Friday, July 31, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

The Circus Ship, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen is an interesting story. A unique feature of this light hearted tale is it's loosely based on one of Maine's most tragic sea wrecks.

The fictional story, written in verse, will captivate young readers. It's about a ship full of circus animals that runs into thick fog and crashes off the coast of Maine.

The animals find their way to nearby island; much to the dismay of the people who live there. They wake to find elephants walking around, monkeys hanging from their clotheslines, hippos bathing in the streams, and exotic snakes peeking in their pantries.

At first the people are worried and annoyed at the chaos the new arrivals have created. Then a brave rescue of one of the children changes their minds. Just as they all begin to live happily together, the circus boss returns to bring his animals back to work. Will the people be able to rescue them? You'll have to find out.

The actual event that The Circus Ship was based on occurred in 1836. The ship, The Royal Tar, was making its voyage from New Brunswick to Maine carrying 103 passengers and an entire circus when it's engine caught on fire. Unfortunately, all of the animals did not make it to shore, but there are conflicting accounts that some had. One story said that two horses had made it to an island, another said there were reported sightings of an elephant and many have said that exotic snakes were spotted for years after the accident.

Thankfully The Circus Ship offers children a happier ending while bringing an important part of Maine's history to light. The author does a great job of adapting a true life tragedy into a lighter memorial for families to share.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is intended for children ages 4-8 years old and makes a great book for beginner readers. The expected release date is September 22, 2009. It is on sale now and can be pre ordered on Amazon by following the link:

My daughter loved the story for its rhyming lines and the animals. I really enjoyed that this book was based on a historical event. It encouraged me to learn more about The Royal Tar. Any book that inspires actions after reading is sure to be a big hit with kids, parents, and teachers.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.

Kristin : )

Monday, July 27, 2009

Author Interview: Jack W. Regan

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a new author of Young Adult fiction, Jack W. Regan. Previously on my blog I also read and reviewed his book T'Aragam, which is the first of a planned series. To read my review follow the link at the end of the interview.

Jack's Virtual Book Tour started on July 17th and will run through August 10th. Doing a virtual book tour myself in March of this year I know how much time and effort goes into this type of campaign. I am happy to be a part of it and wish him the best in his tour.

Please welcome Jack W. Regan...

KC: How long did T'Aragam take to write?

JW: From original idea to finished manuscript...about nine months, mostly because I couldn’t decide how I wanted to write it. It was originally going to be in first person and I wrote about 15,000 words that way, when I realized it just wasn’t working. At one point I just shelved the whole thing, figuring it was a lost cause. Then I saw an advertisement for a novel-writing contest. When I saw the ad, the deadline was a mere six weeks away. I pulled out “T’Aragam” and began working like a mad person. I changed the viewpoint and altered a few other plot points and some how managed to write and rewrite the entire manuscript, finishing a mere two days prior to the deadline. So, from first glimmer to completion, almost a year, although the vast majority of the work was done in the six weeks prior to the contest deadline.

KC: How did you find your publisher and how long did it take?

JW: I published “T’Aragam” myself. I didn’t even try to track down a traditional publisher, not because I didn’t have faith in my book, but because I’m a little anti-establishment when it comes to publishing. I kinda resent the bigger publishers picking and choosing what the public should read. I’m a total sell-out, of course, because if a publisher came and offered me a nice sum to publish this series, I’d be an idiot to refuse, but at the same time I think the industry is changing. There are a myriad of opportunities for authors to make themselves heard. I know there are benefits to being traditionally published, I’m not denying that. Nor do I think less of authors who choose that route. If it works for them,that’s great. For me, I love having complete control of the product, everything from writing to cover and interior design. It’s a heckuva lotta fun and the response has been great.

KC: Where did the idea for T'Aragam come from?

JW: I’ve always been fascinated with time travel and parallel universes and wondered if it will ever be possible to travel between them, whether or not they affect one another, or what it would be like to go back in history with modern day knowledge. That’s how "T’Aragam" started. Obviously, the actual book is far from that and it’s better off for it, but that’s how it began. Shows what a massive rewrite actually took place!:0)

KC: What draws you to write YA Fantasy? Do you want to try other genres?

JW: I’ve tried other genres, most of them aimed for a more adult audience. But I think writing for younger readers suits my writing style more. I don’t like to take things too seriously and I think that hampered my earlier works, which were supposed to be serious and gritty, but always had an undercurrent of goofiness. Yeah. Didn’t work so well. As far as fantasy goes, I think it’s just the escape from reality that beckons me. You aren’t bound so much by the restraints of what people know and are comfortable with. “Hey, I just wrote about a giant horse with wings and the head of a dragon!” “Those don’t exist,” someone scoffs.“They do in my world!” I say smugly.

KC: This question was born out of a Twitter conversation. Do you think the author chooses the story/genre or the story/genre chooses the author?

JW: Simply speaking for myself, I had to play around with genres before I found YA fantasy. As I said, I formerly was writing stuff for a more mature audience: mysteries, etc. I just wasn’t that good at it. Why I thought I had to write those, I’m not sure. I think the story itself often chooses a writer, though. As a writer, I’ve had ideas leap out of nowhere and take my brain hostage, refusing to let it go until I write something about it. I think it works both ways. Even when an idea does “choose” a writer, that writer must still flesh it out.

KC: I read and enjoyed T'Aragam. You left the possibility and the hint of a sequel. How's that coming along?

JW: The title of book two is "Kingdom Heir." It’s underway and is scheduled to be released on Dec. 1, 2009!

To find out more about the book and all sorts of other fun stuff, please visit: purchase link:

Thank you Jack for your honest and insightful answers. I can relate to the challenge of rewriting. I am facing similar issues with my current book. It is hard to make such drastic changes but sometimes it has to be done. In your case it was a complete success. I love the final outcome of T'Aragam and look forward to reading the next book, Kingdom Heir. Good luck on the rest of your virtual tour.

Also, thanks to all you readers who have stopped by to learn more about Jack W. Regan and his new book. If you would like to read my review of T'Aragam click on the following link.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts on this. This is my first author interview and hope that the questions and answers will help other writers find some inspiration and confidence in their own work.

Thanks and keep reading!

Kristin : )

Friday, July 24, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Pingo by Brandon Mull

Pingo by Brandon Mull and illustrated by Brandon Dorman is sure to be the next best selling children's book. It is packed with creativity, imagination, and mischief. The book is geared toward children in grades K-3, but I think younger would enjoy having it read to them and it makes a great book for older children to share with siblings or school reading buddies.

Have you ever had an imaginary friend, or have you known someone who did? It still makes me smile to see a child chatting excitedly and running around an imaginary world with friends unseen to anyone else. In Pingo, Brandon Mull asks an interesting question. What happens when your imaginary friend becomes your imaginary enemy? Mull's creative humor, combined with Brandon Dorman's artistic talent, answer this question perfectly. This is the children's literacy equivalence to the classic imaginary friend gone bad movie, Drop Dead Fred.

Chad and Pingo are the best of friends. The exciting adventures they share are limitless. But when Chad thinks he is too old for an imaginary friend he finds the trouble Pingo can cause is just as limitless. This is a cute, laugh out loud story about the importance of friendship and imagination.

Pingo is not the first book the Brandons (Mull & Dorman) have worked on together. Mull is the author of the New York best selling series Fablehaven; of which Dorman also illustrated.

Pingo is not yet released, but is currently on sale and available for pre-order on Amazon. The expected release date is August 5, 2009.

Let me know if you get this book. My family loved it and know you and your children will too.


Kristin : )

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's Contest Time Again!

The time is also getting closer for film producer Beth Grossbard to pitch my book to movie executives. In an effort to help her get my book made into a movie I have started a new contest. There will be many prizes so stop by my contest blog for details and your chance to win. Thanks for your support and GOOD LUCK!!

Click on the image of my book to the right of the screen for more details.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This one's for you Gram...

Yesterday was bitter sweet for me. We got together at the cemetery for a memorial in honor of my grandmother, Florence Carey. She passed away five years ago. I still have a hard time believing that it's been that long already. Although I miss her it was nice to get together and share our memories.

She was, and is still in many ways, the backbone of the family. Her never wavering love of family and strict adherence to right and wrong has made me who I am today. I just want to take a moment to share a bit of knowledge that has stuck with me; some things I wish I had told her before. She always knew she was loved, but I wish she could have known how important she was in all our lives and how much of her is in the foundations that make us who we are today. Of course she did not always use traditional methods to ingrain her morals and beliefs into us.

Before I share her words, let me share the image of her; the way I will always see her.

Gram was a giant among women. Not in stature, as she barely touched 5 feet tall before age and gravity took their toll, but in personality. She had long fire red hair that she rolled up each night in small foam covered curlers. Her dancing blue eyes that could make you smile or cringe depending on her mood. She had a love of life that no amount of money or material things, or lack of, could change. She was loyal to her family and friends and fiercely protective when either were threatened. I couldn't begin to list everything she taught me, but I can share one that I am always trying to pass along to my own kids.

When I was young Gram would stop me before I went out to play to see what I was wearing. If she didn't like it she would tell me, "You're not going outside in those shorts (or top...whatever the clothing item in question was) I'll find you dead in a bush!" If that doesn't scare the crap out of a young girl nothing will. I'll be honest, for years just out of the fear that some killer would be lurking around every bush I was careful about what I wore. As I got older I understood that she had taught me a very important lesson; one that I am trying to teach my own children. Of course I changed the wording some.

The direct message is especially relevant with my daughter. She is going into 5th grade and is starting to be more self aware and media aware. I still control her clothing purchases but that doesn't stop her from trying to hike up, tie up, or roll down her outfits to emulate today's pop teens. My version of my grandmother's wisdom is, "If you don't respect yourself no one will." And unfortunately there are many examples of this on television and in print. These pop teens, who are trying to dress and act like adults are instead attacked and taken advantage of by the media and the public.

The indirect message goes much farther. I try to teach all of my kids how important it is to respect themselves. Their clothing choices are just the beginning. I want them to be aware of how they present themselves to the world and know if it matches with how they want to be seen or if they are just copying what they think will make them popular. Popularity can be a dangerous goal for a child who is still trying to find out who they are and who they want to become.

Don't get me wrong, my kids wear clothes I don't agree with. I believe in letting them find their own style and personality, even if I don't like what they choose. I just remind them that if they are going to wear their jeans halfway down their backsides, boxer briefs blazing, and thick chains around their necks they better understand the message they are sending to the world. But at the same time, I do not allow my daughter and her friends to run around the front yard in their bikinis. Call me over protective; call me a prude, but some lessons are so deeply embedded you have no choice but to pass them on. Is it a little sexist? Yeah, I guess it is. But boys running around shirtless in their swim trunks don't carry the same sexual connotation. If Sport's Illustrated starts publishing a male swimsuit edition I will have to rethink that though.

Thanks for stopping by and giving me a moment to honor someone very special and very grandmother.

Gram, thanks for your love, smiles, dances, lessons, cakes, kaliloo, patience, flowers, everything purple, support, and for your time. I love you.

Kristin : )

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Children's Book Review Series: Hoop-la the Hippo by Patti Madison

Hoop-la the Hippo by Patti Madison and illustrated by Niki Vukadinover is a new ebook geared for young children. It has three elements sure to make it a big hit with kids; cute story, important message, and actively involves the reader.

The Story:

Hoop-la the Hippo is worried about his weight. He begins watching what he eats and exercising. Hoop-la quickly becomes obsessed with becoming thinner. One day he realizes that, although he is skinny, he is not happy and he does not feel well either.

The Message:

This is a very cute story for today's children, who are becoming more self aware much younger. It shows that while eating right and exercising help you stay healthy, too much can make you sick. Children need to learn proper nutrition and what are normal amounts of physical activity for their bodies and minds to run their best.

Active Involvement:

Children are given two options with this book; they can choose to read it themselves or have it read to them. When reading it themselves the cursor can be used to point to harder or unknown words and they will be read out loud. This is a great way to promote independence and confidence while building the reader's vocabulary. If the child chooses to have the book read to them they decide when they are ready to move on to the next page and can stop the reader at any time.

Another excellent way this book encourages involvement is by offering a quiz at the end. The child is asked to answer a few questions about the story which test their ability to comprehend and recall events and help them make more meaningful connections with the story. This aspect makes it a great addition to a classroom or home schooling environment, since mastering these skills is a building block to becoming a stronger reader.

Ebooks are becoming more popular with adults on the go. This is also a great format for children, not to replace traditional books but to enhance their reading experiences. They can be enjoyed with parents or alone if the parents are juggling other household or work responsibilities. The hands on active involvement make these ebooks feel more like a video game to young children. They will want to read the stories over and over.

You and your child can preview and purchase Hoop-la the Hippo and other popular ebooks by going to .

Are your children reading ebooks already? Tell me what your family or students think of them? Let me know what you think of Hoop-la the Hippo and the other unique stories on the website.


Kristin : )

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Now for a little comic relief...

I got this email today and wanted to share it because...

A good laugh is always nice
*Warning---if you are drinking coffee swallow it now*

An elementary school class started a class project to make planters to take home to their parents. They wanted to have a plant in it that was easy to take care of, so they decided to use cactus plants. The students were given green-ware pottery planters in the shape of clowns which they painted with glaze. The clown planters were professionally fired at a class outing so they could see the process. It was great fun! They planted cactus seeds in the finished planters and they grew nicely, but unfortunately, the children were not allowed to take them home. The cactus plants were removed and small ivy replaced them and the children were then allowed to take them home instead.
The teacher said cactus seemed like a good idea at the time!

Can you imagine your child bringing home this gift? So funny! The only thing I wonder is why do those clowns look so sad... I'm just saying ;)
Hope this made you laugh, giggle, chuckle, snort, LOL, ROFL or whatever is you do when you think something is funny. Have a great day!
Kristin : )

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Children's Book Review Series

City of Hamburgers by Mike Reiss and illustrated by Xeth Feinberg is sure to spark the imagination and the appetite.

It's bedtime for Jeffrey, which means it's also time for another one of Grandma Greta's stories. Jeffrey loved his grandma, but did not want to hear another story about fairies, princesses, slippers, and kisses.

A conversation about Grandma Greta's unique accent leads to a new story; the true story of her childhood in Hamburg, Germany. As she shares what life was like for her and her fellow Hamburgers, Jeffrey's imagination creates a humorous view. When she tells how she met his grandfather who was from Frankfurt, Germany, Jeffrey pictures her (a Hamburger) and him ( a Frankfurter) getting married. Now Jeffrey can not wait for Grandma Greta to tell the next "real life" story.

This is a cute book that shows two very different point of views of the same story. Children of all ages will be laughing at how Jeffrey visualizes his grandmother's story of growing up in Germany. Many adults may recognize the author Mike Reiss as the longtime writer of The Simpsons and as contributing writer for some popular children's movies; Ice Age (1 & 2), Horton Hears a Who to name a few.

For more information or to purchase City of Hamburgers by Mike Reiss please follow any of the following links.

My kids and I were laughing out loud reading this book. I would love to hear what you think of it. If you have or plan to purchase City of Hamburgers tell me about it.


Kristin : )

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Reveal Day!

The above picture is the before shot of the Hill's house in Suffield, Connecticut. In one week the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition crew along with Enfield based Pecoy's Construction Company cleared the entire of lot and rebuilt a new mega house. Sunday, June 28, 2009 was reveal day. After hours of setting up it was finally time for those three famous words...


Ta da... here is the new and improved Hill house! It is fully loaded with 3 separate bedrooms, 7 smaller sleeping alcoves, an over sized laundry room, a stocked media room, workout room, and sprawling kitchen, living room, and sun rooms. Out back is a full basketball court, personalized with the Hill's name, and a beautiful stone patio with built in fireplace. Sorry no pictures were allowed, but trust me it's unbelievable!

I am very happy for the Hill family. Since this began I have met many people that know them very well and think they are the best pick for such a gift. However, I have to wonder if it's just too much. I know it's Hollywood, but wouldn't it make more sense to spread the charity out to more than one family in the community? There has been non stop coverage of the build, for obvious reasons. It isn't everyday that Hollywood parks itself in a small town neighborhood. It is exciting, but there is also a little discussed realty that is not as exciting.

Real people's lives are disrupted, their land and homes used and often abused by the unimaginable amount of crew members, volunteers, and of course the fans who hope to get a glimpse of some Hollywood glitter. The neighbors agree to participate with a good heart and absolutely no idea of how immense the ordeal will become. Community companies donate building materials, water, food, snacks, flowers, entertainment, and countless man/woman hours. When all is said and done the community is drained physically, mentally, and monetarily.

A recent radio program opened their phone lines to discuss the impact an event like this has on the neighborhood and the entire community. It is too soon to know what the outcome and overall impact on Suffield will be, but some very good points were brought up. A major issue was the fact that the Hill house is now worth a considerable higher amount of money than the surrounding houses. So even though no one else added any actual value to their houses, some even sustained damages, their property taxes will go up. Another serious issue was brought up by callers who knew neighbors of past Extreme Makeover families in Connecticut and New York. They said many of the damages and costs are left on the neighbors when the show is finished and the crew moves on. I am hoping, for my friends and their surrounding neighbors, that this is not the case in Suffield. I am all for giving and helping hard working families struggling to get by, but not at the expense and burden of other hard working families.

Let me know what you think. Knowing these factors would you be willing to let Extreme Makeover: Home Edition take over your neighborhood? Do you think the show is perfect the way it is or needs to evolve into a show that not only helps a family in need but also has a more positive impact on the entire community?