A Model of Determination – A Guest Post by Randi Lynn Mrvos

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A Guest Post by Author Randi Lynn Mrvos

Cover image from Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell


When I first sat down to write the story about a little first-grader named Maggie, I had not yet met Charlie, a mix-breed hound whose determination changed his life. All I knew of the story was that Maggie had a problem at school. How she would be able to solve that problem was still a mystery to me.

At that time with the seeds of this story slowly germinating, I spent the better part of Saturdays supporting my freshman daughter’s cross-country team in Lexington, Kentucky. While the student athletes stretched and warmed up, I chatted with the mothers manning the concession stand. After attending a few meets, I got to know these heard-working ladies and sadly realized they would not be present next year. Their kids would be graduating.

The following year I stepped into the role of running the concessions along with Barbara, another mom whose daughter ran on the team. Standing side by side selling bagels, bananas, bottled water and hot chocolate, I learned about Barbara’s family, her talents, and her pets.

Charlie the inspiration for Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-TellOne of her dogs was named Charlie, and later during that cross-country season, I got the chance to meet him. On that day, Barbara told me his story. She said that a few years ago, she and her family were driving in rural Kentucky in search of buying a farm. They came across an injured dog that had made a bed of leaves by the side of the road. It had used his last bit of strength and resolve to get their attention. He wagged his tail when they approached him. It occurred to Barbara that the dog may have once been someone’s pet. Without a doubt, Barbara knew they were going to bring the animal home.

The dog, after being nursed back to health, learned to walk again. Barbara and her family named him Charlie and he fit right in along with the other dog and two cats in their house. Charlie loves everyone he meets along his walks and wants to befriend everyone. Barbara says this special animal taught her so much about unconditional love, trust, hope and never giving up. Charlie is her best friend.

I was so impressed with Charlie that he became the model for Maggie’s pet. Soon after, the solution to Maggie’s problem became apparent and the themes of the story, animal adoption, compassion, determination, and problem-solving emerged.

Charlie’s story touched me in a personal way. I know what it’s like to feel rejected. Before Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell was published, it had been turned down close to fifty times. Sure, there were anger and tears, but I believed in Maggie. Like Charlie, I was determined to deal with rejection and not give up.


Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell
Written by Randi Lynn Mrvos
Illustrated by Emiliano Billai
(Saturn’s Moon Press, $16.99, Ages 4 – 8)
32 pages, available in Hardback
Visit Randi Lynn Mrvos’s website here.
Get to know Maggie here.


headshot of author Randi Lynn MrvosRandi Lynn Mrvos’s Bio:

Randi Lynn Mrvos is the editor of the Kid’s Imagination Train e-zine. She has written over a hundred articles for children’s magazines such as Highlights as well as articles for Mothering magazine and The Christian Science Monitor. Mrvos lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and cat Ozzie. Awarded prizes by the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Writer’s Digest, and the Alabama Writer’s Conclave, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is her first book.

A Brief Summary: Meet Maggie, a first-grader in Ms. Madison’s classroom. Maggie has a big problem. Tomorrow is summer vacation show-and-tell. All of her classmates know exactly what they are going to talk about, but Maggie doesn’t have any idea what she can share. She could say she went on safari, or hiked the South Pole, or zoomed into outer space to Mars and the Moon. The truth is, Maggie didn’t travel during the break. The day is nearly over and Maggie hasn’t found anything to bring to school. .. until she remembers falling in love with something special over the months of summer.

For children ages four to eight and pet-lovers of all ages, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is a story of love and compassion. Mrvos’ children’s book was inspired by Charlie, a deserted dog that was rescued on a country road by a friend. Charlie’s remarkable story is included as well as a discussion guide for starting conversations about summer vacations and caring for pets.

NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the author, Randi Lynn Mrvos. No compensation was received for this coverage.






One Word Pearl by Nicole Groeneweg

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One Word Pearlby Nicole Groeneweg with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell (Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing, $17.95, hardcover; $7.95, paperback, Ages 5-8), is reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

– Winner of the NAESP Children’s Book Competition, Picture Book category

One Word Pearl Cover Image

One Word Pearl is written by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell from Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

One of my favorite words is SCRUMPTIOUS. I also like DAPPLED, LUSH, and EXTRAVAGANZA. Although none of those are words that young Pearl collects, she does have some super selections! Floppity, poppity. Pizzazz, sizzled. Noodles, doodles.

The words Pearl chooses and uses are fun to say. But she must ration them carefully after a windstorm swirls through her treasure box filled with clipped words. She squeaks through the week one word at a time until the words run out. After days filled with long silences, Pearl must summon her courage to regain her marvelous vocabulary.

The rhythm of the snazzy synonyms and vivacious verbs makes this story a delight to share. What truly makes this story sparkle are the multilayered words, clipped and placed throughout the illustrations that are softly torn, crumpled and shaded for texture. Pearl also has a feathered friend, a brightly colored bird, who isn’t named in the story, but is a delightful addition for young readers to search for on each page.

This imaginative tale will captivate children and parents who appreciate spoken words as well as words on paper, and encourage their creative use of language to express and describe.

Nicole Groeneweg's One Word Pearl with interior spread illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

Nicole Groeneweg’s One Word Pearl with interior spread illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.


Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober

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Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost, by Natalie S. Bober, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, $17.99, ages 4-8), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.  

Papa Is A Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober with illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Papa Is A Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober with illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Sometimes it’s easy for a child to describe the work that their parents do for a living: firefighter,  mail carrier, farmer.  What can you say to describe that work when your father is a poet?  Through the eyes and words of young Lesley, this charming book tells young readers what life is like as the child of poet Robert Frost from 1905 to 1909.

The dramatic opening spread shows the tiny Frost family debarking from a looming ocean liner onto a barren New York City dock. The parents and four children are clutching old-fashioned trunks and carpet bags, ready to begin an adventurous new life on a farm in New Hampshire.

As the story unfolds, the family works, plays and learns together while Frost struggles to earn a living as a poultry farmer.  He tends to farm chores at midnight so he can read and write “in the hush of a sleeping household.” During the day the family picnics, hunts for flowers, and watches sunsets.  At night they share stories, read, and stargaze. Through all the activity, Frost is a loving husband and father, teaching his children to observe the world with care and write down their thoughts, dreams and impressions.


Interior art by Rebecca Gibbon from Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

A young reader need not be familiar with Frost’s work to appreciate his deep passion for poetry and words. Lovely excerpts from his poems are sprinkled carefully throughout, and twelve complete poems are contained in the back pages. The charming illustrations pace this book smoothly with warmth as well as detail, offering delightful glimpses into turn of the century life.

This book is a treasure to be savored slowly and repeatedly for all those who love the magic of beautiful words read aloud.

.- Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

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The Snatchabook: Who’s stealing all the stories?

The Snatchabook, Who's Stealing All The Stories? by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

The Snatchabook, Who’s Stealing All The Stories? by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

“So wonderful it demands to be read out loud.”
– Brian Selznick,
Caldecott Medalist, author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

What’s not to love about a picture book that conveys a heartwarming message about bedtime stories and the simple joy of reading together? In The Snatchabook, (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $16.99, ages 3 and up) by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty, a book I’ve seen on bookstore shelves everywhere I go, readers will be immediately pulled in by the images of animal families settling down for the night in warm, glowing rooms.

Welcome to Burrow Down, invitingly depicted by T. Docherty, a quaint forest community dotted with cozy tree hollow homes, mole holes and rabbit warrens. Nighttime is a special time to hear all sorts of tales, a time when children are ready to let their imaginations soar. But suddenly all the bedtime books begin disappearing right before everyone’s eyes. H. Docherty wastes no time in setting the stage for a great mystery, though a subtle clue is given in the second spread (hint: look near the moon). Who is stealing all the stories?

Enter Eliza Brown, a bunny determined to catch the thief red-handed, or winged, because she really hasn’t the slightest idea who or what the culprit could be! Eliza sets a trap using a pile of books as bait and waits … and waits. When at last a long shadow appears, she braves the unknown and conquers her fear shouting:

“Stop stealing all our books,
right now!
Just give them back,
I don’t care how!”


Sample interior artwork from The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

Hovering just outside the window is a small, rodent-like creature with dragonfly wings, a long skinny tale and large, lonely eyes appealing to Eliza for forgiveness, “I’m just a little Snatchabook.” Snatchabook didn’t mean to swipe all the books, he explains to Eliza. He simply had no one to read them to him. In a wonderfully satisfying ending, H. Docherty has Eliza teaming up with the Snatchabook to right his wrongs, return all the books while finding a few good bedtime story readers to feed his imagination and soul.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

A New Look For Good Reads With Ronna

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Under Construction, but still blogging!

Under Construction, but still blogging!

We’re almost done cleaning up our site. It was truly a case of out with the old and in with the new, and long overdue! Thanks so much for your patience during our blog remodel. Please let us know what you think about our updated look.

The current blog tour is for Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell along with an author signed book giveaway. Enter by clicking here now for your chance to win because that great opportunity ends this weekend.

Our next blog tour in conjunction with Peachtree Publishers begins on Friday, October 4th, so watch this space for more details about the surprise book review and giveaway. But in case you can’t wait, here’s a little preview:

Some other stops on the Peachtree Publishers Blog Tour & a chance to win a copy of the book!

Visit Blue Owl Reviews today to get a taste of what’s to come.

On Tuesday, check out Gidgets Bookworms and Maestra Amanda’s Bookshelf

Wednesday stop by the Peachtree blog for the giveaway contest!

Thursday’s the blog tour is on Kid Lit Reviews

and Friday it’s here at last: Good Reads with Ronna.

Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd

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Coming to bookstores this October is a really terrific retelling of a most beloved fairy tale, Cinderella, this time starring none other than the perfectly plump and pleasing pachyderm known as Cinderelephant (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Cinderelephant by Emma DoddEmma Dodd.

Parents, it’s likely that by the time you read this to your child, he or she will have already heard this classic or watched the Disney version. That’s definitely a plus because it will allow you more time to spend pointing out all the humorous touches Dodd’s included in the colorful and cheerful illustrations. And if your youngsters are new to the tale, they’re still in for a tremendous treat.

You know the plot and to Dodd’s credit, her economy of words keeps the story fun and flowing for those of us for whom the tale is not new. Cinderelephant is bossed around by the Warty Sisters, two unattractive Wart Hogs who are “horrible, mean, and smelly,” plus they clearly lack table manners.

When an invitation to Prince Trunky’s ball arrives, young readers get their first clue as to what this Prince might look like considering the king is called King Saggy and the queen is Queen Wrinkly.  Calling her “Cinder-irrelavant,” the Warty Sisters slough off Cinderelephant’s hope of also attending the ball.

I love how Dodd features a Furry Godmouse who’ll save the day and get the gigantic gray gal to the Prince’s party. She even manages those appropriately placed superlatives and the occasional big but (you’ll see what I mean) joke with both her text and artwork.

Parents and kids will be entertained by the humor, whimsical illustrations and happy ending (pun intended) because, let’s face it, we all know one pink size 20+ shoe can only belong to one palatially-sized pachyderm!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Blanket & Bear, A Remarkable Pair

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Where Do Lost Stuffed Animals and Baby Blankets Go? Read on to find out!

by L.J.R. Kelly with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

by L.J.R. Kelly with
illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

Blanket & Bear, A Remarkable Pair (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, ages 3 and up), the debut picture book from L.J.R. Kelly (grandson of Roald Dahl) with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, is an ideal parents’ go-to book when beloved toys get lost. Some parents buy two of everything just-in-case, others spend hours retracing their steps or making frantic phone calls in an attempt to locate a lost teddy or blanky. But here’s another option. Read this picture book to your distraught youngster and it’s likely they’ll find solace in this charming story with its muted artwork harkening back to a time when men wore hats, women wore dresses and people traveled abroad by steamship. Parents may find Tanaka’s illustrations a bit sombre in the beginning, but I found that as the story’s mood changed, so did the feeling conveyed in each picture. Stick with this story as it tugs at the heartstrings and is sure to start a meaningful conversation with your child.

With an original voice very different from that of his grandfather, Kelly is a terrific storyteller in his own right. The premise is quite a simple one in that when a young boy loses his beloved blanky and teddy, he carries on with his life. The focus is not on how he copes with the loss.  Quite the contrary. Kelly chooses to show how the boy’s cherished possessions, spend their time searching for the boy, hoping to be reunited. Instead, they arrive “at an island of lost blankets and bears, living in retirement without worries or cares. It’s here they sadly learn from the island’s king that they’ve likely been replaced. Unable to accept this possibility, they depart and resume their quest. When at last they find the boy, he’s a young lad more interested in sport and girls. No longer needed, they’re free to return to the island and join the other lost or abandoned blankets and bears.

Children hearing this story read to them or reading it with the help of a parent, will likely want to discuss this new take on “they all lived happily ever after,” because in this case the book’s characters did not end up living happily ever after together, but there’s no denying they were all happy in the end.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel