Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Good Day dear Readers,
Today I bring you a teen paranormal novel for your perusal.

In September of 2012, Maggie Stiefvater released her first book in a new series titled The Raven Boys. Stiefvater has become one of my favorite YA authors over the past few years. I loved her Shiver series and my all-time favorite is still The Scorpio Races.

What I liked about The Raven Boys: Stiefvater has a way of weaving mystery into her stories that keeps you having to turn the page. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. And this book keeps true to form, with many surprises along the way. Some things I never saw coming but made perfect sense once she revealed the hidden truths behind some of her characters. I did like all of her characters, though I felt Blue was just a little too passive for my taste.

What I didn't like so much: The story is told through several of the character's point of views. At first, the jumping around made it hard to get into the story, but I was hooked by the fifth chapter. Also, this book went a little too far into the occult for my taste. I don't mind fantasy-type paranormal which I know is not real, but not books dealing with divination and witchcraft. So, that was a big turn off for me.

Not sure I'll continue reading this series, but will definitely keep my eyes open for any other series Stiefvater comes out with. Her writing has an even flow which slips you into her story worlds with vivid characters that come alive for the reader.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater                                                                                

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (September 18, 2012)
Reading level:12 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 416 pages
Genre: YA Fantasy
ISBN-13: 978-0545424929

Book Theme:
Supernatural suspense, mystery, quest, psychics

Book Summary from Amazon
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love . . . or you killed him."

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them-not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He has it all-family money, good looks, devoted friends-but he's looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys:

Authors Arena

Maggie Stiefvater
After a tumultuous past as a history major, calligraphy instructor, wedding musician, technical editor, and equestrian artist, I'm now a full-time writer living in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, four neurotic dogs who fart recreationally, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.
I'm also an award-winning colored pencil artist, play several musical instruments (most infamously, the bagpipes), and recently acquired a race car.

View Maggie Stiefvater's expansive website for more information about her books:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Conference of the Birds by Alexis York Lumbard

Good Day Dear Readers!
I've found another inspiring book for you today. The Conference of the Birds is a retelling of the 800 yr old parable of the same title, this one is much simpler to read and shorter so children can understand. I love the allegory of how the little Hoopoe bird leads the other birds in a journey to find the King Simorgh the Wise. The Simorgh, as it turns out is an ancient, mythical creature similar to the Phoenix. There's much imagery and spiritual take away value from this story, no matter what religion you might come from.

I've included a few ideas on how to make the story come more alive. Parents and Teachers can tune into so many aspects of this book from learning about birds, to studying cultures and their religions, to mythical symbolism and even basic human conditions we all must deal with such as humility, courage and other virtues.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: The Conference of the Birds
Author: Alexis York Lumbard
Illustrator: Demi

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Wisdom Tales (September 16, 2012)
Reading level: 4 - 8 years
Book Info: Hardcover: 44 pages
Genre: Children's Picture book- Allegory
ISBN-13: 978-1937786021

Book Theme:
Children and adults alike will relate to this inspiring tale about conquering one’s faults and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, detachment from worldly goods, and courage.

Book Summary
 Lavishly illustrated by award-winning illustrator, Demi, this magical and inspiring story of the adventures of a flock of wayfaring birds in search of their king will delight children with its tales of overcoming fear, physical hardship, and inner limitations. Based on an 800 year old classical parable, and retold by mother of three, Alexis York Lumbard, it will provide parents with a unique opportunity to teach moral and spiritual development to their children.

  • Finalist in the “Children's Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards, sponsored by USA Book News
  • Finalist in the “Best New Children's Picture Book” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards
  • Finalist in the “Best Interior Design” category of The USA “Best Books 2012” Awards

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Coloring page of the hoopoe. Click link for full page illustration that can be printed and colored.

Older Readers:
Pick one or two of the birds featured in this story and research information about them.

Crafty Ideas:
Create bird masks. Decorate with colored markers, feathers, anything you desire.
Here's some places to find ideas or printables:
Printable bird mask
Paper plate bird mask instructions.

Writing Prompts and Discussion Questions:
Why do you think the author picked particular birds as examples for human weakness? Such as, why do you think the duck was the homebody who didn't want to leave their familiar pond? Why was the parrot the one burdened down with jewels? And why do you think the hawk wanted to beat everyone else to the king?

Write your thoughts in your journal. Or talk about them.
Are there any qualities you find that you related to? Talk or write about that, too.
Discuss the virtues shown in this story and how they might apply to your own life. What does humility mean? Or courage? This book provides a wonderful chance at exploring the challenges every human faces in their journey in this life. 


Authors Arena

ALEXIS YORK LUMBARD’S first published children’s book is The Conference of the Birds, while she has two further children’s books scheduled for publication. Having noticed a lamentable absence of high quality books of spiritual substance for the earliest of readers, she began writing her own stories since becoming a mother in 2005. With a B.A. in Religious Studies from the George Washington University, it is her sincere hope to bring the wisdom and beauty of the world’s religions to the eager and gifted minds of young children. Alexis, her husband, and three children live in Newton, MA.

Illustrator: DEMI
DEMI is the award-winning author of over 130 bestselling children’s books. Her titles have sold over half a million copies. The Empty Pot was selected by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1990 as one of the books to be read on the ABC Radio Network Program Mrs. Bush’s Story Time, sponsored by the Children’s Literacy Initiative. Demi’s book Gandhi was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and received an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. In addition, she represented the United States at the First International Children’s Book Conference in Beijing, China, in 1992. She lives with her husband in Yarrow Point, WA.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Three Ghost Friends by Eric VanRaepenbusch

Good Day, dear Reader Friends,
The Queen here with a hauntingly good tale that's sure to get your little ghouls giggling. Eric VanRaepenbusch has created a fun series that not only engages children, but teaches them basic shape, color and letter skills as well. The graphics are simple, yet cute and appealing for youngsters. These are not books to simply be read, but to be explored. And when you close the cover, the fun isn't over. Hop over to VanRaepenbusch's sites for more activities to enhance the book experience.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Three Ghost Friends Learn About Shapes
Author and Illustrator: Eric VanRaepenbusch

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Eric VanRaepenbusch (September 7, 2012)
Reading level: ages 2-6
Book Info: Paperback: 38 pages
Genre: Picture Book
ISBN-13: 978-0985080679

Book Theme: 
shapes. Other books teach colors, ABC's and opposites

Book Summary
Three ghost friends play hide-and-go-seek at a campground. A story to teach shapes to young children.

Activity Adventures:
There is no need to post activity ideas here. What you need to do is head over to, where you can find over 40 activity ideas and free printable activities at Eric's Three Ghost Friends site.

If you need more? He has tons of ideas he's collected on his pinterest site.

Still more? Absolutely. Eric is one active guy who loves to teach. He also hosts the Happy Birthday Author site where you can find wonderful activity ideas (kid tested and approved!) for many of your favorite authors and books. Check it out.

Here's a few pictures of activities he's posted:

Not only that, but there's more Three Ghost Friends books and book apps for your kids to enjoy!

Authors Arena

Author and Illustrator:
Eric VanRaepenbusch is a stay-at-home dad, blogger, and read aloud extraordinaire. He creates memorable reading experiences with his children by celebrating children's author and illustrator birthdays. His blog, Happy Birthday Author, shares his family's reading experiences to encourage other families to read together.

I met Eric through various Children's Book Writer groups and came across his fabulous Happy Birthday Author Blog. In an interview, I heard him say he used to be a teacher and that he enjoys creating lessons for his own children. He keeps activities, like his books, simple and easy for other parents and teachers to enjoy doing.

Learn more about Eric in this blog-radio interview he did with Katie David on Brain Burps.