I want to introduce Lindsay Cummings to you. She just broke into the publishing world with two separate series releasing in the same year. The Murder Complex (Greenwillow Books/Harpercollins) and The Balance Keepers (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). The imprint of the second series is the same that published Veronica Roth and the blockbuster Divergent series. I came across Lindsay on facebook and was immediately intrigued by her outspoken faith to the generally secular publishing world in which she reviews and writes for. Her husband is a youth pastor and the two of them love Jesus and animals, but you'll read a bit more about both of those in the interview below. A savvy promoter, Lindsay has created a presence by reviewing books and coming up with a catchy brand called #BookNerdigans. You can even buy #BookNerdigans gear. Alright so without further delay let's get to the interview.
Brock: Lindsay thank you for discussing your writing journey with us and how your faith influences your writing.
Lindsay: Thanks so much for chatting with me! It’s really cool to be able to talk about my faith so openly in an interview, so I’m excited about this.
Brock: Lindsay would you introduce yourself to my readers.
Lindsay: The short answer, is that I’m a 23 year old author at HarperCollins, who lives in Texas and loves God. The long answer, which I like more, is that I’m a 23 year old author who only got to this place because God took me on a crazy journey, and when I finally opened up my eyes and paid attention to His voice, He lead me home. I live in Celina, TX with my husband Josh, who is a first-time Youth Pastor at LifeWay Church. I’m an animal lover, with dogs, a wolf, a draft horse, tons of chickens, and a hedgehog. I love singing worship music, reading far too much to be cool, and I love my God.
Brock: I like the long answer too. Lindsay, when did you feel called to be a writer?
Lindsay: I was always a writer, even as a kid. My dad wrote a book when I was younger, and I always wanted to be like him. I wrote little short stories all the time growing up, but the real honest writing started after I graduated high school, and got sick with Chronic Fatigue. It was about 2 1/2 years of surgeries and being bedridden, sometimes so weak I couldn’t get up off of the couch without someone helping me stand. Writing was an escape, a way to explore freedoms that my own weak body couldn’t give me at the time. I never wanted to be an author, not as a career. But God lead me here, and now, I don’t want to do anything else.
Brock: Amazing the journey and plan he has us on at times. I too never expected to be a published author. Tell us about your writing journey and the milestones along the way?
Lindsay: It started with the Chronic Fatigue, and simply writing to escape. But by the time I had finished my very first book (a terrible book, I might add), I realized that THIS was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s funny, all my life, I’ve bounced around to different hobbies (guitar, ice hockey, horses, hair styling, and so much more), but writing always stuck with me. When I finished my first book, I went to a writer’s conference in Dallas, called DFWcon. This is where my journey really begin, as I met my agent, Louise Fury. My first book that I pitched to her, she didn’t want. I kept her email address, and about 4 months later, after I had another new book, I took a shot and sent her an email. She was very enthusiastic about reading The Murder Complex, which is the series that, eventually, 3 years later, finally hit shelves in bookstores. It’s been a rough journey. I struggle with depression, exhaustion, and I worry too much. But God is always there to get me through to the next day.
Brock: Were there any amazing/miraculous doors God opened for you?
Lindsay: My agent is incredible, truly. She’s a South African spitfire of a woman, who knows how to sell a book :) I just adore her, and honestly, I feel like God plucked her out of the massive pile of agents and saved her just for me. She knows I worry and stress, and she knows how to calm me down. We got a lot of rejections for The Murder Complex when it was out on submission with publishers, but Louise continued to remind me that there was a plan. It would happen. We just didn’t know when. Eventually we got the book deal, and then another about a year later (with my children’s series, Balance Keepers), and I can see God’s hand in every step of the way. Sometimes, I imagine He’s up in Heaven, chuckling as He looks down at me while I stress and stress and stress. I imagine Him saying, “Lindsay, Child, I’ve got this. Just trust me!"
Brock: I have been reminded on more than one occasion that Go's always got me. He's always carrying me and His plan is perfect. Lindsay, how does your faith impact your writing? You are writing for a secular audience, so in what ways do you intertwine your faith into your work?
Lindsay: The books that I write are not Christian, but strangely, The Murder Complex is my own take on a dark science fiction version of Revelation. Balance Keepers is just a fun fantasy book that kids can enjoy. While I don’t write Christian fiction, I do try very hard to let people know that I’m a Believer. On my social media accounts, I’ll post pictures of my Bible. I’ll post a cool shot of a verse. I always try to mention, when I’m speaking, that God is the ultimate reason for my success. I want readers to know that it’s “cool” to be a Christian. You can still write dark scifi, and fantasy, and love God! I’ve been able to talk to some teens who aren’t Believers, but have taken an interest in it because of my posts…and honestly, that’s the coolest part of it all.
Brock: Our mission field is around us everyday in all we do. Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (ESV) What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Lindsay: I write full time from home, so I like to sleep in. Once I’m up, I snuggle with my giant German Shepherds for a while, and then I write for an hour or two. I give myself a break, maybe take a nap (I have to nap every day because of my energy levels), and then write a little more. I also try to read every single day. Reading great books inspires me to write great books.
Brock: Any particular habits while you write?
Lindsay: I can’t write with music unless it’s instrumental only! (Lately, the Mockingjay Part One Score has been lovely). I also like to be alone, with no distractions.
Brock: Tell us about your blogging/reviewing?
Lindsay: I started book blogging before I was picked up by my agent and then HarperCollins. I think it just helped me have a solid start to an online presence, and I was able to stay up to date on the newest books and trends in the industry.
Brock: Tells us about #Booknerdigans
Lindsay: #Booknerdigans is a silly hashtag I created a few years ago. It’s just for people to use, if they love books. I didn’t realize it was going to explode in a big way. It’s been fun to see people using it all over Twitter and Instagram. I also started a booknerdigans.com site, for some teens around the world to post their thoughts about new book releases.
Brock: What authors have influenced your writing if any?
Lindsay: I loved CS Lewis growing up. His fantasy worlds are so rich and alive. I also loved JK Rowling, and Suzanne Collins. While the latter two aren’t Christian writers, they’ve definitely got God-given talents for creating incredible stories.
Brock: Alright now we'll switch gears from author life to the books you've just released. First share about The Murder Complex series with us.
Lindsay: The Murder Complex takes place in the futuristic Florida Everglades, in a walled-in city called the Shallows, where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate. It’s a dark story, but there are patches of light littered throughout. There is also a prequel novella, The Fear Trials, that’s out in ebook format, and book 2, The Death Code, comes out in April 2015!
Brock: Who is The Murder Complex written for?
Lindsay: It’s Young Adult, which typically means high school to college, but honestly, I think it’s a series that everyone can enjoy.
Brock: Who are the main characters in The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: It focuses on Meadow Woodson, a 16-year-old girl whose father has trained her to kill to survive, and Zephyr James, a 17-year-old orphan, whose job is to clean the streets of carnage once the latest murders have happened.
Brock: What elements of your faith are woven into The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: It’s my take on Revelation—with a futuristic, assassin twist.
Brock: Is there anything you wish for your readers to take away from The Murder Complex?
Lindsay: I simply want readers to enjoy the book. I want them to be able to connect with the story, and just have fun with it. I wrote this first book while I was very sick, post-surgery, and writing it was therapeutic for me. If one person is struggling with the same type of thing, and my book helped them get through it…well, that would be pretty cool for me!
Brock: How many books are planned for The Murder Complex, and can you give us any insight on what to expect next.
Lindsay: The Death Code is book 2, and it has the same fast-paced, short chapters that alternate between Meadow and Zephyr. It’s a fun book. It took me about 7 drafts to get it right, so now that it’s done, I’m really excited for readers to get it in 2015.
Brock: Now you also have a Kids fiction series. Tell us about Balance Keepers.
Lindsay: Balance Keepers is a fantasy trilogy, about kids who go to school in the Core of the earth. From there, they learn to harness one unique set of special powers through a Tile necklace they each get. In the Core, they train to enter hidden Realms that, when they are out of Balance, threaten the surface world above.
Brock: Who is Balance Keepers written for?
Lindsay: Balance Keepers is considered Middle Grade, so upper elementary through middle school. But again, it’s a fun, light-hearted book that anyone can enjoy!
Brock: Who are the main characters in Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: Albert Flynn is an eleven-year-old boy whose parents are divorced. He goes to spend the summer with his dad in Herman, Wyoming, where he discovers the Core. Albert is fun as most boys his age are. He has a companion dog named Farnsworth, a magical dog that has glowing blue eyes! Albert is joined by Birdie Howell, a spitfire of a girl who’s whip smart, and Leroy Jones, a somewhat nerdy, scaredy-cat kid who is the comic relief in every chapter.
Brock: What elements of your faith are woven into the Balance Keepers series if any?
Lindsay: Not many—but when I do school visits, I’m not afraid to tell kids who I put my trust in!
Brock: Is there anything you wish for your readers to take away from Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: I just want them to have fun while they read it. I want them to smile and laugh. It’s such a fun series, and I feel like the books can just make people happy!
Brock: How many books are planned for Balance Keepers?
Lindsay: There are 3 books planned for Balance Keepers. Book 2 comes out September 2015.
Brock: I noticed your acknowledgements in the back of the books mention Jesus. Why did you feel it necessary to give Him credit?
Lindsay: I am nothing without God, and I want the world to know that.
Brock: Tell us all the amazing ways readers can find you and connect with you.
Lindsay: I’m on Twitter @authorlindsayc, Instagram @authorlindsaycummings, and www.lindsaycummingsbooks.com
Brock: Thank you Lindsay for introducing us to you and for giving us a look into your work.
Lindsay: Thanks for chatting with me! It’s great to be able to openly talk about my faith, and just let people know that God is the reason for it all. God bless you, and everyone else who reads this!
You can read more about Lindsay Cummings through her websites lindsaycummingsbooks.com and booknerdigans.com.
Her three released titles are:
The Murder Complex (Greenwillow Books/Harpercollins)
The Fear Trials (A Murder Complex Prequel Novella) (HarperTeen Impulse)
Balance Keepers: The Fires of Calderon (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
Where Bear? by Sophy Henn is a fun imaginative book that takes readers on a journey from one place to the next to find Bear a new home. My kids enjoyed the sometimes silly and sometimes practical places where Bear could live, yet he always said "No.". The little boy and Bear finally try a snowy location and discover it's exactly where Bear belongs. My kids were pleased to learn that Bear and the little boy stayed friends and were even headed off on another adventure together.
Elsie says, "The toy shop is so silly. I like the cave the most." Then she makes her voice into an echo, "No, no, no, no, no." You'll have to read the book to understand that last part.
An interview with Sophy Henn:
Brock: Sophy thanks for joining us for this interview. We're always excited to talk to authors and illustrators of the books we love.
Sophy: I am so pleased your kids enjoyed Where bear?, that really is the best thing to hear!
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for Where Bear?
Sophy: I was playing around with some acrylic paint and absentmindedly painted a white bear in a forest. He looked a little lost and confused, "Where was this bear supposed to be?" Then I scrabbled around in a note book where, among a lot of other nonsense, I had written down 'Where Bear' as it sounded nice. Bingo! The story started from there.
Brock: Are bears your favorite animal? If not what is?
Sophy: I love all animals, I really couldn't pick a favourite, though as my next book is about a Panda you could be forgiven for thinking I had a thing about bears. I have a dog called Buster and a huge soft spot for guinea pigs!
Brock: Will there be a second Where Bear book?
Sophy: I am not sure, never say never! But I wouldn't want to do one for the sake of it and the right story just hasn't popped into my head. Yet!
Brock: My kids loved your illustrations. What artistic technique did you use for Where Bear?Sophy: Your kids have excellent taste!!!! I hand draw everything using plain old pencils, then I scan it in and put it all together on my Mac. But whenever I get the chance I love to play around with inks, printmaking, paints, you never know what might come out of it!
Brock: If you'd like to learn about one of Sophy's techniques you can see an illustrated guide on The Guardian about drawing expressions, and it features a bear.
Brock: Thanks Sophy for all the great answers.
Sophy: Thanks again Brock, I really appreciate your interest in Where Bear? and look forward to reading your review!
Order Where Bear? Here
From the Publisher:
This beautifully illustrated, fun read-aloud picture book will have kids everywhere asking the same question: “Where, bear?”Once there was a bear cub who lived with a little boy. But over time the bear cub grew . . . and grew . . . and GREW! And did things that bears do . . . and do . . . and DO! One day the boy looked at the bear and realized he was just too big and bearish to be living in a house. “I think it’s time we found you a new place to live where you can be bearish and big,” said the boy. “But where, bear?”So begins a delightful journey that reminds us that even when best friends are apart, they always stay together.
Praise for WHERE BEAR?:
* “[N]othing short of magnificent. Each page is absolutely charming and begs to be looked at again and again.”–Library Media Connection, starred review“[A] winsome debut . . . The catchy refrain, ‘Then where, bear?,’and Henn’s sophisticated matte-toned illustrations make for a zippy take on the ‘finding your place’ genre.”–New York Times Book Review“This gentle tale about friendship and home will give early readers and their grown-ups plenty of food for discussion.”–Kirkus Reviews“Simple illustrations in bold colors allow the bear’s repertoire of expressions — chagrin, boredom, and terror — to take center stage.”–Boston Globe“[C]hildren will gravitate to the rhythmic repetition and the graphic design. A notable debut.”–Booklist
Henry Finds His Word by Lindsay Ward was a fun read for my littlest one and as a parent it was ridiculously relatable; especially in the moment Henry finds his last word. With fun vibrant illustrations and a quick easy to read story, it makes a great read for your youngest listeners in the family. In our house Waverly is doing exactly what Henry does on the final page of the book. It's all about "MAMA!"
When I asked Waverly what she thought of the book, she simply said, "Mama! Mama! Mama!." I think that says it all.
From the Publisher:
New moms and their babies will love watching Henry say his first word
Baby Henry is under a lot of pressure to say his first word. His parents are all excited about what it will be, but Henry doesn’t see what the big deal is. He says things all the time like “bbbghsh” and “boop,” but no one seems to understand what he means. So, Henry decides that he better start searching for a word. Luckily, just when he needs it most, his first word comes looking for him.This picture book about learning to talk is the perfect gift for new parents and big brothers and sisters. Watching Henry hit this developmental milestone is a treat, and new moms will melt when they find out what Henry’s first word is.Order Here
In his retelling of the classic story Chicken Little, Robert Byrd gives a new triumphant twist to the story. Brave Chicken Little stays true to the story's characters and beginning, but takes us to a happier resolution that children will appreciate. In this richly illustrated version, the villain; Foxy Loxy, is defeated and our heroes (albeit not the wisest at first) escape to the tell the King the sky is falling. Your kids will enjoy hearing the story and meeting the large cast of characters along Chicken Little's way. They'll wonder what will happen when Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Turkey Lurkey, Piggy Wiggy, Rabbit Babbit, Natty Ratty, Froggy Woggy, and Roly and Poly Moley are trapped by Foxy Loxy, but will celebrate when the family of foxes is outfoxed by brave Chicken Little. It's nice to read an optimistic outcome to your kids that still teaches a great lesson.
Brock: It's my pleasure to have Robert Byrd here to answer a few questions about Brave Chicken Little. Robert, why did you decide to retell the story of Chicken Little?
Robert: I always liked the story of Chicken Little, and the sky falling, and how foolish all the animals seemed, but I felt the traditional telling of the tale didn't really go anywhere.
Brock: Is that why you added a more positive hopeful ending to the story?
Robert: In some versions the fox eats everybody and in others the king's dogs chase the fox away, and in others nothing really happens at the end. I thought the story could be told with Chicken Little - a very small animal - out-foxing the fox. Chicken Little is sort of a hero while all of the others are rather useless in a bad situation. I also liked the idea of introducing new characters into the story.
Brock: My kids loved your illustrations. What artistic techniques did you use for Brave Chicken Little?
Robert: I work with ink line drawn over pencil line, and then washes and layers of watercolor, on Arches water color paper. Thanks so much for your interest in my work. You can see more of what I do at Robert Byrd Art
Brock: Thanks Robert for answering our questions.
From the Publisher:
Could it be? A piece of the sky!
Chicken Little and his friends run, run, run to tell the king. Nothing stands in the way except…the sly Foxy Loxy. Surely they have time to stop for lunch with Foxy and his kits. But what happens when Chicken Little and company find themselves on the menu?
What this classic story needs is a new ending and a brave hero. And maybe this time, it’s Chicken Little!
Cleverly retold and exquisitely illustrated by Robert Byrd, Brave Chicken Little transforms a cautionary fable into a tale of triumph.
Praise for BRAVE CHICKEN LITTLE:
“Byrd’s rewrite of the Chicken Little story is a distinct improvement on traditional versions…pen-and-ink spreads drawn with a sense of lyricism [are] pleasantly at odds with the slapstick prose.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review“So much attention and detail has been lavished on each flora and fauna enhanced spread that children will want repeat viewings. That will give them more time to catch the humor that can be broad (CL cellar escape) or subtle (the range of expressions on the animals’ faces).” – Booklist, starred review“This is the most fun version of Chicken Little since Paul Galdone’s Henny Penny (Seabury Press, 1968).” --Library Media Connection“A handsome, most welcome addition to the…literature of folk and fairy tales.” --Kirkus
“Byrd upends both the classic tale’s conventions and its cautionary message; still, his revision works as an underdog-makes-good story, much abetted by his elegantly detailed illustrations.” --Horn Book“Alliteration, occasional rhyming, and poetic language add richness to the storytelling and strengthen the readaloud potential.” --BCCB
Perfect for a Spring Day: A Review of When the Wind Blows and interview with Linda Booth Sweeney and Jana Christy
An adventure that rhymes along the way. The style and free flow of the wispy illustrations match the rhyming flowing poem of this book perfectly. A fun and beautifully illustrated edition to anyone's library for their kids, When the Wind Blows by Linda Booth Sweeney and Jana Christy will take you to a seaside village on an early spring day. The adventure of the little boy and his grandma, reminded me of my childhood outings with my Grandma Swigart and while we did not live by the sea, we did find ourselves at the lake feeding ducks and flying kites in our hometown park.
Brock: And now an interview with Linda Booth Sweeney. How did you come up with the idea for the poem When the Wind Blows?
Linda: When my oldest son Jack was two (he’s now 16!), we went out to run an errand. It was bright and sunny when we left, but as we headed back home, a storm came in and the wind blew, and blew. His stroller was literally blown off the side walk! Jack loved the whole thing and kept pointing out to me what he saw — the sign shaking so hard it looked like it would fall off the post, the awnings billowing and snapping, the puddles shimmering…I had my head down trying to get him home safely but his excitement was contagious! I joined him in his wide-eyed awe of the wind and found myself laughing and skipping home, and loving every minute of it. That’s how the first draft was born. I just wrote down all the things we noticed. And then from there, I began to fill it out and develop the rhyme.
I wrote the book, in part, invite children outside, to keenly observe the wind, or the rain and snow for that matter! My guide here is the poet Mary Oliver. Here are her ““Instructions for living a life”:
Tell about it.”
What happens when the winds blows? The snows flurry? The rains falls? I want kids to get out there and get there noses in it, and be amazed and tell about it.
Brock: What a great motivation to create this tale. Is spring time your favorite season?
Linda: It is definitely one of my favorites. Spring is all about renewal and rejuvenation. It’s about faith too. Faith that the purplish asparagus crowns will find their way through still icy April earth, and those little green daffodil shoots will once again appear. We had six major snow storms here in New England so it definitely tested our faith that Spring would finally come. Even this week (the first week of April), my iPhone showed snow flakes for this week’s weather forecast!
Brock: I'm in Colorado, so I know all about the constant sometimes unpredictable changes in the weather. What is your connection to the ocean?
Linda: I do love the ocean and would spend time every summer in Truro, Massachusetts with my family in a tiny, one-room cottage. I have to say though, the beauty of the ocean connection in this book is really Jana’s inspiration. You’ll have to ask her!
Brock: What advice would you give to a future poet?
Linda: Quiet down. Be fully present wherever you are. On the soccer field, in the woods, even in the grocery store. See what words emerge and then go home and write them down. Start with four lines and see how it feels. Then, if you get hooked, become a student of poetry. Read as much as you can. My favorite guidebook is by Mary Oliver’s “A Poetry Handbook”. And then read other’s poetry. Two of my favorite poetry picture books right now are “The Forest Has a Song” by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and “A Rock Can Be” by Laura Purdie Salas.
Brock: Thanks Linda for the wonderful answers!Order Here:
From the Publisher:
Spring weather can be exciting!
When wind chimes start singing and clouds race across the sky, one little guy knows just what to do—grab his kite!
But as the kite soars, the wind picks up even more, and soon he and his grandma are chasing the runaway kite into town. As they pass swirling leaves, bobbing boats, and flapping scarves, breezes become gusts and the sky darkens. Rain is on the way! Can they squeeze in one more adventure before the downpour?
Scenes rich with springtime details for little eyes to follow and lyrical verse that captures the changeable mood of the weather make this perfect for spring story times.
Praise for When the Wind Blows:
*“Electric colors evoke the kinetic energy that crackles before a storm and the irrepressible excitement a good squall brings out in young and old. … The book’s exhilarating verse [is] metronomic and as succinct as the heartbeat throbbing in the cold ears of a child racing back to his dry house… Gale-force gusts of invigorating artwork and imagery will leave readers breathless in windswept wonder.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The rhythm of the book seems to mimic the steady blow of the wind on each page. Young readers will enjoy following the story in the supporting gorgeous watercolor images as they watch the winds pick up speed.”–School Library Journal
“The rhymes are fresh and unpredictable, and the narrative maintains a crisp rhythm throughout. Christy’s illustrations align closely with the text, effectively capturing swirling winds, swinging signs, and swaying tree branches.”–Booklist
A quick easy read with rhyming like Dr. Suess. Doreen Cronin and Juana Medina's Smick will make your kids smile as they flip the pages and memorize the easy text of this picture book. "Smick is a quick slick read."
From the Publisher:
Smick is a BIG dog.
Chick is a little chick.
So what happens when they see a stick?
Written by New York Times bestselling author Doreen Cronin and ingeniously illustrated by newcomer Juana Medina, Smick is a story of unlikely friendship, a sense of adventure, and a lot of wonderful wordplay.
PRAISE FOR SMICK:
“Maximum fun.” --Booklist, starred review
“Less is definitely more in this fetching, fun-filled mix of dog, chick and stick, guaranteed to tickle all.” --Kirkus Reviews
SnoozeFest Won't Put You to Sleep: A Review of SnoozeFest and Interview with Samantha Berger and Kristyna Litten
This dad says, "SnoozeFest will be your next bedtime hit," though we read it before lunch. The imagery in SnoozeFest is fun and engaging, taking you into the town of Snoozeville where we meet Snuggleford Cuddlebun a rather sleepy sloth. Samantha Berger and Krstyna Litten have created a fun little world to visit that your kids will connect to. For example the names of all the blankets 'Knit-Knit and Woobee' (At our house we call blankie Foofie) and the fun animals who visit the NuzzleDome for the SnoozeFest. My girls sat on my lap as I read the fun rhyming prose of SnoozeFest accompanied by engaging beautiful art. They enjoyed looking at the artwork in detail, talking about the silly things they saw. We read the book twice back-to-back because they liked it so much. I recommend SnoozeFest to moms and dads looking for a fun read-aloud story. When I asked my kiddos what they thought of the book; Kinley said, "Really good. My favorite part was the cats in the pajama parade." Her sister Elsie agrees about the cats in pajamas (we love cats) but adds the book was, "Silly."
A quick and awesome interview with the author and artist:
Brock: Samantha, how did you come up with the idea for Snoozefest?
Samantha: Snoozefest combines 3 things I absolutely love: sloths, music, and SLEEPING! Once upon a time, I took a trip to Costa Rica and stayed at a sloth sanctuary that helps rescue sloths and baby sloths. I met a sloth named Buttercup and held her in my arms. Here is a photo:
[caption id="attachment_4233" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Samantha and Sloth[/caption]I couldn't believe how slowly sloths moved, and how expressive their faces were (*Just look at that FACE!) and how much they liked to SLEEP! I knew I wanted to write a book starring a sleepy sloth someday. And, I also love music!There are, all over the world, these HUGE music festivals, where tons of bands play, and people gather to listen to music for days. (Some of the famous ones in the United States are Coachella, Lollapalooza, Burning Man, and South by Southwest). That gave me the idea to have a great big music festival for the world's greatest sleepers. What would the audience do at that music festival? They would sleep through the whole thing! And who would love that festival MOST? A sloth! (and ME!) That is how Snoozefest was born.
Brock: That's a fun story. I'm going to have to put, 'holding a sloth,' on my list of things to do before I die. Tell us one thing about Snuggleford Cuddlebun that was not in the book?
Samantha: Snuggleford Cuddlebun has six sloth sisters and brothers. Their names are Yawna, Dozer, Sir Crashington, Snora, Restacio and Droolian. All of them are also too tired to wear pants.
Brock: That makes me laugh. What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become an author?
Kristyna: Yeah, I love drawing animals so it was great to draw all the animal families that would be going to the Snoozefest. I’m glad they liked the three little kittens. Those mischievous three are actually on a number of the pages, right from the point they are waiting for the bus through to the performances of all the great bands. Where most of the crowd are chilled and mellow, the cats are running wild. One of them is even emptying the contents of an onlooker’s handbag, and another is riding a sheep across the stage.
Brock: My girls loved that (the cats)! My oldest had me flipping pages back and forth, while she was laughing. I wish I had a video of it. She was going on about the silly little kittens. What was your favorite part of the book to illustrate?
Kristyna: I really loved doing the PJ Parade. I love fashion and drawing clothes so that was really my favourite spread to do. And I also love colourful patterns so I block printed and drew lots of patterns that could be used through the book. So they all came in particularly useful when I was colouring all the unique blankets animals would bring to the festival.
Brock: PJ Parade was certainly the winning spread at our house. What advice would you give to a kid who wants to become an illustrator?
Kristyna: Draw as often as you can and draw what you enjoy drawing, the more you draw for pleasure the more confident you’ll become in drawing new things and develop as an illustrator. I’m still learning every day.
Brock: Great advice Kristyna, I'm no artist, but I do love to doodle. Perhaps there is even hope for me someday. Thanks Samantha and Kristyna for taking the time to answer these questions. We learned a lot and I know my family looks forward to your next books, hopefully we'll meet Snuggleford Cuddlebun again.
From the Publisher:Bedtime story meets Coachella in this adorable book about a sloth who packs up his pajamas to attends an arena festival for nappers, dozers, and the very best sleepyheads. Snuggleford Cuddlebun is a champion sleeper. In fact, she’s such a good sleeper that she decides to go to Snoozefest, an arena festival that celebrates sleep. There, she lounges in her hammock while bands like the Nocturnal Nesters and the Quiet Quartet serenade the audience with lullabies. There’s warm milk and honey to be had, designer pajamas from Diane von Firstinbed, and no one dares be seen without a baby blanket. But before she knows it, the nuzzling, snuggling, and dreaming are over—and Snuggleford has slept through it all. This hilariously endearing bedtime story is perfect for anyone who loves sloths, music festivals, and/or cuddles. Order Here
Your phone won't work. Water isn't coming from the tap anymore. Your car won't move. Your refrigerator is warming up. The lights won't turn on. There's no radio or television. THERE'S NO POWER!
I couldn't put this book down![/caption]While browsing book covers (which always helps to inspire me) I came across The Rule of Three by Eric Walters. After reading the book synopsis I was drawn in. I originally read the book on my Kindle, but have since purchased a hardback copy to sit next to the just released hardback of Fight for Power, Book 2 in the series. The Rule of Three made me consider my preparedness in the event something catastrophic happens. I began running through a list of questions on how I would protect and provide for my family should our world, as we know it, come to a sudden stop. Yes there has been a lot of focus on this in the entertainment industry in recent years and I'm not talking about dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Matched. I'm talking about near-time dystopian stories like the current TV show Revolution or Jericho from a few years back. Add these TV dramas to the craze of zombie movies like World War Z and shows like The Walking Dead (which I don't watch because zombies terrify me) and a reality show like Preppers and you have to stop and ask, "Am I ready if everything changes in the blink of an eye?" All with the exception of Preppers the above shows and books are fictional portrayals of what could be around the next minute of our lives and you might shrug off the possibility something could happen. But if you've been paying attention to the news you'll find plenty of real stories that make these realities just hours away from possible. For example a mutation of the Ebola virus that became airborne, a cyber attack on our nation's power grid, a biological, chemical, or nuclear terrorist attack by Al Qaeda or ISIS, the Russians deciding Ukraine isn't enough and they want or need all of Europe so they strike us with tactical nukes, maybe the Chinese with their vast military and small but capable nuclear arsenal are hankering for more resources and territory so they have to bump off their biggest competitor in the region; us, a solar flare that takes out or disrupts our power grid and communications network of towers and satellites. So now that you won't sleep tonight take a moment and read the interview I did with Eric Walters author of The Rule of Three.
Brock: Eric, first of all thank you for answering these questions about your book The Rule of Three. I found this book to be an amazing tale of a reality just moments away at any time. What was your inspiration or motivation behind writing The Rule of Three?
Eric: I’ve always liked science fiction and dystopic stories so I thought I’d try my hand at writing one.
Brock: Good answer. I tend to do that when I start thinking of new stories. I center in on what I myself enjoy reading. The title to the book actually has a meaning inside the story, what is "The rule of three?"
Eric: You can last three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food.
Brock: In your words and three sentences tell my readers what The Rule of Three is about?
Eric: An event robs the world of computers, electricity, transportation and communication. A neighborhood bands together to try to create a safe haven where they can survive. Other groups try to take their survival away.
Brock: Well described. Eric, how many books are planned for the series?
Eric: The second, Fight For Power, is out in January, and the third – which I just finished editing today – is called Will To Survive and comes out in January 2016. There could be a fourth – we’ll see!
Brock: A whole year? Yikes I'm not sure I can wait. And if there is a fourth book I'll really be in trouble. It's a bit of a conundrum, I want the story to keep going, but I don't want to wait that long to finish it. The setting for the story is a place anyone of us in a modern society could find ourselves living. To me that makes the story all the more chilling. Why did you choose to place your story in the now instead of the far future?
Eric: Most dystopic novels seem to involve some undefined time in the future, a place in space, or hinge on something bizarre like zombies. This story is more disturbing because it happens right now, right here. This is what would happen if suddenly the lights went down. This is what would actually happen.
Brock: You're absolutely right about the "now" being the secret sauce on making it more disturbing. Readers can't help but place themselves in Adam's shoes and consider what they would face. I’ve recently read several news articles about how vulnerable the United States power grid is to terrorism, both cyber and otherwise. Were these articles an influence on your writing, or your choosing of this topic?
Eric: I think we like to believe we’re too ‘civilized’ to allow a complete disintegration of society. I think the power failure on the East Coast in 2003 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans showed how thin that veneer of civilization really is. There is a greater level of vulnerability that any of us would like to admit.
Brock: True, when we're faced with survival and protection of the very ones we love, we can feel helpless, which can make us desperate. How real do you think the threat to our power grid is?
Eric: I remember clearly the blackout of 2003. That was simply a cascading series of accidents that nobody tried to make happen. What if somebody deliberately overloaded the system through a cyber-attack?
Brock: And not only are there large sophisticated countries that don't like us, but there are terrorist organizations, and groups of hackers. If our countries (United States or Canada) went dark, do you believe that the governments would be unable to respond? Does the book reflect what you truly believe would happen in the aftermath?
Eric: If civilization crumbled the way the book describes than no government would be able to respond. The responders would be reduced to simply trying to protect their own families and would be robbed of the tools to respond – no transportation, no communication, no computers.
Brock: We rely so much on electricity. This winter our power went out for a couple of hours and our heat wouldn't work because our thermostat unit runs on power and doesn't have a battery backup. I think of water, if we didn't have power here in Colorado for our water plants to pump the water to us, we'd be without. Unlike where I lived in Illinois, water isn't abundant. Tell my readers about the characters in the series. Why did you choose to focus on a high school boy as your main character? What makes Adam special?
Eric: There’s an exciting dynamic involved with being that age. Those of us who are older can all remember that time of our lives – the excitement, the uncertainty and trying to figure out the future. Adam possesses a morality, a belief in doing the right thing even when things are desperate. It’s his inherent morality that drives the story.
Brock: Herb is a very interesting character, and one whose secrets I look forward to learning about in the rest of the series. Tell us about Herb and Adam’s relationship. How do you see their bond? Why would Herb choose someone like Adam to invest in?
Eric: I love Herb as a character. The ‘old man’ who is more than some guy who yells at you for being on his lawn. I see so much of this story as not only Herb using his skills and experience but also him seeking redemption, trying to make up for the things he’d done in his life. Herb will continue to be revealed through the next two books.
Brock: Tell us about Lori and why you chose to include her character in the books? Can you share one fact with us about Lori that’s not in the books?
Eric: Lori is strong. Her strength will be revealed more in the coming books. She’s a much better shot than Adam and saves him on one occasion.
Brock: Further I enjoyed the short e-novella, Nothing to Fear, you wrote about Lori and Adam. Why did you choose to focus on their relationship in the novella?
Eric: Even with the entire world falling to pieces there are some things that are even stronger. Despite everything going on it wouldn't change how they felt toward each other.
Brock: What sort of research did you have to do for The Rule of Three? For example using Chlorine tablets to purify water and ultralight flying.
Eric: I read books about surviving disaster, consulted with engineers, airplane pilots and preppers to help with the authenticity of my story.
Brock: Have you ever flown in an ultralight?
Eric: I would never get into an ultralight! Those things are terrifying!
Brock: You did a great job or putting a few comedic moments in the book as well as a budding romance. Why did you find these two elements important to include in the series?
Eric: I worked in a hospital E.R. for 18 years. Bizarre, strange humor seems to be a part of the most desperate situations. I thought the story needed humor to temper what the characters were going through and form a counter-point to action.
Brock: What can we expect in Fight for Power?
Eric: The action heats up as the world becomes more desperate.
Brock: Will we meet any new characters in Fight for Power?
Eric: A few new characters but mainly twists with existing characters.
Brock: What is your thought on the ‘phenomenon’ of prepping or those people who we refer to as ‘Preppers?’
Eric: I can see where they’re coming from. Writing this trilogy has made me more aware about the possibilities and the need to prepare. My family has talked about what we’d do in the event of an ‘incident’. We know where we’d meet and what we’d do. Does that make me paranoid or realistically prepared? I guess you have to decide.
Brock: Can you give us the top five items you would stock up on in preparation for an event like what occurs in your books?
Eric: I hope there’s no possibility . . . but it’s better to be prepared.
Brock: Eric, how has your faith impacted your writing?
Eric: It’s amazing how much my faith and beliefs have found their way into my writing. Looking back at my books I realize that I’ve actually written sermons into four different books and the concepts of faith and hope are constantly there. I never try to ‘hit somebody over the head’ with my beliefs but they are fairly solidly embedded in the thoughts, actions and beliefs of my characters. Even in a book like Shaken – built around the Haitian earthquake – my characters questioning faith is the foundation on which his faith is ultimately confirmed.
Brock: Have you embedded any spiritual themes within The Rule of Three?
Eric: In The Rule of Three the concept of morality, acting correctly and not allowing situational ethics to overwhelm a belief system.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse and what is it?
Eric: I’m very much a follower of James. I believe that your actions are the definition of who you are. It may sound strange for a writer to say, but it doesn't matter what you say, it’s what you do, that matters. It isn't a Biblical quote but my favorite from St. Francis, "Preach the Gospel every day and if necessary use words."
Brock: Can you tell me a little about Creation of Hope. What is it? How did that come about?
Eric: This program was founded by my wife and I and a family in Kenya, Ruth and Henry. We were visiting Kikima, Kenya and found an area with 25,000 people including 500 orphans – many living on the streets, sleeping in garbage dumps, living and dying without care or support. We started with one orphan, which became 4, then 40 and now close to 400 orphans and impoverished children are being supported on a regular basis. We have 55 children in our residence and 42 children in residential high school or post-secondary with the rest being in the homes of extended family members. We have 118 sponsored children – with 15 of these sponsored by Kenyans – as well as sponsors in the U.S. and Germany. Last year we had over 100 schools involved and we promised schools that 100% of funds would go directly to service and we show them exactly how we spent their money. We believe in complete accountability and transparency and through the website we try to show each month how money is raised and spent. My wife and I spent close to 30 hours per week administering the program. It is a great deal of work, but more than that, it is a true blessing for us. We are practicing our faith through our actions.
Brock: It's heartwarming to know that other authors are using their time and talents to share the plight of the orphan as well as to highlight the needs of these impoverished nations. I myself work for a ministry called Compassion International. It's a wonderful Christ centered ministry that provides holistic development for children in poverty in 26 countries.
Eric: I know Compassion International and the high standards it maintains. God bless you for what you’re doing!
Brock: Eric thank you for your answers and for shedding more light on The Rule of Three and Fight for Power. And thank you for being open about your faith and for the amazing ministry you founded and are leading in Kenya. You can learn more about Eric Walters on his website EricWalters.net and Creation of Hope at CreationofHope.com.
Imaginatively Adventurous: A Review of King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
One of my favorite books to read aloud to my kids, King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, takes you right into the imagination of young Jack and his friends. It reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sandek by delving into a child's imagination on a search for 'monsters' as well as the style of art used in the story. For anyone who loved Where the Wild Things Are this is a must have title for your bookshelf. When I was a little boy I was always exploring my yard looking for dinosaurs or other beasts; armed with toy weapons and equipment for the hunt. Most parents (especially dads) will connect with the fun tale and enjoy reading it while inspiring your own kids imaginations.
Brock: I reached out to author Peter Bently about his story King Jack and the Dragon and asked a few question. I hope you'll enjoy the Q&A. Peter, how did you come up with the idea for the King Jack and the Dragon?
Peter: It began with my son Theo (alias King Jack) building a den in our back garden one summer night when he was about seven. He planned to camp out all night, but once it got truly dark he was soon spooked
by all the unknown noises of the night – rustling branches, roosting birds, scuttling creatures and so on – and staying the night without mum and dad didn't seem such a good plan. But we commended him for
being brave enough to try!
Brock: Our kids often are the best inspiration for our writing. In fact I've got a book under review with a couple of publishers inspired by my oldest daughter. Did you pretend to fight monsters and dragons when you were a little boy?
Peter: I do remember imagining there were monsters under my bed and how I would scare them off if they woke up!
Brock: I doubt many children get through childhood without facing an imaginary monster or two, whether under their bed, in their closet, or as they imagine being a knight or princess. Can you tell us something about King Jack not in the story?
Peter: He likes to be the king but he is also fair to his playmates and happy to let his baby brother Caspar join in too. Jack likes to play at pirates too…you can read all about that when "Captain Jack and the Pirates" comes out later this year.
Brock: We will certainly look forward to that release. What is your favorite part of the story and why?
Peter: I like the part where he imagines the dragons and monsters he is fighting. It's partly to do with Helen Oxenbury's pictures, which portray the creatures so perfectly – not too scary. She told me the monsters were a tribute to the late Maurice Sendak.
Brock: On that last point, prior to doing the interview, that (the likeness to Maurice Sendak's Wild Things) is exactly what I wrote into my review. Good to know I wasn't off base. Thanks again Peter for answering these questions and giving us some insight into this great children's book. One I think all parents should read to their kids.
From the Publisher:
A lively playtime adventure that becomes a warm and cozy bedtime book—perfect for every little knight-in-training. From the illustrator of the award-winning We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Night is falling and playtime is nearly over. But brave King Jack and his faithful knights Zak and Caspar are still protecting their castle fort from fierce dragons and terrible beasts. This captivating, joyful make-believe adventure is the perfect bedtime story for brave children everywhere. Fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Dinosaur Roar will especially enjoy this imaginative tale.An ALA Notable Book Bank Street Book Committee Best Children’s Books of the Year Kate Greenaway Award
“Sure to be read aloud again and again, this testament to imaginative play exudes warmth.”--Kirkus Reviews
Praise for King Jack and the Dragon:
“At once contemporary and classic.” — The New York Times
“Though the characters are wholly modern, there is a timelessness to the cycle of excitement, apprehension and parental comfort that should give this lovely book a long stay on the nursery shelf.” — The Wall Street Journal*
“It’s an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent’s embrace.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review*
“A tale of make-believe that children will delight in hearing again and again.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“The rhyming verse, large trim size, and detailed illustrations…make this a suitable story for group sharing, while the sweet, intimate tone will make it a family favorite.” — Booklist
“From this simple premise of imaginative play, Bently and Oxenbury create a classically sweet picture book.” — Horn Book
“This one is sure to become a full-on family favorite at bedtime.” — The Washington Post
“Altogether, ‘King Jack’ is just about perfect.” — The Sacramento Bee
Meet me at the Moon by Gianna Marino is full of beautiful and captivating illustrations. The scenes of the animals on the African savvanah will steal your child's imagination and get them dreaming of traveling there one day. My girls enjoyed reading this book and looking at the colorful illustrations of animals. There might be a few moments where your children are concerned for Little One while his MaMa is gone, but be assured that they are reunited under the moon as promised. Wrap your own arm (like an elephant's trunk) around your child in an elephant hug as MaMa and Little One reunite.
From the Publisher:
A heartwarming love story between mother and child. When Mama Elephant must leave Little One to ask the skies for rain, the young elephant is worried. Who will care for Little One? Who will sing Mama’s special songs? When will she return? Mama is very reassuring – Little One will hear her song on the wind and feel her love in the warmth of the sun, and, after the rains come, they will meet where the moon sets. Exquisitely illustrated and supremely comforting, Meet Me at the Moon is a mother and child love story to be enjoyed again and again.
PRAISE FOR MEET ME AT THE MOON:
“Marino’s breathtaking panoramas make an already powerful story sing.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The textured mixed-media art paired with the flowing text elevates this title above most missing-mama fare … Radiating warmth and comfort, this distinguished title strikes home.” --Kirkus, starred review
“Heartfelt and sincere, yet never cloying, this will work well one on one or in story hours.” --Booklist
Frog and Fly by Jeff Mack is a silly book that will have your kids ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing) or at the very least make them LOL (if you don't know that one then...) Frog and Fly's. A set of simple comics between Fly and Frog that end with Fly getting slurped, however kids will not be sad for fly because he returns in each story. I especially enjoyed Story 3 of the book.
An Interview with Jeff Mack:
Brock: Jeff thanks again for joining us for an interview about your books. How many Frog and Fly comics are there?
Jeff: There are six stories. I originally wrote them as two books with three comics in each. Then I combined them to make a single hardcover book with six chapters. Later, when Frog and Fly was re-published as a shorter board book, two of the stories had to be edited out.
Brock: Is the Fly the same fly each time?
Jeff: Yes. Frog and Fly live in a parallel cartoon universe where animals speak and instantly recover from any nasty injuries. It's like the old Road Runner cartoons where the coyote falls off a cliff over and over again. It's totally impossible. I guess that's one of the reasons I find those cartoons so funny.
Brock: That's what I was imagining. What is your favorite Frog and Fly story?
Jeff: My personal favorite is the one where Frog and Fly have a contest to see who is faster. Frog keeps losing and crashing into stuff. Then he tricks Fly into saying that he's yummier. Fly wins again. And, at the same time, he loses. It has a nice logic to it, but it's still totally absurd.
I also like the final story in the hardcover version. It features a bear, and it has a very twisted ending.
Brock: What advice would you give to a kid who wants to create short comics?
Jeff: While you're writing the comics, don't worry about making them short. Just write what you love. Make the story as long as you want. Then put it away in a drawer, and do something else for a few days. Later, when you read it again, you'll have an easier time identifying which parts make the comic fun and interesting and which parts just make it long. Then you can cut out the less interesting parts and make it shorter.
Also, with comics, it helps to figure out if you are someone who naturally thinks about the words first or someone who thinks about the pictures. When I write a story, I usually have ideas for the pictures before I know what the words will be. So I start my comics by sketching the characters in different scenes. Then I go back and write the dialogue afterward. For other people, their ideas may take the form of words, so they write lines of speech first. Then they draw pictures to illustrate the dialogue. There are many ways to make comics. My advice is to experiment and discover which way works most naturally for you.
Brock: Thanks Jeff for taking the time to gives us more insight into Frog and Fly.
From the Publisher:
Silly comic-strip style stories and two comical combatants make for one laugh-out-loud board book!
Frog and Fly are constant companions. There is only one problem . . . Frog thinks Fly is delicious! This leads to a never-ending battle of wits with laugh-out- loud consequences. Told in short comic-strip style chapters, Frog and Fly will delight kids and leave them begging for yet another slurpy story.
Praise for Frog and Fly:
“Mack’s winning combination of simple text, uncluttered multimedia art, and comic-book-style panels make for a great beginning-reader format as well as a good choice for. . . read-alouds. Many children are going to find this hilarious; it’s reminiscent of both joke books and old Saturday-morning cartoons, when coyotes fell off cliffs and bounced right back, and it never, ever got old.” --Booklist
“This expressive and personable duo provides a spot-on brand of joke book-style humor that children will find plenty entertaining.” --Publishers Weekly
One of the most wonderfully illustrated books I've read to my kids. Three Bears in a Boat is a fantastic story with a great message set amid the gorgeous backdrop of the sea. The story and images will capture your kids' attention and imaginations as you read to them. They'll want to explore the island and rise along the boat with Dash, Theo, and Charlie. When the three bears break their mom's favorite blue sea shell they try to cover their tracks, but at the end of their journey, though they find a shell, the bears decide to tell their mama the truth. The forgiveness of their mama brings the story to a wonderful ending, but adds the simplest of consequences when the three bears get no desert. This consequence though is one many children will understand.
From the publisher:
From the co-creator of the New York Times bestselling Ladybug Girl series comes a high seas adventure inspired by the classic picture books Little Bear and Where the Wild Things Are. Three bear siblings break their mother’s favorite blue seashell, and rather than tell her, they decide to set out in their sailboat to find her a new one. On their quest they encounter salty sailors, strange new islands, huge whales, and vast seas but no blue seashells. When a treacherous storm suddenly blows in, the three bears find themselves tossed about in their little boat, far from Mama. What will become of their search, and what will it take to bring them safely home?This read aloud shares its best qualities with classic picture books: breath-taking illustrations, epic adventure, and a subtle message about taking responsibility for your actions.
Praise for Three Bears in a Boat:* “Gorgeous . . . A first purchase for all.”--School Library Journal (starred review)* “Humorous and intelligent—and with watercolor seascapes so luminous that readers will want to jump in—this is a book to be treasured for years to come.”--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)* “Breathtaking . . . Beautiful . . . Gentle”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A beautiful journey you’ll want to return to repeatedly. . . . If you’re looking for a gift book, a bedtime book, or just something uniquely attractive to the eye, seek ye just three little bears. Charm incarnate.”—Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A Kirkus Best Book of 2014
You can make a huge different in spreading the word about my books by simply requesting that your local library purchase any of my books. Using the tax dollars your family is already paying, your school or public library, will be happy to stock great new middle grade and young adult fiction as well as picture books. Simply print out the book list below (downloadable) and take it into your library to request they purchase and shelve these titles. Send me an email and let me know when the libraries have stocked the book or books and I'll send you something awesome!
Brock Eastman's Book List.
Quest for Truth
Check out this cool picture of my office bookshelf.
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