Uncle Stubby Gets Married takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together into a fantastic story of kindness and cheer. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a kids book about this subject?
First – wild squirrels. We have them in our backyard and the neighbors do as well. They are truly wild but they also come up to eat nuts and seeds my husband puts out for them, as well as the water. We watch their funny antics and many have names such Stubby due to his short tail, Sparkles because she is a juvie squirrel with a radiant white tummy, Foxy – well she is a mama squirrel and has had litters in two years. Cutter has a tear in his ear, Nibbler has a small tear and a hole in his ear, and so on. Shadow is our daughter’s small dog and one day we thought the squirrels and Shadow would make for a good children’s book. Shadow and the squirrels had just spent Christmas in New York City and Central Park when the idea of Uncle Stubby Gets Married hit us. We love to teach kindness with all the animals in our books, and to have them be friends no matter what the animals were like in the real world. We also figured it was high time Uncle Stubby got married.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Friendship and kindness are very important and those elements are always added in our children’s book. We teach safety and learning about animals in our books, and we like to have everything colorful and eye catching. Having the animals work together in the wedding illustrates how children can work together in the real world, also.
I felt that the art in the book was well conceived. How did you decide on which images and themes to use?
Theme wise we knew if the wedding was held in a magical fairy forest, that no animal could even remotely get hurt, or preyed upon by hawks and other predators. In keeping with a magical theme it was only proper to use magical animal characters and a magical forest as the setting.
Uncle Stubby Gets Married is book 5 in the Shadow and Friends Series. What is the next book in the series and when will it be available?
Book 6 is a work in progress, and the title is Shadow and Friends Circus Adventures. Not only will the squirrels, Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, be a part of the circus; plans include many different animals and the the acts will also be done in a magical theme. We are planning on releasing in early May, 2017. We also have book 7 as a work in progress and Shadow and her friends will help the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, celebrate it’s 150th birthday August 2017. This will be a fun book, too, with all the old west built in, and it should be available early to mid July, 2017.
“In this children’s picture book, and sixth book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Uncle Stubby Gets Married, a fox squirrel named Uncle Stubby has fallen in love with a girl squirrel named Sparkles. Squirrel family and friends, including a small dog named Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, are invited to attend the wedding in a special Valentine Fairy Forest. Uncle Stubby thinks Sparkles is the most beautiful girl squirrel in the land. Uncle Stubby’s twin, Shorty, flies in from New York City with his family, and Shorty is best man for his brother. Foxy is matron of honor for Sparkles. The Valentine Fairy Forest is truly a magical land, the illustrations show how this dream forest looks, and all the animals are safe in this forest both day and night. Along the way, we meet mouse fairies, and Minister Mouse conducts the wedding. Sparkles’ wears a crown, and Uncle Stubby is dressed in a cummerbund. Various other animals are present, including one unicorn, and the bride and groom spend their wedding night in Walnut Forest, a special part of the Valentine Fairy Forest. Children will love seeing how magical the forest is, with abundant sparkles thrown in for good measure. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-11, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. This story illustrates how beautiful the Valentine Fairy Forest looks, produces pure imagination in children, and the illustrations will fascinate children and adults.”
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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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Bean Takes a Walk is a short, colorful, and educational adventure book for kids. What was the inspiration for Bean in the Garden?
Matt originated the idea of a children’s series about a bean walking across a garden. As we explored it further, we realized that Bean could be an aspirational character for young children, and we could use him to teach kids about acceptance, kindness and friendship. These are lessons we’re both trying to instill in our own children, so it felt right to do it in the series. Before we knew it, we had a whole town full of veggie people!
The story is about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids. In such a short book, how did you balance story telling with the delivery of those messages?
We try to keep it lighthearted and fun. We want kids to engage first and foremost with the characters and the story. The lessons are baked in, but there’s nothing preachy about it. I believe that kids have an intuitive understanding of fairness and kindness, so it’s easy for them to grasp these concepts!
The art in this book is wonderful. What was the collaboration like to make such colorful works of art?
Matt is just ridiculously good. It’s an honor to work with him. We’ve been working together for almost 10 years on website and logo design, so we know each other well. Even so, this was a brand new adventure for us! It’s been really fun figuring out all the characters and how the different scenes might look.
On Bean’s adventure he takes three toys, one of them is The Amazing Pickle #1 comic. So cute! Why did you choose these items?
We wanted things that would be simple and identifiable to kids – the kinds of things they might have in their own backpacks! As for the Amazing Pickle – well there might be some special superhero adventures in Bean’s future!
Bean Takes a Walk is book 1 in the Bean in the Garden series. What’s next for Bean in the Garden?
There are so many characters to explore in our little world! Coming up, you can expect more stories about Bean’s family and his best friend, Bella.
Bean in the Garden is a series of delightful, lighthearted picture books and videos aimed at teaching preschoolers how to be brave and kind in everyday life. In Bean Takes a Walk, Mrs. Berg entrusts Bean with a beautiful stone to trade with Miss Tots for some chamomile tea. Along the way, he makes some new friends and learns that not everything is what it seems!
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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In this delightfully imaginative tale, two children, Chris and Kate, find a log of driftwood on the beach. They decide to build a boat and sail across the ocean. Whether by magic or imagination, the two friends and their little dog Holly build their ship, name it the Pearl of the Seas, and begin their journey. Like any fairy tale, there are obstacles to overcome, dangers to face, and kind strangers to help them along their way. They rely on friendship, faith, and kindness to see them home to a happy ending.
Intended as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, a romance novel, this story is dedicated to young teens. I believe it would also appeal to middle-grade youth as well. There’s a real sense of youth-centered discovery and the freedom to let creative fancies bloom into epic adventures. And I don’t use ‘epic’ lightly; the author weaves in themes, events, and allusions borrowed from the Bible, the original Greek epics, tales of Aladdin and Orpheus, and classic narrative poetry. Indeed, poetry is the heart of the tale, and to me, it read less like a novel and more like a prose poem:
“All things stayed silent. Harkening. The gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach, great seals lay basking and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm.”
Poems in traditional form are often combined with the prose. Finnegan creates a language that can take some time to get used to the unusual sentence structure and sing-song pattern of the words. In some passages, the child-like way of chaining words together lends an air of playfulness. Since readers (especially young readers) may be inspired to learn more about the poetry and prose of the book, the author includes a section of notes at the end. She offers more information about key phrases and events, poetic references, and the inspiration for some of the key events in the story. I found this to be a big help in deciphering some of the words and concepts of the book.
The characters are charming. Kate and Chris have their own problems in the real world. Kate is perplexed by math and the nuns who teach her; Chris has lost his mother and is being raised by a foster father. Holly, the dog, finds every opportunity for danger and gives both children a chance to play hero and rescue her. Once they’re sailing the sea of dreams, they meet Yahwiel with his riddles, as well as the benevolent King and Queen who live on an Eden-like island. These characters all have an air of the divine, and the lessons they teach are steeped in the Christian faith.
If you’re looking for a unique book for a young reader or a short chapter book to read to very young children, Pearl of the Seas is a unique story that goes beyond mere entertainment. It’s an excellent introduction to poetry, classic literature, and imagination.
Pages: 138 | ISBN: 1625902557
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