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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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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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!
Posted in Interviews
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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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The Dragons of Alsace Farm is a beautiful story about love and family. What was the inspiration that spawned this novel?
Thank you. I appreciate that so much. After my father’s passing, our previously happy, healthy mother began exhibiting signs of what we assumed was depression, along with anxiety attacks and confusion. After years spent trying to get a diagnosis, it was finally determined that Mom was in the early stages of dementia. Soon after Mom’s diagnosis, we found a young couple with mild disabilities who wanted more independence. They moved into Mom’s home for a time, offering farm help and companionship in exchange for rent. Mom believed she was helping them, and they felt they were helping her. I watched how the three of them rose above their limitations to lift and serve one another. Although I changed the nature of the challenges facing Noah and Tayte, and made Agnes a composite character, it was Mom and this young couple who ultimately inspired the final book.
The bond that develops between Noah and Tayte forms over their mutual love of the elderly woman Agnes. Was there anything about the characters’ relationship that you pulled from your own life?
A bond can develop when people share sorrow. The diagnosis of dementia, or any traumatic diagnosis, can have a dramatic impact on a family. Some people will pull together to protect, and stay connected to, their loved one. Others run away. It’s occurred in our family, and families I’ve interviewed have expressed similar fractures. I did use that experience of shared sorrow to help Noah and Tayte bridge the emotional gap they couldn’t overcome on their own.
Noah, I think, goes through a dramatic transformation. Did you plan the slow personality change or did it happen as you were writing?
It was planned, but earlier drafts had him even more guarded than Tayte, and as the manuscript progressed, and after chats with editors, I decided to soften him a bit, and make him more hopeful and endearing. I needed the readers to cheer for him early on. I have had several experiences with emotionally guarded youth, and interestingly enough, most of these young people were wonderful with small children and the elderly—people less likely to render judgment. I think that acceptance helps them lower their guard. That’s what Agnes does for Noah. She validates the goodness he has been trying to cultivate, and she strengthens his hope for a future that is brighter than his past.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Thanks for asking! I’ve got two projects in progress. “The Shell Game” has been in the works for over a year. It’s a complex political suspense novel about two last-chance people who arrive in a dying West Virginia mining town. A tip from a ruthless informant sends fallen journalism phenom, Jackson James, to Cutler’s Ridge to chase down a story lead involving three high-level passengers headed for the town in a private plane that didn’t file a flight plan.
Young scientist, Tallie Brown’s, mother forced the two of them to live a life of seclusion. When her emotionally distant mother dies in an accident, she leaves behind a newspaper article and a cryptic message that leads Tallie to Cutler’s Ridge. But the townspeople make it clear they don’t like any strangers, and worse, they seem to fear the shy, reclusive Tallie Brown.
Even the other stranger in town, reporter Jackson James, puts Tallie on his radar when Tallie predicts the fall of the private plane he came to track, right before it falls from the sky, killing everyone on board. James uncovers some strange truths about the town and Miss Brown. She has no recorded birth certificate, and the town is riddled with twenty years of secrets that involve the halls of congress and a local military base. I hope to launch “The Shell Game” before Christmas.
Also, I’ve been invited to contribute a volume for Gelato Books’ highly successful “Destination Billionaire’s Romance Series.” Romance is a new genre for me, but it’s been really fun. You’re hearing it here first—my volume will be titled “Sweet Water.” It debuts in March. I’ve been torn about whether to use my name or the pen name Addison Tayte. We’ll see. . .
Fears and secrets are the dragons we each must face. . . In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia. Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew. Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years. The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.
Posted in Interviews
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