Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book Review: Princess Caitlin's Tiara, by Kim Messinger and Michael LaLumiere

Princess Caitlin’s Tiara
By Kim Messenger and Michael LaLumiere
Illustrated by Ginger Nielson
Stagger Lee Books
ISBN: 978-0-9791006-0-4
Copyright 2006
Hardcover, 32 pages, $14.95
Ages 4-8

What is it about little girls, princesses, and tiaras? From the writing team of Kim Messinger and Michael LaLumiere comes another enjoyable story for kids, though this time the tale is geared towards little female readers and book lovers.

Little Caitlin is in a rotten mood — a really “big old funk. A humongous funk. A funk that could eat Chicago.”

To lighten Caitlin’s spirits, her mom comes up with an idea. She tells Caitlin how when she was little she had something that always made her feel like a princess, a special thing that made her feel “funk-proof” — a beautiful princess tiara! But after trying on her mom’s tiara, Caitlin realizes it is too big for her; thus she sets to the task of making her own using cardboard, scissors, a stapler, and shiny silver foil. Then, with her brand-new, glittery tiara on her head, her imaginary adventures begin. Snowboarding at the South Pole with penguins, diving deep in the ocean with mermaids, riding in style in a big pink limousine, flying amidst the clouds in her pilot uniform — the fun never ends! Princess Caitlin’s Tiara is a delightful picture book that will delight young girls ages 4-8. I found it has a lot of text for a picture book, making it an early reader for young book lovers as well. The colorful illustrations are evocative and whimsical and possess a dream-like quality that suits the plot well.

This is a book that touches the ‘little girl’ in all of us. This is a fun story for bedtime reading, or one a mother may read to her child anytime for mother-daughter bonding.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Problems building up your plot? Try this!

Hi all,

I blogger friend from Live Journal ( directed me to this post. I found the exercise very helpful and will definitely try it later this weekend when I work on the plot of my novel. It couldn't have come at a better time, as I'm working on a proposal that includes a detailed outline.

The title of the post is: An Exercise in Plotting: The Seven Sentence Story

Hope you find it helpful as well!


Friday, October 26, 2007

The Origins of Halloween

Halloween is not only a colourful night of fun, frights, sweets and costumes. It is a full-blown industry, with more than $14 billion spent each year on costumes, decorations, party supplies, candy and other paraphernalia.

How did it all get started?

The origins of Halloween are quite dark, and go all the way back to 2,000 years ago, to the Celtic Celebration of the Dead, or Samhain (Sah-ween), in what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France. The Celtic Festival took place each year on the eve of November first, which marked the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of their New Year and winter, a time associated with cold and death. Samhain festivities lasted for a couple of days, until about November 2nd.

The Celts believed that on October 31st, the last day of summer and New Year’s Eve, the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and thin, and spirits, both good and evil, roamed about on the streets and countryside and did as they wished. The Celts were especially frightened by the prospect of these evil souls harming the crops.

On this night, Celtic priests called Druids dressed in animal masks and skins and performed sacrifices to placate the gods and “ward off” spirits. Bonfires represented the sun, the power to fight dark forces. The Druids lit huge bonfires and burned animals, crops, and sometimes even humans. In fact, the word “bonfire” comes from “bonefire,” literally! (It’s interesting to note that the practice of burning humans continued as late as the 1600s).

Besides the Druids, people also performed their little “rituals.” To ward off spirits, they carved turnips and lit them with embers. To “fool” them, they wore animal masks or scary disguises. To placate them, they left fruits and nuts at their doorstep as a gift or offering, thus preventing future bad crops. This is the origin of “Trick or Treat.”

Around the 7th Century the Celebration of the Dead spread to Europe, but it became known as “All Hollows Eve,” or “Night of the Dead.” In parts of Britain and Ireland it also became known as “Mischief Night.”

Around the 800s the Christians moved to the Celtic lands and tried to eradicate all pagan beliefs and celebrations. In an attempt to placate the Celts, Pope Boniface IV designated November first as All Saints Day as an attempt to replace the pagan “All Hollows Eve.” Thus he “transformed” the Celebration of the Dead into a Christian holy day.

It is believed that later the Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips to America. However, they soon found out that there weren’t as many turnips there, and that pumpkins were a lot bigger and better to carve scary faces on.

Eventually “All Hollows Eve” came to be known as Halloween.

The traditional Halloween symbols we know today, like witches, black cats, ghosts, pumpkins and candles appeared in the US around the 1800s. Entrepreneur minds no doubt realized the marketing potential. The whole concept of Halloween gradually became commercialized.

Today, in spite of its dark origins and although some religious people consider it an “evil” festival, Halloween is mostly regarded as a spooky yet harmless, fun, family celebration.

©2005, 2007. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This column may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Have you signed up for Nanowrimo yet?

The National Novel Writing Month--or Nanowrimo--is a thrilling, exciting experience where you get to write a complete novel in exactly 30 days! It starts on November 1st and ends on November 30th.

Last year close to 70,000 people from around the world joined--I among them. If I remember it correctly, less than 10,000 actually managed to finish the 50,000-word goal.

Get all the details at the official site:

I wrote my tween novel, The Luthier's Apprentice, on the same marathon two years ago. The manuscript is in the hands of an agent at the moment. I've been editing/polishing it on and off for one and a half years! Yes, writing it on nanowrimo can be quicly, but then comes the EDITING....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Book Review: Little Skink's Tail, by Janet Halfmann

Little Skink’s Tail
By Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein
Sylvian Dell Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9768823-8-1
Copyright 2007
Hardcover, 32 pages, $15.95
Ages 4-8

One day Little Skink, a blue-tailed young lizard, is basking on a big rock in the morning sun. Leaping to the floor, she begins to gobble up her breakfast, which consists of yummy-smelling ants, when suddenly a big crow appears and attacks. Luckily, Little Skink manages to escape. There’s only one problem: her tail is gone! Where did her bright blue tail go? Did the crow snap it off? What will Little Skink do now, without her wiggling, waggling tail?

She’s happy to be alive, but sad at having lost her tail. She can’t get her lost tail off her mind, so she begins to imagine how she would look with other animals’ tails. How would she look with a rabbit’s tail?
No, too ‘puffy-fluffy’. What about with a porcupine’s? No, too ‘sticky-prickly.’ And so on and so forth with the different forest creatures. Will Little Skink’s tail ever grow back?

This is a colorful, engaging, beautifully illustrated book that teaches children about animals and their tails. At the end of the book there are activities for ‘Creative Minds’—a footprint map and a game for matching different types of tails with their corresponding animals.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Self-Editing Your Novel


An agent directed me to this link, which is full of marvelous tips and techniques to revise your novel.

The title is: The Art of Detection: One Editor's Techniques for Analyzing and Revising Your Novel. This is actually a speech Cheryl Klein, Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, made for the Michigan SCBWI conference on October 2007.

I'll be using these techniques to revise my tween fantasy/mystery novel, The Luthier's Apprentice.

Happy revising!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: Meerkats Don't Fly, by Mark Miller

Meerkats Don’t Fly
By Mark Miller
Illustrated by Cathy Butterfield
Good Turn Publishing
ISBN: 9780979439308
Copyright 2007
Ages 4-8

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Meerkats Don't Fly is an adorable picture book! The story is sweet, humorous and engaging and the illustrations, done in color pencils, are beautiful.

Little Meerkat Benny is obsessed with the idea of flying, possibly because the first thing he saw from his hole in the ground after he was born was a bird in the sky. The other meerkats constantly remind him that ha can't fly, that it's against the nature of meekats to do so. But Benny has a dream, and none or nobody can get that dream out of his mind. He's going to find a way to fly, no matter what it takes. He comes up with various ideas that don't work, some even dangerous, but he must follow his dream. At the end, he comes up with an ingenious idea... but will it work and will he be able to run free from the dangerous eagle?

This is a story that both teaches and entertains. The dialogue is smart and funny, the story suspenseful as we wonder what will happen with the dangerous eagle, and the illustrations are cute and evoking. This is a winner that will be enjoyed by all young children ages 4--8.

*Originally published on Armchair Interviews

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Interview with Virginia S. Grenier, Children's Author and Editor of Stories for Children Magazine

Stories for Children Magazine is a free online publication for children and children's authors and illustrators alike. I recently had the chance to chat with its editor, Virginia S. Grenier. Virginia talks about her magazine, its guidelines, and about the process of starting your own ezine, among other things.

How and when did Stories for Children Magazine get started?

I started Stories for Children Magazine after being published in a few children’s Ezines. I really liked what they were trying to do and felt I could bring something different to the table with my own Ezine. My first goal: to develop a FREE children’s Ezine for elementary aged children. The second goal: To publish youth authors (ages 17 and under.) There aren’t a lot of print or on-line magazines out there publishing authors under the age of 18. I wanted Stories for Children Magazine not only to be read by children, but to be written by children authors along with new and established children’s writers and illustrators. So far we have met my goals. Stories for Children Magazine is FREE for its readers and we have at least one writer, 17 years old or younger, in each issue. Stories for Children Magazine’s debut issue released on April 1, 2007. We’re on our sixth issue this September.

What inspired you to begin such a project?

Mostly, because I love children, writing, and marketing. I use to be a buyer in ladies and junior fashion before I started writing. And really the writing just sort of happened. I retired from fashion to be home for my children. But I wanted something to do when my son was in school and my daughter took her naps. I came across the Institute of Children’s Literature and from there fell into writing and starting Stories for Children Magazine. I love sharing what I write and helping new writers young and old getting published. And what better way to do that, but with my own Ezine.

What type of stories do you publish?

Stories for Children Magazine publishes any genre of children’s fiction as long as it’s written for our audience, ages 3 to 12 years old. We publish four stories in each issues age group: Read Aloud (ages 3-6), Early Readers (7-9), and Middle Readers (10-12). We also publish three non-fiction pieces in each group along with poems, crafts, puzzles, and games.

Who is your audience?

Stories for Children Magazine is for kids ages 3 to 12 years old, but don’t let that stop you from reading our Ezine. We have teachers, writers, illustrators, and parents reading Stories for Children Magazine each month, too. Just recently a teacher from Henrico County, VA contacted me about using multiple stories and articles in preparation for the state’s reading and comprehension test. I’ve also received emails form two children’s actors. One is on the T.V. show Jericho and the other is the Disney Channel.

Are you open for submissions at the moment?

We did close our door to submissions this summer, but are open once again September 1, 2007.

What are your guidelines?

Our guidelines are like most publishers who are serious about the type of writing they want to see for their publications. The basics always apply at on-line or print publications, but here is quick break down of what we look for:
Stories for Children Magazine publishes short stories, articles, poems, coloring pages, word and picture puzzles, book reviews, arts & crafts, and interviews with Children's Book Authors and/or Illustrators for children ages 3 to 12 years old. Stories for Children Magazine will publish reprints with the information as to where it was published prior to our magazine. Content should be age appropriate. We encourage you to study back issues for content and style. When writing non-fiction, please use primary sources with up-to-date information. We also like to see engaging articles that read more like a story or have a WOW factor. Kids read enough book reports and text books at school. We want to be fun and lively when sharing information. Stories for Children Magazine ISN’T a themed magazine, but there are holidays and subjects that we would love to cover in each monthly issue along with the creative, adventurous, and thought provoking stories and articles.
STORY CATEGORIES: READ ALOUD STORIES (ages 3-6): Rebus, easy-to-read stories, humorous tales, fantasy, fables, and myths. EARLY READERS (ages 7-9): Realistic fiction, humorous tales, satire, fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, fables, light scary stories, mysteries and myths. MIDDLE READERS (ages 10-12): Realistic fiction, humorous tales, satire, fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, fables, scary stories, mysteries and myths.
NONFICTION CATEGORIES: nature, animals, science, technology, environment, foreign culture, history, and biographies. Please make sure the information is appropriate for the right age group.
Discovery (ages 3-6): Learning about the world around them.
HOW AND WHY (ages 7-9): Wants to understand the how and why of things.
TELL ME MORE (ages 10-12): Has a basic knowledge of how things work. This age group wants to dig deeper to really understand their world.A short bibliography is required for all nonfiction articles.
LENGTH FOR ALL STORIES AND ARTICLES: 3 to 6 year olds: 150 to 400 words 7 to 9 year olds: 400-800 words 10 to 12 year olds: 500-1200 words Poems: 2 pieces per submission, 100 words max per poem. Puzzles/Arts & Crafts/Games: 1 page Book reviews-targeted at children: up to 200 words Word counts should be noted on each submission.
For a more detailed look at our guidelines young writers, adult writers, and illustrators can visit our site at

Do you also review books?

Stories for Children Magazine does do book reviews. There are multiple ways to send in a book review. One type of book review we publish is from our readers. We love hearing about a book our readers enjoyed or didn’t enjoy reading. The second type of book review we publish is from Book Reviewers themselves. We have a few Book Reviewers who will send in book reviews that are also posted on their book review blogs or sites. The last type of book review is done by one of our editors. This would either be myself or my assistant, Gayle Jacobson-Huset. Our reviews are sent back to the publisher, agent, author, illustrator, or editor that asked for the book review for their promotional use and is also posted on our site.

How may authors contact you with book review requests?

Currently we are seeing about two submissions a month for professional reviews, two to three from Book reviewers, and one or two from our readers. Authors or Illustrators can contact us at:

Stories for Children Magazine
54 East 490 South
Ivins Utah 84738
Phone/fax: (206) 350-3440

Or Email us at:

VS Grenier, Editor

Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Asst. Editor

How hard is it to start your own online magazine?

I don’t find anything hard if it’s what you want or love to do. Something you’re passionate about shouldn’t be considered hard. But if you want to start an Ezine, there are a few key factors to consider.

The first factor is where to host your site. There are lots of free hosting sites or hosting sites that cost very little money if you plan to be a free Ezine like Stories for Children Magazine. I think it’s a little harder if you are going to charge for a subscription on-line. Most people surfing the web feel it should be free if it’s on the internet. But there are some willing to pay a subscription and therefore you may want to go with a higher paying hosting site that can do some of the maintenance for you.

The second factor is know what you want to do, say, or get across with your publication. You need to first know your niche before you can really start putting an Ezine together. Have a mission statement, goal, or outline of what you stand for. This is going to be your guide in how your site and information will look, and the type of readers you will attract.

The third factor is you need to have the time. If you plan to write a series of books for young adults, adults, or middle graders, you may want to rethink doing an Ezine. I spent a lot of time working on Stories for Children Magazine; from reading submissions to formatting each new issue.

What words of advice would you give to people who are considering such an endeavor?

Do your homework! Starting a magazine is no different than starting your own business or submitting your manuscript to a publisher. You need to research, research, research and then research some more.

I know lots of people think they can just jump on-line, build a site, and have readers or subscribers. Well you can, but if you want to be taken seriously as a magazine then you need to know your niche, competition, and publication rights.

How do you go about promoting your magazine in the midst of all the competition?

I was very lucky about how fast Stories for Children Magazine’s name got out there. Being a student from the ICL was one of the best helps I had. I knew other writers and editors because of the ICL. Also I’m in a few different writers groups both on-line and locally. “Word of month” is the best way to spread anything your marketing. Most people will trust a friend, relative, or co-worker before they will an advertisement. So by talking about Stories for Children Magazine with-in my writing groups and with my fellow writing students, the word just spread like wild fire.

The second thing that helped Stories for Children Magazine get its name out was actually making contacts with our competition. For example: I was first published in Fandangle Magazine, a free on-line magazine for children ages 6 to 12 years old. Nancy the editor wrote an Ebook for teachers about how to use print and Ezines in the classroom. Two of my publications with Fandangle were in her Ebook. I asked Nancy if I could link from my site to her Free Ebook. She was more than happy and in return we have shared information on marketing with each other. And as you can see here I am putting a plug in for her Ezine now. LOL.

Having an author website, blog, or newsletter is another way to get your name out there. I have all three. On my author site you can actually download the past issues of Stories for Children Magazine. On my blogs I post who our Featured Guest of the month is with a link to the SFC site. Having interviews each month with Children’s Authors and Illustrators is a great way to bring traffic.

I also send out media releases on our Featured Guests or if we have some fun news going on at Stories for Children Magazine. And again I always include the link to SFC’s site. You would be surprise how many media releases I get without one.

How does one subscribe to your magazine? Is it free?

Stories for Children Magazine is FREE for everyone. We do hope to go to print with-in the next year or two at which time the print magazine will be a paid subscription. However, I still plan to keep Stories for Children Magazine’s site free by publishing a smaller issue for our on-line readers when we go to print.

You’re also a published author, with many magazine credits to your name and several upcoming book releases. Would you like to tell our readers a little about your works? My writing has been something of a surprise to me. The first submission I ever sent was inspired by my dad’s childhood. He’s a retired pilot and was born with wings. I had first written the story as my sample writing for the ICL to see if I really had what it took to become a children’s writer. After my second assignment I decided to submit a revision of the story to Fandangle Magazine. I guess I still didn’t believe I was cut out to be in children’s writing and felt I needed a rejection to make that clear to me. The funny thing was, Nancy, the editor accepted the story. After that I had two more publications in Fandangle Magazine followed by publications at Vision: A Resource for Writers,, Storybox On-Line, and most recently Pack-O-Fun bought a craft for the June/July 2008 issue. I’ve also written a few articles for my newsletter which has 100 subscribers to-date and for Stories for Children Magazine.

On the book side of things, well does anyone really ever want to say much before they have publication dates?

I will say this much. I have two picture books in the works. They are in the revision stage and I’m working on a novel with another writer. It’s for young adults and my hope is that once I’m done with my part of the novel, my co-author will love it and we’ll see it in print.

Author, editor… and also manuscript critiquer as well. What kinds of manuscripts do you critique, what are your fees, and what can a writer expect from one of your critiques? I critique only children’s writing. I look at short stories, articles, and children’s book in all genres. I’m in a critique group as well as editing accepted submissions for Stories for Children Magazine. I don’t think I ever take off the critiquer hat. LOL.

I don’t charge a lot for a critique. My fee is $15 for 1,000 words or less and then $2 per page after that. When I critique someone else’s work, I look at it two ways. The first way I read the manuscript is as a reader. I love to read children’s books. I hardly ever read an adult genre book. So when I read a manuscript, I look at it as if I picked it off the shelf at the local book store or library. I make my notes from that prospective and then I go back through as an editor. For more information about my critiquing service and testimonials, writers can visit my site at

What mistakes do you keep encountering over and over when you critique other people’s manuscripts?

Formatting is the number one mistake I see as a critiquer and editor. A lot of people want to use fancy fonts or colored text. As a critiquer or editor this is very hard to read. Times New Roman 12pt font is best. Grammar is another area I see lots of mistakes. The most common is the usage of commas, dashes, semi-colons, or quotes. A lot of rules of writing change over the years and if you don’t read current trade magazines or newsletters, then you’re missing some pretty important information. One discussion came up, in an on-line form I was attending, about the use of italics for thought instead of underlining thought on a manuscript. At one time publishers wanted you to underline internal dialogue, but now, a lot of them have you using italics as the preferred way to show internal dialogue or thought. When I critique someone else’s work, I look for all of this on top of spelling, plot, character development, etc. The other big thing I see is pacing. Once you hook your reader you don’t want to lose them with too much detail or slowing in the plot. I see this happening a lot with writers who are in love with descriptive words. Yes you need to be descriptive, but you also need to let your reader use their imagination to fill in some of those blanks. Remember to “Write Tight”. If I wanted to see all the detail to a story, I’ll go watch a movie instead of reading a book. I like painting part of the picture the author starts to draw for me.

The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues? I debate this same question all the time. Self publish, traditionally publish, E-publish, or POD my works. I think you have to first research all avenues and then you have to look at your work and decide, “Why did I want to write this story?” Did I write it to share with my family and friends? Did I write it to be the next New York Times Best Selling Author? Did I write it because I just needed to tell the story? Did I write it because I want to see the smile on a child’s face as they read what I had to write? After that then you need to decide how important it is to get your work out there. POD is something I’m looking into for the Anthology of Stories for Children Magazine. This makes sense because I want to take the best of the best in Stories for Children Magazine and combine it. For my own writing, I’ve looked at E-publishing some of my shorter stories and a more traditional publishing for my picture books and novels. But that is me. Each writer has to do what they feel is best for them and their work. But make sure you research each publisher in any genre of publishing and read the testimonials by those who have used that publisher. And never be afraid to ask someone who has published with a publisher their thoughts about the process.

How do you see the future of children’s book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?

I know many younger writers and illustrators believe we are headed to a paperless world of writing. I’ve heard this even back when I was buying clothes for department and specialty stores some 10 years ago. We still have print to this day and I think it will be a long time before we are totally paperless as a society. However, I think a writer would be foolish not to have their hands in both print and E-publishing. I do think POD and self publishing is becoming more common place because it’s so hard to get your foot in the door at the big traditional publishing houses. There are a lot of talented writers who normally would never see their manuscript as a book if it wasn’t for POD or self publishers, but don’t forget the small publishing housings. I do feel all three will always have a place in the children’s book market.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Learn all you can to hone your writing. Never think you don’t have anything else to learn. Each day is a day to learn something new or share something to help another along the road to publication. Join one or more writing groups to network with others who have the same passion in writing. Through networking you become more confident in your work. Make sure to have your work critiqued before sending it out. Join a critique group, partner with another writer as critique buddies, or have a professional critiquer look over your work. Having others read what you have written and giving feedback not only makes you a better writer, but you start to understand how a well written story’s voice captures the reader; drawing them into your world of ink.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition--The Winners

I would like to thank all the people who took time from their busy lives to vote for my children’s story, The Doll Violinist, at the ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition. Even though I didn’t win, it was certainly a different experience and I at least learned how much I’m capable of promoting and networking under pressure and with a deadline. The 2-week voting period has left me exhausted and I definitely look forward to a calmer and less stressful Halloween season...

Congrats to Gillian Colley and Nikki Shoemaker, for their winning title, What's Wrong with Mud?!!!!!!!!

Moving on to other projects...! :-)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Book Review: The Christmas Angel, by Mary Jean Kelso

The Christmas Angel
By Mary Jean Kelso
Illustrated by K.C. Snider
Guardian Angel Publishing
ISBN: 1933090588
Copyright 2007
Softcover, 32 pages, $9.96
Children’s Picture Book

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

The Christmas Angel is a sweet, heart-warming Christmas story about a little girl who ends up finding friendship in the most unexpected of circumstances. Set during the time of the pioneers, this is a tale that both teaches and entertains.

Eight-year old Melissa must leave her Philadelphia home to travel with her family to the West across the Oregon Trail, a daunting 2,170-mile long journey. Because they will travel by wagon, she is allowed to take with her only her most prized possession. For Melissa, this is an easy choice: the delicate porcelain Christmas angel her father once brought her from England. Carefully and lovingly, she wraps the angel and packs it in a box. Their trip is harsh, as they must walk many miles a day, mostly on foot, cross dangerous creeks, and camp overnight in wild, Indian territory. Melissa constantly worries that something will harm her precious angel. Then one day, her worst nightmare comes true—her angel is lost. Luckily, the most unexpected person brings it back to her.

This is a lovely book about friendship between two very different people from opposite cultures. It is also a tale about hope and the magic of Christmas. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations as they learn about the Oregon Trail and the pioneers, their hardships and dreams of a better life. At the end of the book there’s a section with activities and information about the pilgrims, as well as a game and a map.

The Christmas Angel will make a lovely Christmas gift to any child as well as an excellent tool for teachers to teach this era of American history.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Book Review: The Magic Medallion, by Mary Cunningham

Cynthia’s Attic: The Magic Medallion, Book II
By Mary Cunningham
Echelon Press
ISBN: 9781590804605
Copyright 2007
Paperback, 157 pages, $9.99
Middle-grade, Fantasy/Mystery

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

In this the second book in the Cynthia’s Attic series, best friends Gus and Cynthia are once again swept back in time into a world of fantasy, mystery and adventure. These two young protagonists never give up or say no at the opportunity of a good thrill, and this book is even better than the first.

By way of the magic trunk in Cynthia’s old and cobweb-filled attic, the girls are transported back to 1914, where they end up in a circus and at the hands of a sinister and mean hobo clown who tries to force them to work for him as clown performers. They also meet a beautiful and alluring fortune-teller gypsy who rescues them from the circus. However, she has a proposition for them that may be even more dangerous—they must travel in time to find the lost magic medallion. And if Gus and Cynthia don’t accept, they may not be able to get back to their present-day homes. As they go in search of the magic medallion, the girls meet a set of interesting characters and fall into a vortex of mystery and escapades.

The action is non-stop, the dialogue engaging, the secondary characters intriguing, and the protagonists nothing short of adorable—smart, kind, and with an unbeatable sense of adventure. This is a middle-grade novel that will be devoured by girls ages 10-13. I eagerly look forward to the third book in the series.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Check out the cover!

Hi all,

My publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, just sent me the cover art for my upcoming children's picture book, The Magic Violin.

More than anything, 8-year old Melina wants to become a good violinist. When she loses confidence, her Rumanian teacher Andrea decides it’s time for a magic dose of self esteem. A mysterious, old woman in rags gives Melina some curious advice; a violinist Russian hamster, who happens to live under the old woman's hat, offers her a virtuoso performance; a shooting star fills her with hope on Christmas Eve. Is Melina actually playing better, or has her violin become magic? Who is the old woman in the townsquare, and why does she wear the same emerald ring as her teacher Andrea?

The message of The Magic Violin is that real magic lies in believing in oneself, and that if we trust ourselves, we can accomplish anything. The story, written for 5 to 8 year olds, shows how being compassionate and generous can have its rewards. It also introduces children to music and other countries--Belgium, in this case.

This will be my first--and hopefully not last!--violin-related children's book. People who know me are familiar with my love for the violin and how it has inspired my work.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Review of Birthday Snow, by Kim Messinger and Michael LaLumiere

Birthday Snow
By Kim Messinger & Michael LaLumiere
Illustrated by Angela Ursillo
Stagger Lee Books
ISBN: 9780979100611
Copyright 2005
Hardcover, $14.95, 32 pages
Ages 4-8

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Freckled-faced Daniel has a dilemma. It’s his birthday today but there’s no snow. Up until now, it has ALWAYS snowed on his birthday.

Patiently, he studies the sky from his bedroom window, waiting for signs of snow. He loves snow and all the fun things he can do when it snows, like wearing his snow clothes, make ice cream, and zoom down the hill on his snow tube.

Even though it is sunny outside, he puts on his snow clothes and decides to ask people—friends, his sister, the postman—about the weather. To his chagrin, they all assure him there won’t be any snow today. But that can’t be! It always snows on his birthday! Undaunted, he keeps faith and tries their crazy suggestions—does a happy dance, wears his pajamas inside out, puts four ice cubes in the toilet, etc..

Finally, exhausted, he falls asleep in his mother’s arms. Will there be snow when he wakes from his nap?

Birthday Snow is a beautifully illustrated picture book about persistence and faith. It is humorous without being wacky and maintains a sweet, rather quiet mood all throughout. It is a fun story to read to children at bedtime, as well as one early readers will be able to enjoy on their own. This book would make a lovely present on any occasion.

Monday, October 1, 2007

And the winners are...

First of all, a sincere, deeply felt THANK YOU to all the people who voted for my story, THE DOLL VIOLINIST!

I don’t know yet whether or not I’ve won, but your support really meant a lot to me. Some people voted every single day and I honestly wish I could send gifts to everyone who so faithfully supported me.

Now I will announce the 5 lucky winners of my drawing...

1st Prize, an antique doll in Brussels lace goes to Jackie Young.

2nd Prize, a $50 Amazon certificate goes to Jack Mishler.

3rd Prize, a sterling silver & zirconium ring goes to Linda Gates.

4th Prize, a print copy of my novel, Dark Lullaby, goes to Cherie Michalec.

5th Prize, a print copy of Angel in a Bubble, goes to Susan Ford.

Congratulations to all the winners!!!

A note on how I did the drawing:

I grouped together all the voters under the ‘star’ system used by Gmail.
I copy and pasted the list onto a Word document.
I printed out the list.
I cut each voter’s name separately into small slips of paper (people who voted 5 times had 5 slips of paper, people who voted 8 times, had 8 slips of paper and so on)
I crumpled them and tossed them into a vase.
I closed my eyes and reached for 5 slips of paper, one at a time for each prize, starting with the first.