Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: Butters Comes Home




Author: Claudette Melanson
Illustrator: Rachel Montreuil
Publisher: Claudette Melanson
Released: March 26, 2016
ISBN: 978-0995976610
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn
Rating: 4 Lemon Drops
This was a verified purchase on Amazon.

Butters Comes Home tells the story of a young bunny yearning for a forever home.




Review

Butters, his mama, and his five brothers and sisters live on a farm in a wire cage alongside other cages full of chickens. At first Butters is happy and content snuggling with his family in the cold shed. 

Shortly after being born, the farmer separates Butters and his siblings from Mama and puts them in a wire-bottomed cage that hurts Butters’ feet.

One by one, people adopt Butters’ siblings, leaving him all alone and sorrowful. Before long, Butters loses heart he'll ever find a loving human family because of his large size. 

The customers who enter the shed all want little baby bunnies. Then, one warm day Butters' fortune seems about to change when a friendly lady picks him up and smiles at him.      


Butters is an adorable Holland Lop Bunny who will hop his way right into your heart. The story, told through his point of view, shows the struggle animals experience before finding a stable home. It’s a wonderful book to foster compassion and animal awareness in children. 

I appreciated how effortlessly Melanson incorporated proper care of rabbits into the narrative. She reveals that Butters enjoys eating healthy food like alfalfa hay and playing with toys composed of wood and sisal. This is an excellent lesson for youngsters (or a teacher) who'd like to adopt a bunny as a pet.

Montreuil‘s tender illustrations compliment the story perfectly and encapsulate the variety of emotions Butters experiences throughout the book.   

4 Lemon Drops!





Thursday, April 25, 2019

Conversation Starter




This one was tough for me to answer because I genuinely like both characters. They‘re powerful wizards with splendid beards, they've each won epic battles and provide wise counsel during perilous situations. 

After considering it for a while, I decided that I'd rather eat lemon drops with Dumbledore. Here's why:

1. The name of this blog is Lemon Drop Literary. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't stay faithful to the name I chose for it?

2. I have asthma so smoking anything with anyone is obviously out of the question.

3. Dumbledore knows how to turn a phrase.

4. Dumbledore is Head Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Enough said!

5. As a former schoolteacher, I stand in solidarity with anyone who instructs young minds and advocates for the future of children.


 Who did you choose!


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Story Starter! Where Is She Going?


Photo courtesy of: Jill Wellington; courtesy of: Pixabay



This is a great picture for scene setting and character development. It opens the imagination to so many possibilities. 

The pretty platinum blonde, a chiffon scarf wrapped artfully around her head, cruising in her turquoise car through the sun-drenched country side. 

What secrets linger behind her serene expression? What does she see through the passenger side window?

Not only can a writer speculate where she's going, but the vintage car and the clothes give fodder for other possibilities. Since they both represent a distinct time period, it's important that writers stay true to the norms of that era: the music, the current events, the technology, the societal roles of men and women.

For accuracy and authenticity, it may require research. Even a fiction piece, demands that historical details be carefully presented. Executing this task well yields an author credibility and readers.

So, where is this woman going? Here's my list:

1. Drive-In Movie (Later that night.)
2. Elvis Concert
3. The Beach
4. Cocktail Party
5. Sister's House To Play Cards
6. Bowling League Game
7. To Meet Her Secret Lover
8. To Hear John F. Kennedy Give A Speech

Where do you think she's going?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: Franky





Authors: Meri Murphy and Tsalaph Murphy Keoner
Illustrators: Meri Murphy and Tsalaph Murphy Keoner
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Released: June 27, 2018
Format: Paperback and Kindle
Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn
Rating: 3 Lemon Drops
I received a free copy of the book.

A book that tells the story of one ladybug's journey across a farmyard.



Review:

Franky is the story of a one of a kind ladybug. The feature that makes him unique is the heart-shaped dot on his back. One morning, Franky, decides he wants to travel across the farmyard to the windmill on the other side. All alone, he sets off on an adventure. 

Along the way he flies away from other creatures that frighten him and takes a few naps to regain his strength. Determined to make it to the windmill, Franky keeps going and reaches his destination.

While I enjoyed the bright and colorful illustrations of the book, I found the story didn't quite hit its mark. As a former early childhood teacher, I read a book through the lens of an educator and search for the teachable moments authors/illustrators convey through the words and pictures on each page. 

There were several themes that could have been explored that would have made the story much more gratifying.

Franky is a determined little fellow who overcomes many struggles, but he falls asleep after each new encounter. Instead of speaking with the other creatures who startle him, he avoids them and flies off alone. 

It may have been fun to see him overcome his social awkwardness by making friends along the way who journeyed with him to the windmill.

I also expected his heart-shaped dot to have more significance in the story. When he is introduced on the first page, the heart is front and center and marks him as unique.


3 LEMON DROPS!


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Interview With Author/Teacher Christina Francine






Christina Francine's motto is, imagination is key. Not only for artists but for everyone. It's the key to our survival.

As an author, teacher and researcher, Christina infuses her beliefs into everything she does and hopes that others will get the message she's helping to spread:
          
           Students are individuals who crave liberation from formulaic curriculums and standardized tests. Like every generation whose come before them, they need to broaden their minds through creativity, trial and error and investigation; not regurgitate pre-packaged lessons that lack spontaneity, originality and FUN!

Christina enjoys cultivating medicinal herbs and is an Adjunct English Instructor at The University at Buffalo. 

Now that I have introduced you to Christina, let's get to know her a little better.




Hello, Christina, welcome to Lemon Drop Literary. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Thank you for having me.

Why did you become a teacher?
I’ve always felt a calling to make a difference and teaching allows me to do that every day.

What grade do you teach?
I teach a wide range of students from pre-k to college level, but mostly academic college writing.

How has your teaching experience influenced your writing?
Not only does teaching remind me of how difficult some things are to learn, but also that different people learn in different ways. My daughters remind me I over explain sometimes, but it is because not everyone understands because of my style of teaching.

As a result, I often have to cut back after writing because I’ve put too much  there, over explained. I’d say much of what I write is not only for young people, people but for those working with them.

I want people to understand and to remember how it is to be young and struggle. Many of my stories reflect this.

What inspired you to become a writer?
Since I was little, my imagination has been big, but I suppose the biggest jump into writing stories down was when my 4th grade teacher asked us to write a story.

That story turned out to be the one I revised recently about a talking pen. It’s a Reader, Level #3 story for beginning readers and it will be released sometime Fall 2019. 

Imagination is also where invention lies, and the world has a lot of problems that imagination can solve. 




Which genres do you write?
There are a few:  Fantasy, Romance, and Mystery. And mainly for these audiences: Children & Young Adult (YA).

What do you find most challenging writing for your genre?
When I write, I get “into” my characters’ heads, and have to experience the pain, difficulties, and frustrations each goes through. Doing so makes the writing more authentic.

What are you working on now?
A fantasy novel meant for young adults about a dream keeper for Earth’s children who falls in love with a musician, even though she is not allowed a mate and jeopardizes her health and some of her young charges.

The story is under consideration by a big name publisher. I just completed another picture book and a mystery chapter book for middle grade.

How many books have you written?
I’ve written six and two will be released this fall. I’m hoping the fantasy is next.

There is a non-fiction work I’ve done a lot of research for. The Journal of Literacy Innovation, an academic journal, published in the Spring 2016.

The analysis on why students across the nation are at Basic level as opposed to Proficient or Advanced after examining the Nation’s Report Card.

The work argues writing is not where it could be nationally for a few reasons, the largest being a prompt for a right formula/answer as opposed to following individual voice. There is too much focus on state tests and not enough on imagination.

What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?
Reading my work to children and watching their reaction. Them connecting play and imagination to invention.

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
It’s been said often, but it’s true, don’t give up. Whatever you want, hang in there. Find other writers who support your effort and understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Get feedback on what you write.

What message are you sharing in your books?
Everyone matters and has something to contribute.

When you’re not writing, where can we find you?
With family, gardening, or working on material for students.

What are your favorite books?
There are too many to name, but I do like to give these picture books at baby showers: Wherever You Are by Nancy Tillman and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila MaGraw.
     
What are your favorite TV shows/movies?
TV shows:
I like sit-coms such as The Big Bang, Young Sheldon, and Everybody Loves Raymond because they make me laugh.

Movies:
 Lord of the Rings, The Matrix Series, Men In Black, City of Angels, You’ve Got Mail, and Somewhere In Time.

Is there anything else you'd like your readers to know about you?
I believe individual learning style may solve world problems.

A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?
I’d be Emily’s kindergarten teacher in Special Memory on her first day of school.


 An elf named 12-25 approaches you. He's sneezing, wheezing, coughing and there's a strange tattoo of a snoring dog on his cheek. What do you do?
I’d say “Bless you,” and hand him a couple of tissues.

Do you have a website/Facebook page?
        Website:  https://ChritinaFrancine.com
        Twitter:   https://twitter.com/ChristinaKenni
        LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/christinafw/

Where can we find your books?
        Waldorf Publishing and later this fall most other outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
         www.waldorfpublishing.com
         *  Special Memory pre-orders available at:        
         Release date is Sept. 15th, 2019
·         Mr. Inker the Talking Pen Finds a Home (pre-orders coming soon). Keep checking Waldorf Publishing for now.

Thank you, Christina, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success with your work and lots of luck!





Wednesday, April 17, 2019

9 Reasons I'd Fly With Han Solo





I'd choose Han Solo.

Don't get me wrong, Jon Snow is my favorite character on Game of Thrones. He's brave, selfless and true to his word. I would definitely trust him to have my back in a fight, but Han Solo has been one of my all time favorite characters since I was a little kid. 

After seeing Star Wars, I wanted to become an astronaut and fly around the galaxy in The Mellinium Falcon. 

You can imagine my supreme disappointment when I was told it wasn't possible. That didn't stop me though. I decided I'd create my own worlds and travel to them instead. Who needs a spaceship when you've got an imagination that can take you anywhere you want to go?

But, other than being the coolest space pirate around why would I choose Han over Jon? I've comprised a list.

1. He's Han Solo. (Sorry, I know I've said that already, but it bears repeating.)

2. He flies the fastest ship in the galaxy. Don't forget it "made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs."   

3. He's always up to something that's dangerous and fun. (And he usually gets away in his ship. That's another plus!) Also, the experiences would make great stories to tell my grand kids. 

4. He's best buds with Chewbacca. Who wouldn't want to hang out with a Wookie?

5. Even though Darth Vader and the Empire are always on Han's tail, the Whitewalkers are just plain creepy and they're dead. At least the Storm Troopers are alive.

6. I like winter. I guess it's a side-effect of being a public school teacher, but I love a snow day. I'm a grown-up who still gets excited when it snows and I don't mind shoveling my driveway.  

Still, I wouldn't want to live in a world where winter lasted years. I mean come on, the long night is here now and it's bitter cold. 

Flying with Han Solo, we could hop aboard The Mellinium Falcon, leave winter behind, and go somewhere warm and sunny whenever we wanted.

7. You know what they say in Westeros, "The night is dark and full of terrors." In a galaxy far, far away they say, "May the force be with you." Which one sounds more inviting to you? For me it's a no-brainer. 


8. Hanging out with Han Solo also means spending time with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. If Luke's around, there's going to be some cool 'Force' stuff going on. With Leia on board, I'd be able to watch Han and her bicker. That's always a good time.

9. Dragons are really cool but so are Ewoks and droids like R2-D2. Oh yeah, and don't forget Yoda and Lando.

Do you agree/disagree? Comment below, I'd love to hear your reply.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Story Starter! What Do Your Characters Fear?

Photo courtesy of: The Digital Artist, Pete Linforth; courtesy of: Pixabay


We all have fears, our struggle to overcome them helps define us as an individual. The same is true for literary characters. To be relatable and real characters must be damaged in some way.

Every character, no matter how powerful, is frightened of something. Superman fears kryptonite, Peter Pan fears growing up, Anikan Skywalker fears losing those he loves. Each of these specific fears provides a catalyst that carries their stories forward.

Fear is a motivator, a survival mechanism that instigates a character's actions or reactions. Heroes and villains are born and die through their fears. 

We all cheer and admire the characters, who despite their fears, perform selfless acts of bravery to save others. In the same way, we despise villains who twist their fears and apply self-serving devices to avoid them. 

And, of course, we all love it when the good guy, who's conquered his fears, triumphs over the bad guy who's fears have wreaked havoc on others.  

As a writer, fear is a powerful means to get to know your characters and develop conflict in your narrative. It also operates as a self-reflection tool. 

When a writer exposes their characters' fears and places them in difficult positions where they have to confront these fears head on, it requires a lot of soul-searching. You must play out the scene in your mind, dig deep into your own humanity and compose an authentic scene that will ring true with readers.

After you've decided on the fears your characters will have you to have to take it a step further and determine why they have them. 

Did something happen to them as a child? Do they have an unexplained phobia that requires psycho therapy? Did they experience a recent traumatic event? Have they succumbed to their fears or overcome them?

Only the writer can answer these questions. So go on and give it a try. It’s fun and will help you and your readers get to know your characters a little better.

I'd love to hear all about your character's fears. Please comment below if you'd like to share.
 



Monday, April 15, 2019

It's not STEM, it is ESTEEM By: Harsha Rao Sheelam







Harsho Rao Sheelam has a written an informative article on ESTEEM. It's an 

improved version of STEM and gives the concept an entrepreneurial lift. 

To read it click here.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Interview With Author/Teacher Dianna Wyles



Photo courtesy of: Dianna Wyles

I recently had the good fortune of interviewing author Dianna Wyles.  A native of Northern

California, Dianna is a Christian writer with two book publishing credits to her name: Heart 

Blessings: A Children's Seek and Find and Beautiful Blessings & Babbling Brooks. 


Through her books, Dianna hopes to inspire a positive attitude and a gratefulness for life.

When she isn't writing, Diana teaches, actively participates in the worldwide online ministry,

Refreshing Hope Ministries, blogs, meditates, pursues her passion for photography, and spends time

outdoors.


Diana has a powerful belief in God that has nurtured her creative spirit.


Now that you've been introduced to Dianna, let's get to know a little bit more about this busy woman.





Hello, Diana. Welcome to Lemon Drop Literary. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.



Hi, Ellwyn. Thank you for having me.

In addition to being a published author, you are also a teacher.  Why did you pursue a career in education?



I became an early educator years ago. When my own children were old enough for school I loved helping in their kindergarten classes so much that I started taking classes to become a teacher.



What grade do you currently teach?


I teach Preschool. This year I'm teaching three and four-year olds, but I have experience with ages ranging from birth to 12 years.



How has your teaching experience influenced your writing?



Well, since I am a Preschool teacher, it seemed easiest to format a children's book. As a teacher I understand how important it is for children to have a high self-esteem, as well as, to be trained in coping skills and healthy life choices.

Inviting children to find the good in their daily lives is a wonderful way to cultivate the important attribute of gratitude.


My intent was to create something that is simple and childlike in format, yet ageless in content and inspiration. I think both of my books deliver powerful inspiration in a way all ages can understand and appreciate.


Photo courtesy of: Dianna Wyles

What inspired you to become a writer?


I was going through a season of struggle with multiple family illnesses, eventual loss, grief and into healing. I meditated and prayed my way through that time!

In one particular meditation (I always meditate on God's Goodness, Love, Peace, and Healing for all) when I was done, everywhere I looked I saw hearts...in the sky, in the trees, on the rocks...everywhere!

I felt like I had just been hugged by God and a sense of peace beyond understanding came over me.  I still see those hearts each day.


Photo courtesy of: Dianna Wyles

Tell me a little about how you wrote your first book?


Heart Blessings: A Children's Seek and Find came to me after praying a lot about the writer's block I was having. I was trying to write an adult inspirational book describing my experiences and how blessed it all leaves me feeling.

It took about an hour to put together and then about three to four months to format and perfect.
I my opinion, it was a gift from our loving Heavenly Father for me to share with the world; to teach from a very young age, that if you search out His blessings daily, He will not disappoint you.



Your books have a strong spiritual theme. Can you tell us how your beliefs have impacted your writing?



I am a Preschool teacher and a photographer in search of God's blessing in everything.
I enjoy spending time hiking, birding, mining and taking pictures in the great outdoors. I use this time to reconnect with our Lord through his beauty and wonder.

Humbled and amazed by the beautiful signs and gifts given by God, I have a unique gift of seeing heart blessings in nature and my surroundings. I love to capture these heart blessings with my camera and share them with others to strengthen faith and give hope where needed.

I am a naturalist by nature. I love God, family, kids, hearts, wildlife, and all things related to these subjects.

It is my heart's desire for my books to somehow show God's beauty and wonder to a world that has yet to meet our awesome creator, and to touch the hearts of those who already call him Father.



What are you working on now?



I have a third children's book in the works. It's a counting book where we count heart rocks, but I must admit to writer's block with the formatting section of this project.

I promise I will get past my block and publish, Counting Blessings 1, 2, 3, Rock Hearts, Rock Hearts, Can You See?



Photo courtesy of: Dianna Wyles

Can you tell us about this upcoming book?


In the book my grandchildren and husband go on an adventure to find and count heart rocks. It's a fun rhyming book where counting your blessings is the name of the game. Look for it in the near future!


What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?


I think giving my books to people in need has been my most rewarding experience. My vision is to take my books to hospitals in my area like Shriner's and UC Davis Children's Hospital, to read and gift to children battling serious illnesses.

I'm still working on that vision, but I have sent copies to of my books to people battling cancer and other serious health concerns.

That my books can bring peace and hope has been a great blessing.



What advice would you give to writer's just starting out?



Just write! Write about things that have meaning to you. Write about your passions. Write because you have something to say!

Write because you can. Most importantly, never stop believing in yourself and your dreams! Just write!



Is there anything else you'd like your readers to know about you?



I am an active member of Refreshing Hope Ministries, a worldwide online ministry system where I lead a photography group called, "Creation Photographers", a private group for victims of abuse called, "Haven of Hope", and I write a blog now and then.

Our wonderful Pastor Dion Todd leads a live interactive service each week, as well as, daily devotions, a prayer team, and so much more! Come check out our ministry at https://www.refreshinghope.org/.



Do you have a website/facebook page?

You can find my books on Amazon.


Thank you, Dianna, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success and lots of luck!




Photo courtesy of: Dianna Wyles

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Story Starter! What Do Your Characters Eat?

Photo courtesy of: Jill Wellington; courtesy of: Pixabay


A fun way to enhance character development is to add the different foods they like to eat or a scene where they are eating a meal with others. It's a great way to introduce different characters to your story and offer insight into how they view your protagonist.

I like to think of it as bringing home a friend to meet the family for the first time.

You learn a lot about people over a family meal: Spontaneous conversations spring up about childhood memories or absent family members, the social dynamic of the members can be found out (eye contact, vocal inflection) and of course, what they're eating and how they're eating it.

These little strategic insights can be helpful for the reader to understand the main character's background.
Photo courtesy of: mohamed Hassan; courtesy of: Pixabay

Are they using chopsticks or forks and knives? Are they vegetarians or serious meat eaters? Does anyone at the table have food allergies or religious reasons for avoiding certain foods? Are they eating eloquently or shoving the food down their gullet?

Two of my favorite series, The Harry Potter Series and The Hunger Games Series, use food excellently to enhance the characters' lifestyles and reactions to hunger in desperate situations.

In The Deathly Hallows Ron Weasley has a hard time dealing with his hunger while on the run, whereas Harry who'd lived in a household that fed him just enough to survive could cope with it much better.

Growing up with little food, Katniss Everdeen became a hunter to supplement her family's diet. This skill was critical in helping her compete in the Hunger Games.



Photo courtesy of: Ciker-Free-Vector-Images: courtesy of: Pixabay

If you'd prefer not to add a full-blown scene with a meal try incorporating one or two snacks your character enjoys eating.

For example, if I wrote about a character who ate fried locusts, you'd have an immediate reaction and form an opinion about them. Are they from a region where eating locusts is common practice or a quirky soul who relishes trying new things?

Only the writer can answer these questions. So go on and give it a try. It's fun and will help you and your readers get to know your characters a little better.


I'd luv to read your creations. Feel free to share them in the comment section.