Monday, December 24, 2012

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

All of us here at the Castle Library want to take a moment to wish all our visitors a very
Merry Christmas 
                                             and a blessed 
New Year. 

We thank you all for visiting us, for your wonderful comments on the books we post and hope you've found something during the year that will help your youngsters become better readers. It is our hope, that by providing simple activities to go along with picture books, or thought provoking questions for older readers, that youngsters will find a greater enjoyment in reading.

If you haven't already, we hope you'll find us over at facebook and like our page where we not only share post from this site, but also news tidbits, links to free books for all ages and any other fun things we find while browsing around.

We hope everyone will enjoy the holidays. Bake some cookies with your children. Read the old tried and true books such as "Twas the Night Before Christmas", "Frosty The Snowman" or so many others. And don't forget to share the greatest story, and the very reason we celebrate this season.

Be sure to tell them the story about a great ruler, who left his throne and his beautiful home to come and live with the people of his land. He loved them very much and was tired of being separated from them. He came, as a baby. He came in the most lowly place possible so that he'd understand our low places. He came helpless as we often feel helpless when our world is in chaos. He came to walk the same life we have to walk. He brought nothing from his beautiful land with him. No riches. No groomsman. No finery.

Yet, he did bring his love for his people. He spent his life teaching them and loving them and living amongst him. He gave up everything for them. Everything.

And I won't tell you the rest of the story here. Go read it for yourself. Start with Luke 2 and keep going.
If you wish.

Merry Christmas from The Queen, Wiz. Lexiconi, the dragons and knights and all who dwell amongst the shelves of the Castle Library.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'll Save You BOBO! by Eileen and Marc Rosenthal

Good Day dear Readers,
The Queen here with a fun adventure that's sure to spur your child's imagination. I'll Save You BOBO! by Eileen and Marc Rosenthal shows the trials of trying to be creative when your pet wants to play.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: I'll Save You Bobo!
Author: Eileen Rosenthal                                                                                                              
Illustrator: Marc Rosenthal

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 3, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1442403789

Book Summary
The irresistible stars of I Must Have Bobo! return in another everyday adventure in domestic disharmony!

Willy wants to write a storybook starring Bobo—and act out revenge fantasies on Earl—but Earl keeps wrecking the story (hence the desire to act out revenge fantasies!). Quit it, Earl…and stop stealing Bobo!

But sometimes it only takes a small thing to realize that even sworn enemies have something in common. For instance: Bobo and Earl both have very snakey tails! Is that a truce? Don’t count on it.

Activity Adventures:

Crafty Ideas:
Draw a picture of your favorite character having an adventure: Put them on a pirate boat, a jungle, in space... Use your imagination.

Writing Prompts:
Find your favorite toy. Now, pick a place... jungle, ocean on a ship, or any other place you can imaging. Next, think of a terrible bad guy. With all this you have the makings of a story. Now write it!

Authors Arena

Author and Illustrator: from
 A sock monkey has never come between Eileen and Marc Rosenthal.  Unlike Willy and Earl, the couple enjoys working together (and even sharing).  Marc is the creative mind behind Archie and the Pirate and Phooey.  Eileen and Marc live in the Berkshires with their family.

Marc Rosenthal is the illustrator of many books for children including  I Must Have Bobo, The Straight Line Wonder by Mem Fox and Phooey, which he wrote.  Marc’s illustrations can be seen regularly in The New Yorker, Time, Forbes, Fortune, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and others.  Visit him online at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Illuminated by Jackie Castle

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with a young adult book written by one of our own castle residents, Jackie Castle who has penned the first installment of the White Road Chronicles titled Illuminated.

The book is available at both Kindle and Nook stores. The print version from Createspace is also available. 
Happy Reading,
The Queen


Publisher: Castle Library Publishing; 1 edition (December 4, 2012)
File Size: 617 KB
Reading Age 12 and up- Geared for young adult
ASIN: B00AIVX3UA (Amazon)
BN ID: 2940015815573 (Barnes and Noble)

ISBN: 9781481194624

Book Summary:

Alyra, mockingly known as Princess, was captured at an early age by the evil ruler, Darnel, and brought up in the dark land of Racah. At the age of seventeen, she considers herself nothing special. She has no recollection of who she is or where she came from. Her hope of ever finding freedom dims.
Until the messenger arrives. Until he brings to light the meaning behind the medallion she's kept hidden. Until she accepts the blinding truth.

Now she flees for her life.

Alyra’s journey leads her down a narrow road with strange traveling companions. Together, they encounter a kingdom where nothing is what it first seems.

Adventure Activities

Discussion Questions:
Alyra had a problem doing the one thing she was told to do. What did she have along her journey that helped her stay on the path? What helps you to stick to something you want to do?

Jerin spent a lot of time drawing up a map to help him get to Aloblase. Did it help?
How about you? Do you have some sort of map or plan to help you accomplish a goal you've set?

Writing Prompt
Lotari the centaur was reluctant to take the journey. Have you ever been divided between wanting to try something new, or staying in your safe place? What did you do about that? If you set your hooves to the stones, can you write your own story about what happened?

Start a journal of what you hope your future might hold. What kind of job would you like to be doing by time you reach 20? 30? I know it seems like a long way off, but what kind of work do you think you'd like to retire from?

Crafty Idea
Once you have an idea of what you might want to do in your life. Jot some quick notes on what it will take to get there... college? Specialized training? Working your way up to a certain position? Learning a craft or skill? Going somewhere new?
Create a poster that looks like a map of where you want to go in your life and what stops you'll need to make on the way.

 If you had a medallion, what do you think would be one it? Draw your own medallion.

Author's Arena

Jackie Castle graduated from UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas. She is a published freelance writer, storyteller and elementary educator. She lives in Texas with her husband, two teenagers, and her dog, Ginger (aka ginger-roonie). When she's not teaching, she is traipsing through the worlds of Alburnium or Fae in search of another story.

She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.

Jackie spent several years on this book series. Sometimes she'd put it aside to work on a different writing project. Other times, she didn't write at all because her journey took her in another direction. Yet, all along, no matter where her path led, she knew writing was her destiny. She wants to help others find their passion in life and follow their dreams, like she's followed hers.

She is now spending most of her time trekking through Alburnium while she gathers ideas for the next book in this series. There are sure to be more dragons, she assures us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12by12in12 End of Year Celebration

Join the 12by12in12 Party
Well, as many of you know, here at the Castle Library, we've participated in Julie Hedlund's 2012, Write 12 books in 12 months challenge.

We were doing really well, too, until bigger dreams hit and we began to put all our focus into completing a Young Adult Novel titled Illuminated and indie publishing it.Which, just this past week, Illuminated went up on Amazon an Barnes and Noble- as ebooks, and on createspace in print. We are very excited about this book.

Still, because of this fun challenge, we have twelve new children's story ideas. Four of those are completed stories. One has been submitted to a children's magazine. (And been rejected, but it's a start, right?)

Even better, we've learned so much and have made some wonderful new friends... all who, like us here at the Castle Library, love books. Love writing. And want to share that passion by encouraging and helping each other. 

We've so enjoyed reading and featuring some of the new talent in this budding community, and we hope to be featuring even more in 2013. Because YES! folks, the fun will continue.

Oh, and you all must click over to Julie Hedlund's site to see her video. It's priceless.

Happy Writing and Reading!
The Queen- along with:
Jackie Castle (Royal Scribe- in training)
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire. 
Lexiconi's all frog choir
Dirkus and Rankus (Bestest dragon writers and chasers of royal knights, ever, ever!) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Flamingos Don't Wear Bathing Suits by Daniel Moskowitz

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with a different kind of book than I normally present. Flamingos Don't Wear Bathing Suits is a self-published book by Daniel Moskowitz. To purchase a book, click the link for ordering information.

After reading though a few of the poems, I found the book full of cute rhymes and great illustrations. If you enjoy Shel Silverstein, then give this one a look.


Author: Daniel Moskowitz                                                                                                              
Illustrator: Michael Swaim

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Bullmoose Books, (January, 2013)
Reading level: grades 3-8
Book Info: softcover 122 pgs
Genre: poetry
ISBN: 978-1937118-11-2

Book Summary
Flamingos Don't Wear Bathing Suits is a collection of poetry aimed for children and parents alike. In the fashion of the great Shel Silverstein, Flamingos is full of both funny and heartwarming rhymes and stories, each with their own sort of startling quirkiness. The book's poems tackles many common childhood concerns in a fun and fanciful manner.

 Here's a sample of the poetry you'll find in this book:

"The dog ate my homework"
Is a lazy excuse,
They've heard this before,
It is of no use.

If you need a story
Here's one worth a try,
Say, "I ate my homework,
and it tasted quite dry."

There's more! Scheduled to release later in 2013, are more crazy poems.

Activity Adventures:

Explore various types of poems. Go to the library and check out other poem books. Then see if you can pick a crazy, or every day topic and write a poem about it. You know, there's really not enough meatloaf poems out there if you ask me.

Authors Arena

About The Author from author website

Daniel Moskowitz is the author of several yet-to-be written novels including the soon-to-be bestseller, Acne Acres: A Teenagers Guide to Overcoming Life's Blemishes, as well as the highly acclaimed cookbook, Chicken Soup for the Bowl. He is the recipient of the HOPE scholarship, Jewish Star of the Week (Atlanta Jewish Times, October 2004), and several honorable mentions and most-improved sportsman awards.

An Atlanta native and graduate of the University of Georgia, the twenty-five year old literary wit is currently working on his third installment of poetry entitled, Ostrich Legs.

Illustrator: from book website

Michael Swaim is a Houston, Texas-based cartoonist, illustrator and acrylic
painter who is realizing his dream of making it as a full-time artist at the midpoint
of his life. He has created artwork for over 30 children’s books, medical
and dental books, and various magazine articles over the years. Michael is
also a published editorial and political cartoonist. He currently resides in
Houston with his lovely wife Shauna, three Pugs, and one cat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Gotta Draw by Bruce Degen

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with a book I found wonderful for those students who simply can't fit the norm. (If you live with rambunctious dragons, you need all the help you can get.)

I Gotta Draw by Bruce Degen (Jamberry) was one of those students who had to draw. And now look, he makes a living illustrating wonderful stories.

After reading this book, I encourage you to look for ways you can use your child's favorite hobby to enhance their learning experience.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: I Gotta Draw
Author/Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Book Information:

Publisher and date: HarperCollins (June 5, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages 
Genre: Fiction Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0060284176 

Book Theme:
Talents, Creativity, Learning styles, Incorporating art in Education, drawing, helping students succeed.

Book Summary
Charlie Muttnik is the pup with the pencil, the mutt with the marker, the dog with the drawing pad, the chap with the chalk! He draws all the time.
But when Charlie doodles all over his homework, there's trouble at school. It's only when his strict teacher, Miss Rich, tries something new that both realize Charlie can be a great artist at school and at home.

Activity Adventures:

Does your young scholar enjoy drawing doodles? Or perhaps they have other hobbies or talents they love doing.
Sports? Have your child toss or bounce a ball while they spell words. Pin letters to a fence outside and encourage your child to throw a ball at the letters you call out. This helps develop their large motor skills while they also learn their letters. And incorporating movement into memorization helps the brain retain information easier.

Painting or drawing? Have them illustrate their spelling list, or a lesson they are working on. Perhaps they can create a history book of their own.

If your child has trouble sitting for long periods of time, allow them to stand and work. Let them sit on an exercise ball that allows them to still move around while they work.

What other hobbies or talents do your kids have that you've been able to incorporate into their learning? Please share if you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them and so would other parents who might be trying to find ways to help their struggling kids in school.

Authors Arena

Author and Illustrator: Bruce Degen
(from Scholastic bio)

When I was a kid, I used to draw all the time. In sixth grade, I had a wonderful teacher who would let me stand in the back of the room and paint all the time. Once I didn't even have to take a spelling test.

I went to a special high school for art, LaGuardia High School — you had to take a test to go there. I went to Cooper Union and got a bachelor's degree in art, and then I went to the Pratt Institute and got a Master of Fine Arts.

I've worked in a lot of art fields. I worked in advertising; I painted scenery for the opera; I was a painter and printmaker; I even taught art in high school and college. But I got to a point where I decided there was something missing — and what was missing was humor! When I was a kid, all the work that I did was funny. And I realized that the kind of art I always loved to draw was the kind you find in children's books. So I did something I had never gone to school for — I became an illustrator.

The nice thing about books is that they go out into the world. When a kid, parent, or teacher tells you how much he or she likes your book, you realize that you've given something that has become part of somone else's life.

Bruce Degen is the bestselling author and illustrator of the beloved, perennial favorite Jamberry and numerous award-winning books for children. He is the author and illustrator of Daddy Is a Doodlebug and Sailaway Home as well as the illustrator of the highly acclaimed Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole; the ever-popular Jesse Bear books by Nancy White Carlstrom; Jazzmatazz! by Stephanie Calmenson; and Shirley's Wonderful Baby by Valiska Gregory (available at your local library).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tis the Season for Thanksgiving Books!

Happy Holidays dear Reader friends-
Today, since Thanksgiving is this week, I decided to add a collection of books you can find that will teach about this humble holiday, or inspire your youngsters to find ways to enjoy it. I say humble because often Thanksgiving gets crushed in between Halloween's frightening costumes and candy and Christmas' festive shopping and extravaganzas.

But I love Thanksgiving and have nothing but happy memories of family gatherings, laughter, the smell of food prepared by loving Moms and Grannys and Aunties and playing games late into the night. So, today I wish to offer a few books that showcase this holiday. If you're looking for a literary way to teach your youngsters about Thanksgiving, check out one or more of these books at your local library or bookstore.

Oh, and don't be afraid to allow the little ones to get in on the baking and preparing for the family feast. Even if the feast and family is few. Let them crate placemats, let them pinch the edges of pies, let them help you cut out cookie shapes. Any way you can involve them helps little ones understand the specialness of this day.

 And, most important, don't forget to talk about what you're thankful for.

I, for one, am thankful for each and every one of you who stop by our little Castle Library and hope you find inspiration and ideas to make reading enjoyable and important to young ones. You can give your child no greater give than that of abundant love and a love of reading. Oh, the worlds you'll open, the grand possibilities....

Ohhh, where's my tissue?

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Amazon is a great place to start when looking for titles. You can always take the list to your local library or bookstore and see if they have the book in stock. 

Another list, this one by Scholastic. No cover pictures, however, there are links for Thanksgiving bookmarks you can download. 

If you're a member of Goodreads, they also have a list (with pictures) of books about Thanksgiving. At Goodreads, you can see what others think of a book which sometimes help when trying to pick out what to read. 

And finally, since we love having activities to do along with the books we read, Parenting has some kid-friendly crafts and such you can check out.

I wish all of you a very wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time with friends and family.and stuff yourselves like crazy. 

The Queen
Who is worried about the dragon's wanting to have a turkey roast. Nothing like charred poultery. Right?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Just a Quick Note....

Good day Dear Readers and Scribes,

I suppose you  may have noticed less book features being posted over the past few weeks. I'd like to take a moment to explain.

Here at the Castle Library, we've been quite busy on a special project and this project has taken up a lot of our time. The good news is this project is nearing completion and we can soon get back to the business of featuring books.

What is the project we've been working on, you ask?

Well, I'm glad you've asked.

Click on over to our resident Author, Jackie Castle's, newest blogsite, The White Road Chronicles, to see what we've been up to. Of course, when the project is completed, we'll feature it here at the library.

Be looking for more information in the next couple of weeks. Oh, and do be sure to stop by the White Road Chronicles site to enter a contest to win a $20 gift card to either Barnes and Noble or Amazon, or to win a free book! Yes, I said book. Because that's what we've all been working on. A book of our own.

Happy Reading,
The Queen and all the others.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey

Hello Good Readers,
The Queen here with a groovin' new book for you. Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Henry Cole is about little chick who wants to surf like her dad, but that big, wide ocean sends her feathers all in a ruffle. Read to see how Surfer Chick overcomes her fears and masters to totally awesome waves.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Surfer Chick
Author: Kristy Dempsey                                                                     
Illustrator: Henry Cole

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Abrams Books for Young Readers (May 1, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture book
ISBN: 978-1419701887

Book Theme:
Surfing, ocean, facing fears, learning to swim, learning a new skill

Book Summary  from Amazon
“Two birds of a feather, a chick and her dad, lived by the shore, in a radical pad. A legend in surfing, Chick’s dad ruled the Roost. Chick’s dream was to learn every move he produced.”
So begins the story of a little chick and her dad who take to the beach so she can finally learn how to surf. At first Chick’s mood is foul as she struggles through some gnarly waters, but soon she is catching waves on her own board and even doing righteous tricks, just like her rad dad!
Filled with cool surf lingo, this sweet rhyming picture book is perfect for summer at the beach and for celebrating the love between a father and a daughter.

Activity Adventures:

Discussion Questions:
Talk about fears. What are they? Name different kinds of fears.

What are steps that can be taken to get over a fear?

Make a wave bottle. While putting it together, talk about what makes waves

Here's a site that talks about surfing waves
More information lesson ideas on ocean waves.

Writing Prompts:
Write about a fear you've had and how you got over it.

Authors Arena

Kristy Dempsey is the author of Me with You and two other forthcoming picture books. She lives in Brazil.
Find out more about Dempsey here.

Illustrator: from Harper Collins

Henry Cole grew up on a dairy farm outside Purcellville, Virginia. Always interested in art and science, he studied forestry at Virginia Tech. He is a self-taught artist, although his mother was a professional illustrator and gave him many pointers along the way. His education required him to study nature closely, and his observation of such details helped him with his drawing. Henry worked in a number of jobs, including magazine illustration, and for sixteen years taught elementary grade science classes. He now lives in Washington D.C., and on the island of Aruba.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Knight, The Princess &The Magic Rock by Sara Azizi

Good day dear reader friends,
The Queen here with a magical tales of bravery, adventure and magic. The Knight, The Princess and the Magic Rock is an old Persian tale taken from the legendary “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh), written over a thousand years ago. This story has been retold time and again, and now is beautifully told and illustrated by Sara Azizi and Alireza Sadeghian.

This book will fit in nicely with any cultural study lesson plans.

Happy Reading!
The Queen


Book Title: The Knight, The Princess & The Magic Rock
Author: Sara Azizi                                                                             
Illustrator: Alireza Sadeghian

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Wisdom Tales; 1 edition (July 16, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1937786014

Book Theme:
Persian folklore, bravery, adventure, love

Book Summary from
The Knight, the Princess & the Magic Rock beautifully brings to life the enchanting story of Bijan, a brave young knight from the ancient land of Persia, and his star-crossed lover, Manijeh, princess of an enemy kingdom. Originally written over a thousand years ago, the story has been rendered into films, operas, and plays. Rich in symbolism, and filled with acts of heroism, secret potions, and the king’s all-knowing golden cup, the tale will delight children everywhere.

Activity Adventures:

Talk about what folktales are. Some are truth, some are fables or made up stories. Some are stories passed down from generation to generation and nobody is sure if they are true or not.

Compare folktales from other countries. Are there any similarities?  How are they different? Some counties and cultures share a common story, but have a different way of telling it, such as the story of Cinderella. Google the numerous versions of this favorite story.

Crafty Ideas:
Coloring page from one of the book illustrations. Click this link to download the pdf file.

Writing Prompts:
Some writers take a folktale and turn it into a modern day story. How could you take this classic Persian tale and re-write it in a modern setting? Try and see what kind of story you come up with.

Authors Arena

Author bio: from Wisdom Tales

Sara Azizi is a writer and storyteller who has wide-ranging interests in the arts in general and traditional Persian literature in particular. A native of Iran, she has lived and studied in Potsdam, New York, and Toronto. The Knight, the Princess, and the Magic Rock is her first book to be published in the US.

Sara Azizi is a writer and storyteller. The aim of her work is to bring the beauty of foreign lands and especially Persian culture to a wider Western audience. A native of Iran, she has lived and studied in Potsdam, New York, and Toronto, Canada. The Knight, the Princess & the Magic Rock is her first book to be published in the US.

Sara Azizi would like to share some of her thoughts and experiences on her development as a writer of children’s books with you: Read More Here

Illustrator bio: from Wisdom Tales

Alireza Sadeghian is a professional painter and illustrator. In addition to his design and illustration work, he has also taught children’s art classes. He holds a degree in the preservation and restoration of historic sites and monuments, and lives in Isfahan, Iran with his wife and two children. The Knight, the Princess & the Magic Rock is his first book to be published in the US. He truly enjoys illustrating children’s books!

Alireza would like to share some of his experiences as a painter and illustrator with you:READ MORE HERE.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Out of the Blue by Vanita Oslschlager

Happy October Good friends.
Today, I've found a delightful book that can be used by home-schools, in the classroom, or even at home. Out of the Blue uses fun illustrations of what idiom phrases describe literally. The reader will then have to guess the “real” meaning of the phrases. If you're unsure, Vanita Oelschlager has added an explanation at the bottom of each page. You'll need to be able to read upside down. Of course, turning the book over works as well.

At the end of the book, readers are invited to learn more about these figures of speech.

This is a great book to use for beginning lessons on idioms, especially in younger grades. The phrases are simple, and focus on colors words.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Out of the Blue
Author:  Vanita Oelschlager                                                             Illustrator:Robin Hegan

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Vanita Books (May 1, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book: Language Arts
ISBN: 978-0983290421

Book Theme:
Idioms, play on color words, language arts lessons

Book Summary from Netgalley
Out of the Blue shows children the magic of idioms - words that separately have one meaning, but together take on something entirely different. Children are curious about words, especially phrases that make them laugh ("Tickled Pink"), sound silly ("Shrinking Violet") or trigger images that tickle a child's sense of the absurd ("A Red Letter Day"). Out of the Blue uses outlandish illustrations of what the words describe literally.

Activity Adventures

Young Readers:
Idioms are confusing for younger children to grasp. As you go through the book, talk about how people have common sayings that get repeated and repeated until eventually, they become part of our cultural way of speaking.
Use the upside-down phrase explanation to talk about what the saying means. 

Older Readers:
Look up the origins of the idioms listed in the book. Find more idioms and illustrate a literal picture of the saying.

Crafty Ideas:
Find a book of idioms. Read or write a few phrases on a board, picking some of the more simpler sayings. Don't explain the meaning behind the phrase yet.
Tell children to close their eyes, get a picture of what the phrase means, then illustrate it. In a classroom, the drawings can be hung up and discussed. Did everyone see the same thing? Are the pictures different? Why? Finally, after talking about what the idiom might mean, tell children what it really means and where the phrase originated from. 

What are idioms?
(taken from Vinita Books)
Every language has “figures of speech”, or idioms. They are kind of a short hand way of explaining something unfamiliar or complicated.

The English language has thousands of them. You cannot understand them because the group of words together has little, often nothing, to do with the meanings of the words taken one by one.

Hundreds of years ago, the words might have meant what they said, but today they do not.

In order to understand a language, you must know what the idioms in that language mean. If you try to figure out the meaning of the idiom word by word you’re likely to get nowhere – you will get befuddled or confused. You have to know the “hidden” meaning. You need to read between the lines and behind the words.

Authors Arena

Vanita Oelschlager is a wife, mother, grandmother, former teacher, current caregiver and, for almost ten years, author and poet.

She was born and raised near Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where she currently serves as a Trustee.

She has also supported and helped Jim as he built Oak Associates, ltd. into a successful investment management firm.

Today, as an accomplished author, Vanita shares openly the experiences that she, Jim and their families have had with multiple sclerosis. She has likened MS to living with an elephant, one that won't go away or be ignored. Together, she and Jim have found ways to live with this "elephant", and to share some of the larger lessons about life they've learned through the disease.

Her first book of idioms, Birds of a Feather (2009), dealt with birds, insects or animals. The second, Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries (2011) uses food idioms. Out of the Blue uses color idioms. All three are fun – and instructive.

Illustrator: Robin Hegan

 Robin Hegan has many artistic talents but she enjoys illustrating children's books the most. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Integrative Arts. Robin resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Stone Hatchlings by Sarah Tsiang

Happy Fall Good Readers!
The Queen here with an enchanting tale of imagination and love. The Stone Hatchlings is an endearing story by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang and illustrator Qin Leng. When young Abby finds two warm stones in her yard, she decides to take them inside and hatch them. Nobody but Abby see's what wonderful thing hatches emerges the stone eggs.

I enjoyed the tales and I hope you will, too. Check out the activity area for something fun to do along with this book and also click the links on the author and illustrator's name to see who is behind the story and what their story is as well.

Happy Reading!
The Queen


Book Title: The Stone Hatchlings
Author: Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang                                                                Illustrator: Qin Leng

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Annick Press (June 21, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Paperback: 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1554514328

Book Theme:
Using your imagination, creativity, caring for others

Book Summary from
A child's imagination takes flight.
When Abby finds two warm, round stones in the backyard, she "adopts" them, pretending they're unhatched birds. She lovingly builds them a cozy nest and watches over them constantly until one day she imagines that with a crick and a crack, the stones hatch to reveal two gray chicks. With a flourish of her paintbrush, Abby colors the birds yellow, blue, and green, and proceeds to take excellent care of them.

Then the make-believe birds stop singing. Soon they also stop eating, and when they start to lose their feathers Abby realizes it is time to let them go. She waves goodbye as they fly off. But every morning, two new birds appear at the window and sing to Abby.

As in their bestselling book, A Flock of Shoes, this gifted author-illustrator team captures perfectly the whimsical imagination of a small child for whom anything is possible.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Draw two oval shapes onto a sheet of paper, using a black marker.
Offer your child crayons, decorations such as feathers, stickers, sequins, buttons and other oddities to decorate their own chicks with. Or, let them decide what will hatch out of the eggs and make new creatures or animals.

Encourage them to use their imaginations.

Older Readers:
Find some round, smooth stones. Go look by a creek or pond, or even in your backyard. Wash the stones up and now decorate them to make your own little animal. Use your imagination.

Take it a step farther: look around outside. Find limbs, leaves, bark. What kind of animals or creatures can you turn these ordinary things into?

Writing Prompts:
Now that you've made your new pets, write a story about them. Give them a name. Where did they come from? What will you need to do to take care of them? Do they need a warm spot to sleep? What will they eat? What fun activites will they enjoy doing? And, what special talent does your pet have?

Discussion Questions:
1. Why do you think Abby thought the stones were eggs?
2. Name the steps Abby took to hatch her pet eggs? (sequencing)
3. Why do you think the stone birds quit eating and singing?
4. Who do you think the new birds were that visited Abby every morning?
5. What did you think about this story?

Here's a fun video to help you make your own pet rock

Authors Arena

From Annick Press bio
Author: Sarah Tsiang
In addition to the highly acclaimed picture book A Flock of Shoes, Sarah Tsiang and Qin Leng are the creators of Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know. Sarah, who is also a poet, lives in Kingston, Ontario, while Qin, an award-winning animator and illustrator, lives in Toronto, Ontario.

As a child, Sarah Tsiang dreamed about being a part-time librarian and a part-time truck driver. Though many people suggested that she work in a bookmobile, it just didn’t thrill her the way an 18-wheeler could. Eventually, she gave up that dream and decided to be the prime minister of Canada. Somehow, this led her to writing picture books and poetry.

Sarah spends most of her days building giant snow forts, jumping in piles of leaves, and going to the splash pad at the park (adjust for season). She also writes. Sarah started writing at the age of four, mostly one-word stories comprised of her favorite words: “noodles” and “mommy.” She spent most of her time in elementary school making up stories for her friends during recess. She spent the rest of her time reading and re-reading books like Jacob Two-Two, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Indian in the Cupboard, and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Illustrator: Qin Leng

Qin Leng was born in Shanghai, China. At the age of five, she moved with her family to Bordeaux, France, where she spent the next four years. Soon after, she moved to Montreal, where she spent the rest of her childhood. Having been born in Asia but raised in the West, she uses both cultures as her source of inspiration. Looking at her illustrations, one can see the presence of both East and West.

Qin Leng comes from a family of artists, where the visual senses have always been of the utmost importance. She grew up watching her father work with acrylics, pastel, and ink. Father and daughter often spent their days drawing side by side. Drawing first started as a hobby, but soon became a way of expression.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with another YA fiction based on a well-beloved fantasy. Jodi Lynn Anderson's Tiger Lily is a spin from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan classic. The story intrigued me, and I found things I loved about it. But there were things I didn't enjoy as well.
Two things I found disappointing about this book. One being in Tinker Bell's point of view, thought intriguing,  kept me from connecting with Tiger Lily. I honestly believe, the young Indian maiden could have been a deep character that might have captivated me. As it was, I found it difficult to connect with anyone, and thus, I had difficulty getting into the story.

Two- is I feel she took away the magic that is wrapped around the story of Peter Pan. Everything was explained, their agelessness, that the island was attainable from the outsiders just coming across it on their own, ect. The story could have been told without using the Peter Pan background and it still could have been a beautiful, heart-breaking story. I just wish she would have kept more of the magic in her version of the story, that was in the original. That's all.

Other than these two things, I truly did enjoy reading Tiger Lily. Anderson's writing puts you in the scene, and her words create a somber mood that fit Tiger Lily's heart for her circumstances.

I encourage you to give the book a try.
Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson                                                                                                              

Book Information:

Publisher and date: HarperTeen (July 3, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 304 pages
Genre: Fantasy Romance
ISBN-13: 978-0062003256

Book Summary from Amazon
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.

Authors Arena

Jodi Lynn Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches, The Secrets of Peaches, Love and Peaches, the popular May Bird trilogy, and Tiger Lily. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and an endless parade of stray pets.

Banjo, teaching, biking, reading like crazy, making claymation, running, music, and spending lots of time with my friends and family and my dog.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old MacDonald Had Her Farm by Jonarno Lawson

Good day, dear reader friends!
The Queen is back with another bodacious read for you! Old MacDonald Had Her Farm is a romping twist on the old classic song, but with a vowel-ious twist. Each page features a vowel along with rhyming words all using that vowel.

The illustration are bright, busy and fun to look at. The rhyming provides a lively beat, and the subject a learning experience both homeschoolers and teachers can use while teaching. These are books I'm especially fond of. Children will love reading along with the simple, repetitive text, and trying out the tongue-twisting list of vowel words.

Check out our activity ideas, and most definitely check out this riotous read.
Happy Reading,
The Queen


Author: Jonarno Lawson                                                                  
Illustrator: Tina Holdcroft

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Annick Press (June 21, 2012)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Paperback: 32 pages
Genre: picture book
ISBN: 978-1554514564

Book Theme:
Rhyme, simple machines, vowels,

Book Summary from
Old MacDonald had a farm like you've never seen before!

With a nod to the familiar refrain E-I-E-I-O, a day on this farm is framed by the vowels A-E-I-O-U--and sometimes Y.

Old MacDonald appears in an explosion of color and, starting with the letter A, proceeds to "saw barn planks, stack sacks, crank cranks, and whack gnats." The day progresses as every vowel is featured in action-packed bursts of lively text. Old MacDonald has devised a myriad of tools to make her job if not easier, then a lot more fun.

In chaotic scenes filled with pulleys, catapults, and flying machines, the farm becomes the background for a circus-like riot of fantastic contraptions.

With dozens of details to discover, and hilarious tongue-twisting text, this book is destined to become a favoroite

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
write vowel words on index cards and allow little ones to sort according to the vowel sound. Help them read each word, until the can do this on their own. This will help them get started on reading.

Older Readers:
There are various pulley machines in the book. Do a lesson on simple machines and see if MacDonald's crazy contraptions would actually work. What kind of simple machine can you put together? 

Crafty Ideas:
Create a vowel book. Use the words provided in the book as a starting point. Now, go out and collect more vowel words and sort them onto the correct page. Decorate your books.

Writing Prompts:
Try to come up with your own wacky sentences using only vowel words.

Authors Arena

Author: JonArno Lawson
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, and raised in Dundas, JonArno's most formative experiences as a child were the months he spent in Florida at the age of 8. Missing almost an entire year of school (which, luckily, he wasn't forced to repeat), he spent his weekdays at the beach digging holes and collecting sea shells and coconuts, travelling in glass bottom boats, and visiting nature parks that had free-roaming monkeys and parrots. He wore a ship captain's hat at all times, and a green pouch on his belt, in which he kept a small golden sword, dozens of ticket stubs, a musket ball, brass souvenir coins, a small British flag he found stuck in his fish and chips one day, and other similar treasures (which he still has and enjoys looking at). His formative influences, as a writer, were mostly songs—"The Gumdrop Follies" recordings of Jim Copp and Ed Brown, "The Irish Song" by Tom Lehrer, and "The Shape of Things" by Sheldon Harnick. Yip Harburg, Stephen Sondheim, and Sylvia Fine, also deserve much greater credit for their inspiring, brilliant, funny, and innovative work.

Illustrator: Tina Holdcroft
Tina Holdcroft loves what she does. She's been illustrating for a quarter of a century from the messiest studio on the planet. Her art work has appeared in so many picture books, school text books, magazines and advertisements that she has lost count. More than 40 picture books and 100 text books for sure.
Tina was born in England, studied art in Toronto, married her high school sweetheart, and has one child. When not illustrating and writing, Tina is off sailing with her husband and more recently with her sixteen year old son. Tina has sailed 50,000 miles, crossed the Atlantic four times, dodged whales, survived storms at sea and anchored in the harbors of 24 countries.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nature's Patchwork Quilt by Mary Miche

Happy Friday dear readers!
Today, I'm presenting a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated picture book for your enjoyment. The book itself will not be released until September 1st, but there are so many free activities to go along with it, this seemed perfect for Freebie Friday.

Nature's Patchwork Quilt compares nature to a homemade quilt and does so in a way, I believe, even young children will be able to grasp. This comparison will help children understand how the different ecosystems in our world work, and how all life is intertwined and stitched together in a complex network covering the planet earth.

There are so many fun lessons to incorporate along with reading this book. The author has provided many activities and links to find more if you need it. Are you a teacher who is looking for a new way to present a unit on the environment? Check this book out. Are you a parent, looking for a good interactive book? The pictures in this book can provide hours of wonderful discussions. And look for which ecosystems involve humans. Can you spot the person amongst the wildlife? Look closely.

Happy Reading,
The Queen.


Author: Mary Miche                                                                         Illustrator: Consie Powell

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Dawn Pubns (September 1, 2012)
Reading level: 4 to 12
Book Info: 32 pages - fully illustrated - 11 by 9
Genre: non-fiction nature picturebook

Curriculum Components: Habitats • Adaptation • Biodiversity • Food Chain

Book Summary from
Just imagine all of nature—mountains, prairies, oceans, and all—lying on your bed as a patchwork quilt! Take flora and fauna in their unique habitats, fold them up and you have a book, this book. Earth’s major habitats are spread before you, ready to be examined. Here in this beautiful package are revealed the key concepts of natural science. This patchwork quilt of nature covers the whole Earth, your home—yours to learn about, to enjoy, to care for, and to love.

The Prairie Habitat page
© Consie Powell,

Activity Adventures:

On the last pages of book, you can find several activities for both homeschooling and classroom use. Click the links below for more ideas.

Young Readers:
Draw your own nature pictures and create a paper quilt. Go to the park, or your backyard and draw what you see.

Classrooms can create a bulletin board of various environments and quilt them together.

Older Readers:
Pick an environmentalist and do research on that person. There are a list of them in the back of the book.

Crafty Ideas:
Print animal pictures, or cut from magazines. Now, play a sorting game by drawing various ecosystems on sheets of paper. Which animals belong in the correct system?

Authors Arena
from Dawn Publications website

Mary Miché has been an environmental educator since 1972, when she began her work in outdoor education schools. She completed her masters degree in environmental education in 1982. She has visited hundreds of schools since then, singing her nature and science songs for children. This book was inspired by her many trips to and concerts in Yosemite National Park. Mary has worked with children in public schools for over thirty years. She is especially concerned with helping children to understand environmental processes and to take care of our earth. Visit her website at

 Consie Powell loves to “muck around in nature’s lovely untidy places,” as she puts it, and then to illustrate the complexities of nature. She has spent
time in all of the habitats illustrated in this book, her trusty sketchbook and a small tin of watercolors in hand. She has illustrated a dozen children’s picture books about nature, seven of which she also wrote. Although she grew up in sunny southern California, Consie now lives in the far north woods of Minnesota with her husband and their Newfoundland dogs. Visit her website at

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesday - All About Me

Good day young scribes!
Have you sharpened your pencils? Filled your backpacks with notebooks and paper? It's that time... or soon will be... for back to school.

You know one of the first things you'll be asked when you walk into that classroom is "Tell us about yourself!"

This is an important question, friends. Who are you? How will you fit into this classroom community?

Do you have your summer journals? Let's find a clean page and brainstorm some questions. Parents, you can help your children think about these questions and answer them. For smaller children, pick one or two and help them write their thoughts while they draw the pictures.

1. Give us the basics: How old are you, where were you born, what do you look like? Draw a picture of yourself. (Might as well get some practice in on this, you'll be asked to draw yourself doing various things throughout the year.)

2. Where have you been? Make a list of states, countries and places you've visited, or lived in.
Do you have any interesting facts or memories about those places? Write a short note about it. You never know when these little antidotes will come in handy. Like when asked to write a paper on where you've been, or about an important memory. May as well be prepared. That's what I'm here for.

3. Create a normal daily schedule. What time do you get up in the morning, and go to bed? What activities do you enjoy doing during the day. If you put play video games from 8am until 9pm, we need to talk. Seriously, get outside for a bit. ;0)

4. Now, I want you to write a letter of introduction. In this letter, tell your teacher one important fact about yourself that you like for people to know. Do you have a favorite nickname you want to be called? Do you love strawberry ice cream? Does the thought of making friends make your stomach twist in knots?

Then, think of what you really would like to learn about this year. Is there anything you are curious about?

What subjects are you an Ace at? Which ones leave you all in a flutter?

Finally, end your letter with a statement of your intentions. What effort are you willing to put into your learning? Will you do your homework? Pay attention in class? Be kind to others? Think about this, because it's important. You are responsible for your learning. That old adage, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink" applies to you. The teacher can provide the learning material, but you have to be the one to take it in, learn it.

I'm eager to hear about how your first days of school go.
Leave a comment anytime.

Happy Writing friends!
Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley

Happy Monday dear reader friends,
The Queen here with another Young Adult fantasy I'm sure our fantastical readers will love.

Eye of the Sword, by Karyn Henley, is the second in her Angelaeon Circle series. I do encourage you to read Breath of Angel first, as I started with this book and had some difficulty catching up to what was going on in this world.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed following the hero, Trevin, on his quest to help the king and princess find what they have lost. In turn, Trevin finds out who he really is. I love stories like this. Henley weaves a fascinating fantasy tale from legends and folklore that keeps you turning the page to see what happens next.

I've noticed there have been more and more books coming out about the Nephili - half human, half angel beings. If you are as intrigued by these stories as I have been, then put this book series on your list of must reads!

I also wish to mention that we at the Castle Library are partaking in the CSFF Blog Tour. For more information on that, and a list of other bloggers participating, see the end of this post.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Eye of the Sword by
Author: Karyn Henley

Book Information:

Publisher and date: WaterBrook Press (March 13, 2012)
Reading level: Young Adult/ Adult
Book Info: Paperback: 256 pages
Genre: fantasy
ISBN-13: 978-0307730145

Book Topics:
Nephili, honor, finding one's identity, love, bravery, seeking for hidden lost treasures

Book Summary from
Where angels walk the ground and the future is told in song, does a man of low rank have a chance at love with a princess?

In Camrithia, a land of shadows and mystical secrets, Trevin lives to serve King Laetham. But his heart belongs to the princess, Melaia. When the King sends Trevin on on a dangerous quest to find the missing comains—captains in the king’s army—he must leave Melaia to the advances of a swaggering Dregmoorian prince.

Challenged to prove his worth, Trevin throws himself into his quest. Striving to prove his love, Trevin undertakes a second mission—find the harps Melaia seeks in order to restore the stairway to heaven. Through fire caves, rogue winds, and murderous threats, Trevin remains steadfastly dedicated to his quest—even when he is falsely accused of a heinous crime. As Trevin’s time runs out, he realizes he must face the shame and horror of his own past and the nightmare that has come to life. Will he have the courage to finish what he has started?

Activity Adventures:

I strongly encourage readers to browse Henley's book-site where she provides more background information about both books. You'll find a map of the region, facts about angels, along with a hierarchy chart. Book One has a reader's guide to go along with it.

Writing Prompts:
Pick one of the Angels listed on author's site and research more information about it. Write up a fact sheet, or maybe even a story about the angel of your choice.
Why did you pick that particular angel?
If you could meet one in person, which would you choose?
If you were an angel, which type do you think you would be? Why?

Discussion Questions:
Trevin undertakes a quest to prove his loyalty to the king, and to help the girl he loves find the lost harps she is looking for. Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone you care about? What happened?
(You could even write the story about how it turned out)

Trevin gets a chance to look upon a sword that will reveal who he really is. If you were to look into such a sword, what do you think you would find out about yourself?

What are your thoughts on angels? Do they mingle among us? Talk (or journal) about what you believe and why you believe that.

Authors Arena

Author: Karyn Henley
From Henley's author site:
Award-winning author Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, which include a mix of children's books and articles, parent-teacher books, articles, and curricula, and preschool musicals and CD's/DVD's of original music for children.
An accomplished songwriter, Karyn has been a Dove Award nominee, and received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a Christmas television special.  She has traveled worldwide speaking to parents and teachers and entertaining children and their families in storytelling/active movement sessions and concerts.

    A graduate of Abilene Christian University (BSEd), Karyn received a Master's of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Check out Henley's blog Maybeso for some great post about the writing life, more about her books, and even tips on writing novels.

CSFF Blog Tour

In conjunction with the CSFF (Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy) Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Please check out these other bloggers who are also participating in the CSFF Blog Tour.

Julie Bihn Thomas Fletcher Booher Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Jackie Castle Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Cynthia Dyer Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Janeen Ippolito Jason Joyner Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Rebekah Loper Shannon McDermott Karen McSpadden Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Mirriam Neal Nissa Faye Oygard Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler