Category Archives: Children’s

Never Look at Your Pets the Same Way Again

KT CS cover 2014Tawny can’t resist a dare. So when her best friend, Jenny, dares her to eat a piece of her dog’s kibble, Tawny has no choice but to follow through. That’s how Tawny finds out she’s a Doolittle, one of only a few talented people who can hear their pets’ thoughts after eating their food. And you’ll never believe what the pets are thinking. From her insecure cat who feigns indifference but really craves her attention, to her Great Dane, Dinky, whose only dream is to be a lap dog, life becomes anything but ordinary for Tawny. And that’s only the start. Rather than write it off as a one-time occurrence when the spell wears off, Tawny chooses to eat another piece of kibble.

Kibble Talk by Cynthia Port is the first in a series of adventures Tawny and Jenny have with their pets. Though I’ve learned from the movies that talking pets are most likely cliche if the viewer is over the age of five, Port’s book is anything but. I laughed out loud in places as Tawny tries to make Dinky’s lap-dog dream come true. Tawny is a resourceful young girl who thinks off the cuff and pulls through to meet the animals’ requests, no matter how difficult.

Meant for a middle-grade audience, Kibble Talk is a fast and entertaining read. I managed to read it in two sittings in a single day, about four hours in total. I was hooked from the first pages, and didn’t want to put it down; couldn’t put it down. Kids will love this book. Adults will enjoy reading it aloud to their kids. I guarantee that after you finish it, you’ll never look at your pets the same way again.

Mamabear gives this book


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Cynthia Port talks about “Kibble Talk” and “Dog Goner”

Please help Britbear’s Book Reviews to welcome Cynthia Port  to today’s author spotlight with an interview about her books, Kibble Talk and Dog Goner.

KT CS cover 2014

Kibble Talk Book Description:

Once Tawny decides to do something, there’s no holding her back. So when her best friend dares her to eat dog kibble, down it goes. Little does she know how that dusty, tasteless lump will change her life. Suddenly she can hear what dogs have to say and talk back to them too! This might not be such a big deal, except that her own dog, an enormous Great Dane named Dinky, has a LOT to say. He lets her know right away that his fondest dream is to be a teeny tiny lap dog with all the accessories. Tawny promises to help him, and her life nearly goes to the dogs. 

Buy Kibble Talk on Amazon.

DG CS cover 2014 flat

Dog Goner Book Description:

Secrets will be revealed! Fondest wishes will be fulfilled! Permacrud will be . . . what the heck is permacrud, anyway? Find out in Dog Goner, the second book in the hilarious Kibble Talk series. Tawny and Jenny, along with their dogs Dinky and Gunner, have set themselves on a mission – or really, three missions. Gunner just wants to be clean, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Jenny is determined to find out the secret to Kibble Talking, and she’s prepared to feed kibble to the whole fifth grade if need be. Tawny wants a little brother or sister to make her family complete. But there’s someone else with a fondest wish, and they’ll do anything to get it. Dinky just wants to save the day before someone becomes a dog goner.

Buy Dog Goner on Amazon.

Hi, Cynthia. Your books all share a common theme. What’s your inspiration behind Kibble Talk?

Not too long ago my husband and I had a very big dog.  A stunningly beautiful Alaskan Malamute named Kodiak, she was large even for her breed at 150 pounds.  But for all her size, she was tiny in her heart.  She desperately wanted to be able to curl up on my lap and get tucked into my purse.  I wrote this story for her and for all large dogs who might rather be small.

Dogs figure prominently in both Kibble Talk and Dog Goner, yet nowhere on your Amazon profile does it say you are a dog lover. Do you have any pets? Is there a reason you write about dogs over cats or birds?

I’m glad you asked this, because I puzzle over it some too.  As my previous answer shows, I do love dogs and have had them as pets most of my life, but I am really an equal opportunity animal lover.  I even love bugs, the bigger the better!  (The bigger they are, the more huggable, I always say.)  Right now my life only has room for a cat, and she is a handful—very sneaky, very smart, very sweet.  But I’m hardly alone as an author in choosing a dog as a talking animal companion for a child – there are almost too many talking dogs in children’s literature to count!  Sure, there are a few cats, birds, crickets, horses etc., but mostly it’s dogs.  I suspect that is because the way dogs interact with humans often looks and feels a lot like talking. The tilt of the head, the flick of ears, the eyebrow crinkle—they often seem to be trying to connect with us on a more human level. Dogs can also go more places with us than most other pets, which makes them a good companion in stories.

Is Tawny, the main character in Kibble Talk based on you or someone you know? What about Jenny?

Tawny is the “every girl” – not too girly, not too anything, just lots of fun to be with and ready to try anything (once) as she figures out the world and herself.  Jenny is the perfect friend we all wish we had.  Stubborn, yes, but only because she is smart as whip. She always has a plan, will always choose you over anyone else, and always always always has the snappiest comeback.

Your background is in Psychology. How do you use the knowledge from your degree in your writing? Is there a message you’d like for your readers to take away from your books?

My interests in Psychology and story telling all stem from the same source: a fascination with people. I’ve been an avid eavesdropper all my life.  It’s actually a wonderful hobby, because even in the most boring work meeting or sporting event, you can always switch into people watching mode and have a great time.  As for a message, be gentle with each other and yourself –we are all trying, we all come from pain and joy.  I recently saw a Rumi quote I instantly fell in love with.  It goes:  Close your eyes.  Fall in love. Stay there.   You see, love on the inside can’t help but spread to others.

Your bio on Amazon says you have “enough hobbies for every day of the year.” What are your top 3 favourite hobbies and why?

My top hobbies are writing, cooking and singing, but actually my husband was referring to my neverending crafting.  In terms of that it would be knitting, ceramics and jewelry making.  Crafting appeals to me because I can imagine an object in my head and then make it actually exist in the world.  I enjoy the process of figuring out how to make it as much or more than I do the finished product, so I’m always thinking about the next thing I will make!

Your novels are chapter books for a middle-grade audience. Why do you choose to write for this audience?

It’s true the Kibble Talk series is marketed to middle-grade readers (8-12), but I wrote it for all ages. I wanted Kibble Talk to be the perfect read aloud, which meant that it couldn’t just be “kid humor” (burps and farts and underwear) or kids constantly whining about grown-ups, or grown-ups always doing dumb things, or dead parents (so many dead and missing parents in this genre).  I needed some of that, and it’s there (except the dead parents), but I couldn’t rely on that for its humour or storyline.  In my reviews I’ve been pleased to see so many comments along the lines of “Why should the kids get all the best books?” and “Too good to be left just to the kids.”  I love it when I read that because that was my goal.

That said, not all my books will be written for middle grade.  I have a young adult halfway complete and another rolling around in my head gathering steam.  As an author, I don’t think of myself as writing for any particular audience.  I am telling a story, the complexity and subject matter of which sets the age level of its intended audience.

In your initial email to me you said you  “recently gave away 20 print copies of [your] book  along with a Classroom Book Party Pack.” Tell us a bit more about this party pack. What’s in it? How do you hope teachers will use it in their classrooms? How might people obtain a party pack of their own?

So glad you asked this, because I’m very excited about it!  Because Kibble Talk is written first and foremost as a read aloud, I want to make sure it is used that way.  It also upsets me (like, don’t-even-get me-started upset) that teachers spend on average close to $1,000 of their own money on teaching supplies!

I decided that, as a Christmas present to myself, I would give away 20 signed print copies of Kibble Talk to any elementary school teacher who agrees to use it as a read aloud in his/her classroom.  Along with the book, I sent the materials needed to do a book celebration after the read aloud was done.  These included a bookmark for every child, coloring pages of my main characters, supplies for a book-themed game, and a list of book-themed snacks, games and activities.  I also offered a free Skype-based author visit.  I’ve heard back from many of these teachers how much fun their class is having with the book, and I’ve so far done one Skype visit (with another in the works).  It’s a great way to spread the word about the series while also giving back to some of the hardest working yet most underappreciated people in the world.  I LOVE teachers!

What an amazing idea!

Speaking about fostering a love of books and reading with your books, where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve always been a picky, picky reader.  I know within three pages whether I’ll like a book.  It’s all about the quality of the writing for me.  That said, I never expected I could ever write one because I had little hope of meeting my own standards. But a few years back I was sidelined for four months by an injury.  I don’t do boredom and I’m not that into TV and movies. My other hobbies require too much moving about for supplies, etc.  I needed a hobby that came straight out of my head.  I began writing for children and was instantly hooked.  So far, I mostly feel as if I am meeting my own standards (though I can always do better), but once you publish, it’s not really my standards that matter anymore, is it?

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Oh, boy. Complicated question.  My first book, a historical fiction novel entitled Honey Ant Girl that is set the Australian Outback, is not yet published.  This is my best book, and it has my whole heart in it, but being historical fiction [and] middle grade, it is not particularly marketable to agents and traditional publishers.  I had hoped the Kibble Talk series would be my “in,” and it almost was.  I very quickly found a successful agent to represent the series, but it turned out that we did not have similar agenting goals.  We parted ways amicably, but it all took so long that I decided to self-publish. I can’t actually recommend self-publishing for children’s authors.  The marketing is a real challenge.  But I can say that I’ve had a LOT of fun learning about self-publishing and have met many, many wonderful self-pub authors.  As to Honey Ant Girl, I have promised myself that it will be published this year one way or another.  I can’t wait to see what readers think of it.

Thank you for being so candid in this interview, Cynthia. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you!!! Tell your friends! Tell your pets!  And tell me! I love to hear from you.

Here’s where you can learn more about Cynthia and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Twitter |

Bio pic white backgroundAbout Cynthia Port:

Living in the fossil-filled hills of Southern Indiana, Cynthia Port writes for the young and the stubbornly young at heart.  When not writing her laugh-out-loud fiction, Dr. Port writes about science, assisting medical researchers across the US.  She can also be found singing, cooking, petting her “advanced model” cat, or attempting every craft ever invented the moment it is invented anywhere around the globe.  Dr. Port is currently working on book 3 in the Kibble Talk series, as well as a standalone historical fiction that takes place in the Australian Outback.  Wombats, anyone?

Bonus Excerpt: Kibble Talk Chapter Three: The Death of Fishy Fish

Diving under my bed covers, I told myself over and over, “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This is NOT happening.”

“Oh, but it is,” Dinky said with a lazy sigh. I felt him slump into a giant pile at the side of my bed. “Can I have my scratch now?”

I couldn’t believe I could hear another dog talking—and it was my own dog! I was also surprised at the type of voice Dinky had. Gunner had sounded like he should, which is an odd thing to say in the first place since we are talking about how a dog sounds talking. But Gunner looks sort of gross and gravelly and sounded that way. By that logic, Dinky’s voice should have been very deep and maybe elegant or something, like the prime minister of a fancy European country. It wasn’t though. Dinky’s voice was high pitched like a little kid, almost a squeak. His voice was, well, dinky.

“I can’t help my voice,” he squeaked at me. “Now get up and give me my scratch! Your mom and dad are on couch potato duty. That makes it your turn to entertain.”

I screwed up my courage and peeked one eye out from under my blanket. There was Dinky, staring at me with his usual huge, walnut-brown doggy eyes. I was about to dive to the bottom of my bed and never resurface when I thought of a way to test whether all of this was really happening.

“How do I know I’m not just imagining I can hear you talking?” I asked him nervously. “You haven’t said anything I couldn’t have made up myself.”

“Fair enough. Let’s see then,” he said, and gave his triangle ears an impressive waggle. “Oh, I know!” he said after a moment. “Your dad did NOT just find Fishy Fish dead one day in his bowl. He was changing the water and accidentally used hot instead of cold.”

I threw back the covers as I gasped in surprise. “What? He did? And he didn’t tell me about it? Are you sure?”

“I may be a talking dog, but I’m no liar. I saw the little orange guy go belly up, cooked like instant oatmeal. Then I had to listen to your dad’s guilty thoughts for weeks. He still thinks about it whenever your mom serves fish sticks.”

Daniel in the Land of Pencil Drawings

daniel the draw-erNine year old Daniel likes to draw. When he finds a magic pencil hidden in the attic, the things he draws come to life. He shows the pencil to best friend Annie who gets jealous and stops speaking to him. Poor Daniel is heartbroken; he misses her terribly and his newly drawn “friends” don’t fill the void. Will Annie ever forgive him? What will happen if anyone ever finds out about the creatures he draws turned real?

Daniel the Draw-er was a quick and whimsical read. Like most children, Daniel has trouble fitting in and doesn’t understand most of what his parents tell him. He is bullied, both by the kids at school and his older sister’s boyfriend, and wishes for a way out. He plots of ways his drawings can help him in his situation, but learns there is strength in numbers, and the only true bully repellent is friendship.

Henderson’s writing style is light and simple, not a bad thing when your audience is middle-grade. Daniel the Draw-er is sure to help get young readers hooked on reading and writing. After all, isn’t that what writers do? Imagine our creations real?

Mamabear gives this book:

five-bearsNote: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Turning Tables, Fish-Out-Of-Water Style

girl-of-the-bookIn Princila Murrell’s Girl of the Book, Courtney’s life is uprooted when she moves from Johannesburg to Saudi Arabia with her family. In school, Courtney is the outsider because she is not Muslim, something which the other girls refuse to let her forget. Thank goodness she has  Lana as a friend. Life takes a turn for the worse when gossip about Courtney and her only male friend, Nizar, spreads, threatening to separate her from Lana, her only female friend.

I teach at a school that is largely Muslim. Every day I see young girls, some of whom are not much older than Courtney, juggle the culture of their family home with the culture of the microcosm of the school and within the macrocosm of the country. It’s not unusual to see grade nines arrive with their hijabs tightly wrapped in August only to have them slowly unwind through the semesters until they hang loosely around their necks by the end of the semester. Joining boys and girls in the same group for cooperative activities can sometimes prove problematic as well, due to strict rules for the mingling of the sexes (or rather, the lack thereof). Girl of the Book offers a similar story but from a different perspective. Rather than show a Muslim girl adjusting to the seemingly loose social values of North American society, Murrell depicts a European girl adjusting to the rather strict-by-comparison values of the Muslim world with a narrative that is at once, compassionate, inclusive, and compelling.

Courtney’s is a fish out of water story, and she doesn’t always understand the world into which she so desperately strives to fit. To her (and Murrell’s) credit, Courtney’s journey is told with respect, both for herself and for the people around her, making Girl of the Book a must read for today’s middle-grade and young adult crowd.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Author James Gordon

Join me in welcoming James Gordon (better known as G.P.A., the Greatest Poet Alive) as I interview him in today’s author spotlight.

bobos book cover nowDescription from Amazon:

Sometimes a weekend can seem like a lifetime to a growing child. He may experience like, fear, anticipation, and other emotions without smooth transition or even realizing it. This is the life of Bobo, a fifth grader, who loves his family, the Superfriends, and chocolate milk. As he introduces himself, get to know him, and you will absolutely love him!!

Buy Hi, My Name is Bobo on Amazon.


I confess: I did a bit of web surfing to learn about James prior to conducting this interview and was impressed at what I found. The first question I asked him was: Children’s literature, poetry, music, acting…your talents are diverse. Do you have a favourite? Why did you pick that particular one?

I thoroughly enjoy storytelling. Despite time limits here and there or judging, there’s nothing like it. I say this because all of stories are typically true, so i don’t have to do much creating.

You are also known as G.P.A. – Greatest Poet Alive. How did that name come about?

I was supposed to perform at a wedding, and I left the poem somewhere. I did the poem off the top of my head and nailed it. Jokingly, i said to my brother,”I’m the Greatest Poet Alive.” My brother said,”Use that.“ Years later, i did, and it has stuck.

That’s a great story. How did the idea for Hi, My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader) come about?

A friend of mine challenged me to write a book for his young children. Plus, Bobo is what my Grandma used to call me, and since the book, people call me now.

You have 62 reviews on Goodreads; that’s quite impressive. Can you share a quote from your favourite review of this book?

From Christine Adrigo “… Life can get so chaotic when you grow up, and reading this with my daughter not only gave us both enjoyable evenings together, but it was a perfect read during the Christmas season, bringing me back home. We still watch cartoons together and play board games and there’s always lots of chocolate milk around.” And I didn’t know Bobo had that many on Goodreads. I always go to Amazon.

I’m still impressed.

Your website has a performance schedule page. What might we expect from one of your performances?

I give my performances everything and something more. You will see how passionate I am about what I’m saying. From the words to the motions, you see why I’m the best in the business.

When did you first know you wanted to become an author?

August 2007

What authors and their works are your favourites. How did they influence your writing?

Nikki Giovanni, and I say her because she’s a poet like me. I really dug Ego Trippin and her latest novel Chasing Utopia. The coming of age tale in The Catcher in the Rye has stayed with me since i read it in the 8th  grade. Brian W. Smith is an author who takes painstaking time to make sure every detail is accurate. And a gentleman who is constant grind is Charles Burgess, so I do my best to constantly grind.

Does Bobo have an underlying theme, message or moral?

Basically, Bobo is more the introduction of a character and his life. But you see the wholesomeness that is missing in our society, especially in the African American community.

I googled you and learned quite a bit about you. In your opinion, what role do you think social media plays in building an author (or performer’s) platform?

Wow, that’s awesome.  If used often and wisely, social networks can aid an author and performer’s reach to consumers, and supporters that he or she might never have. I am a clear example of this.

Is there anything else you’d like for your readers to know about James Gordon and Hi, My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader)?

James Gordon bka G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive) is one of the most electrifying and hardworking individuals as an author, poet, actor, storyteller, or host. You will not be disappointed supporting him in any of his ventures, Hi, My Name is Bobo is just the beginning. Summer with Bobo is next.

Here’s where readers discover more about G.P.A. and his work:

| Website | Facebook (Bobo) | Facebook (G.P.A.) | Twitter | Pinterest |

| Amazon Author Page | Goodreads Reverbnation |

 james gordonJames Gordon bka G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive) is an award winning Poet and author, as well as a champion storyteller. He hails from the beautiful city of Chicago. When he isn’t using his pen or voice, James can be seen on Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Sirens. He can be followed on Twitter via gr8estpoetalive and his website

Circus in Their Blood – Guest Post by author Charmain Zimmerman Brackett

Today’s Indie Lights Book Parade Author is Charmain Zimmerman Brackett. Join me in exploring the fascinating story behind her interesting children’s book.

zimmerman bookIn Little Pearl’s Circus World

Before she was 5 years-old, Little Pearl Clark was performing in her father’s circus, the M.L. Clark and Son’s Combined Shows. Join Little Pearl behind the scenes of her circus world. Little Pearl’s Circus World is based on the true story Pearl Clark LaComa (1890-1927).
Nature or nurture?

Charmain Zimmerman Brackett’s three children have always been involved in dance. Flexible and athletic,  they seem to take to the stage naturally, and they have been given many featured roles in dance and musical theater productions because of their prowess.

As it turns out, it might have been in their genes after all.

“My great-grandmother started performing in her father’s circus when she was only 4 years-old. She was billed as a ‘contortionist,’ and by the time, she was 13, the newspapers called her ‘the boneless wonder,'” said Brackett, who has written a book about her great-grandmother called Little Pearl’s Circus World. It was published in November 2014.

Pearl Clark LaComa (1890-1927) was the daughter of Mack Loren “M.L.” Clark, who owned the M.L. Clark and Son’s Combined Shows. Their wagon circus traveled throughout the United States from 1894 until 1945. The family sold the circus after M.L.’s death in 1926.

Pearl started off as contortionist but after marrying her husband, Cris LaComa, she took to the air on a trapeze.

Brackett decided on a circus book because of the notes her grandmother, Juanita LaComa Zimmerman, had kept in spiral notebooks. She had wanted to be a writer and even took newspaper correspondence courses, but Zimmerman’s dreams went unfulfilled in her lifetime. It took her granddaughter to bring them to life.

“I added my grandmother’s name to the project because the ideas I put on paper were inspired by what she’d written. She had the facts I used to transform the story,” Brackett said.

Most of Little Pearls’ Circus World is the children’s piece with illustrations by Erica Pastecki; however, she wanted readers to know this work was based on a true story so she included a history with some of the family photos she’d collected of Pearl. Ashlee Henry’s design brought the whole project together.

“This project is something greater than I ever could have imagined it. Erica and Ashlee’s work made this into something incredible,” she said.

And to add to her excitement, readers at The Kindle Hub voted her book as the Best Children’s Book of 2014.

“It was thrilling the response from people,” she said.

Buy Little Pearl’s Circus World on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Learn more about Charmain and her story on

| Website | Twitter | Facebook |

charmain z brackettCharmain Zimmerman Brackett started her writing career while still in college joining the sports staff of the local paper as a correspondent taking high school sports stats. She’s continued working for that same newspaper for more than 27 years. She published her first novel, The Key of Elyon, in 2012, and it was awarded the 2014 Yerby Award for Fiction at the Augusta Literary Festival.

image011Indie Lights Book Parade

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“Great-Grandma’s Gifts” and “The Serenity Stone Murder” by Marianne Jones – Author Interview

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming fellow Canadian, Marianne Jones in today’s author spotlight.


Arlene is a little girl who loves to make things. She begins by making presents for her doll, Maggie. As she grows up, she moves on to creating gifts for her own children and grandchildren.

This is a gentle story that is designed to help children see a different side of the elders in their lives and understand that they were once children, too.



What are two nice middle-aged church ladies doing at a New Age goddess conference? And what does it have to do with the mysterious death of Thunder Bay’s casino manager? Will Mary Carlisle, organist at St. Stephen’s Church, capture the heart of Thomas Greenfield, church gardener?

Find out the answers to these, and other burning questions in The Serenity Stone Murder, a kinder, gentler murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, Ontario, home of the Sleeping Giant, the Hoito Restaurant, and the world-famous Persian cinnamon bun. For those who like their mysteries served up with a side dish of humour.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Marianne about her books and writing inspiration.

Why do you choose to write in so many different genres?

The Serenity Stone Murder is a humorous cozy mystery for adults. I also have written a poetry collection titled Here, on the Ground , written and directed several plays, and done journalism. It must be my A.D.D.! I enjoy so many different forms of writing.

The synopsis for Great-Grandma’s Gifts reads that this story “is designed to help children see a different side of the elders in their lives.” This is a very touching sentiment. What’s the story behind the inspiration for this book?

The story is a tribute to my mother, who never had much money, but used her time, love, talent, and fabric scraps to create clothes, dolls, toys, stuffed animals and quilts for her family. As she was growing older, I wanted to honour her while she was still with us. At the same time, I knew she wouldn’t be around to watch my grandchildren grow up. I wanted them to know what their great-grandmother was all about.

What about Serenity Stone? Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely based on imagination?

My sister had been urging me to write a murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, our home town. One day she described to me a hilarious experience she had attending a women’s conference with a friend. As she told me about it, the characters of Margaret and Louise came into my mind, and I got inspired. The character of Louise’s dog Vince is based on my mother’s lhasa apso Charlie. Apart from that, and many of the locations mentioned, the rest of the story is pure fiction.

There’s a kernel of truth behind every story, isn’t there?

What is the message you’d like readers to take away from The Serenity Stone Murder story?

I’m not sure there is a message. It’s about middle-aged church ladies, laughter, and the crazy things we get dragged into for our friends.

Besides living there, why did you pick Thunder Bay as the setting for Serenity Stone? I have family members from there but I’ve never been myself.

Thunder Bay is Canada’s best-kept secret! It has all the amenities of a big city with the conveniences of a small town. We have a world-class symphony, numerous theatre companies, fine restaurants, a university doing cutting edge DNA research, a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Centre with some of the best cancer care in the country, a College with an internationally successful film program, and a Law School. All this, right in the middle of spectacular natural scenery and countless freshwater lakes. I thought it was time we started making the rest of the country aware of what a jewel we have.

Your bio on Amazon says there are three of your poems “in permanent installation at Prince Arthur’s Landing.” Tell us a bit about the poems and the story of them being inducted there.

Several years ago, the city decided to develop our beautiful, but mostly underutilized waterfront on Lake Superior. They hired an architectural firm known for their work with city waterfront locations, which resulted in a breathtaking stretch of harbourfront with a huge concert area, a Tai Chi Park, an arts building, a skateboard park, a Spirit Garden for aboriginal events, a sailing marina, restaurant and condominiums. The plan was to include a showcase for the arts, so the call went out across the country to artists to submit their proposals to a jury for selection. At the same time, writers were invited to submit poems and short readings for blind judging. As it turned out, three of my poems were selected, which was quite a surprise and a thrill for me. The poems have been sandblasted onto granite benches placed at different locations throughout the park. This fall I got an email from a runner in Florida, who had been here participating in a marathon. She noticed one of my poems on a bench, and liked it so much, she googled me to tell me she was going to share it with her fellow runners at home. That was quite a delightful surprise.

Such an honour! Congratulations. Your story tells of a time your writing had an impact on someone else. Who has had an impact on you? If you had to choose, which author would you consider a mentor and why?

I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one. C.S.Lewis shaped much of my thinking in my teens. He has a disarmingly simple style of writing that is the hallmark of brilliance. Jesus taught that way, too—telling simple stories that packed a huge punch. I admire the great writers who can say a lot in a few words. I think that has influenced my own writing style, which tends toward economy of words. I can’t promise brilliance, though!

What were the challenges you faced in bringing each of your books to life?

Here, on the GroundWith The Serenity Stone Murder, battling my own doubts about my ability to sustain a credible and entertaining novel-length story was my biggest challenge. I wrestled with the “editor on my shoulder” constantly telling me that I couldn’t pull it off. But I persisted and proved her wrong. The other two books came more easily to me. The poems in Here, on the Ground, were collected over a period of many years. Many had been previously published in literary journals, and some had won poetry competitions. That gave me the confidence to believe in the collection. It was just a question of selecting the best ones. Great-Grandma’s Gifts was originally a Mother’s Day gift for my mom. On a whim, I showed it to Stacey Voss, publisher at Split Tree Publishing. She fell in love with it and asked if she could publish it. She didn’t have to twist my arm too hard! I’m finding it resonating with a lot of people, which would have made my mother very proud.

Speaking about Great-Grandma’s Gifts, tell us a little about the artwork in it, as well as on the cover of Serenity Stone. Who designed it? Why did you go with those particular images?

When I came up with the idea of writing Great-Grandma’s Gifts, I asked my sister, who is a watercolour artist, if she would do the illustrations. She captured the gentle, childlike feel of the story perfectly. Some of the illustrations are from her imagination, but some are actual dolls and toys Mom made that our daughters still have. Toward the end of the book, she has painted Mom’s apartment, with her Bible on the table and her artwork on the walls. On the last page she depicts Mom as we often saw her, sitting on the dock at her cottage, gazing across the lake. With Serenity Stone, much of the story concerns a church garden that the neighbouring casino wants to purchase for parking space. The publisher and I agreed that we wanted to emphasize the “cozy” nature of the mystery. This is not a graphic or violent murder mystery, but a gentler, humorous one appealing to women. Tracy Barr’s lovely picture of the entrance to the garden was a perfect fit.

What a touching story. Great-Grandma’s Gifts is truly a tribute to your mother in more ways than one.

What can we expect from you in the future?

This spring Split Tree will be launching a sequel to Great-Grandma’s Gifts. It is called Where is Peachy Keen? Currently I am ghostwriting a memoir about a woman who survived horrific abuse, a murder attempt, 50 suicide attempts, and life on the streets. She is now happily married, the mother of two, and a frequent speaker on mental health issues. She has been a guest on 100 Huntley Street, and won the 2007 Courage to Come Back award from the Canadian Mental Health Association. When that is done, I want to resume work on a literary novel I’ve started and a sequel to Serenity Stone.  I also plan to keep writing children’s stories for my granddaughters, and another collection of poems.

Many thanks for completing this interview, Marianne.

Here’s where you can read more about Marianne and her writing:

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |

Listen to Marianne’s interview on CBC with Lisa Laco about The Serenity Stone Murder,

_CIP1125Marianne Jones is from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, and numerous literary and denominational publications. She is a retired teacher and occasional actor. A member of the League of Canadian Poets, she was named International Christian Poet Laureate by Utmost Christian Writers.

Buy Great-Grandma’s Gifts on Amazon, and Split Tree Publishing.

Buy The Serenity Stone Murder on Amazon, and Split Tree Publishing.

Buy Here, on the Ground on Amazon.

Six Things I Learned From Writing Children’s Books

Welcome to today’s Indie Lights Book Parade author, Leslie C. Halpern and her guest post, Six Things I Learned From Writing Children’s Books.

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Award-winning poet Leslie C. Halpern wrote her Funny Children’s Poems book series to educate and entertain early readers, ages 5-9. The series includes Frogs, Hogs, Puppy Dogs: Funny Children’s Poems About Animal Friends (2014), Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes: Funny Children’s Poems About Table Manners (2013), and Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub: Funny Children’s Poems About Self-Image (2012), all published by Cricket Cottage Publishing and illustrated with whimsical watercolor paintings by Oral Nussbaum. Told from a child’s perspective, Frogs, Hogs, Puppy Dogs takes a light-hearted look at our relationships with house pets and zoo animals; Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes humorously studies eating habits, nutrition, and etiquette; and Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub provides a child’s distorted view of personal hygiene, interpersonal relationships, and self-image. All three books in the Funny Children’s Poems series include parent-teacher resource pages with challenging questions, fun games, and glossaries of unfamiliar words. Find Leslie’s children’s books and adult nonfiction books about the entertainment industry at , on her website at, and on Facebook at

Six Things I Learned From Writing Children’s Books

1. Humor is less subjective with children than with adults.

Body functions, body parts, vegetables, animals behaving like humans, kids knowing more than adults, and anything that stinks usually get laughs from children. While adults have a lifetime of teachers, parents, and partners censoring their humor, young children know what amuses them and have no qualms about laughing out loud. The trick is finding the balance where the subject matter is funny enough to interest young children while still teaching them some kind of lesson. Adults sometimes lose themselves in funny children’s books as they let their “inner child” giggle along with the kids.

2. Children don’t fear poetry, parents do.

When parents don’t expose their children to age-appropriate poetry while they’re young, they miss the opportunity to develop life-long poetry lovers. If the poetry is too advanced or too serious for early readers, or the parents project their own lack of appreciation for poetry, they doom their children to a built-in prejudice against one of the most creative forms of written expression. Many people fear poems because they don’t understand them, and therefore feel dumb when they can’t speak the language of poetry. Learning about rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, simile, and other literary devices at an early age will give children an advantage throughout their entire lives.

3. Reading challenges must be age-appropriate to build self-esteem.

Parents and authors share the responsibility on this one. Books should clearly state the reading level on the cover, and parents and teachers need to direct children to age-appropriate books. As the writer, use mostly familiar words, although it’s fine to challenge readers a little if the context helps define the word. Include a glossary in the back if the book includes several words that might be unfamiliar. Reading ability in children varies greatly depending upon their exposure to books, parental support, and language skills. As the parent or teacher, be aware of the level at which the child is reading and find subject matter, writing style, and artwork that make the readers stretch a little to help build self-esteem. If the material is too advanced for the reader, they feel frustrated; if the material is too basic, they grow bored. That’s why age-appropriate (emotional age, intellectual age, and chronological age) are so important with your readers.

4. Gadgets, toys, and musical instruments bring poetry alive for children.

I include many literary devices, such as onamonapia, rhyme, and alliteration in my poetry for children (ages 5-9), and take full advantage of these when reading poetry aloud for an audience. However, even with an animated voice and colorful pictures, my readings and other presentations are often enhanced by props. For example, in Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub: Funny Children’s Poems About Self-Image, several of the poems and illustrations include yellow rubber ducks. I include a variety of ducks when I read from this book including wind-ups, pull-strings, squeakers, and quackers that never fail to elicit giggles from the audience.

5. Artwork is often more important than the text.

As a writer, it hurts to say this, but the graphic design and artwork are the primary motivators when people buy children’s books. No matter how much they like the subject matter and text, if the artwork isn’t fun, colorful, or interesting, people don’t buy the book for children. Illustrations need not be masterful; it’s a question of reader engagement rather than artistic skill. Unless you have the ability to write and illustrate, hire an artist to provide illustrations that will capture children’s imaginations and make them curious about the text.

6. Don’t stereotype your customers.

When I first starting writing the Funny Children’s Poems book series, I assumed the primary market would be 20-something parents and 50-something grandparents shopping for young children. I soon learned people in their 20s, 30s and 40s sometimes have young children, and grandparents also come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. In addition, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, brothers, sisters, friends, and teachers buy children’s books. Other people who might be interested in buying (or displaying free copies) include doctors, dentists, child psychologists, and other professionals who have children visiting their waiting rooms.

halpernAward-winning poet Leslie C. Halpern has a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. In addition to children’s books, she writes nonfiction books about the entertainment industry for adults, and reviews books and movies for several online publications. Find out more about her at and

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Meet Authors Amelia Picklewiggle and PA Cadaver and their books!

10647113_10204090549798878_2198516516563326284_nAmelia Picklewiggle is a husband and wife writing team who also write as young adult/middle grade author PA Cadaver. She is the Ambassador for the state of Nevada for Board on Books for Young Readers, a guest Judge for PBS where she was the first author in the history of the KIDS GO contest to present awards. Amelia is a member of many organizations for children’s literacy programs, including RIF, Reading Rockets, AIA, Autism Society, American Library Association, SCBWI and many more.

10154951_10204121449531352_7968137167920721889_nAmelia Picklewiggle is represented by a leading US Licensing Agency. ALL books, characters are protected under the Federal Trade Mark Law. All Trademarked materials include: The Wrinklettes World of Wonder series, Rusty and Ruby’s Magical Reading Room series, The Snow Bunny Science Sleuths Series, Monster Madness Word War series, Witch~o~ween, The Fractured Fairytale Theater series, Halloween Town series, Lone Huntress series, Mouse in the House series, Franken Cookie, Elliot the Magical Puppy series, Tessa’s Troubles series, Scruff the Mutt in GROOMINGDALES and more!

Amelia is a retired teacher and an instructor for a college.

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PA Cadaver writes: Ghost Tales Mystery Series™, Scary Tale Theater series™, Monsterpiece Theater series™, and SPOOKTACULAR series™.

Amelia Picklewiggle and PA Cadaver books can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.Their books are available in print, digital and Braille.They are also available in public libraries and school libraries throughout the United States.

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Andrew, the “A” in Amelia, has been actively writing since he was nineteen. His beliefs about equality, libertarianism, and personal potential lend his works direction and endings that often quite differ from the formulae seen in most other literary works. Andrew has studied and experienced a wide range of pursuits, ranging from courses in emergency medical procedures to several decades of training in martial arts styles from around the globe, to baking and sushi making. He is currently an amateur mui thai kick boxer hoping to go professional (in the ring or in the NHB cage depending).

Learn more about Amelia Picklewiggle online at

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Buy Tessa’s Troubles on Amazon. Other books by Amelia Picklewiggle also available on Amazon.

You can find PA Cadaver’s books on Amazon.