Tag Archives: children’s books

Addie’s Review: Middle Reader The Explorers is Action-Packed Hit!

Today, my nine-year-old Addie is on the site again with a review of The Explorers, which is a fun book written by Adrienne Kress from Delacorte Random House. Addie was super excited when they asked us to share our thoughts about the book and was drawn in by the cover as soon as it arrived in the mail. Addie loves take rides and walks places, with back pack, magnifying glass, compass, and binoculars, so she immediately thought this book was clever and began reading it that day! As a mom, I love watching when a book draws your child in. Keep scrolling to read Addie’s review below…

Stay tuned for more reviews from Addie in the future but first she has a super secret beta reading project she’s excited about too.

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Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside. 

Review by Addie –

I think The Explorers book was adventurous, exciting, and funny. My favorite part of the book was when Sebastian saw a pig in a teeny hat and followed it.  Sebastian is smart, curious, and adventurous like me, which let me connect to the book. I think that the treehouse-like thing was very cool. I’m excited for the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see how the story continues. The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is a very good book with a good ending. I recommend the book to 8-13 year olds.

My Notes –

I know that Addie will tell all her friends – male and female – about this book and treasure it. Addie loves to read so she breezed through it, but I can certainly see how the content, creative and action-packed, would be a good choice for reluctant readers as well. This is certainly a middle reader, so a 9 or 10 year old that is on a higher reading level will like this best, or general 11 or 12 year olds who will enjoy all the humor, but it would be an excellent challenging read for many. I enjoyed this author’s use of suspense in the book and the mystery component and think this would make a wonderful kids movie my whole family would enjoy watching! It certainly thrilled me that the female was the lead and a strong protagonist that certainly appealed to Addie and her own independence. Equally as important is her ability to offer diverse characters. I know that not only does Addie love exploring and mystery novels, but she’s a fan of Lemony Snicket and Alice in Wonderland so I know that those references are on point.

kres_9781101940051_jkt_all_r2.inddThe Explorers: The Door in the Alley, Synopsis –

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)

This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and also a girl on a rescue mission.

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone.

Pub Date – APRIL 25 2017 from Delacorte Random House.

Purchase: IndieboundAmazon USA, Amazon Canada, Barnes and Noble, Indigo

For a complete list of USA purchasing links visit here.

Audio book here: Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon USA

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Adrienne Kress, Biography –

AdrienneKressAdrienne Kress is a Toronto-born actor and author who loves to play make-believe. She also loves hot chocolate. And cheese. Not necessarily together.

She is the author of the award winning and internationally published children’s novels Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate (Scholastic). Published around the world, Alex won the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award in the UK and was shortlisted for the Red Cedar. The sequel, Timothy, was shortlisted for the Audie, Red Cedar and Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards, and was optioned for film.  She has also published two YA novels:  Outcast (Diversion Books), her quirky paranormal romance, and the Steampunk adventure The Friday Society (Penguin), released to a starred review from Quill and Quire and shortlisted for The Quill Awards.

2016 saw the release of Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X., an exciting collaboration with NY Times bestselling author Frank Beddor (set in the same world as his Looking Glass Wars YA books). And now she has released the first book in her new Middle Grade series: The Explorers: The Door In The Alley (Delacorte, Random House).

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ADRIENNE AROUND THE WEB:
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook Fan Page

Website

Toro Magazine Interview and Photoshoot
National Post interview
Toronto Star interview
City TV interview
Starred Alex review: Publishers Weekly

Thank you to Delacorte Random House for sending the book in exchange for our honest review, which we’ve offered.

 

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Addie, Guest Reviewer –

addieAddie is 9 years old and enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, art, baking, laughing, sports, gardening, animals, mysteries, and just about anything else – yep she has a lot of interests, especially when they’re fun.

However, she does take her school work seriously, and also strives for great grades. She really into reading stories of all kinds and interviewing authors for a behind-the-scenes look. She’s very happy to review books and wants to start her own blog soon.

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Wearing a Thinking Cap: Dr. Suess Celebrates Another Birthday!

I have had a few days break from a review or interview posting, so thought I’d share a photo I took on Instagram of my 5-year-old daughter in her homemade “hat.” She made it Saturday in honor of Dr. Suess’ birthday! Dr. Suess loved hats. He collected many different types in his travels and the more obnoxious the better! 

Look closely the next time you read some of his books at the various hats his story creations wear. I just gave Addie a cone shape piece of paper and let her go to work decorating it. Dr. Suess many times wore a hat when writing, to inspire himself, so I told her to put on her new thinking cap and read a book!

Many libraries and schools had celebrations last week and over the weekend to commemorate the man who is a legend. Not that he needs any introduction, I certainly still love Dr. Suess myself to this day. His many ideas and quotes can be referenced frequently in our daily lives.

What are your favorite books by Dr. Suess? Or what are your favorite quotes? Favorite characters?

Addie for Suess bday 2013

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Graphic Novel Trend Spectacular for Abundance of Reasons!

Lately, I’ve interviewed several authors that mentioned comics as a source for their childhood (and probably adult, too) reading pleasure and creativity. Quite coincidentally, I also read that comics are a great resource for parents who struggle with reluctant readers. Then, when a recent trip to the library and a graphic novel display, as well as my youngest daughter’s obsession with having graphic novels read to her, really got me thinking, I decided to put a post together. I can’t believe what books for children are available now as graphic novels. Not only are children investing in words by reading graphic novels, but they are also enjoying visual art and adventure right at their fingertips!

As a kid, I loved buying comics. Yeah, I know, I’m a girrrrl…but hey, we can love comics and graphic novels too!  And I wasn’t a dork (as far as I say), so yeah, I’m not ashamed to declare that girls who love make-up and red lipstick can still love comics (I hear my fiance yelling, right on girl….)!

 Flashback to Archie and My Childhood

Back when I was a kid we picked up Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica….those little magazine-sized comics at the grocery store. They’ve been around since the 1950s or so, but I wasn’t around till 1974 so I only remember reading in the 80s.  Of course, they still make the Archie comics, and many other media arose from Archie over the years, but personally I remember my child-like eyes being big on the racks by the check-out and my mom always buying me one for the ride home. However, my kids certainly aren’t bringing me an Archie mag and a block of Bazooka gum (which was hard as a rock, BTW!!). It was fun then, but for our kids times have changed.

Getting my Marvel Fix

As an older teen, I became even more bold and couldn’t wait to get to the comic store (then on almost any side street) and pick-up my next issues of The Amazing Spiderman and, my favorite of the early 90’s, Spawn. Then X-Men, Avengers, Thor (oh, little Marvel heavy, sorry)…who could go wrong with all that luscious colorized art that oozed with visual goodness and exciting reading.

What Happened to Comics?

With a busy career and getting even busier as a mom, my comic reading went out the window, as well as purchasing. And I guess I wasn’t the only one, as in the last decade comic sales have plummeted. At $5 a pop for a few pages, it just wasn’t feasible for most people anymore to go every week and buy a whole stack, and with too many favorites, it became even harder to choose! Die-hard collectors still bought, but now most kids are enticed by a million other things put out every day in this electronic world.

The Graphic Novel On the Rise

Graphic novels, on the other hand, are entirely different. Sales of these in most beloved comic lines like Spiderman, X-Men, Superman and so forth increased. I think people feel they get more for their money. In a 2011 article by Comics Alliance (www.comicsalliance.com), they stated that graphic novel sales are up 3% for the year, though sales in comic shops are down.  This was due to the growth of graphic novels in bookstores, which is a great sign for the comic industry. Sales of periodical single issues fell 8%, in comparison, and Manga 15 to 20%.  However, digital comic sales have doubled since 2010. So maybe it is the comic store that is dead and not really the comic industry? Let’s hope.

So, Why Are Graphic Novels Great For Your Children?

Now on to my main point of this blog, comics and graphic novels are great for kids. And graphic novels seems to be on the rise.  Boys and girls between the ages 9-12 are most suited for graphic novels and they are a great resource for parents who have reluctant or struggling readers. Instead of hundreds of pages full of just words, suddenly there are amazing visuals with words to go with them. The writing and vocabulary are still on par, and even advanced, yet the child is more excited to read and propelled by the art.

Manga, which is Japanese for comics and are Japanese in origin, are wonderful also as the vocabulary is on a high-level for an advanced reader, or are able to challenge average readers in an environment that is more conducive to their learning. Because they are graphic, they are more quickly understood and absorbed as kids are naturally visual learners.

With some of the graphic novels or comic compilations, they can also offer smaller doses of reading if that is easier for the attention span of a child.  There is a ton of action on each page for them to look at, while the writing is still superb. I even found that my 4-year-old daughter is very into graphic novels. We started with some Scooby-Doo graphic novel compilations. There is one main comic short that it’s titled from, but there are usually two to three comic stories in the book. We can read one at a time, or all three if she is feeling more focused. She loves looking at the pictures as I read the story.

Recently at the library, we have been picking up more graphic novels and I am amazed at how many chapter books (those books familiar to my seven-year old) have been turned into a graphic novel or have a graphic novel spin-off! What a great way to entice reluctant readers to read an actual chapter book. If they enjoy the comic version first, maybe they will try the other books. If they enjoy books, they might compliment by enjoying the graphic version and be entertained by the art. It is a win-win both ways.

We just found a series of Geronimo Stilton graphic novels (Geronimo Stilton is a mouse with a fun children’s book series for 8 to 16 year olds). My four-year old recognized the famous mouse from my seven-year old’s chapter book browsing and wanted to get the graphic novel Geronimo Stilton: The Secret of the Sphinx right away! She loved it. Now she can be part of the story through the photos and she is learning history too. There is great writing in these graphic novels that is both entertaining and educational.  However, I think it reads much better if you do funny voices and yell all the crazy sound effects. As a parent, let yourself go and get into reading the story.

We’ve seen graphic novels which also accompany popular Young Adult (YA) novels as well. For instance, The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus Graphic Novel, which was adapted from Jonathan Stroud’s best-selling Bartimaeus series book one, The Amulet of Samarkand. I’m halfway through this one and loving the visuals. You can download the First Chapter on from the publisher’s website at http://disney.go.com/official-sites/bartimaeus-series/graphic-novel-amulet-of-samarkand-page-1.

Now even classics are being re-told in this format to get a kid’s brain to absorb these monumental novels that might otherwise be destined for Cliff Notes. For instance, you’ll find Beowulf, The Iliad, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more.  We even saw the famous French tale called The Little Prince adapted into an artistic graphic novel.

Even though we don’t have reluctant readers in our household and are blessed with three avid readers just like we are, we’re loving the advantages of graphic novels to accompany our two older children’s reading list, as well as helping our youngest daughter to read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on comics and graphic novels! Do you like this trend? What are your favorite comics of all time? Found any new graphic novels for kids you’d love to share? Please share your comments with everyone below.

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Q and A with Authors, Starting with ME!

**Please note**This is from 2011! I can hardly believe it. Time to update!**

Since doing the Red River Writers BlogTalkRadio show, Dellani’s Tea Time yesterday, I decided to go ahead and post my questions and answers to inquiries about me and writing and about my book series. Some of these were talked about on the show. I think these answers will give great insight into me for anyone that is curious.

Introducing Erin Al-Mehairi, author of this blog and aspiring author:

I am a mother of 3 young children in mid-Ohio. My fiancé Tim Busbey and I own a writing and public relations business that we work out of our home called Addison’s Compass Public Relations and a fine art nature photography business called Breathe Beauty Art and Photography. We are both coming back to our dreams of being creative writers and I am working on my first children’s book series as well as my poetry, and he is halfway through his adult religious history thriller. If you want to know more about me, click on the tab at the top of the blog.

When did you start writing?

I remember writing all through childhood. I won a local children’s writing contest in my tween years; it was a Christmas essay contest in our local newspaper. I wrote stories, essays, lots of poetry and have always been an avid reader. I was mentored and encouraged by many of my English teachers from elementary on. I became engrossed in Journalism in high school and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English (as well as History) from Ashland University. I was mentored by many fabulous and distinguished English teachers and edited for the university group Poetry Press. I was encouraged in my writing by one of the most phenomenal Journalism and English professors ever, Dr. Daniel Lehman. I was always writing articles and essays, many times about children in my life or causes that laid on my heart. I continued this writing in various forms along with my newspaper articles for the college paper. During and directly after college, I kept up with my poetry. In 2002 I took a job in public relations and for the next 7 years wrote consistently technical and newsletter type articles, as well as copy writing for web and advertising. I was so busy working so many hours a week that I lost my time for creative writing, and in many ways lost myself. I was in an abusive marriage and trying to raise 2 children. In 2004, I left my marriage. Later on I met the man who is my world today. In 2007, I was pregnant with my third child and though a joy for us together, I was also very ill with both pulmonary and fighting several autoimmune diseases. Taking a risk in hopes of getting my life back, I quit my job. The last year and half at home with my children, while doing freelance article and copy writing and photography, has allowed me to take the long and healing journey back to writing creatively, reading, art, and photography. I’ve come back to myself and it feels really good. I think if I hadn’t done this, hadn’t rid myself of all that way tying me down, I would never have been quiet enough in my mind for my children’s book idea to percolate and summon me. I am so happy to be writing again!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 I don’t know if there was ever really one special moment. I’ve always read and I’ve always written. If there was paper in front of me, and a little time, my pencil would move and create poetry without me even trying. It would move and create essays and stories on children and or nature. I’m excited to say that in the past 6 months, my pencil has been moving that way on paper again. I think it is something that possesses me without me even deciding to do it. Writing isn’t something I decided to do, it is just something that is me.

What gave you the idea for your first book?

I always knew I wanted to write a children’s book, but never had a specific idea. As I began turning my love for fine art nature and historical photography (and repurposing old wooden furniture) into a business while being home with my children, who are 11, 7 and 3, for the past almost 2 years, my creative juices seemed to start working. Before the winter (winter of 2010/2011) we went on many long walks around the older parts of the neighborhood, taking photo pieces of historic houses, an abandoned train depot, old barns and doors and windows. We wanted to know the history behind those places. As we had these mini-adventures and I watched the interactions of the kids, especially those between my two young daughters, my idea sprang to mind. My daughters are opposite personalities and that can become really hilarious at times. I saw using their personalities for humor in the book, while some of our adventures and photographs gave me ideas for the plot of the books.

What is your latest release?

Continuing on with my last answer, I’m just in the starting phase of my book series. I am writing a fiction novel for young first or second graders with two young girls as the main characters, slightly modeled after my own two girls. I had spent time listening to their conversations and I really saw how different their interests are and how unique it makes each of them. And it came to me, I could write a book stemming loosely from their relationship. A 7 to 9-year-old girl who is girly, yet likes sparkly skulls, black, jeans, art, mystery, pop songs, and is super subdued unless spiked by her sister compared to a girl age 3 to 5 who is the total princess package including pink and more pink, dresses, dance and ballet, classical music and song who is really confident. Stemming from their personalities, I’ve come up with the name Monster Princess and Little Diva. My rough outline of the entire series includes the girls having to move with their single mother to a new town and/or state in New England. Since Mom is very busy, the girls start to head-off for walks and in each book of the series, they end up at an old building or house or area. There they find a special item that transports them into an adventure or chaotic happening where they are able to help the people they encounter. For instance, when they find a paintbrush, they are transported into a world they enter that is all one color. They will be able to use the magic brush to show the people how to put color into their lives, embracing diversity. The moral of the story is to embrace the many different “colors” of life. Another story has them helping a cupcake store who has no sugar because a naughty squirrel has stolen and hoarded it. The moral is about sharing.

What age group are your books intended for?

I had wanted to write a hardcover picture book and I think that is because of my love for art as well. I’ve always been an avid collector of picture books for children. Finding a first printing of an old Madeline book in a used book store was so exciting for me! I see just how Monster Princess and Little Diva would look in a book and how cute they would be. However, for right now for my own books I’m trending toward doing the series first for about a first or second grade level. I may take the characters up in age a few years from my own in order to gain the first grade audience. I want to make a book for that age that takes the readers into a different type of adventure that is outside the box, outside of the normal school related adventures that seem to saturate the market. What made you decide to write books for children? As I mentioned before, I think just my own love for children’s books of any age and watching my own children grow up. When I see children’s books, I fall in love. I want to create one to make children’s happy about reading. My daughters are very excited about my series and when I see the gleam in their eyes, I hope that other children might get that too.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your work?

I think just learning what age my characters should be to relate to certain readers. Even children of the same age are at all different reading levels. For the first half of the school year I went every Tuesday for over 2 hours to listen and help the first graders in my daughter’s class read individually. The reading levels were all over the place. Beyond that, my main challenges are fitting the writing into my schedule with 3 kids and finding quiet time to write. I must have quiet to be able to think or I don’t even know what I’m typing!!

What experiences have inspired you?

Certainly, the experiences with my children and in my art and photography hobby and work have inspired me with the story. Sometimes when you look at art or a photograph you can either see it as a flat surface, a flat perception, or you can look FURTHER into the photograph and begin to think about might be behind the door, behind the scene, behind the history. I love to come up with stories that lead you from that first flat look. My illness and other life hardships have inspired me to remember that life is short and we must spend the time with those we love, doing what we love. Otherwise, why live?

What other authors/ artists have influenced you?

Dandi Daley Mackall (www.dandibooks.com) is a children’s author who has inspired me since I was young. She lives in my area and is a friend who I have always looked up to from the moment I met her. She has written over 400 books while living a simple life in rural Ohio. She writes because she loves to do it and she writes wonderful books with great moral guidelines for children. In my talks with her, I’ve really been encouraged to want to be a children’s writer myself. I’ve also always enjoyed the writing and art in Jan Brett’s books. Growing up, and even still, I enjoyed Madeline L’Engle, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and all the Grimm Fairy Tales. Right now I really like Victoria Kann, who writes the Pinkalicious series.

Do you find that you “collect” people? In other words, you meet or see someone who eventually finds their way into a book?

I think we first learn about attributes people have from someone we may have encountered in our real lives. Of course with the main characters being molded after my daughters’, I suppose I’ve done that. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors/ illustrators? Don’t be afraid that you can’t write or don’t have the time. Give yourself some quiet time to discover your creative side. If you can only write 15 minutes most days, then that is at least a start. Just write for yourself first. Everyone should make their dreams a priority and not feel they are being selfish. There are many more opportunities out there today for anyone who wants to write.

Tell us about your publication journey.

I’ve just started so I haven’t found a publisher yet, or even looked that much into publishing. I want to get my story out on paper right now since my main motivation is to tell the story. Then I pray the publishing comes. I want to create a legacy for my children.

Please share with our listeners where they can purchase your book(s).

Of course I don’t have a book done yet, but you can follow my journey on writing and read my book reviews of books for all ages at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com and my group for children’s books on Facebook called Teaching Kids Through Books. I sell Kane/Miller and Usborne Books at www.ubah.com/z2837.

If you could ask your favorite author a question, who would it be & what question would you ask? How would you answer that question yourself?

I don’t know if it would be about asking just one, but to many authors in general I would ask first, how do you stay focused and secondly, how do you handle any rejection to something you present that is such a part of you? In answering this myself, again I say that you have to make writing a priority and schedule time for it. The only thing I can say about rejection is that you have to be strong enough to love your own story for what it brings you, even if someone else doesn’t agree.

To hear me, as well as mystery writer Beth Groundwater, children’s author Amanda Thrasher, and illustrator Wade Zahares on our BlogTalkRadio show, click on this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2011/02/14/dellanis-tea and it will start playing. Put on your headphones and listen while you work, or just listen through the speakers.

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Recordable Story Book with Cute Bear Can Warm Your Child’s Heart

It’s Valentine’s Day and anymore we don’t just celebrate with our true love, or dating partner, we many times celebrate our love for our children and grandchildren as well. Do you have a little one who lives far away and you’d love to send a gift to? Delight a special child with this wonderful recordable book and let them hear your voice across the miles! Create a keepsake storybook called “Guess How Much I Miss You” by the following the simple directions to record your own voice reading this endearing story.

 • Ages: All ages
 • Size of book: 10 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches
 • Pages: 14

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the little girls and boys who bring so much joy to our lives!! Thank you to my own three children for sharing the love of books and reading with me. The countless hours we’ve spent reading and loving books will forever warm my heart.

To order “Guess How Much I Miss You” go online to www.ubah.com/z2837 and look under “new titles” at the very bottom of the online store or look by title using the search. Thanks for shopping the online bookstore!

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I’m a Guest on Dellani’s Tea Time, a talk show for children’s book writers/illustrators!

I am super excited to have been asked to accompany two other fabulous published book authors, as well as an illustrator, on Dellani’s Tea Time BlogTalkRadio show, sponsored by Red River Writers (if you have joined them on Facebook or BlogTalkRadio do so!). Tune in to hear us talk about our books, and in  my case my “work in progress” children’s book, and children’s book illustrations. We’ll answer things like~What inspired us to write/be an artist? What gave us our idea for your book(s)? What have been our challenges?

The host of Dellani’s Tea Time, Dellani Oakes, does a super show focused on children’s writers and sometimes illustrators/artists.  
Here is the promo for our show: Valentine’s Day is a special day at Dellani’s house. Her guests will be the Amazing Amanda Thrasher author of “Mischief in the Mushroom Patch”, as well as artist & illustrator, the Wonderful Wade Zahares. They will be joined by aspiring author, the Exciting Erin Al-Mehairi and mystery author, the Boisterous Beth Groundwater whose first book, “Deadly Currents”, debuts in March. This will be a fun show (aren’t they always?), so tune in and give us a listen!

Here is the show information:

Dellani’s Tea Time

Monday, February 14th, 2011

4:00 Eastern/ 3:00 PM Central

Link to our show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2011/02/14/dellanis-tea-time

Thanks Dellani for having me!!

 

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The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone, a Children’s Book Review and Information on Chicago’s Minature Rooms

Marianne Malone, author of the children’s book The Sixty-Eight Rooms (new Random House from 2010), describes herself as not growing up being a reader or wanting to be a writer. In fact, from what I gather from her website (www.mariannemalone.com) she spent a good portion of her life as a middle school art teacher and she is an artist who loves to paint. However, growing up and living in Illinois, she enjoyed going to the Art Institute of Chicago and this is where she fell in love with the Thorne Rooms.  These rooms started her mind percolating over the course of many years an adventure surrounding them.

If you don’t know what the Thorne Rooms are, they are a collection of 68 minature rooms (like dollhouse rooms) given to the Institute by a Mrs. James (Narcissa) Ward Thorne in the early part of probably the 1940s.  Mrs. Thorne traveled the world and was a collector of minatures. She collected so many of the minatures that she had craftsman assist her in turning them into the various rooms from different time periods in England, America, France…and she used her minatures to create interior design themes, from the 13 th century to about the 1930s, that could be used to educate others about interior design of various eras. Of course, many children visitors over the years become entranced by the rooms and their imaginations run wild with ideas. The author Marianne Malone, of course, was one of those children. To view some photography of The Thorne Rooms, go here to the Art Institute of Chicago’s website page of the Thorne Rooms: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/thorne.  Last Spring, the Huffington Post had an article about the minature rooms and Malone’s book. If interested, go here to view the article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/07/the-art-institute-of-chic_n_528739.html

Malone’s book, The Sixty-Eight Rooms, is a children’s novel  full of imagination and magic surrounding themes of life based on two main characters, Ruthie and Jack. These best friends go on a class field trip and fall in love with the possibilities of the Thorne Rooms.  Getting a back corridor glance, and finding a gorgeous vintage key, leads them to an adventure into history as well the power that sometimes lies behind the simple act of just believing.  These sixth graders fall in love with the Rooms and Ruthie wishes so badly to have a look inside that when she holds the key, it warms in her hand and she is instantly made minature herself!  Eventually Jack is also, if he holds on to Ruthie, and they go exploring the Rooms. As they are in the rooms, they walk out the front doors and are catapulted directly into different time periods such as France right before the French Revolution and Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials. Actually getting to talk to other kids in that time period, and possibly change the outcome of their lives, is touched on. I really wish I could have read even more on the rooms and the time periods they enter. Eventually a piece of each of these children they meet is acutally found in the rooms and they uncover that other children, even possibly Mrs. Thorne who createdthe Rooms, have visited in the same way and they feel a bond to these others. The mystery is uncovered through the book about how the Rooms came to be magical in the first place, through an important historical figure. I won’t give the mystery away here, but I do believe I would have developed that more and let it grow to the end. The suspense would have been intriguing, though Ruthie throughout the book certainly does not have any patience. This may be a mirror of the author’s personality as a child. I’d love to ask her!

The character development of all side characters, several of the parents as well as the little old lady antique dealer who plays a very important part in the end of the book, are very well done. However, some of the other details such as fighting the mega-cockroach and some of the parts about getting from room to room and up and down into the Rooms could have been left out. As an adult, they bored me. Being a child at heart, a history buff, and sucker for imaginative and magical stories involving doors and keys, I wanted to hear more about the magic and I wanted them to explore various parts of history longer and more in depth.

I did LOVE the art element in it, beyond the Institute, as Jack’s mom is a struggling artist and the museum caretaker of the Rooms, a faded photographer. I probably love this because I love art and also am a photographer. My love for art museums and history both caught my attention to this book. I could imagine all the little art pieces decorating the minature rooms. I would love to see The Thorne Rooms one day and experience the magic myself.

I sense that this is not the end of adventures for Malone. The end of the book certainly did entertain the fact that a vintage purse she is given from the antique shop owner might be another magical object with another story. I certainly hope so. (In fact, in a recent e-mail from Malone, she does tell me that they will be another book).  I do love Malone’s passion for “old” things and what magic they might possess.  Though I do wish that the character’s adventures in The Thorne Rooms not be quite done yet. It for around age 10, fourth grade level, depending where your child’s reading level is. I know I would have loved this book when I was 10. As adults we may look too much into plot structure and want more detail, when for a child it could be more than can be handled. Therefore for me, it is hard to give an accurate review for a child. I’ll have my children read it next and see what they say.

This book had intrigued me back in 2010, as did walking through the Wardrobe in Narnia, Alice shrinking in Wonderland, and the minatures coming alive in Indian in the Cupboard when I was a child, but I didn’t realize until I read it how all these books lend to the idea I have for my own children’s book which I’ve detailed before in this blog.  The idea of a vintage key, and historical doors, leading to somewhere else is certainly a story told before and certainly a global plot. But I think it never gets old. We all wish sometimes to walk into another place and time totally different from ours. Even as an adult, I still share these childhood fantasies and imaginative thoughts. I can’t wait to see where my key and door take me in my book also.

Thanks Marianne Malone for bring The Thorne Rooms to life and for opening up my eyes to this amazing feature of the museum. I certainly will want to visit if I do ever get to Chicago!

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On Starting to Write My First Children’s Series–Outline on My Book Idea!

I have put my mind to the goal of writing my first children’s book this year. I’ve been waiting for years it seems for just the right idea to pop into my head. Something that would just take off in my mind. Initially, I always thought it would be a children’s picture book. I think that mostly because not only do I love words and books, I also love art and the essence of both that picture books bring. In fact, as an adult, I like to collect children’s books for myself as well as my children. Beautiful words and images in a book are like little art gallerys to me. I wanted the pictures to come to life in my mind, and then I thought maybe the story would come.

My mind tends to race in many different directions, not only with all the demands of life—kids, home, several start-up businesses, health, etc.– but with ideas too! Creative juices!  It just became real to me one day towards the end of last year as I was watching my girls, ages 7 and 3. I realized how often they play together, or maybe even put up with each other, but at the same time how opposite they really are. I spent time listening to their conversations, sometimes laughing, sometimes amazed, sometimes it was upsetting, but I really saw how different their interests are and how unique it makes each of them. And it came to me, I could write a book stemming loosely from their relationship.  A 7 year old girl who is girly, yet likes sparkly skulls,black,  jeans, art, mystery, pop songs, and is super subdued unless spiked by her sister compared to a girl age 3 who is the total princess package including pink and more pink, dresses, dance and ballet, classical music and song who really lives oblivious to anything happening around her. Basically no fear while her older sister is full of questions and concerns. 

So I have come up with the name Monster Princess and Little Diva because it seems to fitting to me. I ran it past my older daughter and she thought it sounded just like them and is very excited. So I am wondering what kind of trouble I might get them both into with a picture book, which I still want to start with because of the art element. I can just SEE the characters in my head, you know?  I’m having the most issues with getting this one started, even with less words, because I don’t know where to have it go in short amount of text. I see way far into the future already with these books.  I am a writer than tends to overwrite and am very detailed. I am thinking that chapter books for ages 7-9 would be great. I have this great idea to encompass my love of history and adventure and the fantastical genre in the books and with different adventures would come different titles. My very rough outline includes the girls having to move with their single mother to a new town and/or state in New England. In doing some reseach, Salem, Mass. is the frontrunner due to its overwhelming amount of history and the fact that the Peabody Essex Museum, a grand art and history museum, is located there. I’d like their mom to be a single mom who is an artist, and possibly getting a job at the museum while also pursuing her art or fine art photography at the local downtown scene.  Mom would have a studio at home and be very busy setting up this new life, and the girls would spend a lot of time alone together squabbling and who knows what. They may head off for a walk and end up at a old building or house, with a special key and/or door that opens and turns into an adventure or chaotic happening. The 7 year old would be the curious one, and also most fearful, while the 3 year old would be following along behind doing ballet piroettes and singing, totally not even seeing what is happening around her. The banter between them might be quite funny. I am also currently reseaching names for the two of them, based on maybe the early 1500 or 1600s. 

 I am nervous but hopeful that this initial set-up in my brain will take me somewhere further and I can write an initial picture book and chapter book by the end of 2011. I really need support and feedback since this is my first book. I welcome comments at any time and I hope to keep everyone updated using my blog! Please let me know what you think!

*Please remember that now that my ideas are down on paper, in several places, these are copyrighted and I really hope you don’t steal them. Especially since they are loosely based on my girls.

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