Monday, May 28, 2018

A Pup Called Trouble: A Review

Congratulations to Rosi Hollenbeck who won OOTHAR THE BLUE and Cathy Ogren who won MAY I COME IN?

A Pup Called Trouble (Kathy Tegan Books, 2018) by Bobbie Pyron is an engaging story that 3-5th grade students or older reluctant readers will enjoy. Based on true stories of coyotes who live in New York's Central Park, the book is told mostly through the point of view of the aptly named coyote, Trouble. Pyron, who makes her home  in the Utah mountains, spent four days roaming around Manhattan imaging how the city would smell, sound, and look to a lost coyote pup. Those four days became the backbone for this story. 

Although the child reader may not recognize herself in the story, Trouble’s desire to experience what his parents have forbidden is very child-like. Pyron sets up this identification at the beginning of the book when Trouble’s parents take him to see a tractor for the first time. Whereas his siblings fear the loud noise it makes, Trouble responds:

“It sounds huge,” Trouble exclaimed. “It sounds exciting! Can we go see?” (p. 16) 

After he sees Makers (humans) for the first time, he bombards his mother,
[Trouble] raced in circles of excitement. "Can we see more tomorrow?" (p. 21-22)
"No, she snapped. "Nothing good comes from Makers."
Swift shivered with fright. Pounced moved closer to his father, and Star trembled. 
Trouble's eyes glowed with dreamy curiosity. (p. 21-22)

Inevitably, the pup’s curiosity gets him into trouble. The reader sees and feels what happens when Trouble hides inside a truck. "...a loud, low growl rumbled to life beneath Trouble's feet. It grew louder and louder, shaking the floor and the walls and the ceiling of the shelter. Then, to Trouble's horror, the Beast lurched to life."(p.30). 

He finds himself in a "stone forest [which] rose so high it cut the wide blue expanse to wedges and slivers of white (p. 33). His senses are accosted by strange scents, sounds, and sights--not the least of which is the Makers "looking intently at a small something [they] held in their hands." At one point he is surrounded by Makers of all sizes. "Trouble leaped to his feet, spun in circles looking for the cover of forest, trees, bushes, anything where he could hide. Nothing. Everything was hard. Solid. Unforgiving." (p. 33)

Although Trouble admits that he's lost in this strange world, his curiosity drives him further and further from the truck that brought him to the city. When a crow named Mischief spies Trouble and takes an interest in him, there are great opportunities for fun and games as the two ride a subway, scare New Yorkers, and cause general mayhem. 

Mischief introduces him to other animals living in Central Park and Trouble falls in love with a poodle named Minette. As a result of these friendships, Trouble begins to lose his homesickness and begins to start liking his new life. His friends are alarmed and arrange for him to visit the "Place of the Once Wild." At the city zoo Trouble's eyes are opened to see what he risks losing. 

Ultimately, it is the fact that his friends band together to save him from the consequences of his poor decision that helps Trouble return home. The "good friends help friends stay out of trouble" moral-of-the-story is subtly and sweetly woven into a book that boys and girls will both enjoy. 

Once again, I can't part with this book! My animal loving granddaughters will love it! 

Bobbie Pyron is the author of five award-winning, critically-acclaimed middle grade and young adult novels including A DOG'S WAY HOME, THE DOGS OF WINTER, and LUCKY STRIKE. She lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, dogs, and occasional moose.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Privacy Policy as of May 23, 2018

This privacy policy has been compiled to better serve those who are concerned with how their 'Personally Identifiable Information' (PII) is being used online. PII, as described in US privacy law and information security, is information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context. Please read our privacy policy carefully to get a clear understanding of how we collect, use, protect or otherwise handle your Personally Identifiable Information in accordance with our website.

What personal information do we collect from the people that visit our blog, website or app?

When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your name, email address or other details to help you with your experience.

When do we collect information?

We collect information from you when you register on our site, fill out a form or enter information on our site.

How do we use your information? 

We may use the information we collect from you when you register, make a purchase, sign up for our newsletter, respond to a survey or marketing communication, surf the website, or use certain other site features in the following ways:
       To administer a contest, promotion, survey or other site feature.
       To follow up with them after correspondence (live chat, email or phone inquiries)

How do we protect your information?

We do not use vulnerability scanning and/or scanning to PCI standards.
We only provide articles and information. We never ask for credit card numbers.
We do not use Malware Scanning.
Your personal information is contained behind secured networks and is only accessible by a limited number of persons who have special access rights to such systems, and are required to keep the information confidential. In addition, all sensitive/credit information you supply is encrypted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology. 

We implement a variety of security measures when a user enters, submits, or accesses their information to maintain the safety of your personal information.

All transactions are processed through a gateway provider and are not stored or processed on our servers.

Do we use 'cookies'?

Yes. Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computer's hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the site's or service provider's systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information. For instance, we use cookies to help us remember and process the items in your shopping cart. They are also used to help us understand your preferences based on previous or current site activity, which enables us to provide you with improved services. We also use cookies to help us compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interaction so that we can offer better site experiences and tools in the future.

We use cookies to:
       Understand and save user's preferences for future visits.

You can choose to have your computer warn you each time a cookie is being sent, or you can choose to turn off all cookies. You do this through your browser settings. Since browser is a little different, look at your browser's Help Menu to learn the correct way to modify your cookies.

If you turn cookies off, It won't affect the user's experience .

Third-party disclosure

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your Personally Identifiable Information.

Third-party links

Occasionally, at our discretion, we may include or offer third-party products or services on our website. These third-party sites have separate and independent privacy policies. We therefore have no responsibility or liability for the content and activities of these linked sites. Nonetheless, we seek to protect the integrity of our site and welcome any feedback about these sites.


Google's advertising requirements can be summed up by Google's Advertising Principles. They are put in place to provide a positive experience for users. 
We have not enabled Google AdSense on our site but we may do so in the future.

California Online Privacy Protection Act

CalOPPA is the first state law in the nation to require commercial websites and online services to post a privacy policy. The law's reach stretches well beyond California to require any person or company in the United States (and conceivably the world) that operates websites collecting Personally Identifiable Information from California consumers to post a conspicuous privacy policy on its website stating exactly the information being collected and those individuals or companies with whom it is being shared. - See more at:

According to CalOPPA, we agree to the following:
Users can visit our site anonymously.
Once this privacy policy is created, we will add a link to it on our home page or as a minimum, on the first significant page after entering our website.
Our Privacy Policy link includes the word 'Privacy' and can easily be found on the page specified above.

You will be notified of any Privacy Policy changes:
       On our Privacy Policy Page
Can change your personal information:
       By emailing us

How does our site handle Do Not Track signals?
We honor Do Not Track signals and Do Not Track, plant cookies, or use advertising when a Do Not Track (DNT) browser mechanism is in place. 

Does our site allow third-party behavioral tracking?
It's also important to note that we do not allow third-party behavioral tracking

COPPA (Children Online Privacy Protection Act)

When it comes to the collection of personal information from children under the age of 13 years old, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) puts parents in control. The Federal Trade Commission, United States' consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule, which spells out what operators of websites and online services must do to protect children's privacy and safety online.
We do not specifically market to children under the age of 13 years old.

Fair Information Practices

The Fair Information Practices Principles form the backbone of privacy law in the United States and the concepts they include have played a significant role in the development of data protection laws around the globe. Understanding the Fair Information Practice Principles and how they should be implemented is critical to comply with the various privacy laws that protect personal information.
In order to be in line with Fair Information Practices we will take the following responsive action, should a data breach occur:
We will notify you via email
       Within 7 business days

We also agree to the Individual Redress Principle which requires that individuals have the right to legally pursue enforceable rights against data collectors and processors who fail to adhere to the law. This principle requires not only that individuals have enforceable rights against data users, but also that individuals have recourse to courts or government agencies to investigate and/or prosecute non-compliance by data processors.


The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have emails stopped from being sent to them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.
We collect your email address in order to:
       Send information, respond to inquiries, and/or other requests or questions

To be in accordance with CANSPAM, we agree to the following:
       Not use false or misleading subjects or email addresses.
       Identify the message as an advertisement in some reasonable way.
       Include the physical address of our business or site headquarters.
       Monitor third-party email marketing services for compliance, if one is used.
       Honor opt-out/unsubscribe requests quickly.
       Allow users to unsubscribe by using the link at the bottom of each email.

If at any time you would like to unsubscribe from receiving future emails, you can email us at and we will promptly remove you from ALL correspondence.

Contacting Us

If there are any questions regarding this privacy policy, you may contact Carol Baldwin using the information below.

Last Edited on 2018-05-23

Monday, May 21, 2018

Picture Book Bonanza #2 PLUS Two Giveaways!

This week I'm sharing three spanking new picture books with your chance to win two of them. (See rules below).

OOTHAR THE BLUE by Brandon Reese (Lion Forge, 2018)

Written and Illustrated
by Brandon Reese
You first heard about OOTHAR on my blog two months ago. (If you didn't read that blog please stop now and go back and read it. Lots of great process drawings and background information!)

We all have moments when we don't feel ourselves. But what does a barbarian do when he's feeling blue? He no longer wants to slay dragons or banish uberwaiths to the ninth dimension. Even the forest wizard's spell of enchantment doesn't make him feel better. 

The answer to Oothar's blues comes in an unlikely manner. Since I don't want to give away the perfect-problem-solving-ending, here are some of Brandon's amazing illustrations for clues.

Here, Oothar expresses some of his frustrations:

Next, he receives an unexpected response from the resident minotaur:

And finally, he ends up with...oops, sorry! That's the spoiler! You'll have to buy the book for your favorite little reader to see the clever way Oothar resolves his dilemma.

SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK by Patricia Keeler (Sky Pony Press, 2018)

Written and Illustrated
by Patricia Keeler

When you're an old ice cream truck "who has seen a lot of summers" and only sell vanilla ice cream cones, then you get a little down in the dumps when fancier ice cream trucks roll into town.

But, if your name is Scoop, you try lots of things to beat the competition. You get more flavors and neon lights that zoom around your roof. Sadly, Scoop's plan fails.

Scoop's ice cream started to melt. He gave away seventy-two flavors of ice cream.
The ice cream got soft, so he gave seventy-two flavors of softserve.
Then the soft serve ice cream melted, so he gave away seventy-two flavors of milk shakes.
He had nothing more to give. 

But Scoop is not defeated! He and his faithful friend who has followed him all through town, come up with a perfect plan that will leave adults and children as satisfied as the most perfect ice cream cone ever. Patricia's lively illustrations are as yummy as the text!

MAY I COME IN? by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Jennie Poh (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018)

By Marsha Diane Arnold
Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Raccoon's search for shelter from a scary storm reminded me of a little of The Three Bears. Each friend finds a different reason why Raccoon won't fit into his house. Raccoon is to big to fit into Possum's den; he's too wide for Quail's brambles; and Woodchuck only has room for one.

Eventually Raccoon goes, "Swish, plish, Swish, plish, Swish, swish, PLISH" until he comes to Rabbit's house. (Little readers will love the onomatopoeia!) Where he is greeted by,

He is not only welcomed into their tight little home, where "There's always room for a good friend," but becomes a part of the greeting committee when the other three animals come knocking at Rabbit's door.

This sweet book tells a friendship story in a way that little ones will understand and their parents will enjoy. Jennie Poh's warm illustrations welcome the reader inside the book...just like coming inside on a stormy day!


I am giving away OOTHAR THE BLUE and MAY I COME IN?
To enter, please leave a comment by May 25 with your email address if you are new to my blog. Feel free to mention which book you are interested in winning. For extra chances, share on social media or follow my blog (please tell me what you do!) and I'll enter your name twice. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

SmartARTS: Art Integration at Work

I last blogged about my training to be a SmartARTS teaching artist last summer when I attended their training institute. Here's a column I wrote for The Greenville Journal about my first assignment.


Five minutes after I started talking to Gayla Day, the Administrator of the SmartARTS program at the Metropolitan Arts Council, I knew I’d found a place to share my writing skills. This organization believed in integrating arts education into school curriculum—on a scale I had never imagined. SmartARTS uses artists like myself—writers, painters, dancers, fiber artists, musicians, poets, actors and actresses—to enhance math, social studies, science, and language arts instruction.

In order to receive my first teaching assignment, I was required to attend the Arts Integration Training Institute. Last summer I spent four days of immersive training in the SmartARTS vision and methodology. This included talks by Greenville County teachers who successfully enhanced their classroom instruction by teaming with artists. Along with sixty teachers who wanted an artist in their classroom, I participated in acting exercises, a poetry workshop, a painting activity, and a dance lesson. I learned how the students’ needs would determine how my writing skills would be used in the classroom. 

This past March I met Melody Powell, the third-grade teacher at Stone Academy who I was paired with. As we planned the unit, she said she wanted to prepare her students for the state writing assessment by focusing on narrative writing. Here was an opportunity to use my book, Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8 precisely how I envisioned it. My excitement as an author and writing instructor soared!

Ms. Powell hoped I would reinforce concepts that she had previously taught including the parts of speech, theme, and adding sensory details. Since the classes are teacher-driven, our planning didn’t stop at that initial meeting. She gave me feedback throughout the unit so that I continued to tweak upcoming lessons. 
Students critiquing each other's work.

This type of collaboration is at the heart of SmartARTS. The-give-and take in the classroom between Ms. Powell and myself was like a dance that may have looked choreographed, but in fact, was a perfect example of collaborative work. As I taught the unit, “What Is A Story?” we amplified one another’s skills and knowledge base. 
I used a simple picture book, "Emma's Pet" to demonstrate
how what the character wants drives the story. (Thanks Harold Underdown!)
The SmartARTS Training Institute reinforced the idea that linking a physical activity to content area helps students retain material. Each day I opened the class with “Exercising Muscle Words.” Parts of speech and figurative language were combined with movements. Quickly students learned to pair vivid verbs with jumping jacks; specific nouns with deep knee bends; image-driven adjectives with arm circles; similes, metaphors, personification with arm punches and leg kicks; and onomatopoeia and alliteration with finger dancing. 

Another day I used tableaux, an activity that I had learned at the Institute. This dramatic exercise helps students use their bodies and facial expressions to connect to a concept. In small groups, the students created tableaux that showed an emotion such as anger or sadness. It was exciting to see their enthusiastic efforts and the connections they made to portraying a character’s emotions. 
Two third-graders collaborating on their tableau.

Teachers enjoy seeing light bulb moments—times when students link ideas to new concepts. I was privileged to experience several. A student recalled a passage in our mentor novel, Because of Winn Dixie, specifically because the author used the same figurative language the student was “exercising.” Others proudly incorporated muscle words into their work. After showing them several drafts of my work-in-progress Half-Truths, students realized how “real writers” revise. Several experienced the benefit of reading their work out loud to catch mistakes. One student recognized that although he didn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings while critiquing his work, feedback made the piece stronger. 
Giving and receiving feedback. All writers revise!

I am thrilled that my book, Teaching the Story, was an asset in the SmartARTS program.  It was a privilege and pleasure to watch children shape their ideas and transform them into a story of their own. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls' Escape from Slavery to Union Hero -- An Audio Book Review

Congratulations to Linda Anderson Gutheil who won W Is For Welcome and to Michelle Wall who won Ebenezer Creek. 


BE FREE OR DIE (St. Martin's Press, 2017) by Cate Lineberry is actually more than what the subtitle conveys. It is simultaneously a detailed account of how a young slave impacted the cause of the Union, as well as a panoramic view of South Carolina before, during, and after the Civil War. 

The biography of this unsung hero begins in 1862 with an extensive description of Smalls, a 23-year-old slave governed by his desire for freedom for himself and his family. Smalls grew up working a variety of jobs, eventually becoming a pilot on the steamer, the CSS Planter. In that position, Smalls conceived the dangerous plan to comandeer the boat and turn it over to the Union Navy. He knew that Southerners and even many Northerners didn’t expect a black man to have the intelligence to execute such a daring plan. Swearing the crew members to secrecy, Smalls planned his dangerous escape. 

The Planter carrying 1000 bales of cotton.

The promise of freedom was so strong that despite the high risk of being captured and killed and his wife and children tortured--Smalls carried out his plan. With his lighter skin and under the cover of darkness, he piloted the ship out of the heavily guarded Charleston Harbor. Other enslaved people had tried to get to the Union side in rowboats or canoes--but no one had turned over a ship like the Planter; a vessel that carried several canons and thousands of pounds of ammunition which the union desperately needed. 

Pursuant to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,
Smalls risked being caught and returned to his master.

Childhood Years

In Chapter 2, Cate Lineberry delves into Smalls' childhood. His mother Lydia, was part of the Gullah community in the sea islands and as a result, Smalls learned the Gullah language. He lived between the Gullah and white community, but since he was a house slave from the age of nine, he was at the mercy of whites. 

It is unclear who Smalls' father was and some people have thought that it was Lydia’s master. But the author says that is unlikely because Lydia was the one who raised her master and was significantly older than him. But the ambiguity made me realize how these types of relationships were never quite accounted for. I found this interesting since the backstory of my WIP, Half-Truthsincludes a similar master/slave relationship.

Robert’s early childhood was controlled by the realities of slavery: the deprivation of equality, the lack of privileges and rights; the metal badges slaves wore which separated them from free blacks. The latter reminded me of the yellow arm bands which Hitler forced Jews to wear.

These small metal badges, most often made of copper, were produced in Charleston, South Carolina between 1800 and the Civil War. They were worn by slaves working in the city.


Against the background of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the book details Smalls' adventures and accolades after he captured the Planter.  He became known as a hero to Northern whites and he inspired thousands of enslaved and free blacks. He worked for both the Navy and the Army; became a spokesman for freedom; helped convince President Lincoln to establish a black Union military force; was present at 17 major battles and engagements in the Civil War, supported the Port Royal Experiment for the education of blacks, ran several successful businesses, was a South Carolina Representative (1868-1870 and served five terms as the first black elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Historical Context

Lineberry includes a tremendous amount of historical context for all of these public and personal triumphs. Two particular events stand out in my mind. The first is his purchase of the house in which he had served as a slave. Here's a video that shows the exterior of the home and details this history. He spent many years entertaining in the home along with his beloved wife, Hannah. 

The second was Lineberry's mention of Sherman's March to the Sea. The author discussed so many events that occurred in the South during the Civil War--I wondered if she would mention what happened at Ebenezer Creek. Sure enough, she included that devastating event which Tonya Bolden so skillfully dramatized in Crossing Ebenezer Creek.


At the end of a book that is skillfully woven together, educational, and inspiring, Cate Lineberry wrote, "Robert Smalls deserves to be celebrated not only as a union hero, but an American hero." I am grateful that she brought this story to life.

For more information, see Lineberry's website or her interview on C-SPAN.

Narrated by the talented JD Jackson, the audio CD produced by Tantor Audio, is a treat to listen to. You can here a sample of the book here.


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