I made a frog pond

Michelle Isenhoff:

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but I loved this idea by an amazing kid and wanted to share it with my readers. Thanks for granting permission, Josie!

Originally posted on Animals and Art:

Last year our house was getting built. There was a puddle with a million tadpoles in it near the garage. The water was black there were so many tadpoles. Then it got  hot and the puddle dried up. I was sad when I saw it. All the tadpoles died. But Frank the guy who built our house told me he scooped up a bunch of the tadpoles when he saw the water going and he put them in the spring. He saved some!

Now we live in the house. The puddle came back. This year I didn’t want any of the tadpoles to die. My mom and dad (and Erik) helped me make a frog pond.

I read about frog ponds at Save The Frogs click here and I read some books about frogs too.

First we dug out the area where the pond was going to go. Frogs like…

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The Swift


Before I get to todays MMGM, here’s a reminder that the Emblazon summer reading contest started yesterday. It’s for kids ages 9-14 and runs through August 15. (There are prizes!)


SWIFT_CVR_eI mentioned this release a few weeks ago and told you I was putting it to the top of my reading list. That’s because I read Alex Banks’ first MG book, Jump Boys, and was so impressed with the quality of the writing, editing, and formatting that I jumped at the chance to read this ARC. I liked it even more than Jump Boys!

The Swift had me from the start. I love history. I love fantasy. I love the Atlantic coast. And I love the nostalgia of the days of sail. This adventure included them all.

Peter’s life changes completely when his father dies at sea. Pete was supposed to be on that ship, but he skipped out for a hockey game. The guilt turns him sour and gnaws away at his relationships with his mother and his twin brother, Henry. Shortly afterward, Gramps, whom Pete idolizes, begins to slip away to the grip of Alzheimer’s. And then the bank calls up the loan on their house. With everything falling apart around him, Pete and Henry ransack the old attic for items to sell only to stumble upon a ship in a bottle and a family mystery that will transport them back three hundred years.

This is a fantastic adventure, a real kid-pleaser complete with pirates, treasure, battles, and more. I had a few minor complaints. I had trouble following all the short, common names of minor characters at the beginning (Bruce, Mike, Tom, Sam). But when I reread, they were all there and explained, so I guess that’s my own fault. Also, Pete’s self-pity started to grate on my nerves. (Just like a one of my own kids in a funk, right?) And finally, we meet Captain Sam, a big, jolly, happy-go-lucky sort, right in the middle of a naval battle, and there was just a little too much light-hearted laughter while facing eminent death and destruction. Perhaps without it the battle would be too heavy for kids, but I know I wouldn’t be cracking jokes.

See? All my complaints are minor. Now for the good stuff! The artistry of the prose and imagery…well, I’ll just show you…

“It made me feel weird, like a puny dingy out on the wide sea, to watch Mom’s body shake with silent tears.”

“Sometimes ya have to stop fighting the sails, Paedar, and just let them out. Let them out. Let them fill with wind. Then let the wind take ye whithersoever it will. Because sometimes lad, the wind is God’s own breath and it’ll take ye where He wants ye to go.”

“He put a tin whistle to his lips, and began to play a tune. It sounded like the wind through the sails on a frozen day at sea. Like the cries of the gulls that circled overhead on clear days.”

“The sails flapped to and fro, then the air just stopped. The sails drooped and hung like day old laundry hung out to dry.”

“I knew now just how stupid I’d been—love wasn’t limited, it didn’t get all used up if you gave it away. In fact, with how full my heart felt just then, I finally understood that the more you gave your love, the more you got in return.”

Beautiful, isn’t it? Did you notice how many of Banks’ word pictures actually enhance the setting? Or how cleverly she inserts positive messages in a tough situation? This is good stuff by a writer well-versed in the craft.

Grab a Kindle copy of The Swift for 2.99.

One more Rockford Reads post…

PineappleCover_1A couple days ago, I mentioned my author event in Rockford where I met all sorts of wonderful readers and writers. I also regretted that I couldn’t remember the name of the lady who wrote the book about traveling in Europe. Guess what? She found me!

I got an email from Randy Rassoul this afternoon and I’m so happy I get to pass on the information I was lacking in my last post. Her book is I Slept in a Pineapple: A Guide to Historic Vacation Rentals in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The forward is written by the Councillor Mayor of Falmouth, England.

“The ‘Pineapple,’” Randy tells me, “is an eighteenth-century folly; it has a huge pineapple dome with prickly stone leaves. It is one of the delightful historic rentals that are the subject of the book.”

Very interesting. Maybe I set my goals too low just wanting to visit a castle someday. I could sleep in fruit like Sponge Bob! I Slept in a Pineapple will be available on June 27. You can find out more at www.randyrassoul.com.

There! That wraps up my Rockford Reads day, and all loose ends are now accounted for. :) Thanks so much for contacting me, Randy, and good luck with your book!

Kibble Talk, by Cynthia Port

kibble talk

MMGM is hosted each Monday on Shannon Messenger’s blog.

I picked this one up on a whim, after meeting the author online (unbeknownst to her). I’m glad I did, and so are my boys.

Kibble Talk is a cute story about a young girl named Tawny who discovers she can converse with her dog, Dinky, whenever she eats dog food. At the heart of the story is a Great Dane who wants to be a lapdog. Tawny vows to help him enter a dog show under the “smallest breed” category. The antics they get into are hilarious. I read this aloud with my elementary-age boys and we all laughed out loud. A lot.

This is an impressive self-published book. It had quite a few typos, which I will forward to the author, and I’m confident they’ll be amended. But they were all minor things. The story works. The writing is beautifully smooth and engaging. This is an author with a superb understanding of how story should be designed and what kids like. She also shows restraint by keeping language and content totally appropriate for a young age group.

The absurdity of a huge dog with *tiny* dreams will keep kids entertained. But it also has a good take away value: “You can decide for yourself who you are and how you want to make your way through the world.” But I do have two cautions. First, while encouraging kids to be unique, the book makes use of language usually associated with transgender. Dinky is a “large dog trapped in a small dog’s body.” Yet the book makes absolutely no direct reference to such a sticky subject. (In an email conversation, Ms. Port did say any association with such a topic was completely unintentional.) Second, much of the humor is bathroom/body function in origin—the kind of stuff kids that makes little boys giggle. But it’s coming from a dog. And the timing is priceless. It made this mom laugh, too.

A very fun read.

Reading Rocks in Rockford

With my kids-at-home schedule, I haven’t been doing author events very often the past two years, but the one in Rockford, MI was fun last year. And it’s free. And my friend and fellow Emblazoner Lisa Orchard lives there. So what the heck. I participated again this year. I even brought my boys, T. Man and M. Man, who co-authored a choose-your-own adventure type story for a homeschool project this year.

gordonPart of the fun of author events is meeting all the wonderful writers. Today was no exception. I had the pleasure of sitting near the delightful Peggy House again this year. She has a picture book called Junk Food Gordon that my boy got a kick out of. It features a seagull who eats McDonald’s fries and encourages kids to make good snack choices. (Click on Peggy’s name for ordering info. She’s got lesson plans!) 

I also met four ladies from the Cadillac area who traveled a couple hours to get the event. I spoke to one of them at length, along with her husband–very interesting folks–but I forgot to get her card, and I’ll be dipped if I can remember her name. She was a college language professor who owned an international travel company after she retired from academia. Her book, which releases later in June, is all about locating and vacationing in renovated castles and historic buildings in Europe for cheap. I didn’t even know there were organizations that did that! What a cool way to keep history alive and fund the renovation projects. I’m going to have to do try to dig that one up. It sounded fascinating.

stricklen 1stricklen 2I also spoke with author David Stricklen, whom I didn’t place right away, but I do think I met him last year. He has a third book releasing in his Blackwater Pond series very soon. Looked like a good one for the 6th-8th grade market. Love these cover images! And listen to this awesome idea: He makes up tatoos of the artwork in his book and gives them out. What a novel advertising idea!

secret of mermaid islandI met author Judith Wade for the first time today. Sat right next to her. She’s written several underwater adventures for kids that look to be in the 5th-7th age group. Again, I love the colors in this image! (The cover looks blurred here, but it’s crystal clear on the book.) Judith gave me one of her books to read and review, which I’m looking forward to doing, but I haven’t perused it closely yet. (I’m actually getting behind–meeting too many great authors lately!) I plan to read it over the Fourth of July, so you can look for that review later this summer.

spirit questAnd finally, I met a young lady named Katie Cruickshank who has just written her first novel. Katie couldn’t have been older than high school, so that was pretty cool! She was there with her dad. I didn’t have much opportunity to speak with her, but I was duly impressed. Check out this beautiful cover! (Is it just me, or is this not a fabulous collection of cover art?)

And finally, I just loved all the interaction with kids. What a neat bunch of readers! And thanks so much to the two tween boys who accepted copies of Taylor Davis today. They’re going to read it and leave an honest review on Amazon for me and then pass the book on to more readers who will read and review and pass it on to more readers. And any of them who email me may request a digital copy of book two. A very fun (and inexpensive for them and me!) way to get Taylor into the hands of tweens!

What a fun and happy day. :)


The Flying Burgowski, by Gretchen Wing

the flying burgowskiThis is another book I picked up because I had met the author and I was intrigued. I’d read many of Gretchen’s blog posts and found her writing clear, concise, and fluid, so I took a chance on her book without her knowing it. It took me several days to read because of a crazy schedule, but if I’d had the time, this could have easily been one of those all-in-one-sitting books. I couldn’t wait to return to it each evening.

I’m going to cheat a bit and grab the blurb from Amazon, then I’ll add some thoughts at the end.

On beautiful Dalby Island in Washington, Jocelyn Burgowski is turning fourteen and life is starting to suck. Her divorced mom’s an alcoholic. Her beloved dad just re-married—to the town librarian, of all people—and her older brother is a butt. Only Jocelyn’s flying dreams keep her going: they seem so real! Then, on her birthday, those dreams come true. Jocelyn flies. Really. Learning her new powers in secret, Joss revels in the freedom we all long for. But when her brother gets in trouble, he and Jocelyn are abruptly bundled off to live with Mom. Now Jocelyn is faced with a choice: must she sacrifice her powers to save her mom? Does The Flying Burgowski have the strength to heal the damage caused by secrets of the past?

Gretchen has a natural talent—a very distinctive voice, great timing and a good punch, creative imagery, and a super sense of humor. I absolutely loved the story. And I have to admit, I didn’t see the ending coming. I do want to give moms a content advisory: there is quite a bit of mild language and some teen subject matter. The issue of a mother who just doesn’t have her life together is very appropriately handled. The best part, however, aside from some pretty great images—my favorite, you know—is Joss’s discovery of her incredible gift of flying. This is a sensitive and imaginative tale of one girl’s struggle to deal with the junk she’s been handed by life.

Grab The Flying Burgowski for just 2.99.

Arms of Anu, by Christina Mercer


MMGM2MMGM is hosted every Monday by Shannon Messenger.

arms of anu(For those of you who haven’t heard yet…the Emblazon authors are sponsoring a kids’ summer reading contest for ages 9-14. Got kids? Check it out!)

I haven’t participated in MMGM for some time. I’ll be back more regularly over the summer. I’ve been busy writing–the second book of my Mountain trilogy released in April. But during that crunch time, I never stopped blogging completely. Recently, I featured my top MG picks from my (slim) winter reading list. Taking first place honors was Arrow of the Mist, by Christina Mercer. (Read my review.) I loved it so much I rushed to buy this sequel as soon as it became available in March and took it to Alabama with me over Spring Break. I read it on the way down in one sitting. Loved it!

Immediately after conquering the plague at the borders of Brume (book one), Lia and her cousin Wynn are taken to Anu to face charges for the illegal use of magic and herblore. There, some surprises await them, including further clarification of the royal line, a meeting with a young royal woman not of the same mold as the wicked king, and a surprise alliance with a group also seeking to replace the king. But Lia’s greatest challenge comes when she faces the wraith Draugyrd, who has bound her soul with a powerful blood potion and is slowly overtaking her powers.

It’s not often a sequel proves as good as book one, but all the things I loved about book one are present in book two: powerful characters, a gorgeous (fantastic) Celtic setting, the mystery of magic and herblore that makes Lia so intriguing, and high stakes. The romance between Lia and Kelven hinted at in book one also matures into a beautiful sweet relationship. But best of all is the absolutely beautiful language style that makes Mercer’s work so much fun to read. It’s poetry. To read prose of such skill is pure pleasure. Arrow in the Mist was easily one of the best books I read last year. Arms of Anu takes top honors so far this year.

There was no strong promise of another book in the series to come, but I’m hoping. Meanwhile, I’m going to move on to check out some of the author’s other works.

Arrow of the Mistis just 99 cents!
Arms of Anu is 2.99.

One more thing…here’s an update on how I’m doing on my 1,000 mile bike challenge. Since I can’t run this summer due to tendonitis (which is healing…slowly), I set out to ride my bike 1,000 miles from April 27 to October 1. So after four weeks, where am I? Forty miles ahead of schedule! Yay me!!

24 percent graph

That would be 240 miles for those of you already on summer vacation. :)