Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happily After All

Happily After All is one of the best Middle Grade books I've read, and I've read thousands.

I got it from the library because of the title, which is a clever referral to fairy tales. I loved it because of the characters, setting, and plot, all of which were excellent.

The book is about a girl who is sent to live with her birth mother after her father, who has had custody since she was a tiny tot, dies.

Becca doesn't want to go from sunny southern California to the woods of Vermont.

When she gets there she likes the horses, and does get to know some other kids, but is careful not to get close to anyone since she plans to return to CA.

Then she discovers some mysterious things about her own past and others about a boy in her class and is lead into danger.

I won't give away the plot but it's exciting, and I'm sure lots of kids would love this book.
 Unfortunately, it was published in 1990, so  it's probably be hard to find.

I googled the author's name, Laura C. Stevenson, and learned she's written a lot of other books since this one.  She's a great writer, so I'll definitely try to read those.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Magical Max and Magical Mickey

Penelope Anne Cole has written another cute book in her Magical series.

Since Magical Matt and Magical Mea had outgrown their powers, it seemed like the series was over.

Then, to their surprise, their mother has identical twin baby boys. Will the babies also have magic powers?

Readers must wait several chapters to find out, but, of course the title of the book lets us know Max and Mickey do get their powers eventually.

It's fun to see their older brother and sister and other characters from previous books in the series again, and to experience Max and Mickey's first use of their powers to help someone.

I hope there will be more books about them in the future.

As usual Cole has written a story kids will enjoy, and Kevin Scott Collier did a good job on the illustrations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

FairyTale Town

Next Saturday I'll be giving a presentation at FairyTale Town in Sacramento, CA about one of my books. I'll be one of many authors at the ScholarShare Children's Book Celebration.

I'll be sharing with the kids about one of my books, Slime & All and expect to have a good time doing so.  As a parent, grandparent and former teacher, I love spending time with kids.

But something surprising has happened.

I found out one of the people presenting immediately after me is a distant relative. And I do mean distant.

His name is Andy Domek and I think he's my second cousin's cousin's son-in-law, but I may have missed someone in between.

I have a very complicated group of people who I see at family gatherings and consider them all family, but the relationships are hard to keep straight.

When we got married my husband soon gave up on figuring out who was a second cousin twice removed or a Cousin's cousin's grandchild and coined the term, step-neighbor-in-law, to refer to all of them.

So, besides meeting some wonderful kids and telling them about my book, this weekend I'll get to see one of my step-neighbors-in law at FairyTale-Town.

And that sounds sort of like a fairy tale itself. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Little Dog in the Middle of the Road

When I was a little girl back in the 1940s my parents used to read to me every evening.

Little Dog in the Middle of the Road is a newly published book by Sharon Stanley that reminds me of the story books I heard when I was a kid.

I especially enjoyed the way the author repeats the sentence, "And so it was" throughout the book.

The book tells the story of a little dog who is left with a stranger when his "person" goes away for a few days. The dog escapes, gets lost, and doesn't know it's dangerous to sit in the middle of the road.

What will happen to him?

I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say the story has a comforting ending. Any child who has or wants a pet will enjoy hearing about the Little Dog in the Middle of the Road

And Deidre Carr's illustrations add to the enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


My name is Janet Ann Collins, but many of my friends call me Jan.

Nobody called me that when I was little because, due to World War II, everyone knew Jan was a boy's name in Holland.

When I was a kid I only knew one other person named Janet until the movie star, Janet Leigh, became famous. Then hundreds of girl babies were named Janet. I'm in several writers' groups and all of them have at least one other member named Jan or Janet.

It's amazing how many other people have similar or related names. John, Jane. Juan, Shawn, Sean, Shanna, Juanita, Hans, Giovanni, Zane, Ivan, Jeanette, Jean, Jonathan, Janice, and many others are all related. (In case you can't tell, I've always been interested in Linguistics.)

I understand the original version of those names was Hebrew, and the meaning was something like "God gives grace," ""God is gracious," or "Gracious gift of God."

With a meaning like that it's no wonder so many people chose similar names for their babies. Of course, as the name spread through various cultures and languages, lots of parents were unaware of the original meaning and simply named their children after other people.

It's no wonder there are so many of us in the world!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Corner Lots

This post is not on one of my usual topics, but it's about something that has bothered me for a long time.

I've lived in all sorts of places from small towns to the inner city and there's one thing I've noticed almost everywhere. People who live on corners seldom pay attention to the side of their house or lot they don't use to enter and exit.

Often the front of the building, house or yard is kept in pristine condition, but the side isn't.

Whether it's graffiti, overgrown or dead plants, plant volunteers pushing up between pavement sections, chipped and peeling paint, tree branches blocking sidewalks, or piles of debris, the part of the property around the corner from the entrance doesn't look nearly as nice as the front.

My own front yard is far from perfect, but I have a feeling the people who keep theirs beautiful simply aren't aware of how the place looks from the side.

And, for some strange reason, that bothers me more than seeing a place that's messy or in not very good condition in the front.

Okay, maybe I'm just crazy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Books for Kids

Anyone who often reads my blog posts knows I review lots of books for kids.

Perhaps some people wonder why I do that.

Well, here are some reasons:

I read about half a dozen chapter books and Middle Grade ones every week and like to tell other people about the good ones. If I don't like a book I won't review it.

I like to read kids' books because I can usually finish one in an hour or so. I hate to put a book down in the middle of a story. Of course some books for kids are a lot longer than I can read in an hour.

Usually the books aren't sordid or depressing. There's enough of that in real life.

As a teacher, parent, and grandparent I've shared hundreds of books with children and strongly believe in the importance of reading to them from an early age. I hope some people will share books with kids they know as a result of reading my reviews.

I'm the author of books for children. It helps to see the competition and I like to help other authors whose work I enjoy publicize their books, even if those authors are already rich and famous.

And (here's the confession) I'm still a kid at heart.

Do you ever read books for children?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Waiting for Unicorns

Waiting for Unicorns is an exciting and emotionally moving book for Middle Grade readers.

The story is about Talia, whose mother has recently died when her father takes her to the Arctic and leaves her with a stranger while he goes on an expedition to study whales for the Summer.

Staying in the tiny village, the girl makes friends with the only other kids in the area, gets to know adults in the community, and learns about the environment.

Talia thinks about her mother and makes wishes, which she writes down and keeps hidden in a jar. 

But her father's life is at risk on the expedition. What will happen to her if he is killed?

This book is beautifully written, full of exciting tension, and educational about the culture and environment in the far north.

I hope the author Beth Hautala will write more books for kids because she's an excellent author.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Dog

This is a unique book.

I've never before seen a picture book with song lyrics for the text, but My Dog by Keith Fluckiger is exactly that.  The music needs to be bought and downloaded separately, but the book stands alone without it.

As the title reveals, the book is the story of a dog.

The illustration by Kory Fluckiger of the puppy waiting to be adopted is so cute I wanted to adopt it myself, and the other illustrations are good, too.

I listened to the music and enjoyed it. It's fun and the entire story is included in the lyrics. The banjo reminded me of the banjo my grandpa used to play when I was a kid.

We never know the loving, mischievous dog's name, but the book tells the story of its life from the adoption until the day it finally meets the owner in Heaven.

This book would be a great one for a child who is getting a pet, has one, or just loves dogs. And it would be especially helpful for a kid grieving the loss of a pet.