Halloween picture books and “Flashlight Night”

All images @ 2017 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved

When I first began writing the rough draft of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017), I had no idea what it was. A poem? Picture book? Something else?

It was only once I was about halfway through that I realized I was writing a picture book, and at that point I started making specific decisions about the narrative and pacing. Flashlight, as it was tentatively titled, was going to be bedtime-adventure book told in the second person…a genre and point of view in which few children’s books are written.

I had no idea what to expect.

Much to my surprise, editor Rebecca Davis (at what was Boyds Mills Press at the time) loved what I wrote and offered me my first picture book contract! It was January 2015. Two and a half years later, Flashlight Night made its debut and continues to do well, with parents and bloggers still discovering the book and sharing their positive thoughts about it.

And while I never thought of it as a “Halloween” book, per se, apparently a lot of other folks do! Numerous bloggers and reviewers have been sharing lists of books they feel are perfect for Halloween reading – and I have to say, I’m both surprised and humbled to see my little book showing up beside books written by such authors as Neil Gaiman, Dr. Seuss, Aaron Reynolds, my good friends Charles Ghigna and Patricia Toht, and others.

So, if you’re looking for some Halloween/October-themed books for your little ones, here are a few suggestions:

Thank you so much to all these individuals and groups for sharing their love of reading with the world.

And many thanks to YOU, dear reader, for all your support!

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I’ve teamed up with several children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them! Here’s what you can look forward to seeing this month.

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Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day) . Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Read! Read! Read!”

Can you believe it? Today we’re celebrating a book that’s NOT Flashlight Night!

(But hang on…there are a couple of Flashlight Night news bits I need to share later! You weren’t going to make it out that easily.)

You see, I’m doing something I rarely do on Poetry Friday: featuring poetry by someone other than Yours Truly. You see, I started off my blog with the intention of sharing my writing with the world every Friday, so I think I’ve only shared others’ poetry on Friday two or three times since I started the blog 5 years ago.

Today, I’m shining the flashlight (sorry, shameless plug) on my friend, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and her new poetry collection, Read! Read! Read! (Boyds Mills Press), which just came out this past Tuesday, Sept. 19:

If the name of the publishing company, Boyds Mills Press, sounds familiar, that’s because they are the same folks who published Flashlight Night – and if the publishing date sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same date as Flashlight Night!

Amy and I even shared the same wonderful editor, Rebecca Davis…so I just had to give Amy’s new book some love. It’s so good!

Read! Read! Read! celebrates the joy of reading in every way possible: from learning how to write letters and then put them together; to reading books, street signs and everything in-between; and even the joy to be found in sneaking a little under-the-covers reading by flashlight. (A-ha! This whole thing is starting to make sense to you, isn’t it, dear reader??)

(Click to enlarge) All text/images © Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Ryan O’Rourke, and Boyds Mills Press. Used with permission; all rights reserved

Honestly, I had no idea Amy was going to include a poem in her book that so perfectly complements the ending of my little book…but it’s a sweet one, isn’t it? She also includes this little gem, which is quite possibly the most fun poem to speak aloud ever written:One of the things I like most about this book is that it’s not just about the act of reading – it’s about the joy and satisfaction that is gained from stories and the feelings associated with the words and images on the pages:

I have to add, Ryan O’Rourke’s illustrations strike a balance of playfulness and peace – and his color palette creates a classic, storybook feel to each page. I highly recommend this one, folks!

And by the way, for all of today’s poetry links and hi-jinks – and more news about Read! Read! Read! – head on over to Amy’s blog, The Poem Farm, where she’s hosting Poetry Friday today! (I’m sure that can’t possibly be a coincidence…)

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Now, if for some reason you’ve been living under a rock or have been busy crashing into Saturn’s atmosphere, you probably heard about this little book called Flashlight Night. It’s already received multiple positive reviews, but we just learned yesterday that it’s now listed listed as one of Amazon’s editors’ “Best Books of the Month!”

So if you’d like to learn more about the book, the blog tour that’s currently underway (today we’re at Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook), and see where I’ll be in the coming few weeks, please check out this past Tuesday’s post, with all the details!

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Thank you so much to all who have enjoyed “Flashlight Night” enough to tell others about it!

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Illuminates the power of imagination” – Kellee Moye, Unleashing Readers

“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy

“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

Thank you, as always, for your support…if you decide to pick up a copy, I hope you and your kids enjoy it as much as Fred and I – along with editor Rebecca Davis, of course – have enjoyed creating it!

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Poetry Friday: “Flashlight Night” winner – and another amazing review!

Before I get to today’s post, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Whether or not you subscribe, I realize there’s a lot going on in your day – heck, my days are insanely crazy, with 2 kids at home here during the summer and me trying to write in-between household chores and random errands – so the fact that you are willing to spend a few minutes of your life reading what I have posted really, truly means a lot.

Thank you.

I also want to thank everyone who participated in last week’s contest! In celebration of the upcoming release of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, Sept. 2017), I said I would give away a signed copy to one person out of all the folks who left a comment on last Friday’s post, “liked” the post, or shared it via Twitter and/or Facebook. And that person is…

Linda Baie!!

Congratulations, Linda! Just send me an email or Facebook message with your mailing address and I’ll get this in the mail to you asap. And thank you for entering the contest and sharing the news about Flashlight Night!

Now, I still have ANOTHER copy to give away…I’d love to announce my 500th follower (my little ol’ blog is up to 490 followers on the eve of its 5th year!), so if you are not officially ‘following’ this blog, I hope you’ll consider doing so. My 500th follower will also win a signed copy!

Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017, and pre-orders are available now through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. If you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Oh, and speaking of Flashlight, I am simultaneously thrilled and humbled by its latest review…this time, from Publisher’s Weekly! To quote them, both the text and illustrations together “don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play.” About a month ago, I was fortunate to receive a starred review from Kirkus…so imagine my amazement yesterday, when I learned how much the folks at PW enjoyed it.

I was also fortunate to see Flashlight included in a list of notable picture books on Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook and Alyson Beecher’s Kid Lit Frenzy blog. The word “grateful” doesn’t begin to express my feelings; I hope the book-buying public likes it as much as all these reviewers!

By the way, for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, please visit Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link, where she is celebrating the joy of creating!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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2015 in review: Thank you!

2015 was another big year for my blog!

I had a visitor from China, one from Afghanistan, and one from Ethiopia…I had 300% more visitors from Thailand than I did from Botswana…and while the majority of my 9400 total visits came from here in the U.S. (7300), I had more from the UK than our neighbor to the north, Canada – in fact, I had almost as many visits from Australia as I did from Canada!

How do I know all this? Well, once again, the folks at WordPress.com have compiled my year-end stats, and I wanted to share them with you today, since I hadn’t had a chance to earlier this month…and because without you, I wouldn’t have ANY stats!

– Three of my most-viewed posts in 2015 were from 2012? Yep! Once again, for the 3rd straight year, the MOST popular post was a poem that had received a lukewarm reception when I first shared it. And yet, more people read that than anything else on my blog! Go figure.

– The most popular post was very special to me: In May 2015, I hosted Poetry Friday, which always attracts a huge crowd – but it was my announcement that I had landed my very first book deal with Boyd’s Mills Press that had me singing that day!

– What’s in a name? A popular search phrase: One of the most popular ways people have found me is by searching the term “rhythm and rhyme” via Google. While I knew this was common phrase (one of the reasons I chose it to use in my blog name), it never occurred to how useful it would be in helping folks find me! You learn something new every day, as they say.

I have to thank two of my perennial top-commenters, Linda Baie and Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, who I can always count on to provide their thoughts to the conversation! Also many thanks to Mary Lee Hahn, Diane Mayr, and Brenda Davis Harsham, who round out the Top 5, for their time and interest.

Three other folks I need to tip my hat to are Renée LaTulippeTabatha Yeats, and Irene Latham, a trio of women who are some of the most wonderful people in the world…one the primary reasons being that they have sent me more visitors from their blogs than anyone else! Thank you so much, ladies!

So please click HERE (or click the graphic) and take a quick gander at some of the other interesting details, and thanks again for taking the time to stop by and visit. I hope the New Year is a happy one, and please keep in touch!

Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme: 2015 in Review! Click the graphic for all the details.

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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Review: “A Rock Can Be…”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any new blog entries – save for my Poetry Friday posts – and for that I apologize. My wife and I have been dealing with family problems (ailing, elderly parents), house problems (now that the new $8000 furnace/boiler and $2000 electrical panel are installed, there are ice dams on our roof), and vehicle problems (last Friday, the left rear tire flew off my truck while my wife was driving home – not good).

And of course, here in New England, we’ve been getting major snowstorms every week, which means snow blowing, shoveling, and school cancellations…and until 2 days ago, I was doing it without a snow blower, since ours was in the repair shop.

There has also been some good news, though:  I’ve written two new picture book manuscripts in the past month, which has taken quite a bit of my time, and I also received some FANTASTIC news a few weeks ago that I’m dying to share with you. I can’t say anything yet, but it’ll be a big announcement when I do!

rcb coverSo for today, I wanted to share some other big news…a new children’s book hitting stores this Sunday, March 1!

Wait – has it been a year already? Last April I reviewed author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ book, Water Can Be… as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and now here it is 11 months later and she has another book in her series!

Salas’ new book, A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook Press) follows the same concept as Water in that it takes a very simple subject and poetically expounds on it…but she does it with such aplomb you almost don’t realize how deceptively insightful her observations are.

Starting with the idea that every rock has a story to tell, Salas begins, “A rock can be… / tall mountain/ park fountain / dinosaur bone / stepping stone…” and goes on to include volcanoes, phosphorescence, architecture, skipping stones, and many more instances of rocks being more than just “rocks.”

For instance…

rcb_sparkling_ring

 

rcb_book_sheep
(click images to enlarge)

 

As I mentioned in my Water Can Be… review last April, it takes skill, patience, and a creative mind to write simply – and Salas has what it takes. It’s also nice to see illustrator Violeta Dabija, whose artistry can be seen on the previous two books in the series, is back to perfectly complement the text with vivid colour and textured illustrations.

In the back of the book readers can learn more about the rocks and images of which Salas makes note – such as stepping stones, flint, and even the moon. A glossary also helps younger readers to understand some of the imagery and concepts throughout the book.

A delightful read!

NEXT WEEK: Two days after A Rock Can Be… hits bookshelves, the first children’s book I have ever had the pleasure of being part of comes out! Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed) is an unusual book – it’s a poetry anthology in board book form, designed for very young children up to the age of 5.

Lullabye coverI am extremely proud to have worked with the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins, who edited the book, and to be included in a book that also features poems by such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Singer, and many others. (Salas also contributed a poem, “Spaghetti,” to the collection)

As a first-ever publication, I couldn’t be more thrilled. To learn more about the book, check out this brief review from Publisher’s Weekly! (And once you read it, you’ll see why I’m more than happy to share the link!)

The day it goes on sale, Tue., March 3, I’ll be sharing a special interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins here on my blog. We’ll be talking about how the concept for the book came about, his thoughts on children’s poetry these days, and a couple of new projects he’s working on, so I hope you’ll stop back!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Book Review: “Song for Papa Crow”

Song for Papa Crow coverThere are a lot of picture books out there. Light-hearted, fun, goofy ones. Serious, introspective ones. Crazy, wild, break-the-mold ones. But many – most, even – won’t stand the test of time.

Why?

Because it takes something special to connect with multiple readers, on multiple levels, for a multitude of years. That “something” doesn’t always come easily, and usually can’t even be anticipated; it just happens. And when it does happen…it’s a wonderful thing.

Song for Papa Crow (Schiffer, 2012) by Marit Menzin is such a book. I was introduced to it earlier this year and have been wanting to share my thoughts for months. Now, with Christmas upon us in just a few days, I’m glad I’m finally getting the chance.

The premise of the book teaches an age-old lesson of being true to oneself in an original way: Little Crow loves to sing, but the local songbirds very much dislike the sound of his “Caw! Caw!” When Little Crow learns from Mockingbird how to sing like the other birds, he thinks his troubles are over; however, when Hawk snatches him away, his father is unable to save him at first because Little Crow doesn’t sound like a crow. Ultimately, Little Crow is saved when he realizes the importance of singing his own song.

Papa Crow spread
Click to enlarge

 

Being true to oneself, as I said, is not a new concept for a picture book – but what’s important here is how it is told. I have no use for picture books that are overtly didactic or heavy-handed in their moralizing. What Menzin does so well in Song for Papa Crow is she tells a story that happens to have a moral to it – she doesn’t tell the moral in the form of a story.

The language is bright and full of all the activity one would expect from a forest filled with birds. When the Goldfinches sing, “per-CHIC-o-ree!” and Red Cardinal shouts, “what-CHEER!” it makes you feel the birds are right there with you. Menzin’s beautiful cut-paper collage illustrations add to the effect, with vibrant colors and intricate details.

To be honest, the book is not without its drawbacks. I wished the solution to the problem wasn’t quite as easy as Menzin makes it (Little Crow takes a seed and gives back a seed, but how he sings with a seed in his mouth is anyone’s guess) – but the story as a whole is a pleasure to read.

The publisher describes the book as appropriate for kids K-Grade 2, but I surmise that any children through grades 5 or 6 would find this book a joy to read. As a parent, I certainly did.

As you may know, I don’t review many books here – and I rarely, if ever, review non-poetry or non-rhyming picture books – but this one deserves your attention. If you missed it when it came out 2 years ago, track down a copy. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

* You can learn more about this and Schiffer Publishing’s other books HERE, or view the trailer for Song for Papa Crow HERE.

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!