Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Indie Saturday – Authors Bill & Katie Frederick on “The Kite Surprise”

November 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, we have authors Bill & Katie Frederick featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for their illustrated children’s book “The Kite Surprise

Bill & Katie Frederick write:

Thank you to RandomizeME. It is such a treat (as I write this on Halloween) to let your loyal followers know who we are and to tell about The Kite Surprise.

Our message: Read to kids every day. Take them to the library, let them choose books; discuss the books; help them develop their love of reading. It’s the best gift we can give to youngsters!

It all started on the beach!

Bill relays the inspiration behind this story:

“Some years ago, I attended a mental health workshop on hypnotherapy. Those attending were asked to recall a forgotten memory while we were in trance. My recollection was of watching a kite contest with friends while on a trip along the Atlantic shore at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This trip was definitely something I had not thought of for a long while. As I‘ve retold the story, I often heard that it would make a nice a book for kids. That book thought was in the back of my mind for a long time.”

With immense encouragement along the way, we finally put pen to paper and developed the story — together. Some 20 plus years later, The Kite Surprise was created.

The Kite Surprise is at schools in Iowa and Indiana, daycare centers, libraries, and a mental health advocacy center for children of abuse and neglect. The mental health group and school teachers provided input to develop a discussion guide for parents and professionals.

Many readers have offered moving stories and the reactions about The Kite Surprise from little ones who’ve heard it. Check it out. We love to hear from readers.

About  The Kite Surprise:

“Miss Celia Belle Addison enjoys everything, from big to little, but she is particularly captivated with Ansel, her big brother.

When she learns the family will be taking a day trip to the Atlantic shore, Celia Belle is beside herself thinking about the big adventure with sand, sun and kites!

The story begins as Celia Belle introduces herself and immediately says that Ansel has a knack for flying kites.

She expresses numerous emotions — exuberance, excitement, flabbergasted, even a little nervous and scared. Celia Belle tells a long tale with a curious tail in this high-flying picture book that shows pre and beginning readers there is a time to hold on and a time to let go.”

About the Authors:

Bill and I have been married for 30 years. Our daughter and son-in-law have two of the most adorable little girls anyone could imagine; our son and daughter-in-law live with 2 fur balls cats.

We have started our second children’s book emanating from mutual story telling sessions with youngsters. We are working on E-Books for parenting and self-help genres.

  • From Bill:

I have a private mental health practice in Indiana and I use entertaining stories when I work with clients. I often present at state mental health conferences on the use of stories in therapy and quality of care in therapy. I’ve worked extensively with children and families including teaching parenting classes for over 20 years. My blog focuses on current issues in mental health.

  • From Katie:

For over 20 years, I’ve worked in executive nonprofit positions, including gigs at public television, United Way, and a community business incubator for start-up companies. I currently work with small business, start-up groups and corporate clients on business development planning, research, communications, and ghost blogging. I LOVE what I do. No two days are the same!

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Bill and Katie Frederick’s The Kite Surprise is online in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.
Download the discussion guide or purchase hardback book at


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Indie Saturday – Author Claudine Gueh Yanting on her Children’s Picture Book ‘My Clearest Me’

June 30, 2012 2 comments

Today, we have author Claudine Gueh Yanting featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her children’s picture book My Clearest Me. In this post, Claudine shares her experience with introvercy in childhood. She’d often worried about being quiet, making friends and making it in the seemingly louder world, and she hopes that readers who’ve gone through the same will find a connection with Wynn (her protagonist) and her own experience.

Claudine’s My Clearest Me was one of the highly recommended books from our consultant for this month – ERIK of THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS!. Erik described My Clearest Me as ‘excellent’, and gave it a score of Five out of Five on his review!

Claudine Gueh Yanting writes :

As My Music Quietly Sailed for the Circus

“I like my clearest me. But will the others like it, too?”

It always arrives right in the most joyous moment in childhood: that curious point when one begins to worry.

A slither of uncertainty that snakes its way through her heart, she worries about being liked. Liked by family and strangers, by siblings and classmates, by children and adults. Liked by everyone. Frowned upon by none.

At Times I Pretended. At Times I Broke Inside.

I was around six or seven years old when that slither snakes. It became important to be liked. I was puzzled by why I was quieter and shyer than my sisters. Like Wynn, my protagonist in My Clearest Me, I became self-conscious. So sometimes, I masked my clearest self with my crowd-pleasing self.

“Or should I play along to pounds of CLANG and CLATTER CLACK?
I could try fitting in. I could try raising a RUCKUS WRECK.”

Because everybody likes the livelier child, right? The one who charms everyone by being chatty, chirpy and clever.


I was six. I didn’t know the difference between extroverts and introverts. I didn’t understand it was all right to like being quiet. My confusion made me even less bold.

Not all introverts are shy, but I was both quiet and shy. A devastating combination, most likely, which continued through adolescence and beyond. I rarely felt comfortable with myself. At times, I pretended to like what my extroverted friends liked. At times I broke inside and blocked out everyone and almost everything.

And I carried on like this for two decades. Pretending then blocking. I didn’t know enough to seek help or higher wisdom or self-clarity.

Then …

It always arrives right in the most wretched moment in adulthood: that soundless point when one begins to hear her own music.

“My music sails and springs, it runs and rests at its own pace.
In time I meet new friends, and there’s a glow on every face.”

To hear your music, you need to quiet down.


Listen. Take every wisp in. The lovely ones. The vulnerable ones. Every one.

And love your clearest self.

Having people like me stopped being important a long, long time ago. Yet when my music returned, the idea of friendships returned. Some old ones, and many new ones, and they all know my clearest me. They stay only because they like it. We do loud and quiet things together – loud and quiet things we all enjoy. Sometimes I take a break while they continue. And it’s okay. They’ve promised to wait.

The Night Wind King

“I am a breathing wind.
A bout that flies and flows at night …”

Our quiet nature is needed in this world. There are all kinds of acts in the circus. The Ferocious Skipping Giant brings boisterous laughter. The Fire Gulping Club is a hot-act. And The Night Wind King will be the one who tells many children (quiet, shy, awkward) to reach for the sky.

Whatever music you’ve got, don’t drown it out. Hear it clear from within then give your best, best, best shot in sailing it out to the rest of the world. If you know of an introverted child, tell him/her that. Don’t leave it to them to figure everything out because it might take them two decades or more.

If they are still unsure, let them know they have a friend who likes their clearest selves already: Wynn.

He’s six, quiet and has grown wiser in hearing music and making friends. He’ll be waiting to bring you/your children into the loud circus you’ve always quietly dreamed of but never thought you belonged.

He’ll show you how to build your own circus act.

My Clearest Me is a small gift of courage for children who are exploring their inner world. Hope to meet you soon. Enjoy your precious music in the meantime!

A quiet & shy child who loved to read now grown, Claudine writes and reads at her small publishing house, CarryUsOffBooks (Singapore). She is also a private tutor, a stray cats ‘hello-er,’ a coffee must-haver, a sea’s-blue-&-trees’-green lover. She treasures honesty and kindness in a person, and hopes her first picture book, MY CLEAREST ME, (and more to come) will encourage a child to step out into the world braver.

My Clearest Me  is available on Amazon as an ebook. Please check Claudine’s website CarryUsOffBooks for more information. Her small press, CarryUsOffBooks, is also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CarryUsOffBooks). Be sure to drop by and say hi!


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Indie Saturday – Author Angela Muse on her Children’s book ‘The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure’

June 23, 2012 4 comments

Today, we have author Angela Muse featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her children’s picture book ‘The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure‘.

Angela Muse was one of the highly recommended authors from our consultant for this month – ERIK of THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS!. Erik has given scores of Five out of Five in his reviews for The Nutt Family : An Acorny Adventure and Lil Glimmer (another picture book by Angela).

Angela Muse writes :

Let me start off by saying that fall is by far my favorite season of the year. Thanksgiving is my holiday. I seriously wonder sometimes if it was invented just for me. I love to cook this gigantic meal and surround myself with family. That is my idea of heaven. My family can attest to the fact that I am a fall freak! It is no surprise to them that I wrote a children’s story about one of the symbols of fall…….acorn nuts.

This story took shape in the fall of 2009. My two children and I were out in our backyard gathering acorns to use to decorate our mantle and dining room table. It’s funny how a handful of nuts can inspire us.

As I was rummaging under fallen leaves to find our hidden acorn gems, I thought, wouldn’t it make a cute story to see some little acorn family in a children’s book? After decorating the inside of our house for fall, we had dinner and put the kids to bed. I couldn’t shake the image of the little acorn children in my mind so that evening I wrote The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure. The story’s main focus is on the two acorn siblings, Chess Nutt and his sister, Praline. They are always having imaginary adventures, but things get a little nutty when they get to experience a real adventure.

I wrote the story in 2009, but I let it sit in my office for two and a half years before my son encouraged me to get it completed. I started the search for an illustrator and found an amazing one in Europe. We have formed a great partnership and I’m so pleased with her incredible work.

I based the Chess and Praline characters on my own children. My son is the oldest and he is very protective of his little sister. Chess is the one who usually has to rescue Praline when they are on a pretend adventure, but I wanted Praline to be able to show that she can be a tough nut too. I wanted to convey that these little nuts go through many obstacles during their adventure, but they never give up and they always stick together. That is what family is all about, isn’t it? Never giving up on one another and always being there.

We have released two other children’s books in addition to The Nutt Family. You can also find Lil Glimmer and The Pig Princess on Amazon in both kindle and paperback editions.

We are currently working on our fourth children’s book, The Bee Bully, which we hope to have completed this summer.

You can check out all our stories at Follow me on Twitter @amuse663 and find us on facebook at

“I was born in California to a military family. This meant that I was the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard always trying to make new friends, but I discovered I had a knack for writing. I began writing poetry in high school and really enjoyed expressing myself by using pen and paper. After becoming a Mom in 2003, I continued my storytelling to my own children. In 2009 I wrote and published my first children’s book aimed at toddlers. In 2012 I am set to release several more children’s books. Check out what I’m working on by visiting

I also write a blog about living on a gluten-free diet. I love to cook so I share my recipe successes and failures as I continue living without gluten.

Writing is such a wonderful creative process and I look forward to sharing more of my stories with lots of new little readers!”


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Indie Saturday – Author Will Granger on his Children’s Series ‘Anabar Trilogy’

June 16, 2012 1 comment

Today, we have author Will Granger featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for his children’s Adventure series ‘Anabar Trilogy‘ – currently with two books out – Anabar’s Run and Anabar Rises.

Will Granger’s ‘Anabar Trilogy‘ was one of the highly recommended books from our consultant for this month – ERIK of THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS!. Erik described the ‘Anabar Trilogy‘ as adventure books that are great, and gave Anabar’s Run a score of Four out of Five on his review!

Will Granger writes :

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to discuss my Anabar series of books for middle grade readers and some other things I am getting involved in with my writing.

First, Anabar is the main character of my books Anabar’s Run and Anabar Rises. He is a typical young man struggling with deciding what to do with his life. I started writing these books with the basic idea that anyone can achieve their goals, that it doesn’t take wealth or social status to be successful. I created Anabar as an orphan with no obvious advantages or powers. Although this is an adventure series, I purposely left out any magical or fantasy elements. Anabar makes it through hard work and determination.

From that beginning, Anabar seeks adventure and takes on the goal of becoming a member of the Scouts, a secretive band of swordsmen sworn to protect their nation of Semdela. At this point, the story took me in a direction I did not expect. As Anabar faces a series of difficult challenges, he becomes unhappy with the prospect of an approaching war with the neighboring nation of Ricamareth. He ultimately must decide between three difficult choices: fulfilling his duty as Scout and fighting in the war, escaping the war to seek of the love of a princess, and risking everything – his status as a Scout, the princess, and very possibly his life – to try to bring peace to the land.

This strong message of peace surprised me, but I am happy the story took me in that direction. I really did let the story grow. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, says he writes with just a basic idea and no clear outline or conclusion. I tried to do the same thing with Anabar’s Run and Anabar Rises. I enjoyed writing that way, but it was a bit uncomfortable at first just letting my imagination take over. I also did not begin with a certain age group of readers in mind; it just developed into a story I think is best suited for middle grade readers, although I think older readers can also enjoy it. I also think parents will like the fact that there is nothing vulgar in the books, although there is some violence, but nothing extreme or even close to what you will find in a PG movie.

In the end, I am very happy with the story. I have just started writing the third Anabar book, which I am tentatively calling Anabar’s Night. In this story, the adult Anabar faces different challenges and responsibilities as he tries to hold on to his basic morality. My goal is to finish writing it by December.

In deciding to self publish my books, I have explored many different options online to help my readers and promote the stories. I am especially proud of my Anabar Series Blog. On the blog, I have created maps, photographs, posters, journals and other information related to my Anabar books. This is all original material, and not found in the books. I have even written a poem, which I really enjoyed doing, and I am currently hand drawing several maps of locations featured in the books. I want my blog to be a fun addition to my books, and I plan to continually add to it.

I recently started something very exciting with Anabar’s Run. In March, I was fortunate to travel with a group of students to New York on a mission trip to help homeless people. We worked with an organization called The Relief Bus, which does an amazing job providing food, clothing, counseling, and prayer to the homeless in the New York metropolitan area. I came home inspired from the trip, and thought about how I could continue to help. I have decided to donate one half of my profits on Anabar’s Run for 2012 to The Relief Bus. I hope this is effective and that I can send a big check to the folks at The Relief Bus. I write about this on my Author Will Granger blog.

So that is my story about Anabar. I am enjoying writing the new book and helping the series grow through my blog. In addition to Anabar, I have also written several short horror stories, which I feature on my blog, Bad Dreams from Will Granger. I have always enjoyed the horror genre, and find it great fun writing short scary stories on a variety of themes. These stories are not for younger children and are more suited for older teens and adults. I’m currently finishing a story about an old teacher who grades a few too many essays and faces some very unpleasant consequences.

Finally, I was very happy to have recently joined a new organization called Independent Authors International. We are 12 authors, designers, and marketers dedicated to working together to sell our books. Our basic idea is to help each other produce books, by cooperating with writing, editing, and promoting. We want the Independent Authors International name to be a symbol of quality and professionalism that will appeal to publishers, agents, booksellers, and especially readers. I will soon post more details about this on my Author Will Granger blog.

Thanks for taking the time to let me share a bit about my stories. I am confident that my Anabar series will continue to grow through new books and my blog, and I have more ideas for some fun, but scary, short horror stories. Most importantly, please consider helping me help the homeless through my effort to donate to The Relief Bus.

Will Granger was born near Pittsburgh, PA and grew up in New Jersey and Geneva, Switzerland. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he was able to travel around the world. Scenes from his travels appear throughout his books. He also attended James Madison University and earned his MA in Language Arts Education from the University of Central Florida.

Will Granger and his family live on the East Coast of Florida. When he isn’t writing or teaching, he goes to church, goes sailing and fishing, and enjoys living close enough to Orlando to have an annual pass to Disney World.

Anabar’s Run and Anabar Rises are available on Amazon in Kindle formats. Check out Will’s Amazon author’s page for more info!

To learn more about Will Granger, follow Will on facebook:, Twitter: @WillGranger1, Goodreads and Shelfari. Drop by and say hi!


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Indie Saturday – Author Mandi Tillotson Williams on her Children’s Series ‘Mortimer Crump’ and ‘Henrietta Hexagon’

June 9, 2012 3 comments

Today, we have author Mandi Tillotson Williams featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her children’s series of books Mortimer Crump (Mortimer’s Book of What-Ifs and Mortimer’s Sweet Retreat) plus Henrietta Hexagon and the Triangles.

Mandi Tillotson Williams writes :

First of all I’d like to share with you all why I finally decided to pursue my life long dream of writing for children.

In 2005 I experienced a personal tragedy turned miracle that changed my entire outlook on life.

My youngest son was born at only 28 weeks and weighed less than 3 pounds. He spent 73 days in Neonatal ICU and we were told he may not walk or talk due to a severe bleed on both sides of his brain. I was currently working as a realtor (which I didn’t really enjoy) at the time and after the birth I quit my job and spent all my time with my three children. It seemed that my youngest would have a long tough road and I wanted to try and be there for him and my other two kids as well. I wasn’t sure how tight money would get with hospital bills coming in and my not working but at the time all that mattered was taking care of him. He was sent home on a heart monitor and would stop breathing and turn blue several times a day so of course I didn’t trust anyone else to care for him.

I want to share a poem that I wrote just a year or so ago about my experience and my little miracle that lead me to do what I truly love, writing and illustrating for children.


I woke up this morning with a really clear view.
My answer as to “Why?” I hope you see it too.

Several years ago, I had a two pound baby boy
12 weeks premature… I felt anything but joy.
He wasn’t doing well, his life was hanging by a thread
Not knowing why this happened, my heart was filled with dread.
The doctors said he may not walk, his brain was full of blood
He wouldn’t learn, he may not talk, none of this was good.
I sat and wrote that very day, an email to my friends
Asking all of them to pray and then to please hit send.
Within a week, to my surprise, I had an inbox full of letters
Strangers sending hope our way, praying he’d get better.
They sent him home after 73 days but again, with not much hope
We had no clue of what may happen on this scary uphill slope.

On this day, he’s five years old and no one would never know.
He’s doing great, he’s really smart. He’s anything but slow.

As I said before, I woke today with an answer as to “why?”
I came to my desk to try and type and then began to cry.
My child was saved so I’d spread the word of what Jesus did for me.
I feel that’s why I rhyme so well. I want all the world to see.
Something big will come of this, I can feel it in my heart.
For now I’ll spread to my home town, but I know it’s just a start.

So now you know why I feel so strongly about getting my work out there.

I want to share with you another funny coincidence about my character from my first book, Mortimer. I created Mortimer several years before my youngest was born but my son actually looks like Mortimer, without the red hair, but he is long and lean, very active and wears glasses. My little one has blue glasses though so I told him I’d have to give Mortimer blue glasses in the second book. ;0)

My first book in the Mortimer Crump series has just won a Mom’s Choice Award which I was extremely happy about! Mortimer’s Sweet Retreat is about a little boy that is scooped up by a ferocious looking beast and is whisked away to an undiscovered CANDY coated planet! Everything there is made with candy! Just a few of those things include marshmallow bees, lollipop trees and a lake full of jelly bean stew! Mortimer becomes friends with the beast and has to try and save him when he is kidnapped. This is a sweet story of friendship that shows you that you can’t judge someone by looks alone. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

The second book in the series is already completely written and I will be starting the illustrations this summer. It will be a crafty surprise!

I also have two other books published thus far. One being Mortimer’s Book of What-if’s. This is a funny collection of answers to many ‘what if’ questions children often ask. This book has been great for teachers in elementary school to use as writing prompts with their kids. They ask the kids to write their story after only hearing the question. (Ex. What if you don’t clean behind your ears?) After writing their story, they get to hear Mortimer’s answer which is guaranteed to have them laughing.

Henrietta Hexagon & the Triangles is the title of my third book and it has been a great tool for teachers as well. It is a story of acceptance and fitting in but it touches on adoption and has a slight lesson in shapes as well. You will fall in love with Henrietta. Keep in mind, this is a story (not a lesson in shapes) so it is for elementary kids that know their shapes as well as young children.

I’d like to personally thank all of you that have taken the time to read my story as I really appreciate my fans. Without you I wouldn’t be able to do what I love. I know I still have a long way to go but I am determined to get my work out there to a wider audience. If you happen to read any of my books and enjoy them I’d be so thankful if you’d take a moment to leave a review on amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble.

I’d love for you to join me on facebook & twitter as well. I am steadily posting activity sheets to go along with my books. Thanks again.

“With God, all things are possible”


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Mandi Tillotson Williams is an Award winning author/Illustrator (Presented by Mom’s Choice Awards). She is currently pursuing a lifelong dream of writing for children on top of having her own photography business (Snapshotz ‘n’ More Photography) and juggling her three kids and their activities.

Mortimer’s Sweet Retreat (The Many Adventures of Mortimer Crump, Book 1) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Mortimer’s Book of What-Ifs (A Children’s Rhyming Picture Book of Poetry) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Henrietta Hexagon and the Triangles: Fun Shape series (Volume 1) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Check out Mandi’s Amazon author’s page for more info! Mandi Tillotson Williams’s books are also available at Barnes & Noble.

To learn more about Mandi Tillotson Williams, follow Mandi on her website/blog: You may also follow her on facebook via her Facebook book page: and on Twitter: @mortimercrump. Drop by and say hi to her!


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Indie Saturday – Author Jo Marshall on her Children’s Series ‘Twig Stories’

June 2, 2012 2 comments

Today, we have author Jo Marshall featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her children’s series of books Twig StoriesLeaf & the Sky of Fire and Leaf & the Rushing Waters.

Jo Marshall’s Twig Stories was one of the highly recommended books from our consultant for this month – ERIK of THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS! Erik described the Twig series as books that “teach about conservation and the environment” and gave Leaf & the Rushing Waters a score of Five out of Five on his review!

Jo Marshall writes :

Thank you so much for sharing a little about me and my book series with all your readers. Your Randomize Me blog is so varied and impressive. I am grateful to be asked to post on it, and I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Twig Stories books. Another big thanks to Erik, This Kid Reviews Books, for the referral, too!

Twigs are tiny stick creatures born in the old growth forest in my back yard. They provided great entertainment for my daughter, Ali Jo, during her elementary school years. Ali had become increasingly distressed about threats to endangered wildlife and forests in our Pacific Northwest home, so one day we imagined what it would be like to be small stick creatures that fought climate change. For example, Twigs could fight bark beetle swarms that continue to devastate millions of acres of forests in Canada and America. We also imagined our little stick guys could fight shrinking glaciers and uncontrollable wildfires. We drove back and forth to school that next year, and our stories became wilder and wilder. Instead of reading books together at bedtime, Ali and I began creating our own stories about Twigs. Being a very, very old mom, I wanted to capture this rare, special time we had together, so I wrote Twig Stories.

It’s very important to note that we both decided right away to share all the royalties from the books with environmental nonprofits.

About the Twig Stories series

Both Twig Stories books received five-star reviews, and are on recommended reading lists for environmental nonprofits across the country and in Canada. Leaf & the Rushing Waters is about goliath beavers, who try to control an outburst flood. I was startled when biologists and nonprofit advocates for beavers offered their expertise, and actually loved the story. They believe beaver dams are a natural solution to mitigate flood and drought disasters, and so they embraced Leaf & the Rushing Waters completely.

Leaf & the Sky of Fire is about Twigs battling a swarm of “barkbiters” in an infested, dying forest. I submitted the manuscript to research scientists, who study bark beetles, and environmental nonprofit officers involved with wildlife protection. Surprisingly, they were really happy to see a fantasy for their own 8+ children about their critical research, and endorsed it right away! One scientist told me he read it aloud to his 5 year old, and they both enjoyed it very much.

I am fortunate to have wonderful praise for Twig Stories from librarians, scientists, educators, and – most importantly – a whole bunch of great kids. I posted most of these endorsements on my website and Facebook. I’m so proud that Twig Stories developed into exciting and fun adventures with fantastic, funny characters and lots of action. The stories also highlight endangered wildlife, and describe real peril from climate change events in a worthwhile, yet entertaining way.

Leaf & the Sky of Fire actually made the short list for the highly regarded Newton Marasco Foundation Green Book Award last year. It was an incredible thrill, especially since my book was the only independently published children’s novel on their list. I should mention that the Twig Stories’ manuscripts did receive some interest from agents and publishers, but none would guarantee the books would even be on the market within two years, or that D.W. Murray (a professional Disney artist) could remain as the series’ illustrator. Another illustrator was out of the question for Ali Jo and me, and I wanted to see the books in print before Ali grew up!

Right now we are finishing the next two books, Leaf & the Long Ice (about shrinking glaciers) and Leaf & Echo Peak (about adaption to change). We won’t be marketing all four until the series is finished. That will be, of course, if I have time to market them. Ali Jo has big plans for the next series about ‘Fern’ (Leaf’s sister), which will be about Twigs in the redwood forests of northern California. I’m not sure there is an end in sight to Twigs!

I worked for many years in D.C. as a legal assistant to the General Counsel of two nonprofit organizations. Enormously talented and caring people are there, who work hard every day to better our world. They take on huge battles of one kind or another. I worked in litigation, so when we won a suit for something as simple as requiring curb cuts for those in wheelchairs, or mandating cruise ships not dump their waste in the ocean, it was incredibly rewarding. I guess that’s why our Twig Stories hero, Leaf and his buddies are such fighters.

I am member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Read a Book Make a Difference, and many environmental nonprofits.

Leaf & the Sky of Fire is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Leaf & the Rushing Waters is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Check out Jo’s Amazon author’s page for more info! Jo Marshall’s books are also available at Barnes & Noble, and you may also request Twig Stories through distributors such as Ingram, NACSCORP, and Baker & Taylor. Twig Stories books are available worldwide.

To learn more about Jo Marshall, follow Jo on her website: (Discounted books are available via her Estore, direct from publisher, just follow the links from the Twig Store). You may also follow her on facebook via: her Facebook author page: and her Facebook book page: Drop by and say hi to her!


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Book Review – The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) by Marianne Malone

March 14, 2012 1 comment

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Book Description:

Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic.

Imagine—what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind?

Fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Doll People, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will be swept up in the magic of this exciting art adventure!

The sequel, Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, was released in January 24, 2012


The Sixty-Eight Rooms  by Marianne Malone offers a pretty irresistible premise for a fantasy/ time travel / adventure story for young readers (Grades 4-6). In her author’s note, Ms Malone explained that she spent a lot of time at the Chicago Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms exhibition when she was very young, and she used to imagine herself inside the miniature rooms. And well, that’s how the idea to write The Sixty-Eight Rooms was born!

While on a class visit to the Thorne Rooms, two 11-year-old kids (Ruthie and her best friend Jack) find a magical key that shrinks them down to a size that allows them to explore the miniature historical rooms. The children find odd items that suggest that others may have made the same discovery before them. Even more amazing, Ruthie and Jack discover that the rooms offer them entry into the worlds of the past for real!

Miniature of a French Salon of the Louis XVI Period - The Thorne rooms - Art Institute of Chicago

Image via Wikipedia

This story appealed to me so much (even though I’m a clear decade beyond the target age group!) – I mean, anybody who has ever played with a doll’s house has fantasized about being miniature-sized, right? Unfortunately, the actual written book fell far short of my expectations. I went from ‘oh WOW’ to ‘b.o.r.i.n.g’ pretty quickly.  I felt too much attention was paid to extraneous details and plot points that detracted from the main story. The result was that too little of the historical miniature rooms ended up being visited by the kids. And even the time travel aspect was sorely lacking as all the kids seemed to do was walk out of the little rooms into gardens or a neighboring house and chat a bit with another young kid or two. How about a bit more conflict, a tad more danger? There was a suggestion of it when the kids walked into the world of the Salem Witch Trials, but that episode was cut short when things were just getting exciting!  I don’t know – I just felt cheated on the ‘adventure’ aspect of the book.

Ruthie and Jack are pretty appealing characters though, very smart and quick-minded and I really liked how their friendship was portrayed. And the few historical rooms that the kids did explore really tickled my imagination (I’d never seen the Thorne Rooms myself), but I’m thinking a museum trip of my own should be scheduled in the near future (or at least a peek at that catalogue)!

To sum it up, The Sixty-Eight Rooms  did not quite live up to its promise, but younger kids who aren’t as demanding about having more ‘adventure’ in their stories might still like this. At the very least, like with me, this book might just spark an interest in an educational museum visit! (which is totally a win-win, right?)

The Sixty-Eight Rooms (The Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures) by Marianne Malone (with illustrations by Greg Call) from Random House Books for Young Readers is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover, Paperback and Audible Audio Edition Unabridged.

It is also available as an eBook at B&N and Apple iBookstore.

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Indie Saturday – Author Michelle Isenhoff on “The Color of Freedom”

March 10, 2012 5 comments

Today, we have author Michelle Isenhoff featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her YA Historical Fiction “The Color of Freedom” (Available on Amazon). Michelle believes that “the best way to teach history to children is to make it come alive“. Let’s see the American Revolution through 14-year-old Meadow’s eyes!

Author Michelle Isenhoff writes about ‘The Color of Freedom’:

The Color of Freedom was born out of a visit to Boston, Lexington and Concord, and the Bunker Hill monument and a desire to see kids grasp the importance of the American Revolution. I guess that’s the teacher coming out in me. But really, what better way is there to teach history than to disguise it in a captivating story?

Fourteen-year-old Meadow Wynn McKenzie hates the British. Turned off her Irish farm and forced to book passage to America as an indentured servant, she understands why the rebels wish to throw off the yoke of King George’s rule. But is freedom worth the cost? Defying the most powerful nation on earth is like handing an invitation to Death.

Then, forced to flee her master, Meadow disguises herself as a boy and journeys toward Boston to reunite with her father. She’s moved by the courage, pride and determination of the American patriots, but their Puritan roots run deep. Before she can embrace the cause of her new homeland, Meadow must carefully consider a future amongst Puritan hatred for her Catholic beliefs. Would liberty apply to Irish, to Negroes, to Quakers, to Jews, to Catholics? Or would that slogan be cast aside when majority rule served the majority? Perhaps the colonists had simply invented a new kind of tyranny.

In Meadow, I created a female lead who’s frightened and indecisive, as I suspect so many colonists actually were. I didn’t want her to seem too strong or too modern, but she’s a heroine young readers can connect with and rally behind. She bears up well, and her circumstances push her toward maturity. By becoming emotionally involved in her story, I hope today’s kids can get a glimpse of what it meant to live through the Revolution, and perhaps they’ll gain some understanding of how it’s shaped the present.

“I became a teacher, in part, because I never outgrew the fantastic stories in the children’s genre. When I quit teaching to raise a family and try my hand at a novel, I knew it would have to be for kids. The Color of Freedom was the result. I have since written a trilogy of tween Civil War fiction (the last is due out this summer) and two tween fantasies (the second is due out this fall). I make study guides available on my website to help teachers get the most mileage out of my books. When I’m not writing, homeschooling, chauffeuring children, blogging or reading, I like to garden and take road trips with my family (not necessarily at the same time).”

The Color of Freedom by Michelle Isenhoff is available at Amazon in Kindle format. The ebook is also available on B&N. You can check out her Amazon author page or her website ( for a list of all her books. You can also find Michelle Isenhoff’s books on Barnes & Noble.

To learn more about Michelle Isenhoff, go to or follow Michelle on Twitter: @middlereaders or Facebook: Michelle also blogs at Bookworm Blather. Drop by and say hi!


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Do you want to be a featured ‘Indie Saturday’ author too? Go here for more info!

Read an embedded sample of “The Color of Freedom” after the jump!

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