Showing posts from October, 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 s

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 creat

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 illustrate

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 ins

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 environ

What Do Readers Want To Know? Meet Kate Vale

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Kate Vale to my blog. She writes and publishes contemporary women's fiction and romantic fiction, frequently set in the Pacific Northwest. Her latest book, Where This Goes , was published earlier this year - there's even a Goodreads giveaway for it, from now till the end of the month. Find it at giveaway/show/206868-where- this-goes . And you'll find lots of information about this and her other books, including excerpts and book club resources, on her (beautifully well-organized) website at , and you can find my review of Destiny's Second Chance here . Kate has offered to answer some of those "frequently asked questions" that authors so often hear, so thank you Kate, and welcome to my blog. What Readers Want to Know… by Kate Vale Readers often ask me who my favorite characters are from the books I’ve published. A stock answer is “the book I just finishe

What's Grace Got To Do With Fiction?

I've just started reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water and I'm hooked. As a Christian author, I love her comment that "if it's bad art, it's bad religion." And I'm really enjoying her insistance that Christian art makes no more sense than Christian oranges. If art is creation, and if Christians believe in a creator, then that creator should have a hand in all art ... even in books where the protagonist despises religion ... even in mysteries where a graceless protagonist objectifies every woman he meets ... and even in a fictional world where the clone might ask the computer which one has a soul. I'm definitely hooked, and with two book titles containing the word grace among those for which I'm posting reviews, I'm wondering if I picked up the book by accident or if it picked me. Anyway, create some well-flavored coffee, sit down, and see if any of the books in this list will attract you to read: Grace by Howard Owen  is fif

Is Fantasy Sci-Fi?

When I met the man I would later marry we were both in college. He loaned me his copy of Dune over the Christmas vacation; I suspect he wanted to make sure I'd see him again, if only to return the book. Dune is a great science fiction novel. We both loved the sense of working out how the planet's ecology could evolve, and imagining the mysteries of space travel. But my soon-to-be-husband was much more tied to the science while I loved the characters, the mind-reading, future-sensing aspects of it all. He showed me other books that filled his shelves - all volumes that I would today term "hard sci-fi." Meanwhile my own collection was growing with a Christmas gift of the Lord of the Rings, Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy, and more esoteric offerings my future spouse termed "fantasy." He said "fantasy" in the same way he said, "Oh dear. My sister writes," when I told him I wanted to be an author. Fantasy was most surely not his thing.

Can picture books help raise thinkers?

I loved Karina Fabian's post last week, where she asked if SciFi could help raise thinkers (Yes, Yes, Yes!). Then I read a collection of books specifically aimed at raising small thinkers--NNAT and OLSAT training for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. With more children's books on my reading list, it's no wonder I ended up pondering if picture books can help raise thinkers too. Small thinkers. Big thoughts sometimes. But most importantly, kids who can interpret and follow instructions (rather than blinding following perhaps?). Find a coffee and see what you think after reading these book reviews: First are those NNAT and OLSAT practice books . They combine a story idea--let's be a detective--with nicely illustrated test questions. They teach how to listen to instructions and use checkmarks to fill in your answers. They help kids learn to think about what's the same, what's different, what's the pattern, and how to count. And, in a way that tests themselv