Archive for October, 2016

Meet Author Kelly Santana-Banks

Posted on October 27th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Kelly Santana-BanksKelly Santana-Banks is a writer of nonfiction and children’s books, and a former early childhood teacher and caregiver. When she was young, she loved to play teacher with her sister, cousins, and neighbors. As a young adult, she never considered teaching as a career, but little did she know that her childhood make-believe would pave the way to what would become her passion. With more than ten years of experience working with children—five of those years were dedicated to research in the area of child development as well as implementing best practices inside and outside of the classroom and a strong background in child development, she is an advocate for education, especially in early childhood. She writes fun stories to entertain and teach children as well as help parents find simple solutions for their little ones’ lives.

You can find more about her or connect on her website

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @ksantanabanks, Instagram and Pinterest.

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?Dinosaur Adventure a Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana Banks

My latest release is called Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember, the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing. Different from my first book, which was a short nursery rhyme geared towards two, threes, and fours, Dinosaur Adventure targets more the older group of children (3–7)—given its amount of text and the vocabulary explored. This book is a product of my working experiences with children inside and outside of the classroom, including fun field trips. And I’m happy to bring to life a subject that children love (dinosaurs) in an entertaining and educational way.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.com

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Growing up, I loved the stories of Mauricio de Souza, a famous Brazilian cartoonist and creator of the children’s comic series, Turma da Monica. But at that point, writing or even thinking of becoming an author was never on my radar. Throughout my teenage years, I became an avid reader, devouring my mom’s library of books, including Sidney Sheldon’s novel, of whom I became a big fan. And later on, I also added Danielle Steele and Jenifer Weiner to my list. Every one of those authors left an impression on me. Either it is in the way I create the characters in my mind and get them to paper or how I develop the plot. This is only my second children’s book, so I cannot measure precisely their impact on my writing, but I can tell for sure that their work let me see my characters with more of a critical eye.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I have worked with children for more than ten years now. Here in the US, I started as a caregiver, but not too long, I realized my love and enjoyment working with the little ones. I went back to graduate school for early childhood education (I previously received a graduate degree in hospitality) and started working as a teacher. My desire for writing started to naturally blossom. The more engaged with children, their experiences, and teaching I became, the idea of writing children’s books emerged. But at that point, it seemed far fetched to me. Life went on with many surprises and changes of scenario, including professional ones. Three years ago, I saw an opportunity to help authors with their craft, at the same time learning about it myself, and I started writing reviews for Reader’s Favorite. From reviews, I moved to resume writing, content writing, and now, books. I need to add, though, that I’m thankful for the support from my parents, dear sister, and husband, as well as some close friends, who have been strong supporters of my work.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries, or bookstores?

I connect with my readers through social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, and my website. I have been planning some book tours, but I haven’t started that yet. As you know, it requires a lot of preparation with book release dates, websites logistics, and the readers’ needs as well. But I’m excited to start with this one. The same goes with libraries, schools, and bookstores. I haven’t explored those venues yet, but I would sure consider a children’s read aloud session.

What are the joys of being an author/illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

There is no better satisfaction than to really bring your character to life. The creating process is one of my favorites. Besides having the pleasure of getting the character onto the paper, I love the back and forth with the illustrator, the discussion of ideas and experimenting with colors, materials, and senses to make the character relatable and loved by children.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author/illustrator?

To me, as an indie author—and I imagine that some fellow indies might relate—the real challenge comes with the marketing. In order for us to reach a broader readership, we need to put a lot of effort into marketing.

I constantly see myself on a tightrope trying to balance out writing with the marketing aspect. And for the most part, this is not easy.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

This is a no-brainer: Sidney Sheldon. As I mentioned previously, I grew up reading his novels and became a super fan. I would love to learn about the thought process for his plots, his writing habits, and where he gets inspiration for his characters.

Halloween Theme Picture Book Treats!

Posted on October 23rd, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Fill your home with Halloween Fun from Storytime Standouts

Sharing some Wonderful Halloween Theme Picture Book Treats for Young Readers

As the days grow shorter and cooler weather arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, October is a wonderful month to share a variety of Halloween theme picture books with children. Halloween is also a great time to enjoy concept books with children and more than one of our featured books highlights counting.

Here are some of our favorite stories featuring friendship, tolerance, learning about others all accomplished while trick or treating, wearing costumes and enjoying the fun of Halloween.

Scroll down for our free Halloween-theme printables for children

A Very Brave WitchA Very Brave Witch written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Harry Bliss
Halloween theme picture book published by Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books

A Very Brave Witch is the tale of a green-skinned, broomstick-flying, costume-loving witch. She thinks she knows all about humans and decides that Halloween night is the perfect opportunity to take a closer look. After a flying mishap, she meets three, costumed human trick-or-treaters including one girl who is dressed up as a witch. Together, the pair manage to shatter stereotypes as they discover friendship and celebrate Halloween together.

Young readers will enjoy investigating a recently-decorated haunted house and collection of costumes. The witches’ fear of humans is good fun.

Well-suited for a group read-aloud, the colorful watercolor illustrations nicely match the tone of the story.

Suitable for preschool and older

Scare Factor = 1

A Very Brave Witch at Amazon.com

A Very Brave Witch at Amazon.ca

A Creepy Countdown by Charlotte Huck and Jos. A. SmithA Creepy Countdown written by Charlotte Huck and Jos. A. Smith
Halloween theme picture book published by Harper Trophy

Beautifully-detailed, dark and creepy illustrations are a highlight of this Halloween-theme counting book. Rhyming text includes alliteration and guides readers as they count from one to ten and back down to one).

Five furry bats hanging upside down
Six skinny witches flying through the town

Recommended for children aged 5 and up. Illustrations are well-suited to a group setting and could be used to inspire young artists to work primarily in black.

Scare Factor = 2

A Creepy Countdown at Amazon.com

A Creepy Countdown at Amazon.ca

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for HalloweenScaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween written and illustrated Mélanie Watt
Halloween theme picture book published by Kids Can Press

Scaredy Squirrel is a fun series of picture books written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt. In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween, Scaredy has put together eight short chapters featuring panels with maps, lists, illustrations and diagrams intended to keep trick or treaters safe and happy. Best suited to independent readers or a one-on-one read aloud, this is a fun book with rich vocabulary and detailed, engaging illustrations. Not great for a large group setting, this will be a very satisfying “chapter book” for a child in grade one or two and will produce lots of giggles when read by a parent to a child.

Scare Factor = 1

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies at Amazon.com

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts looks at Halloween theme picture books including Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'ConnellTen Timid Ghosts written and illustrated by Jennifer O’Connell
Halloween theme counting book published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic

When a moving truck pulls up to a haunted house, the ten resident ghosts watch nervously. Before too long, a green-skinned witch is scaring the ghosts with a skeleton, a bat and various costumes. Ms. O’Connell provides fun clues for readers to notice including buttons that look like eyes, white face powder and a roll of toilet paper.

Repetitive, rhmying text adds to the fun in this counting book. Young children will love finding the ghosts in each of the illustrations.

Scare Factor = 1

Ten Timid Ghosts at Amazon.com

Ten Timid Ghosts at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts looks at Halloween theme picture books including Trick or Treat by Bill Martin and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Paul MeiselTrick or Treat written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Paul Meisel
Halloween theme picture book published by Aladdin Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

It’s Halloween night and time to trick or treat in a ten story apartment building. A young, wide-eyed boy goes from floor to floor, meeting all sorts of costumed neighbors with wonderful names like Wiggle Waggle and Limbler Lamber. When the boy reaches the top floor, Merlin answers the door and waves his magic wand and tells the boy that everything is “WackBards“, sending the boy back to each apartment for Belly Jeans and “Twicorice Lists

Great use of alliteration and wordplay along with colorful, fun illustrations make this an excellent read aloud for kindergarten and older children. In a classroom setting, children could have fun illustrating a favorite candy WackBards.

Scare Factor = 1

Trick or Treat? at Amazon.com

Trick or Treat? at Amazon.ca

Halloween Theme Printables for Kids

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Witch Hat

Halloween, Witch theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pumpkin

Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Halloween Picture Dictionary

Free printable Halloween picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.

image of PDF icon  Five Little Ghosts

Use as an action chant or a felt board story

image of PDF icon  Five Little Pumpkins

Use as a action chant or a felt board story

image of PDF icon  The Wheels on the Halloween Bus

image of PDF icon  Halloween Crossword Puzzle

image of PDF icon  Halloween Word Search


Meet Author Darla Woodley

Posted on October 13th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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D Woodley author of  Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is Darla Woodley’s first book. Darla is a self-proclaimed shutterbug, with her camera never far from arm’s reach and a goal of capturing the many activities of her two boys, she is always on the lookout for how to capture magical moments. Many of these special moments are recorded in this book.

AuthorTwitter account @RedAnything

Instagram redsockswithanything

Facebook page www.facebook.com/RedSocksGoWithAbsolutelyAnything

Author Website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
My book is entitled Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything. It is a Children’s Picture Book but I actually think it is a good read for all ages. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything is based around our family tradition of wearing red socks as an unspoken method of support and encouragement for friends, family or anyone that may just need a lift in spirit. The story sees the character going through a number of “firsts” and intimidating moments and shows the reader that sometimes words are just not needed to show that someone is thinking of you or cheering you on. The main character’s gender is ambiguous on purpose so as to allow the reader to develop a more personal connection to the story. Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything

I am most proud of the impact that the story has on its readers. I love hearing how someone is heading out to purchase a pair of red socks for themselves and/or their family members. I am especially thrilled when a reader tells me that they are looking forward to initiating their own unspoken method of support and tradition based around the idea of red socks.

Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.com

Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
I am not sure if I would say it was difficult to publish my first book. Challenging? Yes, definitely challenging. I chose the self-published route and being new to the book industry I found myself constantly on the computer or my phone doing research. I cannot tell you how many links I emailed myself to read and check on and how many tabs were open on my desktop at once on a regular basis. I was extremely fortunate to have a few connections that I could contact, bounce questions off of and verify information that I had found through research. The entire process can be a rather lengthy one when opting the self-published route as there are many services, options and research that should be done to ensure that you end up with an end product suitable to your standards.

To aspiring authors/illustrators I would suggest that they do their research regarding the publishing process and what it takes to ensure that you end up with a polished and very professional book. I would also explain how it is a never-ending process of promotion and self-promotion. For a new author it is a constant challenge to get your name out there in the literary world.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
I have such great memories and experiences of sharing Red Socks with children. They are such a wonderful and inspiring group to share the story with!

I have shared the story with children in grades 1 through to grade 6 and was very pleasantly surprised at the comments and discussions with the grade 6 individuals. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be too “big” for the story but they were an awesome group of kids with insightful questions and comments. With that particular group I have great memories:
– I had a couple of girls approach me and tell me about a book they are writing together and how they were inspired to keep their project going and not give up.
– One child came up and told me how great he thought the story was and then secretly handed me a piece of his favorite gum by way of a handshake. He then gave me a wink to confirm the passing of the forbidden gum. (we were all sitting in the library)
– Another child was so inspired by the story that he suggested that they have a wall in the school dedicated to Red Socks displaying the book’s lines “I feel strong. I am ready. I can do anything.” I am so proud of him as he later inspired so many others at a local track competition with his determination to run and finish in a relay match.

I always have fond memories of visiting and reading with the younger grades. I experienced my first “heckler” when I was reading to a grade 2 class and she was in the front row asking me why the socks were not blue. I love the little discussions (that sometimes turn into battles) when I ask the class if they think the protagonist is a boy or a girl. I enjoy the fact that we get off course during the reading as our discussions take a different direction at times when they all want to share their version of the character’s experience.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?
I use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a website) in an effort to stay connected with readers and those who might be interested in learning more about Red Socks. I have done a few book signings and look forward to doing more. (The book signings are something that I need to push myself to do as I am usually very much a “behind-the-scenes” type of person.) I do thoroughly enjoy visiting classrooms and look forward to those in the coming school year.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
I am a first time author so it is so very thrilling to see the book displayed in a bookstore or to hear from someone else that they spotted Red Socks in a bookstore. My greatest pleasure is having someone tell me that they enjoyed the story and are looking forward to initiating their own tradition based on the idea of Red Socks. I have it set up so that when books are purchased an additional copy is printed and then donated to a local school, charity and/or organization that can benefit from the message within the story. I am so happy to say that books have been sent to Australia, Maui, England, Northern Ireland, Toronto, various States, Saskatchewan, BC and throughout Alberta so far.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?
Being a first time author and one that is self-published, the biggest challenge is actually getting the word out about the story. The entire experience is new to me and full of challenges and unknowns and I find myself constantly having to do research regarding the industry and push myself out of my comfort level at times in an effort to bring Red Socks to new readers. I am thankful though as this challenge offers me an opportunity to be an example to my two boys of how one should never give up and always be willing to put themselves out there.

Storytime Standouts Looks at a New Picture Book: The Hockey Song

Posted on October 9th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts looks at The Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors, published by Greystone BooksThe Hockey Song written by Stompin’ Tom Connors and illustrated by Gary Clement
Hockey-Theme Picture Book published by Greystone Books

OH! The good ol’ Hockey game, is the best game you can name.
And the best game you can name, is the good ol’ Hockey game.

An outdoor game of pick up hockey is the setting for this fun, energetic tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors’ widely known anthem. The well-lit rink is in a city and it glistens beneath the stars on a wintry evening. It feels as though it would be a the centerpiece of a community, drawing players from far and wide for a casual, drop in game.

Engaging illustrations show us the game from ice level and above, depicting players from various races who are young and old, petite and burly and male and female. It is fun to see more than one multi generational family group; moms and dads enjoying the game with their children.

The game begins with just two players on the ice but soon swells and, by the end of the song, the rink is crowded with enthusiastic hockey players. Some wear familiar NHL-style jerseys while others are dressed less traditionally. Some wear hockey helmets and others have toques, headphones, pony tales and stocking caps. Young readers will enjoy playing eye spy and noticing all sorts of interesting details about the dozens of players who finish the game.

Very good fun for children aged four and up. The Hockey Song would be a great gift for a hockey-loving grandparent to share with a newcomer to the game.

The Hockey Song at Amazon.com

The Hockey Song at Amazon.ca

Meet Author Rebecca Lynn Morales

Posted on October 6th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Rebecca  Lynn MoralesRebecca Lynn Morales grew up in Northern California. She graduated college with a degree in theatre arts from California State University, Northridge. She now pens the theatrics in her mind to paper. Rebecca recently moved to Texas. She loves living there with her supportive husband, Gabriel, and spunky Jack Russell terrier, Carson. She gives glory to God for all that is good in her life.

Twitter account: @ArtisanRebeccaM
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RebeccaLynnMorales
Instagram:@rebeccalynnmorales

Website URL: Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
Rebecca Lynn Morales

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination is a fun adventure through a dried-out, rule-bound land. The lead character, Walter Plume, is the wittiest, most imaginative, and just plain real kid you will ever meet. He is an eleven year old foodie, with taste buds that like both cranberry-glazed salmon and a plain ol’ corn dog. I know kids (and probably a lot of adults, too) will relate to Walter and his desire to use his imagination. (Middle grade novel, 7-12 years) Over the years, I have battled people and situations determined to dehydrate my imagination. But, I’m fully re-hydrated now!
I am most proud of the creative imagery and world building. It takes a big imagination to bring other people’s imaginations back to life.Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination
Walter Plume was newly released last February and is available in paperback and as an eBook.

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.com

Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination at Amazon.ca

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
Miraculously, my first novel was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. It was meant to be. However, I took the time to read about numerous publishers and what they were looking for, in order to make the best match. Not everything comes so easily, of course. I encourage any aspiring author to persevere no matter what and continue to grow as a writer.

When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from childhood. My dad gave me a thick (in size and language) classic novels to read. I plowed my way through those books page by page, not fully understanding all the words. However, the characters in those novels and the drama of their lives led me to attempt my first novel in the seventh grade. I only wrote three pages. But that was the start of an idea for my life that has never left me.

I knew I would be a writer after I was married because I finally had the support and encouragement I needed. My husband has a good editorial eye. He is the first person to read my work and give me feedback. And I chat his ear off every time I have a new idea or element for a story. He also helps me with the technical side of things: my website, marketing materials. He is my greatest support!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?
I need to write in a quiet place, which is usually my office. Sometimes I sit at my desk, but mostly I write sitting in my favorite blue chair. It’s comfortable without being too cozy. I used to write sitting up in bed, but no matter how wonderfully my tale was unfolding I would eventually slide down in the bed, my head resting on the soft pillow and doze off. My brilliant writing tip: Write sitting up. I’ve also found that a cup of coffee or tea is inspiring somehow. They sit on the desk next to me for quick sipping access. The writing process itself varies. I have tried and tried to make a complete chapter-by-chapter outline before I begin a book and follow it closely with only a few detours. This doesn’t work for me. The things I know before I begin writing are: 1) How the book will end 2) My characters 3) I’ve created about ¾ of my world. The rest unfolds from there. I outline a few chapters at a time and then write them out. I get super excited about the ideas I come up with while typing. I also set daily word count goals to keep me motivated. (Usually, one thousand words per today).

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?
I enjoy staying connected with readers. I did a Barnes and Noble book tour last spring, where I did author signings at six stores. I love being able to answer young readers’ questions and encouraging kids to read and write themselves. When kids have the courage to come up and talk to me, I’m so proud of them because I was so shy as a child and I know how difficult it can be. I am active on social media and have two websites. You are welcome to contact me there if you have any questions. I also make weekly encouraging vlogs that I post on Facebook.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?
If I wasn’t an author I think I would be a counselor of some kind. I’m a developer at heart and I see great potential in people. Whatever I can do to help someone realize and live out their potential is a joy to me.

Do you do school or library presentations?

I speak at schools and libraries. With encouragement and fun games, I teach kids about various techniques I use to develop characters and write stories. My overall message is that we are all truly unique people with dreams, and those dreams will become reality if we remain true to ourselves.

Areas: Central Texas

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