You need to be able to tap into a certain flavour of whimsy in order to write a good children’s book. Let’s not forget that the illustrations need to be catchy and colourful to hold the attention of the little ones either reading or being read to. A children’s book is most entertaining when it spins a different point of view on something that children have already been exposed to. Uncle Stubby Gets Married by S. Jackson and A. Raymond takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together. This book is part of a series with other animals and their lives. Perfect for children, this book draws out the marriage between Uncle Stubby and his betrothed Sparkles as their friends and family travel to help them celebrate it. The story is full of kindness, cheer and all the good feelings weddings are supposed to elicit.
The language in this book is very simple. It may be difficult for a child who is learning to read but it is perfect to read to a child. The pictures are bright and interesting, which should help keep the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the book there is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire story so parents or teachers can determine if the book will suit their needs or themes. As it takes place in the Valentine Forest, this is a good book to read around Valentine’s Day, if you are looking for theme-specific books.
The images are, for the most part, real photographs of various animals manipulated to be posed or displayed in a certain way. There are little additions like a crown or the plethora of sparkles and these add to the story. It is interesting for children to see ‘realistic’ pictures of animals they are familiar with engaging in very human activities. It allows them to have a sense of imagination and wonder just what exactly squirrels get up to when humans aren’t looking. The one downside to using manipulated photographs is that when a character appears that is either created by hand or through computer graphics they stand out a fair bit. This occurs with the Mouse Fairies in the Valentine Forest. Their appearance is a stark contrast to the other characters in that they are fully clothed with added hair. They are more anthropomorphic than a photo-enhanced squirrel with a sash around its waist.
Nitpicking aside, Jackson and Raymond know how to craft an interesting children’s tale. The story is cute and even though it is part of a series, it can stand alone quite well. Readers do not need previous knowledge of the characters to understand the story in Uncle Stubby Gets Married. For children, and maybe even adults, who have a fantastical view of the world this is a lovely tale of romance, happiness and friendship.
Pages: 40 | ASIN: B01MY5NJF0
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The Inlooker follows Thomas as his life changes when his daughter’s cat dies and he realizes that the dead cat’s soul inhabits the body of another cat in the house. This is one of the most unique story setups I’ve read in a long time. How did this idea develop into a story for you?
It is an event that actually happened. We had three cats at the time, each of which died in quick succession and had a unique personality, unlike those of the others. It was a wonder to behold, as each of our pets transmogrified into another way of behaving, which only lasted a couple of days before reverting to the original personality. That was over 30 years ago, but it led me to believe that animals possess spirits like we do.
Thomas works to enhance his powers, not just reading souls and manipulating his own, but taking control of other people. What was the biggest challenge you faced in developing the character along with his powers?
Dispassionate research was needed into reincarnation, spiritualism, poltergeist activity and the possibilities of bodily possession by others. I could not even begin to start this monumental task until retirement. The most profound findings were actually in reincarnation, where much evidence exists and has been documented, especially involving children.
I enjoyed the narrators voice, it’s humorous, dark, clear, and ironic. Was this an intentional part of the story or just a facet of your natural writing style?
It was deliberate and based on the style of an old-time English actor called George Saunders. I can’t honestly say if it reflects my style in general. There’s a touch of Terry Pratchett in there too, plus the zaniness of P.G.Wodehouse.
What is the next story you are working on and when will that book be available?
I’ve recently issued The Sightseers Agency and am working on another in the Sci-Fi vein that will be ready by June 2017. All my books are near-future speculative and most of the contents are based on what is possible in key areas of science.
The magical World of Science Fiction is dominated by stories about individuals with outlandish costumes, fantastical skills and superior strength. They compete energetically for attention, and capture our imagination in the most unbelievable of ways.
But what if in real life, there were to exist a force that could take on any of these mythical beings, without needing to possess similar or opposing strengths?
Thomas Beckon wields that force, in much the same way that a contagion can wipe out most of humanity, from within. For Thomas is an Inlooker, perhaps the only one as far as he is aware, and is truly capable of invading any person’s soul that he chooses.
Luckily for those around him, Thomas is a benign individual who chooses a path through life that barely creates a ripple in his wake. At least, what he does is so undetectable that any malevolence in his actions is hardly ever recognized, even superficially.
Pity those who cross swords (or should I say souls?) with the Inlooker, for he can take anyone down, or initiate a chain-reaction of catastrophes, regardless of a person’s super abilities, or position in life.
Then he becomes less benign, and begins to focus on changing the society in which we live. Thereafter, he focuses on the world.
Posted in Interviews
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Oliver and Jumpy: Stories 10 – 12 is a collection of children’s stories featuring Oliver the cat and Jumpy and Joey, the kangaroos. Written by Werner Stejskal and illustrated by Maycee Ann Reyes and Marvin Alonso, the stories are geared toward young children and early readers. There are three stories in this collection: “Unhappy Dog,” “Kite High,” and “Butterfly Trouble.”
In “Unhappy Dog,” Oliver meets a dog who barks all the time. Instead of being angry, Oliver strikes up a conversation and learns that Barky is lonely and bored, and he can’t get out of his yard to play. Oliver enlists Jumpy and her son Joey to help Barky get over the fence, and they play games to help Barky feel less lonely.
“Kite High” is another adventure where the three friends get swept up into the sky while riding a cart with a parasail attached. They talk to seagulls, and meet some pelicans, too. There’s danger ahead for Joey, but the friendly pelicans help them land their craft.
“Butterfly Trouble” starts when Oliver meets a butterfly named Bluey. Bluey needs Oliver’s help because a boy with a butterfly net is trying to catch him. Jumpy and Oliver stop the butterfly hunt, save the day, and free Bluey’s friends from captivity.
I shared these stories with a three-year-old girl, and she declared that her favorite story was “Butterfly Trouble.” The illustrations are vibrant and full of expression, inspiring her to take the time to point out the little details as we read. The book looked wonderful on the tablet computer – the colors and images were perfect, and it was easy to read.
All the stories emphasize friendship, helping others, and they include a bit of mischief. There is one potentially scary scene in “Kite High” prompting my young friend to exclaim, “Uh oh!” she also pointed at the pelicans helping our heroes. Every story ends happily, and no one is hurt.
One thing I noticed is that the author is clearly aiming for a global audience. Readers in the U.S. may notice a difference in words or usage, but they aren’t incorrect. It’s just the subtle difference between US and European English.
If you’re a parent, you can’t go wrong with this delightful book. It’s perfect for reading aloud to toddlers or a fun addition to your early reader’s digital library. All the Oliver and Jumpy stories are available on Amazon and several are on YouTube, narrated by the author.
Pages: 25 | ISBN: 9781625174079
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