Monday, September 29, 2008

Review of Nina's Waltz, by Corinne Demas

Nina’s Waltz
by Corinne Demas
Illustrated by Deborah Lanino
Orchard Books
ISBN: 0-531-30281-4
Copyright 2000
Children’s picture book, 32 pages, $16.95

Author's website:

Early one morning in the serene landscape of the countryside, Nina and her Dad take a trip to a fair, where a violin contest will take place. The prize is two hundred dollars, money they need, as they’re a poor family. Her dad, who in Nina’s eyes is the best player in the whole world, plans to play a tune he wrote especially for Nina, “Nina’s Waltz”. Once at the fair, however, a wasp stings his hand and he’s unable to play. Who will take his place? Will Nina do it? But how, when she’s petrified by the idea of playing in public?

This is a charming tale about the magic of violin music and the loving bond between father and daughter. The author, using simple yet softly lyrical prose, shows us a glimpse into a young girl’s life and her resolution not to let her dad down. This is also a story about the power of self esteem and believing in oneself. The illustrations are beautiful and even dream-like at times, bringing to life the countryside, Nina, and the ethereal magic of violin music. This would make a lovely present to any little violin player, especially a girl.

I feel sorry when books like this go out of print. Copies are still available from ‘Other sellers’ at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review of The Tiniest Tiger, by Joanne L. McGonagle

The Tiniest Tiger is a charming, educational, and beautifully illustrated picture book that should be on the shelf of every library and elementary school class.

While playfully chasing a butterfly, a little kitten finds himself lost in the zoo. As he tries to find his way back home, he meets different types of big cats--lions, tigers, cheetas, pumas, jaguars, bobcats, among others--and learns their distinct characteristics, such as their size, weight, status on the endangered species list, origin, life span, etc. In the process, the kitten learns a lot about the big cats and about himself.

This is a book that both teaches and entertains and carries a valuable message about the beauty of big cats and the importance of saving them from extinction. Some words and concepts may be a bit difficult for younger children to grasp, so this is a book that probably should be read to a child by a parent or a teacher. The illustrations are simply beautiful and give off a feeling of serenity (like the one on the cover). It's never too early to begin teaching children about endangered species and this book will help you do just that.

What I also like about this book is that the author is donating a percentage of the proceeds from the sales to conservation projects for endangered wild cats in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, through the Conservation Fund of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The Tiniest Tiger
52 pages
Ages 4-8
Purchase from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the Spotlight: Multi-Genre Author and Editor Lea Schizas

A resident of Montreal, award-winning multi-genre author and editor Lea Schizas describes herself as a late bloomer who “finally woke up after a 23-year self-induced coma taking care of the family, and rediscovered my passion for writing.” She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of two Writer’s Digest 101 Top Writing Sites of 2005 & 2006 and recipients of the Preditors and Editors Most Useful Writing Sites Award: Apollo’s Lyre and The MuseItUp Club. She's also the founder of The Muse Online Writers Conference, The Muse Marquee, and co-founder of Coffee Cramp eZine. Her published works include The Rock of Realm, Doorman's Creek, Aleatory's Junction, and The Muse on Writing, among other books for children. Because of her supportive, helpful sites and groups for writers, Lea is affectionately referred to as 'Mother Hen'. Her book review site, Muse Book Reviews, caters to authors of most genres.

Lea's books...

When Kyle Anderson and his two buddies decide to explore a cave hidden within Doorman's Creek, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton... and an unknown entity, throwing them right into the path of a serial killer.

Faced with a sudden gift of visions into past and present disappearances, Kyle must now track down who the murderer is before another family member gets killed.

What if you were hit with the realization you were of royal lineage…to another realm? This is exactly what fourteen-year old Alexandra Stone has to face in the Young Adult fantasy novel ‘The Rock of Realm’.

In everyday life we face dilemmas, obstacles, and situations where a decision needs to be made. Whether we choose the right or wrong path, only time will tell. In Aleatory, the residents are used to strange occurrences, to newcomers traveling through but never returning. But for these newcomers, Aleatory’s Junction will prove to be more than just a fork in a corner out of town.

ISBN: 1-55404-400-6Genre: Fantasy/SF eBook Length: 354 Pages Print: 502 PagesPublished: October 2006Imprint: Double Dragon Publishing
Print Book Available Here

Vampires, werewolves, zombies… all legendary creatures hunting their preys, all containing their own personal tales and backgrounds.
But the most evasive story to be told is that of Lord John Erdely from the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, Transylvania.

Lord John Erdely lived in the 16th century and date of death cannot be confirmed since no body has ever been found. It is rumored, but no documents support this theory, that he dealt in black magic to suppress the ongoing collaboration of the churches to bring a unified religion to all people, a Greek Catholic practice.
It is also rumored he may have used black magic to contain his servants, to blind and deafen them from words spoken to them while on errands for the Lord within the village of Cornifu. Villagers became increasingly suspicious of Lord Erdely when family members went missing.
Enter the present time…

All visitors staying in Cornifu Hotel are surprised with a mystery invitation for a one day excursion to Erdely Castle. Befuddled but amused at the same time, they accept, unaware of the events to follow.
Join our characters as each discovers secrets and mysteries that will change their lives forever.

To purchase Lea's books, visit her website.

Subscribe to Lea's Monthly Ebook Newsletter!

"For a yearly subscription of ONLY $10.00, you get twelve issues of Monthly eBook Newsletter - with bonus issues scattered throughout the year. Some of the links are: AGENTS - PUBLISHERS - REVIEW SITES - PROMO SITES - MAGAZINES - ASSOCIATIONS - and more. You'll also get writing articles and an opportunity to showcase your own bragging rites."--Lea Schizas

Lea also offers critique services for children's picture books and novels.
Picture books under 1,000 words: $30
Longer works: $2 per page.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Interview with

My co-author Anne K. Edwards and I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Norm Goldman of

We talked about our book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, and writing and reviewing.

You may read the interview here.


"The Difference Between Middle Grade & Young Adult," by Laura Backes

The Difference Between Middle Grade & Young Adult
by Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider

It's often difficult for writers to know whether they're creating a middle grade novel (ages 8-12), or a book for young adults (12 and up). Because many of the themes and situations are similar for the two age groups, authors go by the age of the main character: if the protagonist is under 12, it's middle grade; over 12 means young adult. But the differences are more complicated than that.

The author of the true, classic middle grade novel does not worry about vocabulary choices or simple sentence structure; once children are ready for these books they are good readers. Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character. Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world. They are solidifying their own identity, experiencing the physical and psychological changes of puberty, taking on new responsibilities all within the boundaries of their family, friends and neighborhood. Yes, your character needs to grow and change during the course of the book, but these changes are on the inside. Middle grade readers are beginning to learn who they are, what they think. Their books need to mirror their personal experience.

Charlotte's Web, the classic middle grade novel by E.B. White, is a perfect example. Wilbur the pig is threatened by his world: he's worried that once he grows up, he'll be sent to the butcher. And while his friend Charlotte saves Wilbur from death, the book is really about the meaning of true friendship and how Wilbur gains confidence and self-esteem. This year's Newbery winner, The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, is about four children and their sixth grade teacher as they compete in the regional Academic Bowl. But the competition is a backdrop for the individual journeys each child takes on the path to becoming a team, and how they help their teacher find her own place in the world. The real victory is how each of the five main characters goes through some inner struggle during the book and ends up in a better place.

Characters are also a key element to young adult novels, but these books often have more complicated plots than those for middle grade. Protagonists experience an internal change, but this change is triggered by external events and fits into a bigger picture. They begin to step outside themselves and see how they influence, and are influenced by, the larger world. They go beyond their backyard and encounter adult problems for the first time. In Suzanne Fisher Staples' novel Dangerous Skies, 12-year-old Buck Smith is suddenly made aware of the racial hatred and prejudice entrenched in his small Southern town when his best friend is a suspect in a murder investigation. By the end of the book, Buck has lost his innocence and his eyes are opened to the ethical shortcomings of his family and the neighbors he has known all his life.

The age of the main character and length of the manuscript are still a rough guide in determining the audience (middle grade manuscripts tend to be 100 pages or shorter, with young adult books being longer, though this is not always the case), but the kind of conflict the characters encounter is a better measuring stick. Many publishers have created a new young adult category for ages 10-14, for books that bridge the gap between middle grade and young adult, and have designated novels with older themes as ages 15 and up. The story, rather than the character's age, delineates the audience, as in Carolyn Coman's What Jamie Saw (a 1996 Newbery Honor Book). The book features a nine-year-old protagonist, but the subject of domestic abuse prompted the publisher to give it an age range of ten and up. As an author, it's your job to decide who you want to reach with your book -- elementary kids, junior high or high school -- and then create characters and conflicts accordingly. Regardless of genre -- science fiction, mystery, historical or contemporary -- if your characters are learning about themselves and the world in the same way as your readers, your audience will find you.

--Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at