The Bookbag, Books for Ages 8 to 12, November/December 2006

Happy Chanukkah to those who begin celebrating the festival of lights this evening. And Merry Christmas to those who are getting ready to celebrate Christ’s birth and/or Santa.

If you’re searching for a great gift for a middle reader/teenager, we’ve got some titles they may enjoy. Many of these have been “road tested” with their target audience. The Teen STAR Review Team at Be the Star You Are!(tm) has sent us their reviews.

Crine through Time: Iced by Bill Doyle. Nick Fitzmorgan is going through his paces at the Private Detective Agency. Right in the middle of a field exercise, he’s pulled away and sent home. Except that when Nick gets home, his Dad is missing. Using his expert detective skills, Nick puts together clues that lead him to Mount Everest. This story is part historical mystery (who was the first climber to reach Mt. Everest) and part fictional tale of a missing person. “This is an incredibly fun series to read. They’ll hook you just like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.” (Little, Brown and Company, 2006)

The Many Adventures of Pengey Penguin by John Burns. Pengey is an orphaned penguin. What should have been a routine childhood, quickly became transcontinental adventure. After meeting Wendy (a human) he knew he had found a ‘family.’ When they are separated at the airport, all wonders of events befall Pengey as he tries to find Wendy again. This is a chapter-book adventure of a young emperor penguin. “Who doesn’t love penguins? Pengey embodies all of the things we love (or want to see) in a penguin. Whether its the movie Happy Feet, or the National Geographic’s The March of the Penguin, somehow you can see Pengey.”

Secret of the Dance by Susan Eileen Walker. Jeremy Applewhite returned home from New York City 17 years and one day too late to see his grandmother alive. His brother Chance, who stayed behind, is not particularly happy to see him. A series of events, thanks to fate and Chance’s wife and daughter, give the brothers the opportunity to resume a once close relationship. This is a young adult novel about pursuing dreams and remaining true to one’s self. Teen Reviewer: “This book is exceptionally touching, with events that reveal the nature of the human heart. The author creates real, strong characters which contribute to the passion with which the story is written. I think that this story inspires us to be true to our souls, live our lives with zeal, and appreciate the precious times that we share with our families and friends.”

Two Worlds by Marietta Barron. In 1926, revolution in Mexico forced the Garcia family to flee to the United States. They resettled in Aztec, a mining town in the Anerican Southwest. Jose, a precocious eleven-year-old, wanted to play baseball, help earn money for his family, and be treated as an equal by his anglo peers. This is a historical fiction work for advanced readers. “The story is real and the characters are believable. Although they may never experience Jose’s experiences personally, readers will relate to his joy and pain and gain some measure of understanding of the suffering and inhumanity caused by bigotry.” (Royal Fireworks Press, 1999)

What are the (publishing) Odds? Children’s Authors Take Note

When you finish reading this, you'll see why it pays to subscribe to E-newsletters! Be selective, and you'll always find something of interest. I regularly receive Sharing with Writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher won't). Today's edition arrived with this blurb:

Only One in 4,000 Children’s Picture Book Manuscripts Ever Get Published

One in 4,000! Those are the odds that a children’s book manuscript will ever get into book form. The ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition, now in its third year, cuts those odds drastically. Rita Mills, one of the sponsors says, "Any of the ten finalists will be a worthy publishing project, but …the winner to be selected by the parents and children who actually read the books not an editor sitting behind a desk."

Entry deadline is midnight February 28, 2007. The competition is open to any published or unpublished writer, over the age of 21 who lives in the US. Learn more at Contact: Sandy Lawrence at or Rita at

I took the opportunity to reach out for Sandy and Rita, and this is what I learned:
Although this is the third year ofthe competition, the first winner's book was published this past year. It launched in September 2006, and has sold roughly 1,500 books in 3 months. It has also been nominated for two awards: one from the Texas Library Association and one from the Texas State Reading Association.

The Bookbag, Books for Ages 4 to 8, September/October 2006

Happy Autumn. This edition of the Bookbag has some fun stories for any time of the year … even the seemingly Halloween titles. As always, the books are listed in alphabetical order.

Christmas at the Candle Factory by Barbara L. Johns. Midnight, the cat, has always loved Christmas. She is Grady’s right-hand-paw when it comes time to creating special treasures for the holiday. But Elvis, the new cat, was ruining everything: candles, the fun of the holiday, and now, even her mood. Would Christmas ever be the same again? This is a seasonal picture book that doesn’t involve a big man in a red suit, but offers a wonderful story all the same. (Steeple Ridge Publications, 2006)

Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Haunted House (I Can Read! Level 1)
by Doug Cushman. When the ghosts on Ghoul Street start complaining about living in a haunted house, Dirk Bones is given the task of writing an article for the newspaper. “Everyone in our house loves this book. It’s developed from a reading activity to a mini-play, where everyone reads a specific part. Lots of fun.” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2006)

Do You Know the Way to Find an A? by Dale Wildman. You just never know what the animals will do as you listen to their story and move from letter to letter. This is a poetic alphabet book that draws attention to a letter’s use IN a word, just not at the beginning. (Journey Stone Creations, 2006)

Here is the African Jungle by Phyl Manning. This is a nice turn on your normal animal story. The animals aren’t necessrily unfamiliar, but the house-that-jack-built cadence adds a lyrical quality that complements the incredible illustrations. (Wizard Graphics, Inc. Publications, 2006)

I Rode the Red Horse, Secretariat’s Belmont Race by Barbara M. Libby. The story offers a re-cap of history in such a way that children can draw a story from it. “Even if you don’t know anything about horse-racing, you will enjoy the tale of a great race.” (Eclipse Press, 2003)

Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten by Stacy Kannenberg. Open the book and you’ll learn the skills your child needs to develop during Kindergarten. Turn the pages and you’ll find opportunities to engage your child in learning. This is a workbook for preschoolers and kindergarteners. “Our preschooler loves the idea of being able to write in a book [and] instantly claimed some favorite pages, which are the things s/he is most comfortable with.” (Cedar Valley Publishing, 2005)

One Incredible Dog: Kizzy by Chris Williams. When Kizzy travels around town for her job with R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), TV reporter Summer Brown and her cameraman follow along. Kizzy shows Summer all of the ways she helps children and adults learn to read. This is an early reader series that celebrates amazing dogs. (Keene Publishing, 2006)