Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Chasing Augustus: A Review and an Audio Book Giveaway


What 10 to 14-year-old doesn't enjoy a good dog book?  If your son, daughter, grandchild, or student fits into that category, then Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco, is a book that you want to win for them.  

Rosie's got it tough. Her mother left her as a child to make a better life for herself in California. Her father has a stroke and is hospitalized. That leaves her paternal grandfather, Harry, in charge of raising her--something he is ill-equipped to do. On top of that, when her mother comes home temporarily, she gives away "Gloaty Gus"-- Rosie's "lug of a dog." 

From the first chapter, the reader is rooting for this spunky protagonist who feels as if she is "half the girl she used to be" without her furry, stubborn friend. As the title intimates, the book is mostly about Rosie trying to find Augustus and the various obstacles she has to overcome in the process. Readers see the sandpits which cover the town with grit whenever the wind blows--and which makes riding a bicycle (when she goes looking for her dog) include wearing swim goggles. Readers feel her apathy in school and cringe when she makes bad choices. And of course, they resonate with her longing to be reunited with her dog. 

Although this is a book about determination and not losing hope, it is truly about making friends in unexpected places. Readers meet Rosie's next-door neighbor, Phillipe, a foster kid who won't shrug off his huge overcoat and who is obsessed with Monopoly; Cynthia, a girl who gets on Rosie's nerves because she asks too many questions; Swanson, a mute woman who the town kids mock and fear but who provides surprising answers to Rosie's questions; and even her grandfather Harry, who is an ornery sardine-and-cracker-eating guy who makes Rosie get tutoring over the summer for her poor English grade; and Mr. Peterson her tutor who she despises at first, but who she learns to appreciate. 

Readers will care about Rosie, but they will also see how her behavior is not above reproach. She puts her desire to find Augustus above everything else; not caring about how her Grandfather will worry when she leaves home in a storm or how Phillipe feels when she pushes him into helping her. I think if the book is read in the classroom, I would recommend pointing out her lack of empathy and why she is self-absorbed in her quest. It would also be good to discuss how she resolves her relationships in the end. 

Here's an audio snippet from the beginning of the book. The narrator, Karissa Vacker, created an authentic voice for the first-person protagonist. The secondary characters are also portrayed well through a variety of authentic voices. 

And finally, a line early in the book which summarizes the sand-pit setting as well as Rosie's life, “If you don’t do something with all the grit in your life, things seem to jam up something awful."


A winner will receive a code from Tantor Audio and instructions on downloading the book. To enter, please leave me a comment with your email address if you are new to my blog by 6 PM on May 29. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Two New Picture Books from Sleeping Bear Press

Daddy Loves You!

This picture book is the fifth book written by Helen Foster James and illustrated by Petra Brown showing the love of a bunny family member for a young bunny. (Check out Grandma Loves You!, Grandpa Loves You!,  Mommy Loves You!, and Auntie Loves You!.)

This story begins with, 
"Daddy loves you, bunny-bear, much more than words can say. 
You are your daddy's sunshine. I'll love you every day."

The daddy bunny goes on to say how he'll protect his little one, how they'll explore, and play together. 

"Let's see who hops the highest, then spin ourselves around...."

At night Daddy bunny tucks him in bed at night and says, 

"Sweet dreams, my snuggle bunny, I know that this is true,
You are my little angel, and moonbeam...I love you."

Daddy Loves You! includes a blank page for the child's father to write a note to his son or daughter.

Where'd My Jo Go? 

This rhyming picture book by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Scott Brundage is based on a true story that Esbaum read in a newspaper. Jill fictionalized the story and it's shown from both Al and Jo's point of view--something I've never seen in a picture book! 

Big Al is Jo's furry friend who loves traveling with her on the open road. When Jo takes a break, Al is busy meeting children, finding a snack, and rolling in someone's flower bed. But when he returns to the truck stop, Al can't find Jo!

As difficult as it is, Al waits for Jo, watching as trucks come and go along the highway.

At the same time, Jo realizes that Al is not in the truck with her! 

While Big Al waits, he's sad and scared. He's tempted to go with Zack, a friendly boy who plays with him, but from out of the dark night, Al spots Jo's truck. 

"I have to look, 
Could it be true? 
Oh, Jo. Please, Jo, 
could that be-- 
Bye, Zack! I have to go!
I knew she'd come! 
It's her! 
My Jo!

Where'd My Jo Go? uses simple vocabulary and new readers will enjoy mastering the words. Both books are illustrated in a manner that reflects the story's content; Petra Brown and Scott Brundage show a realm of emotions in their characters! Both books will be enjoyed by children and the adults who read them out loud.

Sorry--no giveaway this week. I'm celebrating the birth of a new grandson and these books will be a great contribution to their family library!

Big sister Eleanor enjoys reading to Luke and baby Caleb.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What Do Your Eyes Communicate? Answers and a Winner!

Image by Sumanley xulx
Following up on last week's blog showing 21 people in their Covid-19 masks, here is what the subjects self-reported they were thinking or feeling:

#1 Barbara Federlin: Overwhelmed.

#2 Becca Puglisi: Irritation.

#3 Brenda Covert: Shock.

#4 Barbara Lee Bryant: Foolish.

#5 Annonymous Male: Be Positive!

#6 Donna Earnhardt: Happy to have a mask.

#7 Jarm Del Boccio: Peaceful.

#8 Jean Hall: Tired.

#9 Joan Edwards: Surprise.

#10 Laurie Foote: "I must open my eyes wide enough so my droopy eyelids don't make me look 100 years old, while not enough that I look terrified!"  

#11 Melodye Shore: "I felt seen. I felt loved. I felt more protected, of course, but in some ways I felt more vulnerable. And I saw more clearly the vulnerabilities of those with whom I came in contact."

#12 Wendell and Linda Phillips: Glad to have masks.

#13 Mary Ellen Stack Pike: Exasperation.

#14 Virginia and Tom O'Malley: "I was thinking that no one knows I am smiling. Virginia was most likely thinking, 'What a wonderful, loving, and caring husband I have.' or, 'What will we do for dinner?'" 

#15 Kathleen Burkinshaw: "I'm at high risk."

#16 John Craig: "Disappointed in cancellations. I wonder who I would have met."

#17 Pat Baldwin: "I'm the oldest person you know who is wearing a mask!"

#18 Tony Reames: "Thankful to have an appealing mask that my neighbor made." 

#19  Kathy Wiechman: Amused.

#20 Jim Wiechman: "This mask doesn't fit right."

#21 Barry Schifreen: "I hope my hair looks OK."

Photo by  neelam279 / 523 images 

Only three brave souls played the game; synonyms were allowed.

First place: Goes to Joan Edwards who guessed seven correct answers (not including her own).

Second place: Goes to Angela Ackerman who guessed six correctly.

Third place: Goes to Barry Schifreen with four correct answers. 

For those of you who were pictured, you may want to look at the comments on last week's blog to see what these three readers thought your eyes communicated.

Angela Ackerman wrote in a Facebook message, "It was tough, lol, but it really made me think!" She and I went back and forth on how writers need to use more than eye expressions to show what a character is feeling. Hopefully, that will be the topic of another blog.

Cathy Biggerstaff commented: "My daughter is a nurse in a Covid-19 unit and one of her patients wrote an article for his local newspaper when he got well. He said he came to know his nurses through their eyes because that's all he could see. I thought that was a powerful statement."

 Anestiev / 1182 images 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

What Do Your Eyes Communicate?

Congratulations to Linda Phillips for winning THE HEART CHANGER from last week's blog.


This week I have something different for you. The first time I went out in public with my Covid mask and saw other people in their masks, I thought about how as a writer, I try to capture nonverbal expressions to show (rather than tell) how my characters are feeling. Many times, that is through their eye expressions. It also made me think of One Stop for Writers and all of their helpful tools for writers. Like this one from the Eye entry of their Physical Feature thesaurus:

Then, my sister, Barbara Federlin, texted me a selfie in her mask:

#1 Barbara Federlin

From there, this post and a "game" was born.


Starting with the picture of my sister Barbara, leave me a comment with the feeling you think the person was experiencing (or what you imagine they were thinking) when the picture was taken. Synonyms are OK. Surprise and shock, for example, would be considered acceptable synonyms. Likewise fear, anxiety, or worry. Let's see who can read eye expressions the best. If an emotion isn't obvious, just guess!

Next week I'll share the answers and who read the eyes the best. 

Note: The last person pictured doesn't have a number because all he was concerned about was that the picture came out OK! But I thought it was the most unique mask of all--his wife made it for him out of a yarmulke

BONUS FOR WRITERS: At the end of this blog I have two diagrams I have on my Pinterest board and lengthier quotes from a few of my FB friends. 

#2 - Becca Puglisi 

#4 Barbara Lee Bryant

#5 Annonymous male

#6 Donna Earnhardt 

#7 Jarm Del Boccio 

#8 Jean Hall

#9 Joan Edwards

#10 Laurie Foote

#11 Melodye Shore

#12 Wendell and Linda Phillips 

#13 Mary Ellen Stack Pike

#14 Virginia and Tom O'Malley

#15 Kathleen Burkinshaw

#16  John Craig

#17 Pat Baldwin

#18 Tony Reames

#20 Jim Wiechman

Barry Schifreen 


In the comments write the number of the photo and the emotion or thought that you think was going through the subject's mind or what he or she was feeling. 


From Melodye Shore: "I felt seen. I felt loved. I felt more protected, of course, but in some ways I felt more vulnerable. And I saw more clearly the vulnerabilities of those with whom I came in contact. Even though most of our faces aren’t visible, we can still make eye contact. That’s important and a critical difference to how things usually are. Our eyes reveal so much about who we are and how we are feeling! They truly are the windows to our souls." 4/23/20

From Tony Reames: "I was thinking that wearing masks in public may become the new normal as some states rush to “open back up.” 4/21/20

THE NIGHT WAR: A MG Historical Novel Review

  By now you should have received an email from my new website about my review of THE NIGHT WAR by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. (It'll com...