Friday, June 26, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Davy Brown Discovers His Roots by Keely Alexander & Velani Mynhardt Witthoft

Davey Brown Discovers His Roots by Keely Alexander & Velani Mynhardt Witthoft and Illustrated by Manuela Pentangelo is the perfect book for parents and teachers who want to teach children the importance of our history. It sends a powerful message about understanding different backgrounds and cultures with realistic examples of what makes America the "melting pot".

Davy has been given an assignment; to create a family tree of flags showing his roots. How could he do that? He has no roots. He is simply an American, just as his parents are and their parents before them. Many of his classmates and friends have exciting adventures to share about how their families came to America. Each with many different flags representing the far away and exotic lands that they and their ancestors came from. How could he present a project with only one flag on his tree? If he doesn't finish the assignment he can not play baseball. That is not an option, since he is the star pitcher for the Ballard Vikings and the big game was coming up.

Project day comes and, as expected Davy's friends present their exciting, scary, and inspiring stories. Davy tries to make up a story, but his teacher stops him and gives him another chance to research his true history. What he finds not only amazes his classmates but surprises Davy. He learns an important lesson spoken best by Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."

The authors did a great job of representing the diversity that is America. Davy represents the typical adolescent American; disconnected from history, unmotivated, and a little self centered. He learns not only that he has a rich history beyond his American descendants, but to also appreciate and sympathize with others.

This is a must have book for classrooms of all ages, but especially for grades 3-6 when American history, diversity, and world awareness are covered in more detail. I can't wait to take Davy Brown Discovers His Roots to the teachers I have worked with in my town.

Davy Brown Discovers His Roots can be purchased, or additional information can be found by following any of the following links.

Autographed copies available from

Leave me a comment if you have or plan to purchase this book. I am interested in hearing what you think.


Kristin : )

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Demo Day!

Yesterday was Demo day for the Hill Family's house. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been filming their season opening show in Suffield, Connecticut and our friends Amy and Dave live across the street from all of the action.

The following pictures are a quick recap of the day's events. The first is of one of the show's designers, Michael. He is being filmed rallying the volunteers and talking to the Hill family on a small camcorder in his hand. Next is the view from Amy's front porch of the claws open and ready to destroy. The loud engines were hard to hear over all of the screams when the claws first broke through the roof of the Hill's house.

Here's Ty Pennington, standing on the spot where the Hill's house used to be. He is taping his message to the family, who are enjoying their vacation to Disney.

It was an exciting day, but so long. The worst part about being there is the magic of Hollywood is lost when you watch each segment of the show get filmed over and over, and your kids get that glazed over bored I'm going to start complaining look. The bus was pulled up; horns blazing, Ty jumping out yelling, and crowd screaming... about 10 times. We arrived around 8:00 AM, since some crew members said the demo would begin about 8:30 and others thought it would happen around 10:30. After many retakes of the designer's pep talks, Ty's arrival, and the dramatic charging of hammer and crow bar clad volunteers, the house finally came down around 1:00.

The best part of being there was enjoying the behind the scenes Hollywood magic. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the crew had set up an outdoor kitchen in my friend's backyard. When we arrived the Extreme Makeover chef had prepared a huge breakfast buffet complete with eggs, hash browns, biscuits, gravy, fruit and danish. Soon after, the Dunkin Donut truck arrived with endless coffee and tables of doughnuts. Lunch was a bigger buffet of spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, chicken, rice and veggies. Just when we thought we couldn't eat another thing... the Friendly's ice cream truck pulled in. As if the demo excitement and food wasn't enough we were invited to Massage World, the relaxation tent also set up in Amy and Dave's backyard. By the end of the day we felt like stars of the show.

I can't wait to see the show when it airs this September. My kids, niece and nephew are excited too. They are hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves. The cameras were filming Ty shaking hands and talking with onlookers and they all got to shake his hand. They also met and took a picture with Xhibit (the rapper & MTV's Pimp My Ride host).

I made another slide show on Flickr of all the extra pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin : )

Monday, June 22, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover 2009

In my brief post yesterday I said that I was going over to a friend's house, where Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was expected to announce the next family to receive a complete home rebuild. I say expected because it is very hush hush which family is chosen until Announcement Day. Once the camera crews and crowds started gathering there was little doubt left that the Hills from Suffield, Connecticut were the next family to be featured.

This is the before picture of William and Catherine Hill's house, taken from my friend's driveway.

Beyond the eagerly waiting head of my son is the bus carrying Ty Pennington, the designers Michael and Dee Dee, and rap singer Xhibit. Xhibit is also the host for MTV's Pimp My Ride. I have asked crew members to put in a good word to help me get my 1997 minivan 'pimped'. Why not, right? : )

Ty and crew jumped out of the bus around 10:00 AM and with megaphone in hand woke the Hill family with the famous line, "Good Morning Hill Family!" If he said anything else it could not be heard above the family's screams of excitement. The above picture is of the designers and Xhibit being interviewed while the family embraces and no doubt absorbs the enormity of what is to come. Sorry no Ty pictures yet. When he was out of the bus he was completely surrounded by family members or cameras. I am hoping to get a good picture some time during the week. A fact I did not know about the show is they tape 2 at the same time and Ty has to fly back and forth across the country to film his part in both shows in the same week. So, while I am hoping to get a picture I know that we were lucky to get the quick glimpses we did.

The limo arrives to wisk the family away, but as you can see by this picture it has a hard time manuevering around the chaos of cameras, news reporters, crew members, and volunteers. Another big event happened right before the Limo left with the family. They call it the "Braveheart". It's when the army of volunteers donning their blue shirts and hard hats take over the entire street in their dramatic march to the house. We, unfortunately missed this(hoping that someone got some great shots that I can share later). We had to leave at some point to celebrate Father's Day with all of the awesome fathers in our family. By the way, hope all dads and grandfathers had a great day!

After the family left different construction, or should I say destruction crews came in. First a fence company arrived and tore out all of the surrounding fencing. Then came the big boys; the tree removal company. The equipment was massive and unbelievably powerful. One machine was able to grab an entire tree, slice it at ground level (above picture), hand it off to the large crane claw of the next machine, which fed it directly into the biggest grinder I have ever seen (picture below). In seconds a 40 foot pine tree was reduced to wood chips.

It was a crazy first day. I'm not sure I will get over to the site today, but I imagine that they will be still removing trees and getting everything ready for Demo Day tomorrow. I am definetly going to that. My kids and neice and nephew won't let me miss it. They are so excited to see the bull dozer plow down a house.

Hope you have enjoyed the little behind the scenes peek at a true Hollywood sized production and stop by for more updates as the week goes on. I think the thing that amazes me most is that a house will be torn down, trees removed, and then rebuilt and landscaped in 7 days. I can't even get the front bushes trimmed in that time. I am handing my To Do list over to a Hollywood producer. Well, a girl can dream.

If there is something you want to know about the show let me know and will do my best to find out. The crew and security are very friendly and happy to answer any questions.
Kristin : )

** I turned all of the extra pictures into a slide show on Flickr. Check it out!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's An Extreme Father's Day!

Just a quick post today to wish all fathers out there a happy and relaxing day! Today is expected to be a very extreme Father's Day. No one can say for sure, but it is looking like my friend's neighbor is going to be the next family to be on Extreme Home Makeover. This side of the state is buzzing with excitement; newspapers running stories and people lining the roadways with signs welcoming the show producers and waiting eagerly for a glimpse at Ty Penington. I am hoping to get some great pictures and stories to share with everyone.

Ty is expected to make the announcement to the family this morning and my kids are excited to be going. As fun as it will be for us, we get to leave. I am feeling sympathy for my friends. This is going to be a huge undertaking. Not only will they be listening to construction sounds night and day but they are also bracing for the media and onlooker frenzy. The producers said that there will be roped off walk ways, bleachers, and a shuttle bus bringing droves of people through. They are looking forward to seeing how the house turns out, but a little nervous of the week to come. I will keep everyone posted.

Hope all you dads and grandfathers have a...



Kristin : )

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back to Writing About Writing

As you may have noticed I have been reviewing children's books and posting them here. Now it's time to get back to what I originally started this blog for; writing about my struggles to find a balance between being an author and busy parent. Although I have loved the books so far, and look forward to reading the rest of my review stack, I don't want to become solely a review blog. I will continue to post more of my Children's Book Review Series, but they will now be posted only on the weekends. If you are a children's author and want me to review your book(s) contact me. You will be added to my review list and contacted when it is posted. I am hoping to keep this going all summer. I love being a part of bringing great new books to children and feel it is important to encourage them to continue reading through the summer. Reading is a way to exercise the mind and the best cure when they suffer from the "I'm bored" syndrome.

For all of you who are curious what I have been up to besides reviewing children's books; where do I begin?

I am still waiting for the film producer to pitch my book to the Lifetime Movie Network. It will happen some time this summer. In the mean time I am making a press packet to send to Beth, and doing everything possible to get more sales and attention for The Truth Lies in the Dark. The better my book is doing, the better the chance that the network executives will agree to sponsor the movie. If anyone has any ideas or advice on this please let me know. Having no agent to help me navigate this process, I could use all of the help and luck you can offer.

Speaking of agents, I am researching literary agents now. I am realizing that this is a lengthy venture. I had hoped to find one that could help me with the movie rights and increasing visibility for The Truth Lies in the Dark. This is most likely not going to happen. Today's agents are so inundated with queries, it would take something short of a miracle to find one willing to take on such an extensive project in such a limited amount of time. So, for now I will keep going unagented on this and continue seeking representation for my next book.

My current WIP (work in progress) is my contemporary romance, which I thought was finished. I had it under consideration at Avalon, a Christian publisher in New York City. They ultimately sent it back with some great advice. They also wanted some parts omitted and devoid of all hints of sex or foul language. I thought it was a very tame novel to start with, but took their advice to heart and starting rewriting. As my rewrites progressed, the story moved further from Avalon's standards.

This brought on a dilemma. Do I rewrite again, making sure to stay within their guidelines of absolutely no sex or curses? Do I continue following this new path and letting the character, and my own intuition lead the story? I chose the second; this means it's back to the drawing board for me as far as finding a new publisher. This was not an easy decision to make. I know, it sounds like it should be. Writers are always being told to write from the heart and be true to themselves, but there's always that insecure inner thought saying jump at any chance to publish. I am fighting that inner imp by reminding myself that this is not a race; not a competition to simply be published. (Although it feels like that at times.) This is the beginning of a long, and hopefully productive career. If I go into it not completely believing in what I put out there how am I going to promote it, or for that matter defend it when people hate it? And believe me, people will hate it. You just can't please everyone. If you're happy with your work that will help you deal with rejection and negative comments. It will also make those glowing reviews and positive comments all that much better.

Not to say that years from now I won't look back and say things like; wow I've learned so much since those first books, I can't believe I wrote that, or where were the punctuation police. Well, I better say things like that. Because if I ever get cocky enough to think there is no more to learn or no room for improvement I will be very disappointed in myself. I think everyone should know their faults. You don't have to point them out to the world; just know them and do what you can to make changes in yourself as you go. When you're done're dead!

That is basically what I've been up to with my writing life; my family life is another blog post entirely. I will keep everyone up to date on how the movie deal is going, my agent search, and my writing progress. Let me know what you've been up to.

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kristin : )

Friday, June 19, 2009

My First Blog Challenge Begins! Bloggiesta! OLE!

This is PEDRO, the official mascot of the Bloggiesta. His name is an acronym that means
Plan Edit Develop Review Organize

It's Friday and the first day of my first blog challenge. When I heard about the Bloggiesta, I thought it was only for bloggers that review books. The idea Natasha from MawBooks had was to challenge bloggers to not only catch up with reviews and posts they had fallen behind on but also get ahead by having new posts ready to go when needed in the future. The more I heard about it the more I realized that this could work for any blogger.

Summer vacation has officially started here and what better time to get ahead on my own blog. I will still be adding new posts as the summer rolls on, but for those times when we get busy or just want to enjoy sitting by the pool with the kids I'll have posts all set and ready to go. This will be especially helpful for my Children's Book Review Series. I have decided to start running my CBRS reviews on the weekends only; leaving the weekdays for writing and family related posts. If you are a children's author and would like me to review your book(s) you can contact me for a mailing address. I have really enjoyed the books I have read so far and hope that this helps each author find more readers.

I am still figuring out the details of this challenge, so if you have questions or would like to jump in and join yourself go over to Natasha's blog.

Part of the Bloggiesta Challenge is to set a goal of how many hours you plan to allot to working on your blog. That is up to each blogger. I have set my goal fairly low (10 hours) for two reasons.

1. This is my first challenge and I want to start with a realistic goal. If I reach this goal it's a victory; if I exceed it I will be encouraged to join other challenges.

2. I don't know how or why, but every time I sit down in front of a computer and look like I am concentrating something strange happens. My mind gives off some kind of tractor beam or a large magnet is activated and all of a sudden my children are stuck to me. I've looked at this scientifically and have found the opposite occurs when I do other things; say dishes or any kind of cleaning. This is when they disappear, quickly.

To me the 10 hours seems a little daunting. I have come up with some ways to reach my goal before I reach the limits of my sanity. First, I will try to get in most of the time before my children wake up or after they have gone to bed. If that fails, as the best laid plans often do. I will use my scientific theory and place the vacuum next to the computer. Each time the kids are drawn to me I will counter the magnetic pull by switching it on and pretending to clean. According to my scientific discovery, they should disappear.

I have a goal, a plan of action, and best of all I have the fixings for tacos, nacho dips, and margaritas to get me through the weekend. Maybe I should hold off on the margaritas until I have reached my goal (no one wants to see my margarita mingled thoughts posted. Correction: I don't want to see them posted).

Wish me luck and let me know if you plan to join the challenge, officially or not.


Kristin :D

Friday, June 12, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Molly Monkey by John Rosano

Molly Monkey:Farmward Bound written by John Rosano and illustrated by Nathan Smith is a cute story about a monkey who is ready for a change.

Molly has lived in the jungle for three years and now is ready to move. But where does she want to go? Molly is farmward bound. This resourceful monkey calls a taxi and books her own airplane flight. On the farm, she meets her new family and animal friends.

John Rosano has created a lovable character that children and parents will love. Molly's story is told in rhyme, making it fun to read and to listen to and Molly helps the American Forests Organization. A tree will be planted in America everytime a Molly Monkey book is purchased. It looks like we will be seeing more of Molly and enjoying many new adventures.

More information about John Rosano and Molly can be found at on the Three in a Tree Publications website:

More information about American Forests Organization can be found on:

Molly Monkey was a fun book to read with my kids and fit right in with my daughter's love for everything monkey. We can't wait to see what's next.

Thanks for stopping by and, as always feel free to leave a message about what you and your children are reading.

Kristin : )

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Learn Along With Lily

Learn Along With Lily
by Donna McNaughton and illustrated by Mike Motz is a collection of short poems featuring Lily, the happy little goat. Each poem is a new adventure that teaches children about the world around them. With Lily they will learn about colors, numbers, shapes, opposites, their bodies, family and community members, animals from the zoo, the farm, and even undersea and so much more. Lily opens a new world of imagination to children while demonstrating manners and kindness.

Learn Along With Lily was awarded the 2009 Teacher's Choice Award by Learning Magazine and was a Best Books Award finalist with USA Book News. It combines rhyming with education in a way that young children can understand and enjoy. A great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, and home schoolers looking for an excellent addition to their preschool or kindergarten curriculum.

More information about the author Donna McNaughton and Lily can be found at the following websites.

Learn Along With Lily can also be purchased on Amazon by following this link:
If you have this book or plan to purchase it, please stop back and let me know what you and the children you share it with think. My 9 year old daughter loved reading it and has asked if she can bring to school to read to her Reading Buddy. Her school pairs up older students (grades 4-6) with younger students (grades K-3) to read books each week. She can't wait to share Learn Along With Lily.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Casey and Bella by Jane Lovascio

Meet Casey and Bella, the real life stars of the adorable new children's series. They are joined by author Jane Lovascio and her husband Jeff. All attended this year's BEA in New York City, where Casey and Bella participated in a paw signing. This, as I stated in an earlier post, was my daughter's favorite part of our day at the BEA.

Now on to the books...

Casey and Bella Go To New York City
by Jane Lovascio
Illustrated by Aija Jasuna
*A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to Loving Paws Assistance Dogs.
For more info:

Casey meets Bella when Jane and Jeff bring her home from a nearby shelter. They become fast friends and head out on adventure that brings them from Hoboken, New Jersey to New York City. While they explore the busy city they meet new friends and learn important lessons about having good manners and how to treat others.

Casey and Bella Go To Hollywood
by Jane Lovascio
Illustrated by Aija Jasuna
*This book was dedicated to the children of Hoboken's Jubilee Center
For more info:

Casey and Bella are off on a new adventure. This time they explore star studded Hollywood, California in search of celebrities. Along they way they meet and teach new friends that real happiness can not be bought. A cute story reinforcing the sentiment that the best things in life are still free, even in Hollywood.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting Casey and Bella. They are as cute in person (or should I say, in canine?) as they are in their books and have great messages to share with children. If you would like more information about Jane Lovascio, other Casey and Bella books, charities, contests, and fundraisers go to

If you have a Casey and Bella book or are planning to purchase one I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below. If you have published a children's book and want to have it reviewed you can email me at

Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin : )

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: T'Aragam by Jack W. Regan

T'Aragam: The Max Ransome Chronicles by Jack W. Regan is a great new Juvenile/Fantasy novel. It is a story of medieval meets magic and is packed with adventure. The characters will have you laughing, cheering, and some you will just love to hate.
Max Ransome is thrust into a dangerous adult world at the young age of 13 after he witnessed his father's death and then is forced to fight to save his own. As the story progresses he realizes that it is not just his own life that is at risk, but all of the lives in T'Aragam. His father, Lord Ransome was a great and powerful ruler, but with him gone there is no stopping the evil Zodak and his army of Phantors from taking over the land and imprisoning the people. Is a boy of 13 any match for an evil empire? To find out he must learn who to trust and, most importantly, he has to learn to trust himself.

Max is befriended by some interested characters along the way. A pair of monster brothers, named Doom and Gloom, who are reduced to tears at every new obstacle. A clumsy medgekin, named Gramkin, who is motivated by his addiction to cheese, and a loyal wizard, named Zohar, who just happens to be the brother of the evil Zodak. Then you add the dark assortment of enemies like the beautiful Ariaal, whose magic and looks prove to be a treacherous combination and, of course Bob, the sea ever hungry sea serpent.
T'Aragam is well written, which does not come as a surprise since the author's mother is not only a writer but an English teacher also. Jack W. Regan's writing bio is impressive as well. He won 2nd place in a National Writing contest at the age of 16 and has enjoyed being editor to his school newspapers in high school and college. He has previously published Duke Dookums: Frontier Hero, a zany western for young boys.

I recommend T'Aragam. It has everything to captivate the imagination; danger, excitement, humor, and endless adventure.
T'Aragam by Jack W. Regan is available on Want to know more about the author? You can follow his blog

New Children's Book Review Introduction

In an effort to help out other authors in one of my on line writers/readers group, I have offered to review some children's books. Why children's books?

Two reasons:

1) I have four children of my own and love how excited they get when a new book comes (well my 9 & 11 yr. olds anyway).

2) I have worked with children for years in private preschools and now in the public schools. This means I have many contacts in the child care and education fields with whom I can share all of these great new books.

What I offer is a review, which will be posted here, on , on Amazon (or on whatever platform the book is distributed from), and I will talk about it on Twitter. That much I can guarantee will happen. What I also offer, but can not guarantee, is that I will share the books I review with the librarians, teachers, and child care workers that I have worked with. This will help to get word out about new children's books and may even lead to some sales.

In a recent post I shared Jane Lovascio's books, fundraiser, and charity information. She is the author of the new canine series, Casey and Bella. I had the pleasure of meeting Jane and her real life dogs, Casey and Bella at this years BEA in New York. Reviews for her books are coming soon. While there, I also met some other authors from her publisher, Big Tent Books. I will be reviewing their books as well. Looks like I will be busy for a while, but it's a good kind of busy.

With that said, let's start. Feel free to leave a comment about the books, especially if you have read it and want to share your thoughts.

Kristin :)