Category: Book Reviews

The Wild Slide – An adventure written by young author, Aryanna Khodorkovskaya and illustrated by Michael Bernard Stevenson, Jr.

Confession. I am a real push-over for books written and/or illustrated by children. l don’t care if it is their kindergarten Mother’s Day project or a book, such as The Wild Slide written and PUBLISHED by 8 year old ,Aryanna Khodorkovskaya – from Alfred Station, New York.

The Wild Slide is a very thoughtful and engaging story that in a few pages tells a rather sophisticated tale that includes adventure, friendship and bravery. The reader is brought along with Aryana’s characters to enjoy an exciting “ride”. I found myself also wanting to be part of this cadre of friends and transported in to world where a Wild Slide could offer a great escape.

Illustrated by Michael Stevenson, Jr. – the story reads like a typical early childhood reader. The twist – it has content, including vocabulary, that would be more typical of an adult writer who is creating for a child, rather than a child writing for other children.

Here is another accolade for Aryana – not only does she have a book that is published BUT she holds the record for being the YOUNGEST published author in Western New York!

Related: The Wild Slide on PARENTING.com

Keep in mind that rarely does an author, of any age, become published on their own. In this case – Aryana credits Nicholas Dosch for “generous financial and emotional support.”

She also had the artistic talent of Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. to help add the illustrations that graced the pages of Aryana’s story. I was curious to see how these two teamed up and what role as a mentor Michael may have had with this project.

Here is a short interview with Michael:

Question 1:
How would you describe your artistic illustrations and the inspiration for them in Aryanna’s book, “The Wild Slide”?

MSJr.: The Wild Slide, written by Aryanna Khodorkovskaya, was quite descriptive in nature which provided a more than adequate foundation for creating imagery for the book. One of my favorite lines is “‘Should we do this?’ Violet asked. ‘Yes’ said William. ‘No!’ said Rosie, looking panicked.” Rosie’s demeanor was spelled out for me. Various other elements were laid out for me too, like later when Violet and Rosie gives Zee a necklace and bracelet respectively, I knew I wanted to include those elements in the character design. I also modeled the character of Violet after Aryanna herself, and Rosie after her sister Natasha. Violet calm and composed, delicately dressed, while Rosie has a slightly more ruffled aesthetic, with untied shoes in every scene. 

As far as my own illustrative style goes, I have always had a style that closely resembles that of children’s drawings. I like my drawings to communicate an idea without relying on the exemplification of drawing technique. Part of the reason is that I don’t derive intense pleasure or joy from agonizing over details. I want to move on to the next thing. I also enjoy the simplicity of the drawings I do. However, this also serves the nature of my work with young people. They’re always shocked and impressed by what I’ve drawn, as well as how quickly when I’ve done the drawing in front of them. This creates a level of comfort with them, I’m not producing photorealistic drawings, the likes of which they could never produce themselves. I produce work that’s accessible to them both visually and practically as far as their own drawing practice goes. 

Question 2 : As an adult, you appear to “slide” into the role as mentor, who was or is your mentor?

MSJr.: Interestingly, most of my work is collaborative by nature, a process that’s been a long time in the making. Much of my work is in direct response to having a series of primarily elder mentors in life and practice inside and outside of the art world. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the exhibition that The Wild Slide was produced for, was actually all about this dynamic. While I was growing up in Alfred New York I had a series of mentors, a prominent one being Fred Tscheda who taught neon and lamp design at Alfred University.

I also collaborated with Tschida for the Won’t You Be My Neighbor exhibition on a project involving the collection and display of rocks found across America. Fred and I have collaborated on rock based projects in the past and hope to collaborate on more in the future. We still stay in touch even though we’re a few time zones apart. At this point the majority of my practice is one on one or small group mentorship projects with young people. 

Read more about Michael and his projects (upcoming and previous) here

And… here is a bit of a side story.

I am not surprised by Aryana’s clever ability for storytelling. After all, her grandmother is writer and singer, Mary Gardner Ruch, a dear friend of mine from Western New York.

Read my Favorite Christmas Themed Interview blog here featuring Mary Gardner Ruch

In closing – please add The Wild Slide to your holiday gift list. Amazon offers it and consider it an investment in the future of this creative writer! Thanks to Aryana for letting us in to the world of her Wild Slide friends! And, thanks to Michael for his responses. 

Amazon Link

Happy Holiday!

#ReadingDearMartha

I love working with authors.  Their creative juices inspire me to want to be a better writer and I love the process of seeing a book soar from shelves in to the homes of readers.  Creating a social media campaign to promote a book that is about to be launched can be exciting and, at times, a bit of a rollercoaster.  My newest client is the amazing and lovely Tricia LaVoice.  A woman who writes from the heart and doesn’t hold anything back!    I have known Tricia for a number of years, love her candor,  and was happy to help her launch her new book.  However, when I heard the title I must admit it took me a bit “off guard”!

My first reaction was – “I wonder how Dear Martha, WTF? will play in Peoria?”  And exactly what is this book about that warrants such a strong title!  So, during a 14 hour flight to Japan I took “Dear Martha, WTF? (DMWTF)  out of my carry-on  and read it nearly in a single sitting.  When I closed the back cover it was clear – “Dear Martha, WTF?” was the perfect title!

It may help for you to know my “take-aways” from the book:

  1. This author’s memoir is a raw and honest account of losing not one, not two but three members of her family.  The pain and anguish she feels is palatable.
  2. Author Cheryl Strayed  had been an inspiration for Tricia after she read WILD. (They even met for the first time this past month).  You walk away feeling inspired and awestruck about the resiliency of spirit, such as with WILD.
  3.  Many have said that DMWTF  is the perfect book for readers who enjoyed  The Giving Tree or Eat Love Pray.  I can see that.
  4. The book is chocked full of personal accounts of friendship, love, loss and examples of resiliency. A perfect book for a bookclub discussions.  (She does have a book club integrated as part of  her website.)  
  5. Humor is generously sprinkled throughout this narrative
  6. Oh and “Martha” is a tree.  A pine tree that helps the author  realize that she needs “roots” to carry on after the trifecta of tragedy.  When exasperated by life she finds comfort in her backyard yelling – “DEAR MARTHA, WTF?”  Now you know the reason why this book has its’ title and it fits perfectly!

 

MEET MARTHA (dragged) 1

 

Anatomy of a book launch

It has been interesting  having a front row seat to the launch of this book.  Being the  social media support arm to this book launch campaign, I have had the privilege to get to know her audience and see the excitement build.  There are so many people who want to engage with Tricia across platforms.    Her love of the outdoors, yoga and focus on her family and friends are  topics that I am sure will resonate with many. of her   7K followers on Facebook. 

The hashtag is #DearMarthaWTF (of course)! 

If you pick up a copy of the book, Tricia would love to say hello on social.  Use the hashtag #ReadingDearMartha 

This week will be one chocked full of book launch events as the OFFICIAL release date is April 10, 2018.  TV interviews, book signings and a launch party for the press are all planned.  Tricia plans on venturing on to TalkShop.Live, too!  I look forward to seeing this book “fly off of shelves”.

Ready to start reading?  You can find Dear Martha, WTF? online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) and also at local bookstores.  The book is published by Post Hill Press – so feel free to connect with them, too!

 

Meeting author, Cheryl Strayed       1200x800-1DCF8I2

 

 

 

HALFLING, a New YA Novel with Bonus Features: Book Club, Virtual and Homeschool Curriculum Options

Halfling (2016) by debut author, Donna Marie Robb

Donna Marie Robb is a writer who has a dream … actually, a whole lot of dreams! Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Halfling, chronicles the story of Remmi, a young girl who is vacillates between Dreamearth and Realearth.   As her story unfolds you realize that Robb wrote Remmi to be a strong protagonist who has experienced more in her few short years than most do in a lifetime.

As the story commences you learn that Remmi was orphaned as a child, so she thought. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she ends up in an unusual living situation where she is among “drones” who have been voided of thoughts.  Her life in slavery ends when she realizes that her skill-set includes a touch of magic.  As a clever and precocious teen, Remmi uses her new found abilities to escape and go forth to help others. Her story of survivorship grabbed me within the first two chapters. (And, robbed me of precious hours of sleep as I couldn’t put the book down!)

The story ebbs and flows between one “earth” to another – similar to other YA books such as The Giver or Harry Potter, where alternate realms help enhance the intrigue. While Halfling was written for the tween and teen audience, my husband and friends also became fast fans and thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner!

Plus, the animated video, created by the very talented Dara Blaker, gives Remmi a voice and makes reading Halfling even more enticing!

 

Meet the author, Donna Marie Robb

I have had the pleasure of knowing the author for many years.  Her ability to have insight in to the psyche of young adults’ is clearly evidenced by her writing of Halfling.  She also is a librarian who cares about the youth of our country and their education and attainment of literacy skills. That is why she decided to introduce a book club and a homeschool / virtual school curriculum as adjunct features to Halfling. 

 

View the Halfling Book Club page!

The book club allows students to expand the discussion regarding Halfling with fun and thought-provoking questions.  Also, they can engage with the author by using the contact form or comment section on the Book Club page. Check out the book club feature here.

About the Homeschool / Virtual School Curriculum

Coming soon will be a curriculum for home educated  / virtual schooled students. This will be a four to six -week literacy based guide to instruction with Halfling as the featured text.  Students will be able to delve in to the book, explore their own “dreams”, keep a journal and compare and contrast the themes of the book with current events.

Let the author know you are interested in the Homeschool Curriculum by filling out this contact form.  (And, ask in the comment section how you can get the book and curriculum for FREE – an offer that is time limited.)

Why Halfling is needed in OUR world

On a closing note,  as a School Psychologist I believe we need books like Halfling.  The character, Remmi, is likable but also a role model for tweens and teens.  She exemplifies what it is like to be a resilient child with a will to overcome all obstacles in her way – including evil and persecution.  I won’t give away the ending – but know that it is not predictable.

Halfling and the adventures of Remmi are easy on the budget. Kindle version is free for unlimited prime members, $2.99 for basic Kindle and $11.99 for paperback. All can be found here: AMAZON.

And, my hashtags for this book would be … #MustRead #FreshOriginalPremise

 

 

 

 

 

I am part of the social media team helping to promote this amazing author and Halfling. Trust me when I say it is my pleasure to represent such an amazing talent!

 

 

 

The Girls Q and A Book on Friendship – An interview with author, Annie Fox … complete with lessons for kids and adults alike!

 

The-Girls'-Q&A-Book-on-Friendship-092914-front-cover-800x1219Relationships between women fascinate me!  I have always been a “behavioral detective” – trying to unravel the mysteries of women interactions.  I have spent hours watching groups of women at events – such as PTA meetings, weddings or even my sorority get – togethers. I have had years of poolside experiences with kids and moms wondering why some women could be nice to a person one moment and then stab them with unkind words the moment they exited the group and their chaise lounge for their mini-van?

I have wondered how the adult women in our midst are teaching impressionable girls, including our daughters, about creating and maintaining healthy relationships with other females?  What makes women click as friends or just become a clique?

In an effort to continue my detective skills I ask my women readers to do the following:

1) Name a person who you met in elementary or middle school who has remained your friend in to your adult years?

2) Now think of a girl who seemed to always “have it out’ for you?

Why do you think one girl was and remained a “bestie” while the other was your “foe”?  Enter kid relationship expert and author, Annie Fox, who has always has been a promoter of teaching children about getting along with others. Her work on helping to end bullying in schools has been highly recognized nationwide. Her books have sold worldwide, including the MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL series.  In her most recent book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, Annie provides a format and forum to help girls learn how to be good friends to other girls -by reducing the drama, increasing the conversation in a healthy and respectful way, and promoting kindness and understanding. The scenarios she offers reflect “common day” life and the diversity of characters and situations was much appreciated by this reviewer.

Recently, I asked a series of questions to be answered by our spotlighted author – Annie Fox.  

Enjoy her wisdom and sense of humor!

Louise:  You are a huge supporter of preventative education when it comes to bullying- do you think we are making strides in reducing bullying in the schools? And are girls worse than boys with bullying? 

Annie: I’m grateful there seems to be a growing awareness in many school districts that peer harassment is a real issue capable of causing real (and often lasting) damage to the psyches of kids. I am also grateful there now exist excellent resources for schools to help educators incorporate character development and SEL (Social Emotional Learning) into their curriculum. I am also grateful for the educators who prioritize graduating students who are empathetic, compassionate, and social courageous. Are we making “strides” in reducing social aggression in schools? Yes, of course. Are those strides being made universally? No. Is the progress happening quickly enough? Hell no! There are still many schools where teachers bully students and where teachers turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to students’ making sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged comments to other students. There are still school administrators who shrug and tell distraught parents of targeted students, “Kids will be kids.” or “Teen girls are just mean. What are you going to do about it?” (Actual statements made by school administrators as reported to me by extremely frustrated parents.)  

Are girls “worse” than boys with bullying? I don’t believe so. Both girls and boys are afflicted by Peer Approval Addiction in equal measure. Both genders struggle to do the right thing while simultaneously feeling compelled to do whatever it takes to fit in… including stuff they aren’t particularly proud of. The difference, if it exists at all, may be in the methodology girls and boys use to “take down” peers, online and off. I will also say that the seeds of compassion and empathy are equally prevalent in boys and girls. So, even though I wrote this book for girls, both boys and girls need to understand that their choices matter… in peer relationships and in life.

Louise:  You included quite a bit of diversity  in your book (bravo).  I can’t help but think they are an amalgam of the girls who write to you via Hey Terra! Are they?  

Annie:  Glad you noticed the diversity in the illustrations, Louise! My illustrator, the insanely talented Erica De Chavez, and I worked really hard to make sure that any and every girl would be able to see herself and her peers in these drawings. While I can’t know who exactly is sending me Hey Terra! email, (which I’ve been answering since 1997) I think it’s a safe bet that the questions I answer daily come from a very diverse group of tweens and teens. The email comes in from all over the country and all over the world.

 Louise: Do you believe that girls make lifelong friends more than boys/men?

 Annie:  Conventional wisdom points us in the direction of assuming that the friendships of girls/women are deeper and longer lasting than those of boys/men. But I have no empirical data to prove it either way. I certainly know women and men who are still very close to their childhood friends. And I know people, (men and women) who are warm and friendly, with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence) who no longer have meaningful connections to friends from childhood, high school or college. That said, real friendships… ones in which we feel accepted, respected and appreciated, are very important to every person’s ongoing social and emotional development, self-esteem, and feelings of connection to community.

Louise: Can you share a funny experience in the writing of the book?  

Annie: Erica and I had a ton of fun working on the illustrations. We would laugh and recall middle and high school friendship dramas of our own… Just letting the creative juices flow. Especially when the question we were trying to illustrate was written in very descriptive language. For example, “My friend treats me like I’m invisible.” Many girls can relate to that feeling… So we wanted to really play it up, to intensify the feeling the reader would get… whether in her own life was feeling “invisible” or if she was the one treating a friend that way. We played around with the concept of invisibility and finally asked each other the question “What if the girl in the illustration is actually invisible?!”  The finished drawing ended up looking like this!

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 3.49.15 PM

 

Louise:   Three wishes for the book are now granted – what would they be? Annie: 

  • That every girl currently facing an uncomfortable peer relationship and wondering, “What should I do?” would find this book under her pillow tonight.
  1. This book gets used by parents, teachers, and counselors to help girls handle their friendship challenges in ways that make the girls feel good about who they are.
  2. This book helps girls teach other girls about how to be a Super Friend.

 

Note that The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship is now available on Amazon and highly recommended for both the girls (and boys) in your life and the adults that live, love and nurture them.  The price is easy on the pocket, too- under $5 for the KINDLE version. Help young girls find this superb book under their pillows! Thanks to Annie, my readers and girls who are great super friends everywhere!   ~ Louise

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
%d bloggers like this: