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Category: children (Page 1 of 4)

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Rebecca Undem

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is Rebecca Undem’s touching memoir about her departure from and eventual return to her rural upbringing. Raised in Oakes, North Dakota, Rebecca cherished growing up in the country with her loving family. However, she yearned for a more exciting life in the city. After a series of corporate jobs in big cities, though, Rebecca began to feel like her heart wasn’t really in it. She and her husband, Jeremiah, returned to Oakes to help her parents with the family business. Once there, she struggled to balance her desire for a successful career, her familial role as a farmer’s wife, and her new, most important job as a mother to their three young children. A long, zig-zagged road of trial and error later, Rebecca found herself and her calling in the one place she least expected to do so: her own hometown.

How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a true gem in a dozen different ways. The most significant is that it is so easy to relate to; at times, it feels so very personal. Although it is a memoir of her own life, Rebecca Undem’s trials and triumphs are ones that we all, as human beings, have faced at one point or another. She is all of us, in that she is a determined woman who is just trying to do the right thing for herself and her family. Her words are poignant, yet casual; witty, yet friendly; humorous, yet so strikingly hard-hitting. It is sometimes difficult to become so wholly invested in the life of another, but Rebecca Undem achieves that captivation immediately and maintains it until her last page.

This book is anything but just a memoir. How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is an epic adventure, full of love, sadness, faith, and above all, life. Also, perhaps without intention, it is brimming with friendly advice and confident support. All in one short book, How Mommy Got Her Groove Back is a shoulder to lean on, a picture of nostalgic love, and a beacon of light to lead its readers to their own callings, serving to cement Rebecca Undem as a forever “Nestie” for all of us.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Shame Proof Parenting – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mercedes Samudio

Mercedes Samudio’s Shame-Proof Parenting is a helpful guide to aiding parents in becoming the best parents they can be. Through sharing her own childhood experiences and her experience as a family counselor, Samudio provides valuable insight on overcoming the crushing weight of shame and societal criticisms about parenting. By utilizing reflective parenting methods and acknowledging the various sources of the shame inflicted upon parents, Samudio argues that parents will then be able to better communicate and grow with their children. Above all, she hopes to help parents feel empowered and confident in their ability to “raise whole, healthy children.”

Shame-Proof Parenting is not an omniscient, one-answer-solves-all book; rather, Samudio acknowledges all different sorts of family structures and parenting styles, and the fact that there is no truly “perfect” way to be a parent. Her approach is wise and supportive, simultaneously letting parents know that it’s okay to not be perfect and that they’re not alone in their daily stresses and worries. Her advice is vague enough to be relatable to anyone, while still feeling overwhelmingly personal; oftentimes, reading Shame-Proof Parenting felt like Samudio was speaking directly to me, like she understood. And, of course, she does.

Especially reading this as a parent, Shame-Proof Parenting was a refreshing and incredibly kind approach to a parenting book. Mercedes Samudio removes all guilt or blame from her narrative, and never pretends to be a magical genie who can solve every parent’s problems with an on-trend, bottom-line solution. Her guidance can be summed up as, “Hey, I get it. Let’s try this instead.” That gentle support is a welcome embrace for struggling parents; in that regard, no matter what their struggles may be, Shame-Proof Parenting is a must-read for all parents. Ditch all the other so-called parenting books; this is the one that will really help you.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Happy! And Other Feelings – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jeff Whitcher

A wonderfully themed collection of poems for children, by Jeff Whitcher, Happy! And Other Feelings was a joy to read. The poems in this book are based on dozens of different emotions. They range from the basic emotions of feeling happy or feeling sad to feeling safe, ignored, overwhelmed or even adventurous. Jeff Whitcher does an excellent job painting a colorful picture of each of these emotions from a child viewpoint. He also includes a number of basic, but impactful handdrawn images as well. With rhyme and flow, these poems can help children realize they are not alone when they encounter one or more of these emotions.

Without question Happy! And Other Feelings: Poems and drawings by Jeff Whitcher would be a great addition to any child’s home library. This book would also make a great addition in educational settings as teachers could use some of the poems to help students talk about different emotions or behaviors -of their own, of classmates or those surrounding current events. Likely my favorite was “Empathy”. It is short, but it clearly expresses the concept that we’re all alike in some way, that we’ve all had similar emotions and experiences now and again. Furthermore, it expresses the importance of just being with another instead of leaving them suffer (or celebrate) alone. I highly recommend parents, teachers, librarians, homeschool parents, etc. pick up a copy of Happy! And Other Feelings to help the youth in their charge to better understand and embrace the various feelings we all experience as human beings.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Where Shall We Go? – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

Vera Harris

Where Shall We Go? is a children’s story about going on vacation. Author Vera Harris compiled a cute little tale about a young girl, Josie, and her mother as they tried to decide where to spend their vacation. With adorable illustrations by Fanny Liem, Where Shall We Go? is likely to draw attention to parents’ eyes as well as their young children’s. The cover clearly depicts what the core of the story is all about. The little girl, Josie can’t decide what she wants to do on her vacation, and her mother is allowing Josie to have a big say in where they will go as a family. This sets a great example for parents, but it also sets a good example for children because Josie’s mother only lets her pick one place for their upcoming vacation time. Therefore, the author has Josie go through different possibilities for each vacation option before choosing. In the end, she comes up with the perfect solution for their summer family vacation.

The illustrations in Where Shall We Go? are fabulous and offer a tremendous amount of potential for the book. The story concept proposed by Vera Harris has a lot of promise as well. Unfortunately, there is an exceptional lack of grammatical skill and punctuational skill within such a simple book. An error can happen, but it is quite evident that Where Shall We Go? has not been edited by an editor with basic writing knowledge. This was a great disappointment. There are some other concerns in regards to development throughout the story as well. For example, Josie’s mother says they’ll make the decision together, but later Josie decides to just put all three options in a bag and randomly draw one out. With such a wonderful chance to have created an adorable story, Vera Harris needs to turn the copy over to a quality editor before releasing Where Shall We Go? to the world. If that is done, then Where Shall We Go? has the potential to go a lot of wonderful places.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Florenza Lee

The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog: A Children’s Book on Mindfulness, written by Florenza Lee, is quite similar in style to Wayner Dyer’s children’s books and Byron Katie’s children’s books. Oftentimes, children’s personal struggles are overlooked by adults or the children are told to turn off their emotions. But Florenza Lee offers a beautifully illustrated tale about a little puppy, Max, who had a tendency to run in circles chasing a tail he simply couldn’t catch. While some of the puppy’s friends turned away from him, one of them came to his rescue and taught him how to practice mindfulness using his breath. This changed Max’s life.

The issue that Max faced believing his tail hurt him all the time and was the cause of his problems ran throughout The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog. Florenza Lee did a good job offering parents or other adults reading to children a chance to connect personal issues to tail chasing. The concept is a deep one and often a confusing one, but if parents, teachers, therapists, counselors, or other adult helpers use the analogy of tail chasing along with reading The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog aloud with the youngsters they are guiding, they will find it much easier to help those in their care. Beyond the powerful message within, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is filled with illustrations by Michelle Wynn that convey the emotions and the messages clearly page after page. Florenza Lee’s children’s book, The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog is a must for every child’s bookshelf.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Bumbling Bea – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Deborah Baldwin

In Deborah Baldwin’s Bumbling Bea, Beatrice is an eighth-grade student who is excited to audition for the lead role in her school’s annual play, “John Smith and Pocahontas.” However, the new student, a girl from Japan named Michiko, lands the coveted role of Pocahontas, leaving Beatrice fuming. That’s when “Bumbling Bea,” her alter ego that makes her say and do mean things that she wouldn’t ordinarily do, appears. Beatrice and Michiko struggle to get along and settle their differences – especially when “Bumbling Bea” comes out to play.

Frankly, a lot of Beatrice’s behavior in Bumbling Bea is downright cringe-worthy, particularly when it comes to her brazen comments about Michiko and her Japanese heritage. There were many times where she toed the line between nervous babbling and unacceptable bullying, which was seldom addressed. That may not be the best way for the protagonist in a children’s novel to behave. Also, there were a few important themes that, although they could have been used to teach young readers valuable lessons, were barely touched upon in passing; these included divorce/parental separation, racism, and death. In some ways, not discussing these topics in more depth seemed a lot like Deborah Baldwin dropped the ball.

However, there are several aspects of Bumbling Bea that are wonderfully executed. One of these is the detailed introduction to theater that Deborah Baldwin provides for young readers. It serves nicely in giving children a new means of expressing themselves, one that is seldom focused on in children’s literature. Also, Bumbling Bea is a good tool to use to start a discussion with children about how their words have an impact on others. Bumbling Bea is off to a good start; however, if there are future sequels, perhaps Beatrice’s attitude should be readdressed.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Kingdom of Oceana – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mitchell Charles

The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles is an enchanting story that transports its readers to a mythological age of Hawaii. The story follows Price Ailani as he sets out on a quest to save his island from an evil curse. There are adventurous sea quests, magical shape shifters, family infighting and a blossoming young love.

Charles is a talented writer, and his simple yet descriptive style brings to life the world of sea creatures and magic. The mythology is well researched, and the inclusion of Hawaiian words brings a sense of realism to a story steeped in mysticism. The Kingdom of Oceana is well paced, and readers will be quickly drawn into the action and the development of Ailani, his relationship with his ill-fated brother Nahoa, as well as the over-arching plot.

The story flows like ancient story-telling, and this quality makes it special in modern literature. The shape-shifting magician and dark magic are coupled with landscapes that bring the real Hawaii to life. The success of this story stands comparable to the recent Disney hit Moana, and there is no doubt that Charles has created a spectacular hit with this story.

The one minor let down of the novel is the cover because the artwork seems clichéd for a book set in a tropical location. While the tiki head (depicted on the cover) holds significance in the story, the overall power of the book is lost with the stereotypical cover.

That being said, The Kingdom of Oceana is a timeless story that readers of all ages will enjoy. It is easy enough for young readers to read and holds enough literary power for any adult to appreciate. There is an enduring wonder to The Kingdom of Oceana and being the first in a series, there is no doubt that what comes next will be just as imaginative.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Jorie and the Magic Stones – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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A. H. Richardson

In A. H. Richardson’s Jorie and the Magic Stones, Marjorie Weaver, who prefers to be called Jorie, is a spunky almost-nine-year-old with a personality as bright as her long red hair. After going to live with her aunt in the intimidating Mortimer Manor, Jorie discovers a mysterious book about dragons under the floorboards of her room. Soon after, she finds herself magically transported to the mystical land of Cabrynthius. There, Jorie discovers that she is the prophesied “Child with the Hair of Fire,” who must locate the three Stones of Maalog and return them to the great dragon, Grootmonya. She returns with her friend, Rufus, and the two children then embark on an imaginative adventure, full of dragons, magic, and peril around every corner.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a wonderfully creative chapter book for children, similar to classics like The Chronicles of Narnia in depth and content. It’s full of complex magic and an alternate world detailed enough to satisfy adult readers, while narrated by the innocent, age-appropriate voice of a child. While Jorie and the Magic Stones does contain themes of darkness and/or evil, it never feels too scary. Rather, it promotes kindness, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance in a manner that is both straightforward and thought-provoking.

A. H. Richardson’s descriptive writing style and pure creativity made Jorie and the Magic Stones a pure joy to read. It’s exciting and immersive, and chock full of humor, adventure, and magic that will thrill readers of all ages. Although it is meant to be a children’s book, Jorie and the Magic Stones is the type of exhilarating fantasy book that the whole family will enjoy.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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There’s a Goat in My Oatmeal – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jeff Whitcher

A classic perspective on humorous children’s poetry, There’s a Goat In My Oatmeal: Poems and Drawings by Jeff Whitcher is quite delightful.  Throughout the book, readers will discover whimsical concepts interwoven throughout the poetry.  More often than not, the author writes with a rhyming cadence.  However, the reader will encounter a few oddities tossed in along the way.  Those ”interesting facts” pop up only a time or two, but they seem somewhat out of context and break the flow of the rest of the book.  That shouldn’t deter potential readers though.  If those feel incongruent with the rest of the book, just skip over them.  Beyond the comical approach to the poetry, author Jeff Whitcher has also included a number of entertaining sketches that will grab the reader’s attention and bring a smile to his or her lips.

Some of the poetry seems to come from the view of a child whereas other poems seem to come from the view of a parent.  That can be a bit confusing initially, but many of them will still bring a giggle bubbling to the surface.  There’s a Goat in My Oatmeal as a whole and the poem with the same title as the book’s title are great to read to one’s children outloud, and they are great poems for younger readers to explore on their own.  Witcher looks at things and events through a very interesting lens.  For example, he writes about “The Old Woman and the Shoe”, and yes, she is the old woman from the traditional nursery rhyme, but reading about her from Witcher’s view is very cute and as mentioned above will likely bring a smile and giggle if not a full belly laugh from young readers.  There’s a Goat in My Oatmeal would make a nice addition to one’s family library as well as local libraries’ children’s sections.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Difference Between Middle-Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult Books – Guest Post

Difference between middle-grade, young adult, new adult and adult books

guest-post

Guest Blogger: Chris Weigand

I recently gave a presentation at an online conference about the differences between middle-grade, young adult, new adult and adult books.  After doing my research and sharing the information at the conference I realized that the information was probably something that could be shared with a wider audience. I know I usually take this space to share something of the characters in my books and this won’t be completely different, because I will explore each of my books in the examples. So on to the differences.

Defining the different categories by age groups

Middle-age (also known as middle grade): 8-12 year olds

Young Adult: 12-16 year olds 

New Adult: 16 and beyond.

Adult: 18 and beyond

These age groups are more guidelines than set in stone rules. Also you will note that middle-age or middle grade is not middle schoolers. While this category includes low end middle schoolers it also includes high end elementary school.  And the young adult category can include high end middle school (junior high) as well as high school. I also feel that the YA category can be bumped up to eighteen years old, but once the characters is out of high school and heading to college or independent living they definitely fall into the new adult category. 

Expand the definitions with word counts

Middle-Age: 20-55,000

Young Adult: 55-80,000

New Adult: 70-90,000

Adult: 70-110,000

One thing to note about these word counts is that some genres like science fiction/ fantasy tend to defy these rules and have higher word counts, because the author is creating a world instead of using the known world.

Differences in writing

Now you can see the older the reader the longer the word count, but it still doesn’t tell us what the differences are in the actual writing of the category. So I will go on to supply a more fleshed out definition. I have learned in making the transition from YA to MG, writing for each category is different. Each has its own nuances that can be overcome, but not without some learning curve.

Middle-grade: 

  • the story features pre-teen and teen characters, 10-13 year olds
  •  is often told in third person. 
  • usually a single inciting event
  • no profanity, graphic violence or sexuality (May include romance, crush or first kiss)
  • readers and characters are focused on friends and family 
  • outwardly focused on the character’s immediate world
  • characters react to what happens to them with minimal self-reflection
  • material can’t be too mature
  • generally end on a hopeful note 

Middle grade: Sir E. Robert Smythe and the School Bully:

  • characters are 12 and 13 years old
  • Paul and Nate are bullied by Billy
  • Paul reacts by disobeying his superiors and striking out on his own to learn about Billy
  • Lives with parents
  • reacts without thinking about consequences or how others will be affected
  • story ends with Billy and Paul resolving their differences
  • fantastical creatures can serve as alternatives or helpers in conjunction with parents 

Young Adult: 

  • stories feature 14-18 year olds not yet in college
  • often told in first person
  • presence/absence of parents add a wrinkle in characters story arc
  • like real teens- emotionally volatile wanting independence but needing parental guidance
  • more easily tempted by the present while developing a more mature long range view
  • profanity, graphic violence, romance and sexuality allowable
  • discovering how they fit in the world beyond friends and family
  • more reflective and analyzing the meanings, more inwardly focused
  • endings can be less optimistic
  • romance often an element
  • the world can be weird and scary, complex place
  • complexity in text and theme 

Young Adult: Palace of the Twelve Pillars

  • Brandan and Joachim 15 years old
  • parental influence limited, still living with family at beginning of book
  • both struggle with independence: forced on Joachim, Brandan strives to find it without parental 

   Interference

  • Both are tempted and led by the situations they find themselves in; Joachim would rather things stayed the way they are, Brandan wants to rush into the future with no regard for the past
  • Both have definite ideas about their faith and their decisions show what their beliefs are
  • know what is right and wrong
  • focus inward to make choices based on what they have learned
  • at the conclusion the future is not so bright or clear 

New Adult: 

  • stories feature 18-25 year olds in the real world or college
  • story lines include being on your own, college, jobs, dating, figuring out how to adult
  • can steam up the pages, no limit on sex, foul language
  • characters are independent, facing adult responsibilities
  • physical and emotional focus in intimate scenes 

New Adult: Palace of the Three Crosses

  • Brandan and Joachim are in their late teens 
  • They are living independently of their families and figuring out how to be kings and husbands
  • Each will marry; there is some courting and the loss of a child and later the birth of a child
  • there is consideration of the world beyond their own as they learn how to be husbands and kings 

Adult:

  • implies more about the characters thoughts and reactions
  • adult characters interact with other adults
  • little difference between NA and adult that I could find

Adult: Sanctuary of Nine Dragons

  • Brandan and Joachim are in their 20’s
  • Their interactions are with other adults
  • Brandan and Joachim’s faith is tested as each confronts their beliefs
  • They face adult situations like marriage and parenting 

 

Some authors like Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Veronica Roth have novels spanning more than one category. For instance, I would have thought Rick Riordan’s books were YA and yet they are read by Middle-graders, New Adults and Adult. Even the Palace of the Twelve Pillars series that I wrote, I would have never said I was writing that it was Middle grade, yet I know middle graders that have read it. I thought it was YA and even possibly New Adult, although at the time of publication NA was just coming on the scene.

Anyway I guess the point here is; yes there are guidelines and it would behoove a writer to explore and learn where hers/his story fits. That being said I would only worry about the category after the book is written. The one thing I haven’t talked about is your personal preference. Each category has its own unique set of parameters and while there is a little fluidity between the categories you must remember that just because you can write one transitioning to another may not be as easy as it sounds. I remember thinking when I took on the Middle grade project; how hard can this be? What I discovered is that those differences I mentioned before can be challenging. Younger or older audiences have different needs, different levels of comprehension and just because they are only a few years apart the writer really needs to consider those parameters when making the shift. The results can be rewarding when you find your niche. Just make sure to follow the guidelines while following your heart.


Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of four and Nana to three. Through her writing she strives to share God and help people realize His love and mercy.

www.weigandchris.com

Nathan and Paul have a bully problem. Billy, the school bully, has chosen them to be the target of his aggression. Paul, along with Sir E. Robert Smythe of the Galactic Safety Council, discovers the root of Billy’s issues and strives to convince the bully to change his ways.

When Billy runs away from home, Paul goes after him. Billy’s dad, the cause of Billy’s anger, finds the boys and threatens them. They are rescued but not before each are injured and Billy’s dad escapes.

During their recovery they learn more about each other and face Billy’s dad once again. Can they overcome their differences and confront the bullying going on in their school before someone gets seriously hurt?  Click here for your copy.


*Guest posts are NOT edited by ATAI.

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