I've always been interested in Queen Victoria, my so-called namesake. My father said I had a “regal birth” (he's a doctor and I have no idea what that's supposed to mean) and so they named me Victoria. I've read many books about the queen and know that the love of her life was her first cousin, Prince Albert from Coburg (today's Germany). Their marriage was one of great love. When he died at the age of 42 from what was officially named as Typhoid (now they think he died of complications from Crohn's disease), she mourned for the rest of her life. She was crowned in 1837 and died in 1901 and was the longest reigning British monarch until the current Queen Elizabeth overtook that record.
As princess, Victoria was very lonely. She lived at Kensington Palace with her mother, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn and her mother's comptroller, Sir John Conroy. The two of them devised a plan to keep Victoria safe and well called the Kensington System. Victoria wasn't allowed outside the Palace and had to hold someone's hand while going up or down the stairs (so she wouldn't fall).
One day, Sir Conroy brought a young dog to the palace to give to the Duchess. Victoria took one look at the King Charles Spaniel named Dash and fell in love.
I'm pleased to announce my new book, “Dash and Victoria Find True Love.” Dash loves his Queen but when Prince Albert comes he must learn that his heart is big enough to love more than one person. This book will be launched in May, 2019 in honor of Queen Victoria's 200th birthday.
My good friend, Darlene, started teaching elementary school students how to sew. She is a crafty person by nature (I know her from scrapbooking) and she's a great teacher so I knew the kids would love her and she would love the kids. Here's my interview with her.
Why did you start teaching kids how to sew? I was in despair because my daughter was graduating high school and leaving for college. I was referred to Shannon from Miss Shannon sewing. When I went to the interview and the first class and I felt healed. God had sent me these other children to fill the hole. I didn’t think I’d like them or love them but I was so open to accepting them. My dream is to do crafts for the rest of my life and now I get to do crafts and play with kids. The bonus is getting paid!
How do you pick the schools and projects? Shannon assigns me to go to a school and the class is 8 weeks long. Shannon plans the projects: coin purse, sachet, emoji face pillow, embroidery, stuffed animals (hedgehog, raccoon). Each week is a different project. I go to the sewing studio to pick up the supplies. The kids get 6-8 projects done.
What is the age group? Any child in elementary school, from K through 6, boys and girls are all in 1 class. Its an after school program, for 1 hour. I teach in both private and public schools.
Do you have any cute stories? I was teaching the kids a new stitch that looks difficult but finishes off the outside of the project. One girl, aged 7, didn’t want to do it. I told her that I believe in her and she can try it. I know she can do it. She tried it and I heard her mentioning to another friend that “Miss Darlene believes in me and now I believe in myself.” There’s no mistakes, there’s only room for creativity. I encourage them to do what they want to do.
Do the kids make things at home? After the hour, the kids don’t want to leave. The parents have to pull them out of the class. The kids go home and will make me something out of their scraps, like a coin purse and bring it to me. There was an autistic boy who was wearing everything he had made, the beret, the fanny pack and the apron. Out of the scraps, he had also made a cape.
Thank you Miss Darlene for bringing sewing back into our schools!
“Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 50 Shades of Grey series. As a matter of fact, the book is being turned into a movie and they changed the name to “Ashes in the Snow,” so there's no confusion!
This riveting book tells the story of Lina, a 15 year old girl living in Lithuania during World War II. Her life is uneventful until there's a knock on the door and three Soviet officers (NKVD) storm into the apartment. We follow Lina and her family through their trek in Siberia, moving constantly on the whim of the Soviet officers from one camp to another.
Lina learns some powerful lessons all the while trying to stay sane and survive with her mother and brother. She uses her intellect on a number of occasions to help save her family.
Ruta Sepetys spoke at the recent SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. This story is one that Ms. Sepetys heard growing up as it happened to a family member. She does a masterful job writing emotions and turmoil in a story that's very close to her heart. I congratulate her in her efforts and on the movie deal. I'll be sure to see it in the theater!
I saw “The Truth about Twinkie Pie” on the table in the bookstore at the SCBWI conference, but I wasn’t going to buy it. I read the back cover and it really didn’t “speak to me.” But, then I heard the author, Kat Yeh speak. The book was already sold out at the conference so I bought it on Amazon. And, boy I am so glad I did.
“The Truth about Twinkie Pie,” by Kat Yeh is a wonderfully written book about 2 sisters, Gigi and DiDi who try to make it on their own. Their mother died shortly after Gigi was born and they lived with a neighbor friend until they won a million dollars in a cooking contest Then they move to a new town where Didi becomes a hair stylist. She is 9 years older than Gigi and does everything she can to give her smart sister a good education.
Because Gigi was starting a new school, she figured she’d create her own “recipe for success” and the first thing she did was change her name. She also wanted to make friends (she didn’t have any in her old school) and she took some risks in order to do that. The story is told in 1st person from Gigi’s precocious perspective which makes the book all that more intimate. We know what Gigi is feeling and thinking in every step, which I loved.
I also loved Yeh’s recipe theme throughout the book. At the end of almost every chapter, she includs a recipe for the very thing that was described in that chapter. For example, chapter 2 describes Didi and Gigi making Twinkie Pie. The actual recipe for Twinkie Pie is at the end of that chapter. Some of the other recipes included in the book are “The Perfect Kiss,” “The Ol'Switcheroo,” and my favorite, “Recipe to lose 10 pounds.” I didn’t make any of the recipes, but they sure looked good.
Because Gigi is growing up without a mother, she questions who she is and fantasizes about finding her mother and what she would say to her if she did. She comes upon a mystery and starts uncovering the truth about herself.
This is a delightful middle grade novel and leaves you with a good feeling.
We put together a companion activity book for our book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President's House.” The 6×9 Activity Book is 18 pages filled with puzzles, a comprehension worksheet and coloring pages.
It's a perfect gift for a child 4 years to 8 years old.
Buy the story and activity book set for $9.99 which is a $1.99 savings from buying them separately on Amazon. Shipping to the US only. Please use the Contact Us page if you'd like to buy in another country. We charge shipping of $5.00 for 1-5 sets.
Buy 6 sets or more and your shipping is free.
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I'm participating in a kids book summer giveaway with other award winning authors! There are a wide variety of kids books, which makes this giveaway special! Another reason this book giveaway is special is that the authors are from all over the globe! I think your child would love to read a couple of the books in this giveaway.
The kids book summer giveaway is hosted by BookFunnel which makes it easy for authors to share their ebook. Author James Warwood coordinated the book giveaway. Thank you James! Now, on to a bit about some of the books.
Besides the books in this giveaway, I also read “Can I Touch Your Hair,” by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. This is a great book to have in your library. You can read my Amazon review here.
I've started working again with my wonderful editor, Susan Krawitz on my 2nd children's book, “Victoria and Dash Find True Love.” Susan is a great editor and gave my Buzzy book the flow and consistency it needed. She mentioned to me that she wrote a children's book, “Viva Rose,” about a jewish girl from El Paso, Texas. I thought, “My god daughter would love this book!” So I sent it and the following is her review of the book.
This book is wonderful, small summary, NO SPOILERS: Roses brother Abe, left El Paso saying he was moving to live in Brooklyn, but one day Rose discovers the truth on the daily news paper that is titled the “South Western Scorage” and guess who is on the picture in the photo no other than Abe!!!! Of course Rose is very annoyed about this lie he told his family. She is determined to find him!! This book is a great read and I would recommend it 100% this is by far one of the best books I have ever read!! Love this book ???? !!!! – Windle, 12 years old
Do you have a great children's book you've recently read and would like to review? Contact me for more information.
I've hesitated to blog about my school readings because of the children's identities on the web. But, I've been very careful that ALL photos either don't show any kids or show their backs, never their faces. I'd also LOVE to do more school readings and hope this post will reach schools that may be interested in an author coming to their school for FREE to read to their Kindergarten through 2nd grades.
In celebration of Thomas Jefferson's 275th birthday, I did a school reading to 1st graders in Calabasas. It was the first time I wasn't in the classroom itself. Instead, I did the school reading in their assembly hall with the large screen behind me so all the kids could see the illustrations.
As always, I introduce myself and ask the kids who have pets? Most hands shoot in the air but I then qualify my question with, “Who has a pet snake?” or “Who has a pet squirrel?” There can be a few who actually have a pet snake and typically the name is “slinky” or “slimey.” That always gets a big laugh.
Then, I talk about the difference between fiction and nonfiction and introduce historical fiction. At this age, the kids are learning about fiction and nonfiction, but when I explain what historical fiction is, their eyes get big with curiosity.
I ask them if they've ever heard of Thomas Jefferson. Some of the 2nd graders have heard of him, but most of the younger kids haven't. They know who George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are, but have never heard of Jefferson. I tell them that all the characters in my story once lived, albeit 200 years ago, and that I made up a story about real people, places and things. Now, I've got them!
Because the book is in a 6×9″ format, reading to a group is hard without the use of a smart board or projector screen. The kids sit in front of me, my back is to the screen, so they can see the board and view each page of the book enlarged to almost life size. It also gives me a chance to see the kids, watch what they're reacting to, laughing or concerned.
I've received thank you notes from the kids and teachers a like. If your school is interested in having me come for a FREE reading, please use the contact me form.
Have you ever heard your favorite author do a reading? Let me know in the comments.
April 13, 2018 marks Thomas Jefferson's 275th birthday! We've created a special coloring page just to celebrate.
We've also put the Kindle version of the book on sale until April 15th!
WOW! I absolutely love “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio!! I read it in 3 days, thinking about the main character and wondering what will happen to him. R.J. Palacio (R.J.) writes beautifully and ties up everything in the end.
“Wonder” is about a 10 year old boy, August or Auggie who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes facial deformities. He's been homeschooled his entire life and his parents decide he needs to start school. He's afraid to start school, with new people who will stare at him. He only wants to be viewed as an “ordinary kid.”
R.J. writes the book in 1st person which gives the reader an intimate view of what Auggie is thinking and how he's feeling. I loved watching his personality develop, how he handles people's reactions to his face and growing as a person. The chapters are short and there are eight parts to the book, each part is written in the 1st person by another character. I loved how R.J. provides insight into the characters by structuring her book in this manner.
R.J. weaves a powerful story about courage, strength and kindness. She writes about one of Auggie's teacher's homework assignment, “precepts,” which are monthly quotes to live by. As homework, each student is expected to write what the month's precept means to them. This carries her theme beautifully and adds a lot depth into the story.
As a writer, I learned a lot from R.J. She had an idea for the story, did a lot of research into the abnormality and mutation, connected herself with various nonprofits and offers a solid lessons for all to live by.
I recommend this book to EVERYONE! I know most adults don't read middle grade novels, but this book is a MUST. Congrats to R.J. for setting the bar high for fellow writers.