Monday, June 30, 2014

Mad Monday -- Or Monday Madness -- Or I think I can, I think I can. . .

Dear Readers, 
I'm in a reflective mood today, so no real madness, but I'll share a hodge podge of stuff.

I came home from volunteering at church to find pots, dishes, strainer in the sink and a weird smell pervading the house.  Did I get upset?  No, I'm thrilled, because my daughter made her lunch to take to work -- again.  

She's finally realized that all those little bits of $5, $7, $10 spent for lunch out do add up.  She'll never have spending or gas money if she's frittering it away on lunches.  I shop and buy food a couple of times a week, so there's always stuff to eat, to fix, to choose from at home.  No need to eat out all the time.   And I'm very glad she's learning this valuable lesson--she's nineteen now.  It takes a little bit of planning, but you can make your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home and save your money for gas, movies, gifts, clothes, etc.
Speaking of eating out, we'll be eating out a lot this week because it's my birthday week and I've signed up for birthday coupons at local and chain restaurants that offer that.  Of course, we'll still pay for my daughter's meal, beverages, and tip, but the main courses will generally be about half off.  That's worth celebrating.  
And it's about all the celebrating we can do with our busy schedules.  She's working at Great America 5 days a week, plus going to summer school, and I'm tutoring 6 days a week. We don't have the same days off.  We'll find a few dinner-times and maybe a lunch or two to use these coupons.  
Yay!  I love to eat out with her because we have polite dinner conversation and catch up on what's happening in our lives.  When we're home, we're usually busy getting ready to go here or there, or crashing in front of the TV.  So often our conversation time is in the car and at the restaurant.  I like to think we're supporting the local economy and enjoying time together, too.  (I have her turn her phone upside down for the time we're together.  Yay again, time together without distractions.)
In between our volunteer jobs (I count money and Katy and I do the church flowers together), I prepare for my tutoring.  I keep notes, find resources on the internet, and make copies.  I also read great children's literature, write reviews, and work on revising my own stories.  Then there's the social media to check in with, and lots of email -- migrating to Gmail means I have my Yahoo and Gmail to check, plus my own Outlook mail -- whew!  I don't know how people lived before social media and email, but maybe we had time for other things, like gardening, cleaning, taking care of pets, spending time with friends in person instead of "virtually."  
That's it for today.  It's a short week and I'm trying to fit in all my students, computer stuff, celebrating, and maybe even writing.  Have a great week and get your flag out for the Fourth!
Tags:  Celebrating, working, teens, eating out, learning to economize, making lunches at home, family time, social media time, making time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two New Reviews of"Magical Matthew" and "Magical Mea"

I'm pleased to share two wonderful reviews on Amazon of Magical Matthew and Magical Mea by Donna McDine:
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming story of positive self-image and acceptance, June 24, 2014
This review is from: Magical Matthew (Hardcover)
The world through the eyes of a child is a special time. They are untainted by the misgivings of the world and have the unique knack of visualizing their surroundings in a positive manner. Young Matthew ha a secret, one he feels must remain secret. He has the uncanny magical ability to fix broken objects by just thinking them fixed. His best friend, Lily, suspects something but can’t quite put her finger on it. Does Matthew lift the burden of his secret and tell Lily or should he keep it to himself? Discover the outcome by reading Magical Matthew.

Award-winning children’s author, Penelope Anne Cole brings forth a . The imaginative illustrations by Kevin Collier make the story come alive before your eyes. Magical Matthew is a must have for homes with young children.

5.0 out of 5 stars The importance of listening to others with more life experience, June 24, 2014
This review is from: Magical Mea (Paperback)
Sisters can be mischievous and Mea is no exception when she takes her antics to a new level. Having obtained magical powers to fix things with her mind, Mea turned the wheels to cause chaos of hiding items instead. Ignoring her old brother Matthew’s steadfast warnings of her magical powers, Mea insists to do things her way. Matthew’s every growing frustration with Mea escalates when Mea goes off alone to most likely create havoc throughout the neighborhood. Will Matthew and his best friend, Lily, find Mea in time before she causes irreparable damage. Find out in Magical Mea by award-winning children’s author, Penelope Anne Cole.

Ms. Cole’s second book in the magical series teaches a valuable lesson to not only Mea, but to the reader of the importance of listening to others with more life experience and destructive decisions often conclude with disastrous results. Illustrator, Kevin Collier once again creates the quirky characters that have become the trademark of Ms. Cole’s Magical Matthew and Magical Mea series.

Thanks to Donna and many other wonderful reviewers who keep giving my books such lovely reviews!
Magical Matthew, Magical Mea, Magical series, children's books, Kevin Collier, talent, good, helping, reviews, kind, sibling

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Flora and Ulysses" and "The Tale of Despereaux," by Kate DiCamillo

Some years ago I read Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, (which I plan to re-read.)  
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I read it while substitute teaching and enjoyed it, but at that time I wasn't searching out authors and reading their books.  Then Carly Watters, a literary agent at an SCBWI Workshop, recommended we read some authors for how to write multiple points of view (POV).  So I checked out Flora and Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux from the digital library.  I read Flora and Ulysses first and then Despereaux, and loved them both.  

Product DetailsIn Flora and Ulysses, Kate DiCamillo uses a hybrid format, adding in some graphic, comic book type scenes by K.G. Campbell, because Flora is enamored with a comic book superhero, "Incandesto." The story is told from both Ulysses and Flora's perspectives.  That's the beauty of using multiple POVsyou can get into more than one character's "head" and see their thoughts and feelings more clearly. 

I loved Flora and Ulysses simple for its laugh out loud humor and great good fun.  There is the pain and trials of normal day-to-day life.  And there are wonderful uplifting scenes that satisfy our human need for love and hope and cheering up.  But what was totally captivating was her deft use of humor to lighten parts of the story that hurt and to see the world in its craziness as a world of possibility, love, and rightness.  This is a great middle grade read that is enjoyable and satisfying.

Product DetailsThen on to The Tale of Despereaux. This one I thought I wouldn't care as much for since it's about a mouse and a princess, but it's done with sweetness and humor.  It harkens back to days of "Once upon a time. . ." and "Happily ever after," and who can resist.  The main character is Despereaux, a tiny mouse who is destined for greatness because of his pure heart and strength of character.  

That is what is so appealing about both of these character-driven storiesthey speak to the heart, to goodness, our hopes and dreams, and to simplicity.  Our modern day world is too complicated, too incomprehensible, too dangerous, and overwhelming at times.  Kate DiCamillo's books give us an escape from where we live, to another world where there is goodness, sometimes greatness, but always hope.  I highly recommend both books.

I look forward to reading more of Kate DiCamillo's books:
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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane 
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The Magician's Elephant
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The Tiger Rising
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She also has the Mercy Watson Series and Bink and Gollie, both for ages 6-9.

Tags:  Kate DiCamillo books, middle grade, POV, children's books, Flora and Ulysses, The Tale of Despereaux.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In Praise of Grandparents

Today I want to recognize grandparents. They're out pushing their grandchildren in strollers. The grandparents I see are totally attentive and enthralled with their grandbabies. They’re speaking to them—often in their native tongue. They’re pointing out things in the neighborhood, like trees, flowers, dogs, birds, cats. They’re communicating with their grandchildren, building relationships, and cementing bonds. I even saw one grandfather carrying his grandson around the yard, wanting that close contact—even better than pushing a stroller. It’s a beautiful thing to see.  I was like that with my Katy. I carried her around in an "over-the-shoulder" baby sling until she was walking. And she didn't walk for a long time--she didn't need to!


As much as I appreciate grandparents these days, I have critical words for some of the younger modern parents I see. You know the ones. They’re pushing strollers, too, but they’re focused on their smart phones. They’re letting their children enjoy fresh air, being in the great outdoors, but their parents aren’t “present” there with them. The parents are in their own virtual world. Maybe they’re on Youtube, Instagram, reading email, or catching up with friends on Facebook—probably telling them they’re taking their kids out in strollers. In their need to stay connected with their friends or work, they’re letting precious never-to-be had-again moments slip by. They’re losing bonding, sharing, and teaching time with their children.


I’m not a “true” grandparent yet, but I am a foster grandparent and a step grandparent. I’m hoping to wait at least a decade to become a real grandparent. My girl is nineteen and in college. So waiting ten years or more is just fine with me. I can wait to spoil my future grandchild. But I love to see other grandparents happily reveling in their grandparent role. Doting grandparents are children’s book authors’ favorite customers—because they buy books for their grandchildren and they read to them. Please join me in praise and appreciation for grandparents.



Tags:  Grandparents, grandma, grandpa, grandchildren, toddlers, babies, infants, children, virtual, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, email, reading, books, praise, appreciation

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Book Reviews on Amazon

I'm excited to share the latest book reviews. I just updated my two book blogs, Magical Matthew and Magical Mea because they received lovely reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars for Magical Matthew, June 17, 2014
This review is from: Magical Matthew (Hardcover)
Magical Matthew, by Penelope Anne Cole, is a darling story especially suited for kids ages 4-9. Most kids (and some adults like me) wish for magical powers, so Matthew will certainly resonate with many. Matthew uses his magic for good by fixing things. He keeps his gift a secret, until he feels he can't, and shows with his actions how helping others and doing good deeds brings a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. What a great lesson for all! Magical Matthew also demonstrates the strong bonds of friendship and the value it has in the lives of children. Kevin Collier's illustrations are terrific and really enhance the reader's experience. I highly recommend Magical Matthew. It will not disappoint kids, parents and teachers alike.
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars for a delightful read!, June 17, 2014
This review is from: Magical Mea (Paperback)
Magical Mea, written by Penelope Anne Cole and illustrated by Kevin Collier, is an enchanting sequel to Ms. Cole's Magical Matthew. Mea is Matthew's younger sister who has her own brand of magic. Unlike her brother who used his magic for good, Mea is a trickster with her magic and has to learn it is better to help people than play tricks on them. Mea is a prankster kids can easily relate to as all kids want recognition of some sort. Mea likes that she "gets praise for being a good finder" after she deliberately hides the items she then "finds." As with most children, life lessons are a better teaching tool than anything told or intentionally preached to them. Ms. Cole does this perfectly in her books. Magical Mea demonstrates it always feels better to earn attention and praise for doing good than negative attention for doing wrong. It is a fun story kids can learn from and parents can appreciate the lesson learned. Mr. Collier's illustrations are incredible and really bring Mea and Matthew to life. I highly recommend this darling book. Your kids will learn from and love Mea and her adventures.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Manic or Marvelous Monday

I'm on holiday this week, sort of.  I have only one student to tutor over the summer and she's on a trip this week.  I have time to work on my new herb garden, put in yesterday, so sweet.  I have time to write and I worked on one of my stories today.  I have time to nap and I enjoyed my free time today.
Now, since I'm a writer, I need to keep writing each day.  I need to post on my blog and on other blogs.  I need to work (and re-work) on my stories.  Today I dusted off a children's mystery story.  I'm not quite a mystery writer, but I wrote a little story with the problem of some missing candy.  It's probably not a story that will be published, I've been told.  Now isn't the right time to write about the glories of candy and other sweets, what with an epidemic of childhood obesity.  Being overweight is another disability, another handicap, another weakness in our society.  If we eat too much and don't move or exercise enough, we'll become a nation of couch potatoes.  
In my distant youth we barely had time to eat.  Weather permitting my brothers and I, our friends and neighbors, were all outside, racing around, chasing each other, playing hide and seek, capture the flag, riding our bikes, playing on play structures, ball games, and even running around the block.  

Yes, we had TV was on at night, and kid shows were over by bedtime.  There were cartoons on Saturday mornings.  But most of the time there were endless things to do outside with friends.   If it was bad weather, and I mean really bad weather, we'd be inside reading comic books, maybe watching TV, if there was something on that our folks would let us watch.  We didn't have access to endless video, digital, computer entertainmentWe were blessed with real kids to play with, not digital images, or virtual friends.  
I guess I feel sorry for kids nowadays who have so many advantages and opportunities and yet limit themselves to hours of YouTube, TV, Cable, Netflix, XBox, Gaming programs, etc.  And I'm totally blown away when I hear a kid, any kid, say "I'm bored."  How can anyone be bored with endless entertainment at your fingertips and on screens all over the house?  
Please teach your kids to think for themselves.  Make sure they have bikes, skateboards, scooters, skates, wagons, kites, all so they will want to go outside and move, exercise, play, and enjoy being kids.  Telling a kid to go fly a kite or play outside is a good thing.  And don't forget about comic books, and children's literature.  Please never stop moving and never stop reading.
My next post will be an ode of appreciation for grandparents.  Stay tuned.

Tags:  Playing inside, playing outside, sports, bikes, games, staying active, reading, watching TV, playing video games, staying healthy, getting exercise.