Sunday, October 31, 2010

Origins of Halloween

cat-full-moon1Halloween 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, 2009, 2010. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This column may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Humberto the Bookworm Hamster is nominated for an EPIC Award

I'm happy to announce that my children's picture book, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster, has been nominated for an EPIC Award.

EPIC stands for the "Electronically Published Internet Coalition."

The winner of EPIC’s 2011 Children's Non-Fiction/Fiction Category will be announced at the annual conference, held in historical Williamsburg, Virginia, March 10-13, 2011.

You can find more details at

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fridays with Irene: review of Don't Squeal Unless It's a Big Deal

Don't Squeal Unless It's a Big Deal
By: Jeanie Franz Ransom
Illustrated by: Jackie Urbanovic
Magination Press, 2008
Ages 3 to 8

This is a cute and enchanting book with an important message for kids. Most kids don't think much about tattling. They seem to always be tattling about someone. But is it really that harmful?

The author shows the reader in a humour way that tattling is really not necessary. As parents and teachers know first hand, kids can, and do, tattle about their friends, peers, and even siblings so that they look superior to the other kids.

Other times, kids tattle to get back at another kid. For instance, if someone tattles about one kid, that kid will tattle on that kid, and the chain could continue for a long time if it isn't stopped by some adult. Tattling can cause a lot of bad feelings between kids. It can also cause low self-esteem in some kids and really hurt how they view themselves.

So, parents and teachers must take steps to eliminate, or at least alleviate, tattling as much as possible. The book will help kids learn when telling someone something is appropriate and when it is merely squealing. It is important for kids to know the difference between squealing and telling the truth about something.

In addition, at the end of the book, there is a note for parents and teachers about how to deal with kids who are tattlers. The illustrations are very cute and the message is presented in a
humourous fashion, one that will engage the young reader.

Rating: 4 Roses

Reviewed by Irene S. Roth

Irene Roth writes fiction and nonfiction for teens and tweens. Irene also writes academically and holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy. In addition, she writes reviews for Blogcritics Magazine, Booksneeze, Tynsdale Publishers, The Muse, and is review editor for Humane Medicine International. She has written over 200 reviews, articles, and stories, both online and in print. Irene is a members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), CBI Clubhouse, and the Children's Writer's Coaching Club. Visit her websites at:,,,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another great review of my book!

It's always thrilling to get google alerts about my books, especially when they're great reviews!

Read the latest review of How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event HERE.

Freelance editor Kate Blackham says... "The book is a mine of information... an excellent book [that] suits its target audience well."

Thanks for the great recommendation, Kate! I appreciate it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review of The Golden Pathway, by Donna McDine

"He clamped his hands over his ears, but it didn’t block the high-pitched screams from the barn. He knew they would stop. They always did. Yet the silence scared David even more, knowing Pa would seek a new victim next time."

Have you ever gone against your family to do what's right?

In this her first historical story picture book, The Golden Pathway, Donna McDine explores the ethical dilemma of a young boy named David as he turns against his father in order to follow his own sense of justice.

Set during the time of the civil war, David's story begins one night when he hears his father give yet another cruel beating to Jenkins, a 16-year old slave. Though David knows his duty is to obey his Pa, his conscience tells him that what his Pa is doing is plain wrong. Scared, yet filled with bravery and compassion, David decides to finally put a stop to it and free the teen slave. Will he succeed?

The Golden Pathway is an engrossing, moving story that celebrates freedom and courage. It is suspenseful; it kept me wondering what the outcome would be, and how a little boy would be able to free a slave. Not an easy task! The language flows beautifully, with just the right balance of narration, description and dialogue. The author also uses sensory details to create a vivid picture. The illustrations by Oregonian artist K.C. Snider are beautiful and evocative, further bringing David's world to life. I liked the emotion conveyed in most of the artwork, especially the face expressions of David and Jenkins. This is also a touching story of friendship.

The book, aimed at kids 8-12, is perfect for class discussions about slavery, the Civil War, and the Underground Railroad. It's also one parents should read to their kids. I would feel very comfortable reading this book to kids as young as 6. It's never too early to teach kids about justice and compassion.

Purchase the book from the publisher or Amazon HERE.

Be sure to watch the trailer. It's pretty awesome!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Enter to win a copy of The Tale of Miss Spider!

Enter This Week's Book Giveaway at The National Writing for Children Center!

Every week, visitors to the National Writing for Children Center can enter the drawing for their Book Giveaway by leaving a comment at the site.

On Sunday, they draw a name from among those people who left comments, and that person is the lucky winner of the week's Book Giveaway.

Visit the National Writing for Children Center any day this week and leave a comment to be entered in this week's Book Giveaway.

This Sunday, October 17, 2010, they'll be giving away a copy of The Tale of Miss Spider Who Spun Her Web, written by Mieke Blommestein. So there's still a chance to win!

Click here to visit the NWFCC and enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reviews continue to pour in...

How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event was reviewed by Nicole Weaver at Blogcritics Magazine.

This is what she had to say...

This is an ideal book for girls who love to read. They can take their reading to the next level by forming a club designed to discuss what they have read.

Read the full review here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review of The Mermaid’s Mirror, by L. K. Madigan

Released: October 4, 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (320 pages)

Fifteen-year old Lena loves the sea. More than anything, she wants to learn to surf, but her dad, who hasn’t gone into the water for many years, prohibits it. Lena doesn’t know exactly why, except for the fact that he had a mysterious accident and almost drowned when she was a little girl. As Lena’s sixteenth birthday approaches, she decides to learn to surf behind her father’s back, and takes lessons from a friend. Soon, everybody is astounded by Lena’s skill and grace in the water. Her dexterity on the board is almost bizarre. This makes her consider surfing on Magic Crescent Cove, home of the most wild, dangerous waves.

One day, Lena sees a head popping out of the water. At first, she thinks it’s a seal, but soon Lena realizes that what she has seen isn’t human. Around the same time, Lena begins to feel an urge to find something, to search for something, though she doesn’t know for what. Then, on her birthday, she decides to surf on Magic Crescent Cove. Needless to say, she almost drowns, but something—or something—brings her to the surface and puts a key in her hand

What does the key open? Do mermaids exist or is Lena losing her mind? Why won’t her father and stepmother tell her what is going on? Lena knows they’re hiding something from her.

The Mermaid’s Mirror is a marvelous novel that combines mystery, fantasy and a touch of romance. It is also an adventure and, in a way, a coming-of-age story about a young teenager who belongs to two worlds and must ultimately choose between both.

It is refreshing to read books where teenagers don’t sulk or curse and children and parents love each other and treat one another with respect. The dynamics between Lena and her family are a delight to behold, and the author did a wonderful job in creating an imaginative yet utterly believable underwater fantasy world. The description of the mer-people and their way of life will transport the reader out of reality.

The Mermaid’s Mirror is at times a bit slow in the beginning, but later quickly picks up pace and the second half of the book is quite suspenseful. Lena is a lovely protagonist, just like the girl next door, yet possessing a very special secret.

This young adult novel is highly recommended for young readers and adults alike.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Check out the trailer for my latest book!

Kim McDougall of Blazing Trailers did a fabulous job! Thank you, Kim!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Virtual Blog Tour - Day One

I'm excited to announce that my virtual book tour at the National Writing for Children's Center has begun!

Today, I'm a guest blogger at to talk about how I became a children's writer.

I hope you'll stop by!



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Press release!


CONTACT: Suzanne Lieurance



The National Writing for Children Center is Sponsoring a 6-day Virtual Book Tour for Author Mayra Calvani, Starting Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Author Mayra Calvani and her new book How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event are being showcased the entire month of October at the National Writing for Children Center. Part of this showcase includes a 6-day virtual book tour. Join Suzanne Lieurance, founder and director of the National Writing for Children Center, and the virtual book tour hosts as they welcome Mayra Calvani for her exclusive tour that starts Wednesday, October 6.

Mayra Calvani is an award-winning multi-genre author for children and adults. Her work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 reviews, interviews, articles and stories published online and in print. Her picture books include The Magic Violin, Crash, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster, and the forthcoming Frederico the Mouse Violinist.

Intrigued? Want to learn more about Mayra? Follow along on Mayra’s virtual book tour. Here's the schedule:

Wednesday, October 6

“Meet the Author”

Host: Terri Forehand – “”

Thursday, October 7

“The Writer’s Life”

Host: Kristi Bernard – “”

Friday, October 8

“Tradebook Tips for Teachers”

Host: Margot Finke – “”

Saturday, October 9

“Writing Tips”

Host: Donna McDine - “”

Sunday, October 10

“On the Go”

Host: Suzanne Lieurance – “”

Monday, October 11

“Become a Fan of Children’s Author, Mayra Calvani”

Host: Kathy Stemke – “”

Thank you for your interest, we look forward to your visit.

Authors interested in being showcased at the National Writing for Children Center can download an application "" or email Suzanne Lieurance for more information at ""


Monday, October 4, 2010

A great resource for children's authors

I recently discovered and signed up for the newsletter.

It's a great resource for children's writers.

I just received my first newsletter and it includes various samples of teacher's guides and activities for children related to each book.

Hope you'll check it out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Popular mom blogger gives my book a 9/10

Another great review of The Magic Violin!

Elana and the Tweeners (popular mom blogger) gives the book a 9/10!

You may read the review here:



Saturday, October 2, 2010

Win a free picture book critique!

To celebrate the six-month anniversary of, the Editor is giving away a FREE EDIT of one picture book manuscript.

Deadline: October 10, 2010.

This is a wonderful editor, guys. I know because she has critiqued some of my stories. She's FAB!

Read the full guidelines here.