Welcome to 2020! I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
I've been spending my time reading, just not children's books. I made the happy mistake of buying a Kindle Unlimited subscription and now tons of adult books are free! It's been years since I made the time to read thrillers, suspense, and action novels, so I'm catching up.
Netflix put out The Witcher series, so I decided I needed to read those books before the show started. Then, I got back to reading a series I had started, but never finished, the Sigma Force books, by James Rollins.
Kindle Unlimited has me reading a bunch of romance and independent books, and I'm having a lot of fun listening to Audible.
So, my challenge to everyone this New Year is to do something you haven't done in a while or choose a new experience. You'll be glad you did. If you have the time, tell me about it in a comment below.
Monday, November 18, 2019
Welcome to Middle-Grade Monday! Today I have an author interview with Jennifer Voight Kaplan about her book Crushing the Red Flowers.
Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is an award-winning author of children’s fiction. Her debut children’s novel set in 1938 Germany, Crushing the Red Flowers, was praised by James Patterson and recognized in six literary contests before its publication, including earning a Letter of Merit for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and winning the middle-grade category of the BookLife Prize for Fiction (Publishers Weekly).
Jennifer was born in Germany, raised in Philadelphia, and now resides in the New York City area. Since her father was German and mother a German Jew, she grew up with a multilayered understanding of the challenges that Jews and Germans faced during WWII. She holds degrees from the Wharton School of Business in marketing and from the London School of Economics in social psychology.
1. Please tell us about the book in your own words.
Crushing the Red Flowers is the story of how two ordinary boys cope under extraordinary circumstances during the pogrom we call Kristallnacht. The novel alternates perspectives between two twelve-year-olds, Emil, a German Jewish boy, and Friedrich, a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk. The two boys find themselves scrambling to keep up with the striking changes of 1938. Friedrich struggles with a cruel, new Jungvolk leader and a jailed uncle, while Emil tries to escape the anti-Semitic fog that’s seeped into every cranny of his life. Then on November 9th, the world unravels and nightmares leak onto the streets. They each must push past the person they thought they were because neither is certain they’ll survive what comes next.
Crushing red flowers (poppies) symbolizes the end of the distinct political, social, and economic culture that was present in Germany between the world wars. The Jewish characters explore patriotic loyalty, emigration, newly clouded German Jewish identity, and the optimist/ pessimist dichotomy that was present in the German Jewish community before Kristallnacht. The non-Jewish characters highlight the debate about how much Germans challenged Adolf Hitler and delve into the nuanced experience of German resistance to Nazism.
2. Tell us what inspired you to write about this difficult period of history?
While Crushing the Red Flowers is fictional, it is based on true family experiences. My heritage is half German and half German Jew. I grew up with a multilayered understanding of the challenges that Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Germany faced during WWII. The stories I heard from both sides of my family were filled with love and devotion, as well as pain and loss, so I think it’s important for young people to have access to historical fiction with diverse perspectives. 1938 is a turning point in history. That critical year offers a unique vantage point to examine what came before, during and after, but unfortunately, I sometimes find it overlooked in school curricula.
3. Was the research challenging?
Writers of history strive to genuinely portray events, but since writing fiction is by nature a subjective representation, some degree of distortion is inevitable. To minimize misrepresentation, I tried to conduct extensive research. To start, I interviewed family members who lived through the period, read everything I could find about Kristallnacht and the Jungvolk/ Hitler Youth, and worked with experts like Myrna Goldenberg, professor emerita of Holocaust history at Montgomery College, and Dr. Patricia Heberer-Rice from the Holocaust Memorial Museum. But that wasn’t enough. I still had many historical questions. What was the exact weather in Hannover on certain dates? In what month did wild poppies begin to wilt? What foods were difficult to attain in 1938? As a result, I ramped up the research with additional sources. For example, I wanted to mention wallpaper, but couldn’t find much about wall coverings used during that time in my existing sources. So, I hopped on the train and spent the day at the New York Public Library Picture Collection. I browsed through image after image until I gained a solid sense of German interiors in the 1930s.
4. What would you like readers to take away from your novel?
Many people today do not understand the Holocaust and I believe the more access young people have to historically accurate information, the more it informs their ethics and decisions. The novel explores the still relevant themes of kindness and bullying and provides a narrative explanation of how Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Germany proceeded during this era. Ultimately, I hope to help children develop their awareness of morality, realize how their decisions can impact others, and identify bullying in our modern day.
5. Tell us about your path to publication.
Crushing the Red Flowers took five years to write and then an additional four to launch. I began plotting in 2010, but didn’t know how to proceed. I had been writing short stories and picture books for enjoyment for a few years, but never a novel. There was plenty of trial and error. I’d sometimes write numerous paragraphs, sleep on it, and then do a complete re-write the next day. And in that way, during the limited amount of time I was able to afford myself to create the book, I taught myself to write. I squeezed in writing workshops, watched YouTube videos on craft, read tons of how-to books, and attended conferences. My reading time doubled as learning time. I twice-read books, first for pleasure and second for study. I deconstructed them, highlighted stunning prose and flagged memorable dialog.
By the end of 2015, the novel was finished. I began submitting to literary agents, then editors, and all the while to writing contests. By the time it was selected from the slush pile by Ig Publishing, a wonderful award-winning independent press, Crushing the Red Flowers had been recognized in six writing contests, including earning a Letter of Merit in the 2012 SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and winning the Middle-Grade Category in the 2016 Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize for Fiction.
6. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Remain focused on day-to-day joy. The journey to publish Crushing the Red Flowers was lengthy, even by the monstrously slow standards of the publishing industry. But as I look back, I treasure all the varied moments that were necessary to create it — collaborating with my family, teaching myself the craft of novel writing, establishing relationships with fellow writers, and learning all about the publishing business. So, yes, it was a long journey, but also an affecting, vital, wondrous journey that I am honored to have had.
Thank you Jennifer!
CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS
by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan – Debut Author
Ig Publishing (IgPub.com) / Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
On sale November 19, 2019 / Ages 10-14 / 304 pages
Hardcover: 978-1632460943 / $18.95
Paperback: 978-1632460950 / $12.95
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Thursday, October 31, 2019
Welcome to Picture Book Round-Up. Today I am looking at a new release, Bea's Bees, written by Katherine Pryor and illustrated by Ellie Peterson.
Her efforts pay off and soon the bees are buzzing.
This picture book is a really good example of how you can introduce science and nature to young readers. Bea's adventures allow readers to learn about solving problems. The last few pages of the book include facts about the importance of bees and how they are necessary for fruits and nuts that humans eat. There is also a colorful illustration of the types of flowers that bees like best so those young ones can do their part to help the low bee population.
Bea is very brave. I wouldn't be one to keep an eye on a beehive or even check out its honeycomb. Perhaps a word of caution about the danger of bees should be given, maybe even a look at honeybees versus bumble bees. However, the overall message of the book is needed and I love how Bea figures out a way to solve her own problem. Great illustrations and a good message. I'm giving this book 4 stars!
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Welcome To Picture Book Round-Up! Today I am reviewing Rowdy Randy by Casey Rislov.
The illustrations are excellent! I loved all the big, bold drawings, colors, and creatures. Any kid is going to love seeing Randy's adventures come to life. So much fun! I'm giving this book 5 stars!
Buy it now!- Amazon
Monday, October 28, 2019
Imagine her surprise when the letter arrives letting her know she earned one of the four coveted spots for flute players. Then, everything falls apart again and Amelia is forced to show her gumption and skills to remain at the prestigious school. Only, that's not all she is dealing with. A mysterious ghost is haunting her, sabotaging all her projects, and her roommate hates her. There is also a mysterious storm raging and Amelia hears the teachers' worried whispers. It's up to Amelia to save the school and prove her worth.
This book rocked! And the audiobook was even better. They actually play the music in the background that Amelia is playing or hearing in the book. So cool. The story itself does not let the reader down.
Amelia's mom passed away when she was a baby and all she wants is to play the flute her mother left behind and go to the same music school. The thing is, Amelia is from a small farming area, and though she had a musicraft teacher, she soon discovers that it isn't even close to what other youth have had in their preparations. Amelia is forced to put everything she has into every assignment she is given. Her struggle is real, and whenever she seems to take a step forward, the ghost swats her back. The author does a great job with Amelia, her thoughts, reactions, and doubts are very believable.
There are several twists that keep popping up in the story, plot turns that add to the story in wonderful ways. When I finished listening to this book I immediately went to look for a sequel, but nothing is listed, as yet. I really hope something else comes out soon. I loved this story for its uniqueness, quirkiness, and depth. I'm giving it 5 stars!
BUY IT NOW- AMAZON
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Picture Book Round-Up time! Today I am looking at When Dinosaurs Go to Bed by Josh Bluman, illustrated by Tetiama Kopytova.
Adorable. Kids love dinosaurs and most hate going to bed. This book shows them that their favorite creatures even have things they have to do before bed. My favorite, a Diplodocus who only gets to sleep after it gets its stinky socks off.
The illustrations are perfect for kids, big and bold, full of fun things to look at in a normal bedtime environment. I'm giving this book 4 stars!
BUY IT NOW - AMAZON
Monday, October 21, 2019
Stone Man and the Trail of Tears
His family seeks shelter in an abandoned village, but soldiers hunt them down. Tsatsi and his sister Sali escape, but Sali falls ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man. Tsatsi gives chase and confronts the giant, only to learn this monster isn’t what he seems.
Their journey is a dangerous one. Will Tsatsi find the strength to become a Cherokee warrior? And will they ever find their family?
Charles Suddeth has published poetry, picture books, middle
1. Tell me about the book in your own words.
Losing family and home is a child’s worst nightmare. Fear of the unknown is another primal fear. While escaping from the Trail of Tears, Tsatsi and his sister get separated from their parents. A giant whisks Tsatsi’s sick sister away. Is this giant the Cherokee monster, Stone Man? Can Tsatsi save her and find their family?
2. What inspired you to write this story?
My great-great-grandfather, Bill Pennington was born in a Cherokee mountain village, possibly in Kentucky about 1830. The family moved north of the Ohio River during the Trail of Tears. Most of the village joined them in a rural area north of Charlestown, Indiana, 30 miles northeast of Louisville, Kentucky. A mixture of whites and Meti (French/Shawnee mixed-bloods) lived there. Many of the Cherokee in eastern Kentucky were chased out.
3. What do you hope your reader will take away from the book?
Most of all, I would readers to have fun, to realize that historical fiction can be exciting. Secondly, I hope readers will learn about the horrors of ethnic cleansing (which is what the Trail of Tears was). And lastly, I hope readers will learn that we are all humans despite our differences in race, culture, religion, and so on.
4. Tell me about your road to publication? Don’t tell the editors, but it started as a NaNoWriMo project—National Novel Writing Month—50,000-word novel during November. I only wrote half and didn’t finish until January. In 2018, I made a Twitter pitch on Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s annual twitter pitch contest. An editor from Dancing Lemur Press liked my pitch and requested 3 chapters, and then the manuscript.
5. Any advice for aspiring writers? Be yourself. Tell stories no one else can tell. Write with emotion and share that emotion with your readers. Enjoy yourself.
Where to find Charles?
Website - http://ctsuddeth.com/
Buy it Links-
Find Stone Man: And the Trail of Tears at:
Barnes & Noble –