in the environment. For example, modernizing a home could create some significant challenges for the person with Alzheimer’s. Changing from a rotary phone to a touch-tone phone could deter the person from using the phone. We have to give a lot of thought to upgrading microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. Changes could have a negative impact on the person’s independence and quality of life. The more they can continue to do for themselves, the better. As caregivers, please consider the impact the change could have on your loved one. Even simple changes can complicate their world, and cause them to regress. So be careful and minimize change!

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Award-winning author/speaker Patricia M. McClure-Chessier, (MBA, MPA) is the author of Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s The Story of Pearl and A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Nine Key Principles. She has worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years and is available for presentations. For more information, visit www.patriciammcclure.com or contact Patricia at pmcclurechessier@yahoo.com or www.authorbookings.com/members/patricia-m-mcclure

A Letter to My Younger, Nervous Self


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Dear little Ben,

I heard that you’re taking a test in school this week and that you’re very worried about it. You’re worried that you’ll forget everything you memorized. You’re worried that you’ll end up with a bad grade. I also heard that you have to play in a piano recital and that you’re freaked out. You’re scared that you’ll play the wrong notes. You’re afraid that your parents and teacher will be disappointed and angry.

Everything’s so hard when you have to do something important and you get worried. Believe me, I know. I remember how I felt when I was your age. When I took a test my stomach hurt, and my head ached, and it was hard to come up with the right answers. And when I had to play the piano in front of an audience my hands shook and it was so hard to get my fingers on the right notes. I remember my piano teacher saying, “You play so beautifully, why are you so nervous?” I remember my parents telling me, “You’re smart, you shouldn’t worry. You’ll do fine on the test!” This made me very frustrated and angry. I felt like they just didn’t understand. And I know you feel that way, too. You’re suffering and no one understands you. You feel alone.

But I have news for you. You are not alone! Many kids your age feel these things. And no one’s really helping them, either. So here’s the really good news: I can show you how to feel calm when you take a test and you play the piano in a recital. You don’t have to be scared and nervous. You can feel calm and confident.

I can hear you asking, “How can I do that?” Well, right now you’re focusing on how nervous and scared you are. How about if you learned to focus on being calm instead? “Focus” means what you’re thinking about and where you’re putting your attention. In a basketball game, the players are focused on the net and getting the ball into it. Then they score points and win the game. Right now, when you take a test and play in a piano recital you are focused on how nervous and scared you are. Your attention is going to your tight stomach and your throbbing head. So of course you can’t “score.” Of course you feel like you are failing. Learning how to be calm is not hard. In fact, it’s easy. You just have to learn to focus on something else. Let me show you how.

Being calm takes two steps: 

Step 1: Breathing. Of course you’re breathing all the time, but there’s a special way to breathe that will help you calm down. To do this, first you place both hands on your belly. Next, when you breathe in, you feel your belly filling up with air. You don’t have to push your belly out. Just send the breath down to your belly and feel it gently expand. This is called deep breathing. Your body and brain enjoy this. They want to be calmed down.

Step 2: Grounding. This is also easy, and fun. To do it, put both feet flat on the floor. Now feel the floor under your feet. Next, feel the chair you’re sitting on against your legs and bottom and back. Once you’ve done that,  now feel the floor and chair supporting you. Feel them holding you up. And don’t forget to breathe!

When you breathe and ground, you are focusing on calming down, not on how nervous you are. In fact, breathing and grounding are the best ways to calm yourself down.

Let’s practice. Right now, close your eyes and imagine you are taking a test or playing in a recital. If you start to feel a little nervous, use the tools right away! Breathe and ground. Do it again. And do it one more time. You’ll feel better and better.

And remember ... just keep doing it. I did, and now, when I have to take a test or play the piano, I remember to breathe and ground, I don’t get all upset and scared. I stay calm. You can do it, too. I know.

Your bigger self,
Ben (but now people call me “Dr. B”!) 

Ben Bernstein, Ph.D., is an author, educator, and performance psychologist. Trained as a teacher in inner city schools in New York and London, he was a prominent figure in the progressive education movement in the early 70s, and has since gone on to teach at every level of the educational system.

Over the last 50 years he has coached thousands of clients, from high school students to business executives to Pulitzer Prize, Tony and Academy Award winners. He has received numerous awards and grants from the U.S. and Canadian governments, and has been a speaker at national and international conferences. He was the first director of improvisation at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute in Utah.


For more information, visit drbperformancecoach.com.

Story Monsters Ink Announces New Column from Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Book Clubs

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Each month, Scholastic Book Clubs distributes fliers to more than 800,000 teachers with images of colorful, promising books for their students, who enthusiastically select which ones they want to order and read. According to Judy Newman, President and Reader-in-Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs, a division of Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company, teachers do the most important work on the planet: educating children and inspiring them to see themselves as readers. “At Scholastic Book Clubs, teachers are our partners in our efforts to get more books into all kids’ hands,” Newman says. “Our model is all about choice. And we know from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, when kids choose their books, they read more. It’s about making books and reading fun and accessible to all.”

To continue that effort, Newman has begun a monthly column in Story Monsters Ink magazine. She will share stories of her own and resources for educators to encourage a joy and love of reading in all children. Her first column will appear in the November, 2018 issue of the magazine.

The column, entitled “Life of a Reader,” similar to Newman’s own weekly Scholastic Book Clubs blog, is one more way people can connect with Scholastic Book Clubs and Story Monsters Ink magazine and learn about books they might want to read or authors they want to know more about—and get behind the scenes glimpses into the world of children’s literacy. “I am so honored that Judy will be writing a monthly column in Story Monsters Ink,” says Linda F. Radke, a former special education teacher, president of Story Monsters LLC and publisher of Story Monsters Ink. “She is a champion of children’s literacy and we share the same goal: to encourage and inspire a love of reading in young minds.”

Story Monsters Ink® is an award-winning magazine that offers the latest news on children's books and products, celebrity and independent author profiles, book reviews, activities, reading guides, special featured columns, and more! It’s a monster of a magazine, filled with great reads for growing minds! To learn more, visit www.StoryMonsters.com. To learn more about Judy Newman and Scholastic Book Clubs, visit www.judynewmanatscholastic.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.

Story Monsters Ink July Book Reviews

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Neck & Neck
by Elise Parsley (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Competition has its place in life. It can nudge us on to be our best. It can teach us the thrill of winning a prize, and reaching success. But sometimes, it can lose perspective and turn a positive into a threatening negative. Leopold, the zoo’s highlight of the fans, becomes threatened by the presence of a look-a-like balloon, and the battle begins. This comical story is sure to bring laughter, along with some clever insight. The illustrations are fun and lively, making this an all-around good time.

Scaredy Book
by Devon Sillett, Cara King (EK Books). Reviewer: Diana Fisher
Book—who has an endearing personality—loves his nook in the library, which is safe and cozy. But Book’s life is boring, until he summons up just a little courage, and then his adventure begins. Children will root for Book and applaud him in the end. His story will make you smile, and tickle your insides with warmth. The narrative is sweet, clever, inspiring, and amusing. And the whimsical illustrations complement the story wonderfully.

Anne’s Numbers
by Kelly Hill (Tundra Books). Reviewer: Diana Fisher
This charming board book, inspired by Anne of Green Gables, takes us along a walk through nature and teaches the numbers one through ten. The homey and gentle embroidered illustrations invite children to investigate and count the flowers, trees, friends, and other adorable elements of each tableau. Another in a series with Anne’s Colors—both books are captivating worlds to be in.

Roof Octopus
by Lucy Branam, Rogério Coelho (Sleeping Bear Press). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This is a lighthearted romp children will surely enjoy. It’s a delight from start to finish. A friendly giant octopus on the roof of an apartment building? Whatever could it want? The story, the colors, and the illustrations by Coelho all work hand in hand, making it truly a feel-good experience!

Animal Planet Chapter Book Series
by Animal Planet. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Animal Planet is a popular division of Discovery Communication. This fact-packed series is as enjoyable and entertaining as its TV counterpart. Each book is filled with details, education, and great facts. Perfect for kids on all levels. Great for school reports. I read Book #5 Horses!, and Book #6 Dolphins! and found them both impressive.

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Saffron Ice Cream
by Rashin Kheiriyeh (Arthur A. Levine Books). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Moving is hard. Whether it’s across town or across the big oceans, adjustments can be most uncomfortable. Excitement surrounds each new place, and each new discovery. Yet, sadness whispers in memory of old things left behind. Rashin lets herself find new joys, while she holds tenderly the old ones.

The One and Only Owen
by Nicole Evans Haumesser (Blurb). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Owen has lost sight of himself, and falls to wishing he were like others. Until he can refocus and find is own true value, his world takes on a gloomy outlook. We all have a part to play, a gift to add to the whole. Something so unique to us that it cannot be done by another. So, when we look and admire others, let it be for their special identity, and don’t let it take away from our own. Along with Owen, we learn life lessons to strengthen the heart.

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Don’t Touch My Hair!
by Sharee Miller (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This story is a great reminder to regard the personal space of others with respect and that courteous and gracious behavior promotes strong and friendly relationships. Everyone has boundaries. A personal space we find comforting. We all may have encountered a person who stands a bit too close when they speak. As kind and considerate people, we should be aware of these unseen barriers, and do our best to respect them.

Bulldozer Dreams
by Sharon Chriscoe, John Joven (Running Press Kids). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
The illustrations will surely hold the interest of little ones as they read this story. Gentle reinforcement of nightly routines will tickle their fancy with these amazing machines. Additional titles include Race Car Dreams and Fire Truck Dreams. A great series to offer encouragement for strong and healthy bedtime habits.

Unstinky
by Andy Rash (Arthur A. Levine Books). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Living up to our name can be tough sometimes. Take Bud, he’s a stinkbug. Only thing is, he doesn’t stink! While all the others are outstinking each other, he comes up smelling like roses. Desperate to fit in, Bud tries hard to find his own personal foulness, but instead discovers a totally different talent. Sometimes, we just have to bring what we got and find our own special spot.

The Kool Kids & the Land Of the Giants
by James Tate. Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
A fresh take on an old tale. Size isn’t always necessary to win a battle, but a strong faith that dares to believe it’s winnable. The Kool Kids have that kind of faith. They have their own giant wreaking havoc in their land. His name is Obesity, and with faith and prayer, they know just how to bring him down. Tate opens the topic of fitness and health in terms and interests kids can enjoy. Positive stories told, and retold, bring confidence and strength for our children to meet all the giants of life that may cross their path.

Dust Flowers (Tales from American HerStory series)
by Lisa Gammon Olson, Kyle Olson (Eifrig Publishing). Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Everything about this touching story is soft and moving. From the illustrations by Kyle Olson, to the times in history that tore at the heart of its people. The reality of loss and hardship seen through a young child’s eyes, relates to us the dark days of drought that created the historic Dust Bowl Era of the early 1930s. This is a tender tale of love and hope, reminding us of the strength of those before us who endured and overcame, and forged the path we now travel. This is the first in a series to discover our nation’s past. I’m looking forward to the next.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul
by Susan Verde, Matthew Cordell (Abrams Books for Young Readers). Reviewer: Sherry L.
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This is a book that resonates in the heart of its reader as the words by Susan Verde and illustrations by Matthew Cordell blend together in literary harmony. Told through the main character’s point of view as she poetically plans her act for the upcoming talent show at her school, readers are bound to make a connection through her love of music. This story trumpets the important message of being true to yourself and finding your inner voice. 

A Lion is a Lion 
by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick). Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge
This wonderful story answers the age-old question, “Is a Lion still a lion..?” What if he’s dressed himself up and uses his manners? Has his inner self changed because he appears to be kind or is he still dangerous? Should you welcome him into your home and treat him to lunch? This book is an enchanting way to help teach children to stand up for themselves, trust their instincts, and just say “No.”

Frog and Beaver
by Simon James (Candlewick). Reviewer: Dr. Dawn Menge
Frog and his friends the ducks and voles live happily beside the beautiful river. Along comes beaver searching for a place to build his first dam. Frog kindly invites him in to share in their world. But the animal friends soon learn that beaver might not be a good fit for their community when he stops the river from flowing. What happens next is a lesson on learning from your mistakes and how they affect others. This delightful book will help teach young readers about cause and effect and how to correct your mistakes when they have hurt others.

Goodnight, Seahorse
by Carly Allen-Fletcher (Muddy Boots). Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield
This is a delightful picture book that is reminiscent of the famous children’s story Goodnight, Moon, but the main characters are an adorable seahorse and other wonderful animals in the ocean. It is a simple book that children will enjoy hearing over and over again. I love the brightly colored illustrations and the pages at the end that include pictures and names of the animals of the coral reef. I even learned about an animal that I had never heard of before! I highly recommend this book for ages 2-5. 

Sewing the Magic In at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
by Lisa Gammon Olson, Lauren Rutledge (Eifrig Publishing). Reviewer: Denise A. Bloomfield
This is a charming story of a little girl named Nora who is a young seamstress for the circus. Nora is unaware of her part in the grand scheme of it all but she learns that she plays a big part in creating the magic. It’s a great story and it flows well from beginning to end. It also includes interesting facts about the circus and the illustrations are delightful! I would recommend this book for ages 6-11.

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I Feel Teal
by Lauren Rille, Aimée Sicuro (Beach Lane Books). Reviewer: Julianne Black
There are so many reasons to love I Feel Teal. First, the illustrations are simply adorable, each spread creates such a deep plunge into the corresponding feeling of emotion. Second, it’s totally relatable. Each situation represented is a very solid, very real experience to which we all can connect. But I think the biggest reason is that while the book uses colors to describe emotions, it doesn’t use the same stock colors and situations with which young viewers are already familiar. This book doesn’t regurgitate “red is mad, yellow is happy,” but includes more shades and variations introducing scarlet, mauve, ecru, etc. A wonderful read for anyone, but an especially fun eye-opener for a younger crowd.
 
I’m Sad (The I’m Books)
by Michael Ian Black, Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster). Reviewer: Julianne Black
I didn’t know I could feel so much love for a book about a little girl, a flamingo, and their potato friend. Wonderful quick read about not fixing feelings, but experiencing them and letting them be okay. Sometimes we are all just sad. This story is about not being cheered up, and how that is okay, too. Wonderful characters, easy to absorb dialog for younger readers, and a completely relevant and important subject for a 4 years and up audience.

Know Where You Are series
by Dennis Brown (Ricky Reader, LLC). Reviewer: Larissa Juliano
The Know Where You Are series is fantastic selection of board books intended to educate, enlighten, and explore the world around us and explains how our brain processes this invaluable knowledge. Each book includes gorgeous pictures, easy-to-understand dialogue, and topics presented in an approachable way. I just loved how topics like geography, the human brain, and thoughts and emotions are explained so clearly, with fun characters sharing extra tidbits of information in speech bubbles. The Know Where You Are series is leading the way for readers of all ages to understand and appreciate how truly amazing our mind, body, and world really are. 

Hammer and Nails
by Josh Bledsoe, Jessica Warrick (Flashlight Press). Reviewer: Larissa Juliano
This fresh and fun story begins with Darcy’s devastation over her play date cancellation and the expression on her face when Daddy tries to console her captures every emotion little children experience when they are disappointed. Darcy reluctantly agrees to have a “Darcy Daddy” day instead, but they must follow her play date plan list, of course! Dress-up? Daddy surprises Darcy in his tutu. Lawnmower turned into a carriage? Daddy had pink ribbons to spare. Hair salon time? Fancy hairdo’s coming right up! The illustrations are superbly done, and the relationship between father and daughter is perfectly captured. A must-read for every family. 

Megabat
by Anne Humphrey, Kass Reich (Tundra Books). Reviewer: Diana Perry
Daniel Misumi has just moved to a new house. It’s big and old and far away from his friends and his life before. And it’s haunted! Megabat is now living in an old house far from home, feeling sorry for himself and accidentally scaring the people who live there. Daniel realizes it’s not a ghost in his new house. It’s a bat. And he can talk. And he’s actually kind of cute. Megabat realizes that not every human wants to whack him with a broom. This one shares his smooshfruit. This is the cutest story I’ve ever read. A great book for an early reader. 

Louisiana’s Way Home
by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick). Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
Louisiana’s Way Home is a sweet, heartfelt story. I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be in Louisiana Elefant’s situation, which is to leave her home and everything in the middle of the night because her Granny wants to escape a family “curse.” Louisiana ends up in a small town in Georgia. Will she make her way back home to Florida or find a new home in Georgia? Will she discover the truth of the curse?  Sometimes the most difficult situations can be the best life lessons. I’m sure Louisiana can attest to that!

Red’s Planet
by Eddie Pittman (Harry N. Abrams). Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
Red’s Planet is a quirky, imaginative and fun graphic novel! This comic-style book is engaging, especially following headstrong, adventurous 10-year-old Red. Red longs to leave her annoying foster family for her perfect world but before she does a UFO mistakenly kidnaps her. I like this book because it’s funny and you can relate to this type of story. Sometimes things don’t always turn out as you expect, but making the best of what comes is pretty much what Red must do to survive. 

The Key to Everything
by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick). Reviewer: Diana Perry
Tash didn’t want to go to camp, didn’t want to spend the summer with a bunch of strangers, didn’t want to be separated from the only two people she has ever been able to count on: her uncle Kevin, who saved her from foster care, and Cap’n Jackie, who lives next door. Camp turns out to be pretty fun, actually, but when Tash returns home, Cap’n Jackie is gone. All she has is the key Cap’n Jackie always insisted had magic in it. Jackie always said all Tash had to do was hold it tight and the magic would come. Was it true? Could the key bring her back? Young readers will be aware of the foreverness of love, especially when it’s mixed with a little magic.

Whatshisface
by Gordon Korman (Scholastic). Reviewer: Diana Perry
When 12-year-old Cooper Vega moves for the third time in five years, he receives a state-of-the-art smartphone to help him stay in touch with old friends. He’s had phones before, but this one is buggy and unpredictable. When a boy named Roderick Northrop communicates with him through the phone, Cooper realizes that his phone isn’t buggy at all; the thing is haunted! I loved the ending that transformed both Roddy and Cooper from self-imposed losers to unexpected stars.  A great read with a great ending. Kids will love it.

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Be Prepared
by Vera Brosgol (First Second). Reviewer: Diana Perry
All Vera wants to do is fit in―but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range―Russian summer camp. This is the perfect coming-of-age story for any young girl who is new at school or the most unpopular. It serves as the perfect example that when you change a few things about your character, you can become a new person and that can change how everyone else sees you, too. A most encouraging and inspiring story – I just loved it.

Doodle Journeys: A Fill-In Journal for Everyday Explorers
by Dawn DeVries Sokol (Harry N. Abrams). Reviewer: Diana Perry
This is a fun activity book that gets kids to develop and increase creativity by drawing and writing to create a story. It opens young minds to real and imaginary experiences. This is not one for a young reader to finish in a few hours—I could easily see this entertaining youngsters for a few days. This is the perfect book to take on a long ride; your little creatives will enjoy using their imaginations to complete the many pages. Not only is it fun, it is most educational as well.

Rock Log Kids (Nature Journals)
by Daniel Brandt, DeAnna Brandt (Adventure Publications). Reviewer: Diana Perry
This is a scientific and exciting read for any youngster. It contains everything you need to know to start your own rock collection. The Brandts also include games and projects and teach everyday uses of rocks and minerals. There are pages and pages of log sheets—enough to assist the weekend junior geologist in logging all their many finds. A great way to spend a weekend outside in the fresh air. I highly recommend this book to young, aspiring collectors.

Racing Manhattan
by Terence Blacker (Candlewick). Reviewer: Diana Perry
Jasmine Barton grows up hearing terrible stories about her now-deceased mother. To make things worse, Dad mysteriously disappears. She lives her early teen years with relatives who treat her more like hired help than family. She lives a lonely life until the day she meets another unwanted creature—a horse named Manhattan. Young readers who love horses will get an insider’s view on the sport of equestrian riding and particularly, life with these beautiful animals. I particularly love how Jasmine and Manhattan bring out the best in each other and the wonderful surprise ending. A fantastic read!
 

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