Monday, February 1, 2016

Something New Bookwise!

This week was a pretty relaxing week and the only thing I really did out of the ordinary was to attend a meeting at the Health department this past Friday. It was a meeting about what is allowed or not allowed at a Farmer's Market. It was a good meeting and I gained answers to some questions I had been pondering. I and some of my vendors need to tweak our baked good labels a little bit; but other then that, I think it is safe to say we are ODA compliant.



This week I also did something a little out of the ordinary literarily speaking. I started listening to an audio chapter book titled, The Map Trap. I am only on chapter seven of this fabulous book by Andrew Clements, but already I am riveted to the drama unfolding as the narrator expertly helps the pictures in my mind come to life. It is the story of boy named Alton who is obsessed with maps. His map obsession comes honestly and from before his birth when his parents chose his name from a location on a map. The story of his naming seemed to inspire his relatives to send him maps or map related gifts, thus promoting a love for maps and the different information maps could hold.

The Map Trap

As Alton grows, he not only continues to collect maps and wear map related clothing, he also starts to draw maps. Not ordinary maps. But maps like what he thinks the brain of his new teacher contains. When they disappear from Alton's cubby, he realizes that if they  fall into the wrong hands, people may not understand and feelings will be hurt. 

I can hardly wait for the next chapter to see how Alton goes about trying to recover his stolen maps, and I suggest you rush over to your local library and see if they have a copy you and your young readers can listen too. And if that isn't an option, I'm sure a hardback copy will have to suffice.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Busy, Birthdays, and Books

This past week found me very busy schooling, taking my mom to an eye appointment, and getting ready for not one, but two birthday parties. Why was I planning two birthday parties for my daughter you ask. Simply because circumstances dictated it. My daughter has a friend in the neighborhood whom she adores, but who is two years younger then all of her other friends. She also has two local friends who don't know any of her schools friends, and she has one school friend who eats gluten free. 
 
Are you following so far? Emily really wanted to have chocolate cake for her birthday, but that wouldn't work for the gluten free friend. She also didn't know how well her younger friend would get along with the large group of older girls, especially when she wouldn't know any of them and they would all know each other.

So, I hosted a small cozy birthday party on Friday for our neighbor and the other two local girls. We ordered pizza, had cake, had ice-cream, and had party punch. The girls all played, had a fabulous time, and we didn't have to worry about who could eat what. 







On Saturday we had the big, loud, and rambunctious party which included her cousin, the girls from her former class, and girls from her current home-school class. We played bingo and hot potato. We had an ice-cream sundae bar with tons of toppings including gluten free cookies. And, they played hide and seek all over the house.


Therefore, when I looked through my pile of books to decide what to review this week, I decided to read A Tale of Two Beasts in honor of two parties. This book wasn't quite what I expected, but it was a wonderful read. The authors premise is that every story has two sides, and then there is the truth. The book is actually split into two parts to go with this premise. The first half of the story is told from the point of view of a girl, and the second half is told from the point of view of a beast. Each has a different perspective which makes this book fun, entertaining, and perfect for discussion with children. It seems to only be available used on Amazon, but it is showing up on B&N although there is no cover photo. Either way, it is worth the search.

A Tale of Two Beasts


In addition to parties and  beasts, there was a whole lot of snow going on in parts of the country. I know many of my East coast friends were being hammered with the storm of the year. This prompted me to read a second book called Perfect Snow in honor of the situation. It is the story of two boys who are excited to see it has snowed out although not enough to cause school to be canceled. They eagerly await recess, but what they do with the snow is totally different. In the end, they combine their passions and create a frigid good time for all the children .

Perfect Snow


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Soup With Friends and James To The Rescue

This week was a typical Ohio week with the temps at 15 degrees one day and 40 the next. One of the cold days happened to be this past Tuesday which was our Cook Book Club day, and the theme was soup. I took Cheesy ham and potato soup and Emily took blueberry muffins. Nothing much else of interest went on except the day Emily asked me to make her a snack platter with cheese, crackers, fruit, and veggies. I must have been board because I even broke out the cookie cutter and got fancy with the cheese.


Even though this past week was just an ordinary week, sharing hot soup on a cold day with friends was fun. Just like reading James to the Rescue was fun. James to the Rescue by Elise Broach is a wonderful early chapter book about friends. It is about a family of beetles that reminded me of the borrowers. They spend their days collecting things from the home they share with a human family and avoiding the perils of the baby with the large spoon. But one day as Marvin beetle, his father, uncle, and cousin are on a routine collection mission, his uncle gets hurt. Marvin has become friends with the older son of the house, James; and is forced to seek out his help despite the reluctance of his other family  members.

James to the Rescue

James does indeed come to the rescue as the title implies but what Marvin does to repay his kindness is fun ans surprising and will not be told by me. After all, you don't want me to spoil the story do you? The only thing about this story that threw me for a few minutes was its use of present tense verbs. This is not a bad thing, just different from the past tense verb usage to which I am accustomed.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January Flurries

The past few months here in Ohio have been a little out of the ordinary. November and December usually find us knee deep in snow and cold, but this winter has been exceptionally warm. January, however, is about to bring us some cold weather and flurries, so I am  breaking out the woolly socks. January also brings a flurry of activity since we have lots of family birthdays including my daughter Emily's. Through the years I have hosted themed birthday parties for her as well as having made a parcel of fun cakes. January, it turns out is also a great time to take a trip down memory lane.

For her first birthday I used a picture from a coloring book to copy for the cake.


Then There was the Dora The Explorer year where I glued wiggly eyes on star candles I found and used a little cut out of Dora that came off of something we must have purchased Emily.


The Strawberry Shortcake year. Where as you can see my cake is a little lopsided because my writing skills are much better then my cake cutting skills.



The Jungle Theme which turned out to be my most ambitious year. The hubby brought me home lots of large cardboard and paper from work and I transformed out living room into the jungle/savanna. It's amazing what you can do with a little paint, paper, and cardboard. I hid fake diamond rings in the diamond mine and I gave the kids flashlights to find them. They also had to dig for crocodiles in the stream at the bottom of the waterfall. And of course we can forget the little red bean bags I made to feed the lion.















Next came the Barbie year followed by the spring themed year where I again made use of cardboard and paint.





The dog year was more fun with cardboard. Now that I look back, I think I have a thing for using cardboard.





And then there was the beach party year. 




Birthday number nine was a Lisa Frank Birthday, and by birthday number nine I was starting to get a little tired and I__ dare I say it? I purchase cupcakes.













Last year we didn't have a party because Bobby had to travel to Japan for work. Instead, Emily and I had a birthday celebration at her favorite restaurant, The Olive Garden. 


So many great birthday celebrations, but I'm not sure how ambitious I will be this year. Time will tell.

January also brought me a new book to review called Little Miss Grubby Toes Steps On A Bee. I received a copy of this book for my honest and unbiased review, and I had mixed feelings about it. I love the illustrations by Mark Wayne Adams who happens to be one of my favorite illustrators, I love the concept of letting children know that parents make rules to keep their children safe and not to spoil their fun, and I love the character who has been nick-named by her father. But what I'm not sure about is the way the author "breaks the fourth wall". I have always been told by my editors that breaking the fourth wall (otherwise known as speaking directly to the reader or audience) is to be avoided. Not everyone in the industry shares this opinion, so I guess it boils down to how well it is done and if the reader thinks the story flows smoothly or not. For me personally, when the author asked the reader things like do we think Little Miss Grubby Toes should take her shoes off when her feet are hot, seems pushy. Messages in children's books are wonderful, but they should be subtle allowing the child reading to think about what is going on in the story and to form an opinion.

Little Miss Grubby Toes


Despite the breaking of the fourth wall, I was happy to see the author generate excitement at the end of the story where he gives a clue about Little Miss Grubby Toes' real name which is never mentioned in the book. How he leaves the reader with one letter of the name and promises a new clue and new letter in each forthcoming book in the series is brilliant marketing and gives the reader something to look forward to.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Be a Literacy Cheerleader.

Mere days into the new year and I have already accomplished quite a bit. I have put away all the Christmas decoration and trees (although I left up the snowmen for winter), I have purchased lots of clearance Christmas wrapping paper and bows, and I have done the laundry, entered all my tax information into my spreadsheets, and I have started reading a collection of devotions that I promised to review.

Snowman

I have also renewed my commitment to being a cheerleader for fellow authors and illustrators. Last year on Twitter, I started using the hash tag #WhoAreYouCheeringFor along with a picture snagged from Amazon and the twitter handle of an author or illustrator I was following. The idea was that if authors, illustrators, and kidlit enthusiasts all started doing the same, it would encourage literary artists and expand the range of who sees and hears about their great books.

Not that many people joined me in my endeavor, and I became lax in keeping it up myself; but I am going to give it another go in this fresh new year. I would also like to encourage you all to do the same. It only takes a few minutes to save a picture from Amazon to your computer and then add it to Twitter and an additional few minutes to type your tweet including the above mentioned hashtag. Five or ten minutes of your time, and yet it means the world to an author or illustrator. So please join me in being a Literacy Cheerleader and enjoy these authors who were my first three #WhoAreYouFollowing recipients of 2016!


Paul Czjak

Paul Czjak


Ben Woodard

Ben Woodard


Melinda Kinsman

Melinda Kinsman

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Year End Recap And My Favorite Books of 2015

All of our Christmas celebrations our now over and the year is quickly coming to a close. And of course, that causes reflection of the past year, a reliving of the special moments that made 2015 great. Like the really cool center piece I made for the Falmin' Hot Breakfast.



Or spending the afternoon with the kids in the After School Program in the town where I grew up which was sadly the last time as the program is now shut down.



Hanging out at author fairs and laughing it up on air.




Camping with my family.











 

Having fun at the fair.







Running the Shelby Farm Market and attending Cook Book Club with Emily.





Day trips with the family.






 






Road trippin' with my girl and hangin' with my story sister.





Christmas performances, homemade gifts, cookies, and balloon fun.




 







So many good memories and so many great books as well. And without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2015 in no particular order.
  






























And my all time favorite, number one, brilliant, most incredible, the author was a genious book of the year? Drum roll if you please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 


Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Join me in the New Year for another exciting episode, same crazy time, same crazy channel. And feel free to drop by my personal website, Fun With Aileen, any day of the week for even more on reading, writing, my very own early grade chapter book, Fern Valley, the sequels, Return To Fern Valley,  and Cooking In Fern Valley, along with my very first picture book, Quack and Daisy! I'm also on twitter @AileenWStewart if you want an extremely brief glimpse into my days.