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

Posts tagged ‘children’s book review’

In The Spotlight… Author Aliona L. Gibson

I’ve recently discovered a book that brought back memories of my homeland in Jamaica, titled Justice pon di Road. It is wonderfully written with great cultural lessons and introductions for children.  Meet Aliona L. Gibson, the writer and aspiring globe trekker.

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JUSTICE PON DI ROAD Children’s picture book.

Book trailer 

Q: Hello Aliona, tell us about yourself and your career as a writer?

A: First, thanks for interviewing me and helping me spread the word about our book! I am a single mom living in Oakland, California. I took a trip to East Africa as a high school graduate many years ago and it sparked a desire to travel and see the world. A desire that I have yet to shake! After college I lived in New York where I first experienced Jamaican food. It would be many years later that I would make it to the island. I went for the first time in 2008…to Port Antonio and it was an amazing experience. I am now focused on being the best mom I can be to Justice and trying to figure out how I can write more. I published a memoir about issue of self -image and identity many years ago and a “how to” book which explained how I landed a publishing deal with no prior published writing. Justice pon di Road is my first book for children. I don’t write as much as I would like to…not enough hours in the day!

Q: Tell us about your picture book. What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the reader?

A: I was inspired to write Justice pon di Road when Justice called his scrambled eggs ackee after one of our trips. I was surprised that he remembered ackee and that he made the connection! It made me think about all of our trips and how much love he got while in Jamaica. I am always so amazed at how much attention he gets from total strangers when we are in Jamaica. I didn’t expect it and it was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea how much Jamaicans love babies and kids until I went there as a mother. I love the story but my favorite feature of the book has to be the back matter. I love all the factual information about the island and the patois glossary and the list of notables. I love that the first Grandmaster of chess is in it and a Scripps National Spelling Bee champion and the youngest person to fly solo around the world. I love the photos and the way they are laid out with the text. My favorite page is the Fact About Jamaica page with the currency, Prime Minister and Reach Falls. Oh and that the cloud on the cover image is the shape of the island…my illustrators idea.

Q: What makes this picture book unique?

A: I don’t think there are many books that show a travel experience from the perspective of a child. There are so few books which feature children of color and even fewer which feature a boy as the main character, particularly an African-American boy! I would like to do another one on a different country. It’s a book about real people and the kindness of strangers. A place with a strong sense of community and where, apparently, children are held in high regard.

Q: What age range would this book appeal to?

A: I say the book is for ages three and up. I saw 3 & Up on a book we love which I thought was a pretty sophisticated book with a complex story and was sort of long so I decided to use it. It’s broad. Can be read by an older child but mostly to be read by an adult to children. The back matter makes it more appealing to older readers.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

A: So far the reviews have been great. I am always very flattered when a Jamaican likes it. That means I got it right! People love it and most of my supporters have been people who have ties to the island. The response up to now has been great.

Q: Have you considered offering ‘Justice pon di Road’ in other formats such as an app or an eBook?

A: I would LOVE to offer the book as an ebook and an app. I will…in time. I am feeling like I need to sell more books before I can take on anything else. I do want to offer both and I plan to…not sure when but it’s in the back of my mind.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of publishing a book? Promoting the book has been really hard.

A: It’s an ongoing process and in my mind, a never ending one. Getting people to do stories or review it has been a bit of a challenge. Also, I need to work on doing more book events. Direct sales have been slow. Distribution…I would like the book to be available in other cities.

Q: Once your book was published, was there any unexpected surprises during the marketing process?

A: I have people whom I sent the book to MONTHS ago who have yet to review it. That is frustrating. I have been sending reminder emails for months…sometimes they go unanswered. Even local organizations have been unresponsive. Justice’s school didn’t respond. If I were the principal of an elementary school where a parent wrote a book for children I would do everything in my power to share the book with the students and help get the word out. I think JpdR is important because I hope it encourages kids to be curious about the world we live in. What educator would not want that?

Q: Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

A: I say keep writing and reading. Do not be discouraged or let criticism and negativity stop you from telling your story. Be prepared to self-promote. Even if you go with a traditional publisher you have to go above and beyond to get the word out about your book. There are lots and lots of books on the market and getting the word out is probably more involved than actually writing the book. Take the job of promoting and marketing seriously and be creative in ways to get the word out. I left book marks for our book at pediatric clinic waiting rooms and pediatric dental offices. Know your target audience and figure out creative ways to reach them. But more importantly write, write, write, and write some more to develop your craft (I am talking to myself on this one!) I need to research writing workshops and groups to join to help.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: I used Kickstarter to raise the money to print the book. I was reluctant but SO happy I did it. I raised over 8K in thirty days. Use crowd funding to support your projects! I didn’t think I could do it! Kickstarter is only one, Indigogo and Go Fund Me… and there are many others.

Aliona L. Gibson

Aliona L. Gibson

 

View the Book trailer 

Connect with Aliona L. Gibson and learn more about her books @ website

Social Media links:

Facebook

Twitter: @AlionaGibson

 

 

You just never know

As the year comes to a close I reflect on the friendships and relationships made this past year. The writing and teaching field has the most supportive people I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of people. They’re always willing to share information, opportunities and advice which is always valuable.

I recently met Monica Babaian in a twitter chat Story app chat that meets on Sundays at 8pm central. She’s a Tech savvy Librarian and i’m a Digital Author/aspiring Art Teacher. We even live in the same state but our paths might never have crossed had it not been for this chat. Her site is a great resource for parents and teachers which I plan on visiting often. The result of our meeting was an amazing app review with educational tie-ins and resources. It’s a great way to end the year and  as I look forward to the New Year, my resolution is to keep looking forward because you just never know where the next friend, opportunity or great idea will come from.

The review below was re-blogged from: http://innovativelibrarianship.blogspot.com/2013/12/storybook-app-grendels-great-escape-by.html

Storybook App: Grendel’s Great Escape by Michelle Anaya

Grendel’s Great Escape is a storybook app for both iPad and Android by children’s author and creator of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, Michelle Anaya (@bluesandpiper).

Grendel’s Great Escape is about a boy named Martin, who takes his pet ferret, Grendel, to school for show and tell. But when it’s Martin’s turn to present for show and tell, Grendel is missing! The entire school turns into a chaotic mess as Martin and his friends try to find Grendel while avoiding the wrath of the school’s principal, Mr. B.

What I really like about this storybook app is that it includes a long list of ferret facts at the end of the story. The storybook app also has its own curriculum for helping students develop reading strategies, which teachers and school librarians will find handy. For those teachers and school librarians who are allowed to have animals in their classrooms and libraries, a pet ferret would be a great way to make text-to-self connections with Grendel’s Great Escape.

Grendel’s Great Escape includes two screens of ferret facts!

Another possible way to use Grendel’s Great Escape in the classroom or library is to extend the storybook and reading strategies lesson into a science unit from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd), which has a couple of videos on ferrets and animal habitats. Yet another way – let students use online databases and encyclopedias to create their own list of ferret facts. Activities like these help students create text-to-world connections.

The storybook integrates interactive features throughout the book, including one page in which the reader can squirt ketchup or mustard all over the screen — something kids will surely enjoy. Readers have the option to turn the narration and music on or off. Blue Sandpiper Imprints recommends this storybook app for ages 4 and up. The Android version of Grendel’s Great Escape is $2.99, and the iPad version is $3.99.

For more information about Grendel’s Great Escape and other fun storybook apps from Blue Sandpiper, please visit their website.

 

December Picture book of the month

This post is a little late this month but life happens. It’s been hectic to say the least with work, family and getting ready for the holidays etc.

Author Visit with 1st gradersIt’s always a nice surprise to stumble across a really good Christmas story. A few days ago I walked into an elementary school library for a story-time visit with a group of the cutest first graders. There it was laying precariously on the top of a stack of returns, just waiting to be discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

Snowmen at Christmas by Carolyn Buehner is happy little tale that’s cleverly told in rhyme and asks an interesting question. How do snowmen celebrate? I had to find out, so I read it to the children and satisfied my curiosity and theirs. This book is a real treat and I highly recommend adding it to your holiday reading list.

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Excerpt: One Christmas eve, I made a snowman, very fat and jolly. I dressed him up in red and green and trimmed his hat with holly. I saw his arms trembling as if he couldn’t wait. It made me start to wonder, how do snowmen celebrate?.

These snowmen really do Christmas in a big way. You’ll find out just how much while enjoying a great holiday read with your family.

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October’s Picture book of the Month

october_breast_cancer_month_flyer-r7f4e4afc60784273aa0410a4b9688885_vgvyf_8byvr_512October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and most of us know someone who’s been affected by this disease.  It impacts the entire family as many of the women battling this disease also have children who are  coping and fighting alongside them.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies and illustrated by Kristi Valiant brooches this subject that is often difficult to discuss with young children.

 

 

cancer garden front

This picture book is sensitively and lovingly written by an Author who is also a cancer survivor.

The beautiful illustrations shines a light and an air of positivity that  is uplifting in what could have been a sad book.

“Things don’t always go as expected” is the theme throughout the story. It walks us through the announcement of a mother with cancer, the stages of her treatment, the emotions involved and the way in which her family handles it.

As an avid gardener, I loved the co-relation between the various stages of cancer and the seasons of their garden. This book is more realistic and uplifting than sad, it’s about a family doing something positive together while in the midst of a tough situation.

Reading this will help children understand more about cancer but can also help children of families facing other devastating illnesses as well. I was cheering the family on from start to finish, and without giving it away I can say that I was thrilled to discover that there was indeed a happy ending.

cancer garden back

 Summary 

One winter day, Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has cancer. Soon the whole family goes to the doctor to ask questions.

“Is Mom better yet?” Jeffrey asks.”Not yet,” the doctor says. “Not yet,” the doctor says, “But we’re working very hard to make her better – probably by pumpkin time.”

That gives Janie an idea: to plant a vegetable garden.

As the garden grows, Moms treatment progresses, and when it’s all done, there are healthy pumpkins and a recovering mom!

Aug ’13 Book of the Month – My Head is Full of Colors

As back to school season looms around the corner, and I get my youngest son ready for 4th grade, I realize it’s time. Time to get back to my picture book of the month posts.  Sadly my sons have moved on from picture books but thankfully I haven’t and never will.

X 001 My Head is Full Of Colors

I’m a print designer by day and a children’s writer during every waking and dreaming moment. My Head is Full of Colors is the book that flipped the switch for me. It was because the Author was telling my story and the illustrator drew everything that was in my head as a child. It’s the story of every child whose mind is wide open to the wonders of the world around them.

X 006 My Head is Full Of ColorsAnyone who’s read my Bio knows how much I love the designs incorporated within the illustrations. I cherish my 20-year-old copy of this book which was originally bought for design reference.

The story this book tells about a creative and imaginative little girl is wonderful. The mother is wonderfully supportive & embraces the fact that her daughter sees things differently. Maybe one day i’ll have the privilege of meeting this Author or illustrator. I hope this book is still in stores, if not it can be found online at Amazon.

X 008 My Head is Full of ColorsMy head is full of colors by Catherine Friend & illustrated by KiKi

Drop a comment if you’ve read this book or share a book that left a strong impression that you could identify with.

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.

 Adventure

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

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.

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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.

Edutainment

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

Travel

Postcard

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

Tweens

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  www.bluesandpiper.com for updates.

Meet the Mon-Stars

The Narration is completed, Original Music has been composed and the award wining Creativoligist Victor Guiza is creating his magic on the illustrations for Monster Jam. I am thrilled to announce that this Rock Music themed Story Book App is in the final stages of completion.

Monster Jam Children’s Book App is a highly interactive Story book app that builds music awareness. It features an interesting garage band of characters, well on their way to become Mon-stars but first they must make it to the Monster Jam music festival. They’re the Ground Hogs and they rock!

Meet the band

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Axe is a little Monster with a big dream. As the guitarist and band leader he’s the glue that holds them together and their driving force. His dreams of being a Mon-Star is on the brink of coming true as he’s just landed the band a spot at the annual Monster Jam.

Skyler: is the only girl in the band but she’s tough enough to hang with the boys. She’s the lead vocalist and is always up front and center.

JD: plays the bass and he’s one cool character who loves to have a good time on stage.

Stones: is a gentle giant. He keeps a low profile, doesn’t have a lot to say and he’s a genius on the keyboard.

Banger: don’t let his size fool you, he’s a feisty little guy with a big personality. Banger is always ready to jam and his drumsticks are never far.

This story is an inspiring one about determination & following dreams, and it’s been a lot of fun bringing all the components together with the Dragon Pencil App Producers, it’s coming alive in an exciting way. The Rock Music theme will immerse children in songs & sound sprites. They will enjoy reading along to the music as well the animation & touch interactions. In the play with the band activity they’ll choose one of three instruments to play as the band performs their signature song “Smashing Daisies” The making of Monster Jam been quite the adventure and we can’t wait to share it with you!

For a more in depth look behind the scenes & the making of Monster Jam, visit the Kids Korner

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