There are issues that plague all children as they grow up. Each child struggles with identifying who they are as a person, how they relate to other people and how to find out what they believe in. Children can be cruel to each other while they learn how to navigate the messy world of emotions. This can come out in the form of bullying. In The Big Cheese Festival the authors explore the concept of bullying and how it can impact the life of another. What may seem like funny and harmless words to one can truly hurt another. We’ve got a fantastical world of anthropomorphic mice, one of whom only has half a tail. He is named Stubby and due to the unkind bullying from his brother’s friend worries about whether or not he’ll find any worth in himself.
Bullying is a big issue to tackle. Some children’s books try to address this and drop the ball completely. Jackson and Raymond have bundled up the idea of bullying in their book. They take an obvious difference, like having half of a tail, and use it to illustrate how others might react to something so clearly different from the norm. It’s a cute book with the little mice getting ready for a festival. Cutter Mouse, who is friends with Stubby’s brother, is the perpetuator of the bullying. It is often someone close to the bullied who begins the abuse, which Jackson and Raymond have captured here.
While the story is simple and easy to either read or read to a child, there are a few areas in which it lacks. The mice all look exactly the same, in the same outfits. The girl mice have different hairstyles but the boy mice don’t have anything to separate who they are from each other. Different coloured outfits may have helped with this issue. The mice also don’t seem to express emotion. For a story about bullying and overcoming that, showing joy or sorrow would be necessary.
Stubby does stand up to the person who is making him feel poorly which is an important message to children. He doesn’t do it with violence or by calling Cutter names back. He uses his words. S. Jackson and A. Raymond know that children need to learn these skills to survive in this modern world. The Big Cheese Festival helps to make it less frightening and more relatable by creating a fun and entertaining world.
Pages: 37 | ASIN: B01H3S381O
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
Tags: amazon, amazon books, author, Bereavement, book, book review, books, chenee gilbert, death, ebook, ebooks, emotion, emotions, family, fantasy, fantasy book review, feelings, fiction, goodreads, grief, its okay im watching, kindle, life, literature, loss, love, novel, parents, publishing, reading, review, reviews, school, short stories, stories, teen, tradition, tragedy, urban fantasy, women, writing, YA, young adult
Oliver and Jumpy is book 4 in your children’s series that follows playful characters as they go on various adventures. Why was it important for you to create a children’s story that focused on kindness, friendship and helping others?
Many picture books have lessons to tell, but can be very obvious. Children don’t really like to be told what to do. A good example is always better and Oliver, although he is quite a character, shows that you can have fun and adventure, and at the same time do good.
The art in this book is wonderful. What was the collaboration like with the illustrators?
I thought a long time about which quality of illustrations I should pursue. I did not want to go cheap with dots for eyes figures. I would have loved to follow the very complex pictures of the fairy-tales books of 100 years ago. Unfortunately, being self-financed, this option would have been far too expensive. I grew up with Walt Disney and decided to follow that style, which is easy enough for most illustrators to create, but with facial expressions possible. I tried out six illustrators. The first one, Marvin Alonso, was outstanding. He did illustrations to about eleven of the stories before finding greener pastures. Then I found Maycee Ann Reyes who works together with her husband. The rest is history. This team was simply fabulous. They needed a minimum of supervision and created the scenes of the stories totally by themselves. I just provided the story and simple instructions. Maycee turned out a picture every 3-4 days. These series has about 500 illustrations. Oliver and Jumpy began 4 years ago and it was a herculean task which is now finished. This is a triumph of self-publishing. No run-of-the-mill publisher would have been able to produce such an elaborate work in that time.
My favorite story is Butterfly Trouble. What is your favorite story in this book and in the series?
I like the Dog story. I wrote this story because every time we have our daily walk through the neighborhood, there is a bored dog barking and my wife is saying that we should knock on the door and see if we can take him for a walk with us. My favorite story of the series is Story 18 called Moon Crystal. Oliver travels to the moon to bring healing crystals back to Sillandia. This book won the Readers Favorite Book Award Gold Medal.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be available?
I have been working and finished the Chinese and Spanish version of the series. I am now working on the German one and other languages will follow. My final goal will be to find a company who is willing to invest in a TV series. I would like to see children all around the world to benefit of the marvelous work of my illustrators.
Picture book: A cat series book for kids riddled with mystery and fantasy.
Oliver is an elegant tuxedo cat, who is full of himself. As a matter of fact he says: “I love myself!”, quite often. Naughty, isn’t he? But his best friend Jumpy, a kangaroo lady, is aware that he has a soft heart and will always want to help others. The great thing is Jumpy’s pouch, which Oliver loves to ride in! He calls her his kangaroo taxi! These little bedtime stories with their lovely illustrations are great for small kids. A parent can read the text and tell the child in his own words. These animal stories have sufficient text to keep early readers happy and provide some educational value. Love you all! Meow! Story 10: Unhappy Dog – The friends help an unhappy dog to escape his boredom. Story 11: Kite High – Flying high is everybody’s dream, but how to get down? Story 12: Butterfly Trouble – Butterflies don’t like to be caught.
Posted in Interviews
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In His Way tells the story of your second marriage to a Deputy Sheriff and being a mother of three; a volunteeraholic and a workaholic living together. What made you want to write about your life and put it out there for the world?
To be completely honest, I’m not a writer. I’m a numbers kinda gal. Back in the days when I worked for a paycheck, I did Bookkeeping or Accounting.
As my husband was dealing with his health issues, God made it clear I was to share with others, through a book, how I was getting through it. I was to write about my transition of no faith in anything, to faith in God Almighty, which brought hope, forgiveness and love into my world.
In His Way is a beautifully written memoir. I felt you left nothing out. Why was it important for you to give a faithful retelling of your life?
It was important for me to be all in when writing this book because ultimately, I desire the reader to feel connected to the story. I believe many people, if not everyone, can relate to something I have shared, because they too have gone through it. It’s important for the reader to feel the pain, relief, distress or joy as I experienced it for that connection to be made.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life to write about?
The hardest part of the book to write about was the relationship with my mom. It took many rewrites and a lot of tears to openly admit how this relationship affected who I am today.
What do you hope readers take away from In His Way?
I hope each reader would know they are never alone in any situation. God is right there beside them, waiting to be invited into their circumstance, to offer His comfort. Also, there is always many who have walked the same road they are on and willing to bring them help and encouragement, but they must first let their pain or difficulty be known.
Are you working on another book? If so, when will that be published?
No, I’m not currently working on another book. I do however, have a blog, inhisway.net, that I write on occasionally.
Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together – it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids.
God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it.
Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.
Posted in Interviews
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The Hungry Monster Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Bean Takes a Walk by Ann Bevans & Matthew Ethan Gray
Mother Athina by Danny Estes
Game Over by Derek Eddington
Beyond Cloud Nine by Greg Spry
The Second Sphere by Peter Banks
Seed of Treachery by C.A. MacLean
Wolves Among Sheep by Steven Pajak
Chaste: A Tale From Perilisc by Jesse Teller
The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana by Katlynn Brooke
“When I look at a book, I see the history of books, old tomes with sacred knowledge. The authorities that controlled the books controlled the people. Books brought the old world to order. My books are how I bring my life and my thoughts to order, the only lasting way I can see to impart wisdom and ask questions.” – Jesse Teller author of Chaste
Posted in Hungry Monster Book Award
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