Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What will tomorrow's children's books look like?

We had cloth books when we were babies, card books as we grew older, and "real paper" books when we finally learned to read. Actually, my brothers graduated to real paper books pretty early. I was a slow learner and just told and retold stories until the headmistress threatened me with a microphone. Then I learned to read, and have scarcely stopped to draw breath since. But what about our kids?

My sons had plastic books when they were babies, card books as they grew older, and real paper books when they finally learned to read. If I remember rightly, one of them went straight from card to Harry Potter. Perhaps that was his incentive, just like the microphone was mine. But about grandkids (not that I have any)?

A new generation will grow up with computers - computer babysitters with bright noises, computer stories with baby-talk and toys, then, maybe, their own personal ereader when they learn to read? Perhaps?

One of the picture books I read this week feels like a very cool technological jump that keeps its roots firmly in good storytelling and reading for fun. There are "stamps" letting readers interactively "jump" to extra information (and back again). There are links so those so permitted by their parents might email the author. And there's even a rather cool music video (with a dog!). But none of it gets in the way of a thoroughly enjoyable story with laugh-out-loud family antics and a pleasing conclusion where a dog finds a home. I love this book--Bear with Bear by Hagit Oron. Enjoy on a nearby computer with happy child (or with the child inside you) and drink a well-balanced, full-flavored three star coffee.

Werner Stejskal always invites emails from his readers too in his Oliver and Jumpy stories. The series is finally coming to an end, and I read the last two books recently, stories 55-57, and stories 58-62. As befits a long-running picture book series, the last book acknowledges a child's increasing reading skills by offering more words per picture. Sillandia really comes to life in a way it didn't quite for me before, so I enjoyed this final volume best. Plus it's got a story for Christmas! Enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Another Christmas story with a very modern twist is Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anne Zoet. Computers allow young Darryl to interact with his Brazilian friend Burrball (a sloth) and inspire him to wonder how Christmas could be combined with saving the trees. The result is a bright picture book with smooth-reading rhythm and rhyme, cool suggestions for kids' activities leading up to Christmas, and an enjoyable environmental message. A good book to enjoy with some more easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And then there's The Unusualasauruses: 15 playful dinosaurs by Efrat Shoham, a book with very cool pictures, very unpronouncalbe dinosaur names, and lots of fun, best enjoyed with some mild, crisp one-star coffee.

But I still think future children's picture books will look more like Bear with Bear than anything else.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is Coffee a Mystery?

I've fallen behind with posting book reviews, so now I'm going to try my best to catch up before Thanksgiving... before Christmas... before New Year... before... Before sometime, but it's a mystery (and so are the books I'm reviewing here). A friend suggested I should retire before the mountain of incomplete reviews completely swamps me. She might be right. Anyway, the deaths and sorrow in these tales aren't caused by book reviews or mountains, but by people and the various trials of life. I loved reading them. I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to post my reviews. (Blame birthdays. Blame old age. Blame dry rot... Just don't blame the coffee. I need coffee!)

First is the book whose author visited my blog yesterday (at The Valley by Brandon Daily is a haunting tale of Appalachia, told through the eyes of vivid characters, and glimpsed through the mist and fog of years and tears. Slow, languid, haunting and beautiful, it's one to enjoy with some rich elegant complex four-star coffee.

Love In A Time Of Apartheid by Frederic Hunter is another literary masterpiece deserving elegant, complex, four-star coffee. Set in South Africa in the eponymous time of apartheid, it brings two very disparate characters together and reveals the cracks, not just in the system, but also in the lives of rich and poor, powerful and weak, young and old. It's a love story, oddly, but the romance is fueled with time and place, people and hope. Enjoy!

S. R. Nair's A Perfect Murder and Other Stories invites readers to India to explore a world of people and relationships, colored by dreams of the States, respect for the past, and hope for the future. Sometimes dark, sometimes curious, sometimes delightfully amusing, these complex stories deserve more complex four-star coffee.

Madison's Song by Christine Amsden is set in the States, but in that slightly skewed part of the States where magic and monsters are real. The characters and relationships feel very real as the story follows a young woman who never thinks highly enough of herself, struggling to cope with family rejection and betrayal, the wounds of love, and the possibility that gifts just might carry God-given responsibilities. It's a wonderful story, complex and powerful, and you don't need to have read the whole series to enjoy it (though I do recommend the series). Fill your mug with some complex four-star coffee and start reading.

J. B. Hawker's Cozy Campfire Shorts combines familiar teen horror themes with an amusing sense of mystery and sweetly surprising romance into a collection of interlinked short stories. It's a truly fun read. Enjoy with some bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Deadly Catch by E. Michael Helms is a well-plotted mystery with a perfect sense for character, dialog and place, a cool beginning to a series perhaps. A combat veteran fishes a dead body out of the water when he goes out on a rented boat. Meanwhile his life is unmoored from his past. But this military man's not too haunted, too wounded, too confident or too dark. And this novel is one to enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Finally, Raven Black by Ann Cleeves is the first in her Shetland series - a collection that I've been glued to on TV and that my husband bought for my birthday. It's a book series with plenty to offers fans of mystery, of authentic out-of-the-way places, of police procedurals, of the Shetland Isles, and of TV. The characters feel just as real, but there are enough differences to make the story fresh and new when revisited on the printed page. I love these books! Enjoy with elegant, complex four-star coffees!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Have You Visited The World Of Literature Recently?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Brandon Daily, author of A Murder Country and the Valley, to my blog, with a post about the joys and tribulations of being published. Having read both books, I'm delighted to have the chance to learn a little more about the author. Welcome Brandon.

(And readers, please click on the book titles above to read my reviews. The Valley has just been released this month and looks set to be a real must-read.)

The World of Literature

by Brandon Daily

            Back in 2012, I was a high school teacher who had written a full-length novel as a dare to myself (to see if I could write something long after having only written short fiction for a Creative Writing class in college).
Like any writer, I had dreams and illusions of having that novel published, but I was (and still am) a realist, and so I realized that it probably wasn’t to be. The publishing world seemed like a glitz and glam Hollywood world from some old-time movie, where brilliant story-tellers hung out together and talked of stories and fictional worlds. The thought of joining that world played itself out in my mind often. So often, in fact, that I thought, “Why the heck not try to be part of that world.” And so I sent out submissions of the book to a dozen publishers. Then, the next week, I sent it out to a dozen more. And another dozen the next week. And then I waited.

When the rejections started coming in, I thought it was proving my point—I wasn’t meant for that world. But then one day in May 2013, I received a message from Knox Robinson Publishing saying that they were interested in my novel, A Murder Country, a literary and historical thriller. They wanted to publish that little book that I wrote to prove to myself that I could.
            The next year and a half of my life raced by and dragged on, all at the same time. My September 2014 release date seemed to never come, while, simultaneously, arriving before I had fully wrapped my head around the fact that I could actually call myself an “author” (something I still have never been able to say aloud—so many people come up to me and say, “You’re an author?” And I reply back with an embarrassed smile, “Ah, I wrote a book. That’s it.”). And then it was released, and I realized that my perception of the world was changed.
            From September 2014, I was able to see the publishing world for what it is: very real and very much business-oriented. Though I’ve met many authors since being published, I have never been invited to an exclusive party to talk about character-creation with other authors, there’s no secret handshake that I was clued in on. There was no glitz, there was no glam. I could say that I was disheartened by this. But, truth be told, I wasn’t. Instead, I found a new excitement, something I’d never had before. I devoted myself to the work and ideas of the work—to the books, not just mine, but to the stories that others were telling, the things readers were reading and talking about.
After being published, I became fascinated not by the publishing world but by the book world. And I loved it. I followed blogs and reviewers, awards and competitions I’d never heard of. I began to subscribe to book magazines and journals, reading up—studying up—on the writing practices of established authors, the diets of classic writers; you name a topic related to authors and their books, I read up on it. And what baffles me now (and I’m pretty sure I realized it at the time) is that none of this made me a better writer or allowed me to market A Murder Country more effectively, it didn’t help with creating the plot of my next book; instead, I found a love for the world that I now lived within. And it is a world that I still happily live within—a few weeks ago, when Bob Dylan was announced the Nobel Winner for Literature (I’ll hold off on giving my thoughts on this announcement, for fear of offending anyone’s opinions), my mind was blown, along with the rest of the literary world, since I’d been following the process for the past year. Before having a book published, I would have heard the news and thought, “Cool,” and nothing else of it. But now I am invested in what literature is and what it will become, and so the topics I normally would have sloughed off now hold a deep and personal meaning.
            During those two years, from when my first novel was released to today, on the eve of my second novel’s publication date (The Valley—November 15, 2016), I stand appreciative of the opportunity I’ve been given. On a daily basis, I remind myself of the fact that somewhere out in the wide world is a person I’ve never met, and on their bookshelf is a book that I wrote. I remind myself that someone I will never know will open The Valley and immerse themselves in the strange world that lived within my head for years before I put it on paper. I remind myself that my thoughts have been added to that brilliantly beautiful and expansive world of literature so that one day, long after I’ve died, some kid will pick up a book called A Murder Country or The Valley and become lost within the words, and that someday that kid will come to know the world of literature for himself.

Writing as someone who has opened, read and enjoyed a preview edition of The Valley, I can attest to its being a beautiful and expansive piece of literature, a book I'd be proud to have on my bookshelf. Thank you Brandon, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Brandon Daily can be found on Facebook at
on Amazon at (where you can find both books)
and on Twitter at

Find out more about the Valley:
My review :
A haunting prologue sets the reader up with questions and mysteries right from the start. Who is thed oddly unmoored mother Quinn? Who is dead--really? And who is the child? But readers are drawn beyond the questions, lyrically led to ponder the past and enter the Appalachian valley, “a place of ghost and pine, where magic plays through the land like children crossing a stream,” a place “made of stories: a place created on the miseries of the living.” There they meet the woman, the priest, the people, all evocatively described, mystically and vividly real.
There’s a sense of mist and shadows over this story—the mist of a morning run, an evening walk, hot water—the shadows of unknowing, and always the trees, like prison “bars keeping something out or keeping something in.” There’s a sense of contrast too, the black powder of the miner with the white of a junkie’s snort. And there’s music.
It’s easy to become lost in this slow languid tale, but the mystery of these people, interconnections, guilts and sorrows, will surely draw you on. A timeless story binds Cherokee past with present as the Great Spirit watches, as the white-masked demon kills. A mirror reflects the reader’s life and worries in other lives. And the whole is, like Adeline’s song, “A story to be felt by the ear and tasted by the skin.”

Disclosure: I read a pre-release version and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How Good Are You At The Art Of Negotiation?

Virtual Tour Author: Cindy Koepp Featured Book Releases: 
Remnant in the Stars The Loudest Actions November 7 – 21, 2017

I have some fascinating guests on my blog today. If you sit quietly - don't slurp your coffee - they might just teach you something of the gentle art of negotiation. Cindy Koepp, author of Remnant in the Stars and the Loudest Actions, asked them to visit here, and I'm very grateful to her. You might want to go and find Cindy's books ( after you've met these characters. But first, over to you Cindy, Ella, Burke and Sacaran.

The Art of Negotiation

Ella Font (EF): Good morning, everyone. My name is Ella Font with the Interdimensional News Network, and I’m here today with Coalition Ambassador Burke Zacharias and Aolanian Ambassador Sacaran Asiki Raman. They are the negotiators for the Coalition and the Aolanians, and they’re headed out to meet some potentially new friends. Hello, Ambassadors. What can you tell us about the mission you’re on?

Burke Zacharias (BZ): We’re going to Monta, an inhabited planet circling a binary star, to initiate first contact with the locals.

Sacaran Asiki Raman (SAR): We find two of the major civilizations, and we go to introduce ourselves and form an alliance, if we can.

EF: How did you find out about them?

SAR: (leans closer) What do you say?

EF: (louder) How did you find out about them?

SAR: An Aolanian scout ship finds them.

BZ: (mutters) And evidence that the League was there ahead of us.

SAR: What?

BZ: Nothing.

SAR: (Eyes Burke suspiciously)

EF: It’s pretty safe to say that the locals won’t speak any language we do. How will you handle communicating with them?

BZ: Well, I’ll have to work on learning their language, and hopefully they’ll be interested in learning ours.

SAR: There is also value in having a linguist or other people with you to learn the language as well. Some people have greater ability in languages. They serve as translators, if necessary.

BZ: (Scowls) No. Absolutely not. There’s too much danger in using a translator.

SAR: Using a translator is an acceptable solution. I do not say it is ideal, but it is possible. I have used this strategy before with success.

BZ: (Shakes his head) Too many layers of separation between the negotiator and the local representative. No. Too dangerous.

SAR: (Squints up at him) Then I hope your facility for languages is excellent.

BZ: (Crosses his arms over his chest) I’ll do well enough.

EF: (Looks back and forth between them) I see, well, um, if everything works out as it should, what do you hope to accomplish?

SAR: (shakes her head. Slips a weathered fingernail under the edge of a silver disk on her head and pries it lose, makes an adjustment and puts it back on and winces). Again?

BZ: She wants to know what we’ll accomplish, and you’re worried about me communicating? Well, Ms. Font, ideally, a full alliance. We don’t want the League to have control of the planet in any way. If that doesn’t work, at least a trade agreement. We could certainly use another friendly source of resources. Most of the asteroids are mined out, and the trans-Neptunian objects are tougher to mine.

EF: What do you say to critics who think the Coalition should avoid any sort of military-based treaty?

BZ: Military-based treaty?

EF: They’re saying that the Coalition should not be provide for the defense or protection of any but our own world and our colonies.

SAR: I say that has short sight. Each member of an alliance must do the thing they are best at. Asking my people to provide defense is foolish at best. Aolanians, though, are very good stellar cartographers and astrogators, something humans struggle with when a computer is not available to help with the numbers.

BZ: To a point, Ambassador Raman is correct. The Coalition can’t spread itself too thin, but at the same time, we can’t have our allies being destroyed by the League.

SAR: We see what the locals are like when we encounter them. They are, perhaps, stronger than we expect. Arriving at the conclusion without sufficient data does not give favorable results.

BZ: (mutters) Something we agree on?

SAR: What?

BZ: Nothing important.

EF: Well, um, that’s all we have time for today. Thank you both for joining us, and good luck on your mission. This is Ella Font, and you’re watching the Interdimensional News Network.

And I do hope their mission communications go well!

About the author: Originally from Michigan, Cindy Koepp has a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. After teaching for fourteen years, she pursued a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has five published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently working as an optician in Iowa and as an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press.

Find her at:
Twitter: @CCKoepp


remnantinthestarscover_1200x800About the Book: Remnant in the Stars: Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped.

As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.

Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect.

Find it on Kindle at
loudest_actions_cover_1200x933About the Book: The Loudest Actions: First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.

Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.

With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.

Find it on Kindle at

Find out more. Follow the Tour.

11/7 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
11/7 The Seventh Star Interview
11/8 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
11/9 Jordan Hirsch Review
11/10 Magic of Books Guest Post
11/10 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Top Ten's List
11/11 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
11/11 Novel-ties Review
11/12 Top-Tens List (Blogger Picks Topic)
11/13 Darkling Delights Guest Post
11/14 Enchanted Alley Guest Post
11/15 Bee's Knees Reviews Review
11/15 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post
11/16 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/16 The Word Nerds Guest Post
11/17 SpecMusicMuse Review
11/18 Jorie Loves a Story Q and A
11/18 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Guest Post
11/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
11/20 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/20 D.L. Gardner Blog Guest Post
11/21 The Swill Blog Review
11/21 Willow Star Serenity Review


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Are You Afraid Of Halloween?

When I was small, growing up in England, Halloween was so close to Bonfire Night, I could hardly tell them apart. First came black paper witches riding broomsticks crafted from twigs. We made them in school and took them home to decorate our bedroom windows. Gazing out past mine, I'd wonder if any bonfires might reflect in the clouds, and would witches dance. I'm not even sure we burned the guy in our neighborhood, but if we did I probably thought he was a witch on a broomstick too.

When my kids were small, this strange new American custom had begun to invade. Churches railed against it. Neighbors ran parties in the garage and we would debate if our kids should join in. Then we moved to the States. And Halloween was huge.

Kids parading around the school in their masks and candy for all. Kids parading the neighborhood. Knocks on the door. The churches still railed, but how could we refuse to let our kids join in. Being foreign, not understanding the culture, speaking with strange accents--belonging was already hard enough. And now?

Now I'm officially old and gray-haired with a bag full of candy. Parents stand at the end of the drive and proudly watch brave offspring knock on my door. The street resounds to laughter and joy. And sharing out that candy just might be the spirit of Halloween.

Meanwhile back in England, it's grown to American style. They're having a party in the place where my mum lives; she says people need cheering up, but she's not a fan of the season. So this one's for you Mum.

Are you afraid of Halloween? Don't be: It's a celebration of

H - Hope, because where there's life there's hope, and you have to be alive to celebrate.
A - Attention, because all those parents are attentively watching their children go door to door.
L - Laughter, because Little Tommy just fell over the hem of his ghost gown again and didn't cry.
L - Love,  as big sister reminds Little Tommy to say please and thank you.
O - Ordinary bravery, shown by small children practising talking to strangers because they'll have to learn, for all our warnings.
W - Wisdom as parents remind them they can't take treats from strangers when nobody's watching.
E - Excitement, resounding along the street
E - Entertainment, exercising those young imaginations with dreams of who they'd like to be (and no, Little Tommy, you can't be Darth Vader when you grow up).
N - Newness, because every costume is new, every doorway is a new experience, ever treat is newly delightful, and tomorrow, whether we enjoy it here or away (in a place of Hope, not ghosts), will, for sure, be a new day.

So enjoy it!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Where do Faith, Self-Help, Creativity and Happiness Meet?

We've been studying the Jewish exile in Babylon in our Bible Study group. You can look at my Bible Study blog to see where we're up to, but the reason I mention it is because we've been looking at how the Jews were told by Jeremiah to live their lives and make their homes among "the enemy," how Daniel modeled that so perfectly, remaining Jewish and becoming a seriously successful Babylonian, and how Christians today might do well to take the same advice. Not our job, perhaps, to convert the world or take over the government, but rather to live our lives "in the world, but not of the world."

So what has that got to do with reading and writing book reviews? Well, one of the books I've just read is Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water. She seems to express what I feel so very well, reminding readers that bad art is bad religion, even if it lays claim to follow all the rules. Good art, even if not religiously inspired, is truly an act of creation. And if we are like our creator God, good art is inspired, whether we claim so or not, by our creator. I really enjoyed the book for its conversational style, the way it invites questions, and the author's acceptance (even insistence) that doubt is part of "what if," which is part of faith and experiencing that which cannot be fully understood--it's also part of writing creatively. If you're looking for something to read, and for coffee suggestions, enjoy an elegant and complex four-star coffee with this one.

Brandilyn Collins' Why Did I Love Hate That Novel offers plenty of advice for readers and writers too, from an easily understood explanation of what makes the reader say "it started slowly" to the value and judicial use of short and long sentences. Plus some psychology. Plus some fine illustrative examples. Enjoy this one with a well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Finally, since reading and writing both make me happy, I thought I should finally get around to reading The 7 secrets of Happiness by Linda Johnson and Kat McDivitt. It's an interesting read. Again, the authors have a pleasing conversational style. Examples from sources as varied as Buddhist wisdom and Shakespeare illustrate the points. And there is some excellent advice. Enjoy with a lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And that's where the title of this blogpost comes from. Self-help and happiness in the final book, meeting creativity in the second and faith in the first, all stirred together into some pretty cool read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What if an elephant meant a genie and a crow?

I've been reading some children's stories recently. They make such a pleasant break when the days are filled with raking leaves, panicking over delays, worrying over parental health, then failing to get things done... except for those brief snatched moment of reading children's stories as I walk from room to room. Suddenly the world is simpler again and the sun breaks through.

So, why do you read children's stories? You do, don't you? If you don't and would like to try, I can recommend the following... Grab and coffee and see what grabs your attention.

Perfect for October is Elphie Goes Trick Or Treating by Hagit R Oron and Or Oron. Starring the delightful young elephant, Elphie, in a perfectly human environment, Trick or Treating explores a youngster's natural fear of the unknown, adds a parent's kind wisdom and a child's innate good nature, and leads to a perfectly happy ending. It's a lovely simple tale, simply told, gorgeously illustrated, and highly recommended. Enjoy with some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Next is The Crows and The Jewels by Peter Joseph Swanson, a delightful take on fairytales, with a blend of all the right characters, a story arc that encompasses ghosts, cats and thieving birds, and an enjoyable sense of humor and fun. Plus great pictures of course. Sharp, witty and lively, this is one for young readers to enjoy with a bright-flavored two-star coffee.

Magic Poetry by Piaras O Cionnaoith has the feel of one of those old-fashioned hard-back fairytale books I used to enjoy as a child. The poems are simple to read and tell fairytale stories, or else describe fairytale creatures with equal delight. The images run a range of different styles, and the book would be fun to share with a child, while the adult carefully drinks a mild and crisp one-star coffee.

Eden's Wish and Eden's Escape by M. Tara Crowl are the first two in the authors Eden-of-the-Lamp series about a modern-day twelve-year-old genie, escaping her magic lamp. Think Harry Potter meets Cruella De Ville in America (and travels to Paris in book two)--the stories cool, exciting, vividly evocative, with wonderful characters, child and adult, and a pleasing sense of rebellion, restraint, and the importance of loyalty. Enjoy these well-imagined books with some elegant four-star coffee and watch out for more.

Finally, Orphans of Time Space by Robby Charters is a fascinating novel, written in the form of interlinked short stories, with interlinked timelines, lots of surprises, and a thoroughly enthralling premise. It's well thought out, beautifully told, and totally absorbing. Maybe even my unbelieving son would imagine the possibility of time travel after reading this. Enjoy with some seriously complex, warming and flavorful four-star coffee.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Did you eat your greens, and oranges, and yellows...?

Today I'm welcoming author Vicki Marquez to my blog. Her children's book, The Rootlets, is set in Plantasy Land where...

It’s opening day at Mr. Fungo Fungi’s magnificent amusement park…and The Rootlets couldn’t be more excited! With special surprises and newly sprouted rides, this is sure to be the greatest day ever! But when The Rootlets arrive at the park, they realize that something is terribly wrong. Plantasy Land is in trouble! Someone—or something—is destroying the park. Could it be The Great Zucchini, Mr. Fungi’s new magician? Or could there be an even greater danger lurking beyond the park? Most of all, can The Rootlets trust their new super rootabilities to help them save their favorite place on the planet? 

Sounds cool, so why don't you pour yourself a cup of coffee and join us at the kitchen table.

Sheila.      What inspired you to create this series?
The idea of The Rootlets popped into my head one day as I was thinking about how I could help inspire kids to want to -- and to be excited to -- eat their veggies and make good, healthy choices. That thought lit a fire inside of me and I immediately knew that these characters were something special – that’s what inspired me to take action, create this series, build this brand and bring these characters to life.

Sheila.      How would you describe the dynamic between the RootletsBrocc, Carrotina, Cornelius and Kaley?
The Rootlets are best friends, with a special bond and a lot of trust between them. They count on (and value) each others’ unique set of talents and strengths, and they operate like a little team…always rooting for and looking out for one another, no matter what kind of trouble their next adventure brings!

Sheila.      How did you decide what traits the Rootlets would possess?
It wasn’t actually a conscious decision – they each began taking on certain characteristics with that initial vision I had of them. Right away it was clear who they were and what was important to each one of them. Brocc was smart and into studying, Cornelius was the jokester who loved to have fun. Kaley was a fancy girly-girl and Carrotina was a brave adventure-seeker. It felt like I knew them.

A few months after I wrote the first book (Super Rootabilities), my husband said to me that each Rootlet reminded him of me, like they were me -- at the core -- divided into four. And in retrospect, I can totally see that…everything that The Rootlets love, I love. So, I guess that maybe I subconsciously selected their traits based on those things…and that each one actually represents a little part of me.

Sheila.      What inspired the vegetable hair. It's one of the most distinct aspects of The Rootlets
A: When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet, my best friend kept calling me her “veggie head.” That nickname was running through my brain when I first had the idea of The Rootlets. I envisioned these adorable kids with big, veggie hairdos: a broccoli afro, carrot pigtails, blonde kernels, leafy green was how I saw them, and it was absolutely perfect.

Sheila.      The Rootlets features bright and brilliant illustrations. Did the characters look the way you envisioned while writing the book? 
My illustrator, Jeremy, and I actually developed the characters long before I wrote the first story, so I was lucky to have a very clear visual reference of these kids as I was developing the series. But I will say that when Jeremy sent me those very first sketches of The Rootlets, he 1000% captured on paper what these characters looked like in my head.

Sheila.      That must have been really satisfying. Since you are an expert in health and nutrition with years of experience, what types of research did you do to write The Rootlets?
A: The Rootlets series is all about the evolution of these four young kids who learn that they're superheroes and who now have to navigate the huge responsibilities that come along with that, so all of my research was focused around character and story development, as well as general writing tips and guidelines for kids literature.

The health and nutrition aspects of this series are indirect and expressed creatively, so that requires a lot less research, and a lot more imagination.

Sheila.      Then you combine all that with adventure. In The Rootlets, adventurous kids who love to play and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Was that connection intentional? 
Yes, it was intentional, but also very obvious. The Rootlets are relatable role models who love to play, explore and go on little adventures, just like most kids – and those are all really great health-promoting activities to encourage. 

Sheila.      What is the key to inspiring kids to make healthier choices?
There are two keys: fun and familiarity! Fun is the easy one…kids seek it, love it, have to have it…and they're motivated by it! So, when veggies and fruits are presented in a fun, exciting way, kids are much more interested in them.
Familiarity is the other key. Most kids (and adults) prefer to try (and buy) things that they’re familiar with. The Rootlets series introduces and popularizes healthy, plant-based foods, so that when kids see them in the grocery store or at the farmers market, they’re much more curious and excited to try them.

Sheila.      Why is reaching and educating kids about healthy choices in elementary school important to their lifelong health?
Because so many of the habits that we have as adults stem from the habits that we developed when we were little. Good habits, like brushing our teeth, are gems that'll serve us well our whole lives, but bad habits -- especially unhealthy eating habits -- are really hard to break and can lead to serious chronic disease and illness. Teaching kids, from an early age, about the superpowers of veggies and the importance of making good nutritional choices, establishes the foundation for them to build strong, healthy habits that will stay with them as they grow up.

Sheila.  What would you consider to be the biggest challenge to raising healthy kids today?
A: Time...for sure! Parents are SO busy these days that finding the time to meal plan, shop and cook can be a real challenge. That's why I'm really excited that our Rootlets blog now features quick and healthy kid-friendly recipes that parents can easily whip up and feel really good about sharing with their little ones.

Sheila.  You are a certified plant-based chef. What are some of your most popular dishes among kids?
A: Ooh, there are so many good ones, but I’d have to say that the most popular dishes are the ones that kids can customize on their own or help make. For example: power bowls (where you start with a grain and then add your favorite toppings and sauces) tacos, wraps, homemade pizzas, smoothies…all of those are always kid-pleasers! And anything with cacao or chocolate, of course! 
Sheila.  When did your interest in nutrition and healthy food begin? Which authors inspired you as a child?
In my mid-20s, I started paying close attention to what I was eating and how it was affecting me. I cut back on the highly processed junk food that I had been accustomed to eating my entire life, and I began eating real, whole, natural foods. Becoming aware of that food/body connection, and how my diet had been directly impacting my overall health, was a huge a-ha moment for me! Once I saw (and felt) the correlation between eating well and feeling good, my interest in health and nutrition grew naturally.

As a kid, I loved Valerie Tripp, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Peggy Parish and of course, Dr. Seuss.

Sheila.   The Rootlets are superheroes with special powers, which contribute to their big adventures. Which superpower would you choose to possess?
Ooh, good question! I'd LOVE some sort of healing touch power. To be able to free people and animals from pain, sickness and illness…that would be the greatest!

Sheila.  That would be perfect. I think that's the one I'd go for too. But, lacking superpowers, are there any other projects that you're currently working on?

Right now I'm devoting the majority of my time to The Rootlets, writing book three, developing our app, attending school events and marketing the brand -- and when I'm not working on that, I'm writing, creating content and testing recipes for “Nourished” and coaching my private and corporate clients. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog. Those super rootlets sound super fun!

Find out more about the author and her world at:
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

What do Pancakes have to do with the Environment?

Today I'm delighted to welcome the author and baker of pancakes, Bruce Galpert, to my blog. If I'm lucky he may have a gluten free offering for me, maybe just below this text! But I know he and his wife Heather have an enjoyable book for kids, with food-based fun, fact-based education, and feel-good characters. Welcome Bruce and thank you for joining me. I'll just pour us some coffee...

SHEILA.    So, I can offer you some coffee and gluten free cookies. No pancakes I'm afraid. But could you tell me what inspired the idea behind My Pancakes Taste Different Today?
BRUCE: As a young father with two sons, I read a lot to my kids…I also spent most Sundays cooking pancakes with and for them--I ate quite a few myself! Trying to teach my kids life lessons, recycling and protecting the environment were also concepts that were important, but difficult to teach to young kids. I always felt that it was hard for children to grasp how their actions could impact the environment positively or negatively. The idea of My Pancakes Taste Different Today! came out of that quest.

SHEILA.    I can relate to that. So is Ethan based on any of your kids?  
BRUCE: Ethan is just like my youngest son Evan was at that age. The character of Ethan is built around Evan: Ethan is eight years old, observant, intelligent, fun loving, sweet and kind to nature, animals and others. He loves his pancakes and his mother!  He is smart and funny, has tons of friends, and is always asking questions.  In real life, I now have a three-year old grandson named Ethan by way of my son Matthew, so all bases are covered!

SHEILA.    Fun! So... what was the biggest challenge you faced in writing My Pancakes Taste Different Today!? Once you'd figured out the main character, I mean.
BRUCE: Getting started, the beginning, the middle, and the end! Writing is not my strong suit! Fortunately for me, my wife Heather came into my life. Not only did she inherit my family, but she inherited this project of 20 years that I was unable to complete, even after attending children’s book writing workshops given by some of the best writers in the business. She is credited for helping me put a structure around the story and move it from an idea to something I can hold and read to my grandkids.

SHEILA.    You sound like you make  great team. What was the most rewarding moment you experienced while writing this book?
BRUCE: Seeing the beautiful artwork that Barbara Cate did, and how it worked in harmony with the writing to really tell the story. Heather and I have had such a wonderful time working on this together – it’s our baby.

SHEILA.    How much research did you do for the book? What type of research did you do? BRUCE: Countless Sundays making all kinds of pancakes: blueberry, chocolate, apple fritters. Flipping pancakes and spending time with my boys, was the extent of my research, the best kind! And sadly, watching the growing environmental stress and crisis we are facing as the years march on.

SHEILA.    The pancake part sounds fun. But the environment is certainly suffering. As a European it's always seemed strange to me how long it took people to notice the problem in the US. Which, I suppose, is why you wrote the book. What does your writing process look like?
BRUCE: A lot of hair pulling and the words just fall into place. Heather is the the writer in the family, I’m a numbers guy. She helped me tease out the story.

SHEILA.    I hope she's reading this. Where do you turn for inspiration?
BRUCE: Heather

SHEILA.    Where did your interest in writing children’s books begin?
BRUCE: I have always had my favorite books…The 4 Chinese Brothers, Ferdinand the Bull, A Fly Went By, A Fish out of Water, Go Dog Go…many of these were based on cause and effect…progressive events.  I am also a cartoon addict, still to this day I spend more time watching cartoons than any other medium.  My son Evan is a brilliant voice over artist and my dream is to see him as a character in an animated film.

SHEILA.  They sound like your book would fit well in their company. Can you suggest some ways to get young people interested in the environment and what foods they eat?  
BRUCE: Farmer’s Markets, natural groceries, growing seeds from a packet at home. I think getting kids to engage with nature is the best way…sadly this is so hard for many kids around the world. I had the fortune to live in both Japan and the Philippines as a child and young adult, and the differences in the way each of those cultures reveres and cares for their environment is vast. It really begins culturally at a very young age.

SHEILA.  So how can they be taught about personal responsibility and their role in sustainability? BRUCE: By their parents, actions speak the loudest.

SHEILA.  What do you hope readers take away from My Pancakes Taste Different Today!?
BRUCE: I hope that parents read the book to their kids and that the book is also used as an early reader. This will be the best way to teach children how their actions impact their world.

SHEILA.  And what about future projects are you working on?  
BRUCE: We have two books in the hopper that we are both very excited about.  One thing at a time I am told by my wife, but creativity has no timeline!  

That's cool. Thank you for visiting my blog, and I wish you many sales, many pancakes, and many young readers who might grow up to take good care of the environment. (Oh, and thank you for catering to us gluten-free pancake-eaters in your book!) Readers can find  My Pancakes Taste Different Today 
and find the author at

Before going fishing one day, Ethan eats his favorite breakfast—pancakes. As his mom explains how his pancakes are made with help from the sun, clouds, rain, animals, and farmers, Ethan sees the world in a new way. 
While playing outside, Ethan decides to create a big splash by throwing a can in the lake and accidentally contaminates the environment. Time passes and one day Ethan notices that his pancakes taste different. Realizing his decision to make a big splash caused a problem which affected his food, Ethan enlists the help of his friends to correct his mistake. 
Do Ethan and his friends fix the taste of the pancakes? What do they learn in the process?