The Musings, Notes & Book/App reviews of a Children's Writer

Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Back to school with book apps

By now the children are all back to school across the country.


They’re getting settled in their new classes with new teachers, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There will be new challenges as they overcome the summer brain drain and start filling their minds with exciting new lessons.

A fun way of re-enforcing their newly acquired reading skills on the week-ends are digital book apps. The multi sensory experience brings the reader into the story and soon they’ll be begging for more. This is music to any parent’s ears because let’s face it, they’re so many distractions these days that reading isn’t always their first choice.

I had this experience with my reluctant reader and it inspired me to dive into the magical world of digital book apps.


The app store and Google play is flooded with apps so it’s sometimes difficult for parents to know where to start and what to download.

Digital Storytime is a renowned and trusted source in both the literary and app world and they have recently released their top 25 list of book apps. They shine a light on educational apps that can become hidden in the app store so that’s where I would start. In fact I read their app reviews when researching for my sons apps and when writing for kids. I was more than thrilled when Grendel’s Great Escape was listed in their top 25 best stories for 2013. It is an honor for it to be noticed and placed alongside these other amazing books.

It’s also perfect timing because September is ADHD awareness month and the main character was inspired by a child with ADHD. He’s messy, disorganized, adventurous and a whole lot of fun.

Martin's mess

Martin tackles the laundry monster

Download it and let me know what your kids think.

Digital Storytime’s Top 25 Best story books

Grendel’s Great Escape adventure story for iPad  Android


Book Apps – Summer’s Boredom Busters

It’s the final stretch, the countdown has begun towards the end of another school year. Children excitedly anticipate the classroom parties & yearbooks are being signed. Summer camps have been scheduled, as well as planning vacations, theme-parks, local festivals & daily trips to the pool.

Battles are also being waged on how much holiday schoolwork or reading is fair. “What’s the point of summer holidays if I still have to do school work?” was my 3’rd graders response after i’d shown him a wonderful teacher recommended summer math curriculum website IXL.  Apparently I hadn’t gotten the memo that the ‘Summer holidays’ is their reward for making it thru the school year & it’s supposed to be work free!

The solution: Book apps! Children will love the interactivity, integrated gameplay features, animation & much more.

Book apps are fun on the go; take them on vacation, road trips, flights, long wait times & down time. 100% Guaranteed to squelch “Are we there yet?” chant or the “I’m bored” announcement.

Listed below in categories of Adventure, Summer assortment, Edutainment & Travel are the top 20+ excellent, well written children’s book apps which range in price from .99c – $4.99. Best of all, they’re free of distracting pop-up ads & in app purchase requests. Download them from the direct links below to your digital tablets & smart phones.


Grendel's Great EscapeGrendel’s Great Escape  available on iPad & Android tablets

With the swipe of a finger, Children can bring characters to life in this interactive storybook that they will enjoy reading over and over. With it’s wonderful illustrations, original music, sound effects, and numerous interactive elements to discover, your child will surely be immersed in this funny adventure story.

BOOK1ICONFEB2013 FinalTreasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island available on  iPad & iPhone

Help Treasure Kai find gold. How many chests will you have to open? One, three or all eight? This treasure hunt adventure is loads of fun for both boys and girls. Winner of “Best in Category” at the New Media Film Festival.

Treasure Kai 2 newiconbook2sampleNTreasure Kai and the Seven Cities of Gold  available on iPad & iPhone

Go back in time to help Treasure Kai race Francisco Coronado to find the Seven Lost Cities of the Gold in the new world. This sequel to “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” was one of only 20 apps to receive a 5-star review from Digital Storytime in 2012, this app is a unique reading adventure with gameplay integrated within the book app.

Ride w alienMy Ride With The Alien available on  iPad

This interactive children’s book app for the iPad that features educational activities designed to inspire children to learn more about the solar system.


The day I became a pirateThe Day I Became A Pirate available on iPad

This interactive children’s adventure book app is told in clever rhyme, and features activities on every page including an interactive treasure hunt and clue games. It’s about a boy who encounters a band of pirates needing his help to save a crew member. He has to muster his courage to save the day, and gets an unexpected surprise. This unique children story is both entertaining and inspirational, with strong themes of friendship, trust, courage and service.

POCC iconThe Prisoner of Carrot Castle – available on iPad

In the first book of the Veggie Chronicles series, The Prisoner of Carrot Castle, children discover that eating vegetables is what heroes do, that is, if they want to eat their way out of a wicked King’s clutches. Vivid colors, lively music, and fun interactive spots draw in the reader who quickly becomes invested in Aiden’s dilemma and help him along (tapping, sliding, tilting) in his adventure.

Penelope-icon-180x180Penelope the Purple Pirate – available on iPhone and iPad

Adventurous children whose imaginations know no bounds will find a kindred spirit in Penelope. Come along on her journey as her bedroom opens up into world of pirates, the open sea, buried treasure and trusted friends. Discussion questions, ideas for additional interaction for the pre-school classroom and home, and fun facts about the sea creatures in the story are included in the app.

App Icon magnificent trainThe Amazing Train  available on  iPad 

is a beautiful adventure story told through the eyes of four. It is an interactive, colorful and magical book app in which reality is infused with fantasy.The app uses technology to bring the enchanting world of India to children. The captivating colorful 3-D illustration and animations together with original music, authentic sounds, and rich interactivity, create an exciting Indian atmosphere through which the adventure comes to life.

Bill-The-Fish-Icon-Logo-512Bill the fish  available on  iPad

This wonderful book about Bill the fish explores the amazing world of life under the sea, where being different is celebrated as not only normal but beautiful. Today our precious children’s individuality is constantly threatened by the manufactured expectations portrayed in the media, sorely affecting self-esteem. Bill the fish, will teach your children that being different is what makes the world wonderful and like Bill, no matter how we look to others, we are happy, being ME.

Laloo the Red Panda (iPad) is an interactive story app featuring an adorable red panda’s adventures in India. 20% of each purchase is donated to the Red Panda Network to assist with their conservation efforts and protection of the endangered red panda in the wild.


Summer Assortment

Luca lashes Luca Lashes available on iPhone &  iPad 

Prepare your own child for his or her first foray into the swimming pool with Luca Lashes has his First Swimming Lesson. As your child takes to the water and begins learning how to swim, Luca will show your little boy or girl that there’s no need to worry about the pool.

Slibby Slibby the snail –  available on iPhone iPad Mac

A funny and charming story about a little snail called Slibby who is helping his friends Ants to find their stolen food. While Slibby is searching for the food, YOU will have to help him by solving all kinds of quests! Will Slibby succeed? With your help – definitely!

Super Harry iconSuper Harry  iPad

Super Harry’s Rotten Luck is a funny and encouraging tale about how changing your actions can change your luck! Chosen as a TOP PICK by Smart Apps For Kids.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 6.05.52 PM

Henry! you’re late AGAIN!  available on iPhone & iPad

Do you have a big wolf waiting in your school if you arrive late? Henry does! Find out who it is and just what makes him late every single day.  Animation, narration, music and special sounds add to the humor and quirky illustrations in this app. Kids of all ages LOVE it!

Gerry.appstore_icon Gerry the Giraffe  available on iPhone and iPad

Gerry the Giraffe wants to join the volleyball team but they think he’s too small and not strong enough.  Upset because he isn’t invited to summer volleyball camp, he finally realizes what he has to do. Over the summer, while the team is away, something amazing happens from Gerry’s hard work. Common Core Standard Aligned Reading Activities incl.

Turkey who forgot to gobble The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble  available on iPhone and iPad

This app is a delightful way to talk to your children about friendship, working hard, perseverance and most of all that friends will be there when you need them. This app is available in both English and Spanish so you can practice with your children.

Twinkle TwinkleTwinkle, Twinkle, Nighty Night  available on iPhone and iPad

It’s nighttime and everyone in the house is fast asleep….except for some of the animal friends! They need our help! This peaceful and imaginative storybook app invites the reader to comfort their animal friends to go to sleep by making a wish upon a special twinkling star.


SmartySmarty Britches: Nouns Available on iPad  Free Curriculum/Reading Strategies/Project-Based Learning

This engaging educational app comes highly recommended.Travel to the deep South and discover NOUNS! Join a boy with a magical pair of Smarty Britches as he explores fascinating people, animals, places, things, and ideas.

Henrietta 125x125Henrietta is Hungry available on iPad

Henrietta is a daring and adventurous little cook who loves to try new foods. Join Henrietta as she sails the world searching for a scrumptious, stupendous dish! Includes CCS curriculum. Chosen as a TOP PICK by Fun Educational Apps.

Bud the bunnyBud The Bunny  available on iPad

Join Bud the Bunny and his best friend Bee for 30 pages filled with touch-activated animations, sound effects, and plenty of practice building B-word sentences. Listen to narration by Clare Kramer (Bring It On, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or read on your own. Part of each sale goes to Kids Need To Read, a national nonprofit improving children’s literacy



Bound Round   available on  iPad & iPhone

Bound Round Sydney is an interactive travel app for kids to help them earn a vote in family travel decisions.  With content created by kids, for kids, Bound Round Sydney uses stories, photos, videos and games to let kids uncover all the fun things to do there before they arrive.  The built-in travel journal and postcards lets them record their own adventures and then share them via email with family and friends.

Beware M TassaudsBeware Madame la Guillotine: A Revolutionary Tour of ParisiBook  iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

this School Library Journal Top 10 2011 App is a must have educational tourism app for all families of teens and tweens and student tour groups traveling to Paris


512x512Brush of Truth is an interactive storybook app for kids 8-12. Written in second person, “your” voice, you choose how the action unfolds at critical points during the plot. Reach an ending, go back and make different choices to explore a new path. Brush of Truth is about two kids who find an enchanted paintbrush. It has 65 decision points and 20 possible endings. Available on iPad/iPod touch/iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android and Windows 7 devices.

coming soon sticker

Watch for the release of the ‘Monster Jam’ interactive app with ‘play with the band’ activities, games and animation.

IPad w App Covers MJA Rock & Roll story of a little monster with big dreams of being a Mon-Star. Visit for updates.

Rx Bavaro Beach Punta Cana

Life is a whirlwind these days in this household. With relocation plans in full swing; A new job, new state & new home on the horizon, we needed a moment of R & R from the craziness. I’m a planner but when my husband suggested an impulse trip to the Dominican Republic I didn’t hesitate for a second. Three days later I stepped off the plane and gazed at the most uniquely tropical airport. No walls! Just thatched roofs and big Ass Fans – no kidding, that’s the official name. These architectural features continued within the tour busses and Resort lobby.

Punta Cana Airport- Tropical thatched roofs & no walls! © Copyright 2012 Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Keeping things cool with a Big Ass Fan


Day 1: Made my way past the pool with swim-up bar & headed for the beach. Sinking my toes into the white sand and immediately all stress drifted away. The plan was to lay claim to the coveted hammocks for my family, but I never made it past the loungers under the grove of palm trees. The next hour or two of ‘me time’ will be spent watching the waves and recharging my creative juices. My amazing view of turquoise waves & speedboats in the horizon is marred only by the speedo clad men emerging from the waves. Did they not see the ‘No Speedo’ sign? I must remember to put one up on my next trip – isn’t it an international unspoken rule? The guys got back from their Zip-line adventure in the mountains in time for lunch at the Cafe by the beach.

Paradise!! The view from my lounger.© Copyright 2012 Blue Sandpiper Imprints











Day 2.  Snub-a, Speedboats & Snorkeling this trio was the best antidote for the rising humidity. The night-time beach party was a riot, we got quite a workout trying to dance in the sand.

A leisurely stroll down the beach led us past this flea market with lots of cool trinkets.© Copyright 2012 Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Surfacing from an underwater paradise



Day 3 found us at the pool swim-up bar trying to recover from days 1 & 2. We took full advantage of the all-inclusive privileges at the numerous feeding stations & never once did I make it to the gym. Actually I did pop my head in for a tour, I’m not sure why I bother to pack gym clothes but at least the intent was there.

Day 4: My kids are trying to cover as much ground as possible with all the activities, before checking out to catch our 4:30pm flight back to reality. I just need one last look at the ocean, these memories will serve us well on cold winter nights when we move North.

One last look at this amazing beach as I walk away© Copyright 2012 Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Summer Outings – Theme parks…anyone?

Local water parks or theme parks are great quick trips for the family on weekends, but maybe you’re venturing a bit further for a family vacay. We ventured to Palm Beach FL for some sea & sand and then drove to Orlando/Universal Studios. If you plan on visiting or thinking about a trip to Universal Studios this Summer, I highly recommend staying at one of their on-site hotels. They’re a little more expensive than local hotels but so worth it. No driving, no parking a mile from the parks and the complementary express passes are like winning the lottery. We stayed at the hard Rock Hotel and just strolled to the theme parks, there are busses and boats too but we only used them at night when we were too exhausted to walk. Three fun-filled days skipping lines and taking in the awesome 3 & 4 D rides-we went on the Men in Black ride 3x’s.

Hogswart Castle at Universal Florida
Photo: M.Anaya- Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Day 1: Rain, Rain and more Rain, but that also meant less crowds. I avoided the death-defying roller coasters and got on-line to get a picture with Captain America.  As a children’s Author, I found Toon Town & Suess Landing to be visually stimulating & very inspiring.

Day 2: Staying at the hotel also meant that we get into Harry Potter’s world at 7am before the park opened. We overslept and later joined the crowds flocking to Hogs Wort & Hogs Meade, lined up for an hour to buy ‘Butter beer’ which turned out to be an ice-cream/cream soda concoction.  I have to say that the ride was worth the two-hour wait strolling thru the castle accompanied by holographic pictures and characters. Unfortunately there was no express lane.

Officer Lou of Springfield P.D. is on the job
Photo by M.Anaya Blue Sandpiper Imprints

The city walk had cool restaurants like Bob Marley’s & Hard Rock cafe  which my little rockers loved, there was also Mardi Gras going on at the time-fun for everyone.   Next time, I have to get my Thing 1, Thing 2 & Mother of all things Tee shirts.

Mardi Gras

Day 3: So exhausted by midday, that the closest we got to the water park was the lovely beach-style hotel pool.  The rest of the week was spent under palm trees, watching the kids build sand castles and boogie boarding on palm beach.

That’s all folks
M.Anaya Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Summer activities for little explorers

It’s the first official day of summer! Looking for activities to keep the kids busy? well you’re in luck if your little explorers want to go Dino hunting. Check out your local science centers or zoo’s. Liberty science center in New Jersey is showing Movies – Flying Monsters 3D, New Yorks Museum of Natrual History has a wonderful year round exhibit.  Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix  is showing SEAREX 3D: JOURNEY TO A PREHISTORIC WORLD. Check out the Dino dig at the  Museum of Nature & Science Texas Dinosaurs | DallasTexas The Imax theatre is showing Flying Monsters which is awesome.

If you’ve been there, done that…. then go check out their life-like animatronic counterparts. Field Station Dinosaurs-Dinosaurs have returned to the Meadowlands of Secaucus, New Jersey. The new educational theme park has 31 realistic animatronic dinosaurs. Explorers are greeted by a flying dinosaur Pterandon perched in a tree. Dinosaur explorers hike along a trail passing meat eating dino’s like T-Rex and long necked vegetarians like Argentinosaurus. This just opened Memorial day week-end and I haven’t been able to check it out yet, please leave a comment if you visit it .

Animatronic Dino on the prowl

Universal Studios Jurasic park-T-Rex on the prowl
Photo by M.Anaya- property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center is located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida. The Pteranodon Flyer is a hanging coaster that glides over Jurassic play area. The scenic ride is for children, Adults only get to fly if they’re accompanied by a child, thankfully I had one with me. I’ll talk more about Universal Studios in my next blog-so much fun, even for a big kid like me.

DINOSAUR is an exciting adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.  Climb aboard a time rover to be transported to the age of dinosaurs on a quest to bring back a living piece of history.  Buckle up and get ready for a bumpy ride. Your group has 60 seconds to get in and out before a meteor crashes into the planet. I highly recommend it.

Wild dinosaur ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Fathers pave the way and inspire greatness.

Happy Father’s day! to all the men who show up daily and contribute to a child’s development and growth. Raising and mentoring a child isn’t an easy job, especially after a hard days work, but the rewards are great. Great and supportive fathers inspire children to do great things and become great people. They’re upfront and center in a child’s life regardless of biology, being the role model that makes the world of difference. My dad choose to be apart of my life and raise me as his own, during my formulate years. Encouraging me to reach for the stars and color outside the lines. He was the first great storyteller in my life, weaving magical tales that sparked the imagination and transported me to mythical lands. Thanks Dad!

Dad’s day treats:

Twisted Cherry Limeade-Refreshing drink on a hot day
Photo by M. Anaya- Property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Twisted Cherry Limeade

3 Fresh squeezed limes

2 Oz of strawberry or Raspberry Syrup

1/2 Gallon of water, Sugar (sweeten to taste)

2 shots of cherry Vodka (optional)

1 can of sprite

Garnish with lime slices and cherries


















Fathers Day with my wonderful husband and son at the Denton Air Show- Pilots showed off arial maneuvers, with planes from the present and the past.

Photo by E. Anaya- Property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Photo by E. Anaya- Property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints

A little bit of history at the Denton Air Show

Photo by E. Anaya- Property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Photo by E. Anaya- Property of Blue Sandpiper Imprints

Surviving Summer in Texas

This will be my 5th Summer in Texas and I’m learning to love it. Summer in Texas means; Summer camps for the kids,Trips to the water park, Heading to the Soccer Stadium, Outdoor festivals, amazing  BBQ, and lazy evenings by the pool. It also means 100+degree temps, June bugs, mosquitoes, spiders, flies ,fire ants, cute bunnies, and side stepping the toads who aren’t eating enough bugs. It’s difficult to open the back door without being swarmed, I’ve almost mastered the art of getting in and out without letting the flies in. Entering the great outdoors can be quite the adventure, armed with 1.sun screen (to avoid 3rd degree burns)  2.Bug spray and  3. Fly swatter. If you can deal with all that…..then by all means, fire up the grill!

***Myth or Fact? hanging a plastic bag of water will repel flies…..I tried it and it works!*****

Grilled Lobster Thermidor recipe (  By Angela Boggiano

I’m not one to follow recipes exactly so I added extra lemon and a dash of garlic and Old Bay seasoning. it was Yummy Perfection. Bon Appetite!

Amazing Summer Treat – Grilled Lobster Thermidor


3 Partially Steamed lobsters

2 table spoons butter

3 large shallots, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh fish stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup double cream

4 tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives and dill

Pinch of cayenne pepper

3 Tablespoons Parmesan, finely grated

  1. Prepare the lobsters. Remove the claws, then crack them by covering with a cloth and gently hitting with a rolling-pin. Remove the meat in large pieces and put in a bowl. Remove and discard the legs.
  2. Cut the lobsters in half lengthways, first through the head, between the eyes, then turn around and continue to cut through the tail. Remove the tail meat from each lobster half and cut into chunky pieces. Add to the bowl with the claw meat. Remove the red row and add to the bowl – it has an excellent flavor. Gently mix.
  3. Remove and discard the grit sacs and intestines – the long, thin, black line running the length of the body.
  4. Transfer the empty shells to a baking tray. Divide the meat equally between each shell cavity, cover and chill until needed.
  5. Make the sauce. Melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the shallots for 3-4 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the fish stock and wine and boil until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and cook gently for a further 5 minutes, until the sauce has a good coating consistency. Take off the heat and stir in the chopped herbs and cayenne. Season to taste.
  6. Pre heat the grill to medium-high. Spoon the sauce over each lobster half and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Grill for 3-4 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately, garnished with extra herbs.

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